HC Deb 03 July 1974 vol 876 cc404-68
Mr. Speaker

Before I call the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John Stevas), I wish to inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister and his right hon. Friends.

As I have already indicated, many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen wish to speak in the debate, and once again I appeal for brevity.

4.8 p.m.

Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)

I beg to move. That this House, in view of the widespread disquiet amongst parents about the standards of conduct and learning in certain schools, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to modify its educational policies so as to preserve the rights of parents guaranteed by Section 76 of the Education Act 1944, and to raise academic standards in schools; and, in particular, to withdraw Circular 474 which seeks to impose a system of universal comprehensive schools without regard to educational considerations, parental wishes or local needs and conditions. One thing we are all agreed about in every part of the House is the importance of education for the future of the nation. Anybody who speaks on this subject, whether from the Front Benches or the back benches, bears a heavy responsibility to measure his words carefully. We must all think of the effects which anything we say could have on those who are struggling with grave problems in our schools.

All of us, however different the means we may propose, want to make things better in the educational system rather than worse. But to speak responsibly is not to be mealy mouthed. The Government have their own educational philosophy. The Secretary of State for Education and Science has spoken out in a forthright manner on a number of occasions. We on the Opposition benches have equally clear though different views. It is our right and duty to proclaim them here this afternoon.

This debate takes place in a setting where parents all over the country are increasingly anxious about what is going on in certain of our schools. That is recognised in the opening words of the Opposition motion. That is not to say that our education system is bad or collapsing, nor is it denying that the majority of our schools are good and are served by dedicated men and women.

But we cannot ignore the views of parents. If the educational system is to prosper it must have the sure support of public opinion. Every Member of this House knows from his correspondence that parents are worried about two things in particular—the maintenance of discipline in the schools and the standards of learning which are achieved, particularly in the case of literacy and mathematics in our primary schools.

The Opposition charge against the Government today is that instead of concentrating on the solution of these practical problems they are diverting the energy and the attention of all who are concerned with education, and driving us back into the sterile battle between grammar and comprehensive schools, by seeking to impose a system of universal comprehensive schools which can only exacerbate these problems instead of ameliorating them.

If we want higher standards in schools, the first thing we need is a higher standard of teachers. One will achieve that only if teachers are paid reasonable salaries. What has happened over the past decade—this is not a party point since it has been going on under the last two Governments—has meant that teachers are in danger of becoming a depressed profession. They are being overtaken by manual and white-collar workers.

There is only one figure which is needed to establish that point, the increase in the earnings of women. Women, after all, form a very high proportion of our teaching force. If one looks at the figures between September 1968 and April 1973, the median earnings of manual workers went up by 75 per cent., that of non-manual workers went up by 58.2 per cent., and that of teachers by only 38.7 per cent.

I know from my experience as a Minister that it is extremely difficult to obtain extra money for education. But my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) succeeded in many a battle with the Treasury and I hope that the Secretary of State achieves the same success. He has a record as a man of courage and forthrightness. He must accept, along with his other duties, that he is in fact the titular head of the teaching profession. Teachers in this country expect him to fight their battles for them. If he does that he will have the support of the Opposition.

We welcome Lord Houghton's appointment to inquire into teachers' pay and conditions. I should like to say this to the noble Lord: if we are to attract the right people into the teaching profession, it is extremely important that there should be a proper salaries structure offering adequate rewards in the higher branches of the profession. We should move rapidly towards an all-graduate teaching profession. I am very glad that the Secretary of State has taken over the ideas of his predecessor on the diploma of higher education. He will have our support if he continues to build on those ideas.

I should like to put forward some further ideas as to how we could raise standards in our schools. One of the deleterious effects of the abolition of the 11-plus examination has been the lack of any national objective standard or test so that we can judge what is happening in our primary schools. It is true that Her Majesty's inspectors apply tests, but they are local tests and I do not think they are enough. I hope the Minister will urgently consider introducing a national standard to which all schools would be expected to conform.

Secondly, I hope he will look at the curriculum in colleges of education. Potential teachers need to be taught the skills of how to teach reading and mathematics in primary schools. I hope that courses will be provided both in colleges of education and in in-service training as, to how to maintain discipline in schools, which is becoming a more and more difficult and highly complex subject.

Thirdly, I hope that we can move away from the large, impersonal schools, which are centres of trouble, to smaller schools with which children and parents can identify. Lastly, I hope that the Secretary of State will, through the urban programme and other means, concentrate help in disadvantaged areas to ensure that the differential disadvantages from which children in those areas suffer are overcome.

The nursery school programme—it was to the credit of my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley that it was introduced—should be given a very high priority, particularly in the disadvantaged areas, where the nursery schools are needed most and where the nursery programme can make the greatest impact.

One of the sad things about the present situation is that the Secretary of State seems to be obsessed with the avant-garde theories of a decade ago. What happens to a child at the age of five is much more important than what happens to a child at the age of 11.

We would all prefer to take education out of party politics. One of the causes of the present crisis in our educational system is the abrupt changes of policy which occur upon changes of Government. Three months ago the Secretary of State had a great opportunity to lay the foundations of a national consensus on educational policy. He personally commanded great good will in all parts of the House, but he chose deliberately to throw that away and to introduce Circular 4/74 which embodies as extreme a policy as we have ever seen in education in this country. It revives not only the worst features of the previous Circular 10/65 but those of the even worse Circular 10/66 as well.

The principle is clear enough. The Secretary of State has set out to destroy the diversity of the pattern of our schools and to force them into a strait-jacket of rigid and universal compulsory and comprehensive education. That is the aim of the circular. We shall resist that. If battle is now joined on this issue, the responsibility rests squarely upon the shoulders of the Secretary of State. Perhaps it was always a chimera, in view of the ideological gulf between the parties on the aims of educational policy, to hope that we could have had some kind of non-partisan agreement.

The dominant principle in the policy of the Labour Party is to use the educational system as a means of social engineering to promote egalitariansim. We reject that completely. Our concern is to promote educational values in general and in particular to preserve and strengthen the rights of parents in our educational system.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

What does the hon. Gentleman know about it? He is not a parent.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

If I were a parent I think the hon. Member might make it a further point of reproach against me.

It is central to our philosophy of education that the right to educate children belongs to parents and is only delegated to the State or the local authorities or the teachers. It is part of the self-respect of parents, particularly in a society which is growing ever more impersonal, that they should be able to have a say and a participation in the education of their children. That is a principle which has been written into the Education Act of 1944 by Section 76. But it is too often ignored and it is flouted by the Secretary of State in his Circular 474. We are giving urgent consideration as to how that Section of the Act can be strengthened.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Itchen)

I taught for 13 years in a secondary modern school under the old selective system. Eighty per cent. of the children coming to my school were in the failed-11-plus age group. Could the hon. Gentleman tell me exactly what choice the parents of that 80 per cent. had?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

That is covered in a series of points that I am about to raise.

What we need to do is to extend parental choice and not to extinguish the limited parental choice which exists at the moment. Above all, parents want choice of school. That is why we value independent schools. Although it is only a minority of parents who make use of them, it is a large and a changing minority consisting of more than a million parents. It is not a matter of a few great public schools, although they are making a worthy contribution to education. It is a matter of small schools all over the country which meet specialised needs. Religious schools, schools of music, nursery schools and infant schools are all provided by the private sector, and all of them are threatened with extinction by the present Government. The Secretary of State has said that they are to have a reprieve. He has said that they are safe for a few years. But we fear that those years would be very few were this Government to be returned with a larger majority at the next General Election.

When I was in the Department of Education and Science, I calculated that over the period covered by the White Paper on education up to 1983, we were being saved in the maintained sector nearly £1,000 million by the existence of these private schools. They are a contribution to the maintained sector because they relieve the maintained sector of a pressure which would be added to it if they were abolished. We shall protect their charitable status and resist any attempts to rig the law against them.

I turn to the direct grant schools, which are needed even more today than before, principally because they are centres of academic excellence. At a time when we are concerned about standards in our schools, it seems strange to threaten these academic centres with destruction. In this connection, one figure is extremely relevant. It is that 50 per cent. of pupils in these schools go on to higher education, as opposed to 7 per cent. of those in comprehensive schools.

Another important factor is that the direct grant schools provide bridges between the maintained school and the independent school and give a wider social mix than many independent and maintained comprehensive schools.

Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)

That is completely untrue.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Even now, the Secretary of State is planning to get rid of them. He has told us that. The effect of this action will be to deprive parents of modest means of any choice. It will simply have the effect of driving the majority of these schools into the independent sector. Government policy again and again is directed not against the rich but against those of the centre and those in the middle income groups. We shall continue to support the direct grant schools. When the moment comes, we shall see that capitation fees are increased to take account of rising costs, especially teachers' salaries, and we shall consider whether to re-open the direct grant list. This would provide a refuge for the 40 or so grammar schools in London which at the moment are being persecuted by the Inner London Education Authority.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

The hon. Gentleman has referred to levels of academic attainment. However, I have no doubt that he will agree that it is easy to achieve apparent levels of excellence by excluding those who do not show any potentiality. Are not there great dangers in that and in the fact that the direct grant system has its bridge at 11-plus rather than the bridges of which the hon. Gentleman speaks?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It is possible to achieve high academic standards only by some form of selection, and selection takes place in comprehensive schools as well as in grammar schools.

Mr. Spearing

But not at 11-plus.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Important though these two groups of schools are, it is the maintained sector in which more than 90 per cent. of our children are educated, and that must be our principal concern.

Conservative national policy is clear. We believe in principle that a diversity of schools is desirable. We think that there should be not only a choice between comprehensive and grammar schools but a choice between different types of comprehensive schools—between single-sex and mixed schools and between denominational and non-denominational schools. The pattern in any locality should depend on educational considerations, local needs and parental wishes. In the County of Buckingham, for example, all types of schools exist happily together.

We are not and never have been against comprehensive schools as such. We are against the ruthless and mindless imposition of these schools everywhere as a matter of doctrine. That is a very different matter.

What finally convinced me of the folly of this type of policy was my experience in the Department of Education and Science when dealing with Birmingham's proposals to this effect. What Birmingham needed was not a set of botched-up comprehensive schemes. It needed an extended building programme, and I have no doubt that it still needs it. The folly of the policy and the present proposals of the Secretary of State is compounded in that he is not providing a penny extra for the compulsory comprehensivisation of schools.

Mr. Christopher Price

Will the hon. Gentleman extend the strictures that he has laid against my right hon. Friend in terms of imposing comprehensive education against the Conservative leaders of the Surrey County Council, of the Barnet authority and of many other local education authorities which are doing what they wish to do and were prevented from doing by his right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), which is exactly what the hon. Gentleman is castigating at the moment?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

No. The whole point of our approach to this problem is that we allow local authorities to choose the system or combination of systems which, subject to parental wishes and general educational considerations, is the best for their areas. Our system is a flexible one, as opposed to the rigidities of what the Government are attempting to impose. The Government are making an idol out of the comprehensive schools when they should be taking a long, hard look at what is happening in comprehensive schools.

Quite apart from the question of principle, there are practical reasons for maintaining a diversity of schools. We do not know enough about the academic results of comprehensive schools and their merits and demerits compared with selective schools to make a final judgment. We have no evidence, for example, to prove that either bright or slow children benefit from being in mixed ability classes. We need time to make the right assessments, not to impose a dogmatic overall pattern which would be done prematurely.

While on the subject of selection, it is not a case of putting the 11-plus back or going back to it, as the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) assumes. No one wants that. It is a question of using flexible methods of assessment and making some provision for transfer between schools so that we get rid of the rigidities of selection and at the same time preserve its advantages.

We have to remember that selection will take place in any event. The choice is between selection for ability and selection by social class. Parents simply buy their houses in more prosperous neighbourhoods where they find better comprehensive schools—

Mr. R. C. Mitchell


Mr. St. John-Stevas

That is the truth of the matter, and the hon. Gentleman can check it by looking at price lists in estate agents. By abolishing the selective and direct grant schools the Secretary of State will deprive the bright child in a poor area of the chance of having a good and suitable education for his talents.

I turn in conclusion to the circular. Our principal objection to it is its rigidity, its compulsion, and the intolerance of both its ideas and its language.

Parents' rights are dismissed in a throwaway phrase: Authorities will no doubt continue to have due regard to parents' wishes in respect of their children's education, e.g. in denominational schools where these are available. That is all. The vagueness of that language is all the more striking when it is compared with the precise language of the overriding principle laid down in the circular, … the need to eliminate all forms of selection at all stages. There is no principle in the circular to mediate between these two contradictory principles. What it means in practice is that the parents' wishes will be simply ignored if they want the selective system of schools to be preserved.

