HC Deb 19 January 1967 vol 739 cc630-1
16. Mr. J. E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he has made, is making, or will make comparability studies of the educational progress and achievement of the abler children in grammar and in comprehensive schools.

Mr. Crosland

No, Sir.

Mr. Hill

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that, both in the national interest and in the interest of the ablest children, it is highly desirable that such comparability studies should be made and that, for them to be made, it is essential that some grammar schools of high quality should continue to co-exist with comprehensive schools?

Mr. Crosland

No, Sir. In this developing situation it is impossible to make detailed comparative studies like this because, in an area where selective schools still exist, comprehensive schools are not properly comprehensive because they are being creamed of their top ability while, on the other hand, when a school becomes comprehensive, a comparability study becomes impossible. The situation is moving in a manner which precludes this kind of study.

Mr. Hooley

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the aim of comprehensive education is to develop the progress and achievement of all children and not merely the ablest ones?

Mr. Crosland

I agree. It is the strong impression of those most concerned that the ablest children do not suffer in nonselective schools, whereas we know that a great number of less able children suffer from going to selective schools.

Mrs. Knight

Does not the Secretary of State agree that to make such a revolutionary change in the educational pattern should have better statistics to support it than merely the opinions of right hon. and hon. Members opposite?

Mr. Crosland

This is not a question of statistics and the Question on the Order Paper concerned certain types of education research. The simple fact is that this decision—whether or not to maintain the 11-plus—is not one which can be taken by researchers. It must be taken by the Government—and, of course, a similar decision was taken by the previous Government.

Sir E. Boyle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, irrespective of party, many people are particularly concerned about the mathematics and science teaching for the ablest pupils if we have too great a dispersal of skilled sixth form teaching resources?

Mr. Crosland

The shortage of mathematics and science teachers existed long before the arrival of the Government and has been a persistent problem for many years. The size of sixth forms is one of the things to take into account in deciding whether to approve schemes or not. We made that clear in Circular 10/65.