HC Deb 05 August 1965 vol 717 cc1864-5
22. Mr. Evelyn King

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if, following the issue of the appropriate circular, he will now estimate the cost of introducing a system of comprehensive education throughout England and Wales.

Mr. Crosland

I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave the hon. Member on 1st July.

Mr. King

Will the right hon. Gentleman recall that when he gave me that Answer he replied that he would hope to be able to give the figures as soon as his circular had been issued? It has now been issued. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that among those of us on this side of the House who are not altogether unsympathetic to comprehensive schools it is considered preposterous to say that they cannot be costed? Either we must have some order of priorities or some knowledge of what this gigantic scheme will cost. Is he aware that it will do nothing to help his policy to seek to conceal the figures?

Mr. Crosland

On the first point, one cannot give figures a few weeks after the comprehensive circular has gone out, because it asks the authorities to produce schemes for going comprehensive. The time which it will take for a number of authorities to do this will be considerable and until replies come in we will have nothing based on the comprehensive circular. Even so, I must stress the point once again that one cannot isolate the cost of comprehensive organisation from other costs in the educational system. For example, when a local authority decides to replace two small slum schools by one large comprehensive school, is that cost to be put down to comprehensive reorganisation or to the normal process of improving the schools system? One cannot isolate the one from the other.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that a more appropriate investigation would be into the cost of not applying comprehensive education?

Mr. Crosland

I entirely agree, I made the point on the last occasion when we discussed this matter that the cost of going comprehensive, such as it is, even if it cannot be measured, will be certainly less than the cost to the country now of the wastage of talent due to maintaining the 11-plus examination.