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Grammar Schools

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th November 1964.

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11.5 a.m.

Photo of Mr Alan Hopkins Mr Alan Hopkins , Bristol North East

I beg to move, That this House, while mindful of the need to ensure that the abilities and aptitudes of every child are developed to the fullest extent, and while recognising the importance of flexibility and variety in the organisation of secondary education including, in cases where appropriate, on educational grounds the comprehensive principle, would none-the-less deplore the wholesale abolition, whether by closure or radical alteration, of direct grant and maintained grammar schools. I feel that, irrespective of the length of this Parliament, in the educational sense this is probably the most important issue that is likely to arise in it. Upon the fate of a handful of grammar schools in Bristol may well hang the decision on the most momentous issue of our day in the educational world. The first charge I make against hon. Gentlemen opposite is to deplore the way in which, over the years, they have sought to bring politics into what is purely an educational matter and have viewed so many schemes for education in a purely doctrinaire fashion. I hope that this Motion will be considered on its merits on a purely educational basis, and that it will serve to probe the intentions of the Government for secondary education in the future. I hope that my hon. Friends will be able to say what we on this side of the House feel should be done in the interests of the children. We are talking about children and their lives rather than the doctrinaire policies that the party opposite try to put forward.

I must admit that I find it somewhat confusing to understand what is the policy of the party opposite. In 1963, in answer to a Question whether the reorganisation of secondary education on comprehensive lines meant that all grammar schools would be abolished, the Prime Minister said: My answer to this, as a former grammar school boy, is 'Over my dead body.' There may be some people who think it worth it, but I don't. In answer to a Question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby), the Minister of Education said, on 12th November: It is the Government's policy to reorganise secondary education on comprehensive lines. The method and timing of reorganisation must vary from one area to another. In general, entry to grammar schools will no longer be restricted to certain selected children at the age of 11 plus and the range of studies in these schools will be widened. One aim of this policy is that what we all value in grammar school education shall be preserved for those children who now receive it and made available to more children."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1964; Vol. 701, c. 1177.] I believe those two statements to be quite in conflict. I hope that the Minister will resolve the difference between them, and, if he can, state categorically exactly what is the policy of the party opposite for secondary education.

The present set-up in secondary education springs from the Education Act, 1944. It is quite clear that today there are two distinct types of secondary education, that in the grammar schools and that afforded in the secondary modern schools, which are now virtually bilateral throughout the country. This, of course, involves a degree of selection at the age of 11-plus, and undoubtedly this test has fallen into bad repute, though I must say that I rather agree with Sir Ronald Gould who said, I think last year, that the failure of the 11-plus was not in the test itself but rather in the nature of secondary education.

This is a fair comment, but I am sure that the Minister will agree with me that something must be done about the 11-plus because of the overriding reactions it has created in the minds not only of parents but children themselves. The stigma that is allowed to attach to children who fail the 11-plus is most unfortunate. It is entirely wrong to say that every child who goes to a secondary modern school is an 11-plus failure. That just is not so, because the teaching afforded in secondary modern schools is extremely good and this criticism is very unfair and totally unwarranted as far as secondary modern schools are concerned.

There must be some degree of selection, though I hold an open mind as to whether it should be at the age of 11 or later. I entirely support the many local authorities who are experimenting with different ages and different sorts of tests for selection. For example, the Leicestershire experiment is extremely satisfactory and, as the House will know, it involves selection at the age of 13 rather than 11. This degree of experimentation ought to go on for some time, and I welcome the initiative shown by many local authorities in trying to find other solutions than the 11-plus exam for secondary education.

Of the schools in secondary education, we have already 189 comprehensive schools spread throughout the country. Lest the party opposite feel that we on this side of the House are opposed to comprehensive schools, let me say that I certainly am not and that proof of the fact that we are not is to be found in the many schools which have come into being in the last 13 years when my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) and other of my right hon. Friends were Conservative Ministers of Education. In addition, there are 179 direct grant schools, of which one-third or slightly more are denominational. It is of great importance that these should continue. They have had a very long history and serve a most important need by providing religious education which it is totally impossible to provide in schools not under such a religious foundation.

I hope that the Minister will see fit this afternoon to make quite clear what his view is about the future of these direct grant schools. I believe that we should continue the policy of co-existence between comprehensive schools, grammar schools and secondary modern schools. I believe that in many cases there is a good reason on educational grounds for having comprehensive schools, but what I do not think makes sense is putting schools together in certain areas, not purpose-built schools, but joining together existing schools, which are sometimes miles apart.

The Times, in a leading article on 13th November on this point, said: It is unwise to adopt rigid views about the organisation of secondary education. The question is unfortunately bedevilled by political prejudice and the campaign for an homogenised society. Large comprehensive schools on purpose-built premises, though they have inherent defects related to their size, are in theory capable of providing satisfactorily for the full range of ability even if the ease and rapidity with which a good sixth form can be established is taken too much for granted. But to seek to predict the same effect overnight, as Liverpool is doing by rolling 50 secondary schools into 28 comprehensives, occupying in some cases widely separated buildings is to make a nonsense of secondary education and is a sure way of bringing the comprehensive system into disrepute. I hope that all Members of the House will agree with the sentiments expressed in this article from The Times.

If I may turn now to Bristol. The situation here is not as bad as that in Liverpool. I am grateful to the Minister for letting me know that he will be making a statement this afternoon and that he will be able to indicate his answer to the plans of Bristol City Council. Briefly, the position in Bristol is that although there is a substantial number of comprehensive schools already in Bristol doing a good job, it is the intention of the Bristol City Council to make all schools within the area comprehensive, in two stages. Kaleidoscoping, these stages together, this will result immediately in the abolition of two grammar schools as they now are, one of which, Rose Green High School, is in my constituency, and will result eventually in the abolition of the other maintained grammar school.

I dislike this scheme for many reasons. The first is that I think it is entirely wrong simply to abolish the maintained grammar schools in Bristol, which have already contributed a great deal to the very well known and recognised reputation of education in Bristol. We have a high reputation in Bristol for our schools. The Sunday Times, on 15th November, said in an article: The maintained grammar school has a long tradition and has contributed incomparably to the high standard of British secondary education abroad. Education is a personal matter concerning the whole human character. It cannot be handed out as if it were state pensions or free medicine. The pride of pupils, parents and the people of a city or region in a grammar school enhances its educational value. This is my first reason for saying that the abolition of these maintained grammar schools would be entirely wrong. The second reason is that I feel, as is the case in Liverpool—I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Bingham) will be able to enlarge upon the problems of Liverpool—that it makes no sense whatsoever to link Rose Green High with Eastville Girls and Greenback School. Each of these schools is at the moment doing an extremely fine job, and there is no need for a comprehensive school of this nature in Bristol. I hope that the Minister, if he does not reject the plan, will consider whether this should be allowed to continue in the circumstances.

Next, I feel that the proposal to withdraw the free places in direct grant schools should not be allowed. I hope that the Minister will give an answer to this one point. In Bristol, as in many other cities, there is a great tradition of mobility of children from one area to another, and these direct grant schools, the majority of which are in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke), have in many cases been in existence for 200, 300 or 400 years. They have achieved a great distinction and they offer a wide variety of selective training to their children. If these free places are withdrawn it can only mean that the fees to the parents of the other children will have to be increased and the opportunity will be denied to Bristol children to get the benefit of these magnificent schools.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Bristol Central

Surely the same number of places will be available to Bristol children, because it is a condition of the national grant.

Photo of Mr Alan Hopkins Mr Alan Hopkins , Bristol North East

Not necessarily, because it is possible that these places will be taken up by adjacent local authorities, and I believe that Gloucester is interested in taking these up. I do not see why the children of Bristol should be deprived of this right.

Photo of Mr Alan Hopkins Mr Alan Hopkins , Bristol North East

They may well be. This is the danger, and this is the real fear felt by many of my constituents in Bristol.

The other point about direct grant schools is that these will undoubtedly adversely affect the problem of the Catholic community in Bristol. The Minister is no doubt aware of their feelings. I do not want to enlarge upon this matter, but this is a real difficulty. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us what assurances he can give to the Catholic community on this point.

The other objections which I have centre on the harm which the Bristol plan does to the existing very good secondary modern schools in Bristol. The Crowther Report in paragraph 624 said: Comprehensive and other schools may gain from being neighbours. But there are situations where a comprehensive school could only be established by doing harm to existing schools which are doing a very good job. We cannot afford to lose any good school, whatever its classification. I am sure that this is the case with many secondary modern schools in Bristol, and I see no reason why they should be put out of business by the doctrinaire views and policies of the Party opposite.

It is the case today that over 60 per cent. of the children now attending secondary modern schools in Bristol are going on to 0 levels and some are obtaining A levels. This is surely proof of their success and is no reason whatsoever for damning them and condemning them for ever more. The Newsom Report, "Half Our Future", in so far as I have read it, could not be described as evidence in favour of children of lower ranges of ability necessarily gaining from comprehensive schools. The views of teachers are also extremely important and, as the Minister will be aware, there is considerable divergence of views among teachers in Bristol about the advisability of this scheme. I am very much afraid that these views of the teachers have tended to have been disregarded. Scant attention can well be said to have been paid to them. This is a matter of great importance. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) wish to intervene?

Photo of Mr William Wilkins Mr William Wilkins , Bristol South

If I am called, I will answer what the hon. Member has just said.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. This does not help the debate.

Photo of Mr Alan Hopkins Mr Alan Hopkins , Bristol North East

Finally, on the question of comprehensive schools in Bristol, the plan is to impose a single catchment area for every comprehensive school. I cannot see how it can be argued that this will be to the best interests of all the children in the city. It is inconceivable that a comprehensive school in one area will be able to offer the same sort of education as a comprehensive school in another area because of the difference of entry into the schools. A Clifton comprehensive school, for example, would be very different from the comprehensive school in Eastville. The ability and the right of children to cross the city boundaries for their education will be lost forever.

Photo of Mr William Wilkins Mr William Wilkins , Bristol South

There is nothing to stop them.

Photo of Mr Alan Hopkins Mr Alan Hopkins , Bristol North East

This under the plan is an inevitable consequence. If the Minister can tell me that it will not happen I shall be delighted to hear it, but I am very much afraid that this will be the consequence of the plan.

Photo of Mr William Wilkins Mr William Wilkins , Bristol South

The hon. Member obviously has not read the available information. He will find that there is nothing to stop them crossing the boundaries.

Photo of Mr Alan Hopkins Mr Alan Hopkins , Bristol North East

Although I agree that this is reserved in the plan, it is inevitable that this will not take place, because if a catchment area is fixed the likelihood of a transfer is almost extinguished.

Mr. Wikins:

The flexibility of transfer has been included in the plan.

Photo of Mr Alan Hopkins Mr Alan Hopkins , Bristol North East

On the whole plan, as the Minister is aware, there is widespread opposition in Bristol. The Minister was good enough, in answer to a Question which I put to him on 12th November, to say that he would see deputations of people who are unhappy about the plan and discuss their views. This scheme has aroused widespread opposition in Bristol. It will inevitably restrict parental choice of the type of education which can be made available to their children.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

This is a very important point for those who are interested. The hon. Member has just said that the scheme will restrict the choice by parents of the type of secondary education. Is he telling us that in Bristol when the children are eleven years of age parents can choose at the moment the type of secondary education which their children can have? I do not say "the school," I use the word which the hon. Member used—"the type."

Photo of Mr Alan Hopkins Mr Alan Hopkins , Bristol North East

Assuming that the hon. Member listened to the earlier part of my speech, he would have heard that I said I was not necessarily satisfied with the 11-plus. Granted that there is to be a change in the method of selection, parents certainly have at the moment the choice as to the type of education, whether it be religious or non-denominational, by taking places in a direct grant school.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I apologise for being late here this morning because of traffic problems. The question of the type of school means that the parents choose between a secondary modern and a grammar school. Is the hon. Member saying that parents now choose the type of secondary school in Bristol?

Photo of Mr Alan Hopkins Mr Alan Hopkins , Bristol North East

If the hon. Member will read my speech in HANSARD tomorrow I hope that he will see that I made this point earlier.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I thank the hon. Member.

Photo of Mr Alan Hopkins Mr Alan Hopkins , Bristol North East

This, then, is my argument for the case against the Bristol plan, and I hope that the Minister will give us an answer today. I am sure that my hon. Friends will agree with me that we do not wish to see grammar schools eliminated, abolished or in any way impeded. They have had a great past. I hope that they will have a great future and that they will not be used as a sacrifice on the altar of Socialist egalitarianism.

11.29 a.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Bristol Central

The Motion is couched in general terms, but I do not think that any of us can have any doubt that the mainspring of this attack is opposition to the Bristol plan. I suggest that my fellow Member for the City of Bristol, the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Hopkins) is as much concerned with Bristol politics in making this attack today as he is concerned with anything else at all. I do not complain about that, because I do not take the view that one can eliminate education from politics; for education is a matter of great public interest and politics are concerned with subjects of public interest.

I wish to declare my position plainly. I am a full supporter of the Bristol plan and I said so in my election address. It is not usual in the House for hon. Members to quote their own election addresses. They usually leave that to their opponents. On this occasion, a couple of passages from my address are enough. I said: Labour will encourage the local education authorities to do away with the out of date plus selection which many Tories still defend. Secondly, education will then be steadily reorganised on comprehensive lines in order to give every child, and not just some, a full education suitable to his or her needs and talents". My address also stated: I admire the steps of the City's Education Committee for making a bold start towards the realisation of the comprehensive ideal which, when achieved, will put Bristol in the van of educational progress. Anyone who voted for me, and in the Central division quite a number did, could have been in no doubt about where I stood on the Bristol plan. While I do not wish to attract too much immodest attention to my voting figures, suffice to say that my majority nearly doubled, with 8,000 fewer electors than in 1959. The majorities of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) and my right hon. Friend the present Postmaster-General, who represents the South-East part of the City, greatly improved also. I realise that the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East and the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. McLaren) are glad still to have their political heads on their shoulders, but their majorities slumped.

During the election campaign I discussed the subject of education a good deal with the voters. I found that people on the doorstep were much interested in it. In some cases it may have been a moderate and restrained interest, but it was a responsible one; certainly much in contrast with the near hysteria of some of the opponents of the Bristol plan. I spoke to many thoughtful mothers who supported the gradual change in the local education system—and it is a gradual change from a tripartite system to a comprehensive one.

They supported it for this simple and human reason. In a family with several children—and I have had some experi- ence of this in my family—one often comes across the situation where one child passes the 11-plus and wins its way to a grammar school while another child does not. Although all the children in the family are equally loved and esteemed, the fact that one child has got through and has qualified while another has not places a strain, sometimes on family loyalties, within that family.

This human problem has already worried many mothers with whom I spoke during the election campaign and it is for this reason that they prefer the comprehensive secondary school, which takes all their children. Comprehensive education is already popular in Bristol. I do not think that the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East will deny that. That it is popular is proved by the figure of two-thirds of Bristol's children already being at comprehensive schools.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

How does the hon. Member explain that 27 per cent. of the people interviewed in the Bristol Evening Post survey said that they preferred to send their children to comprehensive schools while 56·5 per cent. were in favour of grammar schools?

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Bristol Central

If the hon. Member accepts those figures he will believe anything. I am giving the facts as made clear in the official Bristol education report. It is not denied that two-thirds of Bristol's children—and that figure is growing all the time—are already attending comprehensive schools. Also, quite a few parents whose children have recently passed the 11-plus are already opting for their children to go to comprehensive schools. They are aware of the value of the wide range of choice of subjects available in a comprehensive school. Sometimes a boy or girl will get through the 11-plus as it stands, but the traditional grammar school academic type of education will not necessarily suit his or her talents when a little older.

This all goes to show why the majority of Bristol people see nothing strange in their elected council planning to extend the range and scope of comprehensive education. If this is to be done, forward planning is necessary and while children are the most important consideration, other important questions arise; staff, buildings and all those other things of which account must be taken. As the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East knows, even the Bristol new road plan has an effect on the siting of schools. This is why the education committee must look ahead.

The comprehensive school is in itself an evolutionary concept. It grows and develops all the time. For this reason I ask—leaving aside the direct grant schools, because they comprise a special case—for how long the opponents of the Bristol plan, or of any similar plan elsewhere, think that the maintained grammar school can go on untouched, without change, without evolution? Do they expect it to continue for five, 10, 20 years, or forever?

Bristol does not want to abolish the grammar school type of education, but to integrate its fine traditions—and I know what these are, because I went to a grammar school—along with the experience of its staff within a broad comprehensive grouping, preserving all that is good in the grammar school, but, at the same time, giving it a much wider evolutionary context. In short, the tradition and experience of the grammar schools in Bristol can fertilise and enrich the new comprehensive groupings.

But the trouble is that many of the opponents of the Bristol plan do not accept this evolutionary concept. Many of them—and this can be said as a result of correspondence which has appeared in great detail in the local Press—are against the comprehensive school as such, are defenders of the 11-plus and defenders of the system of early selection. I thought that the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East found himself, in the end, in that position; defending the 11-plus and early selection. He was in a logical difficulty.

Some of the arguments used locally against the comprehensive idea have gone from suggesting that comprehensive schools are poor in achievement—although that is not true and, in any case, we have had a short experience historically of their activities—even to suggesting that mixed comprehensive schools are hotbeds of sexual promiscuity.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Bristol Central

One need only quote from the local Press to prove this point. The Bristol Evening Post stated on 5th November: A London co-educational school headmaster considered his figures 'greatly improved' with only 16 pregnancies in a year among his 15 and 16-year-old girls. The authorities at a large comprehensive co-educational school were shocked to discover that the babies of a number of girls found to be pregnant were actually conceived on the premises—at break times. Co-education brings sex right into the classroom. This is the measure of the low level of some of the local opposition

Photo of Mr Richard Bingham Mr Richard Bingham , Liverpool, Garston

If the hon. Gentleman accepts those facts, is he putting them forward as an argument in favour of what he says?

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Bristol Central

As the hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate, I am not putting them forward as an argument in favour of what I say. I went to a maintained grammar school—quite a number of years ago now—which, even then, was co-educational, and I can assure the hon. Member that it was a very staid school—or I found it that way.

Attacks of this kind—and I have quoted that one merely for what it is worth—are most unfair, and have led to great protest from headmasters and other teachers in comprehensive schools. In a letter to the Bristol Evening Post, the Headmaster of Henbury School wrote: We have seen our schools misreported, misrepresented and misunderstood. We have seen them vilified by people who have never set foot inside a comprehensive school. We have read statements from people whose conception of education takes us back to the dark ages. That gentleman is quite right.

I know that the Bristol plan can be improved—any plan in education or anything else, drawn up by human beings is always capable of improvement, and I am sure that the leaders of education in Bristol would say that they have always been prepared to accept constructive and useful criticism. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will look at this Bristol plan strictly on its educational merits. Provided he does that I, and I am sure my hon. and right hon. Friends who sit for Bristol divisions, will be satisfied.

