HC Deb 24 July 1963 vol 681 cc1719-37

4.53 a.m.

Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)

I apologise for adding yet a further burden upon the House at this extremely late hour and I am grateful to the Minister of Education for courteously being present for this debate. The subject I wish to raise is the proposed schools council for the curriculum and examinations, the title of which rather obscures the importance of the subject.

I raise this matter in an effort to ask the Minister to qualify his intentions on this issue. If the development of this council takes a certain course, the subject could be as important for the future of education as the Robbins Committee or the recommendations of the Crowther Committee. The right hon. Gentleman was at pains in the discussions on the Burnham. Committee to say that his Ministry was not deliberately seeking to centralise more power in his Ministry. This did not convince the teachers or local authorities in the Burnham dispute.

At that time the proposal for this curriculum study group and curriculum reform was associated in the minds of many people with the same centralisation tendencies. I therefore particularly want to ask the Minister to go to some trouble to explain why people thinking on those lines are wrong.

On the face of it, there is very grave cause for concern. The basis of the English educational system is division of power between local education authorities and the Ministry, and it has been the tradition of most education authorities to leave most curriculum matters to the teachers and the training schools. It would be very detrimental to our educational system if what the right hon. Gentleman has, I think, called the curriculum vacuum or curriculum crisis is used to obscure the real nature of educational crises that are of much more deep-seated significance. It would be hopeless to argue about ways of improving teaching methods and obscure the severe difficulties we face in the shortage of mathematics teachers.

The very shortage of teachers causes a lack of elbow room for experimentation. The very lack of money that so far, over a long period, has hindered educational research, is a responsibility lying very much at the door of the Ministry of Education, and less at the doors of the education authorities and the teachers. Indeed, one of the burdens of our complaint on this side of the House has been that in making educational progress, the Ministry—that is, the Government—is putting too severe a burden on the teachers. In other words, the difficulties of the situation are putting more on the teachers than the Ministry need put.

The lack of university places, for example, is one of the reasons for the extraordinary pressure that often exists in the secondary schools and which makes our young people premature specialists and does a lot of harm to their general education. Equally, the lack of grammar school places causes a similar distortion of teaching in the primary schools. In this way, many of the subjects that in the national interest it is desirable to encourage—the teaching of Russian, the teaching of oriential studies, the teaching of social studies—are both crowded out of the secondary school syllabus and their very introduction made more difficult because of the shortage of teachers and because local education authorities are unwilling to experiment as a result.

I suggest that one of the ways of encouraging new subjects is not by having a grand council of 60 people but by persuading local education authorities to have on their own staffs teachers in these more rarified subjects who can be seconded to schools and need not be on the full-time staff. The teacher of Russian might well spread his services over three schools and be on the permanent staff of the education authority—similar, of course, to the supply position to cope with teachers away ill, and so on.

I have already said that we on this side think that the very great pressures which could be relieved by the Ministry have, for a variety of reasons not been relieved—lack of public grants, lack of initiative on the part of the Ministry—and nowhere is this more apparent than than in educational research. The local authorities and the teachers have in this been far ahead of the Ministry for a long time. In the current edition of Education, I find: 1962–63 has been a highly successful year, in which there has been an explosion of interest in audio-visual aids. That was said at the annual conference of the National Committee for Audio-Visual Aids, which is subsidised by the Ministry of Education but for which most of the main inspiration and most of the money comes from the local education authorities and from the teachers as well.

Dr. Harrison, reporting to this conference last week, said: We are beginning to find new ways of using existing media, and we do not know what new techniques will become available. We must, therefore, keep abreast of all new developments, and assess their value for education. Work on this has begun, in a small way, with the E.F.V.A. Experimental Development Unit, but the whole scale of the operation will need to be expanded considerably to meet the needs of the future. At present, expenditure on development is negligible in comparison with the job which, is to be done. That kind of theme has been repeated elsewhere. It has been repeated at my own adult education institute—I take some pride in that—but, over the last four or five years, although the Ministry's support has improved, it still lags far behind the support which the local education authorities and the teachers have given in the field of developing the curriculum by experiment and by improving methods. No one can say that the training colleges have been slow to respond to new methods in the training of, particularly, infant and junior teachers.

