Order. Before the debate begins, I should like to point out that so far I have the names of no fewer than 29 right hon. and hon. Members, all of whom have special qualifications and special interests in the matter of education, to join in this debate. I shall be able to call half of them if the half whom I call make reasonably brief speeches.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill is very brief, but I think that it will assist the House if, before I describe its provisions in detail, I explain why such a Measure has now become necessary, and what it seeks to achieve.
On 21st January, 1965, the House passed a Motion which introduced the Government's declared objective of ending selection by so-called ability at 11-plus and eliminating separatism in secondary education. I will quote the terms of the Motion in full, for it is very relevant to what I shall say later:
That this House, conscious of the need to raise educational standards at all levels, and regretting that the realisation of this objective is impeded by the separation of children into different types of secondary schools, notes with approval the efforts of local authorities to reorganise secondary education on comprehensive lines which will preserve all that is valuable in grammar school education for those children who now receive it and make it available to more children; recognises that the method and timing of such reorganisation should vary to meet local needs; and believes that the time is now ripe for a declaration of policy.
At that time, in 1965, there were already 262 comprehensive schools in England and Wales. A very large number of local education authorities were already devoting their attention to ways of eliminating selection and developing a comprehensive pattern. These authorities already accepted that it was becoming more and more difficult to sustain the arguments in favour of selection and segregation of secondary school pupils as parents,
teachers, administrators and elected representatives came to see the gross injustice of determining the nature of a child's whole secondary education, his chances of higher education, and, indeed, the whole of the rest of his career, and, by and large, his standard of living for the rest of his life on the strength of fallible tests at the age of 11-plus.
No one could say in 1965 that the 11-plus and all that that implies had not had a long run and a fair trial. But by the time that the present Government came to power, the 11-plus system had very few defenders left. Its fairness was increasingly being questioned by teachers, parents and administrators. It was apparent to everyone concerned with the education service that it damaged the primary schools, that it caused endless unhappiness and anxiety to children and their parents, that it produced quite inaccurate results, and that it was an indefensible obstacle to the development of a genuinely fair system of secondary education for all.
It would, I believe, be true to say that, to a large extent, it was the ordinary, decent, sensible, conscientious parents themselves who decided that the 11-plus must go. No normal parent will ever accept the judgment of however apparently fair a test that his child, at only 11, is a failure, and that he should go to a second-class school. Let us remember that the present tripartite system which the party opposite wishes to maintain has labelled 80 per cent. of the adult population of England and Wales as failures—
It has labelled 80 per cent. of the adult population as "failed 11-plus". What parents knew instinctively was, of course, amply borne out by objective research. The past 20 years has seen a revolt by parents who know their children against the experts who do not.
Fifty years ago, even 20 years ago, most people could still believe that it was possible to select children at the age of 11 because it was still held that it was possible to measure intelligence, or aptitude, or ability, at that early age which marks the transition from early childhood to youth, that what could be measured was inherited and fixed in a child for life. He would, of course, acquire a great deal of knowledge, but the theory was that his bedrock intelligence would not be changed and that that determined his chances of profiting from education up to the age of 18 and of profiting by higher education. This belief clearly underlay the Haddow and the Norwood Reports and the 1944 Education Act.
Today, the idea that intelligence does not change throughout life and that it can be measured accurately is no longer acceptable or accepted. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) himself wrote in a foreword to the Newsom Report:
The essential point is that all children should have an equal opportunity of acquiring intelligence …
acquiring intelligence, not by birth but by environment. Research has shown that measured intelligence is not a fixed and innate quality. It is not something given in a limited measure in the genetic makeup of the new-born child. What is given is a bundle of assorted potentials and what happens to them is a matter of nurture, of stimulus and response.
The intelligence quotient of a child is a function partly, of course, of inheritance, but also of environment and background. The environmental factors which most strongly influence the child's I.Q. are the quality and amenities of home, the interest of parents, the quality of the neighbourhood, the quality of the primary school, size of family, parental aspiration, and so on. Thus, the I.Q. is an indication of innate equipment, but it is also a measure of social background.
The first clear demonstration of the link between measured performance and social factors was provided in the "early leaving" report of the Central Advisory Council in 1954. Two years later the Floud/Halsey work on "Social Class and Educational Opportunity" was published; a year later the British Psychological Society inquiry, edited by Philip Vernon, on secondary school selection; in 1963 the immense analyses in the Robbins appendix by Professor Moser and the Ministry of Education statisticians, measuring the pool of unused ability; and in 1964 Dr. Douglas's work on" The Home and the School"; and a great deal more research in this country, in the United States of America, Sweden, Germany and elsewhere—all this has reinforced the view that the intelligence quotient and educational performance are very heavily influenced by environment as well as by heredity, and that many working-class children suffer a pronounced environmental handicap as compared with middle-class children of the same ability.
It has been estimated that the ratio of innate ability to the influence of environment in the I.Q. was in the ratio of 75: 24—the other 1 per cent. was accounted for by the inter-action of the two. But, clearly, the ratio varies. The child from a good environment with an I.Q. of 100 will almost certainly have less innate ability than the child from a socially impoverished environment who also has an I.Q. of 100.
This is, essentially, the educational case for the comprehensive school. Its aim is to give equality of educational opportunity irrespective of a child's social background and to cut out the penalising of children because of their social environment. I hope that there would be general agreement in the House that no child anywhere in Britain should be penalised because of social factors. But this, of course, is exactly what selection on a so-called ability basis at the age of 11 for different types of school does. It involves making quite premature judgment based partly on social factors about the child's ability to develop in the future. It is to this inescapable fact that the Opposition, who wish to retain all the unjust apparatus of the 11-plus, will not apply themselves.
Why does the right hon. Gentleman persist in stating what he knows to be manifestly untrue? Will he not at least do the Bill justice by not completely distorting the case which he is making against this side of the House? Does he not know, for example, that in Bournemouth there have been no 11-plus examinations now for many years?
The party opposite has said in terms that it will retain a system which has labelled 80 per cent. of the population as failures. It has said in terms that if it comes back to power it will repeal the Bill and return to the 11-plus.
The other great education advantage of the comprehensive school is that because of its size it has very much more teaching and physical resources; it has better facilities and an infinitely greater opportunity to cater for minority interest by devising courses which are tailor-made to suit individual needs; for example Tulse Hill, in London, is offering, I believe, 24 subjects at G.C.E. A level, including six languages. This can be done only in a school of this size.
The opponents of comprehensive schools often argue that they will lead to uniformity in the content of secondary education and, therefore, reduce parental choice. Nothing could be further from the truth; indeed, the reverse is nearer the truth. How much choice is there for 80 per cent. of parents under the tripartite system? Twenty per cent. selected for the grammar school may be able to choose between the grammar school and the secondary modern school, but the other 80 per cent. may choose between one secondary modern school and another but certainly cannot choose a grammar school.
Similarly with the content of courses. In the small grammar or secondary modern school, there are one or two, or perhaps at the most, three sausage machines, and every child must go through one or the other; but in the large comprehensive school, with its wide range of subjects and its flexibility of organisation, every child should be able to follow a course which matches its unique pattern of ability. In my view, the purpose of education is to develop the uniqueness of every child.
It was largely because the policy for ending selection for secondary school education commanded such wide support, both from the parents and from the educational world, that the Government decided in 1965 that they would pursue their policy on the basis of voluntary co-operation with the local education authorities, and with the governors and Church authorities responsible for voluntary schools. Our decision to proceed by way of co-operation led to the issue of Circular 10/65. This requested local education authorities to prepare and submit plans for reorganising secondary education on comprehensive lines. The circular was not issued until my predecessor, the then Secretary of State for Education and Science, had had exhaustive consultations with all the responsible bodies concerned with the education service.
The circular gave as full guidance as was possible at that time on the various types of comprehensive organisation which had emerged from experience and discussion; and, of course, there was a great deal of experience. It acknowledged that the complete elimination of selection and separatism would take time to achieve and that the evolution of separate schools in the comprehensive system must be a constructive process.
During the last four or five years the policy of relying on voluntary cooperation in the implementing of national policy has shown excellent results in many parts of the country. The great majority of local education authorities—110 out of 163—have reorganisation plans approved for all or most of their areas; and for a few other authorities plans are under consideration. Encouraging as the rate of progress has been, it has none the less become increasingly clear that unless the Government take powers to require all authorities to plan the change over to a full non-selective system for the whole of their areas, some authorities would do nothing at all and many others would fail to complete their partial plans by bringing into them every school and every part of their area. I am not prepared to allow the thousands of children involved to be subjected for a day longer than is necessary to the gross injustice of selection by so-called ability when we now know beyond doubt that it is largely selection by social background and not by ability.
There are now about 1,200 comprehensive schools out of a total of 5,467 secondary schools in the maintained system. Nearly one-third of all secondary pupils are in comprehensive schools; and these proportions will rise as plans are put into effect. But the Government can no longer tolerate that a minority of authorities and a minority of school governors are either ignoring or openly flouting national policy as laid down by this House.
It is against this background that the Government have decided that the time has come to impose on local education authorities a duty to end selection for secondary education and to prepare plans to that end. I wish to make it clear that we are not imposing a rigid national pattern. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] There is the greatest diversity among the areas which have been reorganised. We are imposing a duty to end an injustice which has existed for far too long.
When an authority like Warwickshire has submitted a plan for most of its area, but says that it cannot yet work out a plan satisfactorily for the remainder of its area, do the right hon. Gentleman's words mean that he will never he prepared to consider the possibility that the authority may be right and that he may be wrong?
The Secretary of State, whoever he may be at the time, would, of course, consider every authority separately; and if he felt that the time had come when an authority should submit a plan for the rest of its area, he would make that clear.
I come to the provisions of the Bill. The Long Title declares its purpose, which is the ending of selection by reference to ability at 11-plus. For this express purpose Clause 1 imposes on local education authorities a duty to provide schools in accordance with the duties imposed by Section 8 of the Education Act, 1944, and the exercise of powers conferred for the purpose of those duties. The principal duty imposed by Section 8 is to ensure that there are sufficient schools for providing secondary education for the area, and that these schools must be
… sufficient in number, character and equipment to afford for all pupils opportunities for education offering such variety of instruction and training as may be desirable in view of their different ages, abilities and aptitudes and for the different periods for which they may be expected to remain at school, including practical instruction and training appropriate to their respective needs".
The powers conferred for the purpose of fulfilling that duty fall into two categories, first, those conferred by Section 9(1) of the Education Act, 1944, to establish county schools, to maintain county and voluntary schools and to assist other schools; and, secondly, those conferred retrospectively by Section 6(1) of the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1953, to make arrangements for the provision of education in schools not maintained by a local education
authority; that is, in independent schools and direct grant schools. Clause 1, therefore, in effect, adds another factor which local education authorities must take into account in carrying out their duties to provide schools.
Subsections (2), (3) and (4) of the Clause except from the duty imposed by subsection (1) the provision of special education, whether in special schools or elsewhere; the provision of education in sixth-form colleges and sixth-form "units"—as defined in subsection (4) to which I shall come—and the provision of education in schools providing specialist education for those gifted in music, dancing or any other art, and some of these are in existence.
It is important in secondary reorganisation to establish sixth forms in schools where numbers will be large enough to make possible the provision of a reasonably wide range of choice and an economic use of staff. That is the objective and I believe that it is always desirable where it can be done. But, of course, it is not always possible and, while I believe the sixth-form problem to be an interim one, it is a growing problem.
One solution has been the creation of sixth-form colleges for pupils of 16-plus. Two concepts exist. The one which I prefer is the concept of a college catering for the educational needs of all young people staying on after 16, and the other of a college with admission dependent on the satisfaction of certain conditions; for example, four or five Ordinary level G.C.E. passes. A variation is that which attaches a sixth-form unit to one comprehensive school, with pupils of 16-plus transferring from neighbouring schools.
I frankly admit that there is, so far, little experience in this whole field and, granted that one of the essential features is the concentration of the specialist teaching resources, there is, at the sixth-form stage—while experience is still being acquired and applied—no evidence on which to rule out the establishment of colleges which admit pupils above the statutory leaving age on a basis of certain specified requirements.
Where this is being done, care is always taken in such cases to ensure that adequate provision is made elsewhere, including colleges of further education, for those other pupils who require full-time courses. Progress in the direction of sixth-form colleges for all pupils of the age group has also been encouraging and some schemes envisage the development of the more selective colleges into completely non-selective ones.
It is generally agreed that to provide an adequate range of courses a selective college would need to have about 400 pupils, and a non-selective one about 600 pupils. In some areas, of course, the numbers available would not justify a college of the latter size without the very uneconomic use of resources.
This is a sector of the secondary sphere where problems are being thrown up by the very success of the comprehensive schools. I believe that there must be an interim period of innovation and experiment, but, in my view, the longterm aim must be to ensure that all comprehensive schools eventually have their own sixth forms.
I have a problem in my area which concerns the possibility of a sixth-form college as distinct from a direct grant school. Difficulty arises because of the numbers involved and the smallness of the education area, so that the numbers who can be drawn in are limited. Would the right hon. Gentleman encourage the kind of co-operation that can be envisaged in a case like mine; that is, between a direct grant school and the public authority pupils?
I would certainly encourage co-operation. Indeed. I would go further and encourage the direct grant school to come into the maintained system.
Clause 2 of the Bill is, in substance, a legislative version of those parts of Circular 10/65 which call for the submission of plans and describe the procedure which the authority should adopt in their preparation. In effect, Clause 2 converts an administrative request in Circular 10/65 into a statutory requirement; and the provisions for the consultation of teachers and the giving of information to parents are both more specific than the corresponding paragraphs in the circular and are subject to greater control by the Secretary of State, if he thinks it necessary to intervene.
Clause 3 provides for the variation and revocation of plans and, in this context I think that only three points call for notice. First, although an authority may submit a varying plan at any time, the Secretary of State can call for such plans only at five-year intervals. So, in one respect, this makes for more stability and more freedom from central Government intervention than they have at the moment. Second, the provisions in Clause 2 relating to consultations and notifications apply to the preparation of varying plans, just as they apply to original plans. Third, by virtue of subsection (5) of the Clause, its provisions apply to varying plans submitted in response to Circular 10/65. The provisions about consultations and the five-year interval will in future apply to the variations of plans submitted in response to the circular before the Bill comes up.
Clause 4 is formal. The only point calling for notice is the provision that the Bill is to be construed as one with the Education Acts. This has one very important effect among others. One of the effects is that Section 99 of the Education Act, 1944, applies for the enforcement of a duty imposed by or for the purposes of the Bill.
That is the make-up of the Bill.
My right hon. Friend has dealt very thoroughly with the duties and responsibilities of local education authorities. Can he say whether there are any changes in the duties and responsibilities of the management and government of voluntary schools? If so, would he be prepared to consult with them on these matters?
There is no change at all, but if my hon. Friend or the authorities of the voluntary schools would care to discuss the matter with me and my right hon. Friend we would be very happy to meet them immediately to talk it over.
The purpose of the Bill is plain and simple. It imposes on local education authorities a duty to plan for and to achieve a system of comprehensive secondary education. It establishes firmly as part of our law of education that selection for secondary schools by so-called ability must be brought to an end. So it will ensure that the goal of equal opportunity at the secondary stage of education, which should have been the achievement of the 1944 Education Act, will be achieved at last in our time.
I listened with great interest to the Minister's opening lecture on genetics, inheritance and intelligence. Until he spoke, my own impression had been that our ignorance in that sphere was rather greater than our knowledge and that there was still a great deal to be discovered about a child's intelligence and its relation to both heredity and background.
I also listened to his description of the present educational system and its previous achievements, and I must confess that I did not really recognise parts of it. did not recognise the 80 per cent. children as failures. I am thinking particularly of a prize-giving I went to in my own constituency when with great pleasure I presented a prize to a boy who had won a top maths scholarship to Cambridge. He had gone to a secondary modern school and had been transferred as a late developer. Two boys were transferred at the same time and both were brilliant maths pupils, certainly not failures but very great successes. They took their O levels at a secondary modern and then went on to what the right hon. Gentleman would no doubt call a sixth-form unit or college, but was really the top of a grammar school. I think it is very wrong to label children who do not go to a grammar school as failures.
May I now turn my attention more closely to what I had intended to say. This time last week we were waiting for the Bill to be published. We had to wait while there was a statement on another White Paper which concerned the alteration of existing boundaries in local governments across the country. Then this Bill was published which compels local authorities to prepare plans within existing boundaries. So on one and the same day there was a White Paper to change all the boundaries and a Bill compelling authorities to put forward plans within existing boundaries. Those plans would have to be altered if the White Paper is ever to take effect.
Moreover, the irony of the juxtaposition of those two documents was that the White Paper propounded the principle of increasing freedom for local authorities, and the Bill we are discussing propounded the principle of reducing the freedom of local authorities. It was extremely ironic that these happened to come on the same day. The freedom flaunted by one Minister was killed instantly by the action of the right hon. Gentleman in producing this particular Bill.
I do not dispute for one moment that any Government has very considerable power over education under the 1944 Education Act. But the local authority also has very considerable powers and rights. Both are elected bodies, both finance the education system, both should have a say in the decision-making process. The problem we have to sort out, and I accept this, is exactly where that boundary line should be drawn.
The 1944 Act gives the Minister power to promote education and
the progressive development of institutions devoted to that purpose, and to secure the effective execution by local authorities, under his control and direction, of the national policy for providing a varied and comprehensive educational service in every area".
That is the only place where the word "comprehensive" occurs. It does not occur in the new Bill at all, and the reason is that it is already in its true context in the governing Act, the 1944 Act—"a varied and comprehensive educational service", using the word not in its new, emotive sense, but in its true sense.
The Minister has very considerable powers over future schools. He has to sanction the capital programme, so he has pretty well absolute powers, after discussion with the local authorities, over what new schools shall be built in any particular area. He has not, of course, absolute powers over the pattern of existing schools, and I submit that there is a difference in the way he should deal with them. For him to exercise power over new schools is quite different from his trying to impose upon local authorities a pattern which they do not wish to have for existing schools. It is because he cannot do this under the existing Act that he is having to take special powers.
I would emphasise most strongly one thing about the 1944 Education Act which was pointed out by Tyrrell Burgess in his excellent book "A guide to English Schools":
Hitherto educational law had had social, as much as educational, objectives, emphasising
the protection of children rather than the promotion of education beyond the elementary stage … The 1944 Act was by comparison educational, indeed almost child-centred, in outlook, enacting that children should be educated suitably for their ages, abilities, and aptitudes.
It is interesting that it was thought to be a tremendous advance for an Education Act to be educationally and not socially centred. It was, of course, a generally agreed measure, and Lord Butler and Chuter Ede were the joint authors. It is interesting to see that 26 years on we are now returning to what we then advanced from, namely, founding a whole education policy on social reasons—at any rate, the Minister is returning to it. I have quoted from that book by Tyrrell Burgess as an independent commentator—independent from the point of view our side, shall I say, although I think I am right in saying that at one time he was a Labour candidate. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes."] My hon. Friend says "Yes", but I would not be quite certain about it.
All of us at the time had tremendous hopes of the 1944 Education Act. All of us believed that its objective was to give to children, whatever their background, the instruction that their abilities warranted. Instruction is too narrow a word, I mean education and all that that implies, which is a great deal more than academic learning. I agree that the right hon. Gentleman and I many years ago learned a great deal more than facts and actual knowledge. Whatever kind of home the child came from, the object of the Act was to educate him to the full level of his ability. That Act was partially successful in attaining that objective.
I saw in the Daily Telegraph today a paragraph which said:
Selection to grammar schools has been based on hard work and ability, and has worked so well that over 26 per cent. of our university population and 35 per cent. of all students in higher education are of working-class origin. This proportion is much the highest in the Western world, according to figures issued by Mrs. Shirley Williams.
Our system has been better than others in the Western world, but that is not to say that it is yet good enough for us. It is not to say that we have yet found all the ability that there is. This is why my right hon. Friends now on the back benches put in hand the four major education reports.
It is important when considering this Bill to try to see where the 1944 Act was not quite sufficient and where it fell down. Certainly it brought through many of the able children, but I admit that in a number of cases there were some children who appeared to go to schools which did not give them a good chance if their talents developed at a later stage. For some of us in the South with very good secondary modern schools there were facilities for late developers. We have seen from the Newsom Report that in a number of schools those facilities did not exist. I condemn any education authority or school of any classification which does not provide for the late development of a child's abilities at whatever age those abilities occur. The Education Act should have ensured such provisison, but there were not the resources and money at the time whoever was in power. The problem has been to provide the resources for more and more of these children to have the opportunity we all wish them to have.
By the time the middle fifties came very interesting educational developments were taking place. Some authorities were having to alter the system under the 1944 Act. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) made a tremendous drive to improve the secondary modern schools, and very successful he was. During that time, the Secretary of State will remember, we had the first departure from the 11-plus by the Tory-controlled Leicestershire authority; the first big new experiment in education. Had we frozen the existing system under the 1944 Act as the Secretary of State is now attempting to freeze it, there would have been no scope whatever for an educational experiment. It would have been a very great loss to the nation. We entered a period of innovation and experiment, and departure from the 11-plus. A number of Tory-controlled authorities have chosen their own systems, some of which involve selection, some of which are almost totally comprehensive. They have chosen them bearing in mind the wishes of local electors and in conjunction with and discussion with my right hon. Friends who previously held the post of Minister of Education.
What are the objectives of the new Bill? The Secretary of State gave some. One appears to be to end selection; at any rate he said that that is one of them. The Bill refers to selection, not to comprehension.
It is not the same thing. If the right hon. Gentleman's desire, his objective and aim, is to end selection, this Bill does not achieve it. Nor do we end selection under the present educational system. We have the most rigid selection at 18 for available university and higher education places. Under this Bill we have selection for sixth-form colleges. When one of my hon. Friends said "Selection" the Secretary of State said "Certainly". I hope that HANSARD got that. So the right hon. Gentleman is not against selection in education. There is within the Bill the possibility of selection before 16 because, if it "is expedient", children can be put into the sixth form colleges before they are 16 years of age. Expedient on what grounds? It must be on grounds of ability, that they have attained a certain educational standing through examination. Then it is "expedient" to put them in sixth form colleges.
There is selection, mentioned on the first page of the Bill,
for music or dancing or any other art".
There we have selection by aptitude. I do not know whether "any other art" includes literature or writing ability. I wish it included mathematics because that is a very special gift and if we have any children specially gifted in maths we cannot afford not to bring on their ability very early indeed. There is a considerable element of selection under this Bill. To imply that the Bill ends selection is sheer trickery, for it does not.
The Long Title of the Bill is quite clear. The Bill deals with selection by ability for admission to secondary schools. If one abolishes selection by ability one is saying one is in favour of comprehensive schools The two mean the same thing.
They do not. I am glad to have from the right hon. Gentleman in implied terms that he is not against selection in education.