There is some moderate, sincere and responsible opposition to the Bristol plan. There has been some limited criticism by the religious communities, particularly the Roman Catholics. I have discussed the subject with some leaders of the Roman Catholic community in Bristol who, I understand, are not so much against the change as concerned to see that their financial position is protected. The plan will create certain financial difficulties for the direct grant schools—that is admitted—but I am sure that some of those difficulties could be overcome within the context of a new general national approach to direct grant schools.

But, sad as it is, much of the most vocal opposition in Bristol comes from what I can only call the Right-wing lunatic fringe. In fact, had their spiritual hero not received such a defeat, they could be described as Goldwaterites. Their ideas of public policy are themselves first, second and third, and the community nowhere. They talk of freedom of choice in educational matters, but for the great majority of parents there has been no freedom of choice at any time. There has been a choice for a small minority, but not for the great majority.

There used to be a Parliamentary convention that hon. Members representing a great city tried, even if at times they disagreed with the politics of the ruling party in the city, to speak for the city in Parliament, as I do—

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Bristol Central

The hon. Member should not keep on talking like that. Apart from earlier experience I have been connected with Bristol since my adoption as prospective candidate 2½ years ago, and I have probably gained more knowledge of Bristol in that time than the hon. Member has gained in all his life. Judging by his election results, quite a number of his constituents might take the same view.

However, the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East has a perfect right to disregard that old convention, as he has done. He is attacking the educational authorities of the city he represents, but I do not complain of that, because politics are in education and education is in politics, and I am sure that he is entirely sincere, but I am proud to speak for Bristol. I am glad and proud that Bristol has brought forward this fine and progressive plan for education. I believe that those responsible are excellent and trusted people who deserve well of their city and their country, and I trust that, in due course, and strictly on its educational merits, the plan will be approved by my right hon. Friend.

11.46 a.m.

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole

I am grateful to have been called early on this, the first, occasion on which I have spoken in the House, and I must apologise for having to leave before the end of the debate.

The history of the English free grammar school has its roots in the Middle Ages, when clerks in Holy Orders made some provision for secular education. During the reigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth I many public-spirited persons, amongst whom one is glad to note were merchants, aldermen and Members of Parliament, founded free grammar schools.

To quote from the foundation grant of my own school, dating from 1584, its object was …the pious and liberal training of the Youth of our Kingdom. The school seal depicts the headmaster seated at a desk, facing five pupils. Prominent in the foreground, and overhanging two of them, is a very large birch. Those two pupils appear to be wearing skirts, whereas the other three have wide knee-breeches and leather jerkins, typical of the Elizabethan age.

This seal has given rise to the story that Queen Elizabeth, in granting the charter, wished, against the founder's inclinations, that girls should be included in the school. Alas, it is but a pleasant fable. But that boys' education was not the sole concern of the Elizabethan benefactors is proved by the wording of another school foundation wherein, with a nice turn of phrase, it is written that it was to be …graced by the addition of girls. Today, I wish to describe two other grammar schools—those situated in the Borough of Poole, which I have the honour to represent in this place. The Poole Grammar School, founded by the Poole Borough Council in 1904, carries on the traditions of an older free school, founded in 1629, which, by 1835, had fallen into decay through competition from certain non-conformist schools offering technical education with a strong navigational bias. This one might expect in an ancient seaport like Poole, trading with Newfoundland. Poole Grammar School, unlike the Elizabethan foundation to which I went, originally was coeducational, and remained thus until 1939.

Growing simultaneously in the borough was another school, founded privately in 1905 as the Parkstone School, with religious instruction in accordance with the principles of the Church of England. This was placed under the aegis of the Dorset County Council in 1934, and shortly afterwards it became a school for girls only, and was redesignated Park-stone Girls' Grammar School.

These two schools, one for boys and the other for girls, have a governing body common to them both, and over the past 60 years the teaching in these schools has given a mental discipline and breadth of outlook which has enabled successive entrants to develop sound qualities of leadership and character.

Today, Poole Grammar School has 740 boys, of whom no fewer than 172 are in the sixth form, and the Parkstone Girls' Grammar School has 700 pupils, of whom 114 are in the sixth form. Complementary to these two grammar schools, there are in Poole four excellent secondary schools, three either mixed or in parallel streams of boys and girls, and one for girls only. The inter-relationship of all these schools in Poole works excellently. The secondary schools are truly multilateral schools capable of catering for children right across the academic spectrum from the General Certificate of Education through the Certificate of Secondary Education to the Newsom Report ideas for the third and fourth quartiles of ability.

Over the past 30 years the grammar schools have produced so many qualified sixth-formers that the demand for university places has outrun supply, and from this fact has arisen the Robbins Report and the subsequent programme of expansion. But there are six major problems which face our education system nationally. First, there is the grave shortage of university places which will not be made good until 1975 or later. Secondly, the size of the sixth forms will continue to grow. Thirdly, there is a shortage of trained staff, particularly of highly qualified graduates. Fourthly, the organisation of a Secondary Certificate of Education for the second quartile of ability has yet to be tested in practice. Fifthly, the ideas of the Newsom Report for the third and fourth quartiles of ability have yet to be put into execution. Finally, the school-leaving age will rise in 1970.

Those problems are great, but they are capable of being resolved if the existing system of education is allowed to evolve gradually and logically to meet the challenge; and, to my mind, it will be unwise to hamper this evolution by inaugurating a radical change in the system. I must not be contentious, I know, but I beg for evolution and not revolution.

I think that I am correct when I say that the comprehensive American high school has a standard which is two years behind our grammar school age for age. I believe that the American first degree standard is not much more advanced than our own "A" level pass. I am told that the Americans are worried about their system, which tends to work to the disadvantage of their more highly gifted pupils. The much publicised brain drain from the United Kingdom is but one effect. Our near neighbours on the Continent retain in their secondary systems selective establishments from which are turned out intensively trained young people with whom our own children will have to compete in the future. The Russians, moreover, having tried the comprehensive principle, have abandoned it for one of the most selective systems in the world.

In Poole, the Education Committee has operated for many years an effective system of transfers between secondary schools and grammar schools to aid the late developer. Over the past five years 51 pupils have been transferred to the grammar schools, and of these 10 are at present in the sixth forms.

The boys and girls of Poole's two grammar schools are drawn from all over the borough and are from the widest range of social backgrounds. They mix happily with each other and with the pupils of the secondary schools whom they meet at games and in other school-sponsored combined activities. There is no social and no intellectual snobbery here.

One great drawback of the comprehensive system in an urban area such as Poole is that it becomes a neighbourhood school. Under such conditions "equality of opportunity" may well become meaningless because children of comparable ability may well be educated in different social environments and there is not that free exchange of ideas and conventions which a very wide social range of grammar school intake allows. We do not want to see a new form of stratification of our society, an unintended and unexpected result of a policy which, it is claimed, avoids both social and intellectual distinctions.

I would tell right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that the only true solution in Poole and, indeed, in any urban area is to retain the grammar schools and to build up the multilateral schools to be their true and equally effective counterparts. To quote a leader in the Sunday Times: We are not a country with excellence to waste.

11.55 a.m.

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

I should think that it falls to few hon. Members, after such a short time in this esteemed House, less than four weeks in my case, to have the very distinct privilege of congratulating a maiden speaker. It is a very great pleasure for me to offer my congratulations to the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Murton). He spoke with obvious sincerity and pride of his constituency, and gave us some very interesting details of the well-established grammar schools there. I congratulate him. I can assure him that a second speech is even more terrifying than the first. However, we look forward—I am sure I speak for the whole House—to hearing the hon. Member again.

The Motion is couched in general terms, and I want to deal with it in general terms on an educational basis. I assure the House that I have no prejudice against State grammar schools. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, whom I am delighted to see on the Front Bench this morning, and I attended Wolsingham Grammar School together. The foundation of that school dates back to 1614. I might add that the fact that I was elected to the House almost went un- noticed because of the very great honour conferred on my right hon. Friend in his appointment as a member of the Cabinet. However, I do not begrudge him the fame which has come to him and which is so well deserved.

I do not think that there is any doubt that during the last 20 years, since the passing of the 1944 Education Act, a revolution has taken place in the attitudes towards secondary education of all those engaged in the education service. I speak as a primary school headmaster for 12 years before I came to the House and as the chairman of an education committee in the Borough of Sunderland for four or five years. So some years of my life have been spent in the service of education.

I remember the eager anticipation with which we returned to our tasks in the classroom after the Second World War and the preconceived ideas we had about secondary education. The 1944 Act conferred for the first time a right for every child to enjoy secondary education. Even those who were closely associated with the education service as practising teachers, administrators, inspectors, and so on, believed that it was our job to select an élite who would profit from an academic education, who were easily identifiable and who deserved, because they were the potential leaders and executives of the nation, some selective superior, different education. No examination has received more careful attention and more analysis than that which takes place at 11. The care that is taken by practising teachers, the interest of authorities, the research that has gone into this process of selection exceeds that in respect of any other examination which takes place in the whole of our educational life. We have all done our best to make sure that the system of selection was accurate, fair and practicable.

We now know differently. There is no argument about this. Not even the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Hopkins) defends selection at 11-plus. Nobody defends it. It does not have a friend in the country. Even the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) does not defend it. I heard him address the Association of Education Committees' conference at Harrogate this year, when he reminded us of the failure of the tripartite system. Nobody can defend selecting children at 11, or at any other age.

I want to deal with the general principles. We have had so many reports, inquiries and surveys that the Minister must find it difficult to get into his office because of the reports packed on his table, reports produced during the last 15 years. Those reports can be summarised as coming to common conclusions. First, they conclude that we have tended to educate those of marked ability at the expense of those who are average and below average. Secondly, they show that despite all the care, despite all the dedication and despite all the enthusiasm of all the people in the education service to give a first-class education, the sort of education which will profit all our people, we have succeeded in the tripartite system in providing that even those with top ability should be denied the opportunities which they ought to have.

There is no politics about that. We know that from the records of the Army in National Service days. We know from the Crowther Report that half of those with top ability left school at the age of 15. This is a terrible commentary on all the interest, work, concentration, and conscientious effort which have gone into providing the best in education for all our children.

I am the chairman of the governors of three grammar schools and I attend their speech days, when we rightly take pride in the increased number of open scholarships and the increased opportunities for our young people to go to universities, and so on. What we do not mention, because it is a tragic tale, is the number of boys and girls who go to our grammar schools and who, for five years, follow a course specifically geared to success in G.C.E. and who then leave school with a certificate in three subjects, two subjects, and one subject, and even no subject, and who have had the wrong kind of education. It is not that they are unintelligent. They are intelligent young men and women. But because of the need to select, to label and to classify, they have not had the education suited to their ability and aptitude.

The hon. Member for Poole spoke of multilateral schools. The most difficult job which I have had as the chairman of the governors of grammar schools is to deal with cases when the head teacher has told me that a boy or girl is not profiting from the education being offered and would be much better in a modern school—and we have some of the best modern schools in the country. I have always sent for the parents, but I have never yet persuaded any parents—and they are sensible and anxious to do the best for their children and they are very fair—that it was a good thing to transfer their child from a grammar to a modern school.

I challenge any hon. Member year after year to say conscientiously that there are 12 or 13 children in this age group who ought to go to the non-selective school. It is the most difficult decision in the world. What we want to avoid is the making of a decision at 11 which will channel these children into an education—and there are many of them—in a school which cannot really give them the type of education which they ought to have.

Hon. Members opposite have said that the change is not confined to Labour Party controlled authorities. Every authority is now reviewing its provision for secondary education, because the tripartite system has fallen down. Parents will no longer have it and teachers will no longer have it. This is why more than 100 local authorities have changed their systems.

Much has been said in this argument about parents' choice. There is no greater humbug and hypocrisy than the talk that the Labour policy will prevent parents from having the choice which they had before. The only people who have been able to choose what kind of education they wanted for their children have been those with the ability to pay, and 80 per cent. of the parents in my area have never had any choice. Everybody knows that that is true of the whole country and I hope that we shall not hear any more about this nonsense of parental choice.

We hear talk about the maintenance of standards. I shall be frank and say that 12 or 14 years ago, when we had little experience of comprehensive schools, some of us in the education service were genuinely concerned that we should not destroy the fine academic training, as good as that given anywhere in the world, given to children in British grammar schools. I acknowledge that. I have never run down the grammar school, which has done a remarkable amount for this country and which we now have to adapt and transform. We are not talking about destroying anything but about widening the doors and improving the facilities and opportunities provided by the grammar schools.

There are various ways. Personally, I have never been one of those who judge a school by its examination results, but I know that all too often that is the measure. I believe that over the country—my right hon. Friend will correct me with the latest figures if these are not accurate—about 10 per cent. of the age group usually achieve a good G.C.E., and as an ex-schoolmaster I would say that a good G.C.E. was five passes at O level. I am told that in Anglesey the average is 14 per cent. In his latest book, "The Comprehensive School", Robin Pedley examines the comprehensive schools now working. Let us remember that this is not a fair measure, because many of the so-called comprehensive schools are denied the top ability group. Yet they are achieving about 14 per cent.

I can speak with some authority about the comprehensive school in the borough where I live. The school serves two council estates and in a sense it has the disadvantages which have been mentioned by some hon. Gentlemen opposite. When hon. Members opposite say that no two comprehensive schools will be alike because of the catchment areas, that is true. But there are not two schools in the country which are alike. There are no two children alike and so there cannot be two similar schools. The idea that equality is somehow synonymous with drab uniformity is absolute nonsense.

I am glad to be able to say that the headmaster has been one of the good transfers from London to the North-East—we have bought some footballers who were not worth buying. He came from a London comprehensive school and he has gathered a staff of whom only three have had previous experience of a comprehensive school. Most of the staff have spent all their academic teaching life in grammar schools, some in direct grant schools. In the school today there is a great breadth of opportunity and choice of course, and the tone of the school has meant that all the political argument and fight which have gone in Bristol and Liverpool have not gone on there, because it has been recognised that these facilities are in the best interests of the children. The school is providing a good sound education.

Education is not a race for a few limited prizes. It has nothing to do with getting on the ladder and pushing somebody else off. Education is to be seen as a broad highway where boys and girls, whatever their ability and background, feel that they have a contribution to make.

Hon. Members opposite must face this challenge. I want to make it, and I hope that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone will deal with it. If the Motion is carried, it will mean that some kind of selection must remain in our education service. We cannot have grammar schools as at present constituted without selection. The argument of right hon. and hon. Members opposite this morning has been based on the way that Bristol and Liverpool are doing things. That is arguable, and it is not for me to comment on it. But, sooner or later, right hon. and hon. Members opposite must ask themselves, "Do we believe in selection or not"? Selection involves rejection.

This is not a matter of the 11-plus. We abolished the 11-plus in Durham last year. As head of a primary school, I had the duty of recommending which children should go to grammar schools. Parents did not say, "Now that the 11-plus has gone there is nothing to worry about." Some children were selected, some were not. If they were not selected, they were rejected.

Hon. Members opposite talk a good deal about the good modern schools. I do not notice any anxiety on their part to send their children to a modern school. We must face this matter honestly. I am getting tired of people who praise the modern school. I am bombarded by parents who do not want their children to go to a modern school. They want their children to have a privileged education. Selection involves privilege. It involves rejection, and because of that I believe that we must reject it.

We are living in a social democracy where, day after day, we are learning that all of us, whatever our talents, whatever our particular bent, have a contribution to make to the well-being of society. As we make that contribution we achieve personal fulfilment. The basic principle is to begin to abolish selection in education. If we abolish selection, we cannot maintain the grammar schools as they are at present constituted.

12.13 p.m.

Photo of Hon. John Astor Hon. John Astor , Newbury

I have the honour to represent the constituency of Newbury, so I think that all right hon. and hon. Members in the Chamber will know that I am privileged to succeed Sir Anthony Hurd, who is now Lord Hurd.

I know that he was held in very high esteem in this House and had a great many friends on both sides of it. It will not be easy for me to follow him, because he served his constituency with great distinction for 19 years. He was always listened to with great respect in the House. He was acknowledged to be an outstanding expert on agricultural matters, and I think that he enjoyed the same reputation here as he enjoyed in his constituency for always speaking with clarity and authority, not only on agricultural matters, but on any other subject in which he was interested.

I am sure that hon. Members who value his friendship, as I do, will be pleased that we will not lose touch with him completely, because he is still serving his country in another place, in the precincts of this Palace.

Newbury is still, in the main, a rural constituency. I think that anyone who has driven through the area will know that it contains some of the finest landscape in the south of England. Those of us who live in the area intend to keep it so. At the moment, we have a number of problems hanging over our heads. We have been threatened with a new city, and with the line, to be decided, of the new M.4 motorway. Now there is the possibility of a 400 kilowatt overhead line going through the area. This last proposal will, in the literal sense, create a very highly-charged atmosphere.

The other problems will also create a good deal of feeling. These are con- troversial, and I hope to have the chance to discuss them later and to see what I can do to ensure that the minimum damage is done to the countryside in that area, which should be preserved for future generations.

We also have the distinction of being in the Royal County of Berkshire, which has been a very popular area in recent years. A large new residential community is growing up, especially in the eastern area of the constituency and we have many new housing estates. We have one of the highest population growths of any area in the country. This has been reflected in the school population, which has gone up by no less than 50 per cent. over the last 10 years.

This dramatic increase has caused considerable difficulty in keeping pace with the new school building programme and in modernising the old rural schools, but it has had the fortunate result that, due to our having, perhaps, a larger building programme than other areas, a higher proportion of our pupils are in new or substantially rebuilt schools. Therefore, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the comments that I propose to make about education, especially secondary school education, will relate largely to an area which, perhaps, has better facilities than many other areas.

I respect the tradition of the House that one should not be controversial in a maiden speech. However, it is not very easy to do that on a matter of this kind, because we know from what we have heard about Bristol and Liverpool that there are many controversial aspects of this subject, which arouse very passionate feeling among parents. But I hope that the Motion, which has been drawn in wide and undogmatic terms, will receive a measure of support from both sides of the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Hopkins) has already referred to the report that the Prime Minister has said that the grammar schools would be abolished only over his dead body. The Government do not have a very large majority, so I am sure that they will take very good care to preserve his good health. I do not think that we want to see the early demise either of the Prime Minister, or, speaking for myself, of the grammar schools.

Many of the arguments in favour of preserving the grammar schools—the maintained ones, the aided ones and the direct grant ones—are well known and I do not intend to go into them in great detail except to say that I do not think that anybody seriously challenges the fact that they have justified their reputation for academic success and offer an enviably high standard of education. They are one of the main sources of supply of future scientists, engineers, teachers, technologists and university graduates, all of whom will play a vital part in the future of this country.