There is a further objectionable blackmail in paragraph 13 of the circular. Any authority that dares to resist is to be deprived of its building programme. That means that local authorities are to be put into an intolerable dilemma by the Secretary of State. They will have to choose between the kind of organisation which they believe to be right in the long run and the short-term interest of their pupils, because if they dare to go for a long-term selective form of organisation they will penalise the children who are at their schools now. So the children are being used in a totally unscrupulous manner to establish a universal system of comprehensive education.

The third and perhaps the worst feature of the circular is the bullying of the voluntary aided schools. These schools have their rights and status guaranteed by law, and yet they are told by the Secretary of State that if they do not fall in with his wishes they may be deprived of financial support. I hope that it is clear to the managers of these schools that this threat has no basis in law. They will be well within their rights to resist it, and if the governing body of any of these schools exercises that right it will have the full hacking of the Opposition. Under the law the governing body of those schools alone has the right to propose changes to the Secretary of State.

What a reflection it is upon the Secretary of State that in a circular he should stoop to this kind of intimidation which could threaten the whole balance of the 1944 Act in its most sensitive part—the religious settlement. Already the evil effects of the circular are being felt throughout the country, but especially in London where 40 voluntary aided schools are threatened. These are schools of proven worth and high esteem. They include Godolphin and Latimer, Emmanuel Battersea Grammar School, Sir Walter and St. John, Strand School, Clapham County School and Rosa Bassett School. Take Godolphin and Latimer as an example. It is an excellent school, but it is proposed that it should join up to a school of a totally different character separated by a mile. Between the two schools is one of the worst traffic intersections in Britain. What will happen to those schools if the circular is allowed to stand? They will go independent and the end result of this intolerable policy will be to deprive thousands of parents of the choice they at present enjoy.

Let me make clear that the next Conservative Government will withdraw this circular. It could be withdrawn tomorrow and would be if the Liberal Party would remember its past traditions of liberality and freedom and vote for this motion tonight. The immediate effect of that would have to be the withdrawal of the circular on the expression of the mind of this House. Whatever the Liberals do—and it is anyone's guess from reading their amendment—we shall be true to our principles, and by voting for the motion tonight we shall strike a blow for parental rights and freedom that will reverberate throughout the kingdom.

4.34 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Reg Prentice)

I beg to move to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: recognises the need to raise academic standards in schools; and, having regard to the denial of any real choice to the majority of children in a selective system, congratulates the Government on the steps it has taken to develop a fully comprehensive system of secondary education, and to increase the opportunities for all children, without regard to means or social position, to realise their educational potential to the full. We have heard a most extraordinary speech from the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) who begain by proclaiming the need for a non-partisan and consensus approach to these matters and then proceeded to make the most partisan and reactionary speech on education that we have heard from the Conservative benches for many years.

This is the second time in two months that the Opposition have chosen to use half a Supply Day to debate Circular 4/74 and the whole question of comprehensive reorganisation. There is a marked contrast between the two occasions. On the first occasion the debate was on the motion, "That the House do now adjourn", and there was no Division. On this occasion we have a highly contentious motion on which the Opposition apparently intend to divide. On the first occasion the case was put in a truly non-partisan spirit by the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), but on this occasion it was put in a most partisan fashion by the hon. Member.

These two events illustrate the schizophrenia of the Conservative Party on education policy, because in it are two strands distinctly observable, both in this House and in the local authorities. There is a minority tradition—what I would call the Edward Boyle tradition—which is reasonable, middle of the road and well informed on education policy. These attributes, particularly the last, are crimes in the Conservative calendar, because the majority tradition, the diehard tradition seeks to pander to the most reactionary views of a minority of the people of this country. The unforgiveable crime of the hon. Member for Wokingham, and the reason he is not on the Front Bench today, is that he was in the more enlightened tradition. That is why the change has taken place.

The Opposition motion favours selection, and they must not fudge that, as the hon. Member for Chelmsford tried to, in his speech. He said—I took down his words—that his party "is not against comprehensive schools as such", but we are faced with a motion that demands the withdrawal of a positive Government policy directed towards the extinction of comprehensive secondary education. If the motion were passed it would encourage those in the local authorities who want to preserve selection and it would discourage those who want to end it.

If the Opposition want to defend the 11-plus, let them get up and state a case for it, but they should not in one speech say that they are not against comprehensives but they are against any policy to bring about comprehensive education.

Dr. Keith Hampson (Ripon)

Surely there are different sorts of selection, and just because we are in favour of selection that does not mean selection at 11. So far the Secretary of State has at no time acknowledged in the House that there can be a system of comprehensives with selection at 15 into a sixth form college. Is the right hon. Gentleman to deny local authorities the right to have sixth form colleges?

Mr. Prentice

No. The model of comprehensive education involving an 11 to 16 comprehensive secondary school and a sixth form college was one of the alternatives specifically mentioned in the circular that is under attack in this motion.

I object not merely to the purpose of the motion on the spurious grounds put forward in it but particularly to the reference to concern about standards of conduct and learning. That is smearing comprehensive schools in a totally unfair and unreasonable way. Of course we are concerned about standards of conduct and learning, but I suggest to the Conservatives that the onus is on them to prove why our concern in these matters leads to the conclusion that we should withdraw the circular.

Let me examine both these matters. On standards of conduct, of course we are concerned about truancy, indiscipline, violence and bad behaviour of various kinds. I should have thought that we could all acknowledge that these have always been problems for schools, and that there are problems of behaviour particularly among some teenagers, problems connected with the difficulties of growing up, and problems arising from bad home backgrounds or from the fact that some teachers and some schools are better at coping with discipline and moral problems than others.

These problems have existed for generations. They are not recent problems. As to the question whether they are now worse, in the survey conducted by the Association of Education Committees into these matters there was a division of view in the returns, between local education authorities and between schools, whether there had really been a deterioration. But if we assume that there may be a deterioration in some of these matters, I put it to the House that this applies to the whole of society. We are concerned about many features of our national life today—the growing incidence of crime, the growth of attitudes by some people which involve a declining respect for the law, and the growth of destructive and anti-social attitudes in our society. The schools are not exempt from this; but the schools should not be identified as the cause.

Having said that, I believe that the schools must help to tackle these problems. It is my duty and my Department's duty to support them in that. I do not accept for a moment that because we are calling upon LEAs throughout the country to reorganise on comprehensive lines we must, therefore, be neglecting the other matters—which was one of the points the hon. Member for Chelmsford seemed to be making.

We have been conducting a survey into truancy. I hope to publish the statistics arising from that very shortly. We have commissioned research projects into variouts aspects of this matter—a research project into the effectiveness of school-based treatment of maladjusted children, and another research project into secondary school influences on children's behaviour. All this work must go on. These are very serious matters, with which we are all concerned. But if the Opposition want to link these problems with comprehensive reorganisation, the onus of proof is on them, in the debate, to show the connection. No one has shown it yet, and the hon. Gentleman did not show it in his speech.

I turn now to the other half of the phrase, where the hon. Gentleman talks about concern for the standards of learning. Of course, the amendment expresses our wish to raise academic standards in schools. This is common ground. But in what sense are we being told that standards of learning in this country have been lowered or are likely to be lowered by comprehensive secondary education? Where is the evidence for that? Let me give two sets of figures to the House, taking the eight-year period from 1965 to 1972 inclusive. During that period we have seen a 28 per cent. increase in A-level passes, taking the whole secondary school system of England and Wales in this case. We have seen an 11 per cent. increase in O-level passes. The reason why the O-level figure is lower than the A-level figure is that, simultaneously, we have seen the exciting new development of the CSE examination, for which there has been an eight-fold increase in passes in that period. In other words, this has been a period in which, measured by examinations—which are only one measurement, not necessarily terribly accurate but a rough and ready measurement—we have seen an improvement in our secondary schools of academic attainment. Simultaneously, during that period we have moved from a situation in which we had 221 comprehensive schools, with 6 per cent. of the secondary school population in them, to 1,602 comprehensive schools, with 47 per cent. of the secondary school population in them. I believe that part of that improvement in academic standards—not necessarily the whole of it—is due to the fact that there has been this comprehensive secondary reorganisation.

Anyone who visits a comprehensive school in a locality in which selection prevailed a year or two ago will meet boys and girls in the fifth and sixth forms who are getting excellent academic results, and he will be told that these boys and girls failed the 11-plus examination a few years earlier. For those in the middle range of ability and for the late developers we have opened doors, extended choice—if choice is what we are arguing about—and given new opportunities. The onus of proof is not on me but on the Opposition to say why we should connect concern about academic standards with the case for withdrawing Circular No. 4/74.

Mr. Nigel Lawson (Blaby)

If the hon. Gentleman is using statistics he must be careful in informing the House about what those statistics mean. Is it not the case that the increase in A-level and O-level passes is because more children have been taking those examinations, and that the proportion of passes each year is constant from the point of view of the examining bodies? Therefore, it proves nothing whatsoever about educational standards.

Mr. Prentice

The hon. Gentleman, unintentionally, is backing up my point. It is part of my argument that a larger proportion of children should stay longer at school and carry on their studies to a later stage and, therefore, should sit for CSE and GCE at O-level and A-level. If the Opposition want to say that reorganisation in a comprehensive direction is bad for academic standards, they have a difficult job on their hands if they are to reconcile these figures with the fact that the country has been moving in a comprehensive direction during the years in question.

I now come to the argument about the rights of parents. This is the most "phoney" part of the whole argument from the Opposition benches. The motion refers to Section 76 of the Education Act. The House should consider what that section actually says. Omitting some of the verbiage, it says that both the Secretary of State and the local education authority shall have regard to the general principle that, so far as is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure, pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents. That is not a guarantee—to use the word which is in the motion. Indeed, this matter has been tested in the courts. In the case of Watt versus Kesteven County Council in 1955 it was reiterated that Section 76 lays down a general principle to which the Minister and the LEAs must have regard, along with the other relevant considerations.

We all know that in practice local education authorities now and in the past have had to deny choices to parents for reasons of geography and the availability of school buildings. and because some schools—whether grammar, modern or comprehensive—have been very popular and have had better reputations than others. Therefore, LEAs have had to deny the first choice to parents in a very large number of cases. They do so every year, under Conservative or Labour Governments, and this has been an unavoidable fact of the situation.

I believe in the extension of voluntary choice just as much as the hon. Member for Chelmsford believes in it. But we must be frank about this matter and say that the practical difficulties involved have always prevented that choice being exercised fully. But, in addition to that, there is a great element of humbug in the Opposition's case. They are not talking about 100 per cent. of parents and children. My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell) brought out the point clearly in his intervention. It is the same point as was made last week in The Times Educational Supplement in referring to the speech of the hon. Member for Chelmsford made during the previous weekend. The article said: It is certainly disingenuous to deprive four out of five parents of the right to choose anything but a secondary modern school (howsoever labelled) in the name of parental choice'. That is the answer to that part of the motion.

Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Bedford)

The right hon. Gentleman is on record as having indicated that he is in favour of phasing out both direct grant and public schools. They educate only 6 per cent. of the total population of schools. Why is he seeking to eliminate those? How does he reconcile his remarks with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which gives parents the distinct right to choose the education for their own children?

Mr. Prentice

As many hon. Members wish to speak in the debate, I do not want to discuss at length this afternoon the future of direct grant and independent schools. However, let us have a debate about them. I should be delighted to debate the subject at any time the Opposition choose. I have answered the point on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in what I have just said. There cannot be, and there never has been, under any Government in practical circumstances a completely free choice for the majority of parents. We might as well face that frankly.

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)


Mr. Prentice

I must carry on. I have other points to make and many hon. Members wish to speak in the debate. I had better not give way any more.

I want to emphasise our commitment to the extension of choice for pupils within schools. That is what the debate is about.

The central argument against the 11-plus selection system is that basically it confines the choice that is open, even if the choice were made freely—it is not; it is made by an arbitrary test—to a conventional grammar or modern school. However, there are many types of children needing the greatest variety of choice within the educational community in which they work. I want more choice for the child who is below average at the age of 11 and who later develops a talent, perhaps in one or in more than one subject, within the educational community in which he works.

I want to see a choice open to the boy who is perhaps a potential technician of ability who wants to spend a lot of his time in the woodwork or the metalwork shop combined with advanced mathematics, but who has no talent for any other subject.

I want to see a choice open to the girl with abilities and interests in domestic science combined with potential ability in English but no other subject. We want to bridge the gap between the old rigid concepts imposed by the selection system. We want the maximum choice for the below-average pupil who remains below average but is stimulated to take an interest in one subject or another and therefore requires a greater variety of choice.

