HC Deb 09 March 1972 vol 832 cc1624-5
3. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many handicapped children from English local education authorities remain at the Corsbie Hall School in Thornton, Fife.

Mrs. Thatcher

Four, Sir. I have pointed out to the local education authority concerned that I do not consider that this school is at present suitable for the placement of handicapped pupils, and am in discussion with the authority about the future education of these children.

Mr. Hamilton

Does the right hon. Lady recognise that her information is out of date? Is she aware that I visited this school as recently as last Sunday and found that there were four children from Oldham, at least two from South Shields, and at least one from Cheshire? Can she say why these children should have to go from education authorities throughout England to a private fee-paying school in Scotland, which is charging £800 per year for each student? Is it because facilities in England and Wales are non-existent? If that is the case, will the right hon. Lady give an assurance that she will compel local education authorities to face their responsibilities?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the information contained in the first part of his supplementary question. I will look into what he has said. The special education building programme is increasing, but for reasons of which he will be aware the demand tends to rise even faster than does the building programme. I would like to assure him that under both the last Government and under this Government there has been an increasing stress on the education building programme.

Mr. Edward Short

Does not the right hon. Lady agree that the time has come to reconstitute the Central Advisory Council, set up under the 1944 Act, and to consider the whole question of provision for handicapped children, including the training of their teachers?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, Sir. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we have an excellent advisory committee dealing with the education of handicapped children, which is continually coming forward with advice which is useful to my Department in considering the education of this group of children.