HC Deb 27 January 1975 vol 885 cc41-171

3.58 p.m.

Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)

I beg to move, That the salaries of the Secretary of State for Education and Science and of the Secretary of State for Scotland should each be reduced by the sum of £1,000. I emphasise that that is £1,000 each.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)

Not enough!

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The paradox we face as we open this debate today is that at a time when we have never spent so much on our education system—nearly £4,000 million a year and rising—never has dissatisfaction with the system been so widespread.

It is right that we should discount the sensationalism in which certain sections of the Press indulge, and we must also discount the fact that for some journalists the only news is bad news. But when that has been said, the body of evidence that violence and indiscipline in many of our schools is increasing, is undoubtedly weighty and growing. Parental fears about declining standards are both genuine and profound. That is why the Opposition have decided to devote a Supply Day to the question of standards of learning and discipline in education, so that we can show parents throughout the country that at least we in the Opposition are aware of what is going on, that we know what parents think, and that we have constructive ideas to put forward by which to improve the situation.

Our charge against the Government—this is why we shall divide the House tonight—is that, in face of this anxiety and concern, they have shown an indifference and a complacency which are both astonishing and inexcusable. It is typical of the lethargy which seems to have gripped the Department since the departure of my right hon. Friend the dynamic Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher).

Month follows month in the Department with decisions of major importance postponed. One example is the Hodges Report on school transport which was published in October 1973. We have still not received a decision as to the Government's policy, nor have we received any indication of the Government's views on that extremely important report.

The Russell Report on adult education has been waiting now for over two years. We still have no decisions save the incidental one on the implementation of its recommendations. Even a minor issue such as allowing children to leave school before they are 16 but after the date of their final examination remains unresolved after a year of discussion.

The Department of Education has never been noted for its power to exceed the speed limit, unlike some of its Ministers. However, since the arrival of the present Secretary of State a real paralysis seems to have set in. We complain not only of indifference and complacency but of false optimism as well. We are continually being told that, for example, the problems caused by the raising of the school leaving age will get better, but it is just as likely that if nothing is done they will, in all probability, get worse.

To the general charge of complacency and lack of urgency we add particular indictments. First, the Secretary of State has totally failed to initiate the research and the inquiries which are needed if the questions asked by parents and others in the education world are to be answered. The Department is well equipped to answer a number of questions, but if it does not answer the questions which are being asked, we are no better off.

The Secretary of State has also failed to put forward any positive proposals for improving education standards or preserving those that have been achieved. I sometimes think that the Labour Party has not had a new idea on schools for a quarter of a century.

Thirdly, by issuing within a few weeks of coming into office the doctrinaire circular 474, the right hon. Gentleman has succeeded in diverting the energies of his Department and the whole trend of education discussion back into the sterile conflict between comprehensive and grammar schools. We have taken up this challenge, and we shall continue to use every means at our disposal to encourage those threatened to stand by the rule of law and to resist the bluster and the bullying to which they have been subject. However, the responsibility for this conflict rests not with us but with the Secretary of State, who, never slow to counsel moderation to his colleagues, is remarkably reluctant to put moderate policies into force in his own Department, the one sphere in which he has full responsibility.

To sum up our criticism of the Secretary of State I cannot do better than use some of the words of the Prayer Book: he has done those things which he ought not to have done and he has left undone those things which he ought to have done, and the casualty has been the education system and the millions of children dependent on it.

I wish to analyse at this point some of the problems which are facing our schools. The first, which I pick because parents are so concerned about it, is the problem of violence and indiscipline in the schools. There is no room for doubt that both violence and indiscipline have increased in recent years. I do not say that it is wholly the fault of the system or of the Department. The ultimate cause clearly lies in society, which has grown more violent. However, the evidence for the deterioration in the schools is very strong, if not overwhelming.

I refer first to the authoritative report of the National Association of Schoolmasters, which was carried out by Dr. Lowenstein, the senior educational psychologist of Hampshire, in 1972. In that report he records nearly 6,000 recent acts of violence in secondary schools and 788 in primary schools. There is more violence in the deprived and underprivileged areas than in the more prosperous ones, and the incidence is greater in the secondary than in the primary schools. The highest incidence of cases seems to be in the 13–14 years age group.

On 23rd July 1974 the Under-Secretary of State gave us statistics of reported violent incidents for 1971 as numbering over 2,000, and threats of violence as nearly 1,000. No doubt many other incidents were not reported.

Truancy is also an increasingly grave problem. So great has been the concern amongst parents and others about this problem that the Minister carried out a survey of middle and secondary schools in January 1974. It showed that there was an absence rate of nearly 10 per cent., one quarter of those absences being without legitimate reason. The highest incidence, in the age group of 1516 years, rose to 4.8 per cent. It is widely agreed that, although that is a serious report, it grossly underestimates the actual rate of truancy. That point was made forcefully by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) in June. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend has direct experience of being a headmaster of a school. He therefore speaks with great authority on that matter—with more authority than Government Front Bench Members or most Government back-bench Members.

The police in Lambeth in the first quarter of 1974 estimated that one third of all secondary children in the division were playing truant. On one 12-day truancy sweep in May 1974 the police in Lambeth returned 734 children to 30 schools. Of those children, 538 complained that discipline was so bad at school that they could learn nothing there. Discipline, after all, not only has a value for teachers and parents. Its highest value is for the children, because children cannot learn unless there is a framework of order in which they can pursue their studies.

I turn to the question of illiteracy. Such figures as we have are greatly disturbing. In May 1974 the British Association of Settlements claimed that there were more than 2 million illiterate adults and that the numbers of young people unable to read or write on leaving school were increasing the total by 7 per cent. each year. Even more alarming was the estimate made by Dr. Joyce Morris at the North of England Educational Conference. She is one of the leading authorities on teaching reading in schools. She made the estimate that 30 per cent. of the new pupils coming to comprehensive schools required special reading instruction. She gave some clear warnings against some of the nostrums being peddled by educational psychologists which are intended to make matters better but, in fact, make matters worse.

In addition, there is a huge illiteracy problem among immigrants. A report early in December estimated that in Birmingham 60 per cent. of the Asian children could not read English at the age of 11. Even more recently, the report of the Associated Examining Board, published last week, showed that last year spelling and accuracy among candidates had got noticeably worse.

All this evidence is against the background of the report of the National Foundation for Educational Research in 1972 on trends of reading standards, which showed that for 20 years after the war educational standards had improved but that they had subsequently declined. Leaving aside the question whether standards have declined and to what degree, why, when so much money has been spent on education and so much effort has gone into the education service, have standards of literacy not dramatically improved?

There is a great deal of evidence to which one could refer, but I think I have quoted enough to show that, although it would be an exaggeration to say that the situation was desperate, it is no exaggeration to say that the situation is grave and fully justifies the anxieties felt by many in the education world.

As an Opposition, we have been putting forward for 12 months constructive proposals to deal with this crisis, and we shall continue to do so. Our first proposal is that national standards should once again be set for reading, writing and mathematics, which were abolished by the Labour Government in 1966. I am certainly not, and never have been, a supporter of the 11-plus, but one of the beneficial side-effects of that examination was that it provided a goal for primary schools to seek to achieve and it gave indications of what had been achieved at the end of the course.

We believe that Her Majesty's Inspectorate should be strengthened to carry out these tests. This would provide a basis for what is essential—the monitoring of the entire education system, so that we can have more facts and fewer opinions.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that when I first came to the House, after 12 years in the classroom, I asked his right hon. Friend to initiate inquiries into the standard of attendance of children leaving school who were not taking public examination? The right hon. Lady, three or four years ago, refused to do so. Why did she do that?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

That question must be addressed to my right hon. Friend, not to me. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has had to wait so long, but I think that he should be satisfied that I have now come around to his point of view, rather than expressing regrets that my right hon. Friend in her day failed to do so.

Our second major proposal—

Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that point—

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I had left it, but nevertheless—

Mr. Marks

There is a problem with regard to a national test in reading, writing or arithmetic. That is the danger of teaching to the test. It is possible for a teacher in a secondary school to find that primary school children know a series of words that they have learned by "barking at print". Is there not the same great danger in mechanical arithmetic tests—I notice that today the hon. Gentleman specified mathematics, but his manifesto specified arithmetic—that we may start to teach to tests?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I agree that there is always a balance to be struck between a system of tests which can be too rigid and a system of teaching which can be too flexible. I would merely suggest that at the moment the balance has swung too far in the direction of flexibility and that we need to push the pendulum back a little towards discipline and structure.

Our second main proposal is a moratorium on the comprehensive-grammar school battle. That is why we asked in our manifesto, and I ask again today, that the Secretary of State should appoint an impartial inquiry into the achievements and the shortcomings of comprehensive schools. There is nothing derogative or prejudicial in proposing such an inquiry. [AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, there is."] It cannot be so. If the inquiry is impartial and thorough it will surely produce facts about the comprehensive schools and provide the basis of information upon which we can make an evaluation. There is a whole range of authoritative questions to which everyone interested in education needs answers.

The essence of our position on the comprehensive schools is that, until we get that evidence, it is premature and irresponsible to insist that only one type of school should be provided for every type of child. May I put to the right hon. Gentleman some of the questions to which, if there were an inquiry, we should all be able to address ourselves in a more informed way than is possible without the evidence that it would incorporate?

First, there is the vital question of mixed ability classes, which are presumably made up of slow children, average children and bright children. We simply do not know what the effects of teaching in these classes are on those three groups. We are particularly concerned about the especially bright child. There was a letter in The Guardian this month from a school teacher in Canada criticising the Canadian system because, she said, the child at the upper or middle end of the ability scale was for the most part seriously neglected. That is evidence which we should take seriously.

I suspect that the value of mixed ability teaching depends very much on the teacher, whether that teacher has been qualified and trained to teach that kind of class. It is only that sort of teacher who can get the best out of a mixed ability grouping. But it is vital not only for the future of education but for the future of the country to know what special arrangements need to be made, especially for the specially gifted child, and how that child can be adequately taught in a mixed ability situation.

We need to investigate also the extent and the desirability of selection within the comprehensive school. It is another unfortunate side effect of the Secretary of State's policy that all the discussion of selection is centering on the grammar versus comprehensive controversy. Of equal and perhaps greater importance is: what is going on inside the comprehensive school in terms of selection—what is going on about streaming, what is the signify- cance of sets and how much banding is taking place? Last year I asked the leader of the opposition on the ILEA to put down a question on this point. The leader of the authority replied that, first of all, it had never been asked before and, second, that no information of any kind was available.

Third, we want to evaluate different types of comprehensive school—the 11–18 all-through schools, the middle schools, the 11–16 schools and the sixth form colleges—to know which is the best type and how they are faring. We want to go in depth into the question of size of schools so that we can find a way out of this real dilemma of the comprehensive school—how to steer a course between a school so large that it is impersonal and makes it impossible for pupils and teachers to identify with it and a school which is so small that it does not provide a wide range of courses. We have seen this problem in ILEA, which has made this extraordinary volte face of moving from the doctrine of the large school, which it has preached for a decade, to advocacy of smaller schools and what have been called "mini-comprehensives".

We need also a comparative study of merits of comprehensive and selective schools in terms of the results. We have some evidence, but we have not got anything authoritative and definitive. The Pedley-Sim-Caroline Benn research, I think it is agreed, is statistically worthless. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Hon. Members express surprise, but the Pedley statistics, which are really the only statistics on this matter, have been very heavily criticised by statistical experts. They covered only 67 out of 745 comprehensive schools in 1968. Of these, only 73 per cent. returned the questionnaires, and the ILEA schools were totally excluded. In the figures to compare O-levels between the maintained section other than the comprehensive schools and the comprehensive schools, Mr. Pedley omitted all Grade I CSE results from the material concerning maintained schools and making them comprehensive. Thus he produced results which showed that those obtaining one or more O-levels in the maintained schools amounted to 32.4 per cent., and in the comprehensive schools the figure was 39.4 per cent. But if the figures are corrected to the right basis, one finds that the figures for the maintained schools rise to 42 per cent. and the comprehensive school figure remained at 39.4 per cent.

I do not say that one can attach decisive importance to any one set of figures. The Sheffield figures, for example, are incomplete and we cannot place reliance on them. The Manchester figures are interesting. The county schools were reorganised in 1967 and the RC schools were not. The figures show that in the intervening seven years the unreorganised Roman Catholic schools, the grammar and modern schools combined, improved and overtook those schools which had been reorganised on a comprehensive basis.

Mr. Marks

The hon. Gentleman has mentioned Manchester. When he talks about overtaking, is he talking about Manchester children only, about the entries—the number of candidates sitting examinations—or the number of passes? Will he make clear what he is talking about in this context?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am talking about the number of O-levels in Manchester.

Mr. Marks

The number of passes?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Yes, I am talking about O-level and A-level passes. The hon. Gentleman has got confused. It is the Sheffield results which deal with the entries. I hope that I have helped him on that point.

These statistics show how necessary it is to have an independent and full inquiry and an evaluation. What is happening is that, in the absence of any action by the Secretary of State, the amateurs are stepping in. We have had the example of Mr. Hunter Davies, in his article in the Sunday Times yesterday, doing his own inquiry into comprehensive schools. No doubt that is a worthy effort, but it is no substitute for what we are asking the Secretary of State to do. Mr. Guy Neave has penned his inquiry in his book published last week "How are they faring". That is an interesting contribution. But we want something much more thorough and on a different scale.

I appeal to the Secretary of State to reconsider his decision on this matter. The setting-up of these inquiries would be widely welcomed throughout the education world. If the Government fail to do it, the Opposition, within the limits of our resources, will do it.

Equally—this is our third point—we ask for an inquiry into the state of religious and moral education in our schools. After all, the Secretary of State is under a statutory duty to provide this, and it is quite clear that in many schools the statutory obligation is going by default. One has only to look at the Birmingham experience, where, as part of the agreed syllabus, Communism was being taught in the schools—[HON. MEMBERS: Oh."]—it is a most important point; that was in the agreed syllabus of religion—to see how wrong all this is going. Why does not the Secretary of State say something about this or encourage the Social Morality Council, which was given a grant by his predecessor, to investigate this most important subject, for which he has statutory responsibility? It is the only subject in the curriculum for which the Secretary of State has responsibility.

Fourth, we need a new approach to educational innovation. Too many children have been treated as educational guinea-pigs, and teaching methods have been introduced in the schools untested and with a lack of knowledge about them which would have been thought intolerable in launching any drug on to the market. We have had open-plan teaching, the inquiring mind approach, progress learning and look-and-say reading. What the Opposition believe is that in future it would be very much better if no methods were introduced generally into the schools until they had been throughly evaluated by controlled experiment—[Interruption.]—in University departments and elsewhere. We should set studies up in the sphere of discipline and of group size in teaching.

