HC Deb 16 November 1972 vol 846 cc597-8
22. Sir Gilbert Longden

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will reopen the list of direct grant schools; and if she will recapitulate her policy towards these schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have not found it possible to reopen the list. My policy is to encourage the existing direct grant schools, and I have done this by improving the arrangements for fee remission and the rate of capitation grant.

Sir Gilbert Longden

I acknowledge the great help that my right hon. Friend has been to these admirable institutions, which are a bridge between the public sector and the private sector, but could not she reconsider her decision not to re-open the list?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have never wholly closed my mind upon the matter, but it is a question of what can be done within the time available. I should like to reassure my hon. Friend that in due course I will certainly reconsider the question.

Mr. Dormand

May I remind the right hon. Lady of the promise in the Gracious Speech to set new priorities in education? In implementing that promise, will she forget about any further privileges for the direct grant schools and concentrate on making greater provision in staffing, buildings, equipment—and almost everything else—in schools for the handicapped, where the situation is rapidly becoming a national scandal?

Mrs. Thatcher

The direct grant schools perform an excellent service to the nation's children. I agree that the schools for the mentally and physically handicapped also do so, and we hope to improve the capital programme for them in the future, as in the past.

Mr. Gurden

Will my right hon. Friend consider the matter very soon, because more places need to be provided in direct grant schools? In this connection I should like to refer to Oral Question No. 18, which was not asked, because there is great pressure in the areas that it mentions for more school places of every kind.

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot say when I shall reconsider the reopening of the direct grant list. We have done as much as we can to help such schools to take pupils, whatever their background, and in this connection have done a great deal through the incomes remission scale.

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