There is another aspect of choice which is relevant to this matter. We want to liberate the primary schools front the strait-jacket imposed on their syllabus by the dead hand of 11-plus selection. In other words, we on this side of the House stand for the maximum choice being made available to pupils in the system from eight or nine years of age throughout the rest of their school life. The Opposition want to hang on to 11-plus selection, which is opposed to choice. We argue in favour of maximising choice.

I do not pretend that reorganisation on comprehensive lines will of itself provide the wide variety of opportunities that I have mentioned. However, I believe that it will open up the options and enable resources to be used in ways which will enlarge the choice.

That will depend on resources and, above all, on teachers. The hon. Gentleman was absolutely right in his emphasis on the need for teachers to have a better deal in terms of salaries. That is relevant not only to recruitment and the retention of people in the profession but to morale and efficiency.

I make only one addendum to what was said by the hon. Gentleman. He is right about the relative position of teachers having declined under both Conservative and Labour Governments. But the previous Government in 3¾ years did nothing about the situation. We have just established a commission under Lord Houghton to look into and do something about it. It is true that the hon. Gentleman wished the commission well, but it is hardly a point to be made in the context of what is supposed to be a motion of censure against Government when we have acted on a matter on which they delayed action for 3¾ years.

The motion before the House is bad enough, but I understand that we are threatened with a great deal worse. The hon. Gentleman apparently gave an interview to Mr. Max Wilkinson of the Daily Mail, a report of which appeared on Wednesday, 26th June. That report opened with the statement: The tough new Shadow education secretary, Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas, is preparing a bombshell which will shock Left-Wing educational pundits". Some of the contents of that bombshell are not very precise. We are not told how far the Conservative Party is yet committed. It apparently includes, if the article is correct, a possible decision by the Opposition that the compulsory school leaving age might be reduced to 15 years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Quite right."] "Quite right", say hon. Gentlemen opposite. It includes the possibility of a voucher system which would enable public funds to be used to subsidise the independent sector of education. It apparently includes a reopening and extending of the direct grant school list. Indeed, today the hon. Gentleman said that he had this in mind. It is what many hon. Gentlemen opposite want.

All these policies are a long way to the right of any policies pursued by the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), the Secretary of State for Education and Science in the previous Government. Her policies were bad enough, but we are now threatened with policies far more reactionary than those carried out by the right hon. Lady.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Excellent a paper as the Daily Mail is, and very good a journalist as Mr. Max Wilkinson is, I should like to point out that he is writing for himself. The parts quoted by the right hon. Gentleman are what Mr. Wilkinson was saying, not what I was saying.

On this important point about the school leaving age. I have never said either to Mr. Wilkinson or to anyone else that it should be reduced to 15 years. I said that because of the difficulties that had arisen in the last year we would look to ways of being more flexible so that some of the objections might be overcome.

Mr. Prentice

That brings me to my next and almost final point. I certainly look forward to greater clarification of the hon. Gentleman's thinking on some of these matters. I think that all on this side of the House will look forward with a certain relish to the prospect of debating Conservative policies on some of these matters.

It is fascinating to me that, at a time when the Leader of the Conservative Party is talking about the need for national unity, the Shadow Education Secretary should be working out policies which will provide greater inequalities and divisions in our society than for a very long time. Cloudy generalisations about national unity will not carry much conviction if the policies to which the Opposition are committed are as divisive as those that they appear to have in mind. If it means that at the forthcoming General Election education will play a larger part than in the past, I will welcome it. I think that the next General Election will and should be about education and that it ought to be recognised as one of the major issues to a greater extent than in General Elections since the war.

The hon. Gentleman today and in public utterances since he became Shadow Education Secretary has helped to define Conservative policy more clearly. I should like to make it clear to the country that the choice will be between a reactionary, backward-looking divisive policy and the policy to which we are committed in our amendment, namely, to increase the opportunities for all children without regard to means or social position, to realise their educational potential to the full.

4.58 p.m.

Sir George Sinclair (Dorking)

I agree with the Secretary of State in forecasting that education will be one of the important elements in the forthcoming election. I agree that it should be, because it is patent from every discussion that we have in our constituencies and with friends that people are desperately worried about what is going on in some of our schools. I believe that those worries are fully justified.

There are too many schools in which both work and behaviour are bad. In the worst, teachers have lost control and work is constantly disrupted by rowdy children who have been allowed to get out of hand and to defy authority without being checked or punished. In such schools truancy is rife and teachers are mocked, threatened and even subjected to physical violence. Such hostile prospects are already driving some teachers in training—for example, in the Birmingham area, as the National Union of Teachers told us two weeks ago—to seek work outside education. This is a serious situation.

It is claimed that such schools are most often found in decaying inner-city centres. But, in such areas, some good schools do exist and triumph over the difficulties of the environment. As a member of a Select Committee, I have over the past six years visited many of those areas and I have been taken over good schools. I have, on my own account, also visited other schools in such areas—I refer particularly to Clissold Park in Stoke Newington where two of my nieces have been teachers. Some of those good schools were in bad buildings, but they were marvellously led by gifted heads and dedicated staff. There the children were secure and full of life and could get on with their work and play. There, also, parents were encouraged to take a lively interest in the school community and the school was being begged by parents from outside the immediate neighbourhood to take in their children.

The stark fact is that we do not yet know enough about what makes a good school work. We, certainly, do not know enough to allow us to be dogmatic. But we do know that it depends far more on leadership and on teachers and on the support of parents than on buildings and equipment. We know that good schools can be found in deprived neighbourhoods and bad ones in easier neighbourhoods. We find both not only in decaying city centres but also in the country.

Schools must not be too large, otherwise it becomes difficult to build proper relationships between the staff and the young. They must be orderly and disciplined. A good school must be a learning community in which young people are cared for as individuals and feel confident, and in which they can grow and flourish. It takes time and imagination to create such a community, but this is what we should be aiming at.

Such a school is easily recognised. In any neighbourhood most parents who are concerned about the education of their children have a shrewd idea about which schools are good and which are bad and where they would prefer to send their children.

So far I have been talking about schools in the maintained sector. But there are good schools and bad in other sectors, too—the voluntary-aided, the direct grant and the wholly independent.

Schools are living communities. They do not remain static. Today they are having constantly to adjust their attitudes and teaching to the rapidly changing conditions of the technological age, to the changing attitudes of parents and their young, and the changing attitudes of the teaching profession.

In this uncertain field it is right to experiment, but we must expect some of the new ideas, however fashionable at the outset, to produce problems when put into action. Some local education authorities are experimenting with middle schools and some with six form colleges. Both these initiatives, as I hope the Secretary of State will allow, may affect the structure of the secondary comprehensives. There are new ventures also in the fields of further and higher education. And, at the other end of the scale, there are exciting educational discoveries in nursery schools and play groups. But these are experiments and we must allow time in which to judge both their contributions to our educational system and their claims on our limited educational resources. We do not know enough yet to justify imposing any of these new patterns uniformly throughout the country.

Here I come to the nub of my argument. Experience over the past few years has shown that the comprehensive school, too, is still experimental and should not be imposed upon us as the best or only answer. Some of them are good and some of them are bad—I hope that the Secretary of State will allow this, too—and there are many between the two extremes. But they have produced their own serious problems—for example, the idea of the right size for the all-through comprehensive is having to be revised. It has proved extremely difficult in schools of 2,000 or more to build a community in which the individual can receive proper care and a sense of security and belonging as a basis for making the best of his or her talents. If the size of such comprehensives should be halved—as ILEA now seems to think—their structure also may have to be changed.

Surely, what we now need is a calm and thorough assessment of what is good and what is bad in the existing patterns of comprehensive schools, and of how best to deal with those that are now recognised as being far too big. In the meantime, when there is so much doubt about the best patterns—and we shall always need variety and experiments—and when there are far too many bad schools and far too many desperately worried parents, I believe that it is wrong—it is educationally wrong—to destroy or change the nature of any good school anywhere. Equally, I believe that parental choice—a basic right that is being unduly restricted—should be made as wide as practicable and that it should be encouraged to play a more influential part in deciding which patterns are best suited to our needs. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) has described some of the choices which he believes should be open and should be expanded.

It is, I know, fashionable to assert that selective schools cannot usefully coexist with comprehensive schools, but this is not borne out by the facts. There are good examples of happy coexistence in London and in other cities, for example. Bristol and Norwich—

Mr. Skeet

And Bedford.

Sir G. Sinclair

There are many other protagonists of happy coexistence.

It would, I believe, be particularly damaging to our national stock of good schools if the Government were to develop their current pressure against the direct grant schools—

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Does the hon. Gentleman mean by coexistence that where there is a group of grammar schools and a group of comprehensives, and where in those grammar schools the top 20 per cent. of the children have regularly been creamed off, that is coexistence? I cannot accept that at all.

Sir G. Sinclair

The hon. Gentleman may not accept that, but I invite him to visit some of those areas which I have mentioned and see what the facts are on the ground.

Sir John Hall (Wycombe)

Would my hon. Friend not agree from his own personal experience that anyone who wishes to see first-class examples of diversity of education could be no better than visit Buckinghamshire?

Sir G. Sinclair

I have not ranged as widely as I would have liked to through Buckinghamshire.

If I may go on to make my own point, it would be particularly damaging to our national stock of good schools if the Government were to develop their current pressure against the direct grant schools and force them to become either entirely independent or comprehensive. I declare an interest as chairman of one direct grant school. They have earned their high reputation in our education system. It is a reputation for hard work, good academic standards and good conduct. They draw their pupils from the widest possible range of income groups, and they are good communities.

The headmaster of a direct grant school in Bristol, Queen Elizabeth's Hospital, has analysed the family occupations of parents of boys entering his school in the 15 years from 1954 to 1969 and compared them with the 1966 General Register of Occupations. His findings show that school percentages compared with national ones were as follows: Class I, professional—school 11 per cent., national 71 per cent.; Class II, intermediate—school 24, national 15; Class III, skilled—school 53, national 46; Class IV, partly skilled—school 7, national 25; Class V, unskilled—school 5, national 7. In other words, the zone that goes from bus drivers and clerks downwards—that is, Classes III to V—accounts for 65 per cent. of the parental occupations of the parents of the boys who have entered that school. That is a pretty wide social register.

Mr. Christopher Price


Sir G. Sinclair

I do not want to give way again because there are other speakers.

Mr. Christopher Price

On this point—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

Order. May I remind the House that this is a shortened debate and that interruptions will stop some hon. Members from getting in?

Sir G. Sinclair

Thank you, Sir.

The direct grants schools are among the academic pace-setters but they also produce balanced communities in which the young can both learn and develop as individuals. They should not be threatened or harassed. On the contrary, they should be given the opportunity, while keeping their essential standards, to serve able young people even more widely. They should be helped to continue their adjustment to our changing needs and to our constant need to bring on the best brains. Our need for good schools is so great and so urgent that the direct grant system should be expanded and some of the voluntary-aided schools should be encouraged to seek transfer to this sector.

I urge the Secretary of State to accept the motion and then to pursue three parallel courses—to carry out a thorough review of the comprehensive system, to encourage all existing good schools of whatever kind and to provide the widest possible range of choice to parents, both in the maintained and in the other sectors of education.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I appeal to hon. Members to make short speeches so that others may get in.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Guy Barnett (Greenwich)

It is a pleasure for me to follow the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) because, like him, I sit on the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration and together we have visited a large number of excellent schools to study the problems which concern the Committee. I can bear out the hon. Gentleman's evidence that every school we visited was a school that we could only admire.

I was interested that the hon. Gentleman, while rightly referring to the number of good schools that he had seen and knew at first hand, did not speak of the bad schools. It is easy for us here or people outside to talk about bad schools without really understanding the situation or the conditions of those schools. So-called "bad" schools in my constituency have been drawn to my attention. When I have investigated them, I have come away with the clear impression that each one had been slandered over the years. We do a great deal of damage if we speak in this way of certain schools.

A situation with which many London Members will have been concerned over the last few weeks is the problems which arise annually over secondary transfer. Again and again I hear of "popular" and "unpopular" schools. Invariably, I find that public opinion is wrong. It judges the look of the building or the area and does not spring from first-hand knowledge of the school or the quality of its teachers. So I hope that we shall cease talking of "good" and "bad" schools and recognise that certainly some schools have problems, especially in London and other great cities.

To suggest, as the Opposition motion does, that the cause is a move towards comprehensive education is, as the Secretary of State has already said, unjust, untrue and misleading. All of us, if we have any knowledge of education at all, should be aware of the reasons for many of the problems.

