HC Deb 08 July 1986 vol 101 cc156-8
6. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps he is taking to ensure that adequate education facilities are available in areas of population growth; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Dunn

It is for the local education authority to ensure that the schools available in its area are sufficient in number, character and equipment.

Mr. Adley

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that there is a warm welcome in my constituency for his recent decision on the voluntary aided school in Verwood? I am doing nothing less than my duty in thanking him and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the speed with which they acted. However, is he aware that in east Dorset, an area of major population growth, there remain many problems about bussing and so on, which cause distress to many parents? Could he have a word with the Department of the Environment to try to ensure that, when major housing schemes are proposed, for example, under structure plan amendments, there is some input from his Department to see that schools are provided before the huge housing developments take place?

Mr. Dunn

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind words about the recent decision, published on 10 June, to establish a new voluntary aided middle school in Verwood. With regard to my hon. Friend's question about transport, I shall ensure that the comments he has made are drawn to the attention of the appropriate Department.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

To what extent is the Department of Education and Science being consulted by the Department of Employment over the review of skill-centres that is currently going on, which arises in part from changes in population? In the event that the Government were to proceed with the stupid decision, or were to proceed down the route of taking a stupid decision to close the Maryport skillcentre in my constituency, may I have an assurance that the Department of Education and Science will object most vigorously, because it will affect education and training provision in west Cumbria?

Mr. Dunn

This question is about adequate education facilities in the context of school places. However, I shall undertake to ensure that the comments the hon. Gentleman has just made are drawn to the attention of the Paymaster General.

Mr. Conway

My hon. Friend's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) was no doubt right, in that it is the responsibility of local education authorities to establish provision, but does my hon. Friend accept that where Governments accelerate population growth, such as in the county of Shropshire, with the establishment and growth of a new town, it is incumbent upon them to ensure that sufficient resources go along with that nationally inspired growth to cope with educational demand?

Mr. Dunn

In deciding upon the distribution of financial resources available to us, we shall continue to give priority to work necessary to meet increased pupil numbers in areas of population growth. That is a guarantee that I can give to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Is the Minister aware that in parts of a large city such as Leeds there is population growth but the overall trend is of falling rolls? Will the Minister say whether he favours a single solution for such cities, which in the case of Leeds would involve the reorganisation of all the schools, including one single tertiary college, which has been proposed by the local education authority?

Mr. Dunn

The hon. Gentleman is very seductive in trying to make me pass comment on proposals which have not yet come to the Department for deliberation and adjudication. I can assure him that any comments that he or any other Member from the city of Leeds cares to make about any proposals which may come my way will be borne in mind.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

A number of hon. Members are concerned about the amount of sports field provision within education and are deeply anxious that many sports fields are being sold off. Bearing in mind the shortage of sports field facilities in many parts of the country, does my hon. Friend not feel that it would he sensible to look at this seriously so that, before land currently used to provide sporting facilities is sold off for other purposes, the overall physical recreation requirements of all areas are properly investigated?

Mr. Dunn

School playing fields are protected by the appropriate regulations, have just written to my hon. Friend on that very subject.