HC Deb 12 May 1967 vol 746 cc1942-60

2.30 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Berry (Southgate)

I am grateful for the opportunity to raise at this time a very important subject affecting Enfield. This debate should never have taken place because the voters of London should have had a chance yesterday of delivering their verdict on the local authorities which have administered this region in recent years—and they would have turned them out. The fact that they have not had that opportunity is an iniquitous act in itself, but I will not go into that because I wish to confine my remarks to the important subject of secondary education in the Borough of Enfield.

I have used this phraseology, but, in stressing the need for this debate, I could have used much stronger language. But had I done so you might have turned down my request for this debate, Mr. Speaker. I would rather have described it as the imposition of an unwanted and unworkable system of education on the unfortunate children of my borough, for so it is. Nevertheless, I am grateful to the Minister of State for her presence today, although I am rather sad to think that about 20 years ago—though perhaps I should not mention this in her presence—she and I were undergraduates together at what I would describe as the "right university"—and I say that even in the presence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod). I am sad to think by how much she has fallen under the influence of her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. However impartial one may feel on that issue, I must, in passing, refer to the fact that the electors of both of Oxford and Cambridge came to the right decision in the local elections yesterday.

I wish, first, to deal with the political aspects of this problem, and here the figures speak for themselves. The Borough of Enfield consists of four constituencies; Enfield, West, which is represented by my right hon. Friend, and Southgate, which I represent, Enfield, East, and there is also Edmonton, and I. am glad to see the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) in his place and to note that he appears to be full of ideas. I therefore trust that, since I have once or twice previously attempted to draw him into a debate on this subject, he will participate in the discussion today.

In recent years there have been a number of different elections in the borough and it is relevant to refer to some of the figures to show that the feeling between the two parties—and I fear that this is very much a party political matter at this time, although I wish it were not—about the arguments for and against the particular form of comprehensive education being imposed in the borough have struck across party lines and that many supporters of the Labour Party are against this form of education.

In 1964, in the G.L.C. elections, the total vote for the Conservatives was 111,000, and for the Socialists, 106,000. Then came the borough elections of that year, when the total vote for the Conservatives was 33,000 and for the Labour Party, 30,900. We then had the General Election of 1964. The Conservatives received 73,000 votes and the Socialists 60,000. At the General Election of 1966 the Conservatives received 71,000 votes and the Socialists 65,000. In the G.L.C. elections of last month the Conservatives received 148,000 votes and the Socialists 82,000—quite a change.

It is fair to say that even at a time when the Labour Party was winning a majority of seats on the Council, by 31 to 29-at which point it took all 10 aldermanic seats; and I should be grateful if the Minister would comment on this point—and when the Labour Party had, as it has, a majority of over 100 in this House, the majority vote in the Borough of Enfield was still in favour of the Conservatives.

Although we were deprived yesterday of our right to a full election, there were four by-elections in wards in the area and it is right to refer to these figures because they showed a swing, or difference, between 1964 and 1967. On an exact comparison, the Conservative vote went up from 6,100 to 6,800, while the Labour vote in those wards went down from 2,494 to 1,868. That is clear evidence of what would have happened in Enfield had we held the elections yesterday which should have been held.

So it is that we enter what I would describe, I think accurately, as the "stolen year"—the year in which the Council impose a system of education which, I will show, is not wanted by the vast majority of those who live in Enfield and who teach and are concerned with education in the area. But perhaps I should first refer to the petition which I had the honour to present some months ago, particularly since various references have been made in this House to that petition. I think it right to take this opportunity to put the record straight as to exactly what that petition was about. It was presented … on behalf of more than 10,000 parents, teachers, school governors and others troubled about the proposed educational developments in the London Borough of Enfield. Some attempts were made to ridicule the petition on the grounds that a number, even a large number, of those who had signed it did not live in either the borough or its immediate neighbourhood. The number itself has never been questioned and I therefore presume that the figure of more than 10,000 is accepted.

