HC Deb 25 June 1974 vol 875 cc1193-4
14. Mr. Farr

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what response he has received to his speech to the Association of Teachers in Technical Institutes on 25th May in relation to increased educational opportunities for those aged from 16 to 19 years.

Mr. Prentice

It is early days for specific responses to that general invita tion. But I have already had useful discussions with a number of interested bodies.

Mr. Farr

While I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask him to bear in mind that it is considered essential to provide unsurpassed educational opportunities for those aged 16 to 19 who are likely to benefit from such instruction? At the same time will he consider whether, in the national interest, there is a case for reducing the compulsory school leaving age from 16 and channelling the money saved into providing better services to those who wish to remain at school and learn until, perhaps, the age of 19?

Mr. Prentice

The Government certainly have no proposal to reduce the compulsory school leaving age. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary dealt with that most capably a few moments ago. We recognise that there is a tremendous opportunity gap between what we do for those who stay on in full-time higher education and for those who do not. We further recognise that the majority of those who do not stay on do not get day release, block release or any equivalent. One of our priorities ought to be an expansion of opportunities in this area.

Mr. Ford

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in times of economic stringency it is invariably further education, and technical education in particular, which suffers decreased opportunities? Is he further aware that in our post-Imperial phase we shall have to rely a great deal upon good technical education? Does he realise that even within Labour Party committees there appears to be a bias towards universities and university students and away from further education?

Mr. Prentice

I hope that my hon. Friend will not accuse me of such bias. I want to see a considerable improvement of opportunities in part-time education for those in the 16 to 19 age group, both for the economic reasons mentioned and, more importantly, in terms of the general educational development of young people.

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