HC Deb 19 July 1977 vol 935 cc530-2W
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many local education authorities have reduced the amount of. or abolished, school uniform grant schemes for 1977–78.

Miss Margaret Jackson

This information is not collected by my Department.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science (1) if she will take steps to impose a duty on all local education authorities to give cash payments for school uniforms, instead of using the voucher system;

(2) what steps she will take to impose a duty on local education authorities to operate a uniform school uniform scheme, make regular returns to the Department of Education and Science on the levels of grant paid to upgrade grants annually;

(3) in the light of the letter sent by her Department to chief education officers on 26th May 1977 on school uniforms, if she will list those items of school uniforms which she feels it is reasonable for a school to ask boys, and girls, respectively, to wear; and what price her regional inspectors of schools would recommend to have to pay for such items in a convenient selection of regional urban centres;

(4) if she will issue guidance to local education authorities, who have junior and senior high schools in their areas to ensure that any school uniform demanded by one is compatible with that demanded by the other;

(5) what advice her inspectors give to junior school and primary school head teachers considering introducing school uniform to their schools;

(6) how many chief education officers have replied to the letter sent out by her Department on 26th May 1977 concerning school uniforms; what steps are being taken to establish how far this advice is being followed; and when she will be able to make a statement listing those authorities which are following her advice.

Miss Margaret Jackson

The level and method of payment of school uniform grant are within the discretion of each local education authority. Decisions regarding the choice of uniform are for the authority and the individual school. Neither my right hon. Friend nor Her Majesty's inspectors are in a position to intervene in these matters, and she has no plans at present to take the additional statutory powers which would be needed to enable her to do so. Her views on school uniform, which she has already expressed publicly on several occasions, were set out in the letter of 26th May on the understanding that they would be of some assistance to those authorities which were currently considering their policy on this subject. The letter did not call for a reply, and my right hon. Friend does not propose to call for regular and detailed returns.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science (1) if she will make a statement on her policy towards the views expressed in the Child Poverty Action Group report "Battle Royal—another look at school clothing and maintenance grants";

(2) what is her policy towards the recommendation in the recent Child Poverty Action Group report entitled "Battle Royal" that there should be an immediate school uniform grant of £60 per year, available to all children who qualify for free school meals.

Miss Margaret Jackson

My right hon. Friend has read this report with interest and sympathy. We have made it clear on several occasions that we do not regard the present arrangements for assistance with school clothing as being satisfactory, but it is a question of financial priorities. To introduce a mandatory national scheme of school clothing grants on the lines and at the level recommended in the report would require legislation and greater resources than can at present be made available. As regards the maintenance grant recommendations. I would refer my hon. Friend to my replies today to his specific Questions on this subject.

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