The question of evaluation of assessments needs to be pursued. For example, we need a test of reading ability which takes into account not only vocabulary but also sentence structure and levels of comprehension. Furthermore, whatever happened to the research project put in train by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley, into the assessment of arithmetical standards? We need comparative studies as to what is taking place in our schools here and in other schools in the European Community.

Yet another sphere in which we have taken the initiative, and will continue to do so, is that of parents' rights. In April my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) will be producing a Private Member's Bill to put into operation the principal provisions of our parents' charter. What these proposals are intended to do is to forge an effective authority between parents and teachers so that home and school work together instead of against each other. Until that is achieved, we shall never solve the problem of discipline in our schools.

Finally, I come to the question of the teaching profession. We want the teaching profession to be more professional, not less. Certainly we welcome the Houghton Report. We are glad that it is to be implemented. We have no quarrel with the Government over that. But we are just as concerned that there should be professional training for teachers, both in colleges of education and in in-service training, which is suitable to the needs of the time.

The Government would be much better employed in overhauling the curriculum in the colleges of education rather than in closing them down indiscriminately, as they are doing at present.

We want in particular new methods of teaching reading and of teaching discipline in the colleges of education, so that teachers will be adequately equipped to go into the schools. We believe that the in-service provisions in the James Report should be rapidly implemented and that teachers should be encouraged to set up their own teachers' council. After all, every other profession of comparable importance has its disciplinary body.

Mr. Spearing

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am afraid that I am just finishing my speech.

What we in the Opposition intend to show in the debate is, first, the gravity of the situation; second, the feebleness of the Government's response; third, the range of constructive proposals which the Opposition are putting forward in this serious situation. There should be no reason for surprise that the Government are failing in the matter of educational standards and that the Opposition are forging ahead, because the aims of the two parties are so different. The aim of the Labour Party is still to promote egalitarianism through the education system, to attempt to create a mythical and spurious equality whatever the effects on the child may be. The Conservative approach is quite distinct. We are concerned not with social engineering out with educational values. We are not concerned with promoting equality; we are concerned with promoting equality of opportunity and improving the quality of education. We believe that every child in this country has the right to realise to the full his or her potential. We believe that all children have the right to exercise their gifts, gifts they have been given not only for their own advantage but for the benefit of the whole community.

4.30 p.m.

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

The exaggeration and gimmickry of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) become more and more extreme every time he addresses the House on this subject. It presents the House with a dilemma. We have the opportunity today to have a serious debate about standards of education and discipline and the other matters about which there is general concern, many aspects of which have baffled successive Governments and all local education authorities, irrespective of their political control. On the other hand, we can involve ourselves in the kind of dogfight which was introduced by the hon. Gentleman. For my part I shall devote a short time to the dog-fight and then get on to the serious subject matter of the debate, which the hon. Gentleman largely ignored.

It seems to me that the hon. Gentleman and a small number of other Conservative activists are still trying to fight the General Election campaign in which they tried to make an election issue of the kind of nonsense we have heard this afternoon. They patently failed because of the basic contradiction in their approach.

The Conservatives have said several times—the hon. Gentleman said it this afternoon—that they are not supporting 11-plus examinations, but the whole tenor of their approach and all the consequences of their talk about having a moratorium on comprehensives and having an inquiry into comprehensives, which in the meantime would hold up progress towards comprehensivation, is an attack upon the comprehensive idea and is directed towards trying to get the support of those who have a vested interest in or an out-of-date attachment to 11-plus selection.

Mr. Cormack

How can an inquiry into standards be an attack upon a system, unless the Secretary of State is fearful of the result of the inquiry? The inquiry would be set up by the right hon. Gentleman. That is what we are asking for. Surely that would serve only the interests of education.

Mr. Prentice

No. If the proposal is—it was a proposal we heard from the hon. Gentleman just now and it was the proposal which was in the Conservative manifesto during the General Election—to have an inquiry into comprehensive secondary education, ignoring all the other problems of secondary schools, ignoring entirely the problems of those who are still taught in secondary modern schools with the small range of opportunities there open to them, it is an attack upon the comprehensive idea.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

If the right hon. Gentleman thinks it is necessary to ensure impartiality that the inquiry should range wider than the comprehensive schools, of course we should be perfectly willing to accept such an extension. The fact of asking for the inquiry into comprehensive schools is precisely because it is there that the focus of controversy lies—about the effect of mixed ability classes in schools, size, etc. Those are the urgent questions to which we need answers.

Mr. Prentice

I do not think we should take this argument seriously. There have been inquiries into many aspects of education. There are important inquiries going on now. There is at least one more important inquiry that I shall announce in the course of my speech, if I am allowed to proceed that far. I can put this proposal only in the context of the kind of campaign which the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues fought during the General Election and which they are still fighting. In the last week or two we have seen the spectacle of the hon. Gentleman going around the country trying to stir up local resistance groups in a fight against comprehensive reorganisation, playing the unlikely rôle of some kind of bourgeois Che Guevara trying to raise the flag of revolt all over the place.

I gather that there was a summit meeting of Tory education chiefs last weekend to co-ordinate this activity. In the course of announcing it, the hon. Gentleman is quoted as saying—I quote from the Daily Express of 22nd January: We can beat this Labour bullying of councils. No one is prepared to stand by as our best schools are destroyed. I challenge Conservative Members who catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to tell the House which good schools have been destroyed by the process of going comprehensive. We are in a situation now where Scotland has been largely comprehensive for a long time, where Wales is over 85 per cent. comprehensive and where England is approximately 60 per cent. comprehensive—that is, judging the number of pupils in comprehensive schools as distinct from selective schools. We have had many years of experience.

I challenge hon. Members opposite to say what good schools have been destroyed in that process, because my thesis—this is supported by the great majority of informed educational opinion, irrespective of political party—is that this has been a process of constructive change and improvement in which good schools have become better schools because they have been able to offer their services to a wider range of boys and girls.

The other part of the quotation, which I take to be a valid quote as the hon. Gentleman has not denied it, is: We can beat this Labour bullying of councils. The word "bullying" is a favourite word of the hon. Gentleman. He used it earlier today in between describing me as having totalitarian principles and alleging that I had departed from the Prayer Book.

We have sent out a circular to local education authorities—which, as the hon. Gentleman said, does not have the force of law—asking them to let us know what their plans are for completing the process of moving towards comprehensive secondary reorganisation. As of today we have had replies from about three-quarters of the local education authorities in England in a substantive form—that is, giving the answer to the question we asked. I confine my figures to England because, as I said earlier, the process in Wales and in Scotland is largely complete.

Not one of those local education authorities has said that it does not intend to comply with the Government's policy. We remain to receive the substantive replies of about one-quarter of the local education authorities. All of them have replied saying that the substantive reply is on the way. In some cases the education committee is about to consider a report from officials. In some cases the education committee has made recommendations and the full council meeting is to take place in the next week or two. We have been promised all those outstanding replies shortly, most of them before the end of February.

I believe that among those authorities there will be a handful that will stand out against the policy of the circular. My guess at the moment is that about five or six will do so. I shall not name them, because I hope that wiser counsels will prevail before they complete all their processes. I therefore hope that we will not be faced with the problem of five or six such authorities. However, this is not a situation in which the local authorities as a whole are standing out against the Government. Here and there, and in very few cases, local education authorities do not want to go along this road.

Let me add another proviso. We will look carefully at those who have sent us substantive replies which are in favour of our policy. There is the danger of what Mr. Peter Wilby described in his article in yesterday's Observer as "sidestepping". There will be cases, perhaps, in which a local education authority puts to us a set of proposals in which it declares its best intentions but then says that over part of its area it cannot do anything for an indefinite period.

We shall examine in depth all the replies. In the cases where they are unsatisfactory for one reason or another, either my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary or I will see personally the leading members of the majority group on the authorities. We shall discuss the matter and offer help and advice in the tasks of going comprehensive. If we could not then make satisfactory progress, sooner or later—probably, I would suggest, in the next Session of Parliament—we would have to legislate on the matter. I would rather not have to legislate. I would rather see the job completed by agreement. We are talking here however, about something which was defined as national policy and approved by the House of Commons 10 years ago. In those 10 years there has been considerable experience which has added up to a considerable success story. Thousands of our boys and girls are getting better opportunities because of that constructive change.

What worries me, and what should worry everyone who claims to care about education, is that some thousands of children are still not getting those opportunities and are being held back. Further delay is not tolerable in this issue.

Sir John Hall (Wycombe)

In view of statements made elsewhere to the contrary, will the Secretary of State confirm that local authorities which, for whatever reason, have felt that they cannot accept the guidance offered by the Department to go over to a comprehensive system are in no way breaking the law but are acting strictly within the law?

Mr. Prentice

They are acting against Government policy which has been approved by this and previous Parliaments. They are not acting against any legislation, and that is why a change in the state of the law may be necessary to complete the job. I repeat, therefore, that if and when its becomes necessary the Government will bring forward proposals for legislation on the subject. If we have to do so it will be because a small minority of die-hard councillors in the Conservative Party, whipped up by the hon. Member for Chelmsford and a few others, are forcing a confrontation which is unnecessary and when a constructive change could be completed within the next few years without the need for this kind of confrontation.

Perhaps I may put this matter in the context of progress so far. Of 97 local education authorities in England, 29 are completely reorganised or have plans for becoming completely reorganised which have been put to and approved by the Secretary of State. Only one—Kingston upon-Thames—has not made any move or progress along this road. The remaining 67 are in various degrees of partial re-organisation. The pattern varies very much between one local education authority and another. It is within that great area of about two-thirds of our LEAs that we have to judge the progress that is being made and the progress they propose in their responses to us.

Last February there were in England 2,075 comprehensive schools at which 58.5 per cent. of the secondary school population was being educated. There were others in the pipeline at the time which have since come fully into the comprehensive set-up. Since we came to office we have approved 89 sets of proposals providing for 185 more comprehensive schools. These have included some which were rejected by the previous administration, which were resubmitted to us and which have now been approved. Other proposals which are in the pipeline will be considered in due course.

I shall deal now with the situation of the direct grant schools. The Labour Party manifesto made it clear that we were committed to ending the direct grant school system. It has always been anomalous that independent schools should get this extraordinary form of grant from the central Government. It is all the more anomalous if that grant continues to be paid to schools which are selective by their very nature and if it is paid by a Government who are committed to comprehensive secondary education. I hope, therefore, to bring proposals before the House on the subject within a matter of a few weeks.

As I have made clearly already—I was questioned on this a few weeks ago—it will not be part of our proposal to withdraw the grant from children already in those schools in respect of whom a grant has already been paid. In other words, this is to be a phasing-out operation. We do not envisage the phasing out to begin this year because the 1975 intake has either been chosen or is in the process of being chosen, and it is reasonable that that should go ahead. It is probable that the phasing out of the grant will begin with the intake about to enter those schools in the autumn of 1976, but there are many details still to be worked out. I promise a statement to the House in due course.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

When the Secretary of State says he will maintain the value of grants for pupils already in the schools, does he mean that he will maintain the real value or the cash value they now have?

Mr. Prentice

My aim, although I would need to give the matter further study and would require further notice, is to maintain the grant in respect of each pupil. If the hon. Member wants to know anything further on the matter from either my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, or myself, I suggest that the subject is appropriate for a Question.

I wish now to turn to what was alleged to be the subject of the debate, and that is educational standards. It is vital that we try to disentangle this from the kind of Conservative folklore to which we listened earlier. We are all concerned with the improvement of educational standards. It is certainly my main job in life to work for that improvement. It is vital also to get the whole question into perspective.

It is often said that standards have declined or are declining. I believe that this has been a popular view for many generations. There has always been a tendency for middle-aged or older people to say that the schools are not what they were in their day and to build up a myth about some golden age in which everything was perfect. If our education system had been as good in the past as some people seem to imagine it was, we would not now have between 2 million and 3 million illiterate adults in Britain.

Standards have never been good enough and they are not good enough now. There is no room for complacency, and we need to see this in perspective. In so far as examination results provide a rough-and-ready clue about the differences of attainment, they provide over the years a story of improvement. I say that with caution because examination results are only one test, but taking the period for which figures are readily available—that is, 1966 to 1972 inclusive—the proportion of school leavers with one or more A-level pass went up from 13.7 per cent. to 16.2 per cent. The proportion of school leavers with one or more O-levels or CSE grade 1 rose from 24.1 per cent. to 27.6 per cent. The proportion of those with CSE grades 2 to 5 rose from 10.7 per cent. to 21.2 per cent. This is a story of increasing numbers passing various grades of examinations.

Incidentally, the point should not be lost that this was a period in which there was a simultaneous spreading of comprehensive education, which does not lead to the conclusion that the spread of comprehensive secondary schools has a detrimental effect on standards. The real point is not that standards are falling but that expectations are rising, and I am glad that they are. I believe that more and more people are impatient with unsatisfactory standards. More and more parents are showing a more active concern in the standard of their local schools, and that is a very good thing. All of us involved in education should be constantly under pressure to improve what we are doing.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford mentioned the Houghton Report. He said that he welcomed it, and I am glad he did. It is a pity that the Conservative Government did not do something about the matter in the four years during which the salaries of our teachers fell behind. When we talk about standards of education, we must remember that education is provided not by Members of Parliament, councillors or administrators, but by teachers. The numbers, quality and morale of the teaching profession form the most important element in achieving higher standards of education.

The country has for years undervalued its teachers. That is why, in spite of the need for overall income restraint, the Government identified the teachers as a special case, in the genuine sense of the phrase. The improvement in teachers' pay is on average 29 per cent., in addition to the ordinary annual increase. It is right that we should make that improvement. Over many years far too many able and experienced teachers have left the profession just when their ability and experience were of the greatest value to the children, particularly in the poorer areas of our large cities.

We have suffered from an overall teacher shortage and, more important, from a rapid turnover of teachers. We have lost experienced staff, with the result that some children have had three or four teachers on a subject in the course of a year. To do something about that was the most important single step any Government could take to improve the standard of our education, and we have taken it. We have been accused of lethargy, of not having new ideas. But we have put many new policies into effect during the past 11 months, designed particularly to improve standards in education.

I spoke earlier of those who take examinations. We should devote more of our discussion in these debates to the 40 per cent. or more who never take any examination, however modest. We have deliberately tried to give a new bias to the allocation of resources on a geographical basis in favour of poorer and more deprived areas. We have reallocated the building programme we inherited so that more help goes to deprived areas. In teacher quotas and the allocation of the nursery programme we do what we can for the less favoured areas.