I have been through the petition line by line and I have found that there were exactly 40 signatories from outside the area. I am prepared to admit frankly, having been in touch with nearly all 40 of those signatories, that 10 of them had signed it only because they were asked by friends to do so. Of the other 30, there were three categories—one of people who had lived in the borough and knew the schools but had moved out of the area, one comprised of grandparents of children who were either about to come into, or were now being educated in, that age group, and one—probably the most important category of all—comprised of a number of teachers who live outside the area.

In Committee on the London Government Bill I quoted from a letter I had received from a teacher, who wrote: From my experience I can state categorically that the proposed comprehensive system of education in the London Borough of Enfield is unworkable and will result in a sad deterioration in the standard of education in the borough in the next 10 years at least."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th December, 1966; Vol. 737, c. 990.] That was written by a senior teacher at one of Enfield's schools and referred to the first proposal put forward by the borough, although we have had two proposals in the last few months. Bearing this in mind, I will deal, first, with the first proposal which was put forward by the Borough Council in accordance with a request made by the Minister in Circular No. 1065.

As soon as the Council started work, in April, 1965, it set up a development sub-committee to go into the problems of the reorganisation of secondary education. After an eight or nine-month inquiry, which was extremely thorough, that sub-committee produced a one-tier system of comprehensive education for children aged between 11 and 18, and that was due to start in September, 1967 and was to include a grouping of two or more schools.

The Chairman of the Education Committee explained to the Council the various reasons why this had been done and how it would work. He said that the general approach would be to define an area around each comprehensive school from which it was hoped the majority of children would go. He said that the wishes of any parents to have their children educated in other schools in the borough would, as far as possible, be respected. I wonder how far the schools he had in mind will be able to take in children in future other than from their immediate neighbourhoods? He went on to say: It will take many years before all our comprehensive schools are in modern purpose-built buildings, but we shall take every opportunity to improve existing buildings and to build new schools when we are allowed …". I draw attention to the phrase "when we are allowed". He then said: It is important that … after a number of consultative bodies had expressed their separate conclusions, a wide measure of agreement for comprehensive schooling emerged, and the type of school generally favoured for educational reasons in the Borough was the one-tier comprehensive school …". He concluded by saying: Our teachers have told us that they will do their best to make the borough's plan a success. Here I should like to refer to the teachers, because it has been suggested by the supporters of the plan that the teachers as a whole are in favour of it. What they have said in that sentence to which I have just referred is that if the scheme is imposed it is their job as teachers to do their best to make it work. That does not mean that they think it is the best scheme that could be devised. Indeed, from the moment that the announcement was made protests came from teachers all over the borough. I have already mentioned that parents and other people signed the petition, and groups of teachers in all parts of the borough expressed their dissatisfaction with the scheme.

Perhaps I might give a few examples to illustrate my point. Parents of children at Albany School, a secondary modern school, voted 63 per cent. in favour of secondary modern schools. Some people suggest that only the parents of children in grammar schools want to keep the old system. This is an example of parents with children in a secondary modern school preferring the existing system.

Throughout that spring and summer teachers in all parts of the borough expressed their dissatisfaction with the plan. The House might be interested to know that 44 of the staff at Enfield County School wrote deploring the attempt to amalgamate schools in this way, while not denying their approval of purpose—built comprehensive schools. They said that they foresaw the ending of the freedom of choice for parents, and there was a poll of teachers which resulted in a large majority against the scheme.

Another teacher wrote anonymously—but I have spoken to him because he ended his letter with "Please do not publish my name and address. I still have to work here"—and said: At no stage were teachers as a whole consulted as to their opinion on comprehensive schools. No meetings were held at which they could discuss the merits or demerits of comprehensive education … there are very many of us who wish to dissociate ourselves from the full co-operation and warm hearted support of which Councillor Tanner the Chairman of the Education Committee, so smugly boasts. As the year went on, and these requests and complaints grew, the scheme finally went to the Minister, who turned down a major part of it. He approved seven of the comprehensive schools, he said that two should be sent back for further examination, and that four were not acceptable in that form. Surely that was the occasion for a long, cool look at the whole scheme, but far from it. One of the members of the council, Councillor Smythe, said that the local Press was being unfair in its comments because it said that the Minister had rejected part of the scheme; he had merely not accepted it. Just to refresh my memory I went to the Library this morning and consulted the Oxford Dictionary. I found that one definition of rejecting is "to decline to accept". I suggest that that comment by that councillor about the local Press was totally unjustified. Our local Press has played a magnificent part in publicising all the comments of the parents and teachers throughout the whole of this controversial period. As I said, there should have been a long cool look at the whole system at the time that the Minister rejected it, but that did not happen.

