HC Deb 22 February 1967 vol 741 cc1691-2
7. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the extent to which he has obtained co-operation from Scottish local authorities in establishing comprehensive secondary education throughout the local authority education systems.

Mr. Millan

I am glad to say that my right hon. Friend has received a very wide measure of co-operation. Education authorities have recognised the desirability of abolishing selection at the transfer stage and of introducing a comprehensive organisation; and for 25 of the 35 areas the authorities' proposals have been wholly or substantially approved. In general, discussion has centred on the method and the timing, not the principle.

Mr. Taylor

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some parents of children at non-comprehensive schools are very alarmed at the possibility of a break in the education of their children in view of the threatened abolition of historic schools of proved merit? Will he tell the House and the local authorities what steps he proposes to take in the event of one or two authorities refusing to impose a comprehensive pattern?

Mr. Millan

The last part of that supplementary question is hypothetical. I have already said that education authorities as a whole are co-operating in this exercise, and I have no reason to think that refusal of the kind the hon. Gentleman has in mind will in fact occur. Naturally, parents in different parts of the country are concerned to see that the new proposals provide a satisfactory system of secondary education, and no proposals are being accepted unless we consider that that is so.

Mr. Dewar

Does my hon. Friend agree that the local authorities have shown admirable responsibility in this matter, particularly as they have suffered from some very provocative and misguided advice from hon. Members opposite who have tried to aid and succour those few people who have doubts?

Mr. Millan

Yes, Sir. I can only repeat that the discussion which we have had with authorities has been largely about method and timing and not about the principle of secondary reorganisation.

Mr. Noble

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there are certain specialist schools, if I may so call them, looking after important minorities, and these need very special consideration both by the local authorities and by his Department? St. Mungo's and Notre Dame in Glasgow are good examples.

Mr. Millan

One would hardly call St. Mungo's and the other school mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman specialist in this sense. They are selective schools, not specialist schools.