Voluntary Aid for Local Education Authorities

Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 4:02 pm on 25th March 1980.

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Photo of Mr Gerrard Neale Mr Gerrard Neale , North Cornwall 4:02 pm, 25th March 1980

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make legal provision for local education authorities to accept voluntary financial aid and voluntary services from any source for the purpose of furthering the teaching skills and expanding the ancillary facilities and teaching aids in all or any of their nursery, primary or secondary schools. I welcome the chance to recommend that the House gives due consideration to the difficulties surrounding voluntary aid to schools for educational purposes. The difficulties are being experienced by many voluntary agencies and they arise from the uncertainty over the statutory powers of local education authorities. It is becoming a matter of concern to Members on both sides of the House who support my Bill.

The purpose of the Bill is to clarify the uncertainty that arises out of the Education Act 1944 about whether local education authorities may or may not accept offers of voluntary financial aid or services. The Bill would seek to remove that uncertainty by stating that such authorities may accept such offers from any source and in respect of all or any part of any school or schools in their areas.

I believe that it is necessary to remind the House of the changes that have occurred since 1944 and which have conditioned attitudes to voluntary aid. That reminder is necessary, I think, so that we can appreciate how the current uncertainty is increased and why it is necessary to remove it.

For example, since 1944 there have been far-reaching developments in education technology. Language laboratories and video systems demonstrate that. Both are trifling advances, however, compared with the educational possibilities opened up by the microchip. At the same time as this change has taken place the cost of available aids has far exceeded the purchasing power of education authorities in all but a minority of schools.

During the 36 years since the passing of the 1944 Act we have moved through a period when parental willingness to delegate their entire responsibility for the education of their children seemed far greater than it is now. The school population was increasing rapidly and under successive Governments new and larger centralised schools were being built. In the latter part of that period the accelerated programme, as it switched to comprehensive schools, involved further change. There was change in the nature of schools and their location and in the provision of facilities.

Whatever else was achieved in that period, it was responsible for opening a large and visible gap in the provisions and facilities available in the new as opposed to the old schools. The fact that many new schools were located in places decided upon as a result of planning criteria and not in relation to economic factors left some schools in areas whose viability was always at risk.

The drop in the school population that followed—and which seems about to continue well into the 1980s—alerted education authorities and parents to the threat to local schools and to the disparity in the provisions. All these factors have had a fundamental influence on changing parental attitudes to the level of education provided by the State. No single factor to my mind has cemented that change more effectively than the effect of restraint on education expenditure by successive Governments and local authorities in recent years.

The less Governments have been able to keep up with the expectations of parents, the less have those parents been willing to rely solely on the State and the more they have sought to do to promote the educational interests of their children. I shall return to the issue of parental participation later and to the way in which the concern and enthusiasm of parents have affected the attitude of employers and trade unions.

It is becoming self-evident that parents wish to raise money by any means to improve education provision and facilities in their children's schools. There are those whose philosophy prohibits involvement in funding any facility or service by anyone outside the education authority. The reason is that they see such activity as an invasion of an area of free State provision which to them is sacrosanct. It is evident that some teaching organisations and some education authorities either place a total block on any offers of aid or become apprehen- sive, or even obstructive, once the offer has advanced beyond the provision of swimming pools or minibuses.

Those views are undoubtedly sincerely held. However, I do not subscribe to them and I do not believe that many parents subscribe to them. That is demonstrated by the work of parents all over the country. What is more, I do not believe that it was the intention of those who drafted the 1944 Act that it should exclude the possibility of any form of voluntary financial aid or service being accepted by a local education authority.

Many hon. Members, irrespective of political persuasion, would, I believe, join me in claiming that voluntary aid is not prohibited now. The 1944 Act is not clear. Nowhere does it say that local education authorities may accept voluntary aid—but nowhere does it say that they may not.

There is no case law to go on. All we have is a multitude of inconsistent examples of what has been possible in one area and not in another. The more ambitious schemes become, the more likely they are to be challenged. As confusion increases, the more parents involve themselves. There has been all-party consensus on the need to encourage far greater voluntary participation in schools. The Taylor report confirmed that.

