HC Deb 05 December 1968 vol 774 cc1817-8
12. Dr. David Kerr

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will issue a circular to local education authorities concerning the recruitment of children of differing abilities into comprehensive schools.

Mr. Edward Short

This is a matter for local education authorities and governors of schools to consider in the light of their varying circumstances, including the need for the effective organisation and development of the schools in their areas and also the wishes of the parents.

Dr. Kerr

That is a disappointing reply. Does not my right hon. Friend realise that it is possible to sabotage comprehensive programmes—which is what is suspected is being done in the Inner London Education Authority's area—by restricting the recruitment of children of higher ability to comprehensive schools in order to encourage their recruitment to slowly deteriorating grammar schools? Will my right hon. Friend give proper guidance on this matter?

Mr. Short

No, Sir; my hon. Friend ought to look at the London scheme a little more objectively. It has come in for some criticism, but on the whole, given the existence of a number of good grammar schools, it works out reasonably fairly. The education authority modified the original distribution of the higher ability group, but the new arrangement this year has worked reasonably well, and I understand that the authority, in consultation with teachers, has decided to continue it.

Sir E. Boyle

I do not accept the implications of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question and I welcome greatly the answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave, but does not this question of the need to ensure a balanced intake into comprehensive schools show the tremendous difficulty of legislating to end all forms of selection?

Mr. Short

We wish to see the end of selection, which I believe to be one of the biggest remaining social injustices in this country.