It comes rather ill from the Ministry of Education to be putting out great pressure, through the curriculum study group, to give the impression, at least, that the man in Whitehall knows what the answer is for the curriculum. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will explain this away, but it is certainly the feeling abroad in the education world. And it is not doing justice to the people who, since the war anyway, have been pioneering—the local authorities, the teacher training colleges and the more progressive teachers.

I again make the suggestion that one of the ideas which we should take into our education system, as a standard part of it, is that teachers in schools should regularly expect that they will be found grants and continued salary to escalate up the academic scale. I am not very fond of the idea of going up and down the educational system, but that is a "shorthand" expression which helps to explain what I mean. For instance, a teacher who has taken a third-year supplementary course should be afforded facilities later, if he or she wishes, to take a degree in the subject taken in the supplementary course. A teacher of history should be given opportunities to remuster for social science, and so on. I have previously suggested, in connection with the training colleges, that biology lecturers ought to be given opportunities to take higher degrees or honours degrees in chemistry and physics, since that is where the shortage is. So one can go on. Teachers with no degrees at all who have been doing research in education and educational psychology should be given opportunities for full-time study to take research degrees. Very often, universities make arrangements on these lines.

This ought to be a basic provision in our system. If it were, there would be nothing more effective in getting the maximum experimentation and the maximum improvement in the teaching of the various subjects.

The new administrative agency, this great stage army of people, proposed by the Minister has the great danger that it will either act as the rubber stamp of the Minister's secretariat or it will become so imposing that it will be the organiser of the syllabus, the controller of the curriculum, the authoriser of standard textbooks or, at least, the setter of the seal of approval on textbooks, and will even influence the method of teaching in a conventional and orthodox way. It could become the controller of research. The schools council might well become so much the official initiator of change, for instance, change of educational method, and so on, that other bodies and other lines of development are starved of money.

If the council becomes as important as that, the harm done is quite likely to be as serious as it would be if it became a rubber stamp. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us that he will steer a middle course between these two dangers.

I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman's main objective would be the strengthening of existing channels. I have referred to some of them which are in the van at the moment. Certainly, a council of this kind must diminish the rôle of H.M. inspectors. I see no other way of its operating. That, I would say, is a very serious disadvantage for the future. I have always regarded the inspectorate as having always managed to combine progressiveness with tact—tactfully pushing forward progressive ideas, which is one of the most valuable features of our educational system. In the same way the institutes of education should be very much expanded, extramural studies should be extended in the same way that I have suggested full-time teachers should be seconded for higher degrees at universities.

Certainly, whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say about the council, either the council should do this or some other body should do it, and that is, make an inquiry into the problem which the council is to be concerned with. These are the sorts of questions the answers to which the council and we ourselves need to know. What are the pressures on the schools? Where do they come from? Who causes them? This may be more capable of being dealt with by administrative reorganisation than by a study of the curriculum and its alteration. How are the innovations in the syllabuses made? How effective are the institutes of education? How effective are the Ministry courses? How widespread are the institutes' journals and how effective are they? There ought to be a general assessment of the subject and of what has been achieved at the moment in educational research.

Certainly the council ought to have an independent secretariat. The right hon. Gentleman exposes himself very much indeed if he more or less compels the council to accept his own curriculum study group as the secretariat. It ought to have power to select its own people and to decide how it wants to go about things, without the suspicion that the Ministry is pushing from behind and guiding the council all the way. The proposed organisation of the council with numerous large committees looks very much as though it must be a rubber stamp. I cannot see how a body of 60 split into committees of 36, with the main council meeting only three times a year, can possibly resist the pressures and advice of its own expert secretariat whether appointed by itself or whether it be the Minister's offering.