The increasing influence in school affairs of parent-teacher associations must not be frustrated or blocked unnecessarily. Rather than complaining about the lack of provision, it is more and more evident that parents are now showing that they want to indulge in far-reaching collective self-help to benefit schools in their communities.

That has been confirmed to me by the parent-teacher associations and it is borne out in my constituency of Cornwall, North. The threat of a primary school closure in my constituency at St. Wenn met with a remarkable response. The parents there, not wealthy people or living in an enclosed village, but living in a sparsely populated area took a practical view of the threat. First, they examined the official reasons for the closure and compiled a list of commendable proposals. The parents offered to enter into negotiations with the education authority to establish a rota to transport the only child receiving school transport and they also arranged to collect meals for school lunches. They offered to enter into an agreement to maintain the interior decoration of the school and to take on financial responsibility for the general rates, the water rates, the rent on the school field and even the telephone bill. One parent in the group, the lady responsible for the school meals, offered her future services free.

The school won a reprieve of 15 months. However, I am informed by a parent that the education authority refused all the parents' offers because, it was said, the law prevented their acceptance.

On behalf of parents, I and those supporting me wish to see a Bill introduced which would clarify the 1944 Act and state that local education authorities may accept any offers of voluntary financial aid or services from any organisation. Thus, not only could aid come from a parent-teacher organisation; it could conic from a local industrial organisation, perhaps in concert with a local trades council. If they were persuaded by the local need to offer to supplement the teaching skills in the authority area by providing by way of free secondment a person to advise pupils on the employment needs of local industry, that should be made possible.

The desire to introduce this Bill does not spring from a wish to protect or limit the powers of local education authorities, teaching organisations or even parents. It springs from the conviction that all those who are sincerely interested in the educational welfare of our children, of any age, should be encouraged to offer, individually or collectively, any voluntary aid or service that they can give uninhibited by lack of clarity in an Act of Parliament.

I seek the consent of the House for a Second Reading for my Bill.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough 4:10 pm, 25th March 1980

I oppose the proposed Bill. I have only just looked at it. It is in direct line with Tory Party education policy. I shall prove that it is a dangerous Bill. I am a member of a teachers' union.

Gestures about voluntary aid in schools are always being made. We spent 100 hours in Committee on the Educa- tion (No. 2) Bill. The Education Act 1979 withdrew the comprehensive school provisions in the 1976 Act. We are heading hack to the provision of more private education.

The Bill represents an attempt to introduce "dilutee-ism" into our schools. None of the Tory Members in the Chamber has taught, with one exception, for whom I have a deep respect. Educationists are constantly on guard about voluntary aid in schools. The word "voluntary" sounds attractive, but throughout history, teachers' unions have had to fight against the butcher's wife from next door who is "good with children" and totally unqualified but who helps with reading because classes are too big. If the same happened in the medical profession and unqualified people were used in surgeries because they were "good with patients", Government Members would be appalled.

Tories pay for their medical attention in the same way in which they pay, with money which they have but which we do not, for every aspect of their lives. They used private hospitals, private schools and private everything. They want everything according to the size of their purses. We want a good education for our children. We strive might and main in all aspects of general education to ensure that more of our children can be educated at university. Tory Members have striven in the opposite direction. We know that; we are not daft.

At Question Time the other day I opposed the suggestion that children should leave school at 14 or 15 years of age to go into factories on the specious excuse that they should be apprenticed because there are not enough apprentices. It is reported in the press that a Minister wants our children to be trundled out of school and into the factories. He was talking, not about the children of Tories but about our children.

Whatever the motives of the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Neale), he is misguided—and I am being charitable. He is promoting the idea that what happened in Kent recently should happen universally. In Kent children were kept behind after school to clean the school because there were not enough cleaners. The hon. Gentleman is suggesting that volunteers should replace skilled people, and even teachers, who are being sacked wholesale. The hon. Gentleman suggests that they should clean and paint the schools. That suggestion is transparent Tory Party policy. It is a pity that my hon. Friends and I did not quite take more note of it.

