HC Deb 04 May 1976 vol 910 cc1048-9
11. Mr. Forman

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions he has had recently with the teaching profession about the more intensive utilisation of school facilities.

Miss Margaret Jackson

None recently, Sir. The education interests are well aware of my Department's longstanding policy to encourage the fuller use of school facilities. We are always ready to discuss particular aspects where my right hon. Friend's responsibilities make this appropriate.

Mr. Forman

In view of the high capital costs of school building and the fact that it is widely acknowledged that many school buildings are under-utilised, will the hon. Lady and her fellow Ministers take more urgent steps to consider this matter, to ascertain whether it is possible to have something like common community centres in primary schools—schools that have to close at 3 o'clock and 4 o'clock in the afternoon?

Miss Jackson

Apart from a shortage of resources, which affects everything these days, that is the policy of the Department. We have made every effort over the years to encourage the wider use of school facilities. We have sent out two circulars—namely, 11/64 and 2/70—which indicate the Government's view on the use of facilities, especially for sport and physical recreation. We fully accept the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. The local authority associations have recently completed a report on precisely this matter, which we are hoping to publish shortly. It may be possible to return to the subject later.

Mr. Arnold Shaw

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind in her discussions the local education authorities in whose areas there are growing numbers of unused classrooms in primary schools which could well be filled if there were a more generous attitude towards the rising-fives?

Miss Jackson

If that is widely the case, that is a matter which it may well be profitable to examine. However, it is not my understanding that it is widely the case at present, although it may be expected to become more so as numbers decrease in primary schools. I have every sympathy with my hon. Friend's point about making increased provision for younger children.