HC Deb 04 March 1975 vol 887 cc1246-7
4. Mr. Beith

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what weight he attaches, when considering schemes for the reorganisation of secondary education and proposals for the closure of village primary schools, to any consequent additional costs for the transport of children.

Mr. Armstrong

My right hon. Friend takes into account all relevant factors, of which additional transport costs may be one, in his consideration of proposals under Section 13 of the Education Act 1944, as amended, and gives them due weight.

Mr. Beith

Does the Minister recognise that in areas such as Northumberland the reorganisation and closure of village schools tends to lead to bussing on a grand scale, with children travelling 15, 20 or 25 miles a day? Does he recognise that as well as the social disadvantages of such a system the cost should be weighed in the balance when the economics of village schools and small local schools are being considered?

Mr. Armstrong

Yes, I recognise the factors that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. I remind him that the initiative for the reorganisation or the closure of any school comes from the local authority and that my right hon. Friend takes into consideration all matters. Of course, the overriding consideration is the educational well-being of the children in the area.

Mr. George Rodgers

Is my hon. Friend aware that in many areas, and certainly in my constituency of Chorley, the bus companies have refused to harmonise their concessionary fares to scholars with the raising of the school leaving age? As there has recently been an increase of 30 per cent. in the cost of public transport, does not my hon. Friend think that remedies should be applied in this direction?

Mr. Armstrong

This is a matter we have in mind when discussing the wide issues of transport policy which were raised in a previous Question.