I think that it is an undisputed fact—though it is sometimes overlooked—that the direct grant schools provide a practical operating example of a socially integrated community in which pupils are drawn from all walks of life and entry to which is not barred by parental income. I have always understood that hon. Members opposite would like to see an extension of this principle and I cannot understand why, apparently, some of them seek to destroy the very schools where this principle is evident to a far greater degree than is every likely to be the case in the comprehensive schools.

Those who argue in favour of the comprehensive schools are often stimulated, I think, by the question whether the children placed in secondary modern schools can receive an education which allows them fully to develop their abilities and aptitudes. The contrast which is often drawn between grammar schools and secondary modern schools seems to imply that the latter exist only to give a second-rate education for children who are not successful in finding a place in a grammar school. This concept may have been true some years age in the days of the all-age primary schools, but things change and they have changed for the better. In my own authority, the last all-age primary schools disappeared two years ago and throughout the country they will all shortly be abolished as those which are still due to be replaced are already included in a building programme.

In the place of those schools there is arising what I might describe as a new generation of secondary modern schools. They are well-equipped, with good laboratories, are well staffed and offer outstanding educational opportunities for their pupils. In spite of the criticisms which are made against them, in areas where they are operating they are establishing a reputation for a first-rate education and parents send their children to them willingly.

I believe that a great many people seriously underrate the quality of the work that is being done in these schools. A secondary modern school which is a typical example in my constituency this year had 50 pupils obtaining passes in the G.C.E. at O level. Some gained two or three passes, a few even five or six. It had a total of 116 O level passes and, in addition, three A level passes. It is interesting to note that this happens not only in this typical school of which I am speaking; it is not unique. In the county as a whole, in 1952, there were only 14 passes. During the recent years, the average has been 1,500 passes. This shows how this new generation of secondary modern schools is developing and offering new opportunities.

I quite agree that examination results are not everything. What is more encouraging even than examination results is the spirit of enthusiasm in these schools, which can be seen when one goes into them and sees the way in which pupils seize their opportunities and make use of the facilities that are available to them. This is reflected in the number of children who stay on after compulsory school age. Already in the secondary modern schools in my area, one-third of the children stay on voluntarily. The proportion in the grammar schools is higher, but this is a growing figure and it is evidence that these schools are doing a good job. Indeed, they will get better and better as the recommendations of the Newsom Report are implemented.

I want to stress that this new generation of modern schools is doing a first-rate job and I regret that so many people, often through either prejudice or ignorance, try to denigrate them. This is a positive disservice to the children, it causes the parents unnecessary and unwarranted anxiety and it undermines the excellent work which is being done by the headmasters and headmistresses and their staffs in these schools.

It is true that not all schools are up to the standard of the one I have used as an illustration. I know that many are still sub-standard and old-fashioned. Many of these are around London, where new, well equipped comprehensive schools have been erected. The older schools make a poor physical contrast with these newer comprehensive schools. It is, therefore, only natural that people should draw comparisons between the two. In most cases, however, I believe that the comparisons are based on the physical aspects of the buildings and the equipment and apparatus rather than on the merits of the educational system.

The heart of the argument about secondary education is the selection procedure, to which previous speakers have referred. The hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong) said that selection involves privilege. I prefer to say that selection involves ability. Many people still refer to this selection procedure as the 11-plus examination. This is not an accurate description nowadays of the various systems used by an increasing number of authorities. I quite agree that the results of a single test or examination would not be a satisfactory criterion on which to judge the ability of a child. In a growing number of authorities, however, the selection of children is a gradual process extending over months, sometimes over years, and the examination is only one feature of this process. Full weight is given to a child's school record throughout his primary education and also to the opinions and recommendations of his headmaster.

One must face the fact that different children have different levels of ability. Even if a child goes to a comprehensive school, he is still selected for the appropriate stream. Differences in ability cannot be abolished. I agree that no selection procedure is 100 per cent. perfect. In the best systems, mistakes are comparatively rare. In my area, if a mistake emerges it can be put right quite simply by agreement between the headmasters of the two schools concerned. Nor is it disastrous for children on the borderline, because there is no clear-cut dividing line between the standards of secondary modern schools and of grammar schools. There is an overlap. It is quite common for children at the top level of a secondary modern school, at least in my area and, I am sure, in other areas, to exceed the standard of the lower streams at the grammar school. It can, therefore, be truly claimed that all children have an opportunity of developing their talents to the full.

I know that some people say that the fact that so many children do well at secondary modern schools shows that they were wrongly selected in the first place and that they should have been sent to grammar schools. I have talked to quite a lot of headmasters and education authorities about this and they agree that it is probably the reverse of the truth. A child who has been in a community in which he has been able to take a leading, responsible part, and perhaps even to excel, is given a self-confidence which he never would have acquired in the more competitive area of a grammar school or even in a comprehensive school. These children have had the opportunity to develop which otherwise they would have been denied.

The terms of the Motion accept that comprehensive schools may be the best solution in certain areas. This is especially so in the scattered rural areas and, perhaps, in areas of entirely new population where a school is built up from scratch. A purpose-built comprehensive school may, indeed, have a useful part to play in the educational pattern, but it certainly has not, as far as I know, been shown on educational grounds that the comprehensive system is superior.

Many of us, therefore, who are quite prepared to accept new comprehensive schools in appropriate cases would be wholeheartedly against the imposition of this system universally on all authorities throughout the country. Such a compulsory imposition would probably do more harm to the standard of secondary education than any other single act. Apart from destroying the grammar schools, the direct grant schools and the best of the secondary modern schools, it would destroy the ability of local authorities either to take into account local circumstances and local parental wishes or, what is also important, to experiment with different systems, as is being done all over the country. It is from such experiments that improvements in the system as a whole emerge.

The compulsory imposition of comprehensive schools would also abolish any element of parental choice. The hon. Member for Durham, North-West expressed the hope that we would hear no more about parental choice. I am sure that if we had a universal comprehensive system, we would hear no more about parental choice—there would be none. I agree that parental choice is limited and that owing to the existing selection procedure a parent cannot choose the type of school for his child, but there is scope for two important aspects of choice. One is choice on denominational grounds, which is an important matter, and the other is whether to choose a single-sex or a co-educational school.

I do not accept what the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer) quoted about all co-educational schools having certain dangers, but the dangers exist and are taken seriously by parents, who should be entitled to have the opportunity, if at all possible, of making their choice. I agree that the choice is too limited. We do not have enough of it at present and I should like to see it extended, but the fact that it is limited is, I think, no excuse for abolishing it altogether.

I am very anxious to see further improvements in education, not only in the secondary range but throughout the whole educational range, but I am one of those who believe that it can be achieved without destroying the best and well-proved elements of our existing system, and I would prefer to see future progress based on improving the least good schools rather than on destroying the best.

Finally, I should like very much to thank the House for being kind enough to listen to me on this occasion of my maiden speech.

12.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

I have much pleasure in following the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newbury (Mr. Astor) on the occasion of his maiden speech. It was fairly concise; it was interesting; and it revealed a sense of humour. If the hon. Gentleman, like myself, was here most of the night, participating in Committee on the Protection from Eviction Bill—and I give him the benefit of any doubt—his speech was an extraordinarily good one in the circumstances.

Now there will be many who will envy the objectivity which the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Hopkins), who moved the Motion, can bring to the discussion of our State system of education. I suppose that those who derive their education from independent fee-paying schools and who have not been directly involved in the State system, either as consumers or as dispensers, may fairly claim some detachment for their point of view. For my part, I must admit that my approach to this debate is extremely subjective. I was educated in the State system, from infant school to the University of Oxford, pausing to work for a living, to support a widowed mother and later to serve at home and abroad with Her Majesty's Forces. My subjectivity is increased because I have also taught in State schools, and by the fact that my earliest experience of the practice of teaching was gained at a very famous grammar school. To make matters even worse, I send my children to State schools, including one daughter to a non-selective State secondary school.

Despite all this bias in favour of the State system I still like to think of myself as a reasonably tolerant and tolerably reasonable man. I must, however, make the point that reason and even tolerance are offended when one finds it reported that Members of Parliament, including a high proportion of those responsible for the pattern of the State education system in the past decade, show a marked tendency to opt out of it when choosing schools for their own children. This was the main conclusion drawn by the Advisory Centre for Education in a survey, "Parents in Parliament", published recently in its journal "Where?" I suppose one might ask: "Where have all the Members' children been?—long time passing."

The Advisory Centre's survey was based on a sample of the children of 150 Members of Parliament and 433 parliamentary candidates. It showed that the proportion of M.Ps.' children attending independent schools was eight times higher that the national figure. Candidates, I must concede, were slightly more "radical" in their choice of school. But the comparable figure for their children was still seven times the national level of six per cent. of the total of the school population. I think that hon. and right hon. Members may agree that this reflects badly upon the central management of our educational system in this country.

Perhaps the House will allow me to quote some of the statistics from this survey. It showed that some 83 per cent. of Conservative Members of Parliament sent their children to independent fee-paying schools. Only 10 per cent. of the children of Conservative Members of Parliament participating in the survey sent their children to State schools. I have told of my bias upon this matter and for my part I am a little disquieted to find hon. and right hon. Friends of mine opting out of the State system, but I must say that of Labour Members of Parliament and candidates 68 per cent. send their children to State schools, 22 per cent. to independent schools. Among Labour candidates, in contradistinction to Members of Parliament, 80 per cent. send their children to State schools and only 11 per cent. to independent schools.

I see that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) has been poking fun at the Conservative Party recently in the Press. He has been telling people that when the crunch comes in the Conservatives' internecine warfare the right of the party always wins the day. I must say that the figures for Liberal Members of Parliament are as follows. State schools, nil, independent schools, 100 per cent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"] When it comes to the crunch so far as the Liberal Party is concerned on this question the private enterprise sector of education appears highly likely to win.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

Indeed where are the Liberal Members gone? [HON. MEMBERS: "School?"] But so far as one can see to the wrong kind of school.

I should like to quote one delightful extract from this report. It concerns an hon. Lady who is a Conservative Member of Parliament, and it was probably the most revealing reply in the whole survey. …I was educated by a governess, and all I know I learned in the Girl Guides. She went on to say: As my two sons are grown up (public school scholarships) I consulted our local headmaster (maintained) and it is his answers that I have written in for questions 6, 7 and 8. She was, I suppose, trying to help, but to say no more it is a rather picturesque response to the educational challenge which faces this country at the present time.

I come now to a point which concerns the validity of the claims made by the Conservative Party on this question of grammar schools. I have been inquiring into the experience of local authorities who tried to persuade my right hon. Friend's predecessors at the Ministry to give support to grammar school projects. And my inquiries produced some rather interesting results. I find that in Durham the local education authority asked for the adaptation and extension of the existing old buildings which comprise Bishop Auckland Grammar Technical School. They are a heterogeneous collection of buildings of various ages and styles of architecture, which the local authority wanted to adapt and extend for an additional form of entry which is at present having to be transported elsewhere. It wanted to do this at a cost of £225,000, but this was recently turned down by my right hon. Friend's predecessors on behalf of the Party opposite.

Looking elsewhere, I find that in my native Lancashire there was a project to effect improvements at Lancashire Royal Grammar School by providing a new library, eight classrooms, eight division rooms, an engineering laboratory and two practical craft rooms, at a total cost of £175,000. Notwithstanding the urgency of the project for grammar school children, the previous Administration turned it down.

From Middlesex, one finds further examples of a local education authority pressing for improvements to its grammar schools and of resistance from the previous Conservative Administration. At Gunnersbury Roman Catholic Grammar School there are 425 pupils in a building inadequate even for two-form entry on a site of 0·7 acres. The classroom space is inadequate. The hall has to be used for a variety of purposes and sanitary and washing accommodation at the school falls short of modern standards. Moreover, there is a widely felt need for more grammar-type education for boys from Catholic homes in West Middlesex.

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , St Marylebone

The hon. Gentleman knows that this is the most frightfully misleading point that he could possibly make. He knows that the total figure for educational building in the previous Parliament was one which the present Chancellor of the Exchequer said could not be increased by any responsible party. He knows that although everyone is aware of the serious nature of the school building situation at the present time, the schemes were allowed in each educational authority in order of priority. If these schemes were not allowed, it was only because there were much more urgent schemes to allow.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

There is a Motion before the House expressing special concern for the grammar schools. As far as one can see, this Motion has the support of the party opposite, and I am saying that under the previous Administration—and I shall now quote from a Conservative in the last Parliament—one can find many examples of the late Government's failure to accede to urgent requests for improvements in grammar school education.

I propose now to refer to Hemel Hempstead County Grammar School in Hertfordshire, which was built in 1931. The local education authority wished to extend and remodel this school to provide adequate accommodation for three-form entry, plus 180 in the sixth-form. My information is that the authority regards this project as urgent and it is providing a biology laboratory as a minor work. Many representations were made to my right hon. Friend's predecessors about the failure to include this project in the building programme, both by the Chairman of the County Council and by the former hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead. This is a fair point to make to people who say that they are especially concerned with the welfare of the grammar schools.

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , St Marylebone

It is a fair point only if the hon. Gentleman is saying one of two things, and he knows that he is not in a position to say either. He must be saying either that the global sum for the area in question ought to have been increased—and that we know was not the view of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer—or that inside the area concerned there was a priority which was less urgent and was allowed. This point cannot be made honestly unless the hon. Gentleman commits himself to one or other of those untenable propositions.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

Would my hon. Friend take it from me that what the Chancellor of the Exchequer was saying was that the recent new figures of school building announced by the late Government, almost on the eve of the election, were the most that the country could afford in terms of the present rate of growth, but that neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer, nor any other right hon. or hon. Member on this side of the House, considers that the school building programme during the 13 years of Conservative Government was anything like adequate?

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

For my part, I would recommend the right hon. and learned Gentleman to read, or read again, the literature of the Campaign for Education, which makes a most damning case against the previous Government. Intellectually it is not very satisfying to talk simply about global sums spent on education without going fully into the record of the Party opposite. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows very well that much of the increased expenditure forced on the previous Government derived, to some extent at least, from the rising birthrate and from the fact that children are voluntarily staying on at school longer, in many cases because they attend comprehensive schools.

These factors have increased the school population by 1,200,000 in the last 12 years, an increase of 20 per cent. If it is argued that there is great merit in having increased the global sum spent on education in those circumstances, all I can say is that I cannot share that view.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

I have already given way on several occasions, and I now wish to move to an explanation of the principal reasons why the Motion before the House should be rejected.

There are five reasons why we should end the 11-plus examination, where it still exists, and introduce non-selective secondary education. The first reason is that the present system is inefficient for its own purposes. As long ago as 1954 a Government report on "Early leaving" showed that the so-called 11-plus examination had rejected many children who could have benefited from grammar-type education. In a survey of grammar school pupils, it found that those who had failed the 11-plus but had been transferred from secondary modern to grammar schools at the age of 13 had been more successful than the average grammar school pupil. They had done considerably better than two-thirds of those in the grammar school—that is to say, they achieved more O level passes in the G.C.E. and more of them stayed on into the sixth form.

The number of children transferred at 13—one in 150—is so small that it is clear that there must be many thousands in secondary modern schools who have the ability to profit from grammar-type education but have been denied it. It behoves hon. Gentlemen who support the Motion to show how these pupils can be given grammar-type education without our doing something radically to alter the present system of selection.

Mr. Robin Pedley in his valuable book, "The Comprehensive School", gives the result of a survey which was conducted into the examination results of comprehensive schools. Many of these schools were still "creamed" by grammar schools. However, his conclusion was that: Such evidence as we have suggests that whereas a system of separate types of secondary school normally produces around 10 per cent. of each age group getting 'good' G.C.Es. (i.e., five or more passes) after five years, comprehensive schools are normally achieving 14 per cent. If the stock argument about levelling down is introduced into the debate, I would point to this support for the view that comprehensive schools have in fact been levelling up.

My second reason for supporting nonselective secondary education is that the 11-plus examination is wholly arbitrary. A child who may be considered worthy of a grammar school education in one county may not be so regarded in another, for some local authorities provide more grammar school places than others. My hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong), who referred to comparative figures in this matter, put a very persuasive and, in my view, conclusive case on the arbi- trary nature of selection under the present system.

Thirdly, the present system is based upon a false theory that intelligence is a given factor in every child's make-up. We now know that social background, parents' attitudes and opportunities provided at school, play the most important part in producing "intelligence". The system therefore favours the child who has already had the greatest opportunities in life—the middle class child, the child whose parents are concerned about education and have had a good education themselves.

Fourthly, the present system distorts primary education. And for many parents and teachers this is the most disturbing consequence of the 11-plus examination. The backwash effect of the 11-plus examination disturbs the tone of so many of our primary schools. In these schools pupils are often streamed from a very early age and there is pressure for teachers to concentrate on the brightest pupils in order to get the best results in the 11-plus examinations. Children who learn more slowly and need the most attention receive the least. The general quality of primary education is reduced, because many schools feel that they cannot spare the time for subjects which do not form part of the 11-plus examination.

Fifthly, the present system accentuates class divisions. From the age of 11, the potential professional and administrative workers, the potential skilled worker and the potential unskilled worker are educated in distinct institutions. What is more, these distinctions are becoming more and more meaningless in modern society. There are not three types of child: there are as many types as there are children. Nor do we want a society in which there are three types of citizen. I profoundly resent the uniformity which was imposed upon our educational and other institutions by the introduction of the tripartite system of secondary education.

To some extent this debate concerns Bristol, and I hope that my hon. Friends will take the advice of one of the most illustrious representatives of that City to serve in this House. Edmund Burke counselled that— When bad men combine good men must associate. If I could offer any advice to my hon. Friends from Bristol it would be that they should associate as never before to ensure that the case for ending the educational and social segregation of children at the age of 11 is fully presented to every citizen of Bristol. There can then be no doubt what the outcome of the present controversy will be.

12.57 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Hunt Mr John Hunt , Bromley

Anyone who rises to address this House for the first time does so with a strange mixture of modesty, pride and petrification. This is certainly true in my case. My ordeal is made even greater by the knowledge that I am following in the parliamentary footsteps of a very illustrious predecessor as the Member for Bromley. Mr. Harold Macmillan will always be remembered with great affection both here at Westminster and in his constituency. He was my Member of Parliament, and I would like to add a few words to the many tributes which have already been paid to him.

The thing which impresses me most about him is the fact that I cannot remember having heard him utter one word of personal rancour or bitterness against anyone. He is a very remarkable man, and he was a very great parliamentarian. It was a cruel irony of fate that, having successfully survived one of the most unpleasant and unsavoury episodes in modern political history he was struck down by the illness which forced his resignation. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will join with me in wishing him a long and happy retirement from active politics. If I can make one-fifth of the contribution to public life that he made I shall rest content.

I am pleased to have an opportunity of participating in this debate, because for the past 11 years I have been a member of the Bromley Committee for Education. For a number of years I have been its vice-chairman. I have therefore seen the problems that have arisen and the achievements in education in my constituency.

