HC Deb 10 June 1971 vol 818 cc1209-10
4. Mr. Marks

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals she has received from the Direct Grant Joint Committee; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not yet ready to make a statement.

Mr. Marks

Is the right hon. Lady aware that it is six months since she made a similar statement in the House? Is not that rather a long time to be considering this matter? How does she reconcile her view that the direct grant system should be encouraged with the view that the local authorities know what is best for their areas? Is it only when local authorities agree with the right hon. Lady that they know best?

Mrs. Thatcher

Indeed no. I have just explained, in answer to another question, that the powers do not vary according to the political complexion of local education authorities. The direct grant schools have powers to take in pupils other than through the local education authorities, and they can use those powers.

Mr. Jennings

Does not my right hon. Friend realise how disappointing her reply is to many of us? Is she aware that I have pursued this matter in a completely orthodox way and have received most disappointing replies—that I must await the outcome of this Committee or Commission? Does not she realise that the reopening of the direct grant school list is sound, good, fundamental Toryism, that that is what a Tory Government should carry out, and that the sooner she opens this list the better? Will the two endowed schools in Burton-on-Trent become direct grant schools?

Mrs. Thatcher

I will take into account what my hon. Friend says. There are two main points here. One is helping some of the existing direct grant schools. The other is considering the problem that my hon. Friend raised. I am anxious to cope with the first point first.

Mr. Spearing

Is not part of the controversy over the direct grant list caused by the fact that, although the direct grant schools claim to be a bridge between the private and public sectors, they are at the same time almost always selective? Is there any prospect of a non-selective direct grant school being able to come on to a list, if re-opened?

Mrs. Thatcher

A school or system can be a bridge between the independent and State sectors and still be selective. There are one or two direct grant schools which are considering becoming non-selective, but this is not a major movement.

Mr. John E. B. Hill

When my right hon. Friend is considering what can be done to strengthen the bridge which direct grant schools form between the independent sector and the maintained sector, will she have regard to the financial difficulties which parents experience in that the remission scales have fallen behind the times? Can they be extended to boarding pupils; and in due course can she restore some of the cut of £20 per head per year made by the last Government?

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree that the income remission scales are very out of date. I will consider the last point after we know what the award to teachers will be.