When the rejection was first received, deputations of the sub-committee paid two visits to the Ministry and, as a result, on 17th January, a bare five weeks later, including Christmas, a revised scheme was submitted to the Minister, including a two-tier system. This was the system which the whole of the eight months' examination had shown to be entirely inappropriate to this borough, and it was not surprising that 1 asked some Questions in the House about what consultations and examinations had gone on before coming to this decision. I asked the Minister whether he was satisfied that the further proposals which he had received from the London Borough of Enfield for the reorganisation had been sufficiently considered by the local education authority, by teachers, and by parents, and the hon. Lady replied: "Yes". The answer should have been "No", because there was no consultation with parents or teachers in the interim period.

I subsequently asked for further details of that consultation, and I was told that it was a matter for the local education authority. I finally asked the Question which led to this debate, namely, on what grounds the Minister had reached his decision? He said that his reason for rejecting the earlier version was due largely to the objections of various people, including parents, to the split premises. I do not see how, if he thought that because of the parents' objections the first scheme was wrong, he can believe that the second one is right.

But what happens now? Closure notices have been served on schools, and objections have been lodged. The last closure notice was issued on 2nd May. The Minister's decision is still awaited. We see no signs of any purpose-built comprehensive schools being constructed in the borough. In March, 1966 the Chairman of the Committee said: It is impossible to say when such a school will be built … when the time comes money will be available". but the building programme has been cut back, so how can any money be coming soon? Furthermore, where will the teachers come from? More than 60 advertisements have just appeared, and if teachers are to leave their existing schools they have to give notice by the 31st May. Is the Minister confident that these applications will be answered, and the necessary teachers will be found, or will there be a continuation of what we have at the moment at Edmonton County School where boys in the G.C.E. stream are being instructed by a potential physics teacher waiting to go to university?

What about the four new comprehensives in the borough which are to be a combination of existing secondary modern schools? Will the standard in these schools be high enough to teach the grammar school stream? Who will teach the brighter boys? What will happen at three schools in Edmonton, namely, Mandeville, Eldon and Hounds-field, where in 1964–65, out of 18 boys who obtained "O" levels, seven got them in only one subject, at another, of nine who got "O" levels, seven got them in only one subject, and in the third, of six who got "O" levels, five got them in only one subject? At these schools seven "O" levels are taught, but only one "A" level. There are 790 pupils, and 45 teachers, not one of whom is a graduate.

Where will the money come from for these changes? At the moment about £90,000 is provided each year, and I suppose about half might be available, but that will not begin to be enough for what is needed for these new schools, when 40 new science libraries are needed, and where there is a need for specialised rooms and new facilities because there is to be co-education. It is also the case that seven extra sixth forms will be needed, together with qualified staff.

There is, too, the problem of the distance between schools. The Minister rejected a similar scheme at Hillingdon on the grounds of substantial expenditure and some schools having to operate for an indefinite period in widely separate schools. And if the money is used for these schools, what will happen about the primary schools? And what about the parents of 11-year-olds who ought to know where their children will go in September?

In conclusion, I suggest that the best possible scheme must be in the interests of the children of the borough. The hon. Lady above all people in this House must take a real interest in the children. There is time now for a long look at the whole problem. It is controversial, and there are many aspects to it, but there is no hurry. September, 1967, is not sacred. Let all those of us who are concerned get together and have a good look at the problem and come out with what really matters—an answer which is in the best interests of present day children and children in the future.

Mr. Speaker

I hope that the House will help me. I hope to be able to call in the next 25 minutes the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu), the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) and the hon. Lady the Minister of State, Education and Science.

2.51 p.m.

Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)

The real reason for having this debate was disclosed by the hon. Member for South-gate (Mr. Berry) in the substantial first part of his speech, which was devoted to making straight party politics. It is unfortunate that this matter has become one of party politics. Consideration for the children and the proper organisation of secondary education in the borough has become, I am afraid, of secondary importance in the minds of the minority party in the Borough of Enfield, who are making all the political capital that they can out of the difficulties.

