HC Deb 24 April 1969 vol 782 cc631-2
5. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether it is his policy to seek to provide the maximum of parental choice in secondary education in accordance with the Education Act, 1944.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Edward Short)

Yes, Sir. This is why it is the policy of the Government that all secondary school children should be taught in comprehensive schools, which alone can offer a sufficiently wide range of courses to give a meaningful choice to parents.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Does it not follow from that Answer that parental choice of school becomes non-existent if the only pattern of secondary education is that imposed by the right hon. Gentleman regardless of the wishes of local authorities?

Mr. Short

I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman thinks happens at present. Eighty per cent. of children are directed to secondary modern schools. The other 20 per cent. are offered grammar school places. We want all children to go to comprehensive schools so that they may have a course which is tailor-made to their unique pattern of ability.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

In his Answer, did not the Secretary of State prejudge the whole question of direct-grant schools by saying that all children should go to comprehensive schools? To reiterate the point made from this side of the House, a small proportion of children, particularly those of special ability, might well, with parental choice and guidance, go to specially academic grammar schools without jeopardising comprehensive schools.

Mr. Short

I believe that the segregation of children at the age of eleven is one of the greatest remaining social injustices in this country, and it must be ended as soon as possible.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Why should segregation necessarily be at the age of eleven and why is the right hon. Gentleman so dogmatic, particularly in view of the Prime Minister's pledge to defend the grammar schools? What consideration has he given to the misgivings of American educationists—for all their experience—about an almost universal comprehensive system?

Mr. Short

I do not know about misgivings on the part of the Americans. Countries throughout the world are following our comprehensive system of reorganisation at the moment.