In Bromley, we work under the tripartite system. We have grammar, technical high and secondary modern schools. I know that a number of my hon. Friends prefer the bipartite system, but to me this is the great strength of the Conservative case on education in that we believe in variety and flexibility. We do not seek dogmatically to impose one single system of education on the children of this country. I am not opposed to comprehensive schools in every case, but what I do say is that it is only by allowing the grammar, technical high, secondary modern, public, private and comprehensive schools to exist side by side that we shall have any yardstick by which to judge the success or otherwise of the comprehensive system.

Frankly, I am not convinced by the argument sometimes put forward—and we have had hints of it from the benches opposite this morning—that by allowing comprehensive schools to exist together with the grammar schools we thereby permit the best educational talent to be creamed off to the grammar schools. To begin with, that strikes me as being a remarkable admission of weakness in the case put forward by the protagonists of the comprehensive system.

I have the impression, too, that there is no shortage of first-class teachers in comprehensive schools. As we know, many graduates feeling idealistically drawn to teaching in this type of school, so in that respect comprehensive schools are competing on equal terms with the grammar schools.

With regard to the student intake, I feel bound to mention—and I underline the figures given by the previous speaker, the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris)—that I would have a far greater respect for the educational theories of hon. Members opposite if there was more evidence of them sending their own offspring to schools for which they express such admiration. The hon. Gentleman said, in fact, that well over one-fifth of the children of hon. Members opposite are sent to independent schools. It seems that with the exception of the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General, who, as we know, is an exceptional right hon. Gentleman, there really is not so far very much sign of hon. Members opposite having a personal as well as a political enthusiasm for comprehensive schools.

I maintain that it is up to the comprehensive schools to prove their superiority by their results. To argue that because of the alleged brain drain to the grammar schools, these schools, so rich in tradition and academic achievement, should be sacrificed, strikes me as educational dictatorship of the most arrant kind. We have been reminded in the debate that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has said that grammar schools would be abolished over his dead body. All I can say to that is that if that is so the streets of Bristol and Liverpool are going to be strewn with Prime Ministerial corpses. But I must be careful because I understand that maiden speeches should not be too controversial. This is a great strain on me; it is against all my instincts and inclinations, but I shall do my best.

One very slightly controversial thing that I would say, however, is that we on this side of the House find it very difficult to forget the words of that Labour chairman of the Birmingham Committee for Education. A few years ago he said: There is a Socialist objection to the grammar school system because it results in children from working class homes going into white-collar jobs and voting Tory. That to me is a most extraordinary statement and a frightening commentary on the attitude of hon. Members opposite to this vital question of education.

I am particularly pleased to see that the Motion before us today calls attention to the importance of flexibility and variety in the organisation of secondary education.… For a number of years I have been the chairman of the governors of a group of secondary modern schools in Bromley. Therefore, I have seen at first hand the excellent work which they are doing. There is an increasing number of boys who are staying on voluntarily after the age of 15, many of whom are now able to take the G.C.E. examination.

Earlier this year I met a group of sixth form boys at one of these secondary modern schools. They were late developers. They had sat their G.C.E. at O level and were going out into the world. Some were going into accountancy and some into banking. One was going into Customs and Excise and another into Weights and Measures. Two were transferring to the local grammar school to take their A level there. This is an example of the flexibility that we want to see. Others, again, were going on to take their A level at further education institutes.

Almost without exception, they agreed with me and with my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Astor) that it was only by going to a secondary modern school that they were able to develop and work at a little more leisurely pace and thereby able to make the grade at all. They were convinced, and I entirely agree with them, that had they gone straight to a comprehensive or grammar school they would have felt completely overwhelmed and discouraged from the start.

Time and time again, one finds secondary modern school boys, perhaps not of a very high intellectual standard who have a pleasing personality and special aptitude for sport and metal work in a secondary modern school. Such boys are given opportunities; they become prefects and play an active part in the life of the school. I submit that in a comprehensive school boys of that kind feel swamped and are never allowed to develop their character and self-assurance to the full. I think that this emerges very clearly in the Newsom Report because there it is shown that boys at secondary modern schools have a better chance of reaching authority and playing for a school team than they would have if they had gone to a larger comprehensive school. I think that this is a point of fundamental importance in any discussion which we have on the future pattern of education in this country.

These, then, are some of the facts which I hope hon. Members opposite will bear in mind before they embark on any drastic or wholesale uprooting of the present educational system. Of course there is room for change and improvement. This is a continuing process, but I believe passionately in the widest possible range and variety of educational opportunity. In our secondary modern schools we have a system which is proving itself by results. In our grammar schools we have a priceless educational heritage. Let us not throw all this overboard for the sake of misguided educational egalitarianism.

1.9 p.m.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

During the last two or three weeks there have been introduced into this House, and have made maiden speeches, possibly over 100 Members. On each occasion an hon. Member on either side of the House has replied and said what a great privilege it is, or has been, to speak next.

It could be that the hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. Hunt) has heard this said a number of times and might feel that as it has been said so many times before it is not very sincere. I can assure him that in the brief time that I have been here, about 18 months, it is always said very sincerely by hon. Members on both sides of the House because it is said in welcoming someone into a very strange institution. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is said with sincerity from whichever side of the House it comes.

The hon. Gentleman is experienced in local government. He mentioned the committee of education on which he served and also that he served on the governing bodies of schools and in connection with youth employment. His deep personal interest in this matter shows through what he said, even if we do not agree with the sentiments which he expressed. He has chosen well to speak on a Friday. It has its own tempo. Some of us like Friday for that very purpose.

The hon. Gentleman succeeds a very great Parliamentarian. I was a contemporary of his in this House for only a short time, but I recognise the greatness of his predecessor, a man with whom, of course, on many things I disagreed. I succeeded the late leader of my party. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that comparisons are not made in this House and that from my point of view I have found this an excellent thing; perhaps he will, too.

I wish to take up one point in what the hon. Gentleman said. He picked up a statement, made by someone in Birmingham, with which I do not agree, and I do not know the context in which it was made. I recall a statement made by someone in his party, a chairman of an education committee in East Anglia, who said that one of the great things about his committee was that it was the last to come under the Burnham Report. I am not suggesting that that typifies the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite. To draw a general conclusion from the particular does not get us very far.

In the educational world we see, expressed and in action, many very fine emotional attributes—the care of children and the love of children; education is the key to the economic success of the country, and so on. What we have also seen over the years, and I say it with regret, is a very great resistance to change. In England particularly—I am separating England from Scotland and Wales—compulsory education came later during the last century than to any other nation in Europe. There was resistance to change in this respect. Even today, in the reorganisation of secondary education, I feel that in many ways one can see a resistance to change although some change is inevitable.

In education also we see, besides those very excellent attributes, a great deal of cant and humbug. There is an element of it about the Motion which we are discussing. The first example I wished to give has already been developed enough and I will touch only lightly upon it. I still stick to the point that for people to say what a fine and high regard they have for the selective grammar school system, and to show their regard to the degree of not using that system very much, is humbug.

I wish briefly to declare my interest, as I always do. Perhaps on this subject I am not very objective, I am very subjective, as I taught for many years in a grammar school. Even more important, my son took his 11-plus examination last Thursday, so mine is a subjective feeling rather than an objective one.

What I cannot accept, when hon. and right hon. Members opposite defend the grammar schools, is the feeling that they are defending something similar to the public and independent schools to which they went. I offer no objection to any individuals doing this if they so wish, and I will come back to that point in a moment. The State selected and maintained grammar schools are not little public schools, something to be looked at and admired from afar with the feeling, "These chaps are really doing what we do." I cannot accept that at all.

I have here figures, taken from the Douglas Report and quoted in a Fabian pamphlet on the public schools published last week. To avoid quoting them, may I quote the explanation underneath which says: It can be seen that the average level of ability at independent schools"— I concede that public schools are one section of the independent schools— was rather lower than at the grammar schools. Though the range of ability at independent schools went nearly as high as at the grammar schools it also went considerably lower. In the independent school system as a whole there is a much wider range of ability. Children are there who, had their parents put them to school under the State system, would have been selected for secondary modern education. So far as my wife and I are concerned, with our own particular problem of deciding what to do at the present time, the "64-dollar question" for us in the political sense is, if the tripartite system is so good, and is defended on all occasions by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, why is it that they do not put their own children to it, and—comes the crunch—if their children are not selected for a grammar school education, why not let them go to secondary modern schools?

The second aspect of humbug arises directly out of this last point about the tripartite system and the grammar schools particularly. In the grammar schools there is a tight system of working for the ordinary level of examination, for the advanced level and for the scholarship examination, at the end of five and seven years respectively. This is not the case in the public schools in general.

I concede that the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Hopkins) is himself a Wykhamist. I do not deny the great strength of the sixth-form at Winchester. I think that it is first-class and I wish that the State grammar school, where I taught in the sixth-form, had had as good facilities as are available at Winchester. My point is that the public schools are generally comprehensive schools. They also provide the sort of courses available for O level, A level and scholarship.

I have argued in the House before that this is a civilised attitude to education. When hon. Members send their children to independent schools, they are demanding a certain type of approach to education, they are not demanding a particular sort of examination that has to be taken. A week or two ago the headmaster of Eton was quoted as talking in these civilised terms about the sort of educa- tion provided at his school outside the narrowly academic. To a large degree this does not happen in the State-maintained grammar schools. There we find early leaving because of the weaknesses of the selection at 11, and also, and far more, because there is a social selection involved in this. Learning is not just a question of intelligence, it is a question of background and attitude. This is why in Scotland, and in my own native Wales, with their own particular heritage of love of education, this does not apply to such a high degree.

The third example of humbug which I wish to offer to the House is this. The changes that are taking place in the system of secondary education in this country are not just due to the wicked Socialists having imposed a scheme on local authorities whether they be borough councils or county councils. In the last 10 years, during the time of the former Administration, in particular, the 11-plus examination was greatly modified in different parts of the country. There is dissatisfaction with selection. I concede that what is attempting to be done here is to select more accurately, but at least change has taken place.

In this House, during the last Parliament, the right hon. and learned Gentleman who was the then Minister of Education agreed with me, if I remember rightly, when I said that at that moment something like 90 out of 140 local education authorities are proceeding with schemes of change to modify the tripartite system. If there had been no change of Government, in the course of time that change would have come. This is not something which is being imposed dogmatically from somewhere in Whitehall. If it were, I should oppose it to the nth degree. It has already happened to some degree.

This is a ploy which I do not wish to develop greatly. This is a result of social forces. It arises in my own instance. I look at the matter subjectively, as I said I would. In my own case, what sort of education I had at 11 was determined by the local education authority in an examination. That will not be the case with my children. I demand for them what I had myself, and this is what hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite themselves do.

This is developing out of the social change that has come out of the grammar school in the last 30 or 40 years. There have been profound social changes, bringing with them changed attitudes on the part of adults who went to those schools. We want for our children what we had ourselves. We want what hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House want for their children, and I know this is not something which would be denied. So, out of this, there is being forced on local education authorities, for social reasons, some sort of change.

Even more, there has been educational change. I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) has left his place, though I can understand him doing so at this time of day, because the educational change was summed up by him in an answer to a Question which I put to him in the House on 14th May. The right hon. Gentleman, in answer to me, said: I thought that the tripartite system had already broken down seven years ago.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th May, 1964; Vol. 695, c. 577.] That was the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had control of the Department concerned. Seven years before, in 1957—I concede that this is a little Napoleonic—it had broken down. How can we, seven years later, be defending what the right hon. Gentleman said had already broken down?

The Times Educational Supplement of a fortnight ago contained the statement that the grammar school belongs to the tripartite system. But the tripartite system has broken down. A grammar school in its present form, therefore, has to adapt itself to the changed circumstances. The Motion on the Order Paper includes the words "on educational grounds". It is on educational grounds that these changes have taken place in the last 10 or 15 years. I have here an intelligence test. The concept of intelligence quotient on which selection is made at 11 is no longer defended by psychologists.

That is not to say that there are not some children who are more clever than others. I would not deny that at all. What I am denying is that people do not know what they are measuring. It is as accurate a form of selection as one could get in strict mathematical, slide-rule terms. But the concept is now out of favour and there are not three types of child or two types, want as in the bilateral system, which is far more common.

Over the last 10 or 15 years the most profound changes have been taking place at the secondary level, and I would like to mention one or two of them to strengthen the conclusion to which I want to come. We hear praise for modern schools, and I accept this. There is a modern school in my constituency which is, in effect, a comprehensive school, the only difference being that it does not get the grant for a comprehensive school. It runs G.C.E. courses and there are children who are not selected at 11 who are going on to the university.

This has been one of the excellent developments in the last 10 to 12 years. The reason I mention it is because it is living proof that the tripartite system has broken down. If there is a tripartite system and one is choosing at 11, then one is saying that only the grammar school child can take the A level or O level examinations and go on to university. But that is not so. The facts of educational life have broken through administrative bonds.

The fact that young men and women are leaving modern schools which do not provide these courses and are going on to colleges of further education and taking O level or courses of a similar nature and the H.N.C. is another example of flexibility. All I am saying is that anyone who is defending this system cannot start off by saying that the tripartite system is correct, because modern schools and colleges of further education are proof in themselves that something was not right in the selection at the age of 11.

Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite talk about the comprehensive school, by which I suppose they mean the large comprehensive school. With respect, this is one type of comprehensive school. The large comprehensive schools which are present in London and, I understand, in Coventry, Birmingham and Anglesey are only one sort of development. It is not something that can be imposed on an area just for dogmatic reasons, and it would not be. In London, they have their problems of the age of the schools, many of which date back to 1870, and they have the problem of the purchase of land, the cost of which is high. I believe that the L.C.C., which is shortly to disappear, was right in building the large comprehensive schools.

It was right to do so in Anglesey and that is a rural area where the success story is very great, but it is only one sort of comprehensive school and I will never defend one sort of comprehensive school. I will defend the comprehensive principle, namely, that a child has a continuing opportunity to get the sort of education that he deserves.

I do not believe that what is right for London is right for Leeds, or Leeds for the West Riding, or the West Riding for Middlesex. Each area must look at its own needs in the light of local facts and local circumstances and if this is the criterion then there is no difficulty about the future.

Photo of Mr Richard Bingham Mr Richard Bingham , Liverpool, Garston

I was interested in the issues which the hon. Gentleman has raised about comprehensive schools. He obviously knows a great deal about the subject and has thought deeply about it. May I ask him, what is the minimum size of a comprehensive school which one could have? What figure would be put forward?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I would like to return to that point in a moment rather than answer it directly. I think that the size of a school will depend on the locality because one of the factors to be taken into account is the educational needs of the area.

Photo of Mr Richard Bingham Mr Richard Bingham , Liverpool, Garston

My question then is really this—what would be the minimum size, given the locality most favourable to a small size?

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

With respect again, if the hon. and learned Gentleman is asking me the size in my own constituency, where I know the facts, then I can give a size there—I suppose a comprehensive school of about 900, bearing in mind that there is also a grammar school This is, in other words, selection at 11, so there are all sorts of factors one has to take into account. In rural areas, I reckon that a school of 300 or 400 can be viable in educational terms, but I could not give a precise answer with- out knowing the local facts and the local circumstances.

I know it is a Friday, but I would like, if I may, to state the principle from which I work. I am a Socialist, but a democratic Socialist, and such I do not believe that I know all the answers, which is rather different from other forms of Socialism in other parts of the world which start from different premises. The strength of the base of my party is, I hope, this lack of intellectual arrogance. Therefore, I approach each point with a certain amount of pragmatism. I remember, and try to work in the light of, a general principle about which I feel strongly. Among the changes taking place there are bilateral schools with two streams, but I am not very struck on them, though if a local authority has one of those I am not worried, because it has taken a step forward to what I want in five or 10 years' time, because the logic of events will force it there.

I would like to spend a moment on the Leicestershire scheme because I believe that this has merits for the country as a whole. Under this scheme, the primary school has children from 5 till 10, I understand that the high school is 10 to 14, and the grammar school is 14 to 18 years. The sole criterion, I am given to understand, for entrance into the grammar school at the age of 14 is parental choice, in consultation, of course, with the teachers to some degree, because one could see that at a very marginal level, for some children who may have certain peculiarities—I would not go further than that—the parental choice would be wrong.

There is the weakness in the Leicestershire scheme that it can be said of parents who say that they do not wish their children to go to the grammar schools that they are committing their children to stay on at the high school until the age of 15. That tends to form a top end of the high school about which it is being said that the parents do not wish them to go on to the grammar school. I would like to know more about the Leicestershire development in this respect.

This is why I am so taken with the West Riding development. This is not extensive throughout the West Riding but I understand that it is developing slowly. This is good sense, taking into account local facts and circumstances. There they swop at 9, and I am sorry if I use the word "swop" as if we were playing with cigarette cards. The primary school age is 5 to 9, the middle school 9 to 14 and then all children from 14 to 18 years go to the grammar school. The grammar school has not been destroyed. It has been given a different remit on which to work. It is a comprehensive school dealing with children from 14 to 18.

Kent and Doncaster, in recent weeks, have shown their concern by putting selection forward to 13. This also has great merit, because 11 has only a historical respectability. It is because the State schools arose out of the Poor Law, whereas 13 is the educational time to change. At the very least in Kent and Doncaster, whatever they suggest in following up that point, they have made a fundamental break-through which will lead them in the right direction. From the administrative point of view it is not possible in many cases to make changes from a certain September to take effect ten months later. The change cannot be made overnight, but in different ways in different parts of the country the comprehensive principle will work itself out.

If hon. and right hon. Members opposite have concern for the grammar school I wish that sometimes they would show concern for some of our problems. Grammar schools are not all paragons of virtue. The system is not perfect by any means. In our efforts to defend it we sometimes forget things which are wrong. Early leaving needs far more attention. There is over-concentration on O level examinations. I have heard grammar schools lauded to the skies. I have heard it said that they produce scientists, etc., but there is still no career for the grammar school product, however good, in the higher ranks of business, the Army, the Church and some of the professions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] How many grammar school boys become judges or are in the top rank of the Army? How many occupy seats on the other side of the House? [An HON. MEMBER: "Forty-six"]. The figures show that 74 per cent. of hon. Members opposite come from public schools.

I have no concern with those who say that no one from a public school deserves to get on. There are hon. and right hon. Friends of mine who went to public schools, and that is their concern. But as a grammar school product what I object to is that despite the number of grammar school boys there is still a barrier through which they cannot break into the hierarchy and the power structure of the country. In the City, in particular, the grammar school boy cannot break into the top ranks.