The hon. Member referred to all sorts of deputations and opinions expressed by people who have gone round collecting signatures. I challenge the hon. Member, as I challenge the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), to fight an election, locally or nationally, on the issue of comprehensive education or not in the Borough of Enfield. I supported the borough education authority in the last General Election. I do not think that there was any connection, but my majority went up 50 per cent. I am prepared to fight on the matter at any time.

What is behind all this is shown clearly by the frightful row now going on in the Inner London Education Authority between the extremist members of the Conservative Party and those more moderate ones who are prepared to consider the matter objectively.

The hon. Member asked for more delay. But further delay can only lead to more uncertainty among teachers, parents and children. It is obviously necessary to get the matter settled as soon as possible. Moreover, the hon. Member asked for delay on the ground—as the minority party in Enfield is doing—that this change should not take place until there can be purpose-built schools. He knows that it would not be possible to move towards a system of comprehensive education in Enfield in purpose-built schools for at least half a century.

What is more, it is not necessary to do so. One of the arguments frequently used is that there is a split between school buildings and the teachers have to move from one part of the school to another part. But this already goes on. It happens at Enfield Grammar School, which is already in two parts. It happens at the Minchenden Grammar School in the hon. Member's constituency, where there are two parts separated by a mile. That school has a distinguished record. So that argument falls.

The argument that there will not be enough teachers or that the teachers are terribly hostile to the scheme also falls. The argument is sometimes based on the number of resignations. In fact, it works the other way. On 11th May there had been 54 resignations this year. But to 31st May last year there had been 75. and in the previous year, before the new proposals had been introduced, there had been 92 resignations up to 31st May. Compared with the 54 resignations this year—the hon. Gentleman referred to the possible shortage of teachers—there have been 66 new appointments for September. So that argument does not hold.

What is more, with regard to the question of moving from one part of the school to another, several heads of departments have asked to be able to do this. They want to go from the senior school, perhaps, to do some teaching in the lower school in order to keep in touch with the teaching going on there. For instance, science masters want to do this so that they can see what bright boys are coming along in the lower school.

I must refer to the absolutely scandalous behaviour of a Conservative councillor, Councillor Bercow, in the matter of the Albany School. The facts given in the Enfield Gazette are completely and absolutely wrong. What is more, the decision on the appointment of this teacher was made by the appointments committee with only one councillor, a Conservative councillor, voting against it. The governing body of the school has no authority for making appointments in any case. Councillor Bercow came to the meeting of the governors without telling the chairman of the committee that he had in his pocket a letter of protest from a number of teachers about the non-appointment of this woman. He produced the letter after the meeting had started. The Enfield Gazette said that the chairman tore the letter up. That is untrue. She has still got it. She allowed some discussion on it, although it was not in order, at the end of the meeting.

This type of behaviour on the part of councillors belonging to the Conservative Party brings the whole of the discussion of this matter in the Borough of Enfield into disrepute. I am glad that the hon. Member did not refer to the matter, but I have had to because the story has appeared in the national Press as well as the local Press. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will now repudiate the action of Councillor Bercow.

2.56 p.m.

Mr. Iain Macleod (Enfield, West)

I have been impressed by the crocodile tears of the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) about this matter having come into the political arena. We are today discussing the reorganisation of secondary education in Enfield. We are also discussing one of the nastiest illustrations of misuse of local authority power that one can conceive of. Without taking up the hon. Gentleman's last point, my information is entirely different. If he will read this week's Enfield Gazette, I think he will find that I am right on this matter. But I do not want to waste time on that.

I hope to persuade the Minister not to become further entangled in this sad affair. I am afraid that her Ministry has already done a great deal of harm. My hon. Friend the Member for South-gate (Mr. Berry) has obviously picked this day with diabolical skill—the day after the election. The hon. Member for Edmonton did not mention this, but in the by-election in his constituency yesterday there was a 14½ per cent. swing to the Conservatives, a swing even greater than that shown in the Greater London Council elections, and one which would have swept the vast majority of Socialist councillors out of that borough.

