HC Deb 29 January 1974 vol 868 cc228-30
9. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the number of schools in the Greater London Council area at which part-time schooling is taking place.

Mr. Raison

Out of nearly 3,000 schools, I am told by the local education authorities that, at about 22nd January, 122 were offering fewer than their normal school hours.

Mr. Cox

I note the Minister's deplorable reply. Is he aware that those figures do not give a clear indication of what is taking place? In my constituency several hundred children are now on part-time education. That is something which has been unheard of for many years. It is a direct result of the Minister's policy towards London education. Will the hon. Gentleman or his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State have the courage to come into my constituency to meet the local parents and to explain to them why their children are on part-time education? They will not accept it for much longer.

Mr. Raison

I urge hon. Members from London constituencies to back the Inner London Education Authority and its education officer in not supporting industrial action by the teachers.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Will the Minister state to what extent part-time education is taking place because of the shortage of teachers and the shortage of schools, and to what extent the announced cuts will assist or exacerbate the present situation?

Mr. Raison

The problem, as I have just said, is that some of the teachers' unions have decided to take industrial action to support their claim for a larger London allowance. Nobody denies that there are serious problems affecting teachers in London. I must reiterate that we do not believe that industrial action is the right way to proceed. The December cuts have not altered the situation.

Mr. Freeson

Does the Minister agree that his references to strike action by one side or another is a red herring? Is he aware that school closures, or partial closures, were taking place before there was any talk of strike action? Will he bear in mind that it has now reached the stage when handicapped children in my borough are being affected? There is a virtually brand new school under threat of partial closure because of the movement of teachers in and out of the district and the net shortage of teachers for such schools.

Mr. Raison

I regret the consequences of this action. I must reiterate that it is industrial action. The National Union of Teachers has made that clear.

Mr. Hattersley

If part-time working in London is a result of industrial action, why is there only part-time education in counties such as Essex, where there is no industrial action?

Mr. Raison

The damage being done in London is in support of the NUT claim. I recommend Labour hon. Members to look at the NUT's journal. This is a consequence of industrial action which is designed to lead to an increase in the London allowance.