We have set up in the Department a new education disadvantage unit, to be staffed partly by Her Majesty's inspectors and partly by officers of the Department, which will consult outside bodies. There will be established outside the Department, and independent of it, an advisory centre. Under this part of our programme we have already conducted seminars in Newcastle, Nottingham, Croydon and Port Talbot. There will be others. We intend them to culminate in a national conference on education disadvantage, at which I shall take the chair. It will probably be held in April.

This programme is to try to identify the reasons why some children fall behind and to identify the causes of education disadvantage. It is even more important to make the resulting policy conclusions, national and local, administrative and professional.

Side by side with that we have established an assessment of performance unit, with a wider brief, which is examining reasons why children of all ranges of ability too often fall below their potential and which will identify the policy consequences.

I should like to say something about the problem of the raising of the school leaving age. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would not be so pessimistic about it. He seemed to suggest that it had been a failure and that he expected it to become a worse failure.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The right hon. Gentleman is not correctly stating what I said. We have made it clear that we approve of and uphold the principle of raising the school leaving age to 16, but we say that in the light of present problems it would be intelligent to make it more flexible in application. One of our proposals is to allow children to leave before they are 16 after they have taken their final examinations.

Mr. Prentice

I shall be coming to the latter point later. On the general question, I accept the hon. Gentleman's correction and withdraw what I said. Nevertheless it would be helpful if the Conservative Party and all other parties would firmly reiterate their belief in the policy, to which we were all committed for many years, that the school leaving age should be raised to 16.

I believe that the first year of the higher school leaving age has on balance been a success story. I say "on balance" because there have been areas of great difficulty. There has been a survey by Her Majesty's inspectors, and I am considering in what form I can make the conclusions public. I shall make them public very shortly. The general verdict is that, although the performance has varied between areas and schools, the raising of the school leaving age is a success story overall. It has been a great help to thousands of children who would otherwise have left school too early.

My impression from school visits is that in the second year many schools are already learning from the mistakes of the first year. The boys and girls now at school who would have left voluntarily if they had been allowed to do so are already showing an attitude different from that of children who were in that age group during the first year. Many children who stayed on in the first year resented it so strongly because they were the first and others who had gone ahead of them 12 months earlier were able to leave at 15. In the second year it is being accepted as normal to stay at school until 16.

We have been considering a flexible summer leaving date for a long time. I agree that there has been delay, but the matter requires a great deal of discussion. To alter the rules would involve legislation, and it is clear that there is no prospect of legislation in the current Session affecting the summer of this year. Therefore, there is time for us to go further into the matter and put proposals to the House in due course. I do not want to say which way my mind is moving, but I can say that we are continuing to have a good deal of consultation on the point.

I come to two related matters. First, the Government have decided that it is time for a fundamental examination of the government and management of our schools. I use the term "government and management" in the widest sense. I do not mean merely the composition of governing bodies or management committees. I mean the relationship of those bodies with the local education authority and the head teacher, the relationship of the head teacher with the staff, and the relationship of the school with the parents and with the wider community. An examination of the matter is overdue.

The present statutory responsibility is distributed between the LEA, the governing body and the head teacher. That was enshrined in the 1944 Act, based on a White Paper published earlier that year. In the 30 years since then there have been many changes, two of which we particularly welcome. One is that parents in particular, and in some senses the wider community, have wanted to be more involved in schools. The growth of parent-teacher associations and similar bodies is an example.

The other change is the demand from teachers to have a bigger collective voice in decision making within the school. Teacher organisations have told me "A sensible head will always consult his staff on matters of importance, but we think that this consultation should be codified. There should be a guarantee that it will happen." There are many related problems, so we have decided to establish for England and Wales an independent inquiry into them. I do not have the precise terms of reference or the name of the chairman, but I hope to announce them very shortly. It will be a most important inquiry, which I think will have major effects upon our schools. We are talking of more than 30,000 schools and more than 8½ million children. The results of the inquiry can have great importance for the future of our education system.

I should like to say a few words about the whole vexed area of truancy and indiscipline. Again, I urge the House to consider the matter with a sense of perspective. It is easy to generalise from the bad examples. The hon. Gentleman was correct to say that the media have seized on those examples. We know that there are many schools—I believe the majority—in which there is good discipline and hard work and a happy and constructive atmosphere. Similarly, we need to realise that we are not talking about something that is peculiar to our schools. We are talking about the state of our society and about some of the deep-seated problems of urban and industrialised societies the world over. Many of those problems we are trying to understand.

Clearly, it is our duty to identify the problem within the schools in greater depth than hitherto. Further, we must try to identify the remedial steps which should be taken. We propose to invite into the Department representatives of the local authority associations, the teacher organisations and other bodies to discuss various matters. We are drawing up a consultative document as a basis for discussion. The document is of an exploratory nature. We are not starting with any hard and fast ideas as to what precisely needs to be done. We are saying that we need to discuss in a national forum a situation that is worrying us, the community and parents. We need to know whether we should take certain policy initiatives. I promise that I shall keep the House informed as the study develops.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

We welcome very much the two proposals that the right hon. Gentleman has outlined. They are both constructive steps in a difficult situation.

Mr. Prentice

It might be convenient if I take this opportunity to make an announcement about the school building programme for 1975–76. The Department is writing to LEAs today to inform them of their allocations for the year. The House may be aware that in a circular which we sent out on 31st December we announced that much greater flexibility would be available to local education authorities in the way in which they allocate their school building resources. In other words, they are being allocated a lump sum and they will be able to choose their own projects. They will be able to choose between primary and secondary school projects and between major and minor works.

The total that we have announced—this is, the figure for England—is almost £140 million. The exact figure is £139.9 million. It is a little higher than a pure basic needs programme. It will allow for some replacement and improvement work. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales expects to notify the LEAs in Wales shortly of their lump sum allocations for the same year. That is for a school building year which has now gone back to being from April to April. That brings us back to the traditional position which prevailed until recently.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford has spoken of our lack of originality and our lack of ideas in the Department of Education and Science. I shall remind the House of some of the basic changes that we have made in the past 11 months. They have been 11 difficult months. We have been severely constrained by an economic situation from which education cannot be contracted out. Despite that, I claim four major achievements.

First, we have ensured that education should not have to take an unfair share of the burdens imposed on the country by the economic situation. Our expenditure this year in real terms is higher than last year. Our expenditure next year will be higher still. In the rate support grant settlement the education element is 4 per cent. higher in real terms for next year than estimated expenditure for this year, and 10 per cent. higher than expenditure last year. If I were asked whether that was good enough I would have to say that it was not. The position is that many aspirations will have to be postponed. However, it represents a rate of progress that might not have been possible.

Secondly, we have identified the teaching profession in terms of quality, numbers and morale as the most important single item in education. I spoke of that in relation to the pay award, but that is not the only aspect. The rate support grant settlement allows for the employment of the 20,000 or so extra teachers that we expect to be available next September. It will allow for some modest improvement in the staffing ratios. Further, it allows for an extension of in-service training. We are making support for the work of the teachers our main priority even if other things have to wait. I think that that is right.

Thirdly, during the past 11 months we have begun to redistribute resources in favour of those who tended to get left behind in the past. The new units I mentioned earlier—namely, the education disadvantage unit and the assessment of performance unit—are examples. So is the reallocation of the building programme and such matters as introducing mandatory awards for HND students and adult students at Ruskin and similar colleges. Further, there are the funds we made available for fighting adult illiteracy and the extra allowance for teachers in social priority schools. Not one of those matters is earth-shattering in any sense, but together they amount to a redistribution of resources in favour of those who in the past were less well treated by our system.

Fourthly, we have given new impetus to the changeover from selective to comprehensive education despite all the huffing and puffing of the hon. Member for Chelmsford and his hon. Friends. We have proposed to continue that impetus and to pursue it to a successful conclusion.

I ask the House decisively to reject the motion. Despite all the difficulties, this has been a period of real advance towards better educational standards and towards a more just society. That advance will continue under this Government for many years to come.

5.8 p.m.

Sir George Sinclair (Dorking)

I join my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) in welcoming the Secretary of State's promise of an inquiry into the government and administration of secondary schools.

Mr. Prentice

Of all schools.

Sir G. Sinclair

Yes, of all schools. That is an urgent need and I hope that it will lead to a fairly wide-sweeping change of the current arrangements, which are proving unable, over quite a large range, to meet the problems that are being thrown up by society.

Secondly, I support my hon. Friend's demand for an inquiry into comprehensive schools. They are among our newest patterns of school, and it is time that we had a progress report. There is a real lack of knowledge throughout the country about their strong points and their weak points. We are all involved. The maintained sector, including the comprehensives, represents by far the greatest part of secondary education. Much of our national resources will be channelled into it. Taxpayers and parents throughout the country have a right to know what is going on in these new schools. We all hear had reports as well as stories of successes, but we need an impartial assessment of how far we have gone and what we should do to put things right.

With your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall confine myself to a small, but what I believe to be valuable, part of our education system—namely, the direct grant schools. As chairman of the governors of one such school, I declare a personal interest.

In rebuilding our economy and reshaping our social life we have a need throughout our education system for communities of learning in which bright young people will be stretched and given opportunities to develop their capacities to the full. That is an old argument but one which is specially valid at a time when so many educational standards are being called in question. Perhaps we should regard talent as a gift held in trust for the community. The community should help to foster that talent, and the young person who has talent should be encouraged to use it to the full, to enjoy its use and to return his best contribution to society.

A few years ago, in the Clayesmore Lectures, Lord Snow said that there should be two aims in education. The first was to give every child a chance to develop to the full, and the second was to stretch the more able boys and girls. He went on to judge that in the last 50 years the emphasis had increasingly been on the first, and that in recent years there had been comparative neglect of the second.

Very recently, Lord Crowther-Hunt said that there had been a decline in the upward curve of A-level candidates and of those who were qualified to go on to higher education but did not do so, and a drop in those who were opting for teaching. These trends must be worrying to the Secretary of State, but they must also be worrying for our universities, whose standards have consistently been amongst the highest in the world.

But in the direct-grant schools these trends are in the opposite direction. There, we have increased demands for places in the schools, increased demands from those completing their time at school for places in higher education, and increasing numbers of university awards.

Under the present system, which the Secretary of State is to maintain until the autumn of next year and then to tail off gradually if his plans stand, the demand for places in these schools is widespread and growing through all economic and social groups. This is not only because of the academic standards but because of the atmosphere in most of them in favour of hard work and reasonable discipline.

In general, these schools are humane and they are communities of learning. They are not so large that individuals feel it difficult to identify with the school and the people in it. Under the present system, these schools are providing an education service that is good for the country and is increasingly in demand by parents, whether they have the ability to pay or not.

My main argument is twofold. The first is that the good direct-grant schools have already proved their worth, are continually improving their own standards and adjusting to the new needs of society, and are becoming increasingly popular. They should be encouraged by the Government as providing centres of excellence in education and an element of variety of choice for the abler children.

My second line of argument is that if, as the right hon. Gentleman has indicated, the Government are decided that they will in due course, cease to help pay for any selective education at secondary level, they should not withdraw the support, either by the Government or through local authorities, until the maintained sector has digested the colossal changes and disruption now taking place and has got over the many problems of education and organisation that are bound to occur when such changes are being pushed through. The Government should not withdraw support until the maintained sector can, over the country as a whole, offer a range and quality of education that will allow every child, whether in the most able, the middle or the slow bands, to develop his or her capacity to the full.

I have visited many comprehensive schools all over the country in many urban areas as a member of the Select Committee on Race Relations. I have seen good and I have seen bad schools. My fervent hope is that these schools will be developed in such a way as to give all grades of ability the best chance and to give confidence to parents. There is at present little evaluation of what is going on in these schools. For example, the Inner London Education Authority has just said that all its teaching about the size of comprehensives in the past 20 years has been wrong, and that they must be reduced in size because they produce problems which they are unable to solve in the present condition of society.

When things go as fundamentally wrong as that, we should, in response to the worries of people all over the country, have an impartial inquiry. Until that happens, it would be wrong to withdraw support from those sectors of our secondary education that are proving of worth to the country.

There is no evidence at all that the direct-grant schools, which represent only about 2 per cent. of the school population of their age group, are impeding the development of non-selective schools in their areas. In Bristol, a city of just under 500,000 people, where there has been an examination in depth of the problem of co-existence between selective and nonselective schools, there are seven direct-grant schools, an unusually high proportion, representing about 5 per cent. of the children who go to school in Bristol, and yet there is no evidence that these schools are impeding the non-selective schools in the area. Indeed, there is ample evidence of the collaboration and dialogue between those in charge of the selective schools and those in charge of the maintained sector.

My plea to the Secretary of State is that he should not remove from the national education system a small but valuable part that has stood the test of time, has served the country well, and is well regarded all over the country. I ask him not to wipe out, for the sake of uniformity, a type of school that serves all income grades and helps a wide range of children of ability to reach their full potential, at a time when there is no evidence that such schools impede the development of the comprehensive schools and should, by providing a comparison, be able to help them. I ask him, in these circumstances, not to force the best of these schools to go entirely independent and thereby put their fees beyond the range of many parents who seek that type of education for their children. If the right hon. Gentleman does that, he will greatly impoverish British education.

5.18 p.m.

Mrs. Ann Taylor (Bolton, West)

I want to concentrate on just one aspect of the debate—the urgent need for further introduction of the comprehensive system to replace the selective system that many local authorities still operate. Although the debate is ostensibly about standards in education, it is always clear that the Opposition feel that it is only the grammar schools, with their record of conventional examination successes, that can provide any form of standards in education. That is the first myth which should be rejected.

In the first place, it is simply not true that it is only the grammar schools that have brought good examination results. Not all grammar schools are the citadels of examination excellence which the Opposition would have us believe. More important is the fact that examination results are not, or should not be, the only measure of educational standard and educational bent. I am not saying that examinations have no part to play. I say that they are not the be all and end all of education, as some hon. Members opposite would suggest. Teachers are concerned with teaching children and not just with teaching for examinations, and we should be concerned likewise.

The competitive nature of education in many grammar schools and in junior schools in areas where selection at 11 still takes place is not the best way in which to encourage children to take an interest in education. Indeed, it is often the fear of the consequences of selection that makes many children and many parents reject education. The indignities and the injustice of the 11-plus system are well known. What is also recognised by many parents in areas where selection takes place is that we have not only the 11-plus selection but selection at the age of seven.

Recently a mother in Bolton told me of her distress when her son was put into the B stream at the age of seven. It meant, she thought, the end of his chances educationally, just as it had with her elder son. However, in this instance representations were made to the school. The son was transferred to the A stream and within one term he was at the top of the A stream in the end-of-term examinations. How many times must mistakes like that occur?

That child was lucky because he had parents who cared and went to the school and said that they thought that something was wrong. But many parents in similar circumstances would have assumed that nothing could be done about it, that teachers and schools did not make mistakes, and that could have resulted in that child's opportunities ending at the age of seven.