In terms of "Oxbridge" awards, for example, the figures of young men and women who obtained scholarships in 1964, according to a table in The Times Educational Supplement, show that 65 per cent. of all awards went to direct grant and H.M.C. independent schools and that only 33 per cent. went to the local education authority grammar schools. I concede that many of the independent schools gear themselves far more than do the State grammar schools to the needs of Oxford and Cambridge in terms of awards, but when it comes to ordinary entry to Oxford and Cambridge this concerns me. I believe in the U.G.C. in its new form under the ministry of my right hon. Friend, and that the last thing a politician should do is to interfere in the ordinary running of educational institutions; and this goes for primary and infant schools as well. We are concerned with administration.

Let hon. Members consider the large sums of money which go to Oxford and Cambridge and then realise that according to figures taken from an Oxford magazine in 1961 and quoted in the Young Fabian pamphlet to which I have already referred, Trinity College, Oxford, draws 80·6 per cent. of all its students from independent schools. Other figures are: Christ Church, 70 per cent.; Oriel, 66·4 per cent.; New College, 66·1 per cent.; and then we come down to St. Catherine's 30·4 per cent., and St. Peter's, 29·3 per cent., the last two being the newer institutions. These are not as a result of entrance examinations of the highest calibre which take into account grammar school candidates. There is an "old boy" tie-up between the public schools and Oxford and Cambridge. If hon. Members opposite are so keen on grammar schools let them help us to break through this barrier.

Why should not boys of the highest ability from the State grammar schools be able to get to Oxford and Cambridge when boys of average ability from the public schools can get there? There is something wrong with this system. All I seek to do in deploying this argument is to show that there is a certain amount of shallowness in the support given to the grammar schools by hon. and right hon. Members opposite.

It is with the future of the grammar school that I am concerned and not the public school; there are many people on my side of the House and in my party in the country who are concerned about the public schools. I concern myself far more with putting right the problems of the State educational system than I concern myself at this political stage of time with the problems of the public schools. I believe that the grammar school is adapting itself and will adapt itself to changed circumstances. I know that my right hon. Friend will bear in mind in deciding his administrative policy that the tripartite system has ended.

Last Session, the right hon. and learned Member, in answer to me, as recorded in col. 1481 of HANSARD for 1st July, said that he did not regard it as his job to look at schemes which were being developed in different parts of the country under his powers under Sections 13 and 68 of the Education Act, 1934. He did not regard himself as a sort of court of appeal or a referee who had to decide whether they were right or wrong. If I recall correctly, he said that there were marginal cases where this might have to be done but he believed in freedom for the local education authorities to develop the sort of administrative system which they wished to have.

It is the tripartite system in different parts of the country which should be on the defensive, not the comprehensive system in a variety of forms. This should he the starting point. I have quoted the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone because I believe that this should be the starting point from which this administration should work. I hope also that my right hon. Friend will give us far more information, and not just through the inspectorate. We need far more information about the Leicestershire schemes and the schemes in London and Anglesey, and not just through administrative channels. We need the information so that the local authorities who are considering a change do not go like a bull at a gate for a scheme which has been proved wrong elsewhere. I do not deny that the inspectorate does its job correctly, but this does not help we mere politicians. We should have more information on which to work.

The criteria of the decisions that have to be made must be that they must be made on administrative and not on educational grounds. The educational battle has been won from the comprehensive point of view. It is the administrative problem that now faces us. In Leeds, where we have grammar schools and comprehensive schools—and very good State grammar schools they are, having developed since the 1902 Act—there has been talk of ways of grafting on to the leaving system something of the West Riding scheme, with changes taking place at the age of 14.

We do not know all the answers and great problems will arise. One problem which will arise in my area, which is largely a working class part of the country in the old sense of the term, is that if a change is made at 14 by parental choice and the headmaster says at 13-plus, "Do you wish to stay on until you are 18?", because of a certain social background many lads will say "No", but had they stayed on until 16 and taken an O level they would probably have discovered that they would prefer to stay on till 18. This shows that if a social decision is made at 14 it could be the wrong decision.

The Douglas Report—and this is relevant because selection will take place inside schools, the benefit being that the selection will not be for ever and ever amen and will be made for certain types of courses—showed that when standardised performances and mental decisions are ended selection is made on a more subjective basis. This often benefits the middle class far more than the working class, by the very nature of the knowledge of the subject.

I do not imagine that any solution is a panacea for all time. It cannot be a fixed solution which will last for 100 years. We must all the time be looking at the problems as they arise and, in my view, the Motion ignores the educational facts of life. It does little to help the problems which face us in the world of education at the secondary level. It is factually wrong. The grammar school has served the nation well, but I do not believe that the terms of remit for the grammar school were written for all time in tablets of stone in 1902. They are developing well and I owe the grammar school more than words can say. I do not seek to destroy what it has given to me, as a pupil and teacher, or to my wife and friends.

In 1940, it was well said by somebody that the Battle of Britain was won not on the playing fields of Eton but on the playing fields of the State-aided secondary school. I believe that the battle of Britain in the 'sixties and 'seventies, industrially and economically, will be fought with the product of the State secondary school. It is up to us to do all we can to improve the system in every way to meet the needs of the latter years of the twentieth century.

1.44 p.m.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Sutton Coldfield

At one point in his speech the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) defined the comprehensive principle as a continuing opportunity for boys and girls to receive the kind of education they need. If the party opposite accepts that definition, there need be no quarrel between the two sides of the House, and in regard to the changing social circumstances of the country and the need to adapt our educational system, the hon. Member will see as I proceed that I am not out of sympathy with him.

I hope that he will forgive me if I now turn to congratulating my hon. Friends the Members for Poole (Mr. Murton), Newbury (Mr. Astor) and Bromley (Mr. Hunt) on their excellent maiden speeches. Older hon. Members will agree that we feel a certain sense of wonder at the quality of the maiden speeches we are hearing from both sides of the House these days. As a Conservative and former Minister of Education I am particularly pleased to hear such powerful speeches from my new colleagues, speeches which are obviously based on considerable working experience in the education world.

I strongly support my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Hopkins) in his Motion and also in his opposition to the brutal scheme of reorganisation proposed by the Bristol City Council. I am pleased to say that in the City of Birmingham there is a complete contrast with what is going on in Bristol. In Birmingham all is quiet politically and all is active educationally.

Why is there this difference? It owes something to the high tradition of municipal administration in Birmingham, started by Joseph Chamberlain, and also to the tremendous reputation of the education administration under his descendant, Alderman Byng Kendrick, one of the most able education administrators, along with the fact that both parties in Birmingham share a pride in the City's administration and have a kind of conscious or sub-conscious desire to avoid unnecessary quarrelling in matters which affect social advances and conditions in the City.

It may be helpful if I go over the situation in Birmingham. We have 10 comprehensive and bilateral schools. These are in buildings which were specially designed for the purpose and three of the comprehensive schools were decided on when there was a Conservative chairman of the Education Committee. I emphasise that there is no disagreement between the parties in Birmingham over our comprehensive schools, which we consider are doing very well indeed.

In addition, we have 100 non-selective county grammar schools—to which subject I will return—35 grammar schools and two direct grant schools, one for boys and one for girls, with an outstanding academic record. They stem from the King Edward VI Foundation, which for centuries provided the only free and public education in the city, but for 50 years they have worked in the closest co-operation with the local education authority, which now takes 75 per cent. of the places. One of the most respected members of the governing body is the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Victor Yates).

To return to the subject of the county secondary schools in Birmingham. We have gradually become very proud of them. When I was Minister of Education I placed in the Library some of the reports from Her Majesty's Inspectors showing the pioneer work done in these schools in providing extended courses. In fact, this work was begun as a result of a suggestion made by Alderman Dawes, one of our leading educationalists in the City. This work has gone ahead splendidly and the schools are becoming more and more respected.

Thus it is true to say, without complacency, that in Birmingham the work of educational progress is going on well, that there is a wide variety of educational provision, that we still maintain schools with the very highest standards of academic work—particularly in the grammar schools and the two direct grant schools—and that we have in the county secondary schools progress, experiment and hope.

I must say, however, that there is one shadow that falls across an otherwise pleasant picture. The local education authority has called for a report, and there is now anxiety in the city lest there should be a more dogmatic and partisan approach to the question. Frankly, it is a case of whether the Right Wing or the Left Wing of the Labour Party gains dominance in educational policy, and there is anxiety lest the Left Wing may be excited and encouraged by the advent of a Socialist Government.

I can give much the same encouraging report from the other side of my constituency, which is in Sutton Coldfield, in Warwickshire. I might remind the House that some years ago the Warwickshire education committee took a decision, in principle, that all the schools in the county should have the same standards of staffing, buildings and equipment. It is from that important decision on principle, as a result of which they called them "high schools", that the great progress of those schools in Warwickshire has stemmed.

It was the high schools in Warwickshire, and some of the schools in some of the southern counties mentioned by my hon. Friends in their maiden speeches today, that I had specially in mind in the White Paper "Secondary Education for All: A New Drive", which, as Minister of Education, I presented to the House in 1958. Again, there are extended courses, easy transfers, and larger and larger numbers of boys and girls staying on.

The point I want to emphasise is that these schools are now very popular, and acceptable to parents and children as good schools in their own right—

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

The right hon. Gentleman's point about the same grants being given to all secondary schools interests me very much. Does it mean that the extra money has to come from the rates, because the national financing does not take that into account?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Sutton Coldfield

I cannot give a direct answer to that question, but it is achieved in Warwickshire. I shall try to find out the exact method by which it is achieved, and let the hon. Member know.

I do not say that the schemes in Birmingham and Warwickshire I have described are the only methods of advance. I admit that when I was Minister I was very much interested in the Leicestershire scheme which, I understand, is not favoured quite as much in educational circles now as it was some years ago. And the campus scheme is very interesting, with comprehensive and bilateral schools. There are also the experiments with the Sixth form colleges which are interesting some authorities and some younger educationalists, who are doing such magnificent work in trying to find methods of advance. Then, of course, selection at a later age has a considerable part to play in our future educational progress.

I should now, if I may, seek to systemise my approach to the problem by quoting at some little length from the Crowther Report, which deals with the matter extremely well. The Report states: It does not seem to us, however, that the time has yet come (if indeed it ought ever to come) when a single national pattern can be prescribed. Whatever the local pattern may be, not even a comprehensive school is likely to be able to satisfy all the varied demands which may properly be made by 17 year-old boys and girls. Nor, if it could, is it in our opinion wise to have only one place in which a 17 year-old can get full-time education. Freedom to choose the institution as well as freedom to choose a course is important to teenagers and their parents. We welcome comprehensive schools, not as being the right place for all 17 year-olds, but as pace setters both in persuading boys and girls to stay longer at school and in showing how education, though it must divide us intellectually, can still unite us socially.Any judgment of English comprehensive schools at this stage must be made in faith rather than in knowledge…At present, then, the only sensible attitude to comprehensive schools seems to us to be a non-dogmatic one that neither condemns them unheard nor regards them as a prescription for universal application.In settled educational territory a comprehensive school is bound to be a close neighbour of well-established schools which have built up a spiritual capital in their traditions, in the loyalty of their staff, in the standard of their work and in the goodwill of former pupils, parents and local public opinion. There is in many districts no reason why one school should harm the other, and indeed they may gain from being neighbours. But there are other situations where a comprehensive school could only be established by doing harm to existing schools which are doing a very good job. We cannot afford to lose any good school, whatever its classification. That really expresses the fundamental philosophy of the White Paper that I presented to Parliament in 1958.

I would remind the House that the Crowther Committee, which was appointed by Lord Eccles, and gave its report to me as Minister of Education towards the end of 1958, was a very distinguished body with a very wide representation from the whole of our educational world. Its members included Miss M. G. Green, headmistress of the Kidbrooke Comprehensive School, which has a very fine reputation; Dr. R. Holroyd, of I.C.I.; Lord James of Rusholme; Professor Mott, of the Cavendish Laboratory; Dr. Venables, of Birmingham, and Mr. Wray, formerly of the Education Department of the Trades Union Congress.

I would say with a good deal of confidence that the approach I have quoted from the Crowther Report, which was the basis of the approach of the 1958 White Paper, is broadly acceptable to a very wide range of local education authorities, educationists and teachers throughout the country.

Why, then, are we anxious? To be frank—

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

The right hon. Gentleman has quoted a very interesting comment from Crowther, with which I would not disagree, but is it not the fact that the only dogma today concerns grammar schools? What the other side is now saying is that whatever the circumstances—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. This intervention is getting very much like a second debating speech from the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lloyd Mr Geoffrey Lloyd , Sutton Coldfield

I do not agree with the hon. Member.

I ask again: why are we anxious? I say quite frankly that it is because there are enemies of the grammar schools in the party opposite—[HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] We find that in Bristol and in Liverpool, and only last week the Economist talked of the plain spite to be seen among some local education authorities.

The question is what the Minister will do. I would remind him that in a comparable situation in the Labour Government of 1945–50, the late Miss Ellen Wilkinson and Mr. George Tomlinson played a fine rôle in keeping their own wild men in order on education—[Interruption.] I do not envy the right hon. Gentleman his task because, in a somewhat different sphere, I know how difficult it is to control or moderate those who consider themselves to be party zealots.

The real question is what the Government and the right hon. Gentleman mean by the comprehensive principle. On the one hand, there is what we feel to be the more extreme view expressed by the approach of the authorities in Bristol and Liverpool. If the right hon. Gentleman adopted that kind of line, we would have to declare parliamentary war on him in the interests of defending the grammar schools.

But there is another entirely different understanding of the comprehensive principle. It comes from the distinguished predecessor of the hon. Member for Leeds, South. I well remember listening to the late Mr. Hugh Gaitskell talking with the greatest approval about this combination of the grammar schools and what my hon. Friend called the new generation of modern schools, the extended courses and the ease of transfer from one school to the other. He said that this was an example of greater flexibility. With regard to transfer, he said that he supported the principle that opportunity must remain open and children not be finally segregated at 11. We entirely agree with that. Therefore, if this is the attitude of the Labour Party, there need be no quarrel between the two sides of the House.

Now that I have had this moment, in which hon. Gentleman opposite did not altogether approve of me, I would point out there are a great many people on both sides of the House who do not really want to have a bitter quarrel about education and there are a great many people in the country, particularly in the teaching profession, who feel the same. Therefore, may I be a little daring and try to throw a line to the right hon. Gentleman to see whether we can help to draw ourselves together?

I will choose something which is perhaps one of the critical points in this discussion from the side of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I refer again to the phrase in the Crowther Report which I have already quoted about comprehensive schools: showing how education, though it must divide us intellectually, can still unite us socially. I understand and feel a temperamental attraction for this doctrine, and I know that it is a doctrine which moves hon. Gentlemen opposite and probably the right hon. Gentleman. This brings me to my final point. As Minister of Education in 1959, I made an educational tour in the United States. As the House knows, education in the United States is ultra-comprehensive. They do not even go in for streaming. It is regarded as a defence of the democratic colonial principle on which they grew up. One could see in the American schools a social self-confidence in the children which I found attractive. One would not credit that entirely to the schools. Obviously, it is part of the general background of American life. I like it.

Yet, at the same time, what was the most important feature of the American educational scene when I was there? It was a tremendously powerful reaction against the comprehensive principle and the holding-up continually to admiration of the achievements of the British grammar school. I will not go into details about this because it is known by many hon. Members, but our grammar school children are usually a long way ahead of the equivalent age in the American comprehensive system of education.

Finally, what lesson do I draw from this? The lesson is not that we should not experiment. I think that we should experiment, and, indeed, experiment is going on actively under our present system. The only lesson that I draw is that we should experiment with circumspection and do everything possible to avoid damage to the grammar school, one of the finest educational instruments that the world knows.

2.4 p.m.

Photo of Mr Eric Ogden Mr Eric Ogden , Liverpool, West Derby

The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd), in his very vivid moment just now, offered to declare Parliamentary war on Bristol and Liverpool. I cannot speak for Bristol, but I can certainly speak for at least one part of Liverpool, and would remind him of the results of a little Parliamentary warfare that we had there only recently.

The tradition of the House is that new Members coming here should be seen but not heard. So for four weeks I have sat silent and kept vigil on the back benches in face of what has been the most provocative series of debates that I have ever listened to. It has not been my normal practice to keep so silent. I have surprised not only my friends at home, but myself. But enough is enough this morning, particularly because Liverpool has been singled out by so many who have spoken.

My predecessor here is well known to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite—Mr. John V. Woollam, who was a Member for 13 years. He was a loyal supporter of the Tory Party, and I think that is the reason why I am in his place today. I am sure that hon. Members would wish me to convey their good wishes to him. He is well, and prospering. He is not in need of National Assistance, and so on, about which the House has talked recently. I have no doubt that, in spite of certain local difficulties that we had during the election, we shall meet again on various occasions. Mr. Woollam is one of my constituents now, and there are no hard feelings about it.

Another of my constituents is a Member well known to all hon. and right hon. Gentlemen. I refer to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock), who has been here for some years. Another colleague of mine from Merseyside is my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who at one time represented part of my constituency.

It is customary, in a maiden speech, to refer to and praise not only the constituency that one has the honour to represent, but also one's constituents. All I have to say in this case is that my constituency is West Derby and the name of the city is Liverpool, and in this day and generation the one word "Liverpool" is a speech in itself. Liverpool is a great city. It is a great place to live in. It has great needs. It has great achievements.

I am delighted to notice that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) has just returned to the Chamber. I will remind him of remarks that he made on his last visit to my constituency. Because we had a Socialist-controlled council, he described us as "a wretched city". What he said when he heard the Liverpool results in the General Election I hesitate to think.

Photo of Mr Eric Ogden Mr Eric Ogden , Liverpool, West Derby

Secondary education has been highlighted in this debate. I wish that the same amount of attention was paid in the cities we represent to primary and other forms of education. The comprehensive system of education has been introduced by the individual local education authorities. There is the danger sometimes that we are asked in Parliament to interfere with the democratic decisions reached by people who have been put in those places to make those decisions. There are differences of opinion about the system of education that we should have in the City of Liverpool. I have no doubt that the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Bingham) would emphasise some of these differences.

I have received many letters, some of which have expressed fears and doubts, and some support. However, I think that everyone will agree that there is a great deal of anxious and earnest concern about the situation at present. The whole system of comprehensive education is being introduced by political parties and local education authorities of different colours. Some of the difficulties that we are experiencing arise because agreements made in private within an education committee are not maintained in open discussion.

I quote the example of the Lancashire County Council Education Committee. In its general purposes committee on secondary education there was almost unanimous agreement between the major political parties. Yet when the decision was made public in the council chamber, the parties divided because of political differences instead of agreeing on the issue. The matter is being bedevilled by politics no matter what anyone may say.

Conservative spokesmen in the debate have many times accused my hon. Friends of being dogmatic purists. They are surprised that we still find time to be Socialists. They grumble that we put party policy before the children's education. I want to put my own point of view and to explain my own experience before coming to the House.

A long time ago, I took a scholarship examination. I failed it. At that time, the strange thing was that in the village where I lived no one was worried, surprised or concerned in any way when a child failed a scholarship examination. It seems to them that it was simply that one did not have the power to pull strings in the right place. There was no disgrace or stigma. It was simply that one was just not lucky enough to get a place.