His second possible objective, which he expressed, was to promote equality of opportunity. I would not quarrel with him over that objective, but I quarrel with him if he thinks that a universal comprehensive system with our present stock of schools will achieve equality of opportunity. He knows full well the kind of argument I am going to adduce because every educational commentator has put it forward in the last ten days and before that. He also knows the many differences which are now emerging between comprehensive schools within the various areas. If we have a total comprehensive system there are only a number of ways in which one can allocate—to use neutral words—pupils to those schools. We can do it by geography—in other words, the school to which a child first goes is determined by the situation in a street of his home. That becomes a neighbourhood school and that school will reflect the character of neighbourhood. If it is a very good neighbourhood the chances are that whatever one calls the school the children there will be of wide ranging ability and it will be a good school with a large sixth form. If it is a school in a twilight area, or a poor area, it may be a poor school with a poor staff.
Will the hon. Lady accept that there is undoubtedly an argument for neighbourhood schools not being confined to such areas, but that is not an argument against comprehensive schools? It is an argument against slums and bad neighbourhoods. Secondly, we need catchment areas large enough to attract all sections of our society for those schools.
I fully accept what the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) is saying. I am pointing out that if the right hon. Gentleman says that a universal comprehensive system will provide equal educational opportunity for each child he is wrong, because one will have as many differences between comprehensive schools, according to the area which they serve or the type of pupil which they attract, as one has now with existing schools. The hon. Member comes from Liverpool and he must know some of the problems in Liverpool. I only have access to the published figures. Among the comprehensive schools in Liverpool there are four which I believe were previously selective schools. They have entries of about 1,200, 1,100, 1,000 and 1,500. The right hon. Gentleman would probably cite them as a tremendous advertisement for the system, and we would agree.
There are other comprehensive schools in Liverpool which were formerly two secondary-modern schools put together and called a comprehensive school. They have very much smaller sixth forms. Alsop, an ex-selective school with an entry of 1,200, has a sixth form of 137 pupils, Croxeth, with an entry of 900, which was two secondary modern schools, has a sixth form of 55, and Arundel, which was two secondary modern schools, has a sixth form of 23.
I thought that it was apparent that this has only been a comprehensive school for the past two or three years and that those children were already at that school because they had gone from grammar school places.
That is what I said, and I thank the hon. Gentleman profusely. It is based on a selective school with a high sixth form entry, and it is probably a very good comprehensive school. But when one goes on to another comprehensive school which was not based on an old grammar school but formed from two secondary modern schools the sixth form is much smaller and the graduate staff smaller and the range of sixth form courses is also smaller.
Is the hon. Lady saying that the children in the working-class comprehensive school in the two secondary modern schools put together will be worse off than they were previously when they were in a small, isolated secondary modern school with no decent facilities at all, because that is what she has to argue to make her case?
I am taking the Minister up on his assurance that to go comprehensive gives equality of educational opportunity. I think that even hon. Members opposite have seen from the cases which I have cited that, very regrettably, it does not.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady, because I have taught in one of the schools which were formed from two units, one of which was secondary modern and one of which was central. Let no hon. Member opposite sneer at that type of school. When we started off in that school we had no sixth form at all, so we had to take time to build it up. Does the hon. Lady not realise that the numbers in the sixth form would accordingly be nil as compared with a comprehensive unit which started off with an existing sixth form?
No one is sneering at the school. Once again, let me say that it does not matter what one calls the system or what one calls the schools. There will be very substantial differences in the opportunities which are offered and, therefore, by virtue of going comprehensive one does not necessarily do what the Minister implied—provide equal educational opportunity for all children.
I must get on with my argument. The hon Gentleman knows that I am generous in giving way and enjoy doing so, but I must get on with some of my own arguments and I hope the hon. Gentleman will give me the courtesy of listening.
I was asked whether I was suggesting that these children would have been any better off without the comprehensive scheme. I believe that Liverpool still has some grammar schools, and it would be possible for a pupil to get away from his own neighbourhood and go to a grammar school, thus mixing with others from widely differing backgrounds. Some grammar schools have done wonderful service for pupils from poor areas. I shall quote from Mr. C. S. Hilditch
addressing the Assistant Masters' Association on 31st December 1969. He was talking about a grammar school in what he called a working-class area and about the headmaster who had created it. In my mind I visualised that he would be like the right hon. Gentleman, but now I do not quite think so somehow. This headmaster built up a grammar school in Crewe—and I am not sure whether the hon. and learned Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen) is here—after the 1902 Act. Mr. Hilditch said:
I know no other town which was so overwhelming working class as Crewe, with no tradition of learning …
at grammar school. He describes how this gentleman built it up, and went on:
His successors built on his work and Crewe Grammar School men and women have distinguished themselves in an older and newer universities sense.
Mr. Hilditch continued:
When I read that the grammar school is a class institution, an institution of privilege, which does not give the working class child a fair chance, I think of them, and I think of Mac. To find a working class boy and to bring him on and to send him to the university—what reward is like it?
We safeguard salaries, but to destroy the lives and the life work of such men as I have spoken of we must be mad.
If one had some grammar schools such as this alongside a substantially comprehensive system or alongside some other system not necessarily geared to the 1944 Education Act, there are some boys and girls in poor areas who would have greater opportunities than they will get in neighbourhood schools. [Interruption.] There will have to be selection for direct grants schools. I hope there will be someone in the Cabinet who will be fighting at least for Manchester Grammar School. I think this dual system was that kind of thing which the Prime Minister had in mind in his famous quotation about "grammar schools being abolished over my dead body." I never like to quote without looking at the entire background from which the quotations come and so I obtained the report of the 1963 Campaign for Education to look at that background and to see if there was any chance that this might have been taken out of its context or was subject to the sort of gloss which the right hon. Lady wants to put on it. The Prime Minister was asked two questions:
Does the implementation of comprehensive education imply co-educational schools throughout to the exclusion of single sex grammar schools and sectarian schools at grammar school level? Will the Labour Party abolish all grammar schools?
MR. WILSON: If I might answer the second uestion first: would the Labour Party abolish all grammar schools—the answer to this, a former grammar school boy, is over my dead body. There may be some people who think that's worth it, but I don't.
That was the end of the Prime Minister's answer to that part of the question. He went on to answer the other part. It took him a foolscap page. If he had wanted to put a gloss on what he meant by the retention of these schools, he could have done it. I believe that that language was sincere and intended and that a number of the electorate had in mind the kind of situation I have tried to paint, amid interruptions—that a person who would otherwise have to go to a neighbourhood comprehensive school might be far better off by getting out of that school and going to a grammar school which serves a very wide catchment area.
The hon. Lady is talking about the disabilities of a neighbourhood school in a slum or poor area. There are what she and her party, like the Americans, would call "bussing" schools, but in this instance not all-colour schools but based on a selectivity bar. I suggest, however, that one can have "bussing" schools in the comprehensive system whose students can move to other areas to other schools without the selectivity she postulates.
I was going on to deal with the "creaming off" argument and I shall deal with that first before replying to the hon. Gentleman.
I was interested to hear the Secretary of State choosing as an example a comprehensive school in an area I know very well, Tulse Hill. I drove through it every day for years. It is a marvellous school. It happens to be near a highly selective school in the same area. That, of course, is Dulwich College, which, if any school "creams off", would do so. Dulwich does not recruit over a small area but over a wide enough catchment area for the twc schools to co-exist. If the Government were not so extreme in this Bill, there could be co-existence of comprehensive and some grammar schools of excellence.
I believe that there are some parents who would like to take the option of letting their children be assessed to go to well known grammar schools.
At the option of the parents. [Laughter.] Of course. I point to the system which exists in London and the discussion in "Man Alive", about the situation in London which has a system of comprehensive schools existing side by side with grammar schools.
It is possible, and it is working. The point is that the parent has a choice either to send his child to a comprehensive school or to send him to a grammar school. I suggest that hon. Members read the script. In it, Mrs. Townsend said that a growing number of people with the choice—that is to say, with children whose ability is such that they could go to grammar schools if they wished—were, in fact, choosing, some of them, comprehensive schools. I have the full script of the programme here. Some hon. Members have it no doubt. It is possible for such schools to work side by side. One parent will say, "No. I want my child to go to a comprehensive school even though he could go to a grammar school." Another parent similarly placed will say, "I want my child to go to the grammar school."
I cannot give way again. Hon. Members are trying to make my speech for me.
I want now to refer to the argument made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson)—that it is possible to have "bussing" schools or what is called "banding". I assume he means that, if we put pupils with a range of abilities at every comprehensive school, every comprehensive school will then offer virtually the same educational opportunity. If one is to "bus" children from one area to another and get a range of abilities at the schools, pupils have to be selected by reference to their abilities. But that would be out under the Bill because it forbids selection under these circumstances by reference to ability. In a system which takes children from one area to another the authority simply says to the parent, "Your child will go to this school whether you want it or not and will bus from one area to the other." The hon. Member knows what has happened in the United States and I do not wish to see it here.
There are three other methods of selection, one by parental choice, which works and gives very good results in some areas. Quite a large number of people get the school of first choice. The second method is random selection. The third is by sixth form subject and a number of comprehensive schemes are fragmenting sixth forms, putting so many subjects in one school and so many in another. Some comprehensive schemes will undoubtedly suit some areas and I do not quarrel with them. If an area wants total or partial comprehension, then, under our view of the powers of the local authorities and of the Secretary of State, it should be entitled to have it, provided that electors, teachers and parents agree. But to impose the system upon some other areas is to attempt to impose a system to which the buildings are totally unsuited.
I want to give an example of one particular comprehensive system, again taking it from the Assistant Masters Association lecture. The speaker said:
One teacher in my own area has to switch from one block to another six times in one day—and in N.E. Lancashire weather. We know one 'School' where buses leave for all parts of the schools—at 9 a.m., 12.30 p.m. and 1.40 p.m. This is made up of four schools, two at one end of the town and two, one and a half miles away, at the other end. It also uses a Church Hall and a classroom in a Primary school. One of the four former Heads is the new Head Master. The other three, still in charge of their old buildings, bear the title of Warden.
Broken health, broken hearts and early retirement are the fruit of such schemes of reorganisation. The people who devise them—and approve them—should be made to work in them.
I will give the Secretary of State the quotations and I am surprised that apparently he has not read the lecture because it is a very important one. Surely his Department would almost certainly have brought it to his attention.
It is in North-East Lancashire. The lecture was given by Mr. Hilditch. Possibly the right hon. Gentleman knows him. Surely the Secretary of State has enough people in his own Department to have brought this matter to his notice. Does he condemn that sort of arrangement? If so, why did he approve it?
I will give the right hon. Gentleman the quotations. I have two copies of the report. I will send him one. I am delighted that now the right hon. Gentleman apparently condemns utterly that kind of comprehensive system, which has schools in separate areas and "bussing" from one to another. It produces a system of turmoil.
I have quoted from the example given by the lecturer. The hon. Gentleman can check up with him and I will let him have the lecture too. I cannot be fairer than that.
The right hon. Gentleman obviously wishes to know what the criteria are upon which we think that any scheme of reorganisaton should be judged. May I make the following suggestions. First. is the scheme in the educational interests of the children going through the schools now as well as in the coming few years; secondly, will it retain and attract first-class teachers; thirdly, will it fit existing buildings and not require so much capital that resources have to be diverted from the primary schools; fourthly, what will be its effect on sixth-forms, pupils and staff; fifthly does it make full educational provisions for unusually gifted children from whatever background they come or in whatever spheres they are gifted, whether the arts or science; sixthly, does it provide at all stages for late developers and lastly is it demonstratably acceptable to the parents in the area?
I suggest that those are the criteria against which we should judge any educational reorganisation. I am sure that we all agree that although our methods differ we are all at one in our anxiety to improve the educational standards of those children who are not getting full opportunities at the moment.
Perhaps this would be a suitable stage to mention the treatment of parents in the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. It is pretty high-handed. In Clause 2 he sets out the consultation procedure to be adopted before a plan is submitted to him. Contrary to the assurances given by the right hon. Gentleman, the Bill shows almost a complete disregard of the wishes of the parents in connection with the reorganisation scheme. Those who must be consulted are the managers or governors of a school, those who may be consulted are the teachers of the school but when it comes to parents they are told. They are not consulted. I quote from the Bill which says:
… the authority shall convey information about the methods proposed to be embodied in the plan to parents of the pupils who in the opinion of the authority would be affected by the execution of those measures".
There is an absolute disregard of the parents' wishes.
Another point about the Bill is that a number of approved schemes will no longer meet the requirements set out in it, particularly those schemes depending upon selection at the age of 13. This means that a lot of them which could be approved under the original Circular 10/65, and have been approved, will have to be resubmitted. I suggest that this will cause turmoil in some local education authorities for a long time. They thought that their schemes had been approved, they are co-ordinating their capital programmes and now the schemes will have to be resubmitted.
I would have thought that this would have caused a lot of increased work in
the right hon. Gentleman's Department, but I see at the front it says that:
The Bill will not cause any increase in the staff of the public service.
If the Bill will cause a lot of increased work, and there is not to be any increase in staff it strikes me that there is a lot of organisational slack in the Department. However I do not think that can be so, because I see from yesterday's Western Mail that:
Swansea will shelve its £125,000 comprehensive schools scheme and bring back the 11-plus examinations if the Department of Education and Science does not hurry up and take a decision on the plan … the Education Committee warned last night after waiting seven months for the ministry to reply.
One other point about the kind of dialogue we are having now about selective and comprehensive schools comes from the Times Educational Supplement of 30th January. It says:
Sixth form colleges should be regarded as "comprehensive" even if they are "selective".
That is from the Department of Education instruction for compiling Form 7. It seems to be absurd. It does not matter whether a system is selective or not as long as it is called comprehensive!
The Bill will not provide equal educational opportunities, in some cases it will diminish opportunities. The word "impose" occurs several times in it. It takes away substantially from the powers of local authorities, although they have to be elected and find roughly half the money to provide for the educational system. I do not believe that it will alter the social structure of Britain although undoubtedly this is one of the aims of the Bill.
I renew the pledge given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) that we shall repeal this Measure. If the Government were confident that they would win the next election they would not need to introduce this Bill now. They could introduce it in its proper place, which would be against the background of the new, major Education Act. I can only think that they believe we will win the next election and are therefore trying to get the scheme in now. This Bill replaces the three "A's" in the 1944 Act —age, aptitude and ability—with the three "T's"—trickery, turmoil and tyranny, and we shall oppose it.
I very much hope that this Bill, which has been long awaited—the need for which has been amply demonstrated since Circular 10/65 by the action of a minority of local education authorities—will become law. The speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) even more amply demonstrates the need for this. The case for the comprehensive school as my right hon. Friend pointed out has been conclusively established.
The Crowther Report showed that two-fifths of the top ten per cent. of boys left school at 16 and two-thirds of the next 20 per cent. in terms of ability left at 15. The position was worse for girls. It is clear that had it not been for the advent of comprehensive schools, many young people of this type would have lost the opportunity to get the sort of education of which they could have taken advantage. In these circumstances the case for comprehensive schools has undoubtedly been proved.
The reference the hon. Lady made to the 1944 Act and what has been achieved under it needs some comment. The process of providing extended courses in the secondary modern schools ran contrary to the original intentions of the people formulating that Act. At that time it was thought that children could be divided up roughly into three groups and one paricular group would require only a general education, not an academic type of education which the extended courses were later introduced to provide. I would argue that the 1944 Act was shown to be wanting in this respect by the introduction of the extended courses.
The argument that the more gifted children suffer as a result of the introduction of comprehensive schools is, to my mind, completely unproven. In the Stockholm experiment of 1954, the south side of Stockholm had comprehensive schools and the north side had two types of secondary schools. After two years, the academically gifted children were found to have made similar progress, but the children from the poorest type of homes had achieved highed standards.
My right hon. Friend has already referred to the fact that comprehensive schools provide—
The hon. Gentleman has just referred to the Stockholm experiment. Is he aware that a subsequent re-examination of the data shows that the gifted children on the academic side learned a great deal more on the way, besides the formal requirements which they were trying to measure? That is the point.
I will discuss it with the hon. Gentleman at some other time, because I do not follow his argument. I believe that the Stockholm experiment made it clear that gifted children do not suffer from the introduction of comprehensive schools. Such schools provide a greater range of subjects for all children and, what is most important, they avoid the sense of failure at 11 which is felt by children who fail to be selected for the selective or grammar schools.
This sense of failure is not limited to the secondary modern schools, where they exist. It extends even into the lower streams of grammar schools. Because they are in this type of rat-race, many children feel that they are not doing as well as they ought and that they are failures if they do not get to the top of the grammar school.
We should recognise that the sensation of being rejected at the age of 11 as sub-standard is not only unpleasant but extremely damaging. In my view, it is vital that we should have a system of comprehensive schools as envisaged by the Bill to get rid of that sense of failure.
The process of selection is unjustified on practical grounds. It is socially divisive because it splits up children. One child of a family may go to a selective school when another child in the same family may not gain a place. It even casts a shadow over the primary schools which so often are geared towards getting the greatest number of pupils into grammar schools where there is a system of selection. This does considerable harm to the whole bias of primary schools which are forced to compete in this way.
The hon. Lady spoke of the freedom of choice. However, the notion that freedom of choice can be provided by retaining selection is nonsensical. Parents only have freedom of choice if a school chooses their children. There is little freedom of choice for the parents of a child who fails to be selected. What the hon. Lady and her right hon. and hon. Friends demand is a freedom for a minority which is denied to the majority. That is privilege, and it is privilege that the other side of the House is defending today.
I would ask right hon. and hon. Members opposite how many parents turn out and demonstrate in favour of the right to send their children to secondary modern schools. Further, I would ask how many right hon. and hon. Members opposite send their children to secondary modern schools.
Before the hon. Gentleman runs down secondary modern schools any further, perhaps I might invite him to come with me to a secondary modern school in Cambridge about which I have an account of the way in which parents are becoming involved in the further progress of the school.
A great many secondary modern schools have done some very good work, largely through the efforts of teachers and often with the support of parents. However, that does not detract from the argument in favour of establishing comprehensive schools which give much greater opportunities for that sort of work to be carried even further.
Each year in my area there occurs what I always refer to as the midnight conversion to the principle of comprehensive education. Parents go to bed one night defenders of parental choice and grammar schools. Next morning, when the results of the 11-plus are published, like Saul of Tarsus they have a flash of inspiration, having learned that their children have not passed. Every year at that time I receive a flood of letters, many of them from strong Conservatives, asking that their children should be allowed to go to schools in the Harlow area, which is fully comprehensive, and seeking my assistance to get places for their children.
The hon. Lady discussed whether comprehensive schools can exist reasonably alongside selective schools. Harlow has a completely comprehensive system, and it is surrounded by an area in which selective schools still exist. Taking the intake of the whole of Harlow, in September, 1969, there were 1,680 places for new admissions, and 1,768 children were admitted from Harlow who could be accommodated there. In addition, there were 107 children from the catchment area outside Harlow who, broadly speaking, were children who had not passed the 11-plus and who immediately sought to go to a comprehensive school because their parents realised the advantages which would accrue to them from comprehensive education compared with education at a secondary modern school.
No. I am saying that some parents want their children to go to comprehensive schools but are not able to get their children into Harlow. They would be very happy if their children were selected to go to selective schools in the area, many of which are in the constituency of the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison). When they find that this is not possible, they want their children to go to comprehensive schools.
Looking at the trade the other way, only 12 children from Harlow went to selective schools outside the area. That shows that the vast majority of parents—I happen to be one of them—are quite satisfied to send their children to the schools which exist in Harlow, and there is no demand for the type of choice to which the hon. Lady referred. In the areas adjacent to Harlow, there is strong public pressure for comprehensive schools to be established.
After previously holding out against it, the West Essex Divisional Executive is seeking to establish comprehensive schools in Epping, Ongar and Waltham Abbey. The vast majority of opinion has been in favour of comprehensive schools, as the two systems have been seen flourishing side by side—
If the hon. Gentleman remembers, I spoke at a meeting at Ongar, in his constituency, to demand such a comprehensive school. I will give him every support, and I am delighted that we should have an opportunity of working together on this local issue, as we often do on others.
From the example which I have given, it is clear that, where people see comprehensive schools in operation, they know what opportunities are offered and the benefits which accrue. I remember having a debate on this issue with the conservative agent in my constituency prior to my election. I was surprised to find that he was a strong advocate of comprehensive schools in the area. From the way in which the hon. Member for Chigwell spoke, it seems that strong pressure in the area must have been generated by the experiment introduced some time ago in Harlow.
The hon. Gentleman finds it strange that some hon. Members on this side of the House are not opposed to comprehensive schools. I, personally, and many of us, are not opposed to comprehensive education. What we are opposed to is that the Government should force comprehensive education down people's necks against the wishes of the local people.
The hon. Member for Finchley said that she wanted to retain selection for the children of those parents who wanted it. It is not possible for the two systems to exist side by side without wrecking the system as a whole. It is all very well for the right hon. Lady and hon. Gentlemen opposite who say that they do not agree with intervention from the local authority, but the late Baroness Florence Horsbrugh, when she was Minister of Education in a Conservative Government, thought it was quite reasonable to intervene to prevent the development of comprehensive schools in South-East London. I am thinking of Kidbrooke. So it seems to be all right for the Government to intervene to prevent comprehensive schools but not to ensure that the system is fully comprehensive throughout the country in the eyes of right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
May I mention certain misgivings about the Bill? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to hear hon. Gentlemen opposite saying "hear, hear". My misgiving is whether the Bill is strong enough and has sufficient teeth. I want to know what my right hon. Friend will do in the event of a local authority continuing to put up unsatisfactory schemes. Under Section 99 of the Education Act 1944 the Secretary of State has power to give direction, where he is satisfied that a local authority is failing to discharge its statutory duties, and enforcement can be obtained by application to the courts for a writ of mandamus. Will the intentions of the Bill be enforced in a similar way, or are there alternatives?
My second misgiving is about timing. How long will it take to enforce a proper comprehensive system on an authority which is out to resist to the last possible point doing what the Minister wants it to do?
My third misgiving is about sixth form colleges which are exempted from the provisions of the Bill. I give notice that, if I am a member of the Committee, I shall give strong consideration to moving an Amendment to make sixth form colleges subject to the provision of the Bill.
May I, as a member of the National Union of Teachers, say a word or two about the attitude of teachers to the Bill. At the last N.U.T. annual conference in 1969 the following resolution was passed:
This Conference calls on Her Majesty's Government to provide sufficient money to make possible a successful system of comprehensive education, and to make the necessary legislative changes to bring about comprehensive education by abolishing selection for secondary education. It believes that this can be achieved by incorporating the grammar schools and other selective secondary schools into the comprehensive system, thereby creating a unified system for all children. Conference believes that the continued existence of the grammar schools completely nullifies all
attempts to create a fully comprehensive system.
That declaration of the N.U.T. is completely contrary to the views expressed by the hon. Lady today.
The National Union of Teachers would, however, support my remarks about the desirability of removing the exemption of the sixth form colleges. The N.U.T. is extremely concerned at the inadequacy of the provisions for ensuring proper consultation. According to Clause 2(3)(b) consultation by the local authorities is to be:
to such extent and in such manner as the authority consider appropriate … or as the Secretary of State may direct …".