This kind of anomaly is a direct and inevitable consequence of the selective system, which hon. Members opposite are supporting. The selective system obviously gives an enormous built-in advantage to a child who comes from a family where education is appreciated. Any teacher—and I speak from experience—can easily identify those children who at home get encouragement to learn, whereas, by contrast, the bright child from a home environment where education means nothing has so many disadvantages and fights such an uphill struggle that he rarely succeeds in the selective system.

I remember a young friend of mine whose father would not let her go to grammar school. He saw no point in it. She was a girl, after all, and that had disadvantages, but if she went to a grammar school she would need a uniform and would have to stay until the age of 16—this was before the school leaving age was raised. So, because her parents saw no value in her education being developed, that girl was denied a grammar school education and her potential was not realised.

The selective system makes educational successes of one in three children in some areas and in other areas it is one in five. That means that it makes failures of two in three, or four in five. We cannot accept a system that says that the vast majority of 11-year-old children are educational failures and should, therefore, have their educational opportunities curtailed at the age of 11. Even if a grammar school education were the best that could be available—and I certainly do not accept that—it would look after the interests of only a small minority.

I do not accept that a grammar school education is the best that can be provided, because many grammar schools provide only a limited spectrum of education and are rather rigid about the combinations of subjects that they allow pupils to take. I speak from my own experience and from my present close contacts with teachers. Most grammar schools still decide that their pupils are scientists, linguists or art students. If a student does not want to fall into any one of those categories, he is in difficulties because he does not fit into the pattern. Although these days one hears of girls studying, for instance, politics at grammar schools, it is still not very common. The rigidities of a grammar school education often restrict the pupils as the selective system generally restricts the opportunities of all children.

We can improve standards only by widening opportunities and by recognising that all children are different and must individually be encouraged to take advantage of opportunities that are available. More education opportunities will allow the pupil to develop to the full in the areas that interest him most or concern him most, and the wider the range of opportunities, the more chance there is that education standards will improve.

This is basically why I suggest that the introduction of a system of comprehensive education and the ending of selection will improve education opportunities for all children. Many local authorities have already taken steps to introduce good systems of comprehensive schools. These have often been tried and tested for many years. Although comprehensives are relatively new compared with grammar schools, there is a great deal of experience that proves that they can provide a very good education for many children.

The comprehensive system allows the education door to stay open for all children for as long as possible. At present, some second chances exist for some children, but often only for those children whose parents can afford to pay to reopen the door, or those who can afford to wait a long time to get a second chance as adults. For some years I taught in the Open University, which was one of the most significant advances of the previous Labour Government. I have seen many adults succeed at university level, although they were failures at the age of 11, and they must be typical of many others. Why should they have to wait so long for a second chance?

It is wrong to suggest that opportunities for the bright child will be curtailed in a comprehensive system. Indeed. I suggest that their opportunities will be widened. Many local authorities have already introduced comprehensive systems and, as my right hon. Friend has pointed out, many others are in the process of doing so. But there are others—a few maybe, but important—which are introducing deliberate delaying tactics so as to sabotage and delay the introduction of comprehensive education throughout the country.

The uncertainty that their attitude is causing is not helpful to education, and it is important that these tactics are not allowed to succeed. The Government must, therefore, act quickly to make sure that it is clear to local authorities, these local authorities particularly, that the Government are determined to see an end to selection during the lifetime of the present Parliament. Opportunities to do so have been lost in the past, and it is crucial that the Government pursue this policy as soon as possible.

As the Secretary of State has said, the Government have already taken some action to improve education standards in the widest sense. They have given extra help to the Open University to widen the opportunities available to adults. Also—and this is very important—confidence is being restored in the teaching profession because of the Houghton Committee. This is not the time to discuss the details and proposals of the Houghton Report or to say that perhaps the younger teachers should have had a bigger slice of the cake. However, the report has done much to restore morale in teaching, and that in turn will improve standards. Far from criticising the attitude which the Secretary of State has taken in the past year, we must urge him to act quickly to maintain the progress which is being made. In particular, he must make sure that local authorities do not frustrate the intentions of the Government and do not frustrate the opportunities which will exist for children in their areas.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. William Shelton (Streatham)

I do not intend to follow the argument of the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor), except to assure her that there is no hostility on the Conservative side of the House towards comprehensive education. There is a certain amount of disquiet about some of the problems which the system is presenting. We do not seem to be able to get away from the problems of selection when we have a debate on educational standards. However, it is the subject of standards to which I propose to devote myself. Hare I shall be following my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), who talked about standards and not selection.

Despite the reassuring remarks in the latter part of the interesting speech of the Secretary of State, I must subscribe to the motion because, although it may be, as the proverbial duck, that the Department is paddling very hard under water, above water it gives the impression of a serenity bordering upon apathy. Let me explain the burden of my charge. I always judge the excellence of a school on three criteria. The first is whether it meets the educational needs of the children being educated there; the second is the influence it has on the formative years while the child attends at school; and the third is whether the parents on the whole are satisfied with the school. On these three counts we have increasing problems before us.

Let me deal with my first criterion. I welcomed the way in which the Secretary of State put into context the educational standards of today compared with those of five or 10 years ago. It needed doing and it was probably right. I say "probably right" because we do not know. We do not have enough information. Every now and again this veil of apparent secrecy is lifted, usually by independent bodies. This is causing widespread concern.

Mention has been made of the Manchester survey, which I believe is being done again. I understand that it is not as accurate as was originally thought. The Sheffield survey is incomplete. We have had the survey entitled "Educational Priorities", from the Department of Education in conjunction with the Social Science Research Council, which had some rather disturbing results about reading abilities in Liverpool, Birmingham, Deptford and the West Riding. The conclusions about the reading ability of children aged 11 was disturbing. We had a survey published in The Teacher magazine of 17th May about the situation in inner London. Over half of a sample of 16-year-olds, all day-release pupils, had reading levels below the average of a 10-year old.

We have had the survey from the Social Studies Department of Oxford University which appeared at the end of last year and was mentioned by my hon. Friend. It has been revealed that 60 per cent. of Asian children in Birmingham cannot read English at the age of 11. I draw to the attention of the House the recent disquieting reports of violence among immigrant youngsters in Lambeth, which includes my constituency, which appeared in the Press in the past few weeks. What correlation is there between literacy and violence among school leavers?

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Lambeth, Central)

The figures to which the hon. Gentleman has referred and which appeared in the Press have been proven to be grossly exaggerated.

Mr. Shelton

May I say how much I welcome that intervention? I am pleased to hear what the hon. Gentleman says. Nevertheless I would still welcome any facts on the correlation between literacy and violence among young people, especially in urban areas. In this situation, special attention has to be given to the problems of schooling in urban areas, especially where all-through 11 to 18 comprehensive schools are concerned. This is where I support my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford in his request for some independent study.

There is this dilemma in these schools. Either they are large enough to generate an adequate sixth form, when we find that discipline cannot be maintained, or they are small enough to maintain discipline but they do not generate a sixth form of sufficient academic ability. We know that the Inner London Education Authority has talked about co-operation between sixth forms in "mini-comprehensives". I do not believe that this would work. The answer might be some kind of sixth form college; perhaps the middle school system of organisation, the campus system, or the voucher system. I do not know, and I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman or anyone else in the House knows, the best form of organisation for non-selective comprehensive education, especially in deprived urban areas.

This is where we should be looking to the Government and to the Department for guidance. This guidance is not forthcoming. I do not believe it can be, until more is found out about what is going on. This is why we say "For Heaven's sake let us find out what is going on." We say this not in a destructive but in a constructive spirit. If the country is increasingly to go comprehensive, there are as many forms of comprehensive education as there are fingers on my hands. Some forms are much better than others in certain parts of the country.

The second criterion by which I judge a school is the influence it has in the formative years of a child. Here we come to the problem of truancy, discipline and violence. On discipline and violence I refer hon. Members to the interesting—not alarming but certainly disturbing—survey carried out by the National Association of Schoolmasters. I welcome its help. This is an outside body supplying information which the House should have, perhaps from the Department.

Truancy can be over-stated but it seems to be increasing. The absenteeism—not truancy—figures for the ILEA in 1970 gave an attendance rate of 89 per cent. In 1973 there was 87 per cent. attendance and in 1974 the figure was 85 per cent. There is one good comprehensive school in my area where absenteeism is running at about 20 per cent. That means there is an absentee rate of 180 pupils a day on average. When we turn these percentages into figures we can appreciate the measure of concern.

Mr. Michael Ward (Peterborough)

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that the figures he has quoted relate to all absences and include the vast majority of children who are absent for quite acceptable and proper reasons?

Mr. Shelton

Of course they refer to all absences. That is why I said "absenteeism" and not "truancy". I do not think the vast majority are absent for acceptable reasons. I do not know. I should like to know.

Mr. Ward

Would the hon. Gentleman agree, taking the survey he has quoted, that the figures for every part of the ILEA area are carefully prepared and show precisely how many children were absent for acceptable reasons and how many for unacceptable or unknown reasons? Does he accept that the total number in the latter category was small, a little over 3 per cent.?

Mr. Shelton

I recall to the hon. Gentleman the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford about the results of the police sweep in South London. I shall be glad to give the results of that to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Ward


Mr. Shelton

With respect, I will not give way. There are certain specific things that can be done, and I call on the Government to do them. I welcome what the Secretary of State said about the convention or council on truancy.

Mr. Prentice

The Department will initiate discussions on these problems with local authority associations and teacher organisations and other bodies. There will be no formal council but a series of discussions.

Mr. Shelton

I welcome that.

Certain steps should be taken straight away. First, I believe strongly that the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 should be amended as a matter of urgency. I am sure that there will be agreement expressed in the consultations which the Secretary of State will, I hope, have soon about this matter. I understand that local education authorities are prevented from prosecuting in truancy cases. That makes their case much more difficult.

Secondly, the law should be amended so as to give the police the right to question pupils they pick up in the type of sweep I mentioned. I know that many police authorities are not proceeding with action of this type because they are not certain of their legal position—I understand that they may be challenged by civil rights associations—and this is inhibiting the kind of fruitful collaboration which has taken place between police and local authorities.

Thirdly, there should be amendment of the law regarding the responsibility of parents for the absenteeism of their children from school. I am advised that in law the parents are in a strong position. I should welcome a promise from the Secretary of State to look into this problem as well.

In addition, local education authorities should be encouraged, to say the least, to have attendance checks made in schools throughout the day. A check first thing in the morning is not enough. They need not be carried out throughout the day every day. In schools which make attendance checks first thing in the morning, the boys and girls come in, leave and do not return. I should like random spot checks to be made. They should be a regular feature of the school, and it should be known that they are done.

There should be an adequate number of staff to follow up absenteeism and truancy. I understand that publicity was given to a welfare officer who had about 10,000 children to follow up. I should like to know what the situation is and to hear whether the Secretary of State is satisfied that there is adequate staff for this purpose. I should like to see greater co-operation between schools, local education authorities and police juvenile bureaux. Such co-operation is proving to be very effective in Lambeth, apart from the legal difficulties I have mentioned.

Finally, there should be a more flexible school leaving age. I welcome the promise of the report of Her Majesty's Inspectorate on the problems concerning the school leaving age. It may well be that I am wrong in requesting a more flexible school leaving age. I am therefore happy to await the findings of the report. What a good thing it is that there should be a report, with established, authoritative findings, on which we can base judgments.

The third measure by which I judge the success of a school is the satisfaction it gives to the parents and whether the parents are happy with their children's progress. The position seems to be deteriorating. I hope that the House will forgive me if I again quote London figures, but they are the only figures I have readily available. In September 1974, 420 children were not at school because their parents were dissatisfied with the school to which the Inner London Education Authority wished to send them. In 1973, 255 children were not at school. There was, therefore, a considerable increase in the number in one year.

In my constituency there are children who have not been to school since last September. The Secretary of State is aware of a case in which the child of one of my constituents tried to commit suicide when he was told that he would go to a certain school. Fortunately, his life was not lost. This illustrates the strength of feeling that there is, rightly or wrongly, about certain schools. Perhaps the school in question was a good school, but there was a feeling in the community about it.

I agree with the Secretary of State that there must be much greater parental involvement in the education system. After what the right hon. Gentleman said, I look for his support for the Private Member's Bill entitled Education (Parents' Charter) Bill, the Second Reading of which will take place on 25th April. It will have four main provisions. First, it proposes that we should amend the Education Act 1944 to remove the provisions which vitiate the injunction on local education authorities to ecomply with parents' wishes. Secondly, it proposes the setting up of local tribunals of elected councillors to which parents can apply, should they feel aggrieved by the local education authority's decision on the school for their children.

The third provision relates to parental representation on the boards of governors and managers. I do not suppose that the Government's examination of this matter will have taken place by 25th April. Consequently, I shall probably have to proceed without the interesting data which will result from it. However, I greatly welcome that examination. We cannot, and do not, have enough facts on which to base judgments on education.

The fourth injunction will be an obligation on schools to consult parents on certain matters.

I do not wish now to elaborate on the Bill because many hon. Members wish to speak. Perhaps I shall have the opportunity of doing so on 25th April.

I return to my original theme. The Secretary of State is like a general who is planning a hard battle on selection, quite unaware that throughout the land the war for standards is being lost.

5.48 p.m.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

I listened with care to the speech of the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton). It was such a retailing of gloom and doom that it should have been accompanied by the Dead March in "Saul". One would hardly have understood if one was not engaged in education, as I have been all my life, that he was talking about the subject dealt with in the schools system which is bound to have its weaknesses, as does anything which is in the process of progressive development. To labour one side of the problem without referring to all the splendid work being done in education bedevils the issue and does not recognise the realities of the situation.

We should be proud of having the finest education system in the world. I draw my sustenance from the large number of educationists I have met who have travelled in many countries examining their systems of education and trying to draw from them that which is good, humane and civilised. I have rarely met anyone who does not admit that, although we have a great deal to learn from others, we have also a great deal to give from our education system.

The British education system is the most humane and compassionate in the world, and the most civilised in almost every aspect. I can see that Opposition Members who are laden with gloom and doom do not agree with me. It is a pleasure to disagree with people who are so patently wrong and determined to pull down a system about which, as most of their speeches reveal, they know so little.

Since the last war, our standards of education academically and in practical attainment have become almost unrecognisable compared even with the high standards at that time. The standards are now much higher and can be shown to be higher by scrutiny of examination results. Educationists on both sides of the House who have looked at the examination results are bound to agree with me. They would have to produce chapter and verse to show why they disagree—which they cannot do—before I could sympathise with them.