Fortunately, my father was able to afford £5 a term to send me to grammar school, a grammar school which had a system which discovered the secret of making me work hard, so that I left it with as good a series of results as any child who went to it. I have since been made a governor of this school which as old and as proud and which has as great a tradition as any school in the land. But it is not the same grammar school as when it first started 600 or 700 years ago. It has changed, thank goodness, which is what has happened to the whole of the education system which will continue to change in spite of or because of us.

I think that it was the hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. Hunt) who said that the Labour Party opposed public schools in principle just because we did not like them and could not send our children to them. I will give an example of what I believe to be comprehensive education and what I have practised myself. My son, now 19, went to an ordinary primary school. From there he went to one of the best public schools in the land —I will not mention the name; I do not know whether it was money worth spending. At that time, I was an ordinary working collier. When he was 15, I brought him away from the public school, with its blessing and good will, back to my own grammar school, because there was a danger that he would be in one place too long and would forget his local roots and local friends. So he finished his education at the grammar school to which I had gone.

I have told that story to show that we are not saying that public schools are bad because they are public schools and that we are not deciding our policies on any dogma or political programme or platform. I have had some experience as the governor of a grammar school, a secondary modern school and an aided school. Serving on bodies of different types, I have found that the disadvantages of the present system outweigh the advantages.

I hope that this discussion today, and as it is continued in the country, will not bring forth religious prejudices to complicate an already complicated situation, or for party political purposes. That would be dangerous and devastating and would break up the system completely.

In Liverpool, to which I wish to refer specifically, we have been debating what sort of education system we should have since 1955. The political parties have all stated what they think should happen. There have been schemes, amendments, changes, discussion and deferments from 1955. Yet now we are accused of rushing the thing through and of having no consultations or discussions with the people concerned, the teachers and so on.

No one will suggest that the scheme is perfect, but at least it is an improvement on the present situation, and, as the years go by, we will get it better and almost as good as it should be. What I want to emphasise is that the system of an area is the responsibility of the local education authorities. While it is the duty of a Member of Parliament to help, advise and criticise, the decision rests with the local education authority. That is very important. We should advise and help, but it is for the local people to do their job, under the umbrella of Parliament and the Ministry of Education.

Once it is proved—and it is now accepted by many hon. Members on both sides of the House—that selection at any age is wrong, then the grammar school system, the two-tier system as we have it, goes by the board. We should not fall into the error of saying that because a school has a certain name, it is a good school; that because it is called a grammar school, it is a good school and because another school is called a secondary modern, or comprehensive, school, it is bad. I have known good and bad grammar schools and good and bad secondary modern schools. Sticking a title on it does not make it good or bad.

In Liverpool, there is a ferment of ideas about what should be done at a particular place at a particular time. The people who are making the decision and who are responsible need all the help that we can give. If hon. Members want to use this issue for purely political purposes, as a whip with which to beat the other side, let them be honest and say so. But if we want to find the best system of education for all our children and not just for some, then the local authorities will need all the help and advice which every hon. Member can give, without party political bias.

2.17 p.m.

Photo of Mr Richard Bingham Mr Richard Bingham , Liverpool, Garston

I am very pleased to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden), not only because he represents the same city, but because, although he is not, I think, a native of Liverpool—

Photo of Mr Eric Ogden Mr Eric Ogden , Liverpool, West Derby

This question arose in the General Election. My father had the good sense to marry a Liverpool girl. I am half Liverpool and half Manchester.

Photo of Mr Richard Bingham Mr Richard Bingham , Liverpool, Garston

I am glad to hear that, because, although I did not think that the hon. Gentleman was a native of Liverpool, I detected a Liverpool sense of humour which I thought must have been inherited from a Liverpool ancestor, and I am glad to have had that confirmed.

The hon. Gentleman has made his maiden speech on a subject of great topical importance in Liverpool, and he has managed to make it in a non-controversial and pleasant manner which has commended itself to both sides of the House. Speaking both personally and as the hon. Member called to follow the hon. Gentleman, I hope that we will hear him often. I am sure that although his tenure for West Derby will be short, it will be happy for both him and the House. He has plunged straight into the subject which is such a dominant consideration in Liverpool today. I shall deal with some of the things he said in the course of my speech.

This began as a Bristol debate, the Motion being moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Hopkins) and being immediately opposed by the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer), who said that Bristol would be putting itself in the van with the Bristol scheme. I could not help thinking that a suitable name for the vehicle which Bristol would put itself in was the cart.

But this is not solely a Bristol debate, because Liverpool has an interest in its subject matter which, to my mind, is an even more overriding one. I think that I can best express my own views, and I know those of many people who have spoken to me about this matter, by starting with a few general remarks. Why do people urge comprehensive schools? They are an innovation and as such must be justified. I am not against comprehensive schools, as I shall show, but we must find out why they are being urged. I think that there are two reasons for this. One is because of the difficulty of accurate selection at 11, and the other the segregation imposed by the present system. The second is probably the one which weighs most in the minds of hon. Members on both sides.

First, on the question of selection, it may be true that accurate selection at 11 is an extremely difficult function to perform, but this cannot be valid as a reason for urging comprehensive schools. Any defect in selection at 11 can be cured—less effectively perhaps as time goes on—by successive selections at later ages. But, in any event, I do not think it should be overlooked that selection is, and must be, an inherent part of any educational system. The only difference between selection by 11-plus examination and the selection which goes on in a comprehensive school is that in the comprehensive school the selection is done inside the school by streaming and setting. There is still selection. How on earth will a university system be run except on the basis of selection? How will any educational system work if there is not selection?

There must be a form of selection, and I am not convinced that the objective methods of 11-plus selection yield less inaccurate results than streaming and setting inside a comprehensive school. I do not say that that is necessarily so. One should remember that inside a comprehensive school the methods of selection may be just as much open to criticism and possibly favouritism as the methods of selection by 11-plus. But I do not think that selection comes into the debate. It is round segregation that the issue revolves. Segregation is the target which is aimed at and the thing which is wrong with the present system.

One should be very careful about how one approaches the word "segregation". It means the erection of a barrier against the consent of the person kept out. It means as much as that and no more. I appreciate and accept at once that grammar schools are a form of segregation. It is a great pity to have in any system of education unnecessary forms of segregation. But one must not overlook the fact that a rigid and inflexible system of neighbourhood schools is just as much a form of segregation—a different form but still segregation—as is a system of grammar schools.

My hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Murton) made this point very well. Because a boy resides in an area where there is a system of neighbourhood schools he is segregated into one school. Segregation may be inevitable, but if it is something which should be avoided as far as possible, one does not cure the evil of segregation by removing one form and replacing it by another. For that reason, the arguments about segregation are sometimes based solely on the segregation which obviously goes on in the grammar school system without consideration being given to how we can avoid any form of segregation—that is, the erection of a barrier against the consent of the person kept out.

In areas like Anglesey where a comprehensive system is in force—homogeneous districts without a large number of voluntary schools—one could well say that segregation by neighbourhood was of very little importance. In fact, one could say that if there is to be segregation in Anglesey the form which is least harmful and least against the consent of parents may well be the comprehensive system. But in Liverpool and the big cities the story is very different. Any scheme for segregating by neighbourhoods in such places is, to my mind, a very poor exchange for any system of segregation by schools. After all, segregation by schools is related to the aptitude of the pupil, but segregation by neighbourhood, certainly in a large city, would lead to the most extraordinary and artificial barriers quite unrelated to the educational needs and, in many cases, against the wishes and desires of parents and pupils.

I suppose that ideally one would like to aim at the extension of grammar schools, which are the stars of our educational system, whatever may be said about them, so that any pupil who is not completely inapt for a grammar school education and who is willing to undertake to stay at school until he is 16 can find a place in the system. Once one reaches that situation, it is impossible to talk about segregation by schools. It may be impracticable in many areas, it may be impossible in some, but I do not believe that a system like that is as unobtainable as is sometimes supposed. In Leicestershire, under the Leicestershire scheme, it is, in part at least, being achieved already.

Another system to deal with problems of segregation is the comprehensive system. It is obvious that many parents like the comprehensive system and that many pupils profit by it. It is equally obvious that many parents do not like it for reasons connected with the organisation of a comprehensive school, and many pupils would not profit as much in a comprehensive school as they would in some other form of school. If, in fact, comprehensive schools are, in an area, as good a solution as sponsors claim they are, then it is right that they should be created so that they can compete on terms of friendly rivalry with the established grammar schools.

The hon. Member for Bristol, Central, who, I regret, is not in his place, said that more and more people were opting for the comprehensive school. That may well be. If that is so, why destroy the grammar schools? Why not leave the comprehensive schools to make their mark and people to make their choice? If fewer and fewer people opt for comprehensive schools, should not that give the sponsors of the comprehensive system in the district—I am not talking about Liverpool in particular—cause for thought whether their system is as well thought of by parent and pupil as they imagined when they started?

I am quite sure that for many the comprehensive system offers as good an educational opportunity as can be got, and, perhaps, the best. I am equally sure that for many others it does not. One has only to look at the size of comprehensive schools and the fact that, admission areas being as they are, most of them have to be co-educational.

All these are matters for debate, discussion and thorough preparation. That is agreed on all sides. An urgent preliminary is a thorough inquiry and report on the lines of the Robbins Report. There has not been one and I think that there should be one. The present Minister of Housing and Local Government said so on 27th January this year.

Another important factor which must be taken into consideration before final and drastic reorganisations are undertaken in major cities like Liverpool is the impact of the Plowden Report when it is published. We do not know what form that Report will recommend. If it recommends two stages in primary education, it will upset all the thinking which has gone behind arrangements such as the Liverpool arrangement.

Another local factor, but it applies very much to many districts, is that the Local Government Commission is deliberating and among the areas included is Merseyside. It is quite possible that the Commission may recommend a Merseyside County Council—we do not know; I hope that it does. That would bring boundary changes. What help would it be to the stability and organisation of education if Liverpool alone of all the local education authorities on the whole of Merseyside has a scheme such as has been proposed—I hardly dare to call it a scheme—when every other local authority on Merseyside, Socialist or Conservative, has rejected such a scheme out of hand?

Another necessity in Liverpool—I am in absolute agreement with the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby—is to avoid any danger of reawakening the dying embers of the religious controversy. We have almost succeeded in burying that. Year by year, its memories fade and recede and none of us, from either side of the House, wants to see it reawakened. One essential, however, since the voluntary schools in Liverpool are virtually all Catholic—and there are a great number of them, both grammar and modern schools—is that those voluntary schools run by the Catholic Church should be brought in, by agreement and discussion with them, to an identically parallel scheme to the one proposed for the county schools.

What must be avoided at all costs is any form of segregation on a religious basis. Having said that, I say no more. I am most anxious to avoid any suggestion or proposal which could remotely go towards reawakening what I have described as the dying embers of the religious controversy. What I have said has to be said.

Into all this background, the Liverpool City Council has resolved to introduce changes which could be called startling. The best description of what the City Council proposes to do is that it contemplates linking groups of county schools in trios and calling them comprehensive schools. That is not my description. It is one which I have taken from Education, the organ of the Association of Education Committees, in these words: linking groups of schools in trios and calling them comprehensive schools". I cannot call that a plan or scheme any more than one can call it a plan or scheme to put bacon and sausage in a frying pan; one simply shoves them together. That is what the public in Liverpool considers has happened in this case.

The hon. Member for West Derby spoke about the Liverpool election result. I agree that they did not favour the party which I represent, but this controversy had nothing to do with it. The first time the pamphlet saw print was 14th October, one day before polling day. I suspect that it had nothing to do with it.

Photo of Mr William Hamling Mr William Hamling , Woolwich West

I come from Liverpool, too. Would not the hon. and learned Member agree that the last municipal elections were fought on this precise issue, that my own school, the Liverpool Institute, was in local politics on this issue three years ago and that at each of the three local elections the Conservatives were soundly beaten?

Photo of Mr Richard Bingham Mr Richard Bingham , Liverpool, Garston

That is not correct. In any event, it is difficult to fight an election in Liverpool on an issue like this when 40 per cent. of those attending school, because they attend voluntary schools, are not interested in the point.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

May I point out that the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer), who has now disappeared from the Chamber, made the case that in Bristol this was a great issue and that he had held his seat? Will my hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that Bristol, where this was a great issue at the last election, was the only major city in the United Kingdom where the Conservative Party held every marginal seat?

Photo of Mr Richard Bingham Mr Richard Bingham , Liverpool, Garston

That is true and I am obliged to my hon. Friend. If the document had been published a month earlier, the so-called swing in Liverpool would not have been as it is.

It needs to be said to the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) that the local elections in May were not fought on this scheme. It was hatched only on 7th September. What was produced in May was Scheme C, a two-tier scheme, a quite different thing. On 22nd June, the teachers were told to consider Scheme C and they started to do so. Then, in the holiday months of July and August, the officers of the education committee decided to produce a new scheme and the director drew up Scheme D, which saw the light of day only in September or October. The teachers were shown it on 7th September and told that they could have one month in which to consider the matter. It is a totally new scheme and different from Scheme C. Until it was published on 14th October, there was nothing in print that the public could read about what it was.

Now, we are dealing with the matter one month afterwards. The whole scheme is timed to come into effect as in Bristol—and I take the point made by the hon. Member for Bristol, Central that this should be gentle in its introduction—in one year from now, September, 1965.

The result of all this, because it is an inflexible scheme, not a flexible scheme will be that we shall have rigid barriers between neighbourhoods, rigid segregation within neighbourhoods, compulsion and not choice for parents. I must point this out. It is compulsion and not choice for the parents, and indeed, the sponsors make a virtue of the fact that parental choice is taken away. In the scheme occur these words where the author of the scheme is putting forward reasons for the linking arrangements proposed: One objection to schemes involving parental choice is that educational opportunity may be denied to a pupil by parental indifference or lack of understanding". He is by inference there saying that the merit of the scheme I am opposing is that it involves no element of parental choice at all.

All I can say is that, whatever any of us may think about the virtues of parental choice, Section 76 of the Education Act lays a duty, and while I am quite sure that the duty is quite safe in the hands of the Minister, I do not think the local education authority has read Section 76. If it has, it has paid it no attention at all. It has taken away parental choice and says that its scheme, as it involves no parental choice, is, therefore, good, and, of course, it has driven a coach and horses totally through Section 76, which, I hope, will be taken to mean what it says. The destruction of schools and schemes is passed over.

But one must go a little further than that in this history. All the teachers in Liverpool object—not just some of them; every association objects. Parents have not been consulted. In my own constituency, incidentally, we had a meeting about Scheme C in the summer, and we could not get a single member of Liverpool Education Committee to come to speak. I personally have not heard one parental voice addressed to me in favour of this scheme. I have had many, many, of course, against it. I have searched the educational treatises to find one educational voice in favour. of an arrangement such as is proposed by the Education Committee of Liverpool, and I have failed.

The essential of a comprehensive school is unity of layout. Everybody agrees to that, not least the authors of a recent Fabian tract called "A New Look at Comprehensive Schools". Size is the main drawback. As the Fabian writer says: The smaller the size the more personal the treatment can be". The impersonality of the size of the comprehensive school is supposed to be overcome by the house system, by which there is a vertical division and through which moral leadership and welfare can be provided. It is a good system, but it depends on how it is administered, and it depends on building a house assembly room, proper lavatory accommodation and so on, as is said in many books. With these arrangements for the linking of groups and linking of schools which are at considerable distances from one another, I do not see how one can have the house system, extending over schools which are too far away to walk to and which have no bus connections. It is quite impossible.

I do not want to go at length into the details of the objections to the scheme but I must point this out, that there is a very strong body of objection in Liverpool. I do not know what size it is. There are those who do not like co-educational schools and do not want co-education in the schools. There is no choice here. They are virtually all co-educational. In my own constituency I do not think any constituent is going to have the opportunity of sending his child to a school which is not co-educational, and I do not think that that is right. In fact I am sure it is wrong. I do not say anything against co-educational schools. I just happen to know that there are pupils for whom co-educational schools are not suitable and parents and others who believe in single-sex schools for pupils who, by nature and character and temperament, are not suited to co-educational schools. I do not think it is right to force on the people of Liverpool this segregation by neighbourhoods by a form of co-education for all. There are many detailed objections, and I mention that to make certain no one thinks they have been overlooked. They are very important ones.

The result is the uniformity sought to be imposed, and which is bound to be distasteful to many, I am not quite sure how many, but most parents, certainly all of those who think about it. The result is uniformity but no unity. When Mr. Chuter Ede was winding up the debate on the great Education Bill, 1944, he said: The keynote of the Bill is unity, not uniformity."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1944p; Vol. 399, c. 2139.] Liverpool is giving uniformity but not unity.

If the Leicestershire plan had been adopted in Liverpool if would have needed very careful scrutiny and a pilot scheme to see how it worked, but it would have fitted into some of the existing buildings. This sort of variant would have been a valid attempt to give parental choice, a valid attempt to be looked at carefully; but here we have the present scheme, and all I can say about it in conclusion—and I wish that what I am saying in conclusion might be its epitaph—is this.

The Minister of Land and Natural Resources is on record as opposing the present destruction of the grammar schools while there is a shortage of sixth form accommodation; the present Minister of Housing and Local Government said that thought needs to be given to the whole question; the Fabian writers of the tract I have, "A New Look at Comprehensive Schools", proceed on the assumption that any arrangements such as Liverpool is proposing would be unworkable: they do not even discuss it; they say comprehensive schools need purpose-built buildings. The Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, the teachers are united, all parents who are vocal are united, in opposition to this attempt, which is an attempt to destroy the existing grammar schools without putting anything worth while in their place. I ask not only for a moratorium on this plan. I ask for a decent and hasty burial of it.

2.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I have heard nearly all of this interesting debate. I was sorry to miss one speech, that of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) which, I hear, was a very good speech. I was glad to be able to listen to the maiden speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) and of the hon. Gentlemen the Members for Poole (Mr. Murton), for Newbury (Mr. Astor) and for Bromley (Mr. Hunt).

In the terms of this Motion there is a reference to the future of grammar schools and to the organisation of secondary education. I am quite sure that we must see the grammar schools in the context of secondary organisation as a whole, and that if this debate is to be concerned almost entirely with organisation that should not be taken by anybody outside to mean that we in this House do not understand the enormous importance of the personal qualities of the teacher, whatever the organisation is. However good or bad the organisation, he will always count for a great deal. But that does not mean, of course, that the organisation is unimportant, and it is that with which we are concerned in this debate.

The form of organisation which we have had until recently, and which is still usual, can, I think, best be described by the word "separatist". The word "tripartite" is now out of date. The word "selection" does not adequately describe it, because the essence of the system is not merely that it tries, when the children are 10½, to judge what their abilities are and one might have to decide, within a single school, what courses of study they should pursue.