A local authority might hand-pick the teachers it wished to consult or consult them in a peremptory manner, and the Bill should ensure that consultation is adequate. This is not a theoretical point. If my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes) catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I feel sure he will refer to what has happened in his constituency, where a change of authority has resulted in an excellent scheme being seriously threatened and the teachers not being properly consulted. I should like my right hon. Friend the Minister of State to make clear whether consultation would be mandatory where a local education authority modifies a plan or submits a completely new plan under the Minister's direction.
Subject to those misgivings, I still believe that this Bill is a very good one, deserving the wholehearted support of hon. Members on this side of the House, and, I hope, some below the gangway on the other side. It is quite clear that the Opposition are fighting for the preservation of privilege. The Bill is designed to end the perpetuation of inequality, privilege for the few, and denial of the rights of the less affluent sections of our community.
I believe that the job that this Bill seeks to carry out is the sort of job that the Labour Party ought to be doing. I am proud today to have had the opportunity of speaking in favour of it, and this evening will take great pleasure in voting for this very great improvement in our educational system.
I call well understand the apprehensions of the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) about the time factor in connection with the Bill. In view of the clear statement from the Dispatch Box this afternoon by my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), it is obvious that the Bill will never effectively operate. It is an intrusion on the rights of local authorities and the next Government will repeal it.
It is obvious to all those who know the time it takes to prepare these schemes, and, indeed, as we heard this afternoon to get the Department's answer to them when submitted, that this cannot be done within the lifetime of this Parliament. It is a misuse of language for the hon. Gentleman to say that those of us who object to the Bill are speaking on behalf of privilege. We are objecting to an intrusion on the established rights of local authorities to act in accordance with their electors' wishes. We are opposed to this Measure in the interests of those able children whose education will be damaged by some of the changes proposed.
The Secretary of State was right when he began his speech by saying that the purpose of the Bill was clear and obvious. It certainly is, and it is not a Bill designed to forward in appropriate cases the proper introduction of comprehensive schools, as one might have thought from his speech. It is designed to compel elected local authorities to do what they were elected not to do. It will compel them, whatever their judgment of the situation in their area, whatever the wishes of their electors, to do the opposite of what they were elected to do. I suppose that it does not seem a serious thing for this Government to compel elected persons to disregard their election pledges. One cannot charge them with making other people do what they are unwilling to do themselves. In this context that would be an unfair charge.
I would ask the Minister of State to appreciate that elected persons, in many cases elected quite recently on a clear election programme relating to these matters, cannot be expected to disregard the promises which they gave and the wishes of those who elected them. The right hon. Lady will understand, because she studies these matters, that what the Bill—a Bill which might have been described in the words of the philosopher Hobbes as "nasty brutish and short"—will do is to seek to alter the whole constitutional relationship between central and local government.
There is pathetic irony in its timing. For at the very moment when the Minister of Housing, or the "Secretary of State for Pollution", or whatever he is now called, is claiming that local authorities are to be given increased freedom, a major part of the most important local authority function is being over-ridden by the central Government. The Government are also putting in issue, perhaps more than they realise, the justification for local rates bearing a substantial proportion of the cost of education, which it that there is effective local administration and control of education.
Once it becomes plain that local authorities are simply supposed to carry out the policy of the central Government, whether they believe in it or not, the whole case for putting something like 40 per cent. of the cost of education on the rates disappears. Indeed, it is asking a great deal to ask local councillors to impose on ratepayers a rate for purposes of which they and their ratepayers both disapprove. Therefore, the Government are doing a more dangerous thing than they realise in attempting this shift towards central control.
Furthermore, this change is being carried out in the most authoritarian manner possible. I am sorry that the Under-Secretary of State has just left the Chamber, because she visited my constituency a fortnight ago for the purpose of explaining this prospective Bill to a section of my students. The local newspaper, the Surrey Comet, which has a good reputation for accuracy, reported this meeting as follows:
'Education authorities like Kingston and Richmond which have said "No" to comprehensive schools must be brought to heel by force if they will not act voluntary,' a leading Government education spokesman said on Saturday.
Leaving aside the English, which is a trifle eccentric from a Minister in the Department of Education and Science—I hope that the Under-Secretary of State is not in charge of English teaching—are not those the accents of authoritarianism when they are directed, not even at private citizens, but at elected local authorities if they will not do what the
central Government wish, although at the moment the central Governments wishes have not an ounce of support in law?
If the doctrine, "If they are not prepared to do it, they must be brought to heel" is to be accepted, it is a doctrine of very wide application. It means the end of local responsibility for education. That is why I venture to say to the Minister of State that the Government are doing a much more dangerous thing than they realise in bringing this Bill forward.
The advantage of local decision in these matters is that the needs of areas vary as do the wishes of parents area by area. We are a country of a wide variety of circumstances. It is an extraordinary naivety to suggest that only one system of secondary education could possibly be tolerable or acceptable in any part of the United Kingdom, whatever the local circumstances.
It is sometimes helpful for hon. Members to contribute the experience of their own constituency. In my own we have certain special circumstances. We have an ancient grammar school, whose high record over three centuries of academic work is marred, if marred at all, by the fact that it was responsible for the education of one right hon. Gentleman now of Cabinet rank. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheek."] We have two of the best maintained grammar schools in the country, with an extraordinarily high standard, and we have several of the very best secondary modern schools.
The other day I attended the speech day of a secondary modern school there which showed a high standard of success. Those who were there that evening would have been very surprised to hear the Secretary of State sneer at schools of that sort as second-rate. [Interruption.] It is in the recollection of the House that he used that expression. He used it deliberately from his prepared script, and it was visible to us all.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has left. That sneer comes particularly ill from him when the school in question is one from which he has withdrawn the approval for necessary building works which his Department gave two years ago, and withdrawn it—this has been admitted from the Dispatch Box—largely because of the disagreement between the local authority and the Department on the very subject matter of the Bill.
For the right hon. Gentleman, in those circumstances, then to sneer at a school where a magnificent educational job is being done under a dynamic headmaster, and to classify it as a second-rate school, is utterly unworthy of the holder of the high and responsible office of Secretary of State for Education and Science.
Of course, an area like this I have described, with a very close geographical concentration and high accessibility of one part to another, offers a totally different educational situation as compared with a widely dispersed country area, a new town or an industrial town in the north of England.
Direct grant and maintained grammar schools are not built up in a year, or, indeed, in a decade. They are built by a devoted staff who build up a tradition of hard academic work and high standard year after year. It is easy to destroy a school like that overnight. It is a much longer business to build it up. I beg the House, the Department and the Minister to hesitate before taking, in areas with schools of this kind, a step which must bring them effectively to an end.
It was all nonsense to say, as the right hon. Gentleman did, that these were places of privilege, that pupils were selected for them as a result of their social background. Those who know these schools in their own constituencies, as I know these, will know that there is the widest possible social mix. Some of the children come from extremely prosperous families, some come from the poorest section of the community, and they are selected from every section of society on the basis of one test—ability. Yet ability is the one test the Bill proposes to exclude.
Even there, it is not consistent. If one's ability happens to be in music and dancing, and, as the Explanatory Memorandum says,
or, as Clause 1 says:
any other art
then one's aptitude and ability can win one special training. Very good. But does not the same principle apply not only to aptitude and ability in mathematics, to which my hon. Friend referred,
but to aptitude and ability in physics, chemistry and all the new sciences and technology in which this country stands in the most enormous need of trained people? If there is a case for providing special courses for special ability in music and dancing—admirable and laudable activities, but not the whole of life—why not in academic subjects, and academic subjects of practical application to this country's economy?
We all applaud the provisions being made for the training of educationally sub-normal children. But is not there a case also for special provision for educationally super-normal children? Do not the same arguments apply?
My hon. Friend suggested the possibilities of a compromise system. She suggested that we might well have a system—and I understand that something of this sort is developing in Wolverhampton—under which those parents who want to put their children in for selection for establishments with high academic standards would be free to do so, while those parents who do not could opt for a nonselective school. One or two hon. Members laughed when my hon. Friend suggested that. I am sorry that they did so, because is not that one of the best methods of meeting the variety of individual circumstances and the variety of individual needs of children?
Why is it wrong if a parent wants to enter his or her child for an examination or test of any sort at any age—11, 13, or whatever it may be—for a special course that he or she thinks may be suitable for that child? Why must one deny that parent that right? And why not say, as many of us do, that those parents who do not wish, for perfectly good reasons, to subject children to any test at all, whether at 11 or 13, should equally be free not to do so? Why should not the different needs of parents and their wishes be taken into account?
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the tremendous 1944 Education Act of my noble Friend Lord Butler. In that Act is enshrined the doctrine of parental choice. It is easy to say that one can find circumstances where there is no choice. Everybody knows that, but it is not an argument for failing to provide this when one can provide it. There are circumstances—and I think that the circumstances of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames exemplify them, although there are many others—where one has well-established selective schools of high standards and high-standard modern secondary schools with geographical proximity to a large population, where it is possible to give both those choices, and, indeed, a third. Those which many parents rightly select today are the church schools.
What I am saying to the House is, grant much of what hon. Members opposite have said; grant, as I do, that final selection at 11 without further choice seems unwise and unfair; grant all that: why must the matter be carried to the ruthless point of exterminating alternative systems, when it is perfectly possible to offer parents and children a choice and a greater variety of education?
We do not have that system in operation, so I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman. I do not know, nobody knows.
The tragedy of the Bill is that it makes it so much more difficult for those of us who want to try to meet different needs and different views by this kind of system. This is made almost impossible when the Government act as they are now acting. If one takes a big stick to people, if one threatens them and demands 100 per cent. of what one believes to be right, one hardens opposition. That is common human experience. One makes it more difficult to get a sensible solution and turns what should be an issue of practical educational administration into a hotly contested arena of political controversy. This is the responsibility of the Government in introducing the Bill. They are preventing wide variety developing. They are preventing compromise and conciliation. They are introducing a Bill that they know must be repealed. They are hardening the lines. They are doing very real damage to education.
If the Secretary of State enjoys good health for many years ahead, which we all wish him, I think that he will live to regret the Bill, regret this day, and regret the advice on which he brought this Measure forward.
The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) at one stage in his speech suggested that it might be a good thing if very gifted children, as well as subnormal children, had separate schools. The National Association for the Gifted Child, which consists of parents who are particularly concerned about this matter, insists on one thing, namely, that it does not want separate schools for its children. That is because it has studied the problems in Russia and it knows that the social disadvantages of separate schools enormously outweigh any intellectual advantage that may be gained.
I never suggested that children should be compelled. If the hon. Gentleman is right, many parents would not exercise the option that I would give them. If he is right in thinking that many parents are of this mind, it is difficult to reconcile that with the enormous pressure of the parents of able children to secure admission to grammar schools who sometimes seek the help of their Members of Parliament in securing it.
I do not want to pursue that point too far. I was referring to the parents of very gifted children who can be identified in the same way as subnormal children. So far as the opinions of those parents can be assessed, they do not want the schools on which the right hon. Gentleman seems to wish to spend public money.
I will now take up some of the points made by the hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). The most pleasant thing about education debates is that the Conservative Party suddenly evinces enormous concern for the underprivileged areas of our towns and cities. It is pleasant to see this concern coming forward. But every time the hon. Lady mentioned these under-privileged areas she talked of the two or three children who might, as it were, get out of their community and go to a grammar school. By doing so, she tacitly ignored the problem of the 97 per cent. who stay.
Although many cities select, say, 20 per cent. to go to grammar schools, in the under-privileged areas it is nothing like 20 per cent. That 20 per cent. represents an average between 60 and 70 per cent. in the smart suburbs and about two, three, five or seven per cent. in the underprivileged areas. The hon. Lady said that the interests of 90 per cent, of the population in certain areas must be sacrificed to some fictional advantage which three, four or five per cent. might get. We totally reject that argument.
Not in the least. I am saying that we should not necessarily sacrifice the interests of those specially gifted children in those areas. If we send those out we can at the same time raise the standards within the area not only of education, but of all the other facilities as well.
The dreadful truth is that we cannot.
The hon. Lady referred to the "Man Alive" programme. She may have seen some of the problems of the London schools in that programme. We need every bit of talent in those areas to try to make the schools work and produce a reasonable sixth form. To take away from a school which has more disadvantages and difficulties than ordinary schools the intelligent children who might create a reasonable sixth form is to condemn it never to be a proper comprehensive school. That is, in effect, what the hon. Lady was saying.
The hon. Lady also sketched, which was fascinating to me, the gentle backpedalling of the Conservative Party on this issue over the past 20 years. She said, first, how the Conservatives were quite happy for Leicestershire to go comprehensive, because that was a Tory area; but that did not mean that other areas like Kingston-upon-Thames—and the right hon. Gentleman made this point—should go comprehensive.
It is very much like the Church, gradually accepting that the earth goes round the sun. But the Tories are saying, "Here we stand. Although we agree with the advances made so far, here we have to stop." In 10 years' time, when only one or two per cent. will be going to grammar schools, they will still be getting up and saying, "It is right that 98 or 99 per cent. should go to comprehensive schools, but we must preserve this 1 or 2 per cent." The Tories do not know where they stand on this issue, and they never have known.
The hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the Tory Party was being, if not static, at least over-gradualistic. Will he tomorrow morning look in HANSARD at the last words of his right hon. Friend who, in summarising what he had to say about the Bill, said that the progress to be achieved by the Bill, if it is to be progress, needs to be in our lifetime?
I am not an advocate of being able to go completely comprehensive tomorrow.
This brings me to my next point. The hon. Member for Finchley read out a long list of conditions, which reminded me of our conditions for going into the Common Market, which must be satisfied before any comprehensive school could be established. If I read the Government's strategy aright, it is, in many ways, like our conditions for going into the Common Market. The effect of that list of conditions read out by the hon. Lady is to make sure that progress towards comprehensive education is certainly held up, and perhaps halted altogether.
I used to teach. At one point the school at which I taught was put in two buildings more than a mile apart. We had to drive from one part of the school to the other if we had lessons there. It was a disadvantage. It was not as convenient as it might have been. However, many of our public schools are in widely scattered buildings, but parents are still willing to pay £500 a year to send their children to them. As I said, it was a disadvantage, but it was a factor which had to be weighed against many other advantages.
The hon. Lady said that if there is a disadvantage because of the buildings that must always outweigh what we would consider to be the prime wrong and disadvantage of selecting children by ability for one school or another. The effect of the hon. Lady's speech was to show up the hypocrisy of the Conservative Party on this issue. Although the Opposition dare not say that they are against comprehensive education, because they know that would be unpopular—I suspect that they are put in a similar position to the Government's attitude to the Common Market—they put up a list of conditions which they know will prevent comprehensive education coming with any speed.
The House should be aware of the real attitude of the Opposition to the problem. I should like to take up the point about local authorities which was referred to by the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames. Over the past few years this Government have given local authorities, in the organisation of their schools, immeasurably more freedom than anything which might be taken away by the principle in the Bill.
In 1964 the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) brought in a Bill, with all-party backing, for the removal of the biggest straitjacket that the Government imposed on local authorities—the straitjacket of primary and secondary education—that all children under 11 had to be in primary schools and all children over 11 bad to be in secondary schools. This produced a monolithic system, which some people might think a good thing. He also said that for administrative reasons practically nobody could take advantage of that Bill and only one or two authorities under his régime were allowed to take advantage of it.
As soon as the Labour Party came into power, it gave general freedom to local authorities to adopt all kinds of middle school ways of going comprehensive. This effectively gave the biggest increase in freedom in the ways that local authorities organised their comprehensive schools that they had ever had through legislation.
Some people say that freedom has gone too far; others that it is the duty of the Government to impose some kind of stable education system on the country so that when people move—we have a mobile population—from one area to another they do not come across different systems.
I do not hold to that view. I agree with the freedom that my right hon. Friend is giving to local authorities—the six different ways of organising comprehensive schools—all-through schools, sixth-form colleges, middle schools, etc. To pretend that the Government have given no freedom to local authorities in organising their secondary schools is claptrap. They have given them more freedom than they had before.
If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that authorities wishing to have a middle school scheme were prevented by the Conservative Government, that is nonsense. Authorities like Yorkshire, which wished to try that out, were given every encouragement to do so. All that we said—and it was responsible to say it—was that this was a new proposal and that the speed at which such proposals could be approved must depend on us knowing the drill so that it could be carried out efficiently.
I am glad to know what was on the right hon. Gentleman's mind. For a time I had some responsibility for reorganising a system in local government and I was informed by my director of education that the Minister would allow only two authorities to take advantage of the 1964 Act, and there was no hope of the city for which I had some responsibility using it.
The other point that the hon. Lady mentioned was parental choice, and this is a lovely phrase that the Conservative Party throws out. Let us get this straight. Whether one allows parental choice or one does not within a local authority has nothing whatsoever to do with whether one goes comprehensive or not. Some authorities allow general choice for grammar schools, secondary modern schools and comprehensive schools. Some authorities zone their grammar schools as they zone their secondary modern schools.
I have always thought this is the logical thing to do—if you zone your modern schools zone the grammar schools as well. But this has nothing to do with the comprehensive argument. Where I think that parental choice is dangerous is that the argument is very often used in a very "phoney" sense. London is always boasting that 85 per cent. of its parents get first choice, and just over 10 per cent. get second choice.
I have three children who have been through the London primary school system, and I know how it works. It is only achieved by the headmaster of the primary school bullying the parents into opting as first choice for that school which they are liable to get anyway, and it is not parental choice at all. It is a sort of "fiddle" operated by the I.L.E.A.—I am not particularly accusing London, because there are other authorities that do it as well.
They try to give the impression that parental choice exists, but what happens is that a parent goes along and says, "I would like to put my name down for such-and-such a grammar school". The headmaster says "Yes, you can, I am not stopping you; you have the legal right. But take my advice: if you do not get your first choice you are liable to end up with your fifth. And if you take my advice you will put down perhaps the less fashionable comprehensive school".
This is not parental choice at all. Parental choice is perfectly clear: if there is room in schools, if the schools are not over-full, one can have a degree of parental choice in the city. But in any area the deciding factor must be the proximity to the school where parents live. But so often parental choice is used in relation to the popular schools—where everybody wants to send children, and, clearly, it is right from now on that those schools should be limited to the children who live near them.
I agree that, in the early stages, this seems to be monstrously unfair. Children living near a good school would get a good education, and children living near a poor school would get a poor education. But 'twas ever thus. That has always been the education system, and not until one forces this principle can one force local authorities to treat all their secondary schools in their area alike. While they have grammar and secondary modern schools, some of the secondary modern schools get lost and forgotten; they get lost in the middle of a council estate and get more and more underprivileged.
While we are on the subject of choice, by far the greatest benefit of comprehensive schools and the greatest increase in choice which comes about is pupils' choice, because the real argument against the secondary modern schools is not that they are bad schools, or that teachers do not try hard. It is that when the 13 or 14-year-old boy is trying to choose a career, in all too many of them his horizons are utterly limited by the range of options which he, the pupil—his parents by this stage become practically irrelevant—would care to choose for himself. The great advantage of the comprehensive school is that it achieves a degree of choice for pupils, which they have never had before except in some of the bigger grammar schools. We are now giving this to every pupil in the country. This is a very good thing.
I agree with the hon. Lady that some schools will always be better than others, but that is not an argument for not trying to raise the condition particularly of the less advantaged schools. I would, like my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) to ask my right hon. Friend a few questions about the Bill, because, although I thoroughly support it, I think that it is a very weak Bill; it does not go nearly far enough, and I would like to see it very much strengthened.
What about the direct grant schools? Cannot we get the Donnison Commission to hurry up and give him its report so that he can integrate his policy on direct grant schools with the provisions in the Bill, because it really will make a nonsense in many areas if we are to get the voluntarily aided schools to co-operate—I want to ask him about that later. But if we are to get all sorts of grammar schools to co-operate in going comprehensive, will the direct grant schools be allowed to stick out there like a sore thumb and refuse to co-operate with the nationally agreed policy? This is very important.
What about the voluntary schools? I am not thinking of the Church voluntarily aided schools, particularly those of the Roman Catholic Church, which have co-operated magnificently in going comprehensive. But what about that class of voluntarily aided schools which do not have any particular Church allegiance, what I would call the "social" voluntary aided schools, the schools normally aided for no better reason than that they are 400 years old. At the moment, they have, on their boards of governors, a majority of what are called "independent" people, which means self-perpetuating Conservatives very often. The Bill says that the local authorities are to consult the managers and governors of these voluntary schools. Suppose they start consulting the governors and the governors just refuse to co-operate at all. What sanction are we to suggest to put in the Bill to make sure that it is effective in relation to the voluntarily aided schools as well? I would like to hear from my right hon. Friend about that.
There is a very good article in New Society today which shows that although my right hon. Friend has painted a very cheerful picture of the progress towards comprehensive education, we are not there yet. There are still 179 direct-grant schools over which local authorities have no proper control at all; there are still 900 fully maintained country grammar schools; and 180 voluntary aided schools. This is a problem which I am not sure the Bill covers. I want to hear from my right hon. Friend what she has to say about it.
This has been a good debate, because it has shown what the position is. What is the Tories' policy? The hon. Lady did not tell us. She made a lawyer's speech: I hope that she does not mind my saying that. It was a slightly nitpicking speech in regard to my right hon. Friend's argument, but nowhere was there any positive statement of what the hon. Lady and her right hon. and hon. Friends believe in and what their education policy is. No one knows.
New Society says:
It is difficult to see how the Conservatives can object to this Bill except as a Pavlovian response, because Edward Short has been baiting them consistently since comprehensive legislation was promised nearly two years ago.
I am glad that the dogs have dribbled and that we are having this argument. It will show the electorate, particularly those who say that there is no difference between the parties, that there is a difference, that the Conservatives are entrenched in the defence of a small, privileged minority and that the Labour Party stands for schools which cater for the whole range of society.
I do not expect the Bill to work overnight. Many Governments have sworn to repeal Bills and then the thing is quietly forgotten. Perhaps the civil servants have not prepared the repealing Bill as fast as they might, or opinions have changed. I predict that, in the highly unlikely event of the Conservatives ever winning power again in this country, substantially the Bill will never be repealed, because they know that it commands the respect and support of the vast majority of the people. They are scared stiff to oppose it openly on the comprehensive principle because they know that that principle has the support of the country. I, too, have great pleasure in supporting it.
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) except to comment on the end of his speech and say that it is doubtful whether he will be here when the next Conservative Government repeals this Bill.
After three speeches from the party opposite, I can see no good educational reason for the Bill. I can only presume that the Secretary of State has been led away by some of the Left-wing elements in his party, who believe that, because this is Socialist dogma, it is true Socialism.
The whole point seems to be to force eight local authorities out of 163 in the whole country to toe the line. This was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), when he talked about the speech made by the Under-Secretary of State at Kingston not so long ago. These eight local education authorities have refused to submit to what I would call the blackmail of the iniquitous Circular 10/65.
