HC Deb 24 April 1969 vol 782 cc629-31
4. Mr. Dudley Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many grammar schools he estimates will be in operation in the public sector of education by March, 1971; and how many will have disappeared since October, 1964.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Miss Alice Bacon)

Between January, 1965, and January, 1968, the number of maintained grammar schools in England and Wales fell by 130 from 1,285 to 1,155. This trend should increase as the implementation of schemes of comprehensive reorganisation continues, but I cannot estimate a figure for 1971.

Mr. Smith

Is the right hon. Lady aware that many people who support the extension of comprehensive education wish a grammar school element to be maintained in our education system? Is it the intention of her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that eventually all grammar schools should disappear? If so, what will happen to the children in the top range of ability?

Miss Bacon

The introduction of comprehensive education means that a grammar school type of education will be available for far more children than ever before. If grammar schools exist alongside comprehensive schools, there must be some kind of test to decide who goes to the grammar schools. The whole aim of comprehensive education is to get rid of the segregation of children into different types of school at the age of eleven.

Mr. Christopher Price

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the existence of the voluntary-aided and direct-grant grammar schools is inhibiting the more rapid introduction of comprehensive education? She gave figures for the maintained schools. Could she give figures for the decline in the number of voluntary aided grammar schools?

Miss Bacon

I could not do that without notice. As my hon. Friend knows, the Public Schools Commission is considering, for its second report, the direct grant schools.

Sir E. Boyle

But is it not a great mistake to go to extremes on this question? Would not the right hon. Lady agree that conditions in, say, a suburb or some rural area differ from conditions in a big city where there are profound educational objections to having nothing but comprehensive schools segregated by neighbourhoods?

Miss Bacon

The alternative is to have selection at the age of eleven. That is the dilemma. Not only we on this side of the House but many Conservative-controlled authorities are anxious to get rid of selection at eleven which means that grammar schools and comprehensive schools cannot exist side by side.