The essence of the system which generally prevails today is that, first, one tries to make, by one means or another, a judgment, when the children are 10½, as to what their abilities are, and on the basis of that judgment one puts them into separate groups and sends each group to a school designed to cater for the needs of that group and that group only. That is why I think the name separatist is the most accurate description or that approach to secondary organisation.

There is no doubt that great dissatisfaction has been manifesting itself, and growing, with the separatist organisation. There are several reasons for that. One is the notorious fallability of the different methods employed for separating the children at 10½—the old-fashioned English essay and the paper of sums, the addition of intelligence tests and the bringing in of teachers' reports, records, and so on.

I wish that some of the immense ingenuity and research which has gone into attempts to revise the 11-plus procedure could have been devoted to the more rewarding educational problems to which we still do not know the solution. At the end of the day the dissatisfaction remains and grows, because even if one could imagine that within each area one had a perfect method of selection for the children there, one would find there, as one does, that the chance of a grammar school education can be three, four or five times as great for a child living in one county as for a child within another. Within the same area a boy may have a better chance of a grammar school education than his twin sister, or even his brother two years younger than himself who may have to take the examination when there are more children of that age competing for the same number of places.

The standard oscillates violently from area to area, and from year to year. Those extreme words are not mine. They come from a report made by a group of teachers appointed by the Conservative Teachers' Association. A very interesting condemnation of the 11-plus can be found in the appropriate volume of the Conservative Teacher, and no doubt hon. Gentlemen opposite are familiar with it.

Secondly, the errors made at 11 cannot adequately be remedied by subsequent transfer. This was admitted in the right hon. Gentleman's paper "Secondary education. A New Drive". It is no good saying that we will put some children in a secondary modern school, and it does not matter if we make some mistakes, because if they prove bright afterwards we can take them out and put them in a grammar school. What does that mean for the secondary modern? It means that every child knows that the best prize for the bright and hard-working pupil is to be allowed to get out of it, and that is no booster for the morale in the school.

That brings me to my third objection, the difficulty of finding an appropriate place for the secondary modern in this tripartite. If any of the ideas or policies of this party mean great changes for the grammar school, they also mean great changes for the secondary modern school. I shall develop this point later. If hon. Gentlemen opposite like to call the changes that we believe are necessary for grammar schools' abolition, they must also say that we are abolishing the secondary modern, but I see no Motion deploring the future of the secondary modern. I am aware that the hon. Gentleman spoke of it, but I notice that the whole emphasis of argument has been, "Save the grammar schools". Nobody has come forward to say, "Save the secondary modern schools".

Photo of Mr Alan Hopkins Mr Alan Hopkins , Bristol North East

Because of the notice of Motion that I gave referring to grammar schools, I was estopped from drawing the Motion to refer to other than grammar schools, otherwise I would have done so.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I agree that the hon. Gentleman's first thoughts limited his subsequent action. His first thoughts spoke his mind and his approach to this problem. That is why I said that we must see the grammar schools in the context of secondary education as a whole.

We have to face the fact, whether this is deserved or not, that the secondary modern has not succeeded in getting parity of esteem, and that despite what I regard as the admirable and praiseworthy efforts in secondary modern to widen the range of courses and study until they can offer as good a range as any grammar school. But if that is to be the future of the secondary modern what is the point of the 11-plus in the first place? If the object of the policy is to narrow to a minimum the difference between secondary modern and grammar school, why go to the trouble of separating children and deciding which should go to which school in the first place?

The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Astor) referred with proper pride to the good secondary moderns in his area. He said that one-third of children stayed on beyond the statutory school-leaving age, or, to put it the other way round, two-thirds left at the earliest opportunity. It is interesting to notice that as against about 67 per cent. leaving there at the earliest opportunity, in comprehensive schools throughout the country it is only 43 per cent. who leave at the earliest opportunity in that manner.

Another cause for dissatisfaction with the tripartite system—and this I think has not been greatly emphasised in the debate, but is serious—is that it tends to distort the teaching in the primary schools away from its proper purpose to coaching for the 11-plus. Attention was drawn to this in a publication issued under the late Government about teaching mathematics in primary schools, where it remarked on the tendency to be content simply with that range of mathematical knowledge which could be most useful to the 11-plus, instead of asking what range of mathematics was really best suited for children at the primary age; and it is not only in mathematics that this drawback occurs. It is not surprising, therefore, for all those reasons, that there has been a steady move-away from the separatist pattern to the comprehensive one.

As I tried to define separatist, let me define what I mean by comprehensive. By a comprehensive system of secondary organisation I mean that when the child comes to the age when it is going to enter a secondary school, the secondary school that it enters is one which comprehends a range of courses suited to the needs of all normal children. Within such a school the processes of selection, properly described, can proceed, and a judgment can be made, as one comes to know more about the child, as to exactly what parts of the school curriculum it can most profitably pursue.

I draw the attention of the House to the advantage in terms of parental choice and freedom in general of the comprehensive as against the separatist pattern. Under the separatist pattern there is this limitation from the start on parental choice. The parent can want the child to go to a grammar school. He can say, "I want my child to go to that school in which there are facilities which are considered to be the best by which he can go up through the G.C.E. to university". If the answer at 11-plus is "No" that parental choice cannot be gratified.

The essence of a comprehensive system is that one can say to every parent, "We do not know what your child will prove himself to be fit for as time goes on", but no child will be put in a position of being sent to a school which is accepted from the start as not possessing as good facilities as some other schools for advanced academic education.

I think that this point about parental choice should be grasped. I do not think that some hon. Gentlemen opposite have realised fully what is involved in this.

But the movement towards comprehensive secondary education has not only been due to the negative reason—the negative but serious reason—of the defects and the evil results of the 11-plus examination itself. When I say the 11-plus examination I use the term as it is popularly used. If one likes one can more elegantly call it the secondary selection procedure, but we all know what is involved.

There are positive advantages which may be obtained from a comprehensive system, well-planned and wisely administered, and one very important one concerns the child who would probably have gone to a secondary modern school if a comprehensive school had not been available. Such a child very often approaches secondary education in this spirit, although not consciously putting it into words: "I am going to make a go of this secondary school. I do not regard myself as one of the very bright ones, but I shall work very hard and get the best out of the school. I am not thinking of going on to university or passing any form of G.C.E." Put a child like that in a school which is deliberately intended to be the sort of school for the not-so-bright and we narrow its horizons and limit its ambitions, and by the time it reaches the age of 15 it will probably leave. Then we say, "Look—it left at 15. That shows how right we were not to put it in a grammar school."

But if we put it in a school where there are courses suited for children of moderate or lower ability but where tough academic work is also being done —as there will be in a true comprehensive school—and that child will find, as the years go by, that the boys and girls with whom it plays games and shares in the school life have academic ambitions which it had not thought of before, and it will then begin to say to itself, "He can do it, why cannot I?". We must widen children's horizons.

I know that some people take the view that there are just not enough people in the country with sufficient natural ability to make this possible, but I do not believe that. We greatly under-estimate the amount of natural ability that exists; indeed, the separatist system is fallible because it is based on the old idea of intelligence—the idea that intelligence is something innate, which cannot be increased by later effort, and which is distributed sparingly among the population.

We now know that neither part of this argument is true. Intelligence responds to nurture. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) spoke not long ago, in an official document, of the importance of children having the opportunity to acquire intelligence. It is distributed far more widely than we used to believe, and if we are ever to solve the shortage of teachers, doctors and well-trained, competent and well-educated people of all kinds we must stop narrowing the horizons and limiting the ambitions of large numbers of our children, as the separatist structure does.

There is also a less utilitarian but not less real advantage to be gained from a good comprehensive school. I believe that it is morally good both for pupils and staff to join, in their school life, with people whose interests are different from, and whose intellectual gifts are either greater or less than, their own. One of the evils in our present approach is that too often the man who clearly has above-average intellectual gifts is encouraged to be contemptuous of the man of slower mind, and the man of slower mind who does manual work is often unable or willing to recognise that the intellectual chap, working in an office or writing a book, is doing just as real work as the man who sweats away in the docks or the factory.

It will do a great evil to our country if this gap in understanding between the more and the less intellectual is allowed to widen, and one of the great merits of the comprehensive school is that it can promote this mutual understanding.

When that argument is advanced one is usually told that it is a very wicked political argument, and that one should stick to educational considerations. But for years the public schools have claimed it as a virtue that they have developed leadership. If the argument is valid for them it is valid for a comprehensive school to say, "The virtue that we are concerned with is not so much the old form of leadership in an aristocratic society as mutual understanding and respect in a democratic and technological one."

It is not surprising, therefore, that we see a state of flux in the local authority situation. I will just give the House some very simple figures. Authorities either implementing or examining concrete proposals for reorganisation on comprehensive lines—68 authorities responsible for 63 per cent. of the secondary school population in the country. Authorities contemplating such reorganisation but not yet with definite plans—21 authorities responsible for 11 per cent. of the secondary school popuiation. Authorities not known to be contemplating any such reorganization—59 authorities representing 26 per cent. of the secondary school population. Nearly two-thirds of the secondary school population is already living in the areas of authorities that are either implementing or making concrete plans for reorganisation on comprehensive lines.

There is a great variety of method and of timing in what has already been done, and I fully accept that that must be so in the future. There are many different kinds of comprehensive school. There is what is sometimes called the orthodox, that is, a school catering for children from 11 to 18 years of age and big enough to comprehend the necessary range of courses suitable only in an area where one has to have new buildings in any case. But there are the variants where one has to manage with existing buildings, and where, for example, one can have the comprehensive simply in two departments, a senior and a junior, in different buildings. But one must immediately ask, of course, do the geography and the communications of the neighbourhood make this sensible Of workable? Or, again, using existing buildings, one can have the Leicestershire plan or some of the variants of it.

Again, there are the problems of the Leicestershire plan, and one has to consider whether it suits one's area. There is tried in one area the method of having the comprehensive from the ages 11 to 16 and beyond that the grouping of the children from various such schools after the age of 16 in a kind of junior college to do the post O-level work. Some criticise that on the ground that it robs the secondary school of its sixth form. Others argue that with the earlier maturity of children it is necessary to put those of that age into something of a more adult type of institution and that the sixth form college might be a more economical use of our very scarce and highly qualified sixth-form staff.

All these methods have their pros and cons, and we have local authorities of all political colours, and none, beginning to make various experiments in them. It is in view of that situation—the growing dissatisfaction with and, indeed, the discrediting of, the 11-plus and the move among local authorities and the danger that we may get a number of ill-tried experiments and the further problem that we cannot afford too great a degree of local variation in the country as otherwise it is very inconvenient for parents who move about—that I believe it is now right for the central Government to give a clear lead on this question.

Remarks made by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) in 1963 suggest that in coming to that conclusion, the conclusion when I decide that that ought to be done now, I am only anticipating by perhaps 12 or 18 months what he would have done had he been in a position to do it. What I say, therefore, is this. In the Government's view we ought now to accept that the reorganisation of secondary education on comprehensive lines should be national policy.

A generation ago the principles involved in the Haddow reorganisation were national policy. That did not mean that they sprang into being overnight, but it was clear where the nation as a whole and the local authorities were going and in what direction they were moving. That is the first point. Secondly, the Government fully accept that this cannot be done overnight, nor could it be done by any one method.

When I say these two things, that the comprehensive reorganisation must be national policy, and balance that by saying it cannot be done overnight or by one method only, I know that implacable advocates of separatism will call me doctrinaire when I say the first, and equivocal when I say the second. This is too serious a matter to allow oneself to be deterred by what is merely the substitution of abuse for argument.

I think it essential for the Government to give exactly equal weight to both the things I have said. That means, on the one hand, I could not accept the permanent retention of separatism. I believe we must accept that we are to move away from separatism. On the other hand, I would reject any plan for educational reorganisation which imagined that it had become meritorious merely because it had abolished separatism, but, whether by undue haste or inept choice of method, had done it in a way that merely abolished separatism without having created schools that would give the variety of courses that a number of children require. I would rather wait a bit for a good comprehensive system than to try to push a sham version in its place.

I hope that what I have said will go some way to reassure some hon. Members opposite. I do not dodge the fact that between myself and many of them there are important differences on the first leg of what I have said, and I regard it as important as the second leg. In the light of that, where does the grammar school stand? As I said earlier we must also ask where do our other existing schools stand? It means for them very considerable change both in structure and in function. This was what I endeavoured to make clear, so far as one could by way of question and answer, in my replies to hon. Members on 12th November.

Let us take an example. Suppose a local authority, in pursuit of what I call the orthodox comprehensive method, decides to enlarge an existing grammar school so that it admits not only children of the kind it has previously admitted but becomes open without selective test to children in the neighbourhood and is able to widen its range of courses of study in accordance with their needs.

That is what has happened at Mayfield and Wandsworth, in London. That is one way in which a grammar school could develop and, indeed, be transformed. Alternatively, it could become the senior department of such a comprehensive school, which would be a somewhat lesser change. Alternatively again, it might become the upper school in one of the variants of the Leicestershire system, which would be a still less change, though still very acceptable because in all these cases it would no longer be turning children away on the ground that they had not passed the 11-plus. The upper school of the Leicestershire system admits at the age of 14 any child whose parents say, "I want my child to come here and I am prepared to keep him here until he is 16". That is the difference, as I implied in my answers on 12th November, in the kind of children it admits and in the range of studies it will have to provide. The question between us as far as the wording of the Motion is concerned is this: do hon. Gentlemen opposite, especially those who spoke on and moved the Motion, consider that changes of that kind can properly be described as the abolition of the grammar schools? If they do they are entitled to use language in this way—if they honestly believe that that is a fair description.

I am bound to say that if they talk to the heads or the staff of Mayfield, or Wandsworth, in London, or Guthlaxton, in Leicestershire, I think that they will find that those teachers would be surprised to learn that their schools had been abolished. I do not underestimate the very considerable nature of the change that is involved, but let us remember that the idea that a grammar school is based on intellectual selection at 11 is comparatively recent in origin. In their early days one went to a grammar school either because father was, on the one hand, rich enough to pay, but, on the other, not in the upper ranks of the nobility, or, alternatively, because one was one of a limited number of children chosen as a result of some local benefactor's charitable provision for the admission of a certain number of local children to a grammar school.

If one was admitted it was evidence of one's parents being considered worthy citizens, rather than of any intellectual test at the age of 11. So the change I am now suggesting must come in the grammar schools, but is not, I believe, greater than they have already undertaken in their past history. But we must, I think, have one thing clear from hon. Gentlemen opposite, who say that what we propose destroys the grammar school. As I said on 12th November, I have been a grammar school sixth form master, and I understand this point. They say, "Here is a grammar school in which tough, high-class academic work is done and seriousness of study and application to work is encouraged among the children". I recognise that some people have a genuine fear that if the school is enlarged or transformed in any of the ways I have described that will make it impossible for it to go on doing that job.

That is the question at issue between us and our critics. I would put it this way—take a sixth form master in a grammar school doing tough academic work with highly qualified pupils; then suppose that there are put in the same school staff with lesser academic qualifications than his own, but perhaps other gifts he does not possess and teaching very different kinds of studies to different kinds of boys and girls. Is there any reason why that sixth form master or his pupils should do their work any less well than they were doing it before? It is certainly not a self-evident proposition that that will happen. Those who say that it will have the burden of proof on them. There has never been any serious attempt to discharge it.

Photo of Mr Edward Gardner Mr Edward Gardner , Billericay

I wonder whether the Secretary of State agrees or disagrees with the views expressed by Lord James of Rusholme, one of the most famous of grammar school masters and now the Vice-Chancellor of the University of York. He said, and I am sure that the Secretary of State remembers the words, that the sort of policy which the Government are now advocating will, in his words, make a grammar school as we know it impossible and that it is incompatible with lip-service to that school. Does he agree with that view or not?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

If the hon. Gentleman had been listening to what I have been saying for the last 10 minutes it would have been perfectly clear to him that I do not agree with Lord James. I have great respect for Lord James, but I think that I am right in saying that one of his assistant staff has ventured to disagree with him during this debate. I have ex-pupils all over the country, doing all sorts of jobs, who will probably disagree with me.

What is more, Lord James, who said that he is a slightly different person from the Lord James who signed the Crowther Report, containing the passages which the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) read out to us, at one time was saying that one could not run a comprehensive school at all without a fantastic number of children. I think that he would now agree, as many others do, that that is mistaken.

I am glad that the hon. and learned Member has raised that point, because I wanted to say that in the past the critics of comprehensive schools have made a series of allegations which have been proved quite wrong. There was a gentleman whom we all remember, Mr. Partridge, formerly Member for Battersea, South, an important figure in the educational world. I am sure that hon. Members opposite will not deny that, because they elected him chairman of the education group of the Parliamentary Conservative Party. He used to make speeches about London children being dragooned into the comprehensive schools, whereas every comprehensive school in London was over-subscribed with applications.

We have had extraordinary stories about the impossibility of running comprehensive schools with fewer than 5,000 children in them. Hon. Members opposite must know, if they look back at Conservative Party pronouncements on this issue over the last 10 years, that they have travelled a long way to the position which they take up today. Is it not just possible that just as the hostilities which they expressed ten years ago were mistaken so their present doubts can be mistaken?

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway Mr Christopher Chataway , Lewisham North

If one reads the 1948 circular sent to local education authorities, which was probably the most extreme justification of a rigid tripartite system, is it not also possible that hon. and right hon. Members opposite have changed their views even more and may equally not be absolutely right now if they were not absolutely right then?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

All of us, except a few pioneers, were wrong about the virtues of separatism in the years immediately after the war. The difference is that we on this side found it out first. I am inviting hon. Members opposite to join us.

If hon. Members opposite said—and this is the heart of the matter—that the essence of the grammar school lies not in the fact that it provides a certain type of education, but that it provides that and nothing else—and that is the argument of the extreme separatists—one cannot say, "I insist on the grammar school in that form and, at the same time, say I believe in the comprehensive principle." If it is necessary to have separatism to provide a proper opportunity for the most able children, where are the appropriate cases in which the comprehensive principle is to be applied according to hon. Members opposite? I do not think that they can really answer that question.

I have tried, on the one hand, not to put this matter in too violently partisan a manner, and, on the other, not to try and blur real differences of opinion. I believe, for the reasons I have stated, that considerable transformations are necessary in the nature and function of the grammar school. I genuinely believe that to describe that as abolition is a misleading and emotive use of words and that the word "wholesale" also suggests that we have it in mind to do something violently overnight without regard for the need of consultation, discussion and adaptation of method to the needs of each particular area.

I want to add a few words at this point on the importance when local authorities are acting of proper consultation and explanation of what they are going to do. We should notice that consultation cannot mean that anyone—teachers, groups of parents or anyone else—can be regarded as having an absolute veto on the judgment of the local authority. The local authorities, after all, are the people chosen by their fellow-citizens to do this job. In the end they must decide, but they should be at great pains to consult the teachers. Consultation with the parents is admittedly more difficult, simply because there are many more of them.

