HC Deb 15 December 1966 vol 738 cc649-51
31. Mr. Biffen

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will review the policy of raising the school-leaving age in 1970–71.

Mr. Crosland

No, Sir.

Mr. Biffen

Despite the right hon. Gentleman's heroic Answer to Question No. 29, is it not quite clear that the failure of the Government's economic policy is bound to put some limitation on the resources available for education? In those circumstances, will he assure the House that there will be an adequate supply of buildings and teachers before he concludes this particular aspect of educational policy?

Mr. Crosland

I can assure the hon. Gentleman—and there is a Question on this subject on the Order Paper—that I still think that his own right hon. Friend, when he announced his decision under the previous Government, was absolutely correct; and that to go back on that decision now would be both educationally and socially disastrous.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Is it not vital for the country's economic future that the policy of raising the school age should be adhered to, and that the age should he raised above 16 at the earliest possible date?

Mr. Crosland

I think that it is completely vital. The country needs more and better educated manpower, and we know from endless reports from Newsom, Crowther and so on, what a desperate waste of talent there is due to early school leaving.

Sir E. Boyle

In view of the Minister's earlier Answer, would he accept that I have never, nor have my right hon. Friends, regretted the announcement I made at the end of January, 1964? And would he not agree that the latest figures of regional variation in the numbers of those staying on at school voluntarily further justify that announcement? But is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are concerned, and public opinion is concerned, that adequate resources should be available? And would he not agree that one should think of this as an extra year of full-time education?

Mr. Crosland

I entirely accept what the right hon. Gentleman has said in the first part of his supplementary question. If I may say so, he has given most valuable support to the decision he took, and which we have confirmed against those fainthearted people in the educational service who would now like to go back on that decision. As to the second part of his supplementary question, there is a Question on the Order Paper on this precise subject.

33. Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress is being made towards the raising of the school-leaving age; and what work is being done in planning suitable courses for the extra year.

Mr. Crosland

I am making over £100 million available for the necessary buildings between 1968 and 1972 and shall announce the first allocations very shortly. I have already given authorities practical guidance on extending existing schools. I am continuing to develop the teacher supply programme. Progress is being made by teachers in working out new courses with the help of the Schools Council.

Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. Is he aware that particularly in the planning of the further year's courses there will be a great need to win the imagination of the young people in the schools, some of whom already feel that they have been at school long enough and have, I think he would agree, a laudable ambition to go to work instead to try to help the Government get out of their economic difficulties?

Mr. Crosland

I entirely agree that the question of what is taught and what is studied in the last year is an extraordinary important one, and we must produce a last year's course which is different in character from what is being taught in the rest of the school. That is why the Schools Council, with a great deal of support from the teachers, has given such a high priority to trying to produce more imaginative, more practical, less academic, courses for the last year.