HC Deb 04 February 1971 vol 810 cc1903-4
27. Mr. Armstrong

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many primary school classes in the Northern Region have more than 35 pupils; and what proposals she has for eliminating oversize classes in the region.

Mr. van Straubenzee

In January, 1970, 3,877. The local education authorities will be helped by their share of building programmes and the rapidly increasing supply of teachers. My right hon. Friend is willing to consider applications for increased quotas of teachers.

Mr. Armstrong

Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the greatest educational reform for primary school children would be to reduce the size of class, to enable individual teaching and attention to be given? In view of the distressing number of over-size classes in the Northern Region, would he consider making extra allocations of resources so that not only will there be an extra quota of teachers—the cost of which will fall on the local authorities—but there will be extra building resources to give the children the opportunity they deserve?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I do not dissent from the hon. Member's view that the ratio between teacher and taught is significant in effective teaching. I do not question that for a moment. But I hope that he will have noted the increased resources that have been made available. I do not want him to read any complacency into my answer.

Mr. Cordle

Dealing with hygiene, is it not possible for the Minister to look carefully at the provision of conveniences to see that some of the primary schools are very soon equipped with less isolated buildings and that pupils have fewer difficulties in getting to them?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am glad to say that that is the kind of important matter which flows directly from the replacement schemes for old primary schools which have already been announced by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Rhodes

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that in the Northern Region the distribution of overcrowded classes is extremely patchy so that it is possible to have, as I have in my constituency, a large number of classes with over 35 pupils whereas there are none as far as I know in other constituencies within the City of Newcastle-upon-Tyne? Will his Department, in future approvals of the building programme, bear in mind that when an area is developing with new housing estates, overcrowding can occur even though nearby slum clearance reduces the size of classes?

Mr. van Straubenzee

These are all matters to take into account, but they are surely also very much in the minds of competent local education authorities in submitting plans to my right hon. Friend.