One wants to be sure that one is consulting parents as a whole and not small organised groups which may not represent what the whole body of parents think. Meetings held in schools and addressed by councillors or education officers are often the most useful way of explaining things to parents and getting their comments and criticisms, but the local authority has a duty in the end to decide that it should try to carry out that function of consultation and explanation first.

With all this in mind—and I do not wish to delay the House for too long—I turn to the issue of Bristol and, first, I should draw the attention of hon. Members to the legal position, not that I wish to treat this merely legalistically. At present, Bristol is not asking my formal consent to do anything for which it requires my formal consent, except in one or two aspects of what it is proposing, and although not integral to the whole plan, they would probably have come before me even if this general reorganisation had not been proposed.

I could stop Bristol doing what it proposes to do only by using the most exceptional powers under Section 68 of the Act, by saying, "What you are proposing is so wholly unreasonable that I am going out of my way to stop you doing it". Any hon. Member who asks me to do that should realise the serious and almost unprecedented nature of what he is asking, and I doubt whether the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) would ask me to use those powers in this manner.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

I would like the Minister to answer this question because I may not get a chance to enlarge my views on the subject. He said that he was against a sham version of the comprehensive system. If he studies the Bristol plan he will see that a sham version of the comprehensive system is being proposed for certain parts of the city. Would he not, therefore, be well justified in using his powers under Section 68 of the Act?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

That is a matter of opinion and judgment, which I am now coming to.

The Minister of State and I have studied it carefully. We have discussed it with representatives of both political parties of the Bristol authority and my right hon. Friend has discussed and listened to objections from two organisations representing parents. We can fairly say that we have gone to considerable pains to inform ourselves on this matter.

I found that Bristol's record of consultation with teachers was good and I understand that at least one of the teachers' organisations fully supports Bristol on this matter. I think that Bristol could have taken more and earlier steps about the consultation of parents. It held meetings, not as early as it might have been wise to do, and those meetings have been described to me as having been useful. I could wish that there had been more of them.

In essence the plan, first of all, continues the life and, I hope, enriches the comprehensive schools which already exist and provides for the decisive majority of the city's children.

Photo of Mr William Wilkins Mr William Wilkins , Bristol South

Further to the answer my right hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke), and realising that my right hon. Friend will have seen the Bristol plan probably many times, is he aware that he will find that the local authority explains the serious difficulties involved in carrying the plan through in one part of the city?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

Indeed. I am not prepared to accept the view that if a local authority does everything 100 per cent. at once it is to be accused of being precipitative while if it proceeds by stages it is to be accused of makeshift. That will not do.

The object is that the comprehensive schools would each have what is known as an area of prime responsibility. There have been suggestions to the effect that this clearly limits parents' choice, but it will be possible for a parent to say, "I would rather my child went to a school away from my area", because, for example, "I prefer either single-sex" or "I do not prefer single-sex", or "This comprehensive school rather than that offers a range of studies which I particularly want for my child", or even "I simply prefer that school to this". The extent to which any parent can get his own way on that must depend on the fact that if more people want to get their children into a particular school than there is room for, some will be disappointed.

I could not find, on looking at the Liverpool plan in detail—[An HON. MEMBER: "Bristol."] Yes, Bristol. I am not saying anything about Liverpool, for strictly legal reasons. Looking at the Bristol plan in detail I could not find that there was any more restriction on parental choice than there always must be in the nature of the case.

Then, in two areas of Bristol, the separatist system is for the time being preserved. I do not think that the Bristol City Council liked doing that for its own sake, but came to the conclusion that to go over at once in those areas would have meant producing a result that would not have given the children as good an education as they now get, and that, therefore, they should wait before applying the principle in those areas. That seems to me to show reasonable prudence.

Some of the parents who saw my right hon. Friend felt that the East Bristol system was a makeshift. I hope that they will reconsider this. The proposal in East Bristol is the one that most closely resembles the planning of Leicestershire—to which quite a number of hon. Members opposite were quite friendly—and I believe that I am right in saying that the plan in East Bristol has the support of teachers there, who believe that it can be workable.

There is the other disputed matter in Bristol—the decision not to take up places in future at the direct grant schools. Here, I think that I must be quite clear. It has never been any part of the direct-grant system, or was never intended to be any part of it, that a local authority should be ordered to take up direct-grant places if it did not wish to do so. Even if I felt that Bristol's decision in this respect was unwise, I should find it very difficulty, indeed, to interpret Section 68 to mean that I could order a local authority to go on taking places against its will. It is not only Bristol that has been taking and now proposes to cease to take places at these schools. If I am to order Bristol, am I also to order North Somerset to go on taking places at these schools? Where is it to end?

To move from Bristol and look at the future of direct grant in general, the direct-grant schools and the local authorities together must consider whether possibly by a widening of the range of entry into the direct-grant schools, they can preserve some of the special merit that exists in direct-grant schools and, at the same time, make it possible for them to remain part of the comprehensive system. I do not say for certain that that can be done; I believe it desirable that we should look at it very closely.

We must also notice that we ought never to say that direct-grant or independent schools are the answer to everything for the exceptional case. It is very dangerous to say that the local-authority schools are all right for the general run of children, but that where we have the really bright child we should be sure that it gets into a direct-grant or independent school, or some school not run by the local education authority. If we take that line, our local education system—the nation's own schools—will always be a bit of a second best. Those are considerations to be borne in mind when we consider the future of direct grant.

We have talked a lot about organisation, but not, I hope, inhumanly. To some extent, one has to look at these things with a scientific eye—measuring size of schools, range of courses, availability of staff. There is a scientific side to education but, above all, education is an art, and success in an art depends on the truth of a man's vision. The vision of those who are chiefly concerned to find ingenious methods of separating children at the age of 10½ in order to make special provision for those deemed to be cleverest does not seem to me to be particularly admirable.

I prefer the vision of education which was set out by my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong), who spoke early in the debate, a vision which makes provision for those who are slowest of wit and those who are most able but at the same time tries to keep them mindful not so much of the differences of gift and interest which may separate them but of the common humanity which should unite them.

3.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , St Marylebone

The Secretary of State has just given us a most interesting and, in many ways, remarkable speech. I think I should be doing it a bad service if I sought to answer it in detail without reading it at least once again in HANSARD to see what it really said. I am certainly not going to accuse the right hon. Gentleman, as he appeared at one time to fear that I might, of being either doctrinaire or equivocal.

The only feeling of disappointment that I had about the speech—I know the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying this—is that he did not answer what seemed to me to be the three crucial questions in this most interesting subject. The first is how far he is prepared to coerce local education authorities which have the misfortune not to agree with his vision of secondary reorganisation, what powers he will use and how he will use them. The second is to what extent he proposes to coerce the local authorities which have the good fortune to agree with him to prevent them proceeding in a way which many people think is unreasonable and oppressive. The third is to what extent he thinks that at any rate in our great cities—in which I include those which have been mentioned, particularly Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Birmingham and, above all, London—the two main systems of education can co-exist with a reasonable degree of mutual tolerance for some time to come.

These seem to me to be the practical issues. I have failed to see—it may be that I am speaking too quickly and that there may have been more in it than I thought—in the Secretary of State's remarkable speech a clear answer to any one of those three questions.

Photo of Mr William Hannan Mr William Hannan , Glasgow Maryhill

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , St Marylebone

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me—I always like to give way if I can—I will not give way because I am rather pressed for time.

Whatever else we may think about this debate, the House owes a very great debt of gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Hopkins), who introduced the Motion. It has given the House an opportunity to air for the first time, but not, I suppose, for the last time, what my hon. Friend described as one of the great issues for this Parliament. Whether or not this is one of the great issues for this Parliament, I am certain that it is one of the great issues for educational discussion in this Parliament.

Personally, I regret that this should be so. To my mind, the real issues in both secondary and primary education are teacher provision, school building and curriculum. I believe that if we were to concentrate on those three main issues, we should find that problems of organisation would solve themselves in due course almost naturally as we came to provide for people's wants, and that the more we concentrate on questions of organisation, the less we are likely to find an agreeable solution. I stand four-square behind the remark made by Sir Ronald Gould some years ago: The great illusion of our time is that the stumbling block of equal opportunity is the 11-plus examination. It is not; the stumbling block is an inadequate educational system. I am not prepared to wear a white sheet about this at all. I think that the record of my own party and of my predecessors in the office which the Secretary of State now holds has been the most remarkable in the history of educational administration in this country. But nobody, on whichever side of the House he sits, can believe that the educational system is adequate to our needs at the moment. All I am saying at this stage is that it is the greatest pity to find ourselves having to concentrate, as we have to concentrate, on issues of organisation when as a matter of fact they would largely solve themselves if issues of provision were adequately met in time.

I was saying that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East did a great service to the House by moving the Motion, because, although I may and do regret it, this will be one of the great issues of educational affairs in this Parliament and the sooner we can discuss it and the more often we can discuss it, the better it will be for us all. It is, therefore, a very good thing that we should discuss it today.

The point about this issue is that we are not really talking about the rival merits of a purpose designed comprehensive system slowly evolved by local communities who, by an overwhelming majority, sincerely desire to achieve it. Nor are we discussing the theoretical merits of a bipartite system based on selection carefully planned and evolved over a long period. The issues which we have to discuss, as I will try to show, are both more urgent and more immediate.

It is absolutely hopeless to start talking about the disquiet which undoubtedly exists in some of our great cities, which is where the problem exists in its most acute form, as the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer) did as near hysteria, as the lunatic fringe, as Goldwaterite, or, to use the word of the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong), nonsense. I shall try to show that the disquiet is deep and serious and that it is based upon the misgivings of educationists of almost all political persuasions—I shall try to defend that by quotation—to show that it is based on serious misgivings as to the intentions of certain local authorities and even of the right hon. Gentleman himself.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Bristol Central

I was careful to draw a distinction between what I called responsible and constructive criticism and what I call Goldwaterism. There is that distinction.

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , St Marylebone

I know, but what the hon. Gentleman excludes from responsible and constructive criticism is what many people feel very sincerely. If the hon. Gentleman really wishes to persuade his fellow citizens of Bristol willingly to accept a system about which they have serious misgivings, he would be wise to adopt a slightly more tolerant and attractive approach than that which he adopted during his speech.

I should like to make it perfectly plain that personally I have no hostility towards a purpose-designed comprehensive system deliberately chosen by a local community. It is obviously a viable educational option. It is not an option which in very many circumstances I would choose for myself. I will explain the reasons for that later. I would not ask the Minister to intervene against it. There are country areas, certainly, where it is probably the only rational option and city areas where it is part of a pattern which, as I shall try to indicate if I have time, it is a perfectly acceptable variation as part of our secondary education system.

At the same time, we must take seriously the limitations and disadvantages even of such a system. There is the question of size, to which the right hon. Gentleman rightly drew attention. I believe, without seeking to be dogmatic, that a school of 800 is more handy and gives a better service to its pupils than a school of as moderate a figure even as 1,600. That is a matter of opinion, but local authorities are entitled to take that view if they wish to do so. If the result is a certain degree of selection and selectivity, I am willing to wear it, especially if parents are willing to submit their children to it.

I am doubtful about the value of double transfer which many of the otherwise attractive schemes for reorganisation involve. I should be very doubtful, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Bingham) said, about the advantages of altering the age of transfer in advance of the Plowden Report. I have always tended to think that 13 was a better age of transfer than 11, but I doubt the wisdom of changing it now when the report is so near at hand.

I believe, as did my hon. Friends the Member for Poole (Mr. Murton) and Newbury (Mr. Astor), who made such excellent maiden speeches, that the neighbourhood school has definite social disadvantages, and I gather from what the Secretary of State said about the Bristol plan that on this point he was not very far away from me. If there is a school which is serving a catchment area with a high rateable value in one part of a great city and a school serving a catchment area with a low rateable value in another part, it is a good thing, and not a bad thing, that the children in those two areas should use the transport system of the great city to intermingle in their education.

I cannot rid myself of the idea, as my hon. Friend the Member for Poole said, that the comprehensive principle has been tried in America and has not been a considerable success. My mother was educated in a comprehensive school in America, and she was able to describe to me the limitations which we would do well to avoid. Some of them have been mentioned in this debate. It is certainly not only the pupils of normal educational attainments who suffer from it. The presence of so many soft options often drives otherwise gifted children to take them and to avoid the disciplines which are difficult and important for both them and for society. However, these are matters of opinion. All that I am saying is that the opinion is not entirely one way.

The hon. Member for Durham, North-West was one hon. Member opposite who allowed his experience of past theories of education to colour his approach to the present. I do not agree that selection means rejection. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Garston. Once we opt, as we opted in 1944, to provide free secondary education for all, it follows that we must set up a much wider range of courses than we have done hitherto under a system which provides alone for grammar school education. To fit the child to the course or the course to the child, one must at some stage and to some extent make a conscious effort of judgment as to which one thinks is suitable. Flexibility yes, freedom of choice up to a point, but in the end some form of selection, some form of conscious choice, has to be accepted. It is no good pretending that this is not common both to the comprehensive system and to any other system unless one trusts to luck, and that is not the kind of thing which I should expect hon. Members opposite, with their well-known zeal for planning, to admire.

Photo of Mr William Hannan Mr William Hannan , Glasgow Maryhill

Is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that in Glasgow and in Scotland the omnibus type of comprehensive school has been the traditional form of education? The objection is not so much to the examination as to the segregation of the children in separate schools after that examination.

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , St Marylebone

I am quite aware that the comprehensive or a similar system was familiar in Scotland. I am not aware that it is any longer true, although it once was, that Scottish education is in every respect the pattern for English Educationists to follow.

It seems to me that we are not discussing today either the virtues of a purpose-designed comprehensive system or the virtues of a purpose-designed selective system. We are discussing two quite simple political issues. First, given that the Minister prefers a comprehensive to a selective system, to what degree is he prepared to coerce local authorities who, for one reason or another, have the misfortune to disagree with him? After all that the Minister has said, both on 12th November and today, and after what the Labour Party said in its election manifesto, the right hon. Gentleman cannot complain if local authorities want to know where they stand. He has not told them today where they stand.

The Minister may say as much as he will that it is his party's policy to reorganise secondary education on comprehensive lines, but, as far as I know, education is a local service and the Secretary of State has no power at all to organise central education on comprehensive lines. If he is seeking to coerce local authorities into adopting a pattern contrary to what their local voters want, he must tell the House and the country—and soon—exactly what additional powers he proposes to take and how he intends to use them. As to that, we remain wholly in the dark after the speech to which we have just listened.

It would not be at all a good thing if a Secretary of State for Education set himself up as a kind of educational pope coercing with infallible judgment local education authorities whose voters have elected them to adopt a system other than that which he prefers. The right hon. Gentleman has done nothing whatever to allay my disquiet.

The right hon. Gentleman must also realise that we are facing an equal and opposite danger. He was, I think, as aware of the dilemma as I am now as I speak. What we are faced with is not the danger of local education authorities slowly evolving to systems which have been wholly accepted by their local communities. We want to know the attitude of the Minister towards the much more immediate peril of attempts by local authorities, not to create a purpose-designed system, but to improvise and mutilate existing buildings and institutions to purposes for which those buildings and institutions were never designed.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston referred, as have done some hon. Members from Bristol, to the unhappy marriages which are sometimes arranged between schools miles apart. One headmaster is sacked. The two schools, which are separated by miles, are married and it is called a single comprehensive school. To what extent does the Secretary of State mean to use his powers either to encourage or discourage that kind of thing?

My case is that a Minister who intervenes in the first sense to set himself up as a pope or who fails to intervene on appropriate occasions in the second sense is in both cases failing to discharge his duties as a Minister. [Interruption.] I am glad that hon. Members opposite say "Ah", because I take it that they want me to ask the Minister what occasions he considers to be appropriate. That is what I propose to do. [HON. MEMBERS: "What do you think?"] Given a little chance—and I have very little time—that is exactly what I am proposing to do.

The Minister has referred to his powers. I should have liked him to have told us whether he thinks those powers are correctly designed or not, because I know there are many people who think they need re-examination. But his present powers arise either under Section 13 of the Act or Section 68 of the Act. Section 13 is the section which requires his consent to the opening or closure of a school. What is the opening or closure of a school? It is not so easy to answer the question as it appears at first sight, but I do not myself believe that the Minister's action should be entirely determined by that purely technical consideration. Section 68 gives him power to direct a local authority where it has acted unreasonably. It is, of course, that to which he was referring when he spoke in answer to my hon. Friends who asked him the question about the Bristol plan. I do not wish to embark upon the Bristol plan. I was very careful not to examine it myself and I think it would be rather inappropriate at this hour if I entered into the intricacies of it now. But I would try to set out what I would think to be the principles of reasonableness.

In the first place it seems to me that the Liverpool teachers said a very wise thing about the Liverpool plan: The future happiness"— they said— of too many human beings is at stake for hurried and mistaken schemes to be imposed under an arbitrary time limit. That is the first principle of reasonableness that there should be deliberation and proper consideration of plans before they are foisted upon a local community, and if the local authority fails to observe that, surely on any view it is being unreasonable. I should like to quote, although it is getting late, what The Times Educational Supplement said of the Liverpool decision. But it does seem to err against that particular principle.

Second is the principle of consultation, and by that I mean first of all consultation with the right hon. Gentleman's own Ministry. Many things can be done in the early stages by persuasion before parties have taken up firm attitudes in public which could not be done by force later on. I mean, second, consultation with the profession, which has not always been adequately followed, and Liverpool and Flint are examples. I mean consultation with the school governors. I mean consultation with the denominations. The right hon. Gentleman could not have failed to notice what the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool said in a recent article.

I mean consultation, too, with the parents, whom I was sorry to see treated with such contumely by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not regard parental choice as nonsense. Indeed, it is part of the law of the land, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston pointed out. I realise that it has been limited in the past and I realise that there will always be some element of limitation, but I would still ask that the right hon. Gentleman, unless he proposes to repeal Section 76—and if he does, I hope he will let us know—to regard parental choice as one of the vital principles of education, so far as it can be.

And lastly, as I have only about two minutes left to speak, I should like to say something about two other principles, first, the paramountcy of educational criteria over political, which was insisted upon in the Memorandum of the National Union of Teachers and the Joint Four published in October. The second is the principle of co-existence, about which I should have liked to have said a very great deal, if I had had time.

In my own constituency there are at least two good grammar schools, a good secondary modern, and a good comprehensive school, of which three, at any rate, are purpose-designed buildings. Parents have a reasonable choice between those three systems of education. I have never heard any complaint or any suggestion, outside the doctrinaire, that this is not the way upon which, in a great city, our educational system should be based. I would end by saying this, that hon. Members opposite have said a very great deal about the desirability of integrating our educational system. Well, in its own way I think this is a very worthwhile ideal—

It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.