HC Deb 24 July 1973 vol 860 cc1380-1
1. Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proportion of primary classes contained more than 40 pupils in January 1970 and in January 1973.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

In January 1970, in England and Wales, it was 6–6 per cent. The figure for January 1973 is not yet available, but in January 1972 it was 2.5 pet cent.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Will my hon Friend congratulate my right hon. Friend on the steady improvement throughout her record term of office? Will he ask her, when planning future teacher-training programmes, always to bear in mind that unfortunately a great deal of remedial teaching is still required? Will he urge his right hon. Friend to do all she can to encourage the courses required for specialisation in this most worthwhile branch of the profession?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I shall certainly convey the good wishes of my hon. Friend to my right hon. Friend. I assure my hon. Friend that I regard remedial teaching as extremely important, but we hope that as it gets under way the nursery school programme will reduce the need for this type of education by bringing children into the educational system earlier.

Mr. Marks

When the Under-Secretary conveys his congratulations, will he point out to the Secretary of State that all the teachers concerned were in college when his party took office? Does he not accept that within the figure he quoted of 2.5 per cent. there are many variations? Is he aware that in Lancashire the proportion is twice as great and that in a number of schools in my constituency more than half the classes contain more than 30 children? Will the hon. Gentleman accept emergency building plans, particularly from Lancashire, because housing authorities are giving permission for the building of hundreds of houses which could be built within a year, while school building is at least two years behind?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I accept that regional variations exist. I quoted an overall figure. I assure the hon. Member that the needs of Lancashire will always be given appropriate consideration. However, to put the situation into perspective, the hon. Gentleman should take account of the fact that the incidence of team teaching in primary schools is increasing, which means that many of the apparently large classes are, in fact, groups of children under the guidance or control of more than one teacher.