I should have thought that one of the ways in which development could be assured now would have been, what is very much in the air, a consortium of local authorities for research into curriculum and educational method and so on. I should have thought that teachers' organisations which over many years now have produced most valuable reports on particular subjects could have helped. I remember a former master who taught me and who was a leading light in the Library Association world many years ago and produced a guide to libraries which had a quite remarkable effect These are ways which need to be strengthened and they are not necessarily inconsistent with the task of this council.

I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman replies to the debate tonight he will be able to tell us that the council, if he is determined to go ahead with it, will work alongside the existing channels of communication strengthened with money and staff and so on, not dominating them or driving them into the background.

One word in conclusion about some of the details of the council I think the right hon. Gentleman should look at. I would suggest that it is far too large. I would suggest that the attempt to be representative is likely to fail. But having said that, and though I may be a little inconsistent, I would say that, if it is to be representative, I find some rather odd things about it. For example, the Church of England Schools Council and the Catholic Education Council are represented, but there is no representation of the Noncomformists, and I do not know whether Wales is adequately represented.

I do not understand why there should be four vice-chancellors and one representative from a college of advanced technology. There seems to be no representation of teachers of handicapped children. I should have thought that the whole field of handicapped children particularly demanded support and attention by a council of this description. I suppose that representation of the parents might well come from the non-representative part of the council. All these things appear not to have been considered, and the whole way in which the council has been drawn up appears to be haphazard.

The suggestions about subjects seem a little odd. I notice in a long list of fairly orthodox subjects a reference to navigation. It was news to me that the subject of navigation in schools was important and worth a special investigation. As I suggested in relation to representation, theme seems to be no reference to the special subjects of the education of the deaf and the education of the handicapped child, which should demand as much attention as orthodox subjects.

I have raised this matter partly so that the Minister may explain away some of my fears and those of people outside, but the main part of my argument is that if the Minister cannot allay the fears about increasing the centralisation in his Ministry, he will do far more harm to improvements in the curriculum than he will do good.

5.12 a.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) has raised a very important subject. I wish the right hon. Gentleman to be relaxed and not dogmatic about the matter, and so I will begin by making a few concessions. The idea of the curriculum study group was that of Lord Eccles. So the right hon. Gentleman can take a more detached view than he might otherwise have been able to take seeing that, having begun a project such as a curriculum study group, there is bound to be development. No one complains about that.

Furthermore, as my hon. Friend said, I fully appreciate the current difficulties. I will mention one because I do not think it ought to be allowed to colour this development overmuch. One knows the problem arising from the failure to resolve the difficulties between the Secondary Schools Examination Council and the universities. That problem has not been resolved, and it is a very difficult one to resolve. But it would be most unfortunate—this is my first criticism of the action which the right hon. Gentleman seems to be taking—to try to solve this very real difficulty, which runs through not only the question of curriculum and examination but the whole field of education, by making more entrenched the Secondary Schools Examination Council. One has to consider education as a whole and not divide it rigidly into higher and schools education.

I have certain hope because, perhaps to the disappointment of the right hon. Gentleman, I understand that the position is that no concrete decisions have been taken. That is why I think it is very opportune that we have this early opportunity of debating this. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am not seeking to embarras him at all, but I think it timely that we have this opportunity to have an early discussion at any rate to give notice of some of the doubts that we have. I understand that there is no intention to publish the documents which have been prepared. That is unfortunate. I will not press this because I know that if discussions are being held it is sometimes better to wait for the more formative period before publication. But I emphasise that this is of such importance that the sooner the views which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind are more widely known the better.

A lot could be said for our present discussions being held in secret session but that would be obnoxious. What is important is that these things should be discussed in open forum, and this particularly affects school curricula. I share some of the apprehensions of my hon. Friend. We should not lightly discount the English traditions of education, but that is the impression I get from some of the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman about the difficulties facing us in the school curricula.