One undoubtedly is the considerable staff turnover. I was glad that the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) referred to that factor, although I wish that he had spent a little more time on the problem. My right hon. Friend has already taken a couple of practical steps, as he said, to deal with that situation. I hope that I am right in believing that the £10 million which will be made available for the deprived areas will be used to encourage teachers to stop in those schools and not move on.

My experience of teaching in a comprehensive school suggests that the troubles arise largely as a consequence of a constant turnover of teachers and the degree to which those schools depend on supply staff. Everything that my right hon. Friend can do to deal with that problem is much more relevant than the Opposition motion. We heard from the hon. Members for Chelmsford and Dorking the usual arguments—

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of teacher turnover, which is very worrying, would he not agree that one of the greatest problems is lack of accommodation for teachers in the city centres, in places like Bethnal Green, where single teachers find it impossible to rent council flats? Is this not one of the biggest causes of anxiety?

Mr. Barnett

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is right. I could say a great deal about the matter, but I hope that he will understand if I do not pursue it. He is right to draw attention to it.

I said that the school at which I taught was a comprehensive school. The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend had referred to direct grant schools. I also taught in a direct grant school for a number of years. I suppose that the hon. Gentleman would describe it as a very good direct grant school. It had one of the best reputations in the country. Yet at the end of that period I was convinced that direct grant schools should not continue to exist.

The first reason is that almost invariably the big direct grant schools select a very small proportion of some of the appar- ently abler children in a wide area at the age of 11. They cream off the top, as it were, in a certain area. One of the interesting discoveries I made was that there was almost as big a problem with the children who had passed the 11-plus, and gone into a direct grant school and failed there, as there was over the children who had gone to a secondary modern school on failing the 11-plus, and had missed opportunities which they should have had because their intelligence and standards developed subsequently.

It so happens that I was form master of the lowest stream in a direct grant grammar school. I was always worried about what the school was doing to those boys because, as the hon. Member for Chelmsford made clear, even within a direct grant school there must be a tight selection system to achieve the results that such a school achieves in terms of open awards at Oxford and Cambridge, which is what many of them are anxious to do. I have heard it said of one direct grant school—obviously, I do not want to mention its name—that it creams off boys or girls as soon as they enter and forces them right the way through to Oxford open standard. I believe that that is done at the expense of other children in the school, that the whole ethos of the school is turned towards academic standards, regardless of whether many of the children are academically inclined.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)


Mr. Barnett

This is a very short debate, so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not mind if I do not give way.

I believe that positive damage is often done to non-academic children who find their way into direct grant schools. That damage is done because of the ethos of the school and because, being an academic institution, the school cannot cater for the child with practical or technical interests. Therefore, the tripartite, or bipartite system of education has the effect, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out, of limiting choice and often putting children in situations that are wrong for them, because the 11-plus is so often unsatisfactory from that point of view.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way very briefly? It should not be forgotten that perhaps it is the Burnham salary structure that works against a more flexible system within the present selective system set up under the 1944 Education Act.

Mr. Barnett

I hope that the hon. Gentleman has a chance to develop that point, because I do not understand it.

I referred earlier to the problem of maintaining teachers in schools, and particularly to the importance of doing so in the deprived areas, because it is only where there is a stable staff that the beginnings of the development of a good school are likely to take place. Reference has already been made in the debate to the general state of morale in the teaching profession, and to the way in which teachers' salary levels have fallen compared with those of other sections of the community.

We are already affected in London by a number of strikes as a consequence of the Pay Board's report. I want to put a question, the answer to which I hope will go some way towards reassuring those teachers now on strike. As I understand the situation, the report was made to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, who has regarded it as an interesting document and one that is no doubt useful to those public service unions which will be conducting negotiations, but that it in no sense states Government policy on the amount of money that will be available to public services in London, nor does it necessarily describe the way in which that money should be split up. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment said on 1st July: The Government have said that the matter is now for negotiation. We will not for many more weeks be governed by the statutory system, and that will assist the situation. I believe that the report can be used as a valuable guide for settling the matter, taking into account that the sums proposed are to be fair to London and to the rest of the country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st July 1974; Vol. 876, c. 34.] I believe that the Government, if I understand their position correctly, are right to see this question of the London allowance as one for negotiation. As to the size of that allowance, the sky is the limit, in that it is a matter for the unions to decide what should be the differential between those public servants who work in London and those members of the same trade union who do not. I hope that that is correct.

If I am right, I believe that there is no reason for teachers in London to be going on strike now. I very much hope that as a consequence of the negotiations, and of the work of the Houghton Committee, we shall revalue our teachers and take steps to encourage them and give them a proper career structure within one school, rather than encourage them to move from school to school in furtherance of their careers as we have done in the past.

Only with a stable teaching force, and by trying to maintain teachers in a single school, can we hope to deal with the problems in some of our schools.

5.28 p.m.

Mr. Christopher Chataway (Chichester)

I am glad that the debate has afforded the opportunity to discuss, among other things, the concern about the problems faced by a minority of schools this year, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) spoke. I do not think that many hon. Members will be in any doubt about the scale of the problems in some of those schools. I had occasion to talk the other day to an able young man who has the task of teaching the bottom stream at a London secondary school in an area of great difficulty. There is no doubt that he and others like him have a tremendous struggle, sometimes even a physical struggle, to maintain any semblance of order.

I know that that is not the general picture. I know very well that our attention is necessarily focused by the media upon the areas of difficulty. But we must examine the way in which the raising of the school leaving age is working out in practice. I should regard it as a counsel of despair to think that we have to return to a leaving age of 15. I do not believe that there is something inherently inferior about the British which means that we can encourage large numbers of youngsters to leave at 15 while the Belgians, the French, the Germans—in fact, most other civilised countries—recognise that there is a need for a higher standard of education for a higher proportion of the population.

None the less, it has been urged upon me by my friends in the Inner London education service and in my own very different area of West Sussex that there is little point in requiring all youngsters to stay on to the end of the summer term after examinations have been passed. I have reservations about the whole idea of two leaving dates—namely, Easter and summer. It is a concept that poses problems. I hope that the Secretary of State and his hon. Friends will consider carefully the argument that is being put to them from a number of quarters, including the headmasters of West Sussex schools, that there should either be one leaving date at the end of Easter and no compulsion beyond Easter or, better still, in my view, that there should be no compulsion beyond the end of May, so that those who had taken their CSEs would then be enabled to leave.

There is no doubt that there is a problem in the last month of the summer term. Many youngsters see no point in staying, and their eyes are entirely fixed on the outside world. Having said that. I was delighted that in neither of the Front Bench speeches was there a suggestion that we should, faced with the present difficulties, simply retreat to 15

Mr. Skeet


Mr. Chataway

Let me finish this point. Many of the difficulties that we now face were faced in exactly the same way in 1947. I am sure that many hon. Members who have spoken to older people in the education service will have heard that exactly the same problems of truancy and ill-discipline were faced in that year when the school leaving age was raised from 14 to 15 years. There is now less opportunity for local educational authorities successfully to prosecute in cases of persistent truancy. There have been changes in the law, and since the matter has been put in the hands of the social services undoubtedly there is a changed approach. That is a matter that we should consider.

As the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State said, we now have a society in which there is much less respect for authority and for law and order. Therefore, the schools face a more difficult task. I ask the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud), the Liberal spokesman on education, to look at some of the litera- ture that is put out by Young Liberals and circulated round the schools.

Mr. Skeet


Mr. Chataway

I have an example here. It reads: Do you resent the decisions and punishments imposed upon you—reject the authoritarian structure of your school? … We want to end privilege and authoritarian control in schools—the prefectorial system …". I do not exaggerate the importance of that, but I believe that there is a duty for the House to help teachers in hard-pressed schools who need public support and backing if they are to maintain the framework in which orderly education can take place.

Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)

I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to a similar leaflet which has been circulating in schools in my constituency which scarcely helps teachers in their task. The Young Liberals say: We want to see all decisions affecting the internal running of the school decided democratically by a Joint Schools Council of students, teaching staff and domestic staff.

Mr. Chataway

That would not seem to me to be an ideal way in which to organise a school.

I now turn to the questions of choice, selection and secondary reorganisation, which have dominated this debate as they dominated so many of the debates in which I have taken part in the past 10 years or so. I am in favour of comprehensive schools. I am opposed to the 11-plus. That is a view to which I have not come lightly. I have felt the full force of the argument on both sides. My emotions have, over 15 years, been engaged on behalf of the various conflicting interests. I have had the experience of going round good grammar schools and meeting their staffs. They know that they are doing a first-class job for the children that they teach. They naturally fear for the changes that may be made.

I spoke to groups of parents when I had responsibility for the Inner London Education Authority. I have spoken to large groups of sometimes anxious and sometimes angry parents, who have rightly feared that during the process of transition there would not be much benefit for their children. I have represented Chichester for some years. West Sussex is, I suppose, what the Secretary of State would call a backwoods Conservative area. The right hon. Gentleman made a rough division between the two types of Conservative area. In the last 15 years my local authority has not often had the misfortune of any significant representation from parties other than the Conservative Party. It has pursued consistently a steady policy of secondary reorganisation and except in one area we are totally comprehensive. I do not pretend that changes have been made entirely without transitional difficulty, but I am certain that if there were any suggestion of reintroducing a bipartisan system in West Sussex there would be furious opposition.

The experience to which I have referred, and my experience of seeing many comprehensive schools over the years, has convinced me that if reorganisation is carried out properly and is not rushed for political ends, it can ensure that we have comprehensive schools which are able to do justice to the full range of ability. One of the troubles, and one of the reasons for argument within the House on this subject, is that there tends to be a good deal more party political interest in this forum than in some other forums—

Mr. St. John-Stevas


Mr. Chataway

—or fora. I must confess that I am not a product of the kind of school of which at the moment I am speaking well. One of the troubles is the unrealistic and extravagantly elagitarian claims that are made for comprehensive schools. In the first paragraph of the circular we are told: The Government have made known their intention of developing a fully comprehensive system of secondary education and of ending selection at eleven-plus or at any other age. Can the Government be serious? Do they think that it is within the capacity of any Secretary of State to end selection in education? We live in a society which is bound to be served by our schools. Does anyone think that we are moving towards a society in which there will be no selection—a society in which the Chairman of the British Steel Corporation will have equal status and standing with any of the corporation's cleaners, where people will not mind whether they are Prime Minister or party constituency workers? Of course not. We shall always have a society in which there will be selection

It is odd that in this House—where we all spend a great deal of our time assessing and reassessing the ability of individuals—almost more than anywhere else, personal ambition and competition for advancement are often responsible for getting things done. It is odd that in such a place people can talk as if the education system can abolish selection. It cannot.

The argument is not whether there shall be selection; it is about when, where and how. First, when? For those with disabilities I hope that selection will be as early as possible. It is vitally important that many of the disabilities should be identified early and that the child be given special care in a special school. For those with a particular genius—for example, a genius for music, ballet or, perhaps, mathematics—there may be an argument for early selection. There may be a necessity for a special institution as the kind of teaching that is required is so specialised. But for most, the age of 11 is, I am sure, far too early.

How should there be selection? Not, I think, between two different types of school. After all, human beings come in a greater variety than that. If they came in two different types, the bi-partite system would be admirable and we would not have seen local education authorities, Conservative as well as others, moving away from it over a period.

My anxiety about the bi-partite system is not that it is selective—there will be selection, anyway—but that it is an inefficient form of selection, based on the demonstrably ridiculous proposition that there may be a value in dividing children into two classes. They come in many more categories than that.

So, selection should generally be in the school to the extent to which it is self-sufficient. There are important questions, to which we should give more time, about streaming, for example—that is to say, segregating not a totality of ability within the school but setting the dividing process according to ability in a particular subject.

I am convinced that it takes a teacher of far more than average ability to teach a mixed ability class. I have a child with experience of mixed ability teaching, and I know that it can be done well. It has been done well in independent schools and primary schools for a very long time. There is nothing new about it, but it demands more of the teacher, and I believe that there is a danger in some of our secondary schools that those teachers with no more than a commitment to a progressive idea may be forced into taking mixed ability groups when they are not really prepared for it. So, selection within schools seems to me to be far more important a subject than selection between schools.

The same goes for choice. There is no more choice under the bipartite system than under the comprehensive system—that stands to reason. I do not think that anyone would argue about that. If there is simply a secondary modern school and a grammar school serving one area, no one in his right senses whose child has passed the 11-plus will choose the secondary modern school, while no one whose child has failed the 11-plus will be able to choose the grammar school. There is no choice in those circumstances.