The Goddess of Nemesis must be enjoying herself this morning. I need not take those hon. Members who are present through all that we said on the Second Reading of the Local Government Bill. Suffice it to say that every single thing that we said then has come true.

Nemesis must also have been looking over the shoulder of the Secretary of State for Education in those two well-known circulars of his of 1965 and 1966. When the right hon. Gentleman in 1965 issued his Circular No. 10, 16 out of the 17 county boroughs in England and Wales with a population of over 200,000 were held by Socialists, and he could well claim that he was addressing people who were broadly in sympathy with his views. The position now is that only three out of the 17 remain—Hull, Sheffield and Stoke.

Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman takes the faintest notice of how people vote—and I think he does—the situation is vastly different. He was then addressing a Labour London, a Labour Birmingham, a Labour Manchester, a Labour Leeds, a Labour Lancashire, and a Labour West Riding. All these have gone, and 50 more beside. The borough we are considering now, and many others, would have gone, too, if it had not been for the iniquitous London Government Bill which he and his colleagues introduced.

The Secretary of State has two choices: he can ride for a tilt against all these people, or he can come forward with a more understanding approach. I shall make my own view clear as quickly as I can. Condensing it, the simplest way to put it—the Minister of State will understand what I mean—is that I am completely in sympathy with Alderman Chataway in his approach to education and, although I do not know the details, I believe that he has acted extremely wisely in these matters. I think it right to say this. It has never been part of Conservative policy that we should be against comprehensive education. In my own small part of my constituency where I live, Potters Bar, there is a fine comprehensive school, planned by a Conservative Middlesex County Council, purpose-built under a Conservative Administration, and opened by myself.

We have never thought that comprehensives are always the right answer. Equally, we have never thought that they are always the wrong answer. In short—I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), who was a distinguished Secretary of State for Education, will agree—we are against the dinosaurs, wherever they may be found, whatever political party they may say they support. They exist in their most primitive form in Enfield, where, at the moment, they are busy trying to butcher, in the stolen year, as my hon. Friend said, the splendid schools there in order to make a comprehensive holiday.

I shall not remind the House of the Prime Minister's pledge that the grammar schools would be abolished over his dead body. He is too discredited to take any notice of what he said. But I do recall, because I agree very much with it, what the Secretary of State for Education and Science said in his book, "The Future of Socialism", in 1956— Even within the state sector, there can be no question of suddenly closing down the grammar schools and converting the secondary modern into comprehensive schools. These latter require a quite exceptional calibre of headmaster, of which the supply is severely limited; a high-quality staff for sixth-form teaching—again a factor in limited supply; and buildings of adequate scale and scope, and most secondary modern buildings which would have to be converted are quite unsuitable. Until and unless proper supply conditions exist, it would be quite wrong to close down grammar schools of acknowledged academic quality". I agree with every word of that, and so, I hope, will the hon. Lady when she replies.

I shall add one or two words to the story which my hon. Friend has put before the House. Normally, one does not mention civil servants and officials in this context but one attacks only the local education authority. But I am bound to say that, in my view, Mr. Denny, the education officer, has played from the beginning such a blatantly partisan part in the affair that he cannot and should not escape his share of criticism.

There have been constant attempts to stifle comment. A letter was sent round to teachers in the borough warning them against helping parents' emergency committees.

In April, Councillor Tanner, chairman of the education committee, reprimanded the teachers for publicly expressing their criticism of the proposals. The governors, as I know well, for I am a founder governor of Enfield Grammar School and senior in terms of service, have been treated with contempt, and there can be no question that, sometimes, this has been deliberate. I can illustrate the quality of the advocacy best by quoting from the Enfield Gazette of Friday, 22nd June, 1966. This is part of a question and answer report giving Mr. Denny's views: Question: How will you get all the extra teachers to man this marvellous system? Answer: By offering more money and enticing them from elsewhere. If that is the sort of approach, I hope that it will be repudiated by the Government From Bench.