It is as though, when discussing the financing of education, we did so in a vacuum and divorced it from the effects it would have on the structure of education. Similarly, we cannot discuss the difficulties of changing curricula without at the same tune thinking about the whole structure of education. The right hon. Gentleman can be easily tempted to over-centralise, but, if he does so in curricula, that will affect the whole system.

I hope that he will proceed cautiously. It is always dangerous to take short cuts. I have been rather disappointed with the unscholarly nature of this document. The fundamental questions are not really posed. This is treated as largely a procedural matter. But we are concerned very much with the traditions and structure of British education.

One of the aspects of this complex we must consider as a whole is research. Whether by design or fortuitous coincidence we have before us two developments. The universities have made proposals to the Minister for Science for the establishment of an education research council. I want to call in aid the document they have issued. It points out, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, the complete inadequacy of research in education. This is a cardinal difficulty. Setting up a committee of 58 or 60 well-intentioned people will not overcome it.

I have mentioned the difficulties between the Secondary Schools Examination Council and the universities. It seems that there is a certain lack of liaison between the right hon. Gentleman and his noble Friend. The right hon. Gentleman makes proposals which must have a very drastic effect on research in education while the universities are making proposals to Lord Hailsham about research in education. What do they mean by research in education? They include, for instance, the nature and measurement of ability, environmental influences on learning, methods of teaching and a study of higher education. They go on repeatedly to make the point that if we are to have research into education, it must be research into education as a whole.

Obviously the two proposals are related. The right hon. Gentleman's proposals obviously fundamentally affect research. The first step, therefore, should be to co-ordinate the two approaches and not have Ministers considering the same problem from entirely different approaches. There are fundamental differences between the right hon. Gentleman's approach and that of the universities. In the right hon. Gentleman's proposals there seems to be a danger of too direct control of research by the Government—I do not want to overstate it. I feel that the curriculum study group will be the motivating force in the committee which the right hon. Gentleman is to set up. It is because of that that I do not like the way in which the case has been presented.

For example, I could quote the reference to the development of text books. I do not think it is unfair to say that the intention is that we would get an official text book developed on official initiative and that then we would manipulate its presentation through the professional bodies. I do not think that it is unfair to say that. That is not the right approach and it is very dangerous, and if there is such a danger, we should be much more frank and open about it.

Let us compare that approach with that of the universities who call in aid the Medical Research Council and say that we have to have a balance of research and devise conditions of support as to preserve to individual workers that intellectual initiative without which creative work cannot develop. The problem for a research organisation is thus to reconcile the implementation of a balanced and comprehensive research policy at the national level with the need for intellectual freedom at the level of the individual or the research team. That is largely overlooked in the right hon. Gentleman's proposals. The universities point out that an educational research council should be independent of the executive departments of the Government and directly responsible, and not advisory, for the expansion of research, responsible for research into problems of primary, secondary and tertiary education and responsible for educational research in the United Kingdom as a whole. They go on to say: The principle that a central research organisation should be separate from the executive departments of Government was established by the Haldane Report on the Machinery of Government…as early as 1918. It was reaffirmed recently when the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research Act of 1956 set up a Research Council as the executive authority for the Council as the executive authority for the Department, thus bringing it into line with the Medical and Agricultural Research Councils. There is very much a difference in emphasis between the right hon. Gentleman and the universities in the proposals which they are patting forward. It seems that this is a clear distinction which we should always have in mind if we are considering research. The Minister's proposals must necessarily involve research. The foundation is on research. His proposals do not make the clear distinction which hitherto has always been followed in research.

I take the point which my hon. Friend has taken regarding the constitution of the Minister's proposed council. The difference between the two approaches could not be more marked. The universities propose a council of about 12 members, chosen for their distinction and bringing together wide experience in research. The universities say that these people should not be representative. In research—I am dividing it from applied research—this is fundamentally the right approach.

