HC Deb 19 October 1972 vol 843 cc433-5
14. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will make a statement concerning her proposals to adjust financial arrangements with direct grant schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary amending regulations I propose to increase the annual capitation grant to the schools by £9 with effect from April, 1972. This sum is about one-third of the average increase in cost per pupil that the schools are having to meet from that date.

Mr. Spearing

I thank the right hon. Lady for her answer. Can she now state the totals which are involved as well as the increase? Does she agree that in making this increase she is doing her best to encourage the direct grant sector which, rather than providing simply parental increase of choice increases the choice of the schools and parents alike?

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree that I am encouraging the direct grant sector and I believe that there is a great demand for such encouragement. The net cost to the Exchequer, if that is what the hon. Gentleman is seeking, is £600,000 in a full year. The net increase in public expenditure is very much less.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my right hon. Friend agree that the move by the Labour-controlled Bradford Education Authority to do away with free places at the local direct grant school is a direct blow at educational opportunity for the less privileged children in that part of the country?

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, I agree. It can do no good whatever to deprive a few children of the very best education which they can receive in the name of some egalitarian principle. The parents can apply directly to the direct grant school for a free place or an income-assisted place and they do not have to go through the local education authority.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Does not the right hon. Lady feel that she could change the title from "direct grant school" to "select grant school"?

Mrs. Thatcher

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware if he has followed the Press recently, children have to be selected upon some basis or another and selection for comprehensive schools has caused as much trouble as selection for other schools.

Mr. MeCrindle

Will my right hon. Friend consider giving still further encouragement to the direct grant schools by reopening the list?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have to say "No" for the time being to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Armstrong

Is the right hon. Lady aware that her figure of £600,000 is certainly not chicken-feed? I could tell her of educational priority areas in the north of England which with £600,000 could provide long-overdue facilities for children who have no choice in the school they attend.

Mrs. Thatcher

The cost of the State taking over the direct grant schools would be very much greater and, therefore, I would expect the hon. Member to welcome the increase in grant.