The point is that the decision had already been taken. In the end, it was submitted to the Ministry, and the simplest summing-up of the matter was given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), perhaps the greatest expert in the House on these matters, when he said that it was the longest and the worst scheme that he had seen. The principle of single-control one-tier comprehensive schemes was put forward and was then abandoned.

This scheme was rejected in large part on 13th December. Here is the significant sentence: The Secretary of State has noted that the authority wish to introduce their whole scheme in September, 1967. I hope that the Minister of State is not so innocent as not to realise why that was. The authority wanted to introduce it in September, 1967, because this was the stolen year, the year which it knew would be stolen for it by the Government of which the hon. Lady is a member. Then we must follow the frantic rush that took place afterwards. On 13th December that letter was issued. There was then a meeting on 29th December, and there was a meeting on 10th January. There was a letter from Mr. Denny on 18th January, and it was accepted on 26th January. Incidentally, this was a holiday period. Anybody who knows anything about the Civil Service will know that this pace is quite absurd. There can be no question that only a label can be stuck on these schools. There is no possible way in which an adequate service can be given to the children of this borough.

I therefore conclude on this note. I have said that I am not a dinosaur in this matter, nor, I am certain, is my hon. Friend. I appeal to the Minister of State, and let me remind her of the figure: 16 out of the 17 were Labour-controlled. Now three are——

Mr. Speaker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not think me discourteous. This debate must finish at a quarter past three.

Mr. Macleod

With respect, Mr. Speaker, I was following exactly the note sent to me by the Minister, and I shall conclude in one minute.

We could wait a year, if we wished, until the election, and see what happens then. But there have been statutory protests against every single one of the schemes. The last expired on 2nd May, and we are now waiting for the Minister's reply. There is to be a case in the High Court. This simply cannot be done in time without a savage lowering of standards. I ask the Minister not to be doctrinaire on this matter, because it is in her hands. If she will postpone the date of the scheme she can avert a bitter conflict in which only the children of Enfield will suffer.

3.6 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Shirley Williams)

In the short time that I have I wish to begin by commenting on some of the points made by the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Berry) and the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod). I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman made no attempt to try to identify the Conservative Party with opposition to comprehensive schooling. I think that he was right in this, possibly more than his hon. Friend, because it is clear that the pattern of elections reveals nothing on this point. A good many Conservative-controlled and Independent-controlled authorities have moved towards fully comprehensive systems, some even before the issue of Circular 10/65.

But I must strongly criticise one thing the right hon. Gentleman said. He is perfectly entitled to criticise the authority to any degree he wishes, and to criticise the Department of Education and Science, but in criticising the Chief Education Officer he went beyond what is normally accepted, because we recognise in the House that civil servants, both locally and nationally, attempt to carry out the policy of the elected representatives in its full spirit. I should also like to point out that the resignation and recruitment figures for teachers given by my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) do not bear out the argument that the Enfield scheme has put off teachers to a serious extent.

I wish to comment on some other points before turning to the main question raised by the hon. Member for Southgate First, the Department did not turn down the major part of the Enfield scheme, but only about a third of it. That bears out the argument that the Department has in mind one of the things the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, which is that a scheme shall be educationally sound. We have turned down parts of schemes and whole schemes, even from Labour authorities, when we feel that that criterion is not satisfied.

The hon. Member referred to a quotation from the teachers' letter that there was no adequate consultation with teachers. But I have before me an extract from the minutes of a meeting of the Joint Consultative Committee on 13th July, 1966, between the teachers and the authority, it is headed: "Items Submitted By The Teachers." It says: submitted a paper expressing satisfaction of the Teachers' Committee with the consultation prior to publication of the Plan and requesting the continuance of joint consultation on the details of the reorganisation of secondary education. That hardly bears out the argument that there was no consultation over the original scheme. Indeed, I think that it is only fair to say that there was a great deal of consultation over the original scheme. There was a great deal of consultation with all the teachers' organisations, and in addition there was a major attempt to inform parents both by means of public meetings and a quite substantial document, 20 copies of which were placed in the public libraries in the borough of Enfield.

