HC Deb 20 October 1966 vol 734 cc388-9
26. Sir E. Bullus

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is his policy in regard to the appointment of known members of the Communist Party to headships in schools for which his Department is responsible.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Edward Redhead)

The appointment of head-teachers to maintained schools is in local hands and is not the responsibility of the Department. In my right hon. Friend's view a teacher's membership of a political party should not, of itself, affect the choice of the appointing body.

Sir E. Bullus

Is the Minister aware that there was much public criticism and opposition to one such appointment recently in the London Borough of Brent and that this is not a question of witch hunting? Is he not aware that there are very many parents who art anxious about the possibility of their children coming under the influence of active Communist Party workers?

Mr. Redhead

Our view is that the political opinions of teachers are their own private concern, so long as they do nothing which makes them professionally unacceptable; for example, if they were to use their position to propagate their political views in the schools. I am advised that the Brent local education authority followed these principles when making its recent appointment.

Mr. Rankin

Would my hon. Friend assure the House that teachers who are members of the Tory Party will not be debarred from becoming headmasters?

Mr. Redhead

The general principle which I have enunciated is applicable whatever be the political opinions of the teachers concerned.

Sir E. Boyle

While not necessarily disagreeing with the Minister's original Answer, may I ask whether he would not agree that when a local authority turns down an application for a job at a school or college of education on non-educational grounds, it is highly desirable that this should not be done in terms which are prejudicial to the appointment of that applicant elsewhere?

Mr. Redhead

If I understand the right hon. Gentleman correctly, he is referring to another case, in Derbyshire, about which the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) has written to my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend is making inquiries of the Derbyshire education authority, and he will write to the hon. Member as soon as he has obtained the authority's reply.