HC Deb 21 July 1966 vol 732 cc850-5
19. Mr. Tilney

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make sure that he receives the considered views of the local education authority of Liverpool on middle-schools' schemes for that city before giving his consent to any plans for the reorganisation of secondary education in Liverpool.

21. Mr. Russell Johnston

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what further action he proposes to bring to the attention of Liverpool City Council the possibility of basing its comprehensive reorganisation upon transfer to secondary school at 12 or 13 years of age.

Mr. Crosland

It is for the local education authority to decide on its proposals for the reorganisation of secondary education on comprehensive lines. I shall consider the authority's proposals with an open mind.

Mr. Tilney

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that a three-tier system of comprehensive education might he very appropriate for the City of Liverpool and would be likely to save money in this time of economic crisis?

Mr. Crosland

I have no intention of trying to dictate to the Liverpool authority or any other authority what type of comprehensive reorganisation it should submit to me in its plan. It is well Known, if only from Circular 13/66, that I am prepared to consider transfers at ages other than 11; and as to the scheme they choose to submit to me, they arc the people to judge, and I have no intention of influencing their decision.

Mr. Johnston

I accept the Minister's view on this, but is not this an example of communication failure here, and if there are similar communication failures elsewhere it may make it less easy to put forward acceptable comprehensive schemes?

Mr. Crosland

I do not think that there has been a failure of communication here; on the contrary, what has happened in this case is what I am extremely anxious to encourage in all cases, namely, that before authorities submit schemes there should be the greatest possible degree of informal consultation between officers of the authority and officers in my Department. That is what happened in this case. As far as I am concerned, there was no impropriety of any kind on the part of the authority, and I make no complaint of any kind against its behaviour.

Mr. Fortescue

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the incident of these letters caused considerable public scandal in Liverpool and led to a great loss of confidence in the local education authority?

Mr. Crosland

There is no question of the suppression of any letters. A letter addressed by one of my officials to the chief officer of an authority can be dealt with by the authority in any way it chooses. There is no question ,of some formal communication of mine to them having been suppressed. It is up to the authority to decide how it deals with correspondence of this kind.

Sir E. Boyle

Is not there a special circumstance in this case, namely, that the Minister had to deal severely with the Liverpool scheme when it was put forward last year? Is it not, therefore, especially important that those in Liverpool who are concerned with making the best possible plans for the future should be properly informed about the full range of possibilities open to them?

Mr. Crosland

They are perfectly fully informed without the contents of this letter necessarily having to be revealed. This letter was a letter from one of my officials in reply to an informal request for views about the possibility of 9–13 schools. This possibility is well known to the authority, and educationists in Liverpool, from the terms of Circular 13/66. There is no mystery of any kind about this.

Mr. Tilney

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

22. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps he proposes to take to ensure that those local authorities which submit middle school organisations for comprehensive education maintain the spirit and philosophy of the present junior school.

Mr. Crosland

I hope that middle schools will develop a spirit and philosophy of their own. This will be mainly a matter for the local education authorities and teachers concerned, but if I feel that guidance is necessary I will give it.

Mr. Roberts

Is the Minister aware that there is very real concern among primary school headmasters, particularly where an 8–12 scheme is envisaged, that some of the opportunities for self-expression which at present exist in the primary schools will be lost and that the children will join the "rat-race" much sooner?

Mr. Crosland

No, Sir, I do not think that this view is very widely held. I believe that most people in the educational world who favour either 8–12 or 9–13 schools would think that these schools cannot be the same as junior schools. They are catering for a different age range and it is, therefore, important that they should become a type of school in their own right. I do not think that any experiments in this direction will lead to the ill consequences which my hon. Friend described.

24. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many local education authorities have refused to submit proposals for comprehensive education; and what action he intends to take.

29. Mr. Winnick

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many local education authorities have now submitted plans for the reorganisation of secondary education; how many authorities have now asked for an extension of time; and if any authority has chosen not to reply at all.

Mr. Crosland

Replies from the 162 local education authorities to Circular 10/65 are still coming in. It is therefore too early to give a definitive answer. But I shall make a detailed announcement before the House rises.

Mr. Hamilton

Is it not the case that a very small minority of local education authorities are deliberately seeking to defy and refuse to accept the policies of the democratically-elected Government of the country? What powers has he to bring them into line? Will he give a firm assurance that he will be prepared to use them if the authorities do not conform to national policy?

Mr. Crosland

I should like to emphasise how very small this minority is. So far, only three authorities have declined to submit plans and a tiny handful of other authorities are submitting plans patently based on the retention of selection. This is a very small minority. I should not like to take any view on whether further action is needed, and if so of what kind, until I have been able to take stock of the full response to the circular, which I hope to announce to the House before we rise.

Mr. Winnick

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in many areas where the local education authority is refusing to submit proposals for going comprehensive, there is a good deal of concern and anxiety amongst the parents that the local authorities are behaving in such a stupid and reactionary manner? Is he aware that, for example, there is deep concern in Croydon that the local council is refusing to cooperate with the Department?

Mr. Crosland

I am well aware of the facts which my hon. Friend has mentioned. It is true that, both in the very small number of areas which have declined to submit plans and even more in areas like the one which he has in mind, which have submitted plans which are patently not comprehensive, there is strong feeling, not only among parents but also very often among the teachers, at this failure to accept the policy of Circular 10/65.

Mr. Frederic Harris

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that such a progressive education authority as Croydon, which is often taken as an example for education throughout the country, is well capable of taking decisions for its education for the future, and that he should see that such authorities are entitled to do so?

Mr. Crosland

I understand that there is a certain amount of disagreement in Croydon as to what should be done, but I propose to make no statement on the Croydon position as no Croydon scheme has yet been formally submitted.

Sir E. Boyle

Will the right hon. Gentleman repudiate the lack of regard—indeed contempt—shown by his hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) for the legitimate concerns of democratically elected local authorities?

Mr. Crosland

I will certainly not repudiate him. What he was saying is what has been long accepted in this country—that there is an expectation that, in educational policy, when there is a declaration of national intent, this will be carried through by central and local government in co-operation.

Mr. Winnick

In view of the deep concern in my constituency about this matter, may I give notice that I intend to raise this matter on the Adjournment as early as possible?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that notice will be given in the conventional fashion.

25. Mr. McNamara

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he is satisfied with progress being made with development of comprehensive education in the East Riding of Yorkshire; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Redhead

Yes, Sir. There are already two comprehensive schools in the East Riding and two others are being provided in current building programmes. The authority are expected to submit their proposals under Circular 10/65 by the end of this month.

26. Mr. Hamling

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received on schemes for the comprehensive development of secondary schools in the area of the Inner London Education Authority; and what reply he has sent.

Mr. Crosland

The Inner London Education Authority has published Notices of nine reorganisation schemes since it came into being on 1st April, 1965. Representations have been received in four cases. Three proposals have been approved and I hope to reach a decision on the fourth shortly. There is still a month to run during which representations can be made to the Department in respect of the other proposals.

Mr. Hamling

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind, when he receives representations criticising these proposals, that there is a great number of inarticulate people who want comprehensive education in London?

Mr. Crosland

I will bear that in mind, and I am happy to say that all those who want this are by no means inarticulate.