HC Deb 08 December 1949 vol 470 cc2056-8
9. Mr. Corlett

asked the Minister of Education having regard to variations which occur from year to year in a particular area, how far it is in accordance with his policy that some places in a secondary school may properly remain unfilled.

Mr. Tomlinson

This is a matter on which two views are possible but where, as in the area which I assume my hon. Friend has in mind, the grammar school provision is above the average for the country as a whole, the arrangements for admission provide equal opportunities for all children, and the filling of every vacancy for the sake of filling it would mean lowering the standard of admission, I would not take exception to the Authority's action in leaving a relatively few vacancies unfilled.

Mr. Corlett

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his reply, for which I thank him, will give very great satisfaction indeed to all local education authorities in the country?

Mrs. Leah Manning

As the examination at 11 plus can never be a just criterion of a child's future development, is it not a very great waste to have empty places in this type of secondary school when there are children who are willing to enter and parents who are anxious that their children should enter?

Mr. Tomlinson

That depends on the number of children and the number of parents who are anxious. If a standard is assumed it is difficult to determine which of the children whose parents are anxious that they should enter should fill the vacancies. In the old days vacancies were filled by paying for the child irrespective of its ability.

Mrs. Manning

Has my right hon. Friend looked at the results of children who did not pass the school entrance examination for these very schools over the past few years?

Mr. Tomlinson

I have not those over the past few years. What I do know is that all those which are being brought to my attention are of children who failed at 11 and have subsequently passed, leaving out of account the thousands who were turned down at 11 and did not have another opportunity.

Mr. Dryden Brook

Will my right hon. Friend see that if exceptions are made and the standard is lowered, it is done over a whole area rather than in particular cases?

Mr. Tomlinson

That is done.