When people are apprised of the Bill's dangers, they will realise that it is in direct line with Tory Party policy to educate their children and to keep them in school for the maximum length of time while volunteers teach our children. The Government are running down the educa-

tion system which we are trying to build. I alert my hon. Friends to the dangers of the Bill, which is the thin end of the wedge for the state education system and is directed against the interests of our children.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and Nomination of Select Committees at Commencement of Public Business):—

The House divided: Ayes 191, Noes 171.

Division No. 242]AYES[4.15 pm
Adley, RobertFowler, Rt Hon NormanMorrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)
Alexander, RichardFox, MarcusMudd, David
Alton, DavidFraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)Neale, Gerrard
Ancram, MichaelFreud, ClementNeedham, Richard
Aspinwall, JackGarel-Jones, TristanNelson, Anthony
Atkins,Robert (Preston North)Gorst, JohnNewton, Tony
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)Gow, IanOppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs Sally
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyGower, Sir RaymondPage, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham
Beith, A.J.Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)
Bell, Sir RonaldGray, HamishPatten, Christopher (Bath)
Bendall, VivianGreenway, HarryPatten, John (Oxford)
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)Grieve, PercyPattie, Geoffrey
Berry, Hon AnthonyGriffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)Pawsey, James
Best, KeithGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Penhaligon, David
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnGrist, IanPercival, Sir Ian
Biggs-Davison, JohnGummer, John SelwynPollock, Alexander
Blackburn, JohnHamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)Prior, Rt Hon James
Blaker, PeterHamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Proctor, K. Harvey
Body, RichardHannam, JohnRathbone, Tim
Bonsor, Sir NicholasHaselhurst, AlanRhodes, James, Robert
Boscawen, Hon RobertHavers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Bowden, AndrewHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Braine, Sir BernardHooson, TomRifkind, Malcolm
Brinton, TimHordern, PeterRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Brittan, LeonHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Brooklebank-Fowler, ChristopherHowells, GeraintShelton, William (Streatham)
Brooke, Hon PeterHunt, David (Wirral)Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Shersby, Michael
Browne, John (Winchester)Johnson Smith, GeoffreySilvester, Fred
Buchanan-Smith, Hon AlickJopling, Rt Hon MichaelSkeet, T. H. H.
Buck, AntonyJoseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithSpeller, Tony
Budgen, NickKimball, MarcusSpicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)
Bulmer, EsmondKing, Rt Hon TomSproat, Iain
Burden, F. A.Lamont, NormanStanbrook, Ivor
Cadbury, JocelynLangford-Holt, Sir JohnStanley, John
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Latham, MichaelSteen, Anthony
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Lawrence, IvanStevens, Martin
Chalker, Mrs LyndaLee, JohnStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Channon, PaulLe Marchant, SpencerStewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Chapman, SydneyLennox-Boyd, Hon MarkStokes, John
Churchill, W. S.Lester, Jim (Beeston)Stradling Thomas, J.
Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Tapsell, Peter
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)Tebbit, Norman
Clegg, Sir WalterLloyd, Peter (Fareham)Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Colvin, MichaelLoveridge, JohnThompson, Donald
Cope, JohnLuce, RichardThorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Corrie, JohnMcCrindle, RobertThornton, Malcolm
Costain, A.P.MacGregor, JohnTownend, John (Bridlington)
Dean. Paul (North Somerset)McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Dickers, GeoffreyMcQuarrie, AlbertTrippier, David
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesMarlow, TonyVaughan, Dr Gerard
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Viggers, Peter
Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnMather, CarolWaddington, David
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)Mawhinney, Dr BrianWainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Elliott, Sir WilliamMeyer, Sir AnthonyWainwright, Richard(Colne Valley)
Fairgrieve, RussellMills, Iain (Meriden)Wakeham, John
Faith, Mrs SheilaMills, Peter (West Devon)Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Fell, AnthonyMolyneaux, JamesWalters, Dennis
Fisher, Sir NigelMonro, HectorWatson, John
Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)Montgomery, FergusWeetch Kenn
Fookes, Miss JanetMorgan, GeraintWells Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Forman, NigelMorrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)Wheeler, John