More difficult is the concept of coexistence. I do not care at all for the revengeful spirit which seems to go after the grammar school just for the sake of abolishing it. If, in an area, as we have been told, only 1 per cent. of the children go to a grammar school, that is not inhibiting the existence of the comprehensive schools. Clearly, we should not work for uniformity, but we must he motivated by the spirit of wanting to create something rather than destroy it. As parents have to make their choice, so do we. We cannot pretend that we can have a grammar school which takes 20 per cent. or 25 per cent. of the children locally and also a comprehensive school. We can put a comprehensive label on the other school if we want to, but it is still really a secondary modern school.

The majority of parents naturally will not take a risk with their child who is bright; they will put him in with the rest who are bright. There are choices to be made, and all of us reckon that we have to face them. Let us keep as much as we can of choice within and choice between schools.

When I was Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, I had the task, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) no doubt did, of dealing with appeals under Section 76 of the 1944 Act. One tried all the time to help any parents one could. One's inclination was to try to find a way, but if the school to which parents wanted their child to go was full, there was little one could do. In many areas, such as rural areas, there is little choice anyway.

Choice by parents is often taken on very imperfect knowledge. I have been particularly struck by the fact that in the independent school sector parents do not seem to devote the same kind of appraisal of alternatives to the choice of school as they do to their choice of car. In deciding upon a car for the family, they go into great detail about performance. Yet, in choosing a school, they are apt to do it on the basis of a visit, or just because they were there themselves.

Nevertheless, far more important is the succession of choices which the child has to make within the school. I hope that our attention will increasingly be focused on this very important area. In some schools, the extent to which parents are brought into the picture and encouraged to think about and make choices is admirable; in many other schools, parents are kept at arm's length. I believe entirely that what my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford has called "parent power" is vital. All research has shown that the main determinant of a child's progress is the home, and that if we want to have the parent involved we have to give the parent some information about the important choices, and that the important parental influences are the continuing ones—the ones that are influential throughout the child's career.

I have made my criticisms of the circular issued by the Secretary of State. I do not believe that he will look back on it with much pride, or regard it as one of the great State papers. I hope that the argument will be increasingly concerned with the problems of the great majority and with the vitally important question of selection and choice within a school as well as between schools.

5.48 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

I was much interested in the remarks of the right hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Chataway). I agree with him that we need to pay attention to the choice that a child can make within the school. Of course, the more fully comprehensive a school is, the wider the range of choice a child can make. The more we have not merely selection but segregation of children at the age of 11 into different types of school, the narrower will be the range of choice within the school. I think that the right hon. Gentleman, without quite realising what he was doing, was inserting a stiletto into the back of some of his hon. Friends who have been determinedly trying to defend selection. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out that at the heart of the motion lies a desire to preserve segregation at the age of moving to secondary school, and therefore, whether hon. Members opposite like it or not, the desire to preserve the 11-plus.

A number of hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) have tried to dodge that question and the idea has been put something like this: let us have an arrangement whereby we have many different types of school, some called "grammar" schools—which, presumably, are intended to cater only for those children who are judged at the age of 11 to be the brighter children, and will provide academic courses—and some called "comprehensive" schools, which will be populated by those children who have not been able to get into the grammar schools, and perhaps a few others, which we might call "commercial" or "trade" schools. But if we have that system, the schools that one calls "comprehensive" are not comprehensive at all.

I admit, as a point of elegant argument, that if there is what the right hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Chataway) was describing—a grammar school that took 1 per cent. of the age group while the other 99 per cent. went to another school—possibly the word "comprehensive" could be used in respect of that 99 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that that is nothing like a typical picture. When there is an attempt to have this happy coexistence between grammar school and comprehensive, people try to put in the grammar schools between 20 per cent. and 30 per cent.—one of the criticisms of the system is that the percentage varies widely and illogically from one area to another—while the rest are put into what is called a "comprehensive" which, by its nature, cannot be comprehensive.

It is important to notice that that is done on the basis of some sort of selection procedure at the age of 10½—what is popularly known as the 11-plus. However much the method of selection is refined by the introduction of, heaven help us, psychiatric tests and the rest of it, what is being done is that a decision is being made when the child is aged 10½ which will affect the kind of school he enters.

It is not selection; it is segregation into different types of schools intended for different purposes. It is done on the basis of some sort of test. It is wrong to say that it is done on the basis of parents' choice. Where, in any of these systems that we have had described—where there are grammar schools and so-called comprehensives peacefully coexisting—is there a rule that any parent can have his or her child go to a grammar school simply by saying, "I want my child to go there"?

It is not parents' choice; it is segregation by the 11-plus—by an educational method the fallibility and stupidity of which has been increasingly demonstrated over the years. We ought to give all parents as much say in the way in which their children should be educated as is possible, consistent with the problems of running a system of education.

If a parent says, "I believe my child's abilities are such that I want him to go to a secondary school in which academic courses of instruction will be provided," that is a reasonable enough request. If the parent goes on to say, "and what is more, I insist that in that school there shall be no other kinds of courses of instruction and no other kinds of children who are not academically gifted like my child," the parent is claiming control, not only over his own child's education but over the education of other people's children. That is what we reject, and that is what follows inevitably from the whole concept of the continued existence of what is called the grammar school.

I say, "what is called" for this reason: if we mean by a grammar school one that provides what I call, for lack of a better term, academic courses of instruction, well and good. No one objects to the existence of such schools. If, however, we mean one that provides those courses of instruction and only those, and that as a result an irrevocable choice must be made for the child, I say that that kind of school is a damage to educational progress.

I do not believe that the defenders of segregation have seriously considered the profound educational arguments against the continuation of the 11-plus. To put it in popular terms, the continuation of the 11-plus is what this motion asks for. Disguise it and cover it up under any form of words, but that is what it comes to. What we understand by parents' choice is as much choice as is possible for every parent, consistent with the problems of having a system of education at all. What the Conservatives want, what they understand by parents' choice, is almost 100 per cent. choice for a few parents while the other parents have to take what is left.

Mr. Skeet

The right hon. Gentleman must be wrong. If his party intends to phase out the public school system and the direct grant school it will completely eliminate parental choice. I recognise that there may be a diminished choice, but the point is that the Government's recommendation would completely eliminate any choice.

Mr. Stewart

No. I advise the hon. Member to study the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Chichester. It is inside the school that the important choices are made. It is the more comprehensive school that gives the wider range of choice. The hon. Gentleman's championing of the direct grant and public schools supports exactly what I said—a freedom of choice open only to a very small group of parents. It is that for which Conservatives are prepared to fight, irrespective of what happens to the great majority outside. Their concept of freedom of choice is freedom of choice almost 100 per cent. to the few while the others take what is left. In that few there will be included all the better-off parents.

Conservative Members cannot dodge that fact. The quoted examples of children from working-class and poor homes who, in limited numbers, get to the privi- leged schools, do not alter the fact that freedom of choice for the Conservative Party means freedom of choice for the few and within that few there will always be included the better-off.

I want to develop the objections to the 11-plus. It is an inescapable result of the philosophy advanced by Conservatives. If schools are not comprehensive there must be a method of determining who goes to the grammar school and who does not. That means the 11-plus, whatever fancy name it is given. The first educational objection is that this method of selection is fallible. The chances of a child getting to a grammar school will vary, in the same area, according to the sex of the child. It will vary from one area of the country to another according to the idea of the local education authority about the percentage of children who ought to go into grammar school. It will vary from one year to another according to the number of children in the age group, which will vary from one year to another, and the fact that there are a limited number of places in the grammar schools.

The standard oscillates wildly from area to area and year to year. I hasten to say that those extreme words are not mine. They come from a report commissioned by the Conservative Teachers' Association which call be studied in the files of the periodical called, "The Conservative Teacher".

The next and, in the long run, the more serious educational objection, is that if a child is labelled at the age of 11 we are influencing the sort of child he will become. Consider the child who does not appear at the age of 11 to be what is commonly called a high-flier but who is friendly, prepared to work hard, and is reasonably able. Put him in a school which everyone knows is a school intended for the less bright, which does not normally lead to further or higher education, and the probability is that his abilities will be stunted and directed away and he will leave that school as soon as he can. Then the people who have produced that result will say, "There you are, he is an early leaver. How right we were not to put him into the grammar school."

Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

Surely, with his great experience of life as well as of education, the right hon. Gentleman must know that the great thing about life is that those who stay on at school do not necessarily succeed in life. Just think of business. Some of the best business men left school at the age of 14 and worked with a barrow.

Mr. Stewart

Some people have achieved an outstanding position in life without being able to read, but we do not on that account recommend illiteracy. What the hon. Gentleman suggests can happen, but that is not the kind of consideration on which one can base an educational policy. In the highly complex world in which we live people need longer schooling, as everyone who can pay for it knows perfectly well. The doctrine that school is not so important is never followed by the well-off.

The objections to segregation by the 11-plus are these: first, it is highly fallible; secondly, it involves discouragement and waste of talent; thirdly, it has a distorting effect on primary education. As long as there is something in the nature of the 11-plus it will always mean heartache for the head teacher of the primary school. He, or more usually she, wants to give an education to all the children so that they develop their talents to the full, but she knows that in the neighbourhood the question which parents are asking, if they have a choice is: which primary school has the best record for the 11-plus?

The hon. Member for Chelmsford expressed concern for the teaching of literacy and mathematics in primary schools. We want to liberate the primary school from a system which constantly tempts it to take a great deal of trouble with the few and not to apply itself to the education of all children so that they can develop all their talents.

It is hardly necessary to bash the 11-plus further. I quote to the House the following sentence: There is nothing to be said in favour of a system which submits children at the age of 11 to a competitive examination on which not only their future schooling but their future careers may depend. The source of that quotation is a Government White Paper which was published in 1943. Yet still the Conservative Party is trying, by the back door, to keep in existence this method of segregation. It is not only educationally undesirable; it is profoundly undesirable socially.

We hear a lot about the need for a united nation. People are engaged in many different types of work, some with the hands, some with the brain. Most people have to work with both, but work varies enormously according to the emphasis on hands or brain. It is desirable that those many types of people, who all contribute to the prosperity of our country, should have a better understanding of each other. We shall not get if the central feature of our educational system encourages young people, at an early age, to concentrate rather on the differences of gift and ability that divide us than on the common humanity that should unite us.

What we are up against is spelled out in letters that one gets from people who are in favour of the grammar school in its present narrow form and against comprehensive education, and that is the desperate desire of, I hope, a small group of parents to make sure that their children are doing better than somebody else's. Professor Tawney said: For some people it is not enough that their own child should get a good education. What they really desire is that some other child should get a worse. It is to that doctrine that the hon. Member for Chelmsford has become a recruit. That is why he is sitting there and why the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) is not.

6.4 p.m.

Mr. Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemptown)

I do not speak with the professional knowledge possessed by some hon. Members, but I have for some years served as a school governor in areas varying from North Kensington to my constituency of Brighton. I declare an interest, in that I have a son and a daughter who are at present in grammar schools in the Brighton area.

I hope that the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) will forgive me if I do not comment in detail on what he said, but I must, with great respect to him, reject totally his last comment. No more than a tiny fraction of parents are so vicious and obsessed with their own children that they desire them to have a good education at the expense of someone else's children. All parents naturally wish to give their children the best possible education that is available to them. That last comment was a most unfortunate one, which spoiled the fair and reasoned speech which the right hon. Gentleman made.

I want briefly to try to reflect one or two opinions that have been put to me by a strong body of educationists in my area in relation to the problems arising from the raising of the school leaving age. During the last month I have had letters from six headmasters in the area, and from a large number of teachers in Brighton. I shall read one paragraph from a letter I received from the headmaster of one of the best-known secondary modern schools in the Brighton area—a letter that pinpoints some of the arguments I wish to raise. He says: It is my hope that there will be a comprehensive review of the impact of ROSLA on secondary education in the nation as a whole and more especially in those areas where the staffing situation is critical. There appears to be ample evidence that a large number of teachers have become so disenchanted with the prospect of working under the present unfavourable conditions, when little real educational progress can be made, that they are leaving the profession for other occupations. For the same reason I suspect that many potential teachers will be deterred from taking up appointments in secondary schools. It is no exaggeration to say that most young adults have a keen sense of justice. The Secretary of State referred to the decline in respect for the law. The headmaster of another well-known secondary school in Brighton used these words in a letter to me: For many such pupils the period between the end of public examinations in June and the official end of term will be a demoralising period of unconstructive idleness. Schools have not the staff or resources to provide usefully for this resentful group of young people who sec no useful purpose in attendance. Those are not just the views of the headmasters of those two schools; I spoke to both of them today and asked them to give me an assurance that the views expressed in those letters represent the views of the vast majority of their staff, and they have done so without qualification.

