HC Deb 08 February 1968 vol 758 cc638-9
21. Mr. Sheldon

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what are his current plans to raise the school leaving age to 16 years.

Mr. Gordon Walker

To do so in 1972–73.

Mr. Sheldon

What use does my right hon. Friend intend to make of the two-year pause in improving the arrangements for the introduction of the extra year? What proposals has he concerning the single annual leaving date.

Mr. Walker

The main things are to keep up the supply of teachers, which we shall do, and for the Schools Council to keep up its work of curricular reform, which it is doing. On the question of the single school leaving date, I can only say at the moment that I am giving this very urgent and careful consideration.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

What extraordinary optimism makes the right hon. Gentleman assume that he will be here in 1970?

Mr. Walker

Just a natural calculation.

30. Mr. John Wells

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science in view of the decision to postpone the compulsory school leaving age, what new steps have been taken to encourage voluntary continuance of education after the age of 15 years.

Miss Bacon

None, Sir. But I expect the upward trend in the proportion of children staying at school beyond the age of 15 years to continue.

Mr. Wells

If the right hon. Lady takes positive steps to encourage children to stay on voluntarily, this might well achieve a more satisfactory conclusion for the nation as a whole than the raising of the compulsory school leaving age. Will she press for voluntary staying on?

Miss Bacon

While I want to see more children staying on after the age of 15, I would not accept that this is an alternative to raising the school leaving age.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that by far the most positive step to encouraging children to stay on is rapidly to extend the area of comprehensive education?

Miss Bacon

I agree, and the figures bear that out.

32. Mr. Willey

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the percentage of children staying on at school after the school leaving age in the Northern Region for the latest available date and the corresponding figures for the South-East Region.

Miss Bacon

In January, 1967, 36.1 per cent. in the Northern Region and 56.5 per cent. in the South East (including Greater London).

Mr. Wiley

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that these figures show that the postponement of the raising of the school leaving age bears particularly harshly on the Northern Region? Will she still reconsider Government policy and also consider what steps she can take to encourage children in the North to stay longer at school?

Miss Bacon

I agree that this distinction is to be regretted, but I would point out that the South-East Region includes Greater London. Greater London has many comprehensive schools, and at such schools staying on is much more common than at secondary modern schools.