HC Deb 15 December 1955 vol 547 cc1371-2
15. Dr. King

asked the Minister of Education if he will set up a Departmental Committee to investigate the varieties and the problems of methods of selection at 11-plus employed by local education authorities.

Sir D. Eccles

I agree that this matter needs careful study, but I doubt whether this would be best undertaken by a Departmental Committee.

Dr. King

As the matter affects some half a million children and their parents every year, as it is important to choose the right children at 11-plus, and since there is such an infinite variety of methods of selection by various education authorities, does the Minister not agree that some method of pooling the best brains of local education authorities with those of his own Department on this important question is now overdue?

Sir D. Eccles

I am very much encouraged by the variety of the experiments which local authorities are conducting, many of which appear at first sight to be thoughtful and fruitful. My Department is collecting information about these experiments but I think it would be better to give us a little longer time to examine the results.

Mr. G. Longden

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that it is not an appropriate description of children who pass into grammar schools at 11-plus to describe them as the "right children"?

Sir D. Eccles

I very much agree.

Mr. M. Stewart

In view of what the Minister has said about the desirability of experiment, will he undertake that if local authorities want to make experiments in new patterns of secondary education, he will not discourage or prevent them from doing so, as has been done in London and in Yorkshire?

Sir D. Eccles

Local authorities have a wide measure of freedom in making these experiments. If the hon. Member is referring to the comprehensive school, local authorities know the conditions within which I am prepared to see such experiments, and they are being made.