There is more involvement in education of all the relevant people than there has ever been. These people and we in the House are trying to democratise the whole process of education in a way that brings together teachers, pupils, parents, welfare officers and all who are trying to better our system. Participation by teachers is increasing, and we are on the verge of mandatory consultation between the head teacher and his staff. Conversations are going on continuously between these groupings to try to make the system better and better in the face of the patent provocation and condemnation of Opposition Members.

Dr. Keith Hampson (Ripon)

Will the hon. Gentleman give credit to my right hon. Friend for the tremendous expansion which took place between 1970 and 1974, which was far greater in every sector than that which has taken place under the Labour Government? Is it not extraordinary, when the hon. Gentleman's union and his hon. Friends have so often knocked the practices of this country and compared them unfavourably with those of the United States, that the Minister should now set up an inquiry—for which I asked—into why there is a falling off in the number of students receiving higher education?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

Order. Interventions which are minature speeches are unfair when at least 26 hon. Members wish to take part in the debate.

Mr. Flannery

I am sure the hon. Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson), who has just made that small speech, does not expect me to agree with him totally. The right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) did grapple with some problems which I and other members of constant deputations put to her, but she refused to deal with many of them. Secondly, the right hon. Lady failed to understand the process of comprehensivisation and refused scheme after scheme which we put to her and which we could prove to be acceptable schemes.

In Sheffield we have democratised the whole structure of governors and managers in the last few years. We have moved from group governors and managers to managers and governors for each individual school. We tried to do something about church schools and found that the leaders of the churches wanted to do much the same as we had done.

I want to deal briefly with the question of violence in schools. The very term does violence to the reality. I took part in a discussion on the radio some time ago with the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), who described violence in schools as "a conspiracy of silence". It is the most loud-mouthed and blaring media conspiracy of silence I have ever come across. It is used continuously and endlessly to denigrate the schools. Having been a teacher for so long, I am the last person to deny that the problem is there, but in dealing with it one has to recognise its magnitude without grossly exaggerating it and switching attention away from the many matters with which we are dealing. To lay violence in schools at the door of the raising of the school leaving age is to be completely wrong.

Many years ago when the school leaving age was raised, reactionary voices were raised against it and attempts were made to prove that everything was going wrong. At the end of the last war the same voices, or possibly the voices of the next generation, were raising the same complaints, but after a time they subsided.

What is the reality of any violence which occurs in schools? It is that we live in a violent society. That society has violence in the streets—mugging—violence at football matches and violence in many other areas. It is often due to our inheritance from the past, when people bought for themselves the privi- leges they wanted—private education, private hospital beds and whatever money would buy—and moved aside the vast majority of people and did not expose them to a complete progressive education of the type we are trying to give them. Because of the totality of the system in which we live, not because of the schools alone, we have a semblance of violence in schools with which we are honourably trying to grapple.

Many Opposition Members think that a school is a social organisation for rectifying all the ills of society. It is nothing of the kind. It reflects with a frightening degree of accuracy the society in which the school is, and tells us a great deal more about what is happening outside, the problems which face people in a particular area, the broken family, poverty and the abject misery in the homes of many children. The whole problem needs examination.

We have had endless talks about comprehensive schools. It is recognised now, not only in my constituency but by the mass of society, that the comprehensive school is the most progressive form of education that has ever come to our country, or ever will. It now needs to be developed in a humane, compassionate manner by using the lessons we learn and without the total condemnation which the right hon. Member for Finch-ley, when she was the responsible Minister, gave to this system of education. It is a major advance. More children than ever before have been exposed to education, and the vast majority of people recognise that.

I well remember what happened in Sheffield when we put forward the idea of comprehensive education. Certain people told us that our vote in the municipal elections would fall. But when we put forward the idea of comprehensive education as a major part of our platform, we were gratified to receive a larger vote than we had ever had—because the majority of people in Sheffield wanted that form of education and will never want to return to the old system.

It is the people who want personal favours from society who oppose comprehensive education. We hear much talk about a parents' charter. That is real Tory demogogy. It envisages a charter for a selected, elitist group of parents who wish to return to a form of education which thrives on wealth, place and privilege but works to the exclusion of other children. We will have none of it. The reality of the situation is that comprehensive education is the greatest parents' charter and children's charter we have ever had. Conservative Members may laugh, but it will go from strength to strength.

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Flannery

No, I cannot give way to the hon. Lady. I want to continue because I have been speaking possibly for longer than I intended.

I should like to turn to modern schooling methods, especially those pursued in primary schools, in the hope that similar methods will find their way into the secondary sphere of education. Whenever new methods are used a certain measure of abuse and misuse occurs, but this happens whenever anything new is introduced in any sphere. The hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) and her Conservative colleagues should go into the primary schools and examine them. They are a delight. The advances in education in our primary schools are phenomenal. We must not allow ourselves to be diverted from those modern methods by reactionary arguments of the kind we constantly hear from the Conservative benches. We must seek to improve what is already a progressive education system of which we can be proud. We should devote more research to the solution of problems of violence and not shrug off the problem. We must attempt to find its social causes—in other words, where it begins and what society needs to counter it. We certainly require a better form of society to grapple with the problem of violence.

We on the Labour benches are trying to bring about a better form of society, and we hope that we shall have the help of everybody in this aim.

I know that the hon. Member for Brent, North will disagree with me when I say that we should spend more money on providing more schools, smaller classes and more teachers. I believe that the smaller the class the better the participation between pupil and teacher. The more money we spend on education and the less we spend on armaments, the better will be our education, the more teachers we shall have and the greater will be the number of teaching spaces. We must not be allowed to be diverted from our aim by all the doom and gloom merchants. We are on the right lines, and we shall go from strength to strength—not by shrugging off the difficulties and the problems of violence but by grappling with those problems together. I hope that Opposition Members will help us to deal with the problems of education.

6.5 p.m.

Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

We on the Liberal benches welcome this debate particularly because of the good and responsible speech made by the hon. and saintly Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas). For far too long we in this House, and, indeed, everybody in the country, have become accustomed to hearing the hon. Gentleman talk about the 7 per cent. in the independent sector. Therefore, it was most gratifying today to know that finally he has managed to get round to the other 93 per cent. of children in the public sector of education, and that Conservatives are now caring for what must be regarded, even if one's mathematics are poor, to be the majority.

If there was a fault in the hon. Gentleman's speech—and, of course, there were many—I thought that his suggestions meant that it was the Conservative Party rather than the teachers or the children who would benefit from his proposals. He talked a good deal about violence, and violence is an important matter at present. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) rightly said that we live in violent times However, I do not think that, all in all, that is a relevant suggestion, because it provides no solution. I feel that people who are violent, especially people of school age, tend to be violent and destructive not in their homes but away from their homes. The more these potentially violent students are involved in the running of the school and in the responsibilities of the school the greater will be the chance of stamping out violence. I do not think a solution to help stamp out violence comes from hon. Members appearing on television and talking about it, although one must admit that as soon as one writes a letter about violence in schools one gets more offers of highly-paid television work than one does from almost any other statement.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford also spoke about truancy, as indeed did many other contributors, and truancy is a fact and always has been. On two occasions in this House, I personally tried to introduce a Private Member's Bill aimed at amending the raising of the school leaving age. I have far more sympathy and respect for the Government, who listened to me and voted against that measure, than I have for members of the official Opposition who listened, abstained and then incorporated my suggestions in their official party manifesto. I can see no excuse for the once saintly Member for Chelmsford saying what he said today in view of his behaviour on two occasions when he was present in the House and abstained from voting on the very proposals which this afternoon he set out as his party's policy.

I should also like to lay emphasis on the problems of illiteracy. It is right to recognise that there are 2 million adult illiterates. The fault does not lie with any one political party, because both the Conservative and Labour Parties, and indeed the country, are to blame. I should like to see more money being spent on remedial teaching and perhaps less money being spent on yet another expensive survey aimed at finding out how many children are born to illiterates, whether they watch television in the afternoon or the evenings, and all the rest of it. That exercise is extremely expensive and does not get away from the fact that we have 2 million adult illiterates and that 7 per cent. of school leavers are joining them. I very much hope that the expenditure will not be a continuing one, because Government expenditure tends to be £1 million this year rising to £3 million, £5 million and £10 million in subsequent years on such exercises. We need more money spent in the initial stages of education and more remedial teachers in the primary section. There is a great need for remedial teachers. It is an appalling fact that 30 per cent. of the pupils who leave primary education require some sort of remedial teaching.

I recently asked the Secretary of State in a Written Question how many trained remedial teachers there were, and the answer came back after a while, as answers often do come back from the Department of Education and Science, that the Department did not know. I asked why it did not know. It thought that, as a statistic, it was not sufficiently important to establish. If it is sufficiently important to spend £1 million on combating adult illiteracy, it must be reasonably important to establish how many teachers are properly trained to remedy simple deficiencies in the reading ability of primary school children.

I welcome the plea made by the Opposition spokesman on education for a national standard of examinations of reading, writing and numeracy, because education suffers too much from external examiners. I believe that the educated-towards-an-examination student is a monumental bore, because we need not just education but judgment. Education is that which remains after a student has torn up his notes and burnt his books. The knowledge with which he is left is real education. That is what we should be looking for.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford complained of the lack of statistics and threatened to set up his own survey. That is another appalling idea. Such a survey set up by an Opposition party, which does not have the figures at its fingertips, will be incomplete. It will produce another set of distorted figures, which will prove nothing at all.

The hon. Gentleman made the important point that the aims of the two parties as regards education are different. I should have been more impressed if the aim of his party was to care more for children and teachers. But not a bit of it. The aim seems to be that it cares more for parents. We know that a charter for parents is not worth the paper it is written on. If a parent wishes to involve himself in a school, he does so. But we cannot have a charter to force parents to become involved in schools. I should like to see a teachers' charter, because teachers are involved in schools. Whether a school is a good school or a bad school depends on the teacher. It depends predominantly on the teacher and not on the size or location or on the fact that the school is 500 yards away from its sister school, with which it was merged probably against its own wishes.

We should call for greater involvement in schools by the community. In Chatteris, in my constituency, is a school which is virtually never closed. It holds adult education classes, bird shows, amateur dramatics and badminton, and people go there to dance and to watch television. That is what a school should be—an extension of the community. There is no violence in that school because the community is proud of it. If there were violence or vandalism in that school the anger would come not so much from the local education authority as from the other people living in the town. That is the ideal place of a school in the community.

The Liberals will not fight the direct-grant proposal. That would be pointless, because it was announced by the Government that the direct grant would be phased out. In many ways the proposal to include financially dependent schools in the independent sector was a mistake. However, I hope that the direct grant will be fairly phased out. There are parents in Ely who wish to send their children to St. Mary's Convent in Cambridge, which is a direct-grant school. They have been told that the grant is being phased out geographically. The only girls allowed to enter St. Mary's Convent, Cambridge, next year are those living in Cambridge. The children of my Ely constituents are not even allowed to sit for the examination and that is manifestly unfair. I hope the Minister will look into the matter.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the Liberal Party will not oppose or fight the phasing out or abolition of direct-grant schools?

Mr. Freud

I accept there is an anomaly with regard to direct-grant schools. We have committed ourselves to defend what is good in education. I noticed that when the Secretary of State announced what good schools had been closed there was not a murmur, although I believe the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) whispered or mouthed a name. We shall defend what is good in education. However, we are committed, as was the Conservative Party when in government, to the introduction of comprehensive schools. We shall continue to honour our commitment

Mr. Teddy Taylor

That is an unsatisfactory answer.

Mr. Freud

I am glad to follow in the hon. Gentleman's footsteps; I have never heard the hon. Gentleman yet give a satisfactory answer.

While welcoming the review of school governors and managements, we would welcome a review of the "sackability" of head teachers. We have now reached the stage where head teachers are about the only local authority servants receiving over £5,000 a year with total security of tenure. I am not saying that because I think that the security of tenure of a Member of Parliament is perhaps not as safe as it might be. However, it is wrong that a headmaster who probably became a headmaster of a different kind of school from the one in which he is now head teacher should be protected so well while the members of the other professions and industries live a very much more dangerous life.

We accept that 6.5 per cent. of the gross national product will be the lot of education in the years to come. We welcome the additional independence given to local authorities, which will be allowed to decide how the funds will be distributed in the different sectors. However, we should like to know how Houghton is to be financed. What is the view of the Secretary of State regarding the payment of teachers' salaries, and how much of this will come from the central Exchequer and how much power will the local education authorities lose as a result of it?

The motion deals with the reduction of each of the salaries of the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Secretary of State for Scotland by £1,000 per year. It is a very difficult motion to oppose or support. The matter was carefully considered at a meeting of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. We did not arrive at a figure within several hundred pounds of that proposed by the Opposition. Since we could not agree on the distribution of cuts in salaries to the Secretaries of State, we were left with no alternative but to abstain. The English members of the Liberal Party abstain with considerable sympathy towards the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

6.19 p.m.

Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)

Debates of this kind are not easy when opened with such feeble arguments as we heard from the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas). We are discussing a serious subject which should bring hon. Members together to find solutions. The hon. Member simply made an Oxford Union debating speech of the kind I have heard him make for the last 20-odd years and contributed nothing to the search for solutions. If the Conservative Party wants to be taken seriously in education, it should send the hon. Member back to the arty things that he was in charge of before, where he may have some contribution to make, and appoint someone serious to this post. Educational politics are not helped by the sort of unequal contest with which this debate started.

It is important to us on this side to take these problems seriously and not try to whitewash them. It is true that truancy—a word I do not like—is on the increase. It is a serious problem in particular parts and sometimes in particular schools in our urban areas. Anyone in charge of receiving youngsters from primary schools to secondary schools in some of these areas is worried about their standard of literacy. It does no good to cover up these things.

However, it is equally bad for people who know little about the subject to put even greater pressure on the schools and the teachers in a blanket apportioning of blame and call for a return to old-fashioned methods. Some city schools use old-fashioned methods and others use modern methods and there is no correlation between method and success, or lack of success.

As I have said before, we expect our schools to solve too many social problems. The remedies to many of the problems discussed tonight lie deep within society—in bad housing, low pay, economic oppression of one-parent families and so on. Until we put those things right in the urban areas, we cannot expect these problems to improve. This is why I particularly welcome my right hon. Friend's announcement of an inquiry into the government and management of schools. It is a puzzle why schools which appear absolutely similar in their intake have results varying from outstandingly good from outstandingly bad. We can discover how to put this right by a reinvestigation of whose responsibility it is to uphold standards in schools.

The idea of a single head teacher holding the responsibility for all the children in his school—an idea created in the nineteenth century, when elementary schools were small and the idea was valid—is idiotic and absurd in relation to schools of 1,500 and 2,000 pupils. Such a philosophy has never been applied to other large educational institutions like polytechnics and universities. All teachers, including head teachers, should be made to feel more responsible for the standards—in the broadest sense—not only educational—that the youngsters reach. Responsibility should be given to local education authorities and to my right hon. Friend and they should be able to intervene to discuss why standards are falling.