Instead of such an approach, the Minister is setting up what my hon. Friend called a stage army of 58 or 59 people. He knows that such a body cannot be an executive body. If such a body cannot be executive, the motivation will either be the secretariat, which is provided by the Ministry, or, as seems to be suggested, the chairmen of committees. If the idea is that the chairmen of the particular committees should be those who will largely guide the work that is undertaken, it would be far better to accept the view of the universities and provide for an executive body.

Speaking personally, I think that we exaggerate the representative capacity in such cases. We have too many people who are representative on far too many committees. We use one person to represent an organisation on scores of committees. By the nature of things he loses his representative capacity, because he cannot bring to the body upon which he sits the representative value of the post he holds. Particularly with a committee of as many as 58 or 59 people, we lose two characteristics. We lose the executive character of such a body, because we cannot have an executive body of such numbers; and, having such numbers of people in a representative capacity, we lose the effectiveness of their representative capacity.

I bring these points to the Minister's attention, not dogmatically, but as question marks which arise from the proposals he is making. I am not challenging that he has a difficult problem to face. It is a problem which we should tackle. If we can devise ways and means of aiding curriculum reform, making it more sensitive to changes in society, we should do this and not discourage it.

I ask the Minister to recognise that in doing this, he is taking a step which should reflect the character of education generally and that he ought to tackle it in two stages. He should first look to the research side and recognise that the fundamental problem is that we are not expending sufficient resources upon research, that if we intend to expend greater resources upon research we have to think of a lot of allied problems, including the recruitment of people who can engage in this sort of research.

In proposing his machinery, the Minister does not seem to have given sufficient attention to those factors. When we have tackled this first basic problem of providing for more resources and for better machinery for research, we can proceed to applied research.

The steps which the right hon. Gentleman is taking are open to two objections. One is that this divorce is not made. The second is that he seems to be taking a short cut. I appreciate why but I do not think that in education a short cut pays. It is much better to be more patient about this and to try to get a method of carrying himself some way towards a solution of this problem by being more sensitive to the character of British education.

5.31 a.m.

The Minister of Education (Sir Edward Boyle)

The House complains from time to time that we discuss almost anything on education debate days except the education service and its working. I am greatly indebted, therefore, to the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) and the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) for enabling us to have a debate on this extremely important subject this morning. I ought to make clear at the outset exactly where we have got to on this subject.

I convened a meeting which met on 19th July to discuss a memorandum which I had widely circulated and which it is clear hon. Members opposite have rightly seen and studied. This memorandum was inspired by the central thought that curriculum development on the scale now required demands the willing and enthusiastic participation of all the partners in our education service. I hope that in my opening remarks I made it perfectly plain to the meeting that I was not asking anyone present to enter into any commitment beyond joining a working party to develop the thinking contained in the memorandum.

At the end of the meeting, after discussion of an extremely high quality, a resolution was put before the meeting and agreed. I cannot remember whether this resolution has appeared in the national Press but I can see no conceivable reason why I should not repeat it in the House. It read: This representative meeting held in London on 19th July, 1963, (a) notes there is wide support for the proposal to establish co-operative machinery in the fields of the school curriculum and examinations; (b) appoints a working party comprising, under the chairmanship of Sir John Lockwood, one representative of each of the bodies present at the meeting, together with assessors and a secretariat, appointed by the Minister of Education, to consider how effect could best be given to the matters discussed and to make recommendations; (c) agrees to reconvene to consider and reach conclusions on the working party's recommendations. It was further agreed that the Ministry should invite names of a representative to serve on the working party from all the bodies represented at the meeting together with the Association of Chief Education Officers.

That is all that happened at the meeting. We had a discussion of the memorandum and a unanimous resolution was reached recognising, in other words, that the memorandum dealt with a real problem and appointing a working party to consider how effect could best be given to the matters discussed. I ought to make it perfectly clear therefore that a schools council, as referred to by many people in recent months, has not only not been imposed on anyone but has not been set up—merely a working party to discuss the things in the memorandum.