Whitney, RaymondWinterton, NicholasTELLERS FOR THE AYE.
Wickenden, KeithWoltson, MarkMr. Michael McNair-Wason
Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)Young, Sir George (Acton)Mr. Christopher Murphy
NOES
Abse, LeoFraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)Parker, John
Adams, AllenGeorge, BrucePavitt, Laurie
Allaun, FrankGilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnPendry, Tom
Anderson, DonaldGolding, JohnPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterGraham, TedPrescott, John
Armstrong, Rt Hon ErnestGrant, George (Morpeth)Race, Reg
Ashley, Rt Hon JackGrant, John (Islington C)Radice, Giles
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodHamilton, James (Bothwell)Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Hamilton, W. W. (Central File)Richardson, Jo
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertHarrison, Rt Hon WalterRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
Boothroyd, Miss BettyHattersley, Rt Hon RoyRobertson, George
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough)Haynes, FrankRooker, J. W.
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Healey, Rt Hon DenisRoss, Ernest (Dundee West)
Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S)Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire)Rowlands,Ted
Buchan, NormanHolland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall)Sandelson, Neville
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Home Robertson, JohnSever, John
Campbell, IanHooley, Frank5heerman, Barry
Campbell-Savours, DaleHughes, Mark (Durham)Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)
Cant, R. B.Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)Shore, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop)
Carmichael, NeilHughes, Roy (Newport)Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Cartwright, JohnJohn, BrynmorSilverman, Julius
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Johnson, James (Hull West)Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)Johnson, Walter (Derby South)Soley, Clive
Cohen, StanleyJones, Dan (Burnley)Spearing, Nigel
Coleman, DonaldKaufman, Rt Hon GeraldSpriggs, Leslie
Cook, Robin F.Kerr, RussellStallard, A. W.
Cowans, HarryKilroy-Silk, RobertStewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
Cox, Tom (Wandsworth, Tooting)Lambie, DavidStott, Roger
Cryer, BobLamborn, HarryStrang, Gavin
Cunliffe, LawrenceLeighton, RonaldSummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Cunningham, George (Islington S)Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven)Litherland, RobertThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Davidson, ArthurLotthouse, GeoffreyThomas, Mike (Newcastle East)
Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. DicksonThomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)McCartney, HughThome, Stan (Preston South)
Dempsey, JamesMcGuire, Michael (Ince)Tilley, John
Dewar, DonaldMcKay, Allen (Penistone)Tinn, James
Dixon, DonaldMcKelvey, WilliamTomey, Tom
Dobson, FrankMcMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central)Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Douglas, DickMcNally, ThomasVarley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Douglas-Mann, BruceMcWiIIiam, JohnWainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Dubs, AlfredMarks, KennethWalker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethMarshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n)Watkins, David
Eadle, AlexMartin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn)Welsh, Michael
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)Maxton, JohnWhite, Frank R. (Bury & Radclilfe)
Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)Maynard, Miss JoanWhite, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
English, MichaelMikardo, IanWhitehead, Phillip
Evans, loan (Aberdare)Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride)Whitlock, William
Evans, John (Newton)Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)Wigley, Dafydd
Ewing, HarryMorris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe)Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Faulds, AndrewMorris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)Winnick, David
Field, FrankMorton, GeorgeWoolmer, Kenneth
Fitch, AlanNewens, StanleyWright, Sheila
Flannery, MartinOakes, Rt Hon GordonYoung, David (Bolton East)
Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston)O Neill, Martin
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelOrme, Rt Hon StanleyTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Ford, BenPalmer, ArthurMr. Bernard Conlan and
Forrester, JohnPark, GeorgeMr. Ken Eastham.
Foulkes, George

Question accordingly agreed to.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

No point of order can arise.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Gerry Neale, Mr. Edward du Cann, Mr. Ken Weetch, Mr. A. J. Beith, Mr. John Carlisle, Mr. W. E. Garrett, Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson, Mr. Michael Morris, Mr. Keith Wickenden and Mr. Peter Mills.