All too often, because of their system of management and government, schools insulate themselves from anyone in authority responsible for maintaining standards. I hope that this investigation will draw closer links between schools, local education authorities and the Secretary of State so as to prevent governors and managers from being a wet blanket between the school and the LEA, and thus preventing a proper relationship from developing.

It is important that education authorities which are genuinely trying to go comprehensive should no longer be inhibited by the existence of voluntary-aided schools which are deliberately and openly trying to prevent that process. I spoke about this in a debate just before Christmas. It is wrong to allow extra capital to be provided by raising the grant from 80 to 85 per cent. without asking for a quid pro quo. As I said then, that quid pro quo should be local authority control over entry policy. This cannot wait for another Education Act. A short Bill proposing that local education authorities as well as the governors of aided schools should be responsible for initiating changes in character would probably do the trick quickly and allow comprehensive education where it should have come into being many years ago.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford mentioned a statement by the Lambeth police which I find disturbing because I do not think that it reflects the truth. That statement was that one-third of all the children were playing truant. The police rounded up youngsters and took them back to school. I understand that in South London, which I now know well, this is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon. The police, who have a clear responsibility to prevent juvenile crime, go in for dragnet operations, sweeping the area, picking up the children and dumping them back in their comprehensive schools.

This is, strictly speaking, illegal. The youngsters are committing no offence by playing truant. Any offence is committed by their parents, whose job it is to cause them to go to school. I am not arguing that the police do not have a responsibility to prevent crime and arrest youngsters whom they feel might be likely to commit an offence, but their responsibility is to return them to the custody of their parents and make it clear that it is for the parents to send them to school. The parents never hear about many of these dragnet operations. The children are merely dumped in the school and they play truant the next day.

I am very concerned about the widespread use of the police in London and perhaps other areas of the country for that sort of operation. Very soon after compulsory education was introduced, education welfare officers were brought in specifically to keep the police out of this sort of operation because the children were not actually committing an offence. As I have said, the offence is that of the parents. I very much hope that when my right hon. Friend is looking into the problem of truancy, this problem can be thought about very seriously, and with it a strengthening of the education welfare service, which is in many ways the Cinderella of our social services and has had a pretty raw deal in some ways over the past few years.

6.31 p.m.

Dr. Rhodes Boyson (Brent, North)

The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) dealt with the question of standards. I do not agree with everything he said, but some of it was a pointer to the problems. It would be wrong to minimise or maximise the problems facing education at present in relation to standards, otherwise it would be a question of the emperor's clothes. Some educationists would pretend that things were going right when they were not—and we all know that they are not. It is not the responsibility of one Government, the Government who took over last February, as there have been changes in Government every three or four years.

Much of this decline has occurred because of things which have happened outside Parliament over which Parliament has little control, especially in the schools. I do not mean that the violence in schools is the responsibility of society. The idea that we are all guilty means that no one is guilty. But responsibility must lie somewhere, and I put much of it on the schools.

Four features of declining, standards have been mentioned. The first is the question of literacy. Start and Wells and many others have referred to that. Recently the Society of Remedial Teachers has brought out the alarming fact that half of the adult illiterates are below the age of 25. That fact cannot be whitewashed.

On the question of truancy, the figures of the ILEA are very worrying. Five years ago there was an 89 per cent. attendance in secondary schools. Last year the figure was 84 per cent. There has been a fall of 1 per cent. a year over the past five years. I would say that with the normal boy being a healthy animal, any absence over 5 per cent. is truancy in some way. By that I mean that it is not absence in the generally accepted way, which means that the increase of truancy in London has risen from 6 per cent. to 11 per cent. in five years. That is a serious figure if it is to continue.

Mr. Ward

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the fact that ILEA carried out a very detailed daily study of absenteeism and produced the figures as an average of 3.6 per cent. over the whole of Inner London demonstrates that actual absence for unknown or unacceptable reasons is only of that order and not 11 per cent?

Dr. Boyson

No. I do not accept that. Local education authorities pretend that their figures are better. It seems that the hon. Gentleman has never met a bureaucrat whose idea is to pretend that the problems are smaller.

Mr. Ward

The study was done by teachers.

Dr. Boyson

And teachers, as well. They try to do their best, as do most of us. We are all trying to pretend that we are succeeding in Parliament. That is the natural behaviour of hon. Members on both sides of the House. That figure is serious. To argue about the figures shows that one is not facing the problem but just playing at nit-picking.

Thirdly, on violence, the National Association of Schoolmasters, of which I have never been a member but which has 67,000 members, had reported to it four years ago 10 cases of attacks in the classroom. Last year there were 600 cases. That is an increase of 6,000 per cent. If that is not serious, I do not know what is. People do not make these things up. One hon. Member may laugh, but he would not laugh if he had been the six hundredth case of attack, although he could if he were the six hundred and first. If this matter is laughed at, that shows how far the Labour Party is out of touch with the country.

Those are the three factors of decrease in standards. Anyone who pretends that they are not decreasing is out of touch with reality. It is justification by faith and certainly not by works on the Government side of the House when these things are said.

The Minister mentioned the number of passes at O- and A-level, which have increased. I accept that. The trouble with that figure is that we do not know what it means. I think the Minister would agree that ever since 1925 the same percentage who have sat the examinations have passed every year. It just means that more have sat. We hope that the standard is the same. But unless we could get out the 1925 papers and compare them with those in 1975 we simply could not know. At O-level 55 per cent. have passed and at A-level 70 per cent. have passed. irrespective of the number sitting. It means that more are sitting. It does not necessarily mean that standards have remained the same. Obviously it would be helpful to have clarification of the problem here.

I do not think that more money, more teachers or more new schools will solve this problem. We have had this ever since the war. Pupil-teacher ratio has gone down and the percentage of gross national product spent on education has risen, and the problems have increased. I am not suggesting that if we spent less the problem would go away, but hon. Members on the Government side of the House cannot pretend that by spending more the problems will go away.

The problems are twofold. One is the decline of an understood curriculum, by which teachers know what they were doing in schools and others outside also knew, both in primary and in secondary schools. So the first thing is the decline of the authority of a curriculum.

The second thing is the change in teaching methods in many cases, which have not been checked before being spread like a fever throughout the country. There was a time when it did not matter to which school one sent one's child because the curriculum and the emphasis were the same. But so much of child-centred education is really teacher-centred education where each school has done the thing in which it was interested, and this is what has alarmed a number of parents. Many schools are as good as they ever were. Some schools are better. But a considerable number, 10 or 20 per cent. are worse than they were. It is about those schools that people are concerned, and they do not want their children to attend them. If Labour Members doubt what I am saying, may I say that I could bring parents to tell them why they did not want their children to attend such schools. The facts have been dealt with this afternoon.

The discovery method, so-called, is not as successful with the average teacher as the traditional method. The top 10 per cent. of teachers succeed with any method and can excite children everywhere. The bottom 5 per cent. would have a riot with a dead rabbit. In between the other 85 per cent. can basically teach well in a structure in which they know what they are doing but not in one in which the curriculum has gone and in which the timetable has gone. In some of the feeder schools to Highbury Grove Comprehensive School there was no curriculum and no timetable. These are the schools about which I am concerned. They could do with a visitation from hon. Members to see how difficult things can be. Perhaps with a stable staff their system would work, but one cannot try these new methods in circumstances in which one is grappling to get children into school. There is the failure of the discovery method. So little can be discovered in a lifetime by any of us on even the Opposition side of the House, let alone by hon. Members on the Government side. It is probably the most inefficient method ever discovered for passing education to mankind.

Perhaps the suggestions made by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West as to the bigger schools needing different people responsible for various standards is right. The head of a school of 1,500 cannot watch the standards. It cannot be done. Perhaps there is need of a new school relationship, but the relationship must not be what has happened in London and other areas where we have created new bureaucratic bodies of super-teachers who hardly ever see a classroom from one year's end to the next. We have created people outside to deal with the problems in the classroom which would not exist were they in the classroom. This is a most strange method.

I make only one point about the comprehensive school, and this is what concerns me. It is not just a question of what it does to the most able chap. It is a question of what it does to the least able chap. This is equally a problem. I am alarmed that at certain comprehensive schools in London the percentage of illiterates is higher than it was under the previous form of organisation, and I am concerned about the rise in illiteracy at the bottom with the spread of comprehensive schools. I am not saying that the comprehensive schools are responsible for this. It seems to me that there is a lack of success in the comprehensives also at the bottom end. Many people worry about the top end, and that too wants inquiring into.

There are only two ways by which we can improve standards rapidly. First—I think that the Minister is moving towards this, and there has been a general movement towards it—basic standards will have to be laid down which the average child can be expected to attain each year. We would then know that at the age of seven children could be expected to be reasonably literate and numerate. Then by the age of 11 they would have gone further in many other subjects, those subjects occupying, say, 85 per cent. of curriculum time with 15 per cent. of time being "Green Shield" time or teacher choice time in art and music.

We shall have to have Her Majesty's inspectors going back and carrying out tests. We cannot leave the bad schools as bad as they are; there will have to be some interference in them. A Labour Party paper published about two years ago said that something would have to be done about poor schools. Indeed it will have to be done.

It was a mistake to end general inspections in 1966. I do not believe in the perfection of man or even of woman. I believe that the Garden of Eden happened at some time, somewhere, and we are all better for being examined sometimes, as all Members of Parliament submit themselves to examination at General Elections. Such examinations are, as Dr. Johnson said, like the prospect of being hanged, and they concentrate a man's mind wonderfully.

That is the first step that I recommend to Labour Members—the enforcement of standards at various ages so that parents know that the school is covering the ground.

The second step which I recommend with due modesty to my hon. Friends is, instead of the enfranchisement of Her Majesty's Inspectorate to check the standards in schools, the enfranchisement of parents. By the invisible hand of "Adam Smith", I wrote a pamphlet, out today, on the subject of enfranchising parents—the voucher.

I believe that 95 per cent. of parents are very concerned about their children. I have always found this. I have never found that parents were not concerned about their children. I also believe that they are more likely than anybody else to be right about their children, because the only people they consider are their own children. All that most education authorities want is a balance of numbers in each school. Most head teachers want their schools to run smoothly. Head teachers and teachers have concern for the child, but they are concerned also for the school. The only people concerned for the child only are the parents.

Labour Members talk about participation. This is an interesting question. We have talked about teacher participation, a concept with which I agree. No head teacher can run a large school without teacher involvement. However, we must also think in terms of parent and family participation. It is not just a question of participation. Families and parents now want a say in how their children are being educated, a matter which is basic to them. I believe that they are sufficiently mature to be able to do this. If not, we must have wasted 100 years of State education.

6.43 p.m.

Mr. Guy Barnett (Greenwich)

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), though I think he will understand that I cannot go along with much of what he said today and has said in the past on the subject of education. I often wonder what it is that the hon. Gentleman seeks. At one point in his speech he wanted to go back to 1925.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) seemed to want endless inquiries. The motive behind them in some cases seemed to me to hold up comprehensivation. I nevertheless wonder what the value of such inquiries is likely to be. I can only echo the remarks of the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud), who said "We do not want end- less inquiries. We want action and money spent at the points of real need in the education system." I find little evidence from the debates so far to suggest that we are reaching the crisis situation that is spoken of by Conservative Members.

I was expecting a very much better speech from the hon. Member for Chelmsford, because I read in The Times that he had a meeting last Friday at the Conservative Central Office. He is quoted as saying that the material from that meeting would add fuel to the attack on the Government that he was to lead in the House of Commons on Monday for complacency in the face of falling educational standards. None of us on this side recognised such an attempt.

Educational standards have been mentioned. I, too, read with interest the article "The Truth about Comprehensives". If I were the head of the school about which that article was written, I should not be at all dissatisfied with a situation in which there were 518 entries for the O-level examination and 366 passes. The comment by the headmistress that she did not regard that as a particularly good year is evidence that it is a school that is doing reasonably well.

That article says: Most teachers agree that the actual numbers of O- and A-level passes has greatly increased since they became comprehensive. In that school, therefore, there is not much evidence of falling standards. The schools that I have visited in my constituency and elsewhere in the country do not point to falling standards. I speak as someone who entered the teaching profession more than 20 years ago.

Much has been said about truancy, but this is a difficult thing to prove. "Truancy" means absence from school without the permission and knowledge of parents and without the authority of the school. I do not know how the police in Lambeth could point to figures of truancy. What we know is that a number of children were, for one reason or other, not at school. It is not shown whether they were playing truant.

The hon. Member for Brent, North quoted the figures—not of truancy, but of attendance—that the Inner London Education Authority has announced, demonstrating that there has been a decrease. The hon. Gentleman did not explain that the figures he quoted referred to secondary education. I shall state the figures again because they are important. For secondary education the attendance figures were as follows: 1970, 89.2 per cent.; 1971, 88 per cent.; 1972, 87.9 per cent.; 1973, 87.1 per cent.; and 1974, 84.6 per cent. The hon. Gentleman omitted to mention that 1970 was the year in which the raising of the school leaving age came in. It is not surprising that during a very difficult year attendance figures dropped.

Dr. Boyson

The raising of the school leaving age did not come in in 1970. It was 1974.

Mr. Barnett

It was the year when the raising of the age came in that the attendance figures fell.

It is very difficult to quantify the degree to which discipline has been falling in schools. I believe that some schools definitely have disciplinary problems. It is not difficult to point to the reasons for this. For instance, an article in my local paper—the South-East London Mercury mentions two schools in my constituency which have been short of staff. I hope that that problem will be overcome.

That problem may be overcome as a result of the Government's decision at long last to do something about the London allowance so that we can have a more stable staff. I shall not go over the arguments about the old London allowance and the damage that it did to the shape of the staffing of schools in the Inner London area. I am glad that the London allowance has been raised and I think we can expect an improvement in the stability of staffs in some of our schools that have suffered in the past. If there have been disciplinary problems, my view, having taught in a school where there was a good deal of disciplinary trouble, is that they were due first to the fact that the staff was constantly changing and secondly, certainly at the school in which I taught, to the great use of supply teachers.

The Opposition have talked about violence. Some years ago I was teaching at a school where I was hit by a child. I have therefore been a recipient of violence. I went to the headmaster's office to look up the child's records. I am not surprised that the child behaved in the way he did. It is all very well talking in this airy-fairy way about violence, but as often as not an investigation of the child's history shows understandable reasons for its behaviour. In that case I noted at the bottom of the record card the words "awaiting child guidance". The date of that entry was a year before the incident concerning me took place.

