HC Deb 13 November 1973 vol 864 cc234-5
16. Mr. Grylls

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many places are being taken at independent schools by local authorities in 1973.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

In January 1973 there were 96,126 pupils at non-maintained schools for which local education authorities were paying the full tuition fees. These include 60,983 at direct grant schools, 20,431 at ordinary independent schools, 8,788 at non-maintained special schools and hospital schools and 5,892 received special educational treatment at independent schools.

Mr. Grylls

Does my hon. Friend agree that the broadening of the social base of the pupils in the independent and the direct grant schools is a more useful approach than the Opposition's rather destructive and doctrinaire attitude of abolishing them altogether?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Local education authorities have a very valuable power to provide free accommodation, of a boarding nature, for example, if suitable education cannot otherwise be provided. It is a good thing, too, in other cases that fees may be remitted on grounds of hardship. To have places available in the independent sector is a valuable adjunct to the maintained sector.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

The Minister should be very careful about this matter. Is he aware that in a Written Answer to a Question of mine on Monday it was revealed that of the 11 independent schools in Southampton only four were recognised as being efficient by his Department? May I ask him to do nothing whatever to encourage local authorities to send children to those schools which are not recognised as being efficient?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am always careful when being questioned by the hon. Gentleman. But recognition as efficient is conferred as a special mark of distinction by the Secretary of State—[Laughter.]—yes; I am glad that the Opposition Front Bench has learned something—whereas registration guarantees a certain minimum standard.