I do not want to go at length over the arguments set out very well by hon. Members opposite. I want to make two or three points on them and, in doing so, I think that I shall be able to answer some of the questions raised by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland.

It seems clear that what one might call the policy of laissez-faire in curriculum matters dates from a time when the terms of reference for the education service were relatively stable, but the situation is very different today. Today, social, economic and technical change, the expansion of knowledge—a very important point which one should not underrate—in so many fields, and the growing impact of a wide variety of educational traditions, are all combining to force the pace of necessary educational change to an unprecedented extent, and the freedom of the teacher is all the time being affected by outside pressures of one kind or another.

One good example was put to me privately after the meeting of 19th July. A headmaster told me that there is one university in this country where no boy or girl, however able, can hope to get a place to study modern languages unless he or she succeeds in getting an A level in Latin. With the best will in the world the freedom of the teacher so far as those pupils are concerned, if they wish to go to that university, was circumscribed.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we should not underrate the amount of leadership that is being offered by schools, or the work that is being done by teachers, local authorities, and many other people in reviewing curricular aims and objectives. I should like to make it quite clear that there is no intention on my part in any way to diminish the rôle of the inspectorate, nor, incidentally, of diminishing the rôle of the education offices of local authorities where a great deal of good work is often done.

I should like to say two things about the inspectorate. First, do let us remember that the curriculum study group and the inspectorate are not two completely separate things. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the study group, although it includes one or two able administrative civil servants, can almost be described as the cutting edge of the inspectorate, which is staffed by many of the ablest of Her Majesty's inspectors.

The other thing is that I have seen a wide representative meeting of the inspectorate and discussed these ideas with them, and the plans as they go forward have the full support of the senior chief inspector and his colleagues. Throughout, I have done my best to ensure that the inspectorate is fully aware of what is proposed and what is being discussed, and the inspectorate realises that there is no intention to diminish its rôle.

I am glad that this point has been mentioned, because I believe that the rôle of the inspectorate is even more important in the education system than many people realise. The inspectors are the liaison officers between the Ministry and the schools, and when one considers the Ministry as a sort of clearing house of ideas, one must remember that a high proportion of these ideas have come from the inspectorate, and still do.

The real point behind the memorandum which served as the basis of the meeting was that a great deal of time, effort, and money, is needed to carry out development work over the whole range of help that teachers need with curriculum and methods; not only textbooks and teachers' guides, but things like equipment and visual aids as well, and this must be team work. I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no idea that the proposals we are discussing will ever lead to the central imposition of textbooks on schools, a development which would be contrary to the traditions of this country.

On the general issue of research I think that we are doing a little more than always appears to be the case. If one looks at the Estimates, one sees that the sum for this year is only about £70,000, but the total value of all the projects being undertaken will, when completed, be between £200,000 and £250,000.

One of the difficulties in this field is not only to isolate the specific problems, but also to find teams really capable of doing full justice to them. Some problems obviously present themselves very easily, like the issue of streaming in schools, on which a particular project is now going forward. I can assure the hon. Member that I am fully aware of the great importance of the research work that is being done.

For the future, the feeling I have about curriculum and methods is that the team work must be carried out in a context that ensures the exchange of ideas between different teams. There is also a real danger that some central bodies—the Ministry, the inspectorate and the Secondary School Examinations Council—could be pushed into extending their proper terms of reference. I do not want the establishment of the curriculum study group to lead in the direction of the centralised control of the curriculum, or in the direction of misdirected central influence upon it.

I repeat what I said earlier, that I always hoped that it would be possible to convene a meeting which would agree upon a further co-operative study of the ideas that were embodied in the memorandum, and that this co-operative study should continue for as long as was necessary to reach agreement on the next step forward. There is no idea on my part of taking a short cut; on the contrary, the presentation of the memorandum was intended as a first step in a lengthy discussion by the working party. No one was being asked to enter into any commitments beyond joining the working party to develop the thinking which the memorandum embodied.