I want to impress upon the Opposition the danger of persistently drawing attention to violence, indiscipline, truancy and the rest in speeches that hon. Members opposite make here and in the country. The hon. Member for Brent, North rightly said that parents were anxious and conerned about their children's education. Of course they are. As a parent I am anxious and concerned about my children's education, but how much more concerned and worried am I when I hear the sort of speeches that come from Conservative Members? They are doing considerable damage to the very thing they want to improve, which is the relationship which should exist between parents, schools and teachers. Conservative Members are breaking down that measure of confidence whereas we should be trying to build it up.

I hope hon. Members will think carefully before making some of the wilder statements I have heard and read about in the newspapers recently. They need to think rather more carefully about some of the solutions they have proposed. Perhaps I could refer here to a quotation I saw in the Evening News of 21st January where the leader of the opposition of the ILEA, Mr. Vigars, thought that the solution to the problem of our schools was increased police powers, tighter security and stricter discipline. I do not know whether those were his precise words, but if they were I am surprised that he was talking about schools and not prisons. He was talking about our children. It would have been more sensible for him to have called for a much better staffed education welfare service or something of that kind to deal with the problems.

The first solution that we have to recognise as vital is a revaluation of the teacher. The hon. Member for Chelmsford welcomed the Houghton Report, and I am glad that he did. I was interested that he did not see the relevance of the report to the revaluation of the profession. One of the things that so many of us must have noticed from the lobbying by the teachers at the House over the last few years has been how depressed the profession has felt. At long last the Government have recognised the financial reward they should get and the kind of encouragement they should have to pursue the whole of their careers in teaching. I am delighted that the Government and the unions have accepted the Houghton Report. It is a great step in the right direction. The improvement in pay and the better London allowance seem directly relevant here.

Some hon. Members have concentrated their attention on deprived schools. I am delighted that from the little extra money they have to throw around the Government have voted £10 million to this problem, because this is often where some of the most appalling problems remain, problems not only of the schools but of the homes of the children, their environment, parental relationships and so on.

I am excited by what I believe the Inner London Education Authority describes as informal educational projects. Inevitably there are some children, "ROSLA" children sometimes, who are against school and who will not accept the formal atmosphere of school discipline. These children are being saved and helped through the informal education projects that the ILEA, sometimes with voluntary assistance, has set up. We must be prepared to be flexible in that direction. It is vital that we should, judging from the interesting document brought out by the National Youth Employment Council working party called "Unqualified, Untrained and Unemployed". The document deals with the problems of illiteracy and innumeracy of youngsters on leaving school to begin work.

This is a problem which must be tackled. It seems that employers find youngsters starting their first job ill-equipped and ill-prepared psychologically for the new rôle they are about to take on. For a long time I have felt very concerned about the need for closer relationships not only between parents and schools but between employers and schools. Much of the fault lies on the side of the employers not finding out enough about what goes on in schools and sometimes being too ready to criticise without offering advice. There is everything to be gained from a closer relationship between schools and local employers. The careers service has an enormous part to play in this.

At the moment, the change for the 16-year-old from the atmosphere of school to the atmosphere of work is an extremely difficult one. I hope that in various ways we shall see whether we can make it easier. It is for that reason that I hope my right hon. Friend will take on board the recommendations and advice in the report. I hope he will see what positive contributions the Department and the local authorities can make to enabling youngsters to move happily and satisfactorily from school to work, accompanied by the kind of guidance and training they should be getting after they leave school to fit them for their adult life.

6.58 p.m.

Mr. William van Straubenzee (Wokingham)

As I understand it, we are engaged in the exercise of seeking to reduce the salaries of the two Secretaries of State. I would quite happily reduce the salary of the Secretary of State for Scotland but I have always regarded the Secretary of State for Education as one of the more agreeable and civilised Members of the House. I cannot say that I am entering upon that exercise where he is concerned with any great avidity. We have heard in a quite astonishing speech from the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) that the Liberal caucus cannot even make up its mind about £1,000, and that it is, therefore, going to abstain. It might be that both Secretaries of State will continue, therefore, to have at their disposal the substantial sums that they have previously enjoyed.

I am sorry the hon. Gentleman is not present to hear me say this. The Liberal Party puts itself up as a serious alternative party, with severe electoral consequences for the Conservative Party. I am the first person to enjoy a chuckle, often at my own expense, but when I hear a serious argument about abstention put forward in the way in which the hon. Gentleman put it forward, it seems to me that the arguments for televising the House grow considerably in merit. The hon. Gentleman is pretty expert in that medium, as we all know.

One of the reasons why the Tory Party is on the Opposition benches is that it has "given the appearance—I stress the words given the appearance "—of substantially caring only for the education of a small percentage of our young people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am not discouraged by assistance from Labour Members, other than to question whether I could be completely right when they cheer, but I still think that I am right.

We in the Tory Party are a coalition, just as the Government party is a coalition. Conservatives necessarily have different approaches. Throughout the country there are Conservatives actively involved in education who in large numbers do not want the Tory Party to appear to be substantially concerned either with the tiny percentage of young people who are educated in the independent schools or with the small number who are educated in direct-grant or even grammar schools.

I welcomed the passages of the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), to which we listened with profit, in which he devoted his considerable mind to some of the problems of our maintained sector in general and our comprehensive schools in particular. I understood him to say that he attached, and when he is Secretary of State will attach, the same care and concern and perhaps even more care and concern to the standards in our maintained sector generally. I understood him to say that he will have a real concern for the comprehensive schools. That is most welcome. If I may say so gently, I detect a certain shift of approach there which I find encouraging.

I cannot speak of the particular occasion, but my hon. Friend and I and other hon. Friends were at a conference of Conservative representatives of a wide number of local authorities on Friday. I was kindly invited to attend. It was a private meeting, and I have no intention of discussing what took place at it, but it is fair to say that to give the impression that that meeting, which was of people concerned at the coalface of education, was concerned solely with grammar schools and their presentation would be to give a false impression of a serious discussion of education matters.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for putting the discussion of grammar schools at the meeting in its proper context. It was a wide-ranging discussion over all the education issues concerning us today.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is helpful to the whole Tory Party to have that on the record.

It follows that people who are practically involved in education problems do not wish us to concentrate, or appear to concentrate, on one particular sector.

The fact is that many admirable teachers are working in conditions of intense difficulty in all types of school, but particularly in comprehensive schools. They are discouraged and disheartened by criticism which plainly stems in some quarters—not in the House—from an almost total lack of appreciation of what goes on in such schools and certainly from total lack of understanding of the situation which could be gained by visiting the schools. Those teachers welcome informed interest in, and concern for, their dilemma and problems.

I am sure that all hon. Members present visit schools regularly. The more I visit them, the more it is impressed upon me that the form of the buildings, the provision of facilities, is a vital concern in a true comprehensive.

Mr. Spearing

Hear, hear.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am glad to have support for that statement, because I hope to carry the hon. Gentleman in particular with me right the way through my argument and not just the first little bit.

My argument goes on to say that even in some comprehensive schools that have been constructed with buildings remarkably close together the physical difficulties are such that there is no true unity of school, and there are grave difficulties in running a comprehensive school in the true sense. I go on from there to contemplate the problem when the buildings are two, three and four miles apart. I went to a prizegiving at one where they are eight miles apart, but that is rather special. Therefore, artificially to hustle comprehensive reorganisation against the realities of fiscal provision under any Government is to do a grave injustice to an education system which I have said again and again I believe on balance has advantage for both the able and the less able child.

Mr. Spearing

I have said professionally and politically that it is wrong for a Government of any colour to seek educational reorganisation in principle without providing the necessary resources. Does the hon. Gentleman recall that when the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) was Secretary of State she refused point-blank at the Government Dispatch Box to implement Section 4 of the 1944 Education Act, which says that there shall be a central advisory council. If she had implemetned it, all the matters, many of professional importance, mentioned by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) in his opening speech could have been considered. Can the hon. Gentleman, who has some knowledge of the right hon. Lady, tell us why she did not accept that challenge?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I do not think that it would be wise for me to seek to interpret my right hon. Friend's mind, particularly at this precise moment. Therefore, I shall leave her to defend herself, which she is very able to do.

Mr. Spearing

Not on this matter.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I have heard the arguments, and I understand them. If I may say so, the hon. Gentleman has made a most powerful criticism of his own party's policy. Both he and I listened about two hours ago to the Secretary of State telling us of the building programme that is to start in April 1975. With his characteristic honesty, he made it clear that the programme would cover only basic needs except for a little over. The hon. Gentleman is right; there is no cash available for reorganisation.

So when the Labour Party talks about legislation my heart sinks into my boots. I took a part when the Labour Party last introduced legislation on this matter, and it was a disaster from its point of view. I know something of the problem of drafting such legislation. I predict that it will come to regret its statements on legislation as much as any other statement that it has made. If ever there was an area in which we should proceed slowly by consultation and, above all, with regard to resources so that what we do makes educational sense, it is on this matter.

My despair of the Labour Party is, first, that some Labour Members seem to regard any criticism of any comprehensive school as an offence against some eternal law. Secondly, they seek to proceed at a speed which often leaves public opinion behind them and which makes no educational sense. If only they would learn that lesson, I feel that there might not be the same controversy as now exists.

My second and totally unrelated point I handle with considerable care because it is a real hot potato. Throughout this debate reference has been made over and over again—I believe rightly—to the quality of the teacher. I would add that the quality of the head of the school is probably the most single important factor in success or failure in so many of the matters about which we are speaking. How is it that on a visit to an East London comprehensive school for girls one finds admirable discipline, good manners, a wide spread of attainment and some very good intellectual work as well as physical work when such different conditions exist elsewhere? I believe that such differences can be related, at any rate in part, to character and leadership. That applies overwhelmingly to the head and the staff that he or she attracts. Probably all hon. Members can think of similar examples. Alas, they can also think of examples of another sort.

For once I believe that the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely was inelegant in his language. That is not a failing commonly associated with him. I must say on behalf of the teaching profession—I should have said earlier that I have become a very part-time associate member of the profession—that I dislike the expression "sackability of headmasters". That is not an elegant phrase. However, I think that the hon. Gentleman was on to something that we should consider a little more closely. I remember well when a Private Member's Bill was introduced which had been carefully drafted and which was designed under very exact conditions to secure, possibly, the change of a head after an appropriate number of years. To the surprise of many of us, it did not receive the criticism that was expected. I have a feeling that, after discussion with the profession, we might find that after some years an opportunity for reappointment or otherwise might not arouse the furious hostility from within the profession that we might now suspect.

I wish to ask the Government whether the present approach to the training of teachers is right. We are now reducing the increase in the number of teachers that we are training. There will be a levelling off. I must say to my hon. Friends that we must be a little careful before we are critical about the closing down of colleges of education and the rest. The present policy stems directly from what we initiated whilst in Government. We must be fair and accept our share of responsibility even if we are uneasy about some of the ways in which at some places the policy is being carried out.

I ask the Secretary of State whether it is right to pitch his figure at this stage at a level designed to secure approximately the same ratio of those who teach to those who are taught relative to the anticipated number of pupils. I wonder whether it would be right to seek an extra cohort of teachers. I am not thinking only of those who have just obtained their B Eds as they, like many other graduates, often go into jobs quite removed from the discipline that they have been studying. However, are there not some teachers of five or 10 years' experience who are disenchanted—I do not blame them at all—after their experiences and who on appropriate and suitable terms, which would clearly have to include opportunities for retraining, would willing leave the profession? It would be a strength to the profession if they did so.

This is the hot potato, so I choose my words with particular care. As all schools know, there is a certain very small percentage—I beg the House to note that I emphasise "very small percentage"—whose teaching is gravely below standard and who are blatantly idle or palpably incompetent. I believe that that small number of teachers can do incalculable harm to bodies of teachers at schools or colleges. This is a highly delicate matter. The freehold of the teacher is almost as deeply felt as it is in the Church of England, but even the Church of England is considering the parson's freehold. If the Church can get around to doing something of that nature it is possible for other bodies to do the same.

I make the serious suggestion that as part of the problem that we have been discussing—it is a problem of great importance on which most hon. Members have spoken with great authority—we should go first to the quality of the men and women who devote their lives to a great calling. They recognise that we would like an extra cohort so as to encourage some who would wish to do so to retire early. They should do so only after careful consultation with the unions and under the most careful safeguards. That is a prerequisite. Perhaps for the first time we are contemplating a situation in which we might say to someone that they are no longer acceptable as members of the teaching profession.

Those are the two constructive contributions that I wish to make to a debate which in all other respects has been of considerable assistance to the House and to the nation.

7.19 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)

If we wanted evidence of the present state of the Conservative Party, there is not only the fact that it is in opposition but that the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) spoke from the back benches on education. It is true that because of his more liberal attitude he has, like Lord Boyle, been banished to another place—or another bench.

Typical of the wilder statistics thrown around in the debate was the one from the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) when he talked about 50 per cent. of O-level entries always being passed and how this had been going on for 50 years. But, of course, the O-level has been in existence for only 22 years. He made a similar comment about 15 to 20 per cent. of schools having got worse. That is not research. It is wild assertion—and there has been a great deal of that from the hon. Gentleman.

The Conservative Party's statements on education, today as during the General Election, have been understandably vague. Few sound proposals have been put forward. If we are to talk about educational standards, we should talk first about educational standards for which we as politicians are responsible, the proper provision of buildings and so on. We must beware of people who use the difficulties of learning for some children and their social conditions as an excuse for not making adequate provision.

Many people regard the local authority schools as not good enough for their children, and too many politicians are in that situation. But the maintained schools are those for which we as politicians are responsible, and we have to beware of blaming teachers, administrators, parents and children themselves for our own shortcomings in providing what should be a proper standard of buildings, books, equipment and teaching staffs and in tackling social problems, particularly in the urban areas.

Simply to appoint more inspectors is not the answer. Anyone who has been a member of a governing body or a teacher in a school knows that in the past inspectors have reported on awful buildings, inadequate equipment and poor organisation, and nothing has been done. Inspectors have spent some time in a school and have discussed their findings with the head, presenting a written report to the governors or to the local education committee. The teachers may have heard a little about the report but will not have seen it. Nor will the parents have seen it. There will have been no discussion, either in the school or in the community, of what needed to be done.

In recent years the role of the inspectors has changed. There are not such inspections as there were in the past, except in a few cases. But there are questions which should be asked about schools—questions which concern not only buildings and equipment but organisation, efficiency and success. Whether that success is measured by examinations, by a decrease in juvenile delinquency, by the part played by the school in the local community, by good or bad attendance figures, by the turnover of the staff or by parental demand for places in schools, these are the things we should be looking at.