I cannot help wondering why, if the Government are so sure that comprehensive education is the right answer to all our educational problems, they could not say to the authorities who are not particularly impressed with this type of education, "Look at the good things which have been achieved in certain areas by comprehensive education," and try to persuade them.
The Bill is reminiscent of the phrase used from 1945 to 1951, when the party opposite was also in power, that the man in Whitehall knows best. I submit that he does not, that local people are much better at deciding the type of education which they believe is most suitable to their area. Otherwise, why have local education authorities?
Under the 1944 Education Act, which was put through by Lord Butler and the late Mr. Chuter Ede, local education authorities have responsibility for education in their areas and are responsible for putting educational proposals to the Minister. The Minister has a reserve power to turn down any proposal which he feels would be educationally damaging. The Minister can then have discussions with the local education authorities, and try to persuade them to change their ideas. This is very different from the Bill, which seeks to dictate to local education authorities.
My hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) was quite right when she said that, if any previous Tory Government had ever attempted to dictate to local education authorities on the type of education which they must have in their areas, there would have been such screams from hon. Members opposite that they would have been heard in the north of England. If any Tory Government had taken the rigid line which this Government have taken, we should have had no experimentation in education and perhaps no schemes for comprehensive education. That would have been just as retrograde a step as the actions envisaged by the present Government.
But of course, no Tory Government in future, any more than in the past, will deal with recalcitrant authorities. They support the existing system. What I should be anxious to hear is what we are to do with a council like mine, which says that, as a matter of doctrinal conviction, all the grammar schools have got to exist and that there will be no change as long as they are responsible.
The hon. Member knows that Birmingham Council is elected, just as Parliament is, and that in local elections recently the electors in Birmingham have voted overwhelmingly for Conservative candidates. As this was an issue in all those local elections, it can only mean that the people of Birmingham approve of the actions of Birmingham Council—[Interruption.]
I will continue with what I believe are the implications of the Bill.
The 1944 Act aimed at the concept of a partnership between local education authorities and the Government. There is no doubt that the Government still pay lip-service to that idea, but they seem to have the opinion that one partner should be more dominant. One member of the Cabinet says that local government should have more say, but the right hon. Gentleman says that in education local government should have less say.
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman of some words which he used on 27th May, 1963, during a debate on remuneration of teachers, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) was Minister. I did not agree with my right hon. Friend on that occasion—
Oh, yes, on many occasions since. Just on that one issue, I did not vote with him.
The right hon. Gentleman, who was then on the Opposition benches, where we hope he will return after the next General Election, said:
I support the Amendment for two reasons. First, it would remove one of the most glaring injustices from the scale of salaries which the Minister is imposing upon the teachers, and secondly, it would, perhaps, to a small extent, undo some of the damage that the Minister has done to the partnership in English education. This partnership between the teachers, local authorities and the Ministry has been one of the glories of English education. Probably one of the biggest issues of all is that the Minister has done tremendous damage to that partnership."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th May, 1963; Vol. 678, c. 963]
The right hon. Gentleman should memorise those last two sentences. If he was accusing my right hon. Friend of doing tremendous damage, what does he think he is doing to that partnership with this Bill?
Would the hon. Gentleman say what he thinks his right hon. Friend was doing in the Bill to which he has just referred, when he set aside the Burnham award and imposed one?
The right hon. Gentleman is dodging the issue. I said that I did not vote with my right hon. Friend at that time, but the right hon. Gentleman, in 1963, was talking blithely about this great partnership. But a partnership means equal sides. There is no equal partnership in the Bill, because the right hon. Gentleman is saying that he will decide the type of education which we will have in this country—
No. The hon. Lady has never been known to give way. When she learns to play the game, I will give way to her.
The Minister, far from strengthening that partnership, is seeking to destroy it. I do not believe that he can really be proud of his tenure of office, because one of the members of that close partnership he mentioned, the teachers, are in open revolt largely due to policies pursued by the Government. The Government has a great deal to answer for in the sphere of education.
Returning to the Bill, is any extra money to be provided to build the comprehensive schools that we shall need?—because if we are to have comprehensive education then comprehensive schools should be purpose-built. We have far too many split schools. They are called comprehensives and the Government profess to believe in comprehensive schools. But surely, if they were genuine, their ideal should be to aim at having purpose-built comprehensive schools. It would seem that the Government, pursuing their idea of comprehensive education, want to have comprehensive education on the cheap.
I turn now to the prospect of local government reorganisation. We have been promised that there is to be a gigantic shake-up; so much so that only a few months ago the Government put off the Boundary Commission's proposals. We were told that proposed changes by an impartial commission on parliamentary boundaries could not go through because we were to have local government changes which would drastically alter the whole picture; and that if the boundary changes went through they would soon be out of date because of the changes in local government structure. That was the argument put forward by Labour Members at that time.
We on this side were aware, of course, that the truth was that they were likely to lose seats if the recommendations of the Boundary Commission were carried out, but they will be as nothing compared to the seats they will lose at the General Election. But if the local government reorganisation necessitated putting off changes in parliamentary boundaries why are the Secretary of State and the Government forcing this Bill through when, at the same time, we are promised local government reorganisation in the not-too-distant future?
The Bill, if it goes through, will have a tremendous effect on education. I believe that education is to be the responsibility of the metropolitan areas. In the West Midlands, the metropolitan area will consist of Birmingham and five county boroughs and each of the present local education authorities is to submit a comprehensive scheme. Different education authorities could have different ideas on the type of comprehensive education they want. If local government reorganisation takes place, the West Midlands metropolitan area could contain a hotch-potch of different schemes.
I wonder whether the Minister has given sufficient thought to that. If he wants conformity in local education authority schemes, to rush this Bill through at this time, before local government reorganisation has taken place, is surely madness, because we could have a metropolitan area with different areas within it, some with all through comprehensive schools, some with middle schools and some with sixth-form colleges.
I would reiterate the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley, who asked about consultation with parents. A promise was given in an Answer not long ago when the Secretary of State said:
In the Bill to which my right hon. Friend has just referred there will be a Clause dealing with this point".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th December, 1969, Vol. 792, c. 619.]
That promise was given in December. It has been ignored in the Bill and it is typical of the arrogant Government that we have at the present time.
The Bill is a serious encroachment on the freedom of local authorities. It is a piece of political spite, put forward by a discredited Government. I was delighted to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley give an assurance that if this legislation goes through it will be repealed by the next Conservative Government.
For the reasons that I gave earlier this afternoon, inviting reasonably brief speeches, I would remind hon. Members that about 18 hon. Members wish to speak in the next two-and-a-half hours and that the first three back bench speeches took 65 minutes.
The hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) will understand that I can hardly agree with a solitary word he has said, and certainly not with the suggestion that he had not heard an education case made out for the establishment of comprehensive education. While I did not agree with all the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, he certainly made out a first-class educational case for the establishment of comprehensive education.
The hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), opening for the Opposition, amused me in many of the things she said, but, certainly, the example she gave of the late developers who had been transferred to a grammar school and have achieved notable academic success was the best type of evidence, I would have thought, in support of the establishment of comprehensive education.
In the speeches we have heard from the benches opposite it would seem that the Opposition are willing to pay lip-service to the establishment of comprehensive education as long as the Government do nothing about it. I had hoped that in some ways this debate would not be so much on the merits and demerits of comprehensive education as about whether the Government were right in legislating to bring this about. Like a good many of my hon. Friends on this side, I had hoped that by now even the Conservative Opposition had seen the light and that the battle for comprehensive secondary education had been won. Most of us have appreciated and realised that a rearguard action was being fought by some renegade local education authorities.
Many of us have read the contributions of those backward-looking gentlemen who contributed to the "Black Paper", but I must confess I was more than surprised to find very strong anti-comprehensive views still being expressed by the Opposition today.
The Opposition say that they would support, in other words, a system of education which must in itself mean the denial of educational opportunity to children. As a parent and as an ex-school-teacher I believe that now is the time for the Government to put an end to the rearguard actions of those who would seek to hold up and hamper the establishment of comprehensive education. As long as these education authorities believe it right to determine for their areas a pattern of secondary education which denies educational opportunity to the children, then not only are the Government right but they have a solemn duty to legislate in favour of a comprehensive secondary education. This view is long overdue and I am sorry that we have had to wait so long for it.
The year 1970 is the fifth anniversary of the famous Circular 10/65 and it is now time to say there is no longer any excuse for any local education authority to be without plans for comprehensive secondary education; and furthermore, there is no longer any reason for local education authorities to be without firm dates for implementing those plans. If there is any excuse at all, it is not a question of freedom of choice for local authorities but the stubborn, backward-looking attitude of those local education authorities who seem determined to continue selection for secondary schools and all the evils which are associated with it.
They pose as defenders of personal liberty and local interest when in many cases the local interests of teachers and parents are never even consulted. We have heard a great deal of the rights of children, but the right of children to equal educational opportunity is very largely ignored.
I know that many in the Opposition would ask: why should the Government seek legislation at this time for comprehensive secondary education when so many local education authorities are voluntarily moving towards this end? It is perfectly true that since 1965 there has been very rapid growth in the number of comprehensive schools, but I believe that there is evidence now that the pace of reorganisation is slowing down. Largely through some of the propaganda and speeches coming from hon. Gentlemen on the other side, some authorities are being encouraged to slow down the movement towards comprehensive education. If progress is to be maintained, and, as I would wish, accelerated, this Bill is essential.
I would like at this juncture to intervene with what is almost a "commercial" on behalf of the education authorities in Wales because my hon. Friend the Minister of State, in reply to a Question on 18th November last, told me:
All local education authorities in Wales whose secondary education was not already reorganised on comprehensive lines have submitted plans for the reorganisation of their areas."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November. 1969; Vol. 791. c. 296.]
That gave me a great deal of pleasure.
However, speaking in the Welsh Grand Committee in December, 1966, about progress towards comprehensive secondary education in Wales, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) said:
Never during the period of office either of Lord Eccles or myself was there what one might call a pitched battle between the Department and Wales over the development of comprehensive education for the simple reason that no one could feel that steady progress towards comprehensive education in Wales was likely to lead to a watering down of academic standards."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Welsh Grand Committee, 7th December 1966; c. 14.]
I accept that. I cannot envisage any local education authority in Wales—or, for that matter, in England—doing anything which might lead to a watering-down of academic standards. I found that remark of the right hon. Gentleman's gratifying, but I did not think it particularly flattering to either the local education authorities or the teachers of England, for I cannot believe that it could have been said that the growth of comprehensive secondary education in England would lead to a watering down of educational standards.
I am, therefore, grateful that on this occasion my right hon. Friend has not taken that line but, instead, has accepted—this principle is in the Bill—the views of the teachers' unions, and particularly the N.U.T. I regret that on some other issues, such as salaries, he is not always prepared to agree with them; but on this question of comprehensive education he has agreed.
The N.U.T. policy statement "Into the Seventies", says:
All schools should be comprehensive.
The view was endorsed in a resolution at the N.U.T.'s last annual conference. Among the motions which are down for this year's annual conference is one calling not only for comprehensive education, but for my right hon. Friend to go further than he has gone in the Bill, for the motion suggests that
… there has now been sufficient time for proper plans to have been prepared by all local authorities …".
and it urges the Government to ensure that all plans have been prepared, accepted and are in operation by December, 1975.
The year 1975 might be somewhat early, but it is important, nevertheless, to say that not only must plans be drawn up but that they must be accepted and implemented at as early a date as possible.
I share with my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) concern over the provisions in Clause 1(2)(b) whereby sixth-form colleges may continue selecting on grounds of ability and aptitude. It has been estimated that about one-quarter of our future secondary school pupils will be in areas where there sixth form colleges. These pupils will have to undergo a 15-plus test for entry into them, rather than merely have a desire to continue and further their education. This means that in these areas comprehensive education will cease at 15-plus. Can my right hon. Friend give not just administrative reasons or reasons relating to buildings, but some educational justification for excluding sixth-form colleges from the Bill?
Since I wish to be brief, I will raise only one matter relating specifically to Wales. Is there anything in the Bill to prevent or restrict the development of the Welsh language in secondary schools? It seems that the part of Clause 1 which refers to selection in relation to ability and aptitude might be interpreted to relate to one's ability and aptitude to speak Welsh. I trust that my right hon. Friend will made the position clear—he must have taken advice on this aspect—and will ensure that nothing will prevent those in Wales who want to learn Welsh from so doing.
I support the main provisions of the Bill because I believe that comprehensive secondary education must be made available to all. However, many of us are concerned about recent developments in certain parts of the country because they raise doubts in our minds about the purposes behind some of the schemes which have been brought forward. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes) has written to my right hon. Friend on this subject.
We have a classic example of what I have in mind in Newport, where a scheme has been introduced but has been opposed by the N.U.T., the National Association of Schoolmasters, the National Association of Head Teachers and the A.M.A. I cannot think of many causes other than possibly salaries which could unite all of those teaching organisations in opposition to a scheme. Will my right hon. Friend pay attention to what is happening in this connection in, particularly, the Newport area, remembering that the criticisms that have been expressed here have not been merely casual but knowledgeable and informed?
I support the Bill, with the reservations I have mentioned, and particularly the reservation to which I referred about sixth-form colleges. I trust that out of the Bill will emerge not only schools which are called comprehensive, but a system of fully comprehensive education for the whole of the country.
Partly because I wish to observe your instruction to be brief, Mr. Speaker, and partly because I have been a wholehearted supporter of the Home Rule for England Movement, I would not consider it proper to enter into arguments about the Welsh language. For this reason, I shall not dwell on the remarks of the hon. Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones).
Instead, I wish to speak briefly about the reasons put forward for the Bill and about its timing. What impressed many of my hon. Friends most about the speech of the Secretary of State was the extraordinary paucity of reasons which he adduced for introducing the Bill at this time. He really only said—he said it after what my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) described as a lecture on genetics—that we had to abolish selection in education because we were condemning 80 per cent. of children at the age of 11 to be regarded as failures.
That is an inadequate basis for preventing local authorities from continuing with the almost infinite variety of experiments—and developing experiments—in education and an inadequate basis, too, for deciding that he and he alone knows the right answer to what everybody agrees is an extremely complicated problem.
To talk about 80 per cent. of children being branded as failures and feeling that they are failures, and to go on to talk about them being placed in second-class schools is not only a somewhat ungracious but a dangerous thing to say. Nobody has done more to make those children feel that they are failures in secondary modern schools than the right hon. Gentleman. He has never ceased, when he is not sneering at what he calls "so-called ability" or at academic attainments, to press the charge that a secondary modern school or anything which is not a comprehensive school is automatically a second-rate school and involves a stigma of failure on the children in it.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) destroyed that argument completely. We all know that there are schools—some high schools, some more nearly bilateral schools and becoming more comprehensive in many ways as the years go by—not only producing good academic records, but improving their academic records. The right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right in saying that he does not want to clamp a single, unique straitjacket on education in the Bill. We know that even if the Bill goes through there will still be a great deal of variety in the degree of comprehensiveness and in the types of schools. But the right hon. Gentleman is saying that one element in the infinite variety of education must be eliminated, one and one only—the element of selection.
The reasons that he has produced so far, not merely today but in all the time that he has been making propaganda on this subject, to show that this one element ought to be abolished and that he and he alone knows what is right on this, are singularly inadequate.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price), whose normal technique is to put up Aunt Sallies to knock down, to accuse his opponents of saying things and then attack them when they have, in fact, said nothing of the kind, said that the Conservative Opposition did not dare to come out and say that they were against comprehensive schools. Of course not, because we are not; I am not and have never for one moment suggested that I was. The only doctrinaire, dogmatic people in this House are the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Perry Barr and his associates, who say that out of the infinite variety of educational systems in secondary schools only a school with an element of selection, unless it happens to be for subnormal children or for musicians or dancers, shall be barred.
This is an argument about definition. If one defines a comprehensive school as one which is not selective it is idiotic to talk about a variety of comprehensive and selective schools. It is literal nonsense.
I did not say that. I was not talking about a variety of comprehensive and non-comprehensive schools in a given area. I was talking about the variety of comprehensive and semi-comprehensive schools in different areas. There are different ages of transfer from one kind of school to another even in areas which have abolished selection.
The hon. Member for Perry Barr really cannot put words into our mouths and say that we are against comprehensive schools. We have said that comprehensive schools have an important rôle to play and, in many areas, may be the only viable system of secondary school education. I for one have never denied that. Where we are talking in terms of new building it may very well be that the overwhelming majority of new secondary schools built will be comprehensive.
I accept that, as far as one can see, this will be so. But only the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Perry Barr have the self-confidence to say on the basis of what is a very short period of universal secondary education—it is only 26 years—"We know what is the answer", or, at any rate, "We know that one thing alone is wrong".
This is a very dangerous thing to say. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames said, it makes nonsense of elected local education authorities to say they are debarred from doing this one thing even though they regard it as having a place in their scheme of things, even though their people want it.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Walden) said that he regarded the situation in Birmingham as scandalous. He said that there was a doctrinaire local authority there which firmly refused to abolish any grammar schools at all. As my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) said, the answer in Birmingham is to win an election to the city council on this issue. This has been an issue in city after city. The destruction of grammar schools has been fought as an issue in local government elections in Bradford, Bristol, Birmingham, London and a number of our greatest cities and invariably the results have been unsatisfactory to the Labour Party. Well, their time may come, but it really makes no sense to say that local education authorities shall have control of their schools yet that in one respect the Government are entitled by legislation to overrule them and say that this alone may not be done.
There is a little more to it than this. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames said, one can destroy a school overnight but it is not so easy to restore it. To say, on the basis of 26 years of experience—it is less, in fact, where purpose-built comprehensive schools are concerned—that a local authority shall be instructed to destroy the individuality and in some cases the very essence of a school which has been in existence, with high academic standards, for hundreds of years, is wrong. It does not matter if it has been in existence for only 25 years, it may still be something which is irreplaceable and which we are being asked to destroy on the basis of entirely inadequate comparative evidence.
I am not one who says that the existing figures for A and O level results, or whatever figures one wants to take, prove that comprehensive schools have not worked and cannot work. They do not prove anything of the kind. But, equally, the figures we have available do not show that the comprehensive system works, unless a great deal of extra money is to be spent on it, in every kind of situation, every kind of area, both rural and urban, or that we are entitled to destroy good schools for a theory.
I should have thought that this was something which no hon. Member could accept. A process of reform is always to some extent a process of experiment. Education has developed over a great many years. There is no reason to suppose that at any given time we have the one right answer, to be imposed by a Government on unwilling local authorities. The changes are going on all the time. There are local authorities which are moving away from selection all the time. Let them; let them carry this out, whether permanently or by way of experiment; but let them be sure of what they are doing and let the Government be sure of what they are doing in forcing unwilling local authorities to speed up the process of experiment and change, so that they do not halt and destroy the process of experiment, which is in fact what they are doing.
There is no need for the Government to bring the Bill forward now. They will not have time before the General Election to enforce the carrying out of its plans. All the Bill says is that local authorities shall be forced to submit plans. Presumably the right hon. Gentleman intends that when they have submitted plans, if he approves them, he will force the local authorities, by one means or another, to carry out the plans, but he will not have time to do that before the election. This is simply a political manœuvre to try to get on to the record a vote on the Bill, which will be ineffective before the General Election but which can be used for the purpose of political propaganda, to say "the Conservative Party voted in favour of selection at 11-plus and you parents are against it".
There, the hon. Member for Perry Barr is at it again. I am not in favour of selection at 11-plus. I have never said that I was. I have continually said that selection at 11-plus might have made some sense when the school-leaving age was 14, although it did not make much sense then. It makes none at all when the average leaving age is steadily going up above 15 and even 16. There is a great deal of room for selection in the secondary education system. We say that to destroy all selective schools before we have something better to put in their place is folly.
This kind of political manœuvre is beneath the dignity of someone who is supposed to be running the education in the interests of the standards of educational attainment of children. It is little more than a political manœuvre and deserves, as I am sure it will, to fail, because people care for the standards of education of their children. They know that to take four schools a mile and a half away from each other, call them a comprehensive school and have children and teachers going by bus or bicycle from one to the other in all weathers, is not making an effective comprehensive school.
The flexibility which could make the mixed system work really well is the flexibility which enables the late developer to transfer from one school to another at the age of 13, 15 or 16. That is being thwarted at the moment where it is not working—and often it is not working—largely through the lack of spare places in secondary schools. Over and over again in my constituency and elsewhere I have found grammar or bilateral schools which want to keep some places for transfer at the age of 13 or 15, but they are not able to do so because the pressure of children is filling the schools, and over-filling them.
The amount of money which the right hon. Gentleman will have to spend to make his universal, all-through comprehensive schooling work is infinitely greater than what is needed to make the existing system work better by putting a little more "give" into the schools. The Bill is unnecessary, in essence and in time, as well as being wrong. It is a political manœuvre which will fail and I am extremely glad that my party intends to repeal it.
I thought before this debate opened that most of the objections to comprehensive education had been fully debated and it would be difficult to find any new point to debate this afternoon. However, after listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), I find that the old ideas still remain and are retained by the Opposition. The hon. Lady gave an example to the House of a late developer at a secondary modern school who passed his O levels and eventually went to Cambridge. If that argument proves anything, it proves that selection at 11-plus was educationally unsound. It also proves that comprehensive education is the only solution to this problem. That experience has been the cornerstone of our belief in a comprehensive system of education.
The hon. Lady referred to the right of selection by parents. We have heard about the right of selection by parents since the Education Act, 1944. It was never a fact. It existed in words and in words only; it never existed in reality. We also heard of parity of esteem between grammar schools and secondary modern schools. There was no parity of esteem between them. The system failed on selection at 11-plus, parents' right of selection and parity of esteem. The Government were returned with a comprehensive system of education on their programme. They obtained the support of the electorate on this issue, and they are in honour bound to put this system into operation.
Some education authorities have not yet started to implement Government policy on comprehensive education. The movement for comprehensive education in those areas has not even been started. We know that local authorities have their rights, but we are witnessing at present a number of local authorities not implementing the general policy of the Government in education which has been approved by the electorate. This raises a very serious issue. Some authorities have not even prepared a programme. Others have prepared schemes which have not been accepted by the Secretary of State. Here we see a technique of administration, operated mainly by Conservative authorities, of delaying producing schemes in the hope that after the Election a Conservative Government will be returned which will make preparation of schemes unnecessary.
The hon. Member for Stratford on Avon (Mr. Maude) referred to this Bill as being of political purpose. It is these Conservative local councils which are using their power for political purposes to frustrate the policy of the Government. This in itself introduces a question of great constitutional importance. Such a policy means that in large sections of the country adolescents are being denied their rights to the full education which the comprehensive system can provide. Disraeli referred to the "Two Nations". In secondary education, we have had two nations all along the years—on the one hand, those who entered the grammar schools and, on the other hand, the overwhelming majority who went to secondary modern schools. Even families were divided by this system. The whole purpose of comprehensive education is to bring this division to an end.
Today we find another division arising. Some areas have comprehensive education and others have a bipartite system. There are areas where comprehensive education is the rule and other areas where there is no comprehensive education of any kind. It does not make sense in a country such as ours to find such a difference of policy and of educational system. This phenomenon, this difference between area and area, should not be allowed nor tolerated. Whilst we all admit that the British system of local government should be preserved because it is one of the richest elements in our society, it should not have the power to thwart and to frustrate the general policy of a Government elected by the people and in whom sovereignty resides.
The hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) also appeared to accept the doctrine that native ability is closely related to social position and to social class. The argument is that the higher the social class the higher the native ability of the pupil, generally speaking, from that class compared with pupils coming from other classes. Hence the conception is held too generally by some people that pupils from working-class homes are, by and large, not grammar school types. I read recently an article in Education Today—called "Have Comprehensives Failed?" in which figures are taken from an un-named London grammar school. The figures say that in the A-stream 90 per cent. of the pupils are middle-class and only 10 per cent. are working-class and in the D-stream 20 per cent. are middle-class and 80 per cent. are working-class. It is on such figures from an un-named school in an un-named part of London that such conclusions are arrived at that comprehensive schools have failed.
In the first place, I should like to express my doubt at the veracity of those figures, but if they are true they should not be true. There is something wrong somewhere in the primary education of that area which allows educational development of children from working-class homes to be of such a nature that only a few can qualify for place in grammar schools. If that is true in England, I am glad to say that it certainly is not true of Wales.
I come from a working-class community which until recently was served by a grammar school which I attended as a boy and which was founded in 1575. Children from ordinary homes were educated at that school. We had no aristocracy there—we have no place for aristocracy in our part of the country—and from these ordinary homes through this particular school emerged national leaders in music, in arts and in science, including three college principals. This was true in industry as well. Sir Miles Thomas is a case in point. He came from an ordinary home. I am very annoyed when I find people suggesting that working-class children cannot be grammar school types.
Perhaps I may illustrate with one further reference to my own experience a few weeks ago. I stepped on to a local bus in my own village and the conductor stepped up to me. He was an old pupil of my school and he greeted me with the observation, "You know that I did not pull my weight in school"—that is the way some old pupils do greet their old headmasters—"but I am glad to say that your efforts have not been wasted." I could not understand him and I asked him what he meant. He said, "Well, what I did not do at your exhortation I saw to it that my son did." I asked him, "What is your son doing now?" This was to a bus conductor who in his own judgment had not done well in my school.
"He is doing higher research at Oxford having attained first-class honours in his initial degree," was the reply.
I was the last guest speaker at my grammar school, and I remember the headmaster making the observation at the end of his speech—and this concerns a grammar school built in 1575—"The grammar school is dead. Long live the comprehensive school." That is the attitude of our area.
I conclude with an illustration because it gives my philosophy of education quite clearly. I am interested in photography and sometimes I want to photograph landscapes on a fine day. If one wants to avoid dazzling highlights and very dark shadows there is one principle to be observed. That principle is "Expose for the shadows and let the lights take care of themselves". All down the centuries we have been concentrating on the brighter boys. We have exposed for the lights. The time has arrived for us to concentrate upon the shadows because, by concentrating on the brighter boys only, we have not had a social harmony and the right harmonies of light and shade in our social community. Comprehensive education will do this. It will concentrate on the shadows and let the lights take care of themselves.
Let me assure the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. J. Idwal Jones) of whose concern for education we all know, that no one on this side of the House has ever said that working-class boys do not make suitable grammar school material. What we have sometimes said—and I believe this to be true—is that one of the strongest and most reputable arguments for wanting to keep for a long while a limited proportion of selective grammar school education in our big cities is because we know very well what these schools have meant for the sons and daughters of wage-earning families from poor districts. I believe that that is a fair argument.
I believe that the majority of opinion in Britain today accepts the broad proposition that the age of 11—the moment of transfer from primary to secondary school—is too early to separate children into different kinds of schools. That is not a condemnation of the past. The old system—what is sometimes called the bipartitie system—of 20 per cent. in grammar schools and 80 per cent. in non-selective secondary modern schools made sense in the 1940s when roughly only a quarter of the pupils left at the age of 18 and the remainder left at the ages of 14 and 15, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) pointed out. It seems to make much less sense to many parents today, especially to younger parents, when so many more children go on to higher education and when, in some parts of the country, more than half the school population are staying on voluntarily to the age of 16 or, in many cases, to 17.
We are witnessing a changing pattern and changing attitudes to school life, and that is why I have always welcomed the fact that, throughout the 1960s, a growing number of local education authorities have been working out their own schemes of secondary school reorganisation which, as they believed, would avoid the disadvantages of too early selection yet preserve the essential characteristics of good schools.
During my years, which probably seemed rather long years to the House, as Front Bench spokesman for education, I never concealed my sympathy—and indeed the sympathy of my colleagues—for schemes of secondary reorganisation on comprehensive lines which made good educational sense. I do not know to what the Secretary of State was referring when he talked about my party being committed to 11-plus selection because, although I will not quote it now, I have here the text of our last policy statement, "Make Life Better", which says exactly the opposite. But while I always expressed sympathy for viable schemes of secondary reorganisation, equally I said all along that I was opposed to legislative compulsion, and it is this that we are discussing in today's debate. I wholly disagree with that section of opinion, both in this House and outside, which says that if one is broadly in sympathy with secondary reorganisation then one must support the Bill. I entirely disagree with that view and I shall explain why.
I would bring five objections to the Bill. First, I still believe that the balance of power and responsibility between local education authorities and the central Government as laid down in the Butler Act of 1944 was approximately right. Under the 1944 Act, the local authority has the responsibility for meeting the needs of the children and for putting proposals to the Minister, now the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State, quite rightly, has reserve powers to turn down any proposal he thinks educationally damaging. He can invite a local authority for discussions, and he can try to persuade its members to consider a different course of action. I had no head-on collisions with any local education authority in my years as Minister. But I did on more than one occasion invite a local education authority for discussions when I had doubt about the educational wisdom of some proposal.
Certainly, the Secretary of State should have reserve powers and the right to try to persuade. But in my view there are two things which he has not the right to do. He has not—and shall not have—the right to compel a local authority to submit a proposal for secondary reorganisation, involving existing schools, in which that authority does not itself believe. Secondly, he has not the right to risk children being kept out of school because his own doctrines conflict with those of a local education authority which is in urgent need of school places. We have not heard much about this point in the debate, but there is nothing in the Bill about penalties for those in default. I hope that does not mean that the major school building programme is to be used as the principal weapon.
My second objection to the Bill is that I do not believe that social reform can ever be effective without co-operation. It was a former distinguished member of the Labour Party who wrote in her autobiography that "social reform is of no value unless it is accompanied by conviction", and I believe that to be a true statement.
Thirdly, and still more important, a heavy-handed Bill such as this is going to intensify political controversy in an area of educational policy which has so far, in most parts of the country, been remarkably free from bitterness, and which has commanded a great deal of co-operation from local education authorities irrespective of their party connection.
This Bill, if it becomes an Act and is allowed to remain on the Statute Book, would coerce Birmingham—all right! But it will quite certainly make life more difficult for a number of education committee chairmen of great experience who have worked hard and fearlessly, and sometimes against some opposition from within their own ranks, to get agreement on a scheme which makes educational sense. It is the damage which this Bill will do in a great many local authorities where experienced educationalists have been working hard to get agreement on a scheme that causes me real concern. Let us remember that this is not an easy subject. I very much agreed with the leading article in the Evening Standard the other day which said:
The institutional structure of state secondary education affects every community—indeed, almost event family—deeply.
That is true, and it is natural that public opinion should question and sometimes hotly oppose institutional change when this affects a school which sets the standards for the whole neighbourhood. When one is faced with a difficult issue involving a conflict of considerations, with genuine arguments on both sides, I cannot see the sense of making life harder for moderate men and women of experience who are best experienced at handling it.
We have heard little today about the teachers in these schools. Let us remember the genuine anxiety among many experienced grammar school teachers who want to do the right thing by their neighbourhood and are not sure where the balance of advantage will lie with some schemes of reorganisation. We are too unsympathetic on this subject to many first-class teachers who have the welfare of all children at heart and genuinely feel that their just anxieties are not sufficiently recognised.
Fourthly, there is an element of fraud—as I will call it—in legislation on this subject. We are invoicing goods that we have no real intention of providing. The Bill makes no promise of financial help. When one joins together a down-town secondary modern school, whether in a big city or a small town, with a grammar school built maybe in the 1930s, the buildings still have to be shared. Many children will still have to be taught in the less favoured school buildings, and do not let us pretend that everyone in the school is going to have equal access to the best teachers. It is not Bills and circulars which promote educational progress, nor just changing the title of the school, but resources and careful planning, which are much more important.
My last reason for opposing legislative compulsion is that I have always doubted whether a satisfactory Bill could be drafted, and this Bill justifies my worst fears. If I have a mild criticism of this debate so far, it is that I wish we had concentrated a little more on the Bill itself, which is most unsatisfactory. Clause 1 seeks to end
… selection of pupils for admission to secondary schools by reference to ability or aptitude …
But this Clause represents an incredibly offhand and even naive approach to the realities of the problems faced by educationists when they try to organise comprehensive education in a big city. We all know that, in the absence of deliberate planning, there is a strong and natural tendency in big cities for the most popular and successful comprehensive schools to be those in the best residential areas, and for the comprehensives in the lower rated areas to have poorer academic results and much less drawing power.
It is precisely in order to get over this problem that many people, including a number of comprehensive heads, have advocated what has come to be known as "banding", trying consciously to ensure, by consideration of primary school records a balanced intake in terms of ability into as many comprehensive schools as possible. It was one London comprehensive head, according to The Times, who said recently:
This seems the only definition of a comprehensive school which has real meaning.
Is it the intention of the Government to proscribe banding? If not, what price Clause 1, with its reference to ruling out any form of selection by ability? And it is no good anyone saying, "London is a marginal case". As Lowes Dickinson once wrote, "A marginal case can suggest a fundamental fallacy". It can indeed, and the fundamental fallacy in this case is of supposing that, even under a comprehensive system, everyone goes to the same school. They do not. There has to be selection for admission somehow. Ruling out any tincture of selection by ability may result in much greater
and more indefensible degrees of inequality between schools.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) often makes pertinent interventions and I was interested to hear him ask why there should not be zoning as a means of deciding the intake to a comprehensive school. I believe that combinations of methods are needed in big cities; and in certain types of area I should favour banding. I believe that there is also scope in other areas for zoning, and I should not mind seeing experiments in positive discrimination in favour of what would frankly be a "neighbourhood" school in a poorer area, so that we put in more resources there to help children who would otherwise be under-privileged. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) is not here, so that I can make that suggestion with less anxiety.
All these approaches have their place in a big city and it is much more sensible to leave it to the experience of great authorities like the I.L.E.A. than circumscribe what these authorities can do through legislation like Clause 1 of this Bill.
Let me add one comment to what my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley said about the "let-out" for "aptitude in music or dancing or any other art". We are legislating for the 1970s. We must not rule out the possibility of trying experiments with other kinds of selective schools, for example, for children who are specially gifted in mathematics. Instead of fighting old battles, it is more sensible to think about what we shall need in the 1970s. Next, I think that it was the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) who raised the question of aided schools. Their special position was recognised in the 1944 Act. But what negotiations have there been with the aided schools before introducing this Bill?
I want now to comment on the whole form of this legislation. The Bill, and especially the powers conferred on the Secretary of State in Clauses 2 and 3, amounts to a fundamental change in the balance of power in the education service. At the same time, the Government do not want to appear to be making a fundamental change in the relationship between the Department of Education and Science and the local education authorities. The result is a Bill which, in my view, lawyers will consider to be both unclear and disingenuous.
Clause 1 is framed with Section 8 of the 1944 Act in mind, and Section 8 is a key Section. It lays on local education authorities the duty of providing secondary schools
… sufficient in number, character, and equipment to afford for all pupils opportunities in education offering such variety of instruction and training as may be desirable in view of their different ages, abilities, and aptitudes".
The courts have always recognised this as a key Section, as we know from the Kesteven judgment of 1956, which said that this is a Section that takes priority over Section 6, concerned with the rights of parents.
Section 8 remains on the Statute Book.
Clause 1 of the new Bill does not repeal it. Clause 1 merely says that local education authorities must "have regard to" the need for
… ending the selection of pupils for admission to secondary schools by reference to ability or aptitude",
just as Section 8 says that they must also have regard to a number of other needs.
My question to the right hon. Lady is this. Supposing this Bill becomes an Act, and a local education authority is genuinely satisfied in connection with a small proportion of children that full educational opportunity cannot be extended to those children in non-selective schools. Will not it be able to bring a test case against the Secretary of State, and plead a powerful case based on the duties still laid upon it under Section 8 of the 1944 Act? Or is it the Minister's view that the duties and responsibilities laid on local education authorities are in fact cancelled out by the precision of the Minister's powers conferred under Clauses 2 and 3 of the present Bill? If that is the view of the Government, let them say so and come clean about it. It would have been more honest in that case to have amended the 1944 Act and have done with it. I do not like this whittling away of Section 8 in what regard as an extremely disingenuous matter. If a test case is brought to the courts, I can only warn the Government to "remember Enfield". The Bench today is well appraised of the fact that the right hon. Lady's Department is not always too well adjusted when it comes to legal matters.
Having made that point, I want to end with a few comments on the future. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) and others have asked about future policy. Whoever is in power in the 1970s—and I hope and strongly believe that it will be my right hon. and hon. Friends—I do not want to see the process of secondary reorganisation grinding to a halt. Neither do I want to see the end of all selective schools as separate institutions, and certainly not in our big cities. And I believe that we should keep an open mind on experiments with new kinds of special schools for those with unusual gifts.
Above all, I want to see a return to the concept of education as a genuine partnership between the Government and local education authorities based on consent. If a minority of local education authorities remain for some while longer resistant to any change, unlike the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. J. Idwal Jones), I do not regard this as a constitutional outrage. I deplore the present growing tendency to think that nothing matters except the declared policy of the central Government. I believe in the concept of partnership. I believe in persuasion. I believe also that what Lord Butler very shrewdly used to call the "patience of politics" is a better weapon than the big stick.
Plans for secondary reorganisation are already coming to the Department as fast as they can be dealt with. Let the Secretary of State, the right hon. Lady and their advisers concentrate on helping those local education authorities who want to implement plans which make educational sense and on which full consultation has already taken place. Only recently, I opened a school in the Isle of Wight where a thoroughly sensible plan had been adopted. Let them concentrate on helping those areas. The success of their schools—
I always listen intently to what the right hon. Gentleman says. He said that we should concentrate on helping those areas where the local education authorities wish to adopt schemes of secondary reorganisation. Can he say what he would do in a case like that of his own local authority, Birmingham, where there is no intention of having comprehensive schools?
There are one or two authorities who so far have been unwilling to submit schemes—I know personally of one—when I believe that the climate of opinion among those in power in the borough is changing. In the case of Birmingham, I do not believe that there is likely to be a change of mind at the moment. If I were the Minister, I would leave Birmingham alone and give more attention to those authorities who genuinely want to implement their plans. Let them not be so obsessed with Birmingham all the time. There are plenty of areas where sound plans have been produced but where a great deal of help is still needed. Since the sixth form college is specifically mentioned in the Bill, what about areas such as Darlington or Southampton, where no doubt some help and guidance is still required?
The success of those schemes which are already going ahead will be more efficacious in influencing the minority than this thoroughly unwise and, in its intended operation, highly dictorial Bill, which I for one will have no hesitation in opposing throughout all its stages.
I am honoured to follow the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) and to say how sorry I am to see him speaking from the back benches, and how more sorry we will be to see him leave this House altogether on the date that he has suggested.
I want to take up one point which he and the hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) both raised in suggesting that, by virtue of going comprehensive, one does not get equality of opportunity, especially where there are linked schools. The hon. Lady mentioned two secondary modern schools in Liverpool which were joined together before comprehension. It is true that one does not immediately get equality of opportunity. However, one starts going towards it immediately.
In my constituency, there is a similar school. Two former secondary modern schools have been linked together to form a comprehensive school. Because it has been made a comprehensive school, the children in it, both the first-form entry which is comprehensive and the others, are getting a much better deal. In the third year of the scheme they have far more graduate teachers than the two secondary modern schools have. The teachers have far more posts like heads of departments, and so on, and the school is better equipped. It has a sixth form, even though the pupils are the former so-called 11-plus failures. The same is true of the Liverpool school mentioned earlier by the hon. Lady. Pupils are going into sixth forms who would never have dreamed of reaching that level before.
I suggest that, even if the head of a linked school runs them as two separate schools telling their respective heads to carry on and that he will work between them, that is no worse than the existing system of segregating the children of those schools either by teacher selection or intelligence or other tests. The headmaster of a linked school has many avenues open to him. For example, teachers are able to work in one part of the school—if the schools are separate they can work in one of the schools—for a year or two and then move to the other part, or the other school, for a similar period. This arrangement may not be perfect, but it is better than the existing system. For this reason we must pave the way to provide equal opportunity and go ahead with schemes as quickly as possible.
The school in my constituency was the first in the country to be reorganised under the Haddow Scheme in 1926. However, it was 1958 before the reorganisation was completed in the country. Had we waited for new buildings before arranging the reorganisation, we would still be waiting. Twenty-five years ago Mr. R. A. Butler, as he was then known, said that he intended that the central authority should lead boldly and not follow timidly. At that time the Leader of the Liberal Party said that it was vital for the Minister to be armed with sufficient power to force local education authorities up to one common level. They were discussing the Education Act, 1944.
That Measure placed a responsibility on the Minister to promote the education of the people of England and Wales and to create the progressive development of institutions devoted to that purpose. He was instructed to secure schemes from local authorities under his control to provide a varied and comprehensive education service. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on leading boldly instead of following timidly and for taking powers, which apparently he at present does not have, to do the things which he believes are necessary.
Were the powers of the 1944 Act sufficient? Frankly, I thought that they were. I thought that local authorities could be told to do what they should do, just as successive Governments have told local authorities what to do in such matters as housing and town planning. But the 1944 Act's power declined through lack of use in the 'fifties, when the Ministry came to be regarded as a brake rather than an accelerator.
The circulars which were issued by the Ministry in those days prove my case. In 1951, within a month of being elected, the then Government sent out a circular reducing the requirements of the building regulations. A month later they called on local authorities to make an aggregate cut of 5 per cent. in educational expenditure; and that was not a cut in growth but a real cut. A month after that they telescoped the educational building programmes for 1951, 1952 and 1953. That pattern went on through the 'fifties. The Ministry of Education, as it was then known, was regarded by local education authorities merely as something which got in their way.
I admit that in the early 'sixties there was a change of atmosphere, due largely to the right hon. Member for Hands-worth, who was a power of influence in the Conservative Party. [HON. MEMBERS: "He still is."] I said at the outset that I was sorry to see the right hon. Gentleman on the back benches. The change in the policy of the Conservative Party caused his retirement from the Opposition Front Bench, I suspect, and not entirely due to his desire to be a vice-chancellor rather than a Secretary of State for Education.
To appreciate the need for the Bill, we must consider the attitude of the Conservative Party during the last 20 years. In my area the Conservatives opposed the building of purpose-built comprehensives, they issued leaflets and election addresses in which they talked of constructions like factories and monstrous buildings through which our children would go like sausages in a sausage machine, and then, when we suggested introducing pilot schemes for part of the City of Manchester, they asked, "Why not have purpose-built comprehensive schools?" When a scheme for the whole of the city was put forward, they then talked about pilot schemes.
Gradually, the Conservative Party has been dragged along, partly by us, partly by educational opinion and partly by the noise which parents have been making because they believe that their children should have the right to go to grammar schools, since the system at present operating does not give them that right. Thus, by 1967 the Leader of the Opposition was able to say, in a major policy speech:
I want to make it clear that we accept the trend of educational opinion against selection at 11-plus.
There was much controversy in the Conservative Party, including the party's front organisation for education, over this.
Today, Conservatives say that they are not against comprehensive schools. I suggest that they are not particularly enthusiastically for them, either. Since the speech of the Leader of the Opposition there has been a reaction. Black Papers have appeared from the presses and the backlash is on within the party. I believe that the reactionaries are winning in many cases, at local and national level, and particularly in those areas which we are discussing. I believe that it is not particularly the chairmen of education committees or the education committees themselves that are creating the blockage, but the Tory caucuses and the Tory leaders and finance committees.
I am tempted to do what the right hon. Member for Handsworth suggested, to allow these authorities to stew in their own juice—that is, until the majority of parents and voters realise that they are being conned, that they have been left behind, and that they are operating within an out-of-date and unfair system. However, we in Parliament owe it to the children of those areas to ensure that their authorities make progress, and that is why I support the Bill.
I, too, have doubts about the strength of the Measure. Is there not almost as strong an argument in respect of sixth-form colleges against selection at 16 as there is against selection at 11? I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend talk about a comprehensive university and I hope that, when the Bill has been amended, there will be a sign of that situation developing, though I appreciate the difficulties.
I suggest that in new comprehensive schools there should be room for all the facilities of special schools for educationally subnormal children. These facilities should be contained in comprehensive schools, and the same could be said of facilities and classes for partially-sighted and partially-deaf children. A number of special schools—this applies particularly in areas like mine, and I have taken a keen interest in the matter—do not need to be separated but could be included within the system.
I am also worried about selection based on aptitude. There is a secondary school of art in the City of Manchester and there were hopes of having a secondary school for music. However, we must consider the danger of creaming-off the best in teachers and pupils in particular spheres to the detriment of the other schools in the area.
One of the fine features of high schools is their ability to organise excellent orchestras, drama groups, and art clubs. A reason for changing the grammar schools—I am sure that the Prime Minister was thinking about change rather than destruction when he used the phrase to which reference has been made—is not so much because they are bad in themselves, although some of them are bad, but because of the effect that they have on other schools by the creaming-off process. The same can be said of the neighbourhood schools to which the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley referred.
I was interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman declare his support for banding in the big cities, and I look forward to hearing Conservative candidates in Didsbury and similar places in Manchester urging that children in these areas shall be sent to other areas to make up truly comprehensive schools—I doubt whether they will.
If we are to send children to special schools because they have particular talents, we must beware how far this goes. The selection of geniuses in music and art could be made not at the age of 11, 14, or 16, but at 5 or 6. It would be dangerous at any age to segregate such children from the mass of their fellows. The modern comprehensive school is big enough to do that job.
It has been said that the teachers are in open revolt. That is not about comprehensive schools, but about their pay. The teachers' main organisations have supported comprehensive schools. It is significant that in the recent report on streaming it is said that those schools which had stopped streaming, and in which the teachers believe in stopping streaming, did the best. The next best were those where there was streaming, and the next best those where streaming had been stopped but the teachers did not believe in stopping it. There is a great deal of educational work still to be done among the teaching profession in this sphere.
The hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) recalled that Lord Butler said that the Secretary of State for Education should lead boldly. The right hon. Gentleman is not leading boldly; he is endeavouring to intimidate by means of legislation.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to believe that the Bill will achieve something. They are rather like the American Senator who recently suggested, as a solution to the war in Vietnam, that the Americans should announce that they had won and then get out. It is just not that simple. The passing of a law that there shall not be selection does not mean that selection will end forthwith. With secondary education as it is today, if there is to be change, it can only be gradual, unless the Secretary of State is prepared to make much more money available.
Perhaps the greatest strength of the 1944 Education Act was that it provided a framework which, subject to safeguards, gave freedom of action to local education authorities. The main weakness of the Bill is that it reduces that freedom of action, and is thus an insult to local education authorities and to local electors. It is an insult to local education authorities because it assumes that they are not capable of organising secondary organisation in their areas in the way which they consider best for the children in those areas. It also casts aspersions on many hard-working and long-serving members of those authorities. It is an insult to local electors because it assumes that they are unable to achieve what they wish by democratic pressures or, worse, if they achieve what they wish and it happens to be something with which the Labour Government disagree, they must be off their heads.
Either way, local education authorities must now apparently be subject to arbitrary Whitehall decision. I am concerned that this will have a serious effect on the future evolution of secondary education. Everybody knows that we are short of money in virtually every sphere of education, but we have at least reached this stage of development in the system of education as a result of the partnership between local education authorities, the Department and, often, the teachers. Each has had the freedom from time to time to make suggestions and to take new initiatives.
Had that not been so, and had the Secretary of State possessed the dictatorial powers which he now proposes to take for himself, many ideas which have been accepted—perhaps unwillingly originally by some—and which have now become commonplace in our education, might never have been approved. My right hon. Friend—and perhaps even the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State—will agree that Secretaries of State alone do not have a monopoly in ideas.
I do not know what the trends in secondary education organisation will be, but I am certain that whatever may be the perfect solutions of today will not be the perfect solutions for very long. Secondary education for all has not been a reality for many years; yet see how we are changing it now in some areas. The Bill circumscribes the freedom of authorities to such an extent that it could slow or even halt evolution.
My fears of the practical effects of the Bill are not so great, for two reasons. First, if the Bill is enacted, it will be repealed when we are returned to power, before it can do any damage. Secondly, perhaps for the first time in history, shortage of money could be a saving grace, at least to some authorities.
If the local authorities which the Secretary of State regards as dissident or dilatory were all to submit what he considered to be perfect comprehensive plans, it is unlikely that the rate of advancement towards a completely comprehensive system would be any faster than it is now, simply because the money required for it would not be available. Although some changes might occur, and might occur quickly, in those so-called dilatory areas, in other local education authority areas which are endeavouring to adopt comprehensive-type education speedily, change might be slowed down, since the money available for building programmes would have to be spread more thinly. Comprehensive reorganisation does not occur by the changing of a name. More buildings and more teachers are needed, and a great deal of thought must be put into the reorganisation.
The author of an article appearing in this morning's Daily Telegraph estimated that to create purpose-built comprehensives throughout Britain would cost at least £2,000 million. That is a very large sum of money. I do not know exactly what the author of the article is referring to, but it demonstrates the sorts of figures that must be considered when universal comprehensive education is discussed. We know from the recent debate in the House on public expenditure that the increase in resources for education is intended to be cut over the next few years as compared with the last 10 years. The Secretary of State for Education knows this, and, therefore, the Bill is just so much bluff. It can make little difference to the overall rate of reorganisation, but if the money were thinly spread it could slow up those local education authorities which wish to push on with reorganisation. This, clearly, is another reason that they should retain their freedom.
It is obvious that there is a natural trend towards the introduction of more comprehensive schools, but if some local education authorities do not wish to change surely it is their affair. I remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that they should not forget that local authority representatives are subject to a more harsh democratic pressure than even we are in this House, since they are open to re-election once every three years.
If the swing is great enough, then it accounts for relatively little in relation to the strength of the aldermanic bench.
As a Member who comes from a county which wishes to reorganise as soon as possible, I would ask whether extra resources will be made available to implement the intentions of the Bill. If resources are to be made available, from what other sphere will they be removed? Will they be moved from primary or technical education, or will they be taken away from the total which otherwise would be used for the universities? If no extra resources are to be made available, apparently my county of Wiltshire will suffer, since the money will be more thinly spread. I shall be sorry about this, because the local education authority has my complete support in what it is doing.
Wiltshire demonstrates two things. First, the stupidity of the views expressed opposite in trying to make out that the Conservative Party is against comprehensive schools and against change. Secondly, it demonstrates some of the problems attached to reorganisation. In June, 1963, soon after secondary provision for all became a reality in the county, it was decided, and I quote the resolution which was then passed by the education committee,
to consider possible alternative forms of secondary education in the county.
Consideration included consultation with school governors, teachers and parents, with no question merely of informing the latter.
After consideration of general principles, there was consideration of the application of them to particular areas in the county. After detailed examination and consultation a gradual reorganisation was agreed in principle in late 1964, months before Circular 1065. By September this year no fewer than 46 per cent. of the 11-year-olds in the county of Wiltshire entered comprehensive schools, which I believe is well above the national average.
The hold-up in reorganisation now stems basically from the fact that the county is short of the necessary money to provide the buildings required. Four additional schemes have been approved by the Secretary of State, but cannot go ahead just yet because the money is not available for building. There are, in addition, 14 catchment areas in the county where plans for reorganisation are in various stages.
How will the Bill encourage Wiltshire to progress with its plans? So far as I can see, it will not be any help at all. If, on the other hand, it should force, for example, Norfolk, or Worcester, or Kingston-upon-Thames to proceed with reorganisation at the expense of Wiltshire, people in the unreorganised parts of Wiltshire will know that the Secretary of State is to blame.
The point which has escaped the Government is that progress and evolution in education has resulted, not from imposing dull uniformity, but from the use of freedom by the local education authorities. Each has decided its own priorities and these priorities are different in each area. In effect, this has meant continuing experiment and each has learnt from the success or mistakes of others.
I have one advantage over the Secretary of State, in that when Wiltshire started to consider secondary reorganisation in 1963 I was chairman of the local education authority at the time. Therefore, I have some knowledge both of the initial and succeeding problems attached to reorganisation. In Wiltshire, in our particular conditions, we decided to go ahead in what we considered to be the best interests of the children in our area. I believe that all local education authorities endeavour to work in their children's best interests. May they continue to have the freedom to do so. This is why I believe that the Bill should be rejected.
I was interested in the contribution of the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison), but I could not agree with him that it is the intention of this Bill to take away the power of local education authorities. He said that when his party was returned to power it would reverse this legislation. I felt it was a case, in Alexander Pope's words, of hope springing eternal in the human breast.
I welcome the Bill, but nevertheless appreciate that perhaps it might not have been necessary if it had not been for the obstructionism of certain diehard Tory controlled local authorities. It so happens that I am the first non-teacher on this side of the House to be called in the debate. Perhaps this is a sign of the times, but nevertheless one sometimes feels that education is perhaps too important a subject to be left entirely to teachers.
I support the Bill for a number of reasons. First, because of the fact that before I came to this House I was a member of the Coventry City Council and served on its education committee. Coventry has a reputation in local government far beyond these shores. It was very heavily bombed in the war, but out of the devastation came inspiration. It was resolved in that famous city that what had happened should never have happened again, and at least the children would have a better deal. It was for those reasons that in Coventry the idea of comprehensive education was pioneered.
My Coventry experience is linked with my background in the mining valleys of Monmouthshire, an area which suffered much during the economic depression of the inter-war years as a result not only of economic depression but the tyranny of the coal owners, represented by the party opposite. But out of the suffering in South Wales came a passion for education. Unemployed miners, my father among them, were resolved that at least the children would not suffer in the way that they had suffered. The movement towards comprehensive education is well in line with the feeling of those dreadful day.
The tripartite system, or indeed the bipartite system, is educationally unsound and socially unjust besides being inefficient. In South Wales in particular, there is a need to harness the whole of our talent to provide an adequate number of skilled men and women to ensure our future prosperity. This is particularly relevant in my constituency of Newport, which is a busy industrial town with a great future.
Therefore, I was glad that from September, 1966, our secondary education was to be organised on comprehensive lines. The chairman of our education committee then was Mr. Trevor Vaughan, a distinguished man in education, who is this year President of the Association of Education Committees of Great Britain. It was he who brought our comprehensive scheme carefully to fruition.
There were teething troubles, as there always are with major changes of this kind. For instance, we had insufficient purpose-built buildings. But these difficulties were intended to be overcome, and in the words of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Local Government and Regional Planning, then Secretary of State for Education, on 20th April, 1965:
Our aim is quite simply a fair deal for this generation of kids—your children and mine, not our grandchildren.
I share those sentiments, and I speak as a father of three young children.
My hon. Friends the Members for Epping (Mr. Newens) and Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones) have already referred to the decision of our local education authority on 27th January, a decision taken by the education committee and confirmed on the same day by the full council, to mutilate and undermine our comprehensive system.
That is certainly so. The decision was taken against the advice of the Chief Education Officer. It has become something of a national issue, and therefore the House will appreciate that I am rather interested in Clause 3.
Is the Minister empowered to throw out the Newport plan? The Tory chairman of the Education committee, Councillor di Villa, is reported in the South Wales Argus of 11th February as saying that the Minister had told him that permission was not necessary for the new scheme. I want to read out the Newport decision because it will be of interest to the education specialists in the House, and they will be able to read it in HANSARD tomorrow morning. The decision was:
The third proposal was that:
… a Sub-Committee with plenary powers be set up to deal with priorities and appeals over questions of parental choice of school paying particular regard to the general principle that children should attend the nearest school to their home.
My education authority is very much Tory controlled. Those proposals were steam-rollered through the committee by one vote, all the Labour and Independent members voting against.
We hear much from our local Tories in Newport—and I heard it from the benches opposite tonight—of the slogan "Freedom of choice" I see from an article in The Guardian on Tuesday this week that it is also the slogan of ex-Governor Wallace of Alabama. Alistair Cooke referred in the article to this
… bantam-weight populist from Alabama. …
who had had a so-called "Freedom of Choice" rally to restore freedom of choice to the parents of the south. That is happening in the deep South of the United States. We certainly do not want such doctrines to apply in Newport in South Wales.
As I understand the position, they had not.
The principle of parental choice is a good one in a sense, but it can apply only to a selected few. What freedom was there for the 80 per cent. under the tripartite system? The more perceptive parents will soon realise that in practice only a tiny minority will ever exercise any real choice, and above all it is the children of poor parents who will suffer.
What of the appeals machinery? It could well prove worse than the 11-plus examination, with which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State dealt so scathingly in opening the debate. The method of appeals machinery put forward in Newport would place head teachers in a most invidious position.
The attitude of the teachers in Newport has to be considered. After all, it is they eventually who will have to operate the scheme. The attitude of the teachers is quite clear. The representatives of all seven teachers' organisations in Newport came to see me on 31st January. They are unanimous in their opposition. They are up in arms about the position. First, they are opposed to the scheme in principle, because there would be no equal spread of ability and this could result in difficulty in recruiting heads of departments; but, secondly, they object to the fact that there was no consultation with them. I feel that this is indeed deplorable. It is a slur on this dedicated profession, which deserves a better deal in our society.
The teachers' representatives drew my attention to a circular of 27th May, 1965, issued jointly by the County Councils Association, the Association of Municipal Corporations, the Association of Education Committees and the Welsh Joint Education Committee, the second paragraph of which states:
It is, however, eminently desirable that before an authority publish reorganisation proposals, through the Press or any other means, and before any firm decisions are taken, the teachers should be given sufficient time and opportunity to confer and to make their views known to the authority through the usual channels.
That has not been done in Newport.
The final insult was handed to the teachers' representatives by the leader of the Conservative group. He told them that they did not represent the teachers in the town. This was the supreme insult to what I should call trade union leaders. I speak with a little experience in this sphere. I know how I would feel if management had said that to me.
The South Wales Argus has devoted three editorials to this matter in the past fortnight. On 28th January it referred to it as a "confidence trick". But it summed up the whole business on 4th February:
Mr. Heath's television comment at the weekend about wide public discussion for a proposed change in policy could well be studied by the dominant Conservative group on Newport town council. They, too, have
decided to make an important change in policy—letting their parents pick their children's secondary school. But, contrary to the Conservative leader's avowed intention at national level, on this local issue the Newport Conservatives have not only pushed the change through without any opportunity for public discussion, they have not even bothered to consult privately the main organisation, the teachers, who will be concerned in the change. … If this local bit of authoritarian chicanery is any indication of the future national behaviour of the Conservative party, then all those hopeful pro-Tories who are currently boosting the opinion poll figures had better re-think before it is too late.
I heartily agree with those sentiments.
Finally, I should like an assurance tonight from the Minister of State, who I understand is to wind up, that the Bill will guard against decisions of the kind to which I have referred. I feel that our kids are far too important to be left to the tender mercies of those class warriors. Therefore, I shall have great pleasure in supporting the Government tonight.
I hope that the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the highways and byways of Newport.
I think that a case has been made out against the Bill from the Conservative benches. It was made out as well as it could be in the speeches of the hon. Member for Stratford-upon-Avon (Mr. Maude) and the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle). They at least spoke against the Bill.
But the hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), who led from the Conservative Front Bench, spoke for selection. I found her speech extremely helpful to those of us who have to fight Toryism. I did not find her speech in the least bit helpful for education. It was a speech that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Handsworth could never have made. We know that there has been a change in Tory policy in education within recent memory, but it was a disgraceful speech. This is a sad day for education. The hon. Lady has thrown the whole of secondary education right back into the cockpit of politics.
The Bill is not just a matter of forcing local authorities to do something that they do not want to do; it is not just the issue of intervention. The hon. Lady made it clear that, for her at least, the issue is selection, and she is for selection.
I think that the intervention issue is, to a degree, bunkum. The right hon. Member for Handsworth took an idealistic view of the motivation of some of these local authorities which are opposing reorganisation. It is all very well to picture open-minded gentlemen doing only what they think is best for the future education of the children in their area. But my experience of these gentlemen is not so rose-tinted. Indeed, I think that there are politics in local government and that most of these people take this attitude because they wish to do down a Labour Secretary of State and to have a political row with him.
Fortunately, we do not have this kind of ideological nonsense in north Cornwall. I do not know the politics of the chairman of my local education committee. I have a shrewd suspicion that he is an old-fashioned radical who used to vote Conservative, but will in future vote for me. However, he happens to be an excellent chairman of the education committee.
The speech of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) made clear that the Tories oppose the intrusion of the central Government into the traditional rights of elected local authorities. After all, it is not uncommon for central Government to do this. Indeed, if one reads into the right hon. Gentleman's speech "trade unions" or "local authorities", it will read in a very odd way. All the arguments that he adduced against central Government intrusion into the rights and duties of elected representatives towards the people who elected them could be said about the Conservative Party's policy on trade union reform.
May we expect a Bill at some time in future, if we ever have the terror of another Conservative Administration, to repeal compulsory education and allow parents to decide whether they should send their children to school at all?
The parallel of the State's rights in the American South is apt. In my view, the Federal Government are absolutely right to enforce the principle, and I think that here the central Government are right to enforce the principle on local authorities.
The hon. Member for Finchley said that she was in favour of forms of selection. She tried to make out that the Bill was in favour of certain forms of selection. Indeed, she made it out to be so in favour of selection that I wondered why she was going to vote against it. It is an extremely dangerous principle to start building in selection for certain proposals—for example, sixth-form colleges and music and dancing—certainly at a very early age.
In the argument about selection we have got the history wrong. The separation of children into grammar and secondary schools was introduced at the end of the Second World War in most European countries. It was not introduced into the United States of America, Russia, or Norway. Since then, Sweden has abandoned it, and Britain, France and Italy are in the process of doing so. I should think that during the next five or six years the only country maintaining selection, in Western Europe at any rate, will be West Germany. It is almost certainly a historical accident. The Secretary of State argued that it had come about as a result of arguments in the Norwood Report. It is not as difficult as that; it is rather simpler. It was just much easier to divide education in this way.
The grammar schools and the lycées in France were already there, and all that had to be done was to leave them alone, build new schools for the rest, and then extend the method of selection which had already been used for a small group of scholarship boys to cover all selection, namely, a competitive examination. I suspect this is how this came about; it was not originally a calculated decision. It certainly was not one on which educational psychologists were in agreement.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted the Norwood Report. I would quote Dr. Rex Knight, Professor of Psychology, Aberdeen, as long ago as 1950, when he said:
A fourth educational change that owes nothing to science has been the establishment of three types of secondary school—the grammar school, the technical school and the secondary modern school. The only connection between psychologists and this innovation is that they have vigorously attacked the grounds on which it was recommended by the Norwood Committee.
And this is way back in 1950.
It is important to emphasise that grammar schools have not always been selective. The appeals that are made for maintaining the tradition of the grammar schools—we hear them up and down the country; occasionally, they are echoed in the House—are absolute nonsense. The fact is that they were traditionally, for 400 years or more, middle class fee-paying comprehensive schools. A very small proportion of free places were available for the able poor children. It has been estimated that by the end of the 19th century there were only 5,000 scholarship places in all the grammar schools in England and Wales. After the First World War the proportion gradually grew, and in 1938 at least half of these schools had half or less of their places based on selection. So this shows that there is not a great tradition of selection behind them. These are basically, many of them, non-selective schools.
What are the disadvantages of selection? They are rehearsed often enough. One is the effect of the 11-plus on primary education—to my way of thinking, a disastrous effect. Another is the inaccuracy of the selection procedure, which we all know of and the discouragement of non-selected pupils. The right hon. Gentleman talked about failure. I do not think that he was lending his support to the idea that they were failures, but it is an extraordinarily commonly received view that if you do not pass the 11-plus, or you do not go through the selection procedure and get through it, you are a failure.
It is a sad reflection on the whole system that this should be so. Of course, there is the discrimination against children from uneducational and uncultural backgrounds, and this leads on to the whole class distinction, the class barriers that are erected by the system.
Are there advantages to the process of selection? The only one that, I think, is really widely supposed is that pupils learn more effectively in ability groups. This is widely accepted; probably more widely accepted by teachers than by children. There is little evidence for it; indeed, if we take the extreme example of this, namely, streaming within a school, we have the latest report, only out, in fact, during the last two or three weeks, of Joan Barker Lunn, of the National Foundation for Educational Research, where it is shown quite clearly that the academic attainments of children of comparable levels of ability are much the same regardless of whether they are taught in streamed or non-streamed mixed ability classes.
So if streaming is unjustified within a school, how much more is selection between schools unjustified. There is no evidence at all that pupils of any ability, either high or low or middle, suffer from a school of different abilities. Indeed, I would go on to challenge the Bill in sections where it is too much in favour of selection.
I do not think that it is obvious by any manner of means that the education of handicapped children ought to be conducted necessarily in separate schools. It may well have been accepted. I suspect that everybody would have accepted it five years ago; in five years' time, I suspect that we shall all be questioning it strongly. It has already been accepted that the education of the blind and deaf is often very much better in ordinary non-handicapped schools.
Again, if we come to the education of the exceptionally gifted—I would never lay claim to having been exceptionally gifted, but I did start with a rather strange kind of education in that I was a member of the greatest choir in the world, King's College Chapel, as a boy, and I suppose that it could have been that I might have gone to a choir school that was only a choir school. This would have been very selective indeed.
I must say from that experience, and having seen both, it was a dangerous thing to separate boys completely from other disciplines and put them into a music school, dancing school, ice skating school, or whatever it may be. If one is to have this kind of selection, one might be able to argue this later on, but one certainly cannot argue it at this very early age.
What we are in favour of—what I am in favour of—is good comprehensive schools. This depends not only on buildings. It has already been made clear it depends very much on the attitude of the people who are running it; on the governors of the school. If they are all governors of a grammar school in mind, although, in practice, governors of a comprehensive school, this does not help. Similarly, if the teachers are opposed to non-streaming in schools, this does not work, either. I agree entirely we have got to look at these methods of improving our comprehensive schools, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Handsworth when he said that he wanted positive discrimination in favour of comprehensive schools, particularly in priority areas, because this is the only way we can guarantee that they will be good scools. Comprehensive education is not, I think, the first priority I would put in the education budget. I would certainly make that primary schools. But, after that, I would like to see more money spent in ensuring that the comprehensive principle works, and is seen to work, and has some cash behind it. We could waste a lot of money by trying to save it in this sphere.
It is strange how often we now hear about the danger of neighbourhood schools and how rarely it used to be mentioned when all secondary modern schools were neighbourhood schools. Of course, I know why this is now raised: because the privileged élite are to be stuck with neighbourhood schools. This is the great argument for bringing more and more of these people into the maintained sphere of education, because when they get in they start fighting for their rights.
As usual, we have heard again about the "purpose-built" myth. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon talked about having to bus between four buildings and said that that was a disaster. I went to an extremely expensive comprehensive school in the South of England and I bussed, or rather cycled, between nine buildings—eight houses and the school. We went backwards and forwards for lunch and we went to chapel and came back for study periods at the house. This involved journeys of three or four miles and much further for some of the houses.
In my constituency, many children spend far longer on a bus going to school in the morning and coming home in the evening than the children in the big cities would ever spend being shuttled from one building to another in what is commonly called a "botched-up" comprehensive scheme.
There is an important point on consultation. I, too, noticed the difference here, as did the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley. We read that it is intended to "consult" managers and teachers, but only to "convey information to" parents. I recognise all the difficulties of ensuring an adequate consultation process and adequate participation. I should like to look towards the full extension of democracy into education. That has nothing to do with extending the powers of local authorities, which are not particularly democratic in their control of education. The present experiments in Yugoslavia, where even headmasters are elected by the local parent-teachers association, gives the association real power and a real stake in the situation. This is something which we will have to look to in the future.
It is sometimes said by those who defend selection that first-class brains need first-class education; but then how much more do second-class brains need first-class education? In my view, the purpose of education is not to produce an élite of brilliant men to man the nation's growing economy. Of course we need our high fliers, but history shows that the Leonardo da Vincis of the world can look after themselves in any system of education—and even, perhaps, the Sir Miles Thomases.
The purpose of education, surely, is to civilise, to humanise and to make compassionate. If we can add one jot of education to the education of the average man, we can do more to create a humane, compassionate and civilised society than by adding a whole cubit to the education of a small, selected élite. That is why I and my hon. Friends will support the Government on the Bill.
I am very glad to follow the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) and to know that he and his party will be accompanying us into the Lobby—and for the very best of reasons.
Two themes have emerged from the speeches of hon. Members opposite. One is the question of timing and the other is the attack on local autonomy. I have some sympathy with the first, but for a very different reason. In my opinion, this Measure is out of time. It should have been brought in in 1965, at the time of the circular of that year. I was a little dubious then about whether the Government's persuasive attitude would be sufficiently rewarded—and that was when local government had a very different complexion from what it has today.
What I thought then has been amply borne out. The trouble today is that councils throughout the country are dominated by a party opposed to comprehensive secondary education and to the abolition of selection at 11-plus. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to cross their hearts and say, "We are not against comprehensive schools. We have certain doubts about selection at 11 but we feel that there should be an element of selection". For me, the whole idea of comprehensive reorganisation is the corollary of non-selection. One follows from the other. If we have selection, we cannot have comprehensive secondary schools. As I have said before, we cannot have a mixed economy in secondary education.
Talk of an attack on local autonomy is a red herring of a vivid hue. It is perfectly true that the autonomy of the local authority is lessened to some extent by the intervention of the Government in this matter. It is pointed out that certain local councils have been elected on one plank in their election address, namely, opposition to the comprehensive reorganisation. I very much doubt this. I would like to remind hon. Members on the other side that this Government were elected on a firm promise that they were going to introduce comprehensive reorganisation of secondary education. It made this promise very clear. I quote just a short sentence from the party manifesto of 1966:
We shall press ahead with our plan to abolish the 11-plus, that barrier to educational opportunity and reorganise secondary education on comprehensive lines.
It was as simple as that. That was the promise. Sometimes hon. Members opposite accuse us of not keeping our promises, but when we do so they criticise. We are keeping our promise in this respect. Unfortunately, the compulsion should have come earlier, in effect in 1965, when the Government were dealing with this matter. They should have said to local authorities then: "You must produce your schemes for secondary re-organisation".
As for the theme that since the Government have come in there has been a certain revulsion of feeling against it, there have been local government elections and in those elections we have had Tory councils sent back. Those Tory councils, in their wisdom or otherwise, have different ideas on education. This is true up to a point, and the point that we reach is that at the General Election something like 80 per cent. of the population voted while at local elections something like 20 to 30 per cent. voted; so when we take the consensus of opinion we can say quite definitely that as far as the electorate generally are concerned they are in favour of comprehensive secondary education.
Would the hon. Gentleman just tell me this: if central Government is persistently to override decisions of local government, is there going to be any point at all in voting at local elections?
There is no intention of consistently overriding the intentions of local government; far from it. But in matters of education, which is a subject of national importance, the Government must put down the guidelines and it is for the local authority to follow those guidelines. At no time have the Government said, "We are going to keep you in closely prescribed procedures". There must be reorganisation, but there is a good deal of latitude so far as the type of comprehensive secondary school is concerned.
I am glad that the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) has come in, because he referred to his own authority. I am going to refer to mine, and I would say on balance perhaps his authority is a little more reactionary than mine. What I relate to the House on what has happened in my own particular borough will, in effect, highlight all the various points which have been made by my hon. Friends on this side of the House. My own particular authority presented a scheme of secondary reorganisation in compliance with the request of the Department of Education and Science but it has always been a matter of amazement to me how the Department ever accepted it, even though it accepted it in very limited terms.
I should say that the Minister pointed out in his letter that, with the exception of one area where there was an attempt on the part of a comprehensive school, the proposals were acceptable only over a substantial number of years. If ever there was an understatement that was it. On the plans of my local authority, according to my reckoning, the reorganisation would not have been completed, certainly in this century. The Minister made certain proposals for expediting the change-over but the Redbridge Education Authority was not in the mood for expedition. On 2nd December, 1968, the letter was received by the education committee, which referred it to the reorganisation sub-committee.
On 3rd March, 1969, the sub-committee reported its consideration of that letter to the main committee. That committee referred it for consideration pending a report by the Chief Education Officer. Meanwhile the Chief Education Officer retired and there was an interval before a new officer was appointed. So we come to 13th October, 1969, when a full report by the Chief Education Officer to the reorganisation sub-committee produced very little response, except that it asked the Minister to think again about providing another secondary comprehensive school in the major building programme.
I asked the House that this should be done, thinking that even this was a hesitant steps, a move forward. I am bound to say that in this instance, as in the other school, unless selection is abolished in the borough and unless it goes over to complete reorganisation these two schools will be nothing but secondary moderns written large. Another report was submitted to the education schools sub-committee on 30th October, 1969, which was interesting in the points it raised.
Although this concerns Redbridge its application must be very much wider. It first mentioned a drop in selected places, largely because a neighbouring borough had gone comprehensive. The electors of Redbridge were warned about this at the local elections but apparently took very little heed. The result is now only too obvious. Redbridge was one of those places well favoured. It has had a record of something like over 30 per cent. of selected places, which is very high by any standard. This percentage is now decreasing, and that brings me to comment on one of the main defects of the selective system as it is today. It is that a child will not be selected for the grammar school on ability, but as a result of the number of places there. In other words, the whole thing is completely arbitrary, so that whereas at one time we had a selection rate of something over 30 per cent. that rate is going down to something like 25 per cent. or 28 per cent. This will not be to the liking of the people of Redbridge.
This report mentioned, and this was of special interest because I had seen it somewhere before, that the selection procedure adopted, as it was in 1966 in the borough, was continued but concern was expressed about excessive coaching at home and at school. Surely, every hon. Member of the House has heard something about that before.
I was interested to learn also that for the non-selective places in the secondary modern schools more than a quarter of the parents "held out very bitterly for schools already over-subscribed". This again highlights the farce of what is known as parental choice.
This is an unhappy story of procrastination and muddle at their worst, and who suffers?—the children of Redbridge. But the point is that in the meantime the Department of Education and Science looks on helplessly, and the reason I have welcomed the Bill today and have said that it should have been brought in before is that at last the Department will have some teeth in this matter and will be able to persuade authorities such as my own to get on with the job which they should be doing.
Finally, a certain amount of criticism has been made of the Bill, particularly in the matter of selection—selection for sixth-form college, selection as far as certain attributes are concerned. I would join my hon. Friends in asking the Minister to look at this, and perhaps when the Bill is in Committee we shall have some Amendments.
There are strong theoretical arguments for comprehensive secondary education, but there are stronger practical arguments against forcing the pace and coercing local authorities. So I shall have no hesitation in voting against the Bill tonight.
I believe that the country is moving in the direction of a predominantly comprehensive system. I do not wish to stop or reverse that movement, but if it ceases to be a gradual movement and becomes a headlong rush it is more likely to damage than to benefit the interests of children as a whole. I must make it clear, as others have, that I am not defending the 11-plus in its original, most rigorous form as a means of selection, but I am prepared to see some form of selection at some age continuing for some areas for some time to come.
Earlier speakers from this side have put much better than I could most of the comments I intended to make; I shall, therefore, telescope my speech and merely deal with one or two points which I want to stress.
My hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), in opening for the Opposition, showed how the Government's policy in the Bill goes clean contrary to what they professed to say in the White Paper on Local Government Reform. I would draw attention to another aspect of the strange behaviour of the Secretary of State, because in this Bill he is seeking to override local authorities but in the teachers' pay dispute he has seemed all too ready to shuffle his responsibilities on to the local authorities.
In advocating the Bill the Government have exaggerated both the evils of selection and the merits of comprehensive schools. I will not add to the criticism of the Secretary of State for what he said about 80 per cent. "failures", this has been well covered by my hon. Friends, but I invite him, as I did his hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Newens), to come to Cambridge and see some of our excellent secondary modern schools. The sort of talk we have heard from the Secretary of State is insulting not only to the children, but to the devoted teachers and administrators. Let us continue to experiment with more sophisticated methods of selection at different ages and with different mixes of teachers' assessments and objective tests.
On the comprehensive system itself I would only say, as others have, that this is not a panacea; it is not suitable for uniform imposition. There are many honest doubts about it in the education world, teachers included. We need much more time to evaluate the real merits of the system. All kinds of questions still need clear answers—about neighbourhood schools, sizes, streaming and non-streaming, and many other things.
I want to dwell in particular on the difficulties I foresee from the Bill for local authorities, first, in the sheer burden of work that is involved. In the County of Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely, including the City of Cambridge, I do not know how many thousand man and woman hours have been spent by councillors and officials and co-opted members of committees in trying to work out a scheme within the general guidelines of Circular 10/65. They have not yet succeeded to the satisfaction of themselves nor of the Department, and discussions continue. On top of this, there is the fresh uncertainty that any scheme once settled may be overturned later.
There is the question, too, of future changes in the local government pattern. The dilemma for our councils is that when they are in sight of working out a scheme which makes reasonable sense given the time-scale and resources available for the Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely area, they find that some districts just outside the present boundaries will be joined with our area in a bigger unitary authority in a few years' time, if anything like the Maud proposals go through.
A joint report by county and city education committees said:
If, as appears probable, some of these groupings offered a more satisfactory solution to the problem of reorganising schools in the Cambridge area than the proposals included in the submitted scheme, then it may be in the best interests of pupils concerned to withdraw the present scheme, pending discussions with neighbouring authorities and with the Department of Education and Science.
So we have this further element of uncertainty which should tell against the Bill.
The damage that the Bill may do to educational standards has been mentioned. I stress particularly the distraction that it will inevitably cause both in local authorities and at the centre from other pressing problems in the educational world, especially at the bottom end of the age range, in the primary schools. The compulsion in the Bill is its most objectionable element. The Government are driving towards more uniformity when the answer should lie in variety. They will do damage, also, to the essential partnership with local education authorities which has to be based on confidence and persuasion, not on coercion.
I was interested to see a comment on this aspect last Sunday in the Observer, which is normally not unfavourable to Government policy. It said:
To impose uniformity and efficiency may in the long term lead only to bloody-mindedness and resentment.
We all know that the reasons for the Bill are primarily party-political. The Government have got their educational priorities wrong. They are putting dogmas of politics before the true needs of education. They deserve to be condemned and the Bill to be rejected, though I fear that it may reach the Statute Book.
No doubt the Secretary of State hopes that his term of office will be remembered chiefly for the Bill, but I suspect that a poet-historian of our times is more likely to pass this judgment upon him:
Perverse and foolish Edward Short
This bad short-lasting Act hath wrought,
Deaf to all warnings that he would
By rushing do more harm than good.
I cannot hope to emulate the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) by quoting poetry tonight. I appreciate that he telescoped his remarks considerably, and I shall endeavour to do likewise.
In view of the overwhelming evidence there is against the 11-plus examination, it is in many ways rather unfortunate that my right hon. Friend felt it necessary to introduce the Bill. Nevertheless, I think that he was right to do so, so that we can resolve this situation at present.
There is a tremendous amount of unrest among teachers at the moment. This is not entirely due to the salary situation, but possibly due to uncertainty and insecurity and frustration within the profession. It appears that just when everyone else's job seems to be getting easier teaching seems to be getting more difficult and more nerve-racking.
Hon. Members opposite seem to presume that any ideas put forward by hon. Members on this side are introducing politics into education, whereas any ideas they put forward for institutions which they defend are nothing of the kind. I rather think that education is more of an educational theories "football" at the moment. The Opposition put forward all these ideas with the best of intentions and very often they have no conception how these theories will work when they are put into practice by the real players and no conception of what the end result will be. It is from these theories that educationists have to sort out which are genuinely new and which are old hats dressed up in new feathers.
The abolition of the 11-plus and the creation of a non-selective secondary system of education is no longer an education theorist's dream, but is a reality. It is something which has been proven in practice and will stand the test of time. Such is the power and the logic of the argument against the 11-plus that only misguided people would attempt to defend a selection of that type. When one tries to look at the new pattern of secondary education, if one tries to do without the 11-plus or some kind of selection, that is the time when defenders of the grammar schools get themselves into an awful state of confusion.
I believe that it is not just the 11-plus examination, but the whole principle of selection at the age of 11 which is now the discredited part of our educational system. I cannot go along with any of those theories that one can replace a written examination by parents' or teachers' choice. I am convinced that these other theories are fraught with even graver difficulties than the written examination and would be discredited very much more quickly than the old examination has been discredited.
This kind of system would impose intolerable burdens on teachers in asking them to make this kind of choice. They would be placed in a position of having to decide whether a teacher colleague's child or perhaps a local councillor's child or an M.P.'s child was to go to grammar school. That is a burden which they ought not to have to face. If we abolish the 11-plus, and selection, we must logically go to a system of secondary education on a non-selective basis.
I do not think that one can pretend to run a grammar school system alongside a comprehensive system because the comprehensive schools would very quickly become the poor relations to the grammar schools. The comprehensive schools would not be able to compete and the misguided and ill-informed would quickly declare that they had failed completely. In that sort of case, it would be a question of changing the name over the door of the secondary modern school and pretending that a great and historic educational advance had been made.
To achieve full educational and social objectives, to attract and retain the right kind of academic staff in secondary schools, and so that comprehensive schools can obtain the standing and respect of the community at large, there has to be an intake which is a spread of ability right across the spectrum. The biggest flaw in the argument put forward in favour of retaining the grammar school—or privilege for a small minority—is the one which says, "You have taken away our freedom of choice". I do not want to labour that point, because I am sure it has been dealt with adequately already.
Only two groups ever had freedom of choice, those who wanted to send their children to secondary modern schools and those with the money to pay for an education for their children. It is strange that those who had sufficient money usually chose to send their children to a school which was based on the comprehensive principle and yet those people attack that principle with great vigour in this House.
Most parents know that there was no choice for secondary school education, and only those with no knowledge of the system will pretend, to convince themselves or to try to convince others, that there ever was a choice. The 11-plus was very much a status symbol for parents. Their pride was at stake. Such was their anxiety for success that they often put enormous pressures on their children from the moment they started school. Sometimes those pressures were so great that a child who would ordinarily have passed the examination was so affected that he went to pieces on the day and failed.
Many of these children recovered quickly from the fact that they had failed but, to many others, this was a blot on their records which they carried for many years—some of them for the rest of their lives. They were made to feel that they had not only let themselves down, but their parents and their families.
It is no exaggeration to say that children going into a junior school would be put into an A-stream perhaps at the age of 7 and that the whole of their curriculum would be geared to the 11-plus. This was deciding the child's future not at 11, but at 7. Indeed, it is likely that the position would have been decided two years' earlier, in infants' school. A system which sorts out children at that tender age and determines what they should be and where they should go for the rest of their lives is quite indefensible.
What our schools desperately need is a clear indication of the road along which they have to travel. They then need a period of stability in order to get on with the job. The Bill will free primary schools from the shackles of the 11-plus and impose on them a great responsibility to ensure that they have new targets to achieve and that their standards will not fall.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will ensure that there are adequate resources for all genuine schemes. In Stoke-on-Trent, we will go over this year to a fully comprehensive system. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant) did tremendous work as chairman of the local education committee in preparing the ground so that we can go smoothly along this path. We are about to open a sixth-form college, but, alas, it is not big enough. When we open it, it will have to have some temporary buildings as well. The Department has a responsibility to ensure that there are adequate facilities to enable progressive local authorities to put their schemes on the right footing from the outset.
I welcome the Bill because my right hon. Friend will get some common sense into this system and do away with a lot of woolly thinking.
Much of the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mr. Forrester) contained thoughtful contributions to the education side of the debate, although, as was inevitable, there was a certain element of politics in it. None of us can complain about that as politicians. In that respect, it was very like the debate. At the outset, the Secretary of State, on the political side of his speech, sought to assert that there was a political difference between the parties on the issue of a comprehensive school as such. When the right hon. Lady the Minister of State—and this is the first opportunity we have had to say to her how widely felt it is that the House will be the poorer when she leaves us, as she has announced that she will do so—comes to reply, I hope that she will not use that argument. If she is not persuaded by me I hope that she will be persuaded by a distinguished hon. Lady who until recently was her immediate colleague and is now serving with distinction at the Home Office—the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams).
Last July, the hon. Lady gave a lecture at the Bulmershe College of Education, which is one of our best colleges. It was called the Bulmershe Lecture, at the end of which she was asked questions. One of them reads:
May I ask Mrs. Williams … whether she believes education will ever be taken out of the struggle for political power?
The hon. Lady replied:
Well, the truth of the matter is that it really hasn't been in the last ten years. Education at national level has been in the past ten years, I would have said surprisingly enough, a subject on which there has been a consensus of view.
She went on to say, with some reason, that there was what she termed a rift in the lute about comprehensive schooling. Then the right hon. Gentleman said, about the comprehensive division:
But even that is by no means a pure party division; you can look up and down this country and you will find that a good many authorities which have gone over to comprehensives, and I mean real comprehensives and not a kind of halfway house, are authorities which have been Conservative since local government began, and you will find one or two other authorities, Labour authorities, which don't appear to be wildly enthusiastic always about comprehensive reorganisation.
That is the truth of the matter. This is not a political controversy on the principle of comprehensive schooling, and it will not be open to the Minister of State to seek to suggest that there is a division between the two parties on this issue. The facts are that there are members of both parties and administrators of both who have given distinguished service in terms of comprehensive schools.
We began with a reminder from my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) that it was a curious irony that we were discussing a Bill published on the same day as the White Paper on the Reform of Local Government in England. The House will recall the very powerful contribution on this matter by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) who, in this as in so much else, speaks with great authority.
Allow me to quote from the words used in the White Paper published on the same day as the Bill that we are now debating. Paragraph 60 reads:
As the Prime Minister made clear in his speech to the Association of Municipal Corporations at Scarborough on 17th September, 1969, the Government believe unequivocally in greater freedom for local authorities within the framework of national policies laid down by Parliament. The reorganisation of local government creates an opportunity, which the Government intend to seize, for achieving this aim.
The first seizure that they do is the Bill which plucks back from revised local authorities an important section of decision over which until now they have had a considerable element of freedom.
Furthermore, it is debated a very short time after the publication of the Bill, and I cannot believe that there has been any meaningful discussion with local education authorities about the Bill that we are debating. This is no way to treat local government if right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite really believe in it. If they do not believe in it, then it is acceptable conduct; but that may be one of the divisions which are starting to open between the two sides of the House.
It was my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) who took us all slightly to task for not concentrating sufficiently on the Bill. None of us like to receive a wigging from my right hon. Friend, so let me ask a number of questions about this Bill. Almost all of them have been raised in the debate so far and I trust that the right hon. Lady will address her mind to them in reply. First what is the effect of this Bill upon those places taken up by local education authorities in direct grant schools? We would like from her a very clear statement of the position as she sees it. Ostensibly and outwardly it is true that the Bill deals with places provided by the local education authorities, but we would like to be clearer than we are so far that it does not or will not be made to refer to places taken up at direct grant schools by L.E.A's. This is no light matter. Berkshire for example takes up 1,250 such places a year.
We know and we have heard again today of the Minister's hostility to direct grant schools. I see that the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) is here and the House will recall how at Question Time last Thursday he asserted in Question No. 4 that he knew of no single educational reason for supporting a direct grant school.
I hope that other hon. Members can see the distinction better than I can. It is fair to say that the hon. Gentleman is not favourably disposed towards such schools. We all know that he is interested in education, has been a practitioner of education—and will again be a practitioner. Is it not a matter of concern to all of us who care for this subject? Should we not also care for schools which give a good education as such? This is at least one good educational reason. I can give another and that is that none of us can ever be present in a direct grant school, for example at sixth form level in say, a seminar, without being immensely impressed at the very wide social background from which the young people are drawn, and at the very real contribution the direct grant system is making in that way.
In case there is any doubt let me say that this side of the House is in favour of direct grant schools and there will not be criticism of them when this party is in office. Selection is still in the Bill, among other things, for some types of college. This will be valuable, for example, in Manchester. Will the right hon. Lady at least keep open her options about other forms of selection either way? There was a powerful plea from my right hon. Friend the Member for Handsworth in terms of the mathematicians.
The House will have been impressed by what was said by the hon. Member
for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) about the education of those who have a disability. There is beginning to dawn upon educational circles the unwisdom of putting these people away into special schools. Let her at least say that she will reserve her options. Another point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) about the reason for the different wording in the Bill and the different treatment meted out, on the one hand to managers and governors, and on the other to parents. What is the reason for the Secretary of State having to "convey" information to parents? It reminds me of those gentlemen who begin letters to The Times with the words "My attention has been drawn …". It is a lofty phrase to apply to parents and very different from the word "consultation" which the Secretary of State used:
I do not hesitate to take it up with a local authority if I find that the consultation is not adequate. But in the Bill to which my right hon. Friend has just referred there will be a Clause dealing with this point."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th December, 1969; Vol. 793, c. 619.]
Here we are merely conveying information. Much of the thinking in preparation of the remarkable all-party Education Act 1944 took place in a very different climate of opinion. We are moving into an era where parents will rightly require consultation in a meaningful sense and not merely information.
This will inevitably arise in a particular place and at a particular time, but the ultimate decision must rest with the elected authorities. I am asking no more than that in the matter of consultation parents should be on the same footing as the managers and governors are at present.
There are a few local authority areas whose reorganisation plans have been approved by reference to a date—Inner London is one. Are those plans which have been agreed with the Department subject to a date—in this case post1975—to be left, or does the right hon. Lady envisage that under the Bill they must be taken out of their pigeon holes, with all the disruption to schools and administrators that that implies?
The problem of the neighbourhood school and the solution of banding has been well argued. Many believers in comprehensive schools have come to think it wise to use a banding technique which turns upon a selection, and so to counter the tendency of the worst area to have the worst schools. The answer of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) was, "Twas ever thus". In this answer he labelled himself as the arch Conservative of the House. I do not regard something as satisfactory merely because it has always been so, but it is astonishing that the Government should stop a procedure which many believers in comprehensive schools have been practising.
There are difficult problems about the sharing of sixth form facilities. In matters of reorganisation it is surely extremely unwise for hon. Members on either side of the House to be dogmatic. My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) made this point very effectively. I remember so well a textbook on taxation which opened with the words
Dogmatism in taxation is only given to those whose knowledge of the subject is slight.
I have a feeling that we who interest ourselves in the subject of education must be extremely careful before we are dogmatic, at least in regard to comprehensive schools.
Let me give some examples. A few years ago it was sincerely believed that, to be effective, a comprehensive school had to be of very great size. The old L.C.C. area in Inner London would be a very good example of this. Yet if one looks at a schedule of the building of comprehensive schools in Inner London over some years, the graph shows a downward trend in terms of numbers and size.
I see that the Secretary of State agrees with me. This is not because those who originally thought about the matter were evil people but that they were genuinely mistaken and wrong. They have bequeathed vast buildings to their successors and have brought considerable problems in their train. This simply illustrates that dogmatism in matters of this kind is proved wrong.
To give another example, certain of the thinking in the Department is clearly changing. In 1965 the Department favoured large all-through schools, the 13-to-18 school, as was clear from the circular of that year. But the Secretary of State will remember that in recent months his own speech at a technical conference in Devonshire showed clearly that the Department's attitude on that matter is tending to change and it is now favouring something of a rather different nature.
Then again, there are some hon. Members who seem to think that there is no form of selection in all-comprehensive schools. They should go to see for themselves since the fact of the matter is that in some comprehensive schools there is a form of selection. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to see confidential reports on those schools know that the inspectors have been showing that at least in that type of school the social divisions between the streams inside a comprehensive can be very great indeed, intensified by the very fact that they are contained within the same building. I am simply saying that for the party opposite to be dogmatic about comprehensive schools is to fly in the face of knowledge and experience. I am simply pleading no more than that we learn by experience.