So an attempt was made to try to get across what was in the first plan. I would accept some criticism of the Authority over the consultations with teachers on the revised scheme, but I think that on the original scheme the consultation went a very long way. But in the revised scheme there was a move away from what had previously been an attempt to link together schools some distance apart into single schools which were replaced in two cases by two-tier schools, and in three cases by the overlord school system, which also exists in Manchester, where a single head covers both schools and deputy heads are responsible for the junior and senior schools respectively.

A two-tier scheme was put forward by the teachers' organisation in consultations about the original scheme, and it then re-appeared in the revised scheme. I must underline that this was something which the teachers themselves had advocated. In January Section 13 notices were put out for the Enfield scheme in the case of schools where closures were involved. Yet, from that time to the present, there has been only one objection from teachers, and that has come from the Joint Four, which again hardly suggests that the teachers are up in arms against the revised scheme.

The hon. Member referred to improvements to schools—laboratories, and so forth. First, there is a new school in the Enfield authority—Kingsmead. A further new school is also programmed for the 1967-68 and the 1968–69 programmes, which will replace one at least and possibly two of the junior schools in one of the two-tier systems and, in addition, there is a group of minor works allocations which will make up the accommodation in the schools mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. In criticising one school in Enfield the hon. Gentleman was referring to the present un-reorganised situation and not the situation which will obtain after the new scheme has been put into operation.

I now want to say a word about staff movements in the overall schools and also the special position of the Edmonton/Rowantree combination, in respect of which there was the largest number of objections under Section 13. These objections centred on the danger to children caused by the fact that a road cut between the two schools. We have made inquiries from the authority and from the police, and it is our understanding that there will be no movement of pupils between sessions, and that at the end of sessions and at the beginning and end of the school day there will be police patrols across this road.

As for the movement of staff in the overall schools, the authority has made a pledge to the Department that there will be no movement of pupils and no movement of staff after the third year of the scheme. The reason why there will be some movement of staff—and this has been much exaggerated—in the first two years is that the authority, in line with parental views on the subject, has decided that the children in existing secondary modern schools should be able to compete their courses without being moved to another school, and that children who started last year at grammar schools should be allowed to continue without having to move back to the lower tier of combined schools.

It is generally accepted in the House as proper in dealing with children that there should be no break in their education because of the existence of a reorganisation scheme, although it is felt by my right hon. Friend and myself that staff movement should always be reduced to the minimum. That is why we objected to one-third of the original Enfield scheme. Where children are already in a school some movement of staff on a temporary basis and for a short time may be considered more desirable than the movement of children bodily from one school to another.

My right hon. Friend has at present got the Section 13 proposals before him. It is his intention to look carefully at the objections and to consider the points made in this debate. The final decision on the Section 13 proposals has been deliberately delayed in order to enable the points made in this debate to be fully considered. I hope that the hon. Member for Southgate will appreciate this attempt to give full consideration to those points.

As for the criticisms that 1 have made of the Enfield authority about what I regard as not fully adequate consultation with teachers on the revised scheme, at the National Union of Teachers conference this year my right hon. Friend pointed out—and I underline this—to authorities which are at present revising schemes which have been either sent back for reconsideration or rejected in part by him, that we have made it clear that these revised schemes, like the original schemes, should be fully discussed with the teachers.

I have said that Enfield Borough held two meetings, at one of which there were only three representatives of the teachers. I mention that deliberately, because that was not a sufficient number. But the authority went on to hold meetings with the head teachers of the authority, at which no dissenting voice was raised.

I repeat that there has been only one objection to the Department under Section 13 procedure which started in January, and this has come from the Joint Four. Most of the points raised in the objection have been considered in discussions between the Department and the Authority.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton made the fair point that children can suffer from constant uncertainty hanging over them, and it is true that Enfield has been considering reorganisation since 1963 when, under the London Government Act, passed by the last Government, all outer London boroughs were asked to submit new schemes for the development of education in their districts by April 1967.

The children and teachers of Enfield have thus been going through a period of upheaval for three and a half years, and, therefore, one would have to take a very solemn view of the situation before one perpetuated that uncertainty. We have endeavoured to improve the Enfield scheme. We believe that it has been improved and that the best thing is to ask the Authority to go ahead with those parts which have gone through or do not require Section 13 procedure, and we shall try to let it have a decision on the balance of the Scheme as soon as possible.