The hon. Member for Brent, North was right to say that the Labour Party recognised, in its programme published almost two years ago, that there was need for setting minimum standards. We said: In seeking to set minimum standards, we assert the principle that all schools must be able to offer the full range of opportunity appropriate to the age group which they accommodate. We have to ask ourselves how it is that two schools in a similar area, with similar intake, have different standards of success—how one can be a disaster and the other a success. We have to ask whether it is the fault of the headmaster concerned, of the staff or of bad provision by the local education authority. We have to consider whether the social conditions are different.

We had an example of this situation in Manchester in the 1971 census. In one ward of the city 35 per cent. of the families were one-parent families, whereas in neighbouring wards the percentage was as low as 10 per cent. This is the kind of problem we should be examining, and it needs rather more than Her Majesty's inspectors or educational advisers. Here is a situation in which social service departments and the social workers have to say something about the environment of a school.

But when we have finished examining and talking we have to say what we are going to do, and the local authority has to say what it is going to do. If a school is inadequate, it has to do something about it. If this involves sacking the head, so be it. But in most cases the school will be inadequate because it and its children have special problems and should receive additional assistance because of them.

One of the troubles in our education system in the past, and one which the Opposition seek to perpetuate, is that the priorities in education have gone to the most able and to the children of the better-off. That is something we must reverse. If we are to talk about standards of attainment and instituting new national standards for reading, writing and arithmetic, we have to ask ourselves whether these are the essentials of 1975. What about speech and listening? These are the important things when it comes to communication. Setting standards for arithmetic, mechanical reading and so on presents the danger of teaching things that will simply be easy to measure. This was the fault of the Victorian elementary schools—indeed, of the Edwardian and some Georgian elementary schools. Too often they were teaching the things that were easy to measure, and it was a nice way out for the teachers.

I suspect that some of that attitude persists in the independent sector and in some of our grammar schools. Part of my area at the moment is sorting out its plans for comprehensive reorganisation. The other part has been comprehensive for seven years. What does the grammar school need to become a comprehensive school in the way of equipment? I am told that it needs a music room, somewhere for pottery work and somewhere for proper art teaching and for drama, which it did not have before. In fact, it needs more than chalk and talk. Grammar schools should have recognised that education consists of more than chalk and talk a long time ago, but they have not done so.

If we are to concentrate on the three Rs we shall have an inarticulate body of people, just as many of the parents and grandparents of our children are inarticulate. One of the great things about the greater freedom in the primary school is that children actually talk to one. They do not simply stand up and keep quiet even when one asks them questions.

Perhaps when the hon. Member for Brent, North has devised his minimum standards for handwriting he will apply the test to hon. Members and to Ministers and former Ministers on both sides of the House. I taught in secondary schools in difficult areas for most of my career. I taught handwriting specifically because I thought it worth while. The things which are essential in handwriting are speed and legibility—beauty I would add as an addition—but there is a remarkable lack of such quality among those who are supposed to be educated.

I want to say something about parental choice and zoning. The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) tries to make out that this is an easy matter and that all we need is a local independent body which will listen to parents' complaints. Let us face it: there may be a situation, as there is in my area, where there are two secondary schools and 20 more children want to go to one than to the other. They are both good schools. As soon as that happens, one is in trouble. No amount of zoning or parental application to local bodies or anything else will alter the fact that some parents will not get what they want.

The only point I want to make about comprehensive education is that in my area some children now get a choice of boys' or girls' grammar school while the rest get a choice between two secondary modern schools. In future they will get a much wider choice.

Seven years ago, just before I came to the House, I recognised that there was a problem concerning not only truancy but the crime that resulted from truancy. The wildly exaggerated statements of some hon. Members are not viable, but there has been an increase. There is a danger that whereas some children previously would have thought up good answers, or even got one of their friends to write an absence note, more and more they tell teachers that they have merely stayed away because they felt like it.

But this rebellion against authority—that is what it is—started not in the secondary modern or primary schools, or in the comprehensive schools, but in the universities. It has come down from the universities, from the products of the public schools and the grammar schools who inhabited the universities in the late 1960s.

I agree with the hon. Member for Chelmsford that there should be an inquiry into the results and standards of comprehensive schools, but at the same time there should be an inquiry into the results and standards of the grammar and secondary modern schools. We should examine whether, in an area where, say, 15 per cent. are taken for a grammar school education, at the end of five years they can justify that selection by their examination results and whether it can be explained why the bottom stream in a grammar school often does not do as well as the top stream in a secondary modern school. At the same time we should investigate the independent sector, both that which is recognised as efficient and that which is not recognised as efficient.

I know that in the seven years since I left it teaching has become a much more difficult job. There is no question about that. One can go into schools in areas one knows to see that changes in society over the past seven years have made the job of the teacher much harder.

I hope that the Houghton Report and its increase in standards will help to raise the morale of the teachers, but we must give them all the support we can. We must consider too the last two paragraphs of the Houghton Report, which talk about having professional standards of pay and ask the teachers whether we should not have professional standards of conduct too.

7.33 p.m.

Mr. David Lane (Cambridge)

I want to talk mainly about education standards in urban areas, but may I first refer briefly to two other aspects of this whole subject?

The first is the comprehensive controversy. Here I join my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) in drawing attention to the extraordinary and equivocal speech today by the spokesman for the Liberal Party, the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud), including his reference to direct-grant schools. I hope that we shall get this clarified before the end of the day.

I also join my hon. Friend in appealing to the Government to go slow and to avoid compulsion. The change to comprehensive education has gathered considerable momentum all over the country. I believe that the movement is likely to continue as local authorities weigh up the various choices open to them, but I am sure that it would be a mistake to force the pace. My party has never been opposed to comprehensives on principle, and I hope that it never will be. In some areas they have already proved successful. In some others, particularly in some of the bigger cities, there are problems; and in other areas there is an understandable hesitancy to proceed, particularly when resources are limited. The Government should allow the situation to evolve in a natural way, for compulsion would be a mistake.

Secondly, I want to say a few words about the universities. They are anxious to keep up their academic standards, which were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair). They are suffering, as we all are, from the difficulties of inflation. The universities cannot escape altogether, but I plead with the Government to give special understanding to the problems of the universities and particularly to consider sympathetically what finance will be available during the final two years of the quinquennium, from now until 1977.

May I now turn to remind the Government and the House of the problems of educational standards in some of our cities? I have in mind mainly the problems of the inner city areas of the big conurbations, but I include some other areas. For example, there may be acute problems on the peripheries of some of our cities where the education provision in new estates has lagged. Equally, there may be problems in small industrial towns where facilities are overdue for replacement.

We all know that urban deprivation takes various forms and schooling is only one of them. Obviously, education policies cannot fully compensate a child for an inadequate home background, but they can strengthen family influence where support is most needed.

Many hon. Members will be familiar with the findings of the pamhplet "Born to Fail", which used information from the National Child Development Study to examine the conditions facing the most disadvantaged group of children, defined as those from one-parent families, or very large families, or low-income families, or families in particularly bad housing. By various tests, these disadvantaged children were found to be seriously handicapped compared with "ordinary" children.

The situation was well summed up by Sir Alec Clegg and Barbara Megson in their book "Children in Distress", in which they said: Many deprived and disturbed children come from homes which lack all that is seemly, cared for, imaginative and in good order, and because of this the school that is neglected to the point of squalor does most harm to its least privileged pupils. We have to ask ourselves what more the Government and the House can do about the problem that concerns so many of us on both sides of the House, this problem of the standards for deprived children in some of our grimmest urban areas. The Secretary of State touched on the subject.

The principle of educational priority, or positive discrimination, has been well established under successive Governments, and I want to make three points here. The first is about nursery schools or classes. When we were in office, we made a major advance in this respect. It was one of the actions of my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) that I was most pleased to welcome in her commitment to a major increase in nursery education. Could we hear a little more this evening about how the Government are getting on, and what plans there are in this respect for the years immediately ahead? It is of the highest importance in the urban context.

I hope that the extension of nursery education will not in any way be at the expense of other forms of pre-school provision—playgroups and day nurseries in particular. For example, an extra £1 million for playgroups could give quite disproportionately good value for money for the thousands of children about whom we are concerned in the urban areas.

My second comment relates to the older secondary schools. We all recognise that the replacement of some of them is urgent, just as much as the need to replace older primary schools. Those of us who saw the article in the Sunday Times yesterday about Creighton comprehensive school will have noted particularly the moving description of the young remedial teacher who was overjoyed to find that she was able to move the scene of her work from a corridor to a makeshift classroom in the corner of the stage in the school hall.

That is an illustration of the kind of inadequacy of facilities that is holding back the development of education in the secondary as in the primary schools. The Secretary of State mentioned his building programme. May we have a further assurance that as much as possible of the extra money will be available at the discretion of the local authorities for secondary school improvement?

Thirdly, a word about teachers in urban schools. We all agree that they matter even more than the condition of the buildings. I take the example of a girls' comprehensive school in Lambeth where my wife is a governor. That school faces all kinds of problems, but standards have been wonderfully maintained because of a dedicated headmistress and a few influential members of her staff. It is not only numbers but continuity that matters. We all recognise that the teacher turnover in these schools is too high. How can we lessen it? To what extent can the housing problem be resolved for the benefit of teachers who are having to move far more often than they want to? How do the Government view the prospects not only of getting more teachers into these schools but of achieving a lower rate of turnover?

I have been speaking about educational standards for children in some of our urban areas, whether the children are white or coloured. I say a few words now about the special needs of coloured children of immigrant parents. An increasing percentage of them are born in this country, but there is still a significant number coming as dependants from the Indian sub-continent with little or no knowledge of the English language. The report on Education by the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration in 1973 was extremely valuable. It is a pity that the publicity about statistics which attended its publication obscured many of the important recommendations that it made.

Paragraph 3 of the Government's observations published last August said: where immigrants and their descendants live in the older urban and industrial areas, the majority of their children are likely to share with the indigenous children of those areas the educational disadvantages associated with an impoverished environment. We are particularly worried about the state of alienation which develops among some of the adolescent blacks in London and other big cities. This alienation is apt to grow out of failure at school. A better deal in schools is just as important for these children as, maybe more important than, a better deal at work.

In this context I put three points. First, could we hear a little more about something else the Secretary of State mentioned, namely, the establishment and progress of the Educational Disadvantage Unit and the information and advice centre which are designed to support local authorities?

Secondly, there is the question of language training mentioned in paragraph 16 of the Select Committee's report. The Government undertook to draw the recommendation to the attention of local authorities. The Government said that consultations have begun with selected authorities with a view to establishing a number of units which will provide language training at the employers' establishments on the lines of the Pathway Centre at Ealing. Again I would be interested to know what progress is being made. Is there any chance that this progress could be speeded up, because I regard it as highly important?

Thirdly, there are the particular needs of children of West Indian origin. Recommendation 19 of the Select Committee's report dealt with the question of ESN schools. We all know that this is a sensitive matter within the West Indian community. In their response to this recommendation the Government said that: Local education authorities with a sizeable immigrant child population should make plans to provide by an early date special facilities in ordinary schools to overcome the linguistic and adjustment problems of immigrant children with a level of ability higher than the general run of pupils in special schools for the educationally sub-normal. On this or another occasion I would like to know what view the Government now take of this problem. Will the Government consider, as the Select Committee suggested, carrying out a special inquiry into the situation in London if the disproportion of West Indian children in ESN schools and classes appears to continue? A linked problem is that of child minders. Many of these children whose mothers have to work find themselves at the mercy of untrained backstreet child minders. Is there scope for more action by Government and local authorities here, to ensure that the neglected and deprived toddlers of today do not turn into the drifters or even the muggers of tomorrow?

I have had time to touch only briefly on some of the problems of standards for children caught in the cycle of urban deprivation. They need to be given the highest priority by the Government. This is all the greater reason for the Government to get their priorities right, to worry less about some of the dubious and controversial parts of the education programme and to do still more for the children about whom I have been speaking.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

I found the opening remarks of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) rather depressing and pessimistic. If they were typical of his reactionary attitude, I believe that he would find it difficult to survive for more than five minutes in front of a third-year class in a comprehensive school. I did, however, agree with one of his remarks. I thought I heard him say towards the end of his speech that he believed in equality of opportunity. It is a pity, if he said that, that he did not follow it up logically by saying that if there is to be equality of opportunity it should not depend upon a parent's ability or willingness to pay.

Similarly, I would welcome the hon. Member's expression of attitude towards the phasing out of fee-paying in the National Health Service, where again equality of health opportunity is close to our hearts. If the hon. Member was being logical he should also have said that if we are to have equality of opportunity we must phase out selection. In Scotland we have had at least the embryo of a comprehensive education system for some time. In some areas it is coming near to fruition.

We have given up as old-fashioned for the most part the idea of selecting and rejecting children at the age of 11 or 12. We believe that it is impossible to determine a child's future at such an immature age. We believe it is unfair to separate children into sheep and goats. The comprehensive movement in Scotland has meant an increase in educational opportunity for most children. That is coming about not simply by herding children into one secondary school in a particular area but by internal reorganisation too.

For example, in the first two years of a normal secondary comprehensive school in Scotland most of the pupils follow a common course. They all do basically the same subjects. These are the years of exploration and orientation, as the Ruthven Report described them, where the children find out more about themselves. By a continuous form of assessment at the end of the second year, children, with the advice of parents and teachers, are far more able to choose which subjects they want to continue and decide which subjects they do not wish to continue. This is an important aspect, because Conservative Members try to make the point that the comprehensive system eliminates choice. It does not.

What the comprehensive system does, or should do, is to widen the choice within a school. At the end of the second year in a normal Scottish comprehensive school the pupils choose the course they want to follow for the third and fourth years. This does not mean that there is specialisation to any great degree. It is still up to the parents, again under the guidance of the staff and the headmaster, to see that there is a balance in the course chosen for the third and fourth years.

In the senior school we have recently seen curricular changes in the Scottish certificate of education and also the introduction of the certificate of six-year studies which is intended, and it has had a fair degree of success, to teach pupils to be more mature and more independent. Instead of being spoon-fed by teachers, they are helped to acquire habits of individual study in preparation for further or higher education.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science gave some statistics to show that academic standards had perhaps improved as a result of the introduction of comprehensive education. I could give similar statistics for Scotland which showed, for example, that in 1966–67—about the time when comprehensive reorganisation began—67.3 per cent. of Scottish secondary school children left school with no 0 or H grade certificate. The comparable figure for 1971–72 was 54.7 per cent. The number of school leavers with four or more higher grades in 1966–67 was 9.5 per cent. Five years after the introduction of comprehensive education the figure was 13.9 per cent.

Dr. Hampson

The Times Educational Supplement this week contained a very fair article by Professor Egglestone. Has the hon. Gentleman seen it? It agreed that the figures of general academic attainment were about the same, but pointed out that there had been a loss of able pupils through a lack of support or encouragement in the comprehensive school which they would have received at grammar school and that this had brought about less effort or had caused pupils to drop out prