HC Deb 05 March 1970 vol 797 cc608-9
24. Mr. Arthur Davidson

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many authorities were operating comprehensive schools in 1965; and what is the latest figure.

Mr. Edward Short

At January, 1965, 48 authorities were operating a total of 262 comprehensive schools; the corresponding figures for January, 1969, were 96 authorities and 962 schools. Precise figures for January, 1970, are not yet available but I estimate that there are now over 100 authorities operating about 1,200 comprehensive schools.

Mr. Davidson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that those figures are very encouraging for those of us who believe in the system of comprehensive education? Do not they make even more indefensible the action of those Conservative-controlled education authorities which are blindly sticking to the system of selection at 11-plus?

Mr. Short

I agree. Only a handful of authorities and the Front Bench opposite want to retain the 11-plus. We certainly do not intend to allow that small handful of authorities to continue to do this, and I am quite sure that the electorate will not allow the party opposite to do it either.

Sir G. Nabarro

Is it not a fact that in Worcestershire there are a number of ancient foundation, namely, famous grammar schools, which are quite unsuited to conversion to comprehensive establishments? Should not they be allowed to contract out of universal comprehensiveness?

Mr. Short

There is a number of ancient foundations in this House as well. As the Minister responsible for the Natural History Museum, I am willing to find places for some of the pterodactyls out of the party opposite. The answer to the hon. Gentleman is "No".

Sir G. Nabarro

It is better than being a brontosaurus.