HC Deb 19 November 1970 vol 806 cc1406-8
12. Mr. Blenkinsop

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action she proposes to take to encourage more children in the Northern Region to stay in full-time education after 15 years of age.

Mr. van Straubenzee

This rests in the last resort with the boys and girls themselves and with their parents. The local education authorities concerned will offer every encouragement, and my right hon. Friend is ready to consider any needs they may represent to her for increases in their quota of teachers for this purpose. Building allocations have already been made to accommodate the whole age-group when the school-leaving age is raised to 16 in 1972–73.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Has the Minister had his attention drawn to the report of the North Eastern Economic Planning Council which urges the speeding up of comprehensive school plans because this has proved to be the best way of encouraging children and parents in regard to longer periods of education at school?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Naturally, this important report mentioned by the hon. Gentleman has been carefully studied, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman rejoices in the increasing percentage of pupils staying on at school, as revealed by the report.

Dame Irene Ward

I know that the hon. Gentleman has been looking at our education system in the North-East. Would he suggest to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that since there are so many Questions on the Order Paper about education in the North-East we would welcome a conference presided over by the Secretary of State so that we could get on a bit further with what we need on the North-East Coast?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am sure that all these are matters to be discussed, but I acknowledge how fervently my hon. Friend represents the interests of the North-East, which she does so extremely well.

38. Mr. Longden

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many students at the latest convenient date are now in higher education; how many of these are in universities; how many receive the full grant with no parental contribution; and how many receive the grant less an assessed parental contribution.

Mr. van Straubenzee

About 410,000 full-time students in Great Britain in 1968–69, including overseas students. Of these 211,000 were in universities. About 315,000 received grants for first degree or comparable courses or for teacher training, which were assessed on the basis of parental income. The number whose grants were not reduced by a parental contribution is not known.

Mr. Longden

I thank my hon. Friend and his Department for the trouble they have taken to get out those figures. When I have had time to digest them, may I put my supplementary question in the form of a Question on the Order Paper at a later date?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I think that that would be mutually convenient.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Will the Minister ask his Department to look closely into the grants made to students, especially proportionate grants? Many students who are the children of rich parents do not receive the contribution from their parents and are therefore in dire need.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am aware of this problem, but the hon. Gentleman, who studies it closely, too, will know that to abolish the means test totally would cost about £40 million, and I can think of higher priorities than this.