My greatest criticism of the Bill concerns its dogmatic insistence on reorganisation throughout the country and the fact that it moves the searchlight of public interest away from the primary sector. I do not know whether the Secretary of State realises the amount of time totally wasted by administrators, governors and, indeed, Members of Parliament on some schemes which have been entirely unrealistic. These schemes will now have to be taken out of their pigeonholes and re-fought all the way through the whole turmoil of discussion.
If I had to say which sector of education I personally believe to be of greatest importance, I should not hesitate to say that it is the sector in which the child started its school life. It is there that the ground is prepared and from so many schools of this kind the greatest academic successes stretch like pedigrees in the years ahead. It is the insistence on reorganisation, on moving the searchlight of public interest away from the primary sector, distracting those who should be giving attention to it as a sector, which is the greatest single criticism of this Bill.
I also hope that we can, even at this late hour, persuade the Secretary of State to take a less carping view of the secondary modern school. The fact of the matter is—and the right hon. Gentleman knows it—that he is imposing the policy without any extra finance for the purpose of comprehensive reorganisation. This in turn means that for as long as we can foresee, however keen hon. Members on either side may be, we shall live with secondary modern schools as we know them today. Indeed, the Secretary of State himself used the phrase "in our lifetime."
Up in Manchester, for example, where there are the purpose-built tripartite denominational schools, there is no money, and no workable alternative without extra money. Therefore, for the very long foreseeable future we shall have to live with these schools.
I must concede, and concede perfectly freely, that in certain areas we see in the secondary moderns little less than the old elementary schools, some of them in disgraceful buildings, disheartening buildings, and the like.
But my point is that the conditions vary so massively between one part of the country and another. Some of my hon. Friends, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), have been able to show that in certain parts of the country there are very effective secondary modern schools. I am simply saying that under any Government we shall continue to have to live with the secondary moderns, and that it does no service to them, no service to their teachers, and no service to the children, to describe them in terms which give them the appearance of being the wastepaper baskets of the educational system.
One of the fascinating sides of education is that we live at a time of immense change, of ferment of ideas, in the whole educational system. It is a disaster that in the present Parliament the only legislative contribution to education is a Bill of this nature.
I will say in sentence form what I see as the alternative. First, compulsion most emphatically will go. As my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley said in opening, the Bill is for the chopper. Thereafter, we shall not find dogma matched with dogma. We shall not find a witchhunt to unscramble existing schemes. But we shall find the ability for an authority, if it desires, to ask to unscramble a scheme that it regards as totally untenable which has been forced upon it for reasons which are not educational.
But, that said, it is undoubtedly true that we on this side of the House have clearly recorded—though the Secretary of State seems determined not to know it, or does not read of it, that we have accepted without question the movement away from the age of 11 as the appropriate early age to make the kind of final decision of which the House has been speaking this afternoon. It was recorded quite clearly in our Manifesto.
The difference between us—[Interruption.] It is very helpful that the Secretary of State should be making these interventions and saying, for the benefit of HANSARD, "Going back to the 11-plus." What the right hon. Gentleman cannot get into his mind is that because one accepts movement away from the age of 11 as the age of selection it is not a case for saying that one is against selection at all points of the educational system.
If I needed confirmation of that, it is written in the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman has moved; it is even written in the Bill that there is proviso for the high flier. In that the Secretary of State is to be congratulated.
I have given way generously, but I have a duty to the right hon. Lady.
The Bill is purely political, but since no one now believes the promises of the Government which produces it, they need not be cowed by the threats contained in it—[Interruption.]—and nobody—[Interruption.]
First, I should like to thank the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) for the remarks that he made about me at the beginning of his speech. I only hope that he will think of me so kindly by 10 o'clock this evening.
We have had an interesting debate. We have had some first-rate speeches from my hon. Friends and from the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe). But I thought the most interesting speeches were made by the hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) and by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle). But what struck me about those two speeches was the great difference of approach.
The hon. Member for Wokingham talked about a division between the two parties, but anyone listening to the debate today will have realised that there is a great division of opinion about this matter within the Tory Party.
I want to answer as many of the questions that have been put to me as possible.
The hon. Member for Finchley referred to the proportion of working-class children who attended university. While recent figures are not available, I should remind the hon. Lady that the Robbins Committee found that the percentage of working-class children who entered university in 1960 was only 2·6 compared with 1·4 in the pre-war period. This hardly represents an enormous increase in educational opportunity for working-class children which the hon. Lady seemed to imply in her quotation from the Daily Telegraph.
Another point raised by hon. Members and by the hon. Member for Finchley was the possibility of transfer, under a selective system, from secondary modern schools to grammar schools. But in 1961, when a survey was conducted, and the tripartite system had been established for a considerable time, it was shown that only 6 per cent. of grammar school leavers had attended a secondary modern school and had subsequently been transferred to a grammar school. This implies that rather less than 2 per cent. of all children were transferred. Bearing in mind that advocates of selection will admit to errors of perhaps 10 per cent., this has hardly, in practice, offered a significant increase in educational opportunity for children selected to secondary modern schools at eleven plus.
The hon. Lady read from a speech made by someone about a school in North-East Lancashire, but she was unable to identify the school. North-East Lancashire is a very big place. I think that I have identified the school, but the facts which I have about it certainly do not tally with the facts that she gave. The only comprehensive school that remotely fits the description given by the hon. Lady is the Brockhole School, at Preston, which is organised temporarily in three departments.
There is no movement of pupils or bus transport between the schools; church halls are not involved; and, moreover, the school will soon move into the premises of the old Preston Grammar School when the purpose-built sixth form college is completed.
Regarding the consultation of governors and teachers, and on the approach to parents, I want to emphasise that—
I would remind the hon. Gentleman I was quoting from the speech of the hon. Lady. I know where Preston is, but she does not.
With regard to consultation, we would have liked parents to be on the same basis as teachers and the governors, but we were told that there was a practical and legal difficulty about this. If, in Committee, we can find an acceptable formula, we shall be happy to accept it, and we will do everything we can in that respect.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Handsworth asked a lot of questions, one of which was "Could a parent bring a test case because a child in a comprehensive school was not being educated according to ability and aptitude?" Of course, anybody can bring a case before the courts and it is up to the courts to decide the matter. As a layman, I would have thought there was much less chance of success in a case like that than if a parent of a child in a secondary modern school went to the courts to say that his child was not being educated according to ability and aptitude. In the Watts v. Kesteven County Council case in 1955, the Court of Appeal held that the duty imposed by Section 8 of the 1944 Act, on which Clause 1 of the Bill operates, was enforceable only by directions under Section 99—[Interruption.] We can come back to some other questions in Committee. I want to cover all the points that have been raised, and I have a lot to cover.
Clause 1 of the Bill is not consistent with banding. The main objection is that ability and aptitude are important factors in the process and that banding is therefore in conflict with the basic principle of comprehensive education and of the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for—
I know that the right hon. Lady wants to cover a good deal of ground, but this is a very serious matter to which she has just referred. At least one headmaster of a London comprehensive has said that banding in certain areas is essential if schools are to be truly comprehensive and the purpose of comprehensive education is to be fulfilled.
Yes, I am sure that, in Committee, we shall have—[HON. MEMBERS: "Not good enough."]—Wait a minute. In Committee, we shall have a very interesting discussion on banding, but I am answering the right hon. Gentleman's question, which was, what exactly did the Bill mean? I have told him that banding is not consistent with Clause 1. That is the question he has asked and that is the question which I have answered.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes) mentioned certain difficulties in regard to Newport. I assure him that a plan, once approved, whether under the Bill or in response to the circular, can, under the Bill, be varied only with the approval of the Secretary of State.
I now turn to the direct grant schools. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Bar (Mr. Christopher Price) asked when we would receive the Donnison Committee's Report. My right hon. Friend received it yesterday. We are studying it and we hope that it will not be too long before it is published.
I want to make the position clear of direct grant schools under the Bill. The Bill does not mention direct grant, grammar or independent schools, but it does impose on authorities a duty to have regard to the need for securing that secondary education is provided in comprehensive schools. Section 9 (1) of the Education Act, 1944, and Section 1 of the Education Act, 1953, confer powers on authorities to enable them to carry out their duties to secure that there are sufficient schools for their areas. One of the powers conferred is that of taking up places at direct grant and independent schools.
It is, therefore, implicit in the Bill that authorities who pay for children at direct grant and independent schools should have regard to whether the school concerned is comprehensive or not—that it, whether its admission arrangements are based wholly or in part on the ability or aptitude of pupils.
I turn now to specialist institutions for the arts. This section is concerned with a tiny minority of schools. There are only nine, eight of which are independent schools, directly affected by the Bill. They cater at the most for about 1,500 children from the whole country. We are not saying that these schools should be extended. All that the Bill says is that it is not illegal for local authorities to send children to them.
There are some who argue that, if we are to have players of stringed instruments and the piano of the highest calibre, it is vital for study of the instrument to begin while the pupils are in their early school years. A friend of mine, who is a great piano teacher, would argue exactly the opposite, but this is maintained by some people.
The only maintained school in this category is the Southwell Minster School, which it is proposed might become a school catering nationally for children highly gifted in music. But it is to work in close liaison with a nearby comprehensive school and the children will receive a full education. Any proposals for schools of this kind will require the approval of the Secretary of State. Hon. Members may rest assured that the Clause is not intended to produce a sudden late flowering of schools with a particular specialist bias towards the arts.
Mention was made by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) of special schools, and I would agree with a great deal of what he said. Special education is often thought of as something that is provided only in special schools, but this is not the case. No child ought to be sent to a special school unless it needs something more specialised than an ordinary school can provide. Particularly for the educationally subnormal but even for some with physical handicaps, it is amazing what has been done and is being done in ordinary schools; and, speaking personally, I hope that this will continue to develop. I hope that as time goes on fewer and fewer children will be in special schools and more and more will be in our ordinary schools.
Many of my hon. Friends have mentioned the position about sixth forms, to which my right hon. Friend referred in his opening remarks. The percentage of pupils opting to stay on in the sixth form continues to grow. In 1964, 24·6 per cent. of the age group stayed on at school at the age of 16. By 1968, the numbers had grown to 32·4 per cent. of the age group. The provision of education for the 16 to 19 age group is shared between schools and colleges of further education; and in the last few years there has been a growing trend in the colleges of further education towards the parallel development of G.C.E. A and O level courses for the 16 to 19 group.
Elsewhere in the country the need both to develop viable sixth forms and rationalise the overlap between the schools of further education has led authorities towards a number of different solutions. Twenty-five local authorities have approved plans for the development of sixth-form colleges, and 33 others for the concentration of sixth form provision in sixth form units. Some have joint courses between the two; and in Exeter and Barnstaple there are experiments in hand involving the transfer of all 16-plus work to further education colleges.
There is need for increased flexibility between the schools and colleges of further education and I hope that we shall have more link courses. We have to give much more thought to the education of the whole of the 16 to 19 age group. In the meantime, there are some small sixth-form colleges in being and there would be very great practical difficulties in changing the form of these suddenly and in a very short time.
Questions have been asked about voluntary schools. I would like to pay a tribute to the splendid way in which, since the issue of Circular 10/65 the Church authorities of all denominations have co-operated in the preparation of reorganisation plans. They have been faced with special difficulties because their secondary schools are smaller than county schools usually are, but we would be quite happy to meet them, as my right hon. Friend has said, to discuss any problems.
We always hear a lot about "botched-up" schemes. It is difficult to determine what hon. Members have in mind when they talk about "botched-up" schemes. The phrase appears to relate to all schools that are not in purpose-built premises; but many of our best known schools are in buildings appropriate for quite a different type of education than is provided in them. They are not purpose-built for a modern curriculum or modern teaching methods.
Since 1965, we have not approved any "botched-up" schemes. Where authorities propose amalgamations of existing buildings we examine their plans carefully. Far from approving these plans, in many instances we have acted as restraining influence on local authorities including, I might add, the local authority represented by the hon. Lady on the Front Bench opposite.
Several hon. Members raised the question of the resources necessary to put comprehensive schemes into operation. This is an extremely important point. We all accept that comprehensive development involves not just the substitution of one education philosophy for another, but the conversion of our stock of secondary schools into genuine comprehensive units fully capable of catering for the whole ability range.
It has been said in the House, just as it has been said outside, that the Government have given nothing for school building programmes to help secondary reorganisation. In fact, between 1965 and 1972 we will have allocated £500 million worth of secondary school building. I know that if some local authorities with a plan had more resources available, they could complete their schemes earlier.
But I also know that if those local authorities which have not proposed a plan were allowed two or three times their building allocations, that would not bring comprehensive education any nearer in those places. It is not lack of buildings in some places. It is lack of a will and a desire to get rid of selection. This is, therefore, a matter not just of how much money is available but of how the available money is to be spent.
Comprehensive schools today are very successful, and many of them have demonstrated their success. Ruffwood Comprehensive School, in Kirby, near Liverpool, which I visited a fortnight ago, was opened in 1959 and now has a school roll of 2,000. It is situated in an area of social deprivation. The average I.Q. of its 1958 intake was 86 compared with a national average of 100. Only eight children who entered the school in that year were rated as being of grammar school ability. Yet of that year's intake, 11 have gained G.C.E. A levels in three or four subjects, six in two or three subjects and eight in one subject. Ten pupils have gone on to university and 12 to colleges of education.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite, both in the House and outside, are fond of saying that local authorities require a system best suited to the needs of the area. What does that mean? Does it mean best suited to the needs of the children of the area? If so, I fail to see why the children of Sheffield are so different from the children of Birmingham, why the children of Blackburn are different from those in Bolton, or why the children of Devon are different from the children of Norfolk.
Or it may be that hon. Gentlemen opposite think that we should take the wishes of the parents into consideration. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I was interested to see in the Yorkshire Post of last Thursday two headlines, one on the front page and one on the back. The one on the front said:
All-in schools Bill stirs Tory anger.
The one on the back said:
2,000 parents demand all-in education.
We had a speech today from the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). Yesterday, I received a letter from the chairman of the Kingston-upon-Thames Parents' Association. It said:
Our M.P. will probably be making a contribution to the debate and I want to make it known that there is a considerable body of opinion in Kingston which strongly disagrees with him.
The right hon. Gentleman certainly does not speak for that association, and I am reasonably certain that he does not speak for the majority of parents and teachers in the area, either.
Did the lady who wrote that letter also add that this was an issue at the recent borough council elections and that of 60 seats her own party retained one?
Plymstock is a part of Plymouth which used to be in the Devon County, but because of the areas being altered is now in Plymouth. The school at Plymstock was a comprehensive school and the Plymouth Council is now proposing to bring back selection in that area. This letter says that the chairman of the Plymouth Education Committee went to a meeting of the parents of the Plymstock comprehensive school to put this to them and that out of 800 people present there was a vote of 788 to 12 that the school should remain comprehensive.
It has been argued, in fact the very basis of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames was, that local authorities should be free to choose. I agree that there needs to be a new look at the respective powers of local education authorities and the Secretary of State. I find as a Minister that I am called upon to decide details which I think would be best left to local authorities, but some things must be decided nationally. Just as the school-leaving age and its raising are decided nationally, so I believe selection at the age of 11 is one of the things that should be decided nationally. We are raising the school-leaving age in two years. It is important to determine not only how long girls and boys shall attend a secondary school, but what kind of secondary education and opportunities they shall have in the school.
In conclusion, I should like to know what is Tory policy in this matter. Are hon. Gentlemen opposite in favour of selection, or are they against it? They have been saying today that they are really in favour of comprehensive schools, but that they want selective schools and comprehensive schools at the same time. They talk about botched-up schemes, about freedom, about local authority autonomy, but this is all an alibi for the fact that they really want to hang on to an outworn system of selection.
We want to give every child a chance. That is why we have brought this Bill
|Division No. 63.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Dobson, Ray||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St. P'cras, S.)|
|Albu, Austen||Doig, Peter||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Driberg, Tom||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Dunn, James A.||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Anderson, Donald||Dunnett, Jack||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n)||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)|
|Ashley, Jack||Eadie, Alex||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Edelman, Maurice||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Judd, Frank|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Kelley, Richard|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Ellis, John||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||English, Michael||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)|
|Barnes, Michael||Ennals, David||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)|
|Barnett, Joel||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)|
|Baxter, William||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Latham, Arthur|
|Beaney, Alan||Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Lawson, George|
|Bence, Cyril||Finch, Harold||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)|
|Bennett, James (C'gow, Bridgeton)||Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric(Islington, E.)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Lee, John (Reading)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lestor, Miss Joan|
|Blackburn, F.||Foley, Maurice||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Ford, Ben||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Booth, Albert||Forrester, John||Lipton, Marcus|
|Boston, Terence||Fowler, Gerry||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Loughlin, Charles|
|Boyden, James||Freeson, Reginald||Luard, Evan|
|Bradley, Tom||Galpern, Sir Myer||Lubbock, Eric|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Gardner, Tony||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Brooks, Edwin||Ginsburg, David||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Golding, John||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||McBride, Nell|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||McCann, John|
|Buchan, Norman||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||MacColl, James|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Gregory, Arnold||MacDermot, Niall|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Macdonald, A. H.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||McElhone, Frank|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||McGuire, Michael|
|Cant, R. B.||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mackie, John|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hamling, William||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Hannan, William||Maclennan, Robert|
|Coe, Denis||Harper, Joseph||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)|
|Coleman, Donald||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||MacPherson, Malcolm|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Haseldine, Norman||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hattersley, Roy||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Hazell, Bert||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Heffer, Eric S.||Manuel, Archie|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Marks, Kenneth|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Hobden, Dennis||Marquand, David|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Horner, John||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Davies, E. Hudson (Conway)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Mason, Rt. Hn, Roy|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Howie, W.||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Hoy, Rt. Hn. James||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Huckfield, Leslie||Mendelson, John|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Millan, Bruce|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Delargy, Hugh||Hunter, Adam||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Hynd, John||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)|
|Dempsey, James||Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Dewar, Donald||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn, John||Janner, Sir Barnett||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Dickens, James||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Morris, John (Aberavon)|
|Moyle, Roland||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Murray, Albert||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Tomney, Frank|
|Newens, Stan||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Norwood, Christopher||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Oakes, Gordon||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Ogden, Eric||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|O'Halloran, Michael||Rose, Paul||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|O'Malley, Brian||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Wallace, George|
|Oram, Bert||Rowlands, E.||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Orbach, Maurice||Ryan, John||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Orme, Stanley||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)||Weitzman, David|
|Oswald, Thomas||Sheldon, Robert||Wellbeloved, James|
|Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Shore Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Whitaker, Ben|
|Padley, Walter||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)||Whitlock, William|
|Paget, R. T.||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Palmer, Arthur||Silkin, Hn. S, C. (Dulwich)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Pardoe, John||Silverman, Julius||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Park, Trev[...]||Skeffington, Arthur||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Parker, John (Dagenham)||Slater, Joseph||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Small, William||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Snow, Julian||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Spriggs, Leslie||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Pentland, Norman||Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Winnick, David|
|Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael||Woof, Robert|
|Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Price, William (Rugby)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Probert, Arthur||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Rees, Merlyn||Taverne, Dick||Mr. Ernest G. Perry and|
|Richard, Ivor||Thomson, Rt. Hn, George||Mr. J. D. Concannon.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hiley, Joseph|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Crouch, David||Hill, J. E. B.|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Crowder, F. P.||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Holland, Philip|
|Astor, John||Currie, G. B. H.||Hordern, Peter|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hornby, Richard|
|Awdry, Daniel||Dance, James||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||d' Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hunt, John|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Dean, Paul||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Galniel, Lord||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Bell, Ronald||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Doughty, Charles||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Drayson, G. B.||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Biffen, John||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Jopling, Michael|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Eden, Sir John||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Emery, Peter||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Blaker, Peter||Errington, Sir Eric||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Farr, John||Kimball, Marcus|
|Body, Richard||Fisher, Nigel||Kirk, Peter|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Fortescue, Tim||Kitson, Timothy|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Fry, Peter||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Lane, David|
|Braine, Bernard||Gibson-Watt, David||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Brewis, John||Glover, Sir Douglas||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Goodhew, Victor||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter||Gower, Raymond||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfleld)|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Grant, Anthony||Longden, Gilbert|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J,||Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Bryan, Paul||Grieve, Percy||MacArthur, Ian|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus, N & M)||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Gurden, Harold||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hall, John (Wycombe)||McMaster, Stanley|
|Burden, F. A.||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||McNair-Wilson, Michael|
|Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Maddan, Martin|
|Carlisle, Mark||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maginnis, John E.|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Marten, Nail|
|Chataway, Christopher||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vera||Maude, Angus|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald|
|Clark, Henry||Hawkins, Paul||Mawby, Ray|
|Clegg, Walter||Hay, John||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Cooke, Robert||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Costain, A. P.||Higgins, Terence L.||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Monro, Hector||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Temple, John M.|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Tilney, John|
|Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Ridsdale, Julian||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Robson Brown, Sir William||Waddington, David|
|Murton, Oscar||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Neave, Airey||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Royle, Anthony||Wall, Patrick|
|Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Russell, Sir Ronald||Walters, Dennis|
|Nott, John||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Ward, Christopher (Swindon)|
|Onslow, Cranley||Scott, Nicholas||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Scott-Hopkins, James||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Sharpies, Richard||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Wiggin, A. W.|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Silvester, Frederick||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Sinclair, Sir George||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Peel, John||Smith, John (London & W'minster)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Peyton, John||Speed, Keith||Worsley, Marcus|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Stainton, Keith||Wright, Esmond|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Stodart, Anthony||Wylie, N. R.|
|Pounder, Ration||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.||Younger, Hn. George|
|Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Tapsell, Peter||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Prior, J. M. L.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Mr. Jasper More and|
|Pym, Francis||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)||Mr. Reginald Eyre.|
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I deliberately did not raise this point at the time because, being a fair-minded man, I did not want to spoil the speech of the Minister of State. However, when I intervened, you said that it was wrong for an hon. Member to intervene unless he had listened to the whole of the debate.
I want humbly to submit to you that I was in the House this afternoon and heard nearly the whole of the Secretary of State's speech and every word of my hon. Friend the Shadow Minister. When the right hon. Lady this evening said something which I thought was inaccurate, I thought that it was my duty as a back bench hon. Member to intervene, if she was prepared to give way, with a view to putting the inaccuracy right.
It would give a quite wrong impression if the Chair ruled that no one was allowed to do that unless he had listened to every word of the debate. In any event, I would suggest to you that I have probably heard more of the debate than 75 per cent. of those hon. Members who were present when you made your remark to me earlier.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He is perfectly right. It would even be possible for an hon. Member who had not attended the whole of the debate to put an intervention to a Minister. Apparently the hon. Gentleman attended most of the debate. I was not aware of that. In view of that, anything that I said to him must have appeared to be discourteous, and I hope that he will accept my regret for any discourtesy to an old friend.