I refer to what the Secretary of State said about the decline in respect for the law. If young adults who are staying at school for a fifth year leave school with a burning sense of injustice at the stupidity of the law we shall, in the long term, pile up trouble for ourselves, because it will take many years to eradicate that feeling.

We should be considering carefully the school leaving age. I do not say that we should go back to 15 but the view I shall put forward has the support of a large number of educationists in my area and, I believe—although I cannot quote chapter and verse—in many other parts of the country. There must be a strong case for up to about 10 per cent.—no more—not staying on for that final year. It would be to their benefit, to the benefit of the school, and to the benefit of the education system.

Mr. Skeet

The Labour Government of New Zealand have decided to put the school leaving age back to 15. Would it not be wiser to consider this proposal, or, as my hon. Friend indicated, to have a less rigid system so as to avoid some of the difficulties experienced by teachers?

Mr. Bowden

This was the point I was hoping to develop. What I believe should happen, again reflecting the view of educationists, for I am not a professional educationist, is that in the case of this 10 per cent. we should have a system—I leave it to the Secretary of State to think about this—whereby in individual cases within that 10 per cent., where the parents, the pupil and the headmaster wished it and the local education authority supported it, the individual should be able to leave before he had technically reached or passed his sixteenth birthday.

At the risk of boring the House I will quote from one further letter, again from the headmaster of a well-known secondary school in my own area of which I was for some time a governor: I believe the basic injustice which causes the problem is that the right to leave depends upon age and this is arbitrarily fixed.… I do not believe that there would be a problem if, for instance, all pupils had the right to leave school at the end of the Easter term; and that those who stayed on for examinations could leave on June 1st if they wished. I had given to me today the staggering fact that in at least one school in Brighton the truancy rate in the fifth year is running at nearly 60 per cent.

Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)


Mr. Bowden

It is a fact. It is no good the hon. Gentleman saying "Nonsense".

Mr. Marks


Mr. Bowden

I would like to give way but I have given a pledge to make a 'very short speech. It is a fact that in a school in Brighton the truancy rate in the fifth year is running at almost 60 per cent.

Mr. Marks

Name the school.

Mr. Bowden

I will. It is the White hawk Secondary School in Brighton.

Mr. Marks

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that at this school, which has only 40 per cent. of its pupils on the register in attendance, all those who are away are truants?

Mr. Bowden

I will quote the exact words of the headmaster to whom I spoke on the telephone this morning. He said the average attendance is 41 per cent. What I do know, and what I am quite sure is correct, is that in many cases the authorities are turning a blind eye to truancy of this kind. This must be doing great damage not just to the school but, more important, to those young adults who know they are flouting the law in this way and find themselves in this impossible position. Surely the time has come for the Secretary of State to have the courage to admit that we need changes before next year. I am quite certain the Minister has had many representations on this. I ask him to rethink this matter before it is too late. Changes are needed. I would ask him to think about this and consider the position before we have reached a terrible position next year.

6.14 p.m.

Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

My party's opposition to the Conservative motion is not because the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) managed in one sentence to woo and insult the Liberal Party, adding as an afterthought that he did not understand its amendment, nor because the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Chataway), in what I thought an excellent and sympathetic speech, read a piece of Young Liberal policy out of context—had he read the whole speech it would not have been out of context—but because the motion does absolutely nothing to help education.

Educationists are bored, and rightly bored, with politicians. Teachers, parents and pupils are sick of having their achievements claimed as a statistic in favour of one or other party. I suggest it is very doubtful whether any pupil in any school will feel that the realisation of his educational potential has received a great boost as a result of our deliberations this afternoon.

The Liberal Party will support the Government in the Lobby tonight because we welcome, and have long campaigned for, the abolition of selection as the determining factor in secondary education. We had grave doubts about Circular 10/70, and in general terms we welcome Circular 4/74, if not wholeheartedly certainly as the lesser of two evils. We would like to see an orderly and peaceful transition to comprehensive education in our secondary schools, but to date nothing the Secretary of State has said would have us believe it will be in any other way.

The Secretary of State mentioned the voucher system, which is something that my party and I have always passionately believed in. He said it will cause the country to subsidise private education. I would plead for a little honesty, like admitting the very great subsidies received by local education authorities from parents of children in the private sector, parents who send three, four or even five children into the private sector and pay rates at home and at their office, 50 per cent. of which goes to the local education authority. When I say I deplore the dishonesty of that I must also say I was not keen on the smug and self-righteous assertion of the hon. Member for Chelmsford who said he would look into possible amendments on the subject of raising the school leaving age. Yesterday afternoon he had every chance of voting on a Private Member's Bill under the Ten-Minute Rule but he sat noisily abstaining.

An Hon. Member

It could not have become law, anyway.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It was my speech that did it.

Mr. Freud

The hon. Member for Chelmsford says "It was my speech that did it". I assure the House that there was nothing in the hon. Member's speech, unlike that of his right hon. Friend the Member for Chichester, which would have caused me to say to my colleagues "Let us support the Opposition and not the Government."

Several hon. Members


Mr. Freud

No, I will not give way, because I promised to be very short, and I am grateful to have been called.

My party thinks it is only right that all sides of the House should strive jointly to achieve the object of our amendment—that the new comprehensive schools should be limited in size, that we as a nation should put politics to one side, and that we as a House should get together to help teachers in order to get for them not only more money and better living conditions but greater esteem in the public eye.

6.18 p.m.

Mr. Arnold Shaw (Ilford, South)

I am more than glad to follow the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud). We on our side will gladly accept the defeat of the Government of national unity on this particular occasion, though it might come hard to members of the Opposition. Beyond that I cannot find very much in the hon. Member's speech that I can follow, so I will confine my remarks to the motion and to the amendment put forward by my right hon. and hon. Friends.

The noteworthy fact about this debate which comes to mind almost immediately is that, given the tremendous interest in education that has been expressed by the members of the Opposition, they can afford to give us just one half day in the House. I know that certainly large numbers of my hon. Friends are only too anxious to enter into this debate. Unfortunately, because of the time factor, they are unable to do so.

The Opposition's motion falls into some generalities in urging certain courses of action on the Government. It comments upon the … widespread disquiet amongst parents about the standards of conduct and learning in certain schools …".

Mr. Anthony Steen (Liverpool, Wavertree)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Shaw

In a moment. I have not started yet.

Having read the Opposition motion, one might ask "which schools?" At no time has any Conservative speaker picked out a particular school—except for the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemp-town (Mr. Bowden), who, when pressed, mentioned a school in his area, with a truancy rate of about 60 per cent.—a figure which I personally find very difficult to believe. However, I will take the hon. Gentleman's word for it and the word of that headmaster.

Mr. Bowden

I was referring to last year.

Mr. Shaw

When the motion talks about parental disquiet, it surely must be agreed that parents have always been disquieted about the education of their children. This disquiet has not been felt only in the last four months. I have experienced disquiet expressed by parents and I have been teaching for a long time. Parents have come to see me and have said that they have been unhappy about the sort of education their children were receiving in a particular school. They have not necessarily criticised me, but they have been disquieted. This is quite natural, and I repeat that this condition has not arisen within the last four months.

Because of the "disquiet" expressed by the Opposition, the Government are urged to take a completely different course. The Opposition motion calls for the withdrawal of Circular 4/74, which seeks a reorganisation on comprehensive lines, and then the motion uses the phrase … without regard to educational considerations …". I do not intend to argue the merits or demerits of the comprehensive school since that argument has been going on for years, but for Conservatives to suggest that the comprehensive school is still in an experimental state is plain daft.

Mr. Steen

Will the hon. Gentleman now give way?

Mr. Shaw

In a moment, when I have finished this part of my speech.

The Conservative attitude is daft because the comprehensive school has been with us for many years, and nearly half the secondary pupils in the country attend comprehensive schools. I should like to ask the question: at what stage will the experiment end?

Mr. Steen

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that one major problem that faces the comprehensive schools is the heavy turnover in teaching staff? Is he conscious that this is due to the size of the comprehensive schools, and does he also appreciate that it is the result of the failure of comprehensive schools to provide the right sort of teacher-child atmosphere as a place where children can grow?

Mr. Shaw

If the hon. Gentleman's Friends on the Opposition Front Bench had given their back benchers more time in the debate, the hon. Gentleman might have had a chance of coming into the debate and expressing those viewpoints. Most of the questions which he has raised I shall seek to meet in the time at my disposal—although, unfortunately, I have not very much of it.

I should like to draw attention to the education situation in the borough of Redbridge. It has been suggested that somehow or other the process of selection has been abolished—that certainly was the impression I gained from the speech of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas). But in the borough of Redbridge the selective system has been going on all the time. We have a "mixed economy" of schools. We have grammar schools, comprehensive schools and secondary modern schools, all the choice in the world, and surely that choice should delight the hearts of Conservatives.

We have a selective process as a result of which we divide our children into three groups, As, Bs and Cs. The As we shovel into grammar schools; the Bs have a choice since they may go to comprehensive schools. I should have mentioned that the As also have a choice: they can opt for the comprehensive school. [An HON. MEMBER: "How many of them do?"] We do not get many of those. Then there are those in category C, who have the choice of going into a secondary modern school—unless there happens to be a neighbourhood comprehensive in the area, in which case they are able to opt for that school. Therefore, that division exists. I emphasise that the process of selection goes on all the time and there is very little parental choice.

On the matter of parental choice, I should like to mention the advantages of the neighbourhood school, in which I have always been a great believer. I believe in the neighbourhood school because it exists in the primary sector and works very well. But, more than that, I am a firm believer that the school should be a focal point of the community. If the parents are sufficiently involved in the school, many of the ills mentioned by the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely would largely be obviated. He referred to truancy and various other ills which have been expressed during the debate. [An HON. MEMBER: "Such as?"] Well, truancy was mentioned. Vandalism has not been mentioned, but I shall mention it. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely had a long time in front of him to develop his argument. I suggest that he could have made his point at that time.

Mr. Winterton

The hon. Member respected the wishes of the Chair.

Mr. Shaw

I was saying that if the interest of parents is sufficiently sharpened in terms of their neighbourhood school the ills will disappear and the parents will become involved in the community as a whole. That community will gain considerably by the neighbourhood school, which will be the comprehensive school for the area. I hope the House will reject the Opposition motion and will support the Government amendment.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. William Shelton (Streatham)

We have had an interesting and useful debate about a subject which is of tremendous concern to all the people, and especially to all of the parents, in this country. I think this debate has come at a good time. I suppose we shall hold an election in the autumn. I hope that this debate will be widely reported and that the fundamental divide in the position between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party—between the Government and the Opposition—on education will be noted by parents.

This fundamental divide rests on two basic propositions. The first is the effect that the enforced, rushed, immediate imposition of comprehensive education will have on standards, and, secondly, the importance attached by the two parties to the views of parents, the degree of consultation that parents should be given, the involvement that the parents should have, and, above all, the choice that parents should have.

The only two speakers on the Government side to mention parents were the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett), who said that the parents were out of touch, and the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart), who made a somewhat disparaging remark about parents.

It will be interesting for parents to see which way the Liberals vote tonight. I became well aware, during the last election—at least in my constituency—of the fundamental ignorance of the electorate about Liberal policies, especially on education. Again and again my constituents thought, erroneously as it turned out, that the Liberals—talking of participation, choice, parents, communities, as they do—would resist compulsion from the centre in respect of comprehensive education. If the Liberals enter the Lobby with the Government tonight, the electorate will know differently when the next election comes. This debate has provided a useful example for the electorate at the next election.

Mr. Freud

May I point out that the Liberals have always believed in the ending of selection?

Mr. Shelton

The Liberals talk with two or three different voices.

There are two fundamental divides between the Government and the Opposition. The first is that of the forced imposition of comprehensive education because of Circular 4/74. That is nonsense, because the Secretary of State and the right hon. Member for Fulham put forward a bogus proposition. They said that either comprehensive education must be enforced, or we must be in favour of the 11-plus examination. That is equivalent to saying that one must either enforce matrimony on every one or be in favour of bachelorhood! May not people have a choice? May we not leave it to local areas? May we not leave it to parents perhaps? We believe that we should.

Let me remind the Minister, who will be concluding the debate—I am sorry the Secretary of State is not present—that there now exists a problem, recognised by most educationists, concerning all-through comprehensive schools. The difficulty is that, certainly in urban areas, in order to generate a sixth form sufficiently large to provide a range of options, one must have a 12-form entry school, which, with a bit of luck, will provide a large enough academic sixth form. But it will bring with it the problems of truancy and even of violence, as shown in the survey made by the National Association of Schoolmasters, which was mentioned in the excellent speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair), who said the schools must not be too large. We know that after building a series of enormous comprehensive schools, the ILEA consulted the parents a few months ago and was surprised when the parents said that the schools were too large and that we must have smaller schools. I believe that in 10 or 15 years' time, the monstrous 2,000-pupil all-through schools will be regarded by all of us in the House with the same aversion as that with which we regard the tower blocks we built 20 or 30 years ago.

