HC Deb 13 March 1973 vol 852 cc1100-2
7. Mr. Deakins

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is satisfied that sufficient additional resources are being made available to the education service in areas of great social deprivation.

Mrs. Thatcher

A start has been made on the replacement of old primary schools in deprived areas and there has been an increase in the provision of nursery education under the urban programme. The continuing improvement in national staffing standards in schools, the further expansion of nursery education and the improvement of old secondary schools, all announced in the White Paper, and the continuation of the urban programme will all bring further benefits to deprived areas.

Mr. Deakins

Is it not a fact that we are still only playing around with the problems of education and social deprivation, which are both linked? Will the Minister provide, for example, additional resources over and above those already in the urban aid programme for the next four years so that we can improve the pay of teachers in areas such as mine, in Walthamstow, where we have a very high turnover of young teachers and the effects of this are educationally damaging to children who are already suffering from social deprivation?

Mrs. Thatcher

Regarding the education contribution, we are doing a lot more than tinkering with the problem. We are making a start on nursery education. We have made a big start on primary education. We have raised the school leaving age. We are starting on improving the old buildings in secondary schools. We are switching our urban programme from nursery education to other sectors.

Concerning teachers in deprived areas, as the hon. Member will know there is a special increase for teachers in education priority area schools, which at the beginning certainly helped to keep more teachers in those schools for a longer period.

Mr. Wilkinson

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the good work she is doing in EPA areas, particularly in the West Riding, which I know especially well. May I also bring to her attention the fact that more needs to be done for similar areas outside the West Riding for the provision of special language tuition facilities for immigrant children?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I know that the West Riding has had a particularly big primary school improvement programme because it had a lot of old schools. There has been some active research there, too, on how best to bring help to deprived areas.

Mr. Armstrong

Is not the real need in EPAs to persuade dedicated and able teachers to stay on and to follow their careers in those areas? Apart from that, the replacement of old buildings is nothing like enough. We need more ancillary helpers, a better staffing ratio and so on. Would the right hon. Lady consider doing a project in the north of England so that we can see exactly what is required and can direct the resources there? This is a very urgent matter indeed.

Mrs. Thatcher

There have been one or two projects in the north of England, which are referred to in Dr. Halsey's report. I have the impression that, certainly in primary schools, a number of teachers are making a point of staying longer in those schools. But we still have problems in dealing with secondary schools. Altogether, the contribution of the education service in this area is very considerable indeed.

Miss Lestor

I accept what the right hon. Lady has said about some of the moves that have been made in EPAs and I welcome them. Does she not agree with what the Halsey report said, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins), that we are still only tinkering about with these priority areas, that what is needed is a massive expansion of resources directed towards those areas and that unless we embark upon a policy of positive discrimination we shall not meet the needs of children in socially deprived areas who are rapidly losing out on any expansion in education that is taking place?

Mrs. Thatcher

I understand what the hon. Lady is saying, but if she thinks of all the resources that have been deployed together—new nursery provision into deprived areas especially, primary provision into deprived areas especially because they have a lot of old schools, the raising of the school leaving age which applies particularly in deprived areas, and more secondary school improvements—she will realise that a quite massive increase has been going into those areas. But we cannot do it alone in the education service.