I did, however, say one thing that I would like to repeat, because it is central to the theme of much that has been said this morning. If a schools council were to be set up I would wish to see it as something more than a purely advisory body. That is to say, it would have complete autonomy in all matters which did not fall within my statutory powers and responsibilities. There is always a difficulty about all these kinds of council. If they get too far from the Central Government they become purely advisory bodies—slightly more than official versions of bodies like P.E.P. On the other hand, if they are too close to the Central Government they give the impression of being merely a rubber stamp for Government decisions, or of being too involved in the atmosphere of a Government Department.

I was keen to work towards a body which would avoid both disadvantages. I made it plain that such a council, in certain respects, would have complete freedom—complete freedom to initiate work on its own account and to make its own arrangements for carrying it out, and to publish the results of its work. There would be no question of the Minister's attempting to prevent some work which the body was doing being published, which is very important.

Broadly—and this answers one question of the hon. Member—it would have complete freedom to use the services of the curriculum study group or not, and furthermore I am quite ready to accept that it should have the job of advising me on the use to be made of the services of the group. I am quite ready to emphasise that I would expect to consult the group and to be advised by it, although we might occasionally differ.

There would be no precise constitutional precedent for a body of this kind, and in one respect it would be different from the N.E.D.C., to which it has been likened, namely, that it would have an independent chairman. It would be closer to being part of the Government machine than N.E.D.C. is, but it would not be so close as to run any danger of giving the impression that it was merely a front organisation to validate ministerial decisions. I hope that the freedoms I have mentioned show quite clearly that there would be no idea of using this as a sort of organisation to validate ministerial policy.

I shall, of course, consider all the points made to me this morning, but I would rather, at this stage—the working party having been set up—not say very much more, except on the possible size of any such body. The suggestion of the hon. Member is very tempting. There are times in discussing education in Britain when we think a little too much about the various partners to the education service and not quite enough about the question of who are the real experts. This is a point which has been made to me by some correspondents not least by the universities, that we do not recognise this distinction clearly enough.

Clearly, in the ranks of the inspectors there are experts and in the local authority field there are a large number of experts, but it is important that we should consider who is doing the work of education because it is a professional job done because a person is a real expert on some educational matter. At the same time, we have to remember that education is a shared service in this country. The Ministry and local authorities have their responsibilities under the Act and obviously the teachers are the third partner to the education service. Initially, in considering some body to give effect to the functions I have indicated, we must start from the idea of partners to the service joining together on these curricular matters.

Mr. Willey

I wish to put one point which perhaps I did not make clear enough. After all, these are first reactions to the proposals. In what I described as research and applied research there is a real distinction. When one is concerned about research one is concerned about where motivation for permitting the research lies. Under these proposals we felt that these factors were too well seated in the Ministry. That is why I called attention to proposals made outside. When one is concerned about the results of such research one sees that there is a lot in what the right hon. Gentleman has said. One has to consider the character of the education service and to be widely representative because one is trying to get the co-operation and good will of those who will apply the results of the research which is undertaken.

Sir E. Boyle

I think that I can meet the hon. Member completely on this. It would be my hope that this council would contain among its representatives not only those concerned with the day-to-day work of education in the schools, but also some who could point out a number of lines of research, not only applied research, which were highly important on issues that those of us with day-to-day responsibilities were apt not to consider enough.

To take an analogy, I have always said that it was important for the schools to have a percentage of good honours graduates who could look at them from a wider standpoint. Whatever body is set up, it should contain a number of members who can perhaps challenge the Ministry and challenge our traditional day-to-day approaches to the kind of research which is most needed. I think that would be one very important aspect of the council's work. I recognise the difficulty of the body being too big, although it can be broken down into a certain number of committees. Initially, my approach had to be one showing that the Ministry wished to make a reality of bringing all our partners to the education service in to consider these highly important problems, whose existence I do not think anyone seriously disputes.