So we have smaller comprehensive schools. We go down, perhaps to the six-form entry comprehensive school. Let me give the House an example, because it is much better to talk specifically and not in generalities. I shall not mention the name of the school, but if the Minister wishes I shall tell him afterwards. I refer to a six-form entry mixed comprehensive school in South London with a roll of 1,000 pupils, with a sixth form that includes 60 pupils for the two years, of whom 22 are studying A levels but only six of whom are studying for two or more A levels.

The Secretary of State asked for evidence of standards of education being lowered.

Mr. Guy Barnett

Does the hon. Gentleman not recognise that one of the reasons for the situation to which he has referred is that the existence of grammar schools in the same locality creams off many of the children who should be in the sixth forms of those schools?

Mr. Shelton

I shall come to that shortly.

Let me also mention another school, this time by name—Battersea Grammar School, in South London, with a roll of 600, with 150 pupils in the sixth-form, all studying for three or more A levels, with 18 or 19 options. It is the intention of the ILEA to turn Battersea Grammar School into a six-form mixed entry school. I challenge anyone to say that the academic standards will not fall as a consequence.

Before I come to the subject of the creaming-off of pupils, allow me to say a word about the raising of the school leaving age, mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Chataway), my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) and the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud). There must be general agreement in the House that it would not make educational sense to return to a school leaving age of 15. I believe that we must look for doors through the last year. If the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely asks why I did not vote with him yesterday, my answer is that in his Ten Minutes Rule Bill he included a door through to employment. I believe that any door through must lead to full-time education, perhaps to a technical college.

The creaming-off of pupils has been mentioned by several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Dorking and the right hon. Member for Chichester—and there was an interjection, putting the Government point of view, by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery).

All I can do is to give an example. I do not believe that one should deal with this problem in generalities. One must take specific cases. There is a proposal, as a result of Circular 4/74, to close the Battersea, Strand, and Tennyson three-form entry grammar schools. They feed from an area in which there are 25 comprehensive schools, with an average of eight-form entry. Some have six-form entry and some have 12-form entry, which implies roughly a 200-form entry in the area. If one takes the boys from those grammar schools and feeds them into the first-year classes of those comprehensive schools, on a mixed ability basis, the result is slightly fewer than one-and-a-half boys per class. If anyone tells me that one-and-a-half A stream boys per class will make a profound difference to a six- form or 12-form entry comprehensive school, he must try to convince me of the result!

Mr. Freud

It is the half which makes the difference.

Mr. Shelton

It is not even a half. It is less than that.

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Chichester, I cannot defend the 11-plus examination on educational grounds. But neither can I defend the large, all-through comprehensive school. Both give rise to educational problems. But to destroy the good grammar schools in order to feed the other schools is to make a certain loss for an uncertain gain.

Fortunately, at the moment a great variety of educational experiments are being conducted, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking pointed out. There is a campus system being tried in Norfolk, there are sixth form colleges, and there is a middle school being tried in Hove. But we do not know the results. They are not being monitored. We do not know what is happening.

I suggest that we ought to find out the right way to proceed. I hope that we shall not make the same mistake that we made 10 years ago, by saying that the answer is the all-through comprehensive. It may be that today the middle school will be preferred. But let us not destroy our good schools until we are sure which is the proper course to take. In 10, 20 or 30 years we may still want selection. It may be that we shall want it at the age of 13. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chichester said, we shall always have selection of some sort. Anyone who denies that cannot be living in this world.

I come finally to the rôle of parents and teachers. I read with great interest a survey conducted by the Assistant Masters' Association on the introduction of mixed ability teaching in schools. I was fascinated to see that in answer to the question, Why was mixed ability teaching introduced?", not one mention was made of parental consultation. There was scarcely any mention of parental pressure. In 24 cases it was introduced by decree of the headmaster.

We know that in theory we have consultation. We know that little attention is paid to it. We know that petitions are signed by thousands of parents and that little attention is paid to them by the Government. We know that the protest meetings of parents overflow the halls in which they are held. We know, too, that little attention is paid to them. What the Conservative Party must do is—as we have said—to acknowledge the existence of parent power. I prefer literal paternalism to State paternalism.

We must study the ways in which we can strengthen Section 76 of the 1944 Act. We must uphold parental support for good schools, whatever the schools. If parents and teachers are sufficiently determined, and are in sufficient numbers, they will have our support.

We ought to have a dramatic increase in the numbers of parents on boards of governors and of managers of schools, directly elected either by postal ballot or at annual meetings. There should also be obligatory teacher representation, with the school head automatically ex-officio. Some heads are not even invited to meetings of the boards of governors of their schools. It should also be made obligatory for headmasters to encourage and support parent associations or parent-teacher associations. We might even encourage local school committees, possibly on American lines. We are the only country in Europe which does not have them. Such bodies would be able to bridge the gap between, for example, the I.L.E.A. and boards of governors.

We believe in a charter for parents, who have a right to a voice in the education of their children. After all, without parents there would be no children to educate. Some officials and a number of Government supporters seem to have forgotten the rôle of parents in education.

The Government's attitude to education comes as no surprise. It is the same ideological mould as their attitude to industry, to commerce, to the National Health Service, to pensions, and to almost anything else one cares to mention. It shows the same antagonism to the private sector, the same dislike of competition and variety, and the same mistrust of excellence and high standards. It is no wonder that, as a result, the Government fear the voice of the parent. They fear all forms of local participation, whether in the shape of the business man, the patient, or the parent. Unlike the Government, we trust parents.

I urge the House to vote against the Government amendment.

6.45 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) on his promotion to the Opposition Front Bench. I look forward to many encounters with him, and I wish him a very long stay in that position.

Unlike the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevan), I do not want to fudge any of the issues. Education cannot be neutral. The way that we organise our education service and what we regard as being important in the education of our children is a reflection of what we believe about men and the society in which they live. That is why any talk about taking politics out of education is nonsense. What we think about the way in which our children are educated indicates our belief about society. Therefore, it coincides with our political ideology. I do not pretend for a moment not to bring to this most important subject, dealing with the greatest asset of our nation, an ideological point of view and a faith which I want to proclaim.

In a radio broadcast today, the hon. Member for Chelmsford claimed to have fathered the Opposition's motion. In his speech, he referred a great deal to parental choice, to the need to modify education policies and to the necessity for withdrawing Circular No. 4/74. In a speech which lasted less than half an hour, he devoted 17 minutes to the private sector. He allocated a disproportionate amount of time to that sector which deals with more than 90 per cent. of our children. Unlike him, I intend to deal in the main with the public sector.

We have heard arguments about rushing uniformity and comprehensive education on to every authority in the country. We have heard about parental choice, and so on. It has always been my understanding, however, that parents have a vote in local elections and General Elections, and that our local authorities have definite powers in relation to the central Government, especially in the organisation of secondary education.

The Opposition claim to give overall priority to parental wishes. However, the Conservative administration rejected proposal after proposal made by democratically-elected local authorities. To talk today about the overriding importance of parental points of view is a little hypocritical, in view of the action which was taken by the Conservative Government's Secretary of State for Education and Science.

I stand for egalitarianism in education, and I am not running away from that concept in any way. During my lifetime I have seen in the public sector those who were already privileged, those who were considered by some selection procedures to be academically gifted, favoured even more with a disproportionate share of the nation's education resources. I want to pursue a policy which will give a disproportionate share to those who are disadvantaged, who are under-privileged and who at the present are being shrugged off by some Conservative Members and by the media. The school leaving age has just been raised.

There are problems of indiscipline and truancy, and I do not ignore those problems. They are very real and are making teaching more demanding and more difficult than at any time in my lifetime. I do not suggest, however, that the answer to these problems is to thrust these children on to a competitive world and allow them to make their own way. Children who have been rejected are least able to make their way in the world, and people who glibly talk of getting them into employment and then allowing them, as the Liberal Party spokesman said yesterday and as the Conservative spokesman said today, to go back into full-time education should realise that that simply would not happen. Those who leave early rarely have any subsequent contact with the education service.

Mr. Bowden

Does the Minister not accept that it is widely held among education opinion—experience in Brighton proves it beyond doubt—that it would be of advantage to the education system and to the percentage concerned if up to 10 per cent. of those who are staying on for the fifth year did not do so?

Mr. Armstrong

I certainly do not agree, and there is no evidence to support that view. There is a good deal of opinion and media expression, but there is no evidence, and my right hon. Friend is now conducting research to get to the truth of these statements.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford knows full well that the Secretary of State has control over certain matters but that there are many matters in the education service which are the responsibility of the local authorities. Perhaps one of the main responsibilities of my right lion. Friend is the supply of teachers—I agree that the supply of good teachers is the most important contribution we can make to education. In an interesting survey conducted by The Times Educational Supplement of eight comprehensive schools in London one of the heads said that there was no problem in London comprehensive schools which could not be overcome given an adequate supply of teachers of the right quality. It was a bit much for the Opposition to berate my hon. Friend. I remind them, bearing in mind the rapid turnover of teachers, particularly in London where there are considerable problems, that their Government offered less than £20 a year—below 40p a week—on the London allowance to teachers who were working in conditions which the Opposition this afternoon have described as intolerable. At least my right hon. Friend has taken an initiative and is allocating more than £10 million to teachers working in schools where they are subject to stress and strain. That sum is debatable and negotiable through the Burnham Committee and in the independent inquiry which is now being conducted by Lord Houghton.

Much has been said in the debate about disruptive elements in our schools. I listened carefully to the hon. Members for Chelmsford and for Streatham. Frankly, they said nothing about any aspect of their policy, and there is no mention of it in the motion, which would help the most deprived and under-privileged children, children to whom I would give priority.

Measuring it by any yardstick, I regard our children as better educated than ever before. There are more O-level and A-level successes than ever before. Judged by the numbers and percentages going on to higher education, they are doing better now than at any time in our history. The ability of our youngsters to communicate, their confidence and their ability to hold their own in the world are better than ever. We are not complacent, however. Of course there are tremendous problems but we tend to look back to what we regard as the golden age, to the situation years ago when we thought that we could with accuracy and ease—those were the terms—determine a child's intelligence, and that that intelligence would remain static for the rest of the child's life. We gave what we called secondary education to about one-third of our children, and a third of those were failures in academic terms.

I still visit three-form entry secondary schools where I am given a list of the A-level and O-level successes. I always ask about the number of children who have pursued a five-year course in a secondary grammar school, a school geared to O-level and A-levels, and some of whom leave with no O-level success or with only one or two certificates. The truth is that they have been in the wrong school. They should never have been segregated in that way. When I hear Conservative Members say that these children should be transferred I know they are wrong. I have been the chairman of many governing bodies, and I know that the worst thing for a child is to be told two or three years after an 11-plus success that he has not made it and that he must go back to the secondary modern school. If that girl or boy goes back the gap widens, and instead of making progress the child will deteriorate.

Direct grant schools are the most highly selective schools in the country, and that is nothing to boast about. Only 50 per cent. of the children at them go on to higher education. When a school is highly selective and when the teachers are geared to academic success one is left to ask what happens to the other 50 per cent. I am sure that the parents of most of the entrants into the direct grant schools have their eyes on university and other forms of higher education.

May I now deal briefly with the question of the London allowance. We have had the Pay Board's report. The subject is now for negotiation in the Burnham Committee. The Government are considering the repercussions of the report, and I hope that we shall soon be able to give a satisfactory judgment.

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart)—a former Secretary of State for Education and Science—that if democracy is to work at all, especially the kind of social democracy in which I am a fervent believer, we have to create in the country mutual respect for the dignity and the personality of every individual, no matter how he may be going to earn his living and no matter what his environment and background may be. I am not suggesting for a moment that the schools can solve this problem on their own, but they have a vital contribution to make.

When there are comprehensive schools alongside selective schools, it means that comprehensive schools are not getting their share of the top ability range. Despite that and all their other difficulties, the comprehensive schools are succeeding, and that is proof of what would happen if they got the whole ability range. The comprehensive schools are widening opportunities, opening doors and enabling more and more children to realise their full potential. The greatest blot on the British education system has been the number of children who have been written off before they realised their full potential.

Therefore, far from apologising for Circular 4/74, we stand by it—not because it will bring rigidity to the education system but because it will provide the climate in which good teachers with ability can provide wider and enlarging opportunities to all our children. That is something that we stand for. If the Opposition want to make a political issue of it, we would welcome that political battle in the country. I ask the House to reject the motion and approve the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 285, Noes 271.

