HC Deb 27 June 1968 vol 767 cc792-3
13. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many local education authorities have not yet submitted schemes for comprehensive reorganisation which envisage the ending of all selection at 11, 12 or 13 years of age by 1975 at the latest.

Mr. Edward Short

Authorities were not asked in Circular 10/65 to estimate when they would be able to implement their long-term plans but only to say what they expected to accomplish in the three years 1967–70. Reorganisation is already complete or virtually complete in 18 areas and, in addition, nearly 30 authorities have plans approved which seem likely to come into operation in at least a substantial part of their area by 1970. An estimate of progress in the following five years, which will depend very much on future building programmes, is not practicable.

Mr. Mitchell

Does not that Answer indicate that progress towards comprehensive education is rather slower than certain Ministerial statements and Press handouts would indicate?

Mr. Short

No, Sir. We have made considerable progress. A total of 111 authorities have now had plans approved. I have in my hands another 23 authorities' plans awaiting approval. Only six authorities have so far refused to submit plans.

Mr. Molloy

Will my right hon. Friend look at the antics of some local authorities which are prepared to smash up comprehensive schools that result from three years' hard work on purely spiteful and doctrinaire, political lines?

Mr. Short

I very much regret the withdrawing of viable schools that have been approved. But this is largely ceasing to be a political question in many areas. Indeed, some of the best plans have been submitted by Conservative authorities.

Sir E. Boyle

Did not the right hon. Gentleman put his finger on the essential point when he referred to the other resources that can be made available? Is it not quite clear that to have schemes which are educationally soundly based must be dependent on adequate resources, bearing in mind the priorities in the education service as a whole?

Mr. Short

That is quite true. It depends on physical resources being made available, and they will be made available over the years. This will take some time, but it is going along quite satisfactorily.