HC Deb 13 July 1972 vol 840 cc1820-2
5. Mr. Evelyn King

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science in how many cases parents have declined, on educational grounds, to send their children to a particular school, whilst willing to send them to some other school in the neighbourhood; how many such parents have made representations to her; what action has been taken in consequence; and with what result.

Mrs. Thatcher

The majority of cases in which there are differences between local education authorities and parents about choice of school are settled locally and no information about them is available in my Department. A detailed analysis of cases which have been the subject of appeal has not been undertaken. But if my hon. Friend can specify a particular area, or a short period of time, in which he is interested I will provide what information I can from readily available records.

Mr. King

I am obliged for that reply. But has my right hon. Friend heard of the case in Bedfordshire where two girls are having no education at all because their parents decline to allow them to attend a certain school? Has she heard of the protest last night against the Inner London Education Authority's policy of redistributing children among schools against the wishes of their parents? Will she consider whether the concept of educational conscription, which was satisfactorily and easily accepted in the nineteenth century, can be quite as easily enforced with the raising of the school leaving age in the twentieth century?

Mrs. Thatcher

A large number of parents object to a school selected by the local education authority for their children. About 1,000 such cases were referred to me last year. I am naturally anxious that the spirit of the Act should be honoured and that parents should have as wide a choice as it is possible to give them, commensurate with places being available and a reasonable admissions policy on the part of the local education authority.

Mr. Marks

Does the right hon. Lady still support, as she did in 1970, the idea of banding which the ILEA is carrying out?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot remember having supported the idea in 1970, but I pointed out that it would be the logical consequence of a Bill which was before the last Parliament.

Mr. Edward Short

Does not the right hon. Lady think that the ILEA is to be congratulated on trying to give parents a choice of school and on enabling about 86 per cent. of parents to have their first choice? Is not this a remarkable achievement?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am very happy if local education authorities make it one of their main objectives to give parents the maximum choice of schools. But the number of protests against local education authorities which do not seem to be able to do so satisfactorily in every case is increasing.