Division No. 64.] AYES [7.02 p.m.
Abse, Leo Archer, Peter Ashley, Jack
Allaun, Frank Armstrong, Ernest Atkins, Ronald
Atkinson, Norman Galpern, Sir Myer Mikardo, Ian
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Garrett, John (Norwich, S.) Millan, Bruce
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Miller, Dr. M. S. (E. Kilbride)
Barnett, Joel (Heywood & Royton) George, Bruce Milne, Edward
Bates, Alf Gilbert, Dr. John Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)
Baxter, William Ginsburg, David Molloy, William
Beith, A. J. Golding, John Moonman, Eric
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Gourlay, Harry Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Bennett, Andrew F. (Stockport, N.) Graham, Ted Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Bidwell, Sydney Grant, George (Morpeth) Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)
Bishop, E. S. Grant, John (Islington, C.) Moyle, Roland
Blenkinsop, Arthur Griffiths, Eddie (Sheffield, Brightside) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Booth, Albert Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Murray, Ronald King
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Newens, Stanley (Harlow)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Hamilton, William (Fife, C.) Oakes, Gordon
Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Hamling, William Ogden, Eric
Bradley, Tom Hardy, Peter O'Halloran, Michael
Broughton, Sir Alfred Harper, Joseph O'Malley, Brian
Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Orbach, Maurice
Brown, Ronald (H'kney, S. & Sh'ditch) Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Orme, Rt. Hn. Stanley
Buchan, Norman Hattersley, Roy Ovenden, John
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Springb'rn) Hatton, Frank Owen, Dr. David
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (H'gey, WoodGreen) Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Padley, Walter
Campbell, Ian Heffer, Eric S. Palmer, Arthur
Cant, R. B. Hooley, Frank Pardoe, John
Carmichael, Neil Hooson, Emlyn Park, George (Coventry, N.E.)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Horam, John Parker, John (Dagenham)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Howell, Denis (B'ham, Small Heath) Parry, Robert
Clemitson, Ivor Huckfield, Leslie Pavitt, Laurie
Cocks, Michael Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Cohen, Stanley Hughes, Mark (Durham) Perry, Ernest G
Coleman, Donald Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, North) Phipps, Dr. Colin
Colquhoun, Mrs. M. N. Hughes, Roy (Newport) Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg
Conlan, Bernard Hunter, Adam Price, Christopher (Lewisham, W.)
Cook, Robert F. (Edinburgh, C.) Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (L'p'I, EdgeHI) Price, William (Rugby)
Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, Maryhill) Irving, Rt. Hn. Sydney (Dartford) Radice, Giles
Crawshaw, Richard Jackson, Colin Richardson, Miss Jo
Cronin, John Janner, Greville Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Roderick, Caerwyn E.
Cryer, G. R. Jeger, Mrs. Lena Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Cunningham, G.(Isl'ngt'n, S & F'sb'ry) Jenkins, Hugh (W'worth, Putney) Rodgers, William (Teesside, St'ckton)
Cunningham, Dr. John A. (Whiteh'v'n) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (B'ham, St'fd) Rooker, J. W.
Dalyell, Tarn John, Brynmor Roper, John
Davidson, Arthur Johnson, James (K'ston upon Hull, W) Rose, Paul B.
Davies, Bryan (Enfield, N.) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Rowlands, Edward
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Judd, Frank Sandelson, Neville
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Kaufman, Gerald Sedgemore, Bryan
Deakins, Eric Kelley, Richard Selby, Harry
Dean, Joseph (Leeds, W.) Kilroy-Silk, Robert Shaw, Arnold (Redbridge, Ilford, S.)
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Lambie, David Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Delargy, Hugh Lamborn, Harry Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter(S'pney & P'plar)
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Lamond, James Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'ctle-u-Tyne)
Dempsey, James Latham, Arthur(City of W'minster P'ton) Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.)
Doig, Peter Lawson, George (Motherwell & Wishaw) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (L'sham, D'ford)
Dormand, J. D. Leadbitter, Ted Silkin, Rt. Hn. S.C.(S'hwark, Dulwich)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Lee, John Sillars, James
Duffy, A. E. P. Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Silverman, Julius
Dunn, James A. Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold Skinner, Dennis
Dunnett, Jack Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Small, William
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth Lipton, Marcus Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Eadie, Alex Loughlin, Charles Snape, Peter
Edelman, Maurice Loyden, Eddie Spearing, Nigel
Edge, Geoff Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Spriggs, Leslie
Edwards, Robert (W'hampton, S.E.) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, W.) Stallard, A. W.
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scunthorpe) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Steel, David
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) McCartney, Hugh Stewart, Rt. Hn. M. (H'sth, Fulh'm)
English, Michael McElhone, Frank Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) MacFarquhar, Roderick Stott, Roger
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) McGuire, Michael Strang, Gavin
Evans, John (Newton) Mackenzie, Gregor Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Ewing, Harry (St'ling, F'kirk & G'm'th) Maclennan, Robert Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Faulds, Andrew McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Swain, Thomas
Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. McNamara, Kevin Thomas, D. E. (Merioneth)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Madden, M. O. F. Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.) Magee, Bryan Thorne, Stan (Preston, S.)
Flannery, Martin Mahon, Simon Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Fletcher, Tea (Darlington) Mallalieu, J. P. W. Tierney, Sydney
Foot, R[...] Hn. Michael Marks, Kenneth Tinn, James
Ford, Ben Marquand, David Tomlinson, John
Forrester, John Marshall, Dr. Edmund (Goole) Torney, Tom
Fowler, Gerry (The Wrekin) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Tuck, Raphael
Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood) Mayhew, Christopher (G'wh, W'wch, E.) Tyler, Paul
Freeson, Reginald Meacher, Michael Urwin, T. W.
Freud, Clement Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Varley, Rt. Hn. Eric G.
Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley) Wigley, Dafydd (Caernarvon) Winstanley, Dr. Michael
Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, Ladywood) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick Wise, Mrs. Audrey
Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.) Woodall, Alec
Walker, Terry (Kingswood) Williams, Alan Lee (Hvrng, Hchurch) Woof, Robert
Watkins, David Williams, Rt. Hn. Shirley(H'f'd&St'ge) Young, David (Bolton, E.)
Weitzman, David Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Wellbeloved, James Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton) TELLERS FOR THE AYES
White, James Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton) Mr. Thomas Cox and
Whitehead, Phillip Wilson, William (Coventry, S.E.) Mr. Walter Johnson.
Adley, Robert Fairgrieve, Russell Lawrence, Ivan
Aitken, Jonathan Fell, Anthony Lawson, Nigel (Blaby)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Le Marchant, Spencer
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Fidler, Michael Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Finsberg, Geoffrey Lewis, Kenneth (Rtland & Stmford)
Ancram, M. Fisher, Sir Nigel Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)
Archer, Jeffrey Fletcher Cooke, Charles Loveridge, John
Atkins, Rt. Hn. Humphrey (Spelthorne) Fookes, Miss Janet Luce, Richard
Awdry, Daniel Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'field) McAdden, Sir Stephen
Baker, Kenneth Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford&Stone) MacArthur, Ian
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Fry, Peter McCrindle, R. A.
Banks, Robert Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D. Macfarlane, Neil
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Gardiner, George (Reigate&Banstead) MacGregor, John
Bell, Ronald Gardner, Edward (S. Fylde) McLaren, Martin
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Fareham) Gibson-Watt, Rt. Hn. David McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Benyon, W. Gilmour, Rt. Hn. Ian (Ch'sh'&Amsh'm) Madel, David
Berry, Hon. Anthony Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Biffen, John Glyn, Dr. Alan Marten, Neil
Biggs-Davison, John Goodhart, Philip Mather, Carol
Blaker, Peter Goodhew, Victor Maude, Angus
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.) Goodlad, A. Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Body, Richard Gorst, John Mawby, Ray
Boscawen, Hon. Robert Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J
Bowden, Andrew (Brighton, Kemptown) Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Mayhew, Patrick(RoyalT'bridge Wells)
Boyson, Dr. Rhodes (Brent, N.) Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Braine, Sir Bernard Gray, Hamish Miller, Hal (B'grove&R'ditch)
Bray, Ronald Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Mills, Peter
Brittan, Leon Grist, Ian Miscampbell, Norman
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Grylls, Michael Mitchell, David(Basingstoke)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Gurden, Harold Moate, Roger
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hall, Sir John Molyneaux, James
Bryan, Sir Paul Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Money, Ernie
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Hampson, Dr. Keith Monro, Hector
Buck, Antony Hannam, John Moore, J. E. M. (Croydon, C.)
Budgen, Nick Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Morgan, Geraint
Bulmer, Esmond Hastings, Stephen Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Burden, F. A. Havers, Sir Michael Morris, Michael (Northampton, S.)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Heyhoe, Barney Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Carlisle, Mark Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Morrison, Peter (City of Chester)
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Henderson, J.S.B.(Dunbartonshire, E.) Mudd, David
Carson, John Heseltine, Michael Neave, Airey
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Higgins, Terence Neubert, Michael
Channon, Paul Hill, James A. Newton, Tony (Braintree)
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Holland, Philip Nott, John
Churchill, W. S. Hordern, Peter Onslow, Cranley
Clark, A. K. M. (Plymouth, Sutton) Howe, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey(Surrey, E.) Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Clark, William (Croydon, S.) Howell, David (Guildford) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, North) Osborn, John
Cockcroft, John Hunt, John Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)
Cooke, Robert (Bristol, W.) Hurd, Douglas Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Cope, John Hutchison, Michael Clark Parkinson, Cecil (Hertfordshire, S.)
Cormack, Patrick Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Pattie, Geoffrey
Corrie, John James, David Percival, Ian
Costain, A. P. Jenkin.Rt. Hn. P. (R'dgeW'std&W'fd) Peyton, Rt. Hn. John
Crowder, F. P. Jessel, Toby Pink, R. Bonner
Davies, Rt. Kn. John (Knutsford) Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Price, David (Eastleigh)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj-Gen. James Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Prior, Rt. Hn. James
Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.) Jopling, Michael Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Quennell, Miss J. M.
Dixon, Piers Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Raison, Timothy
Kershaw, Anthony Rathbone, Tim
Dodds-Parker, Sir Douglas Kimball, Marcus Rawlinson, Rt. Hn Sir Peter
Dodsworth, Geoffrey King, Evelyn (Dorset S.) Redmond, Robert
Drayson, Burnaby King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Kitson, Sir Timothy Rees-Davies, W. R.
Durant, Tony Knight, Mrs. Jill Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David(H't'gd'ns're)
Dykes, Hugh Knox, David Renton, R. T. (Mid-Sussex)
Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John Lamont, Norman Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Lane, David Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Elliott, Sir William Langford-Holt, Sir John Ridsdale, Julian
Emery, Peter Latham, Michael (Melton) Rifkind, Malcolm
Eyre, Reginald Rippon. Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Steen, Anthony (L'pool, Wavertree) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Ross, Wm. (Londonderry) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Stodart, Rt. Hn. A. (Edinburgh, W.) Wall, Patrick
Rost, Peter (Derbyshire, S.-E.) Stokes, John Walters, Dennis
Royle, Sir Anthony Stradling Thomas, John Warren, Kenneth
Sainsbury, Tim Tapsell, Peter Weatherill, Bernard
St. John-Stevas, Norman Taylor, Edward M. (Glgow, C'cart) Wells, John
Scott-Hopkins, James Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.) West, Rt. Hn. Harry
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Tebbit, Norman Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Shaw, Michael (Scarborough) Temple-Morris, Peter Wiggin, Jerry
Shelton, William (L'mb'th, Streath'm) Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Margaret Winterton, Nicholas
Shersby, Michael Thomas, Rt. Hn. P. (B'net,H'dn S.) Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Silvester, Fred Townsend, C. D. Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Sims, Roger Trotter, Neville Worsley, Sir Marcus
Sinclair, Sir George Tugendhat, Christopher Young, Sir George (Ealing, Acton)
Skeet, T. H. H. van Straubenzee, W. R. Younger, Hn. George
Smith, Dudey (W'wick&L'm'ngton) Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Spicer, Jim (Dorset, W.) Viggers, Peter TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Spicer, Michael (Worcestershire, S.) Waddington, David Mr. Walter Clegg and
Stainton, Keith Wakeham, John Mr. Paul Hawkins.
Stanbrook, Ivor

Question accordingly agreed to.

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House recognises the need to raise academic standards in schools; and, having regard to the denial of any real choice to the majority of children in a selective system, congratulates the Government on the steps it has taken to develop a fully comprehensive system of secondary education, and to increase the opportunities for all children, without regard to means or social position, to realise their educational potential to the full.

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