HC Deb 04 February 1971 vol 810 cc1895-6
17. Mr. Roger White

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will review the present system whereby education authorities allow heads of schools to bear responsibility for school curricula, particularly with regard to reading matter issued to teenage children.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Education Act gives control of the curriculum to the local education authorities and the governors of aided secondary schools. They can decide how best to exercise their responsibilities and how far they should delegate them to head teachers.

Mr. White

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many parents are disturbed to find that their 14-year-old daughters are being given books like "The Catcher in the Rye" to read in school? Will she look into the possibility of laying down guidelines to education authorities rather than giving head teachers carte blanche?

Mrs. Thatcher

Head teachers do not quite have carte blanche. The secular responsibility for curriculum matters is laid upon the local education authorities. On the whole they are sensitive to opinion on this matter. I should be very reluctant to issue guidelines on a matter of this kind.

Mr. Marks

Would not it be better to give parents the opportunity to serve as parent representatives on boards of school governors and managers so that they can make clear their point of view and that of other parents?

Mrs. Thatcher

There are many ways of parents making their point of view clear, and I think that they do. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Roger White) for raising the question, because I think that parents feel that the teaching given in the schools should help pupils to uphold the best moral standards of our society.

Mr. Edward Short

Will the Bill which the right hon. Lady mentioned at the North of England conference give parents representation on school governing bodies?

Mrs. Thatcher

As the Bill is not yet ready for introduction, I would rather leave that matter until the proposals are laid before the House.