§ 19. Mr. Robert Cooke
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps he proposes to take to ensure that children in Bristol are not deprived of the benefit of places at the direct grant schools in the city.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
The decision whether to take up free places in direct grant schools is a matter for the local education authority.
§ Mr. Cooke
The Secretary of State will be aware that at present the council in Bristol takes up more than 25 per cent. of the places at a number of direct grant schools. It proposes to discontinue this practice altogether, thus reducing the number of free places available, putting up the fees for other children—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—and depriving a number of children of the opportunity of education at these schools which they are now getting.
§ Mr. Stewart
It is the business of a local education authority to see that its children are provided with proper education. If it could be shown that it was impossible for it to do that without taking up places at direct grant schools, that would be another matter, but I have no power, nor would it be right for me to do so in the absence of such a situation, to tell a local authority that it must take up places when in its judgment it does not wish to do so.
§ Mr. Wilkins
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that these proposals in Bristol were put before the electorate at 394 two succeeding municipal elections and we gained a tremendous number of seats?
§ Mr. Hogg
Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that many direct grant schools in Bristol and elsewhere are of much more than purely local reputation and that as Secretary of State, with a direct relationship to the grant, he really cannot allow these schools to fall by the wayside because of purely local considerations? Will he give an assurance to the House that where their future is endangered by the policy of a local education authority he will step in and ensure that they will not be allowed to die?
§ Mr. Stewart
The very fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has mentioned, that these schools do not draw only from one area, means that their future does not depend only on the action of a particular local authority. The right hon. and learned Gentleman asks me to take steps. We must be clear about this. Is he saying that I ought to order a local authority to take up places at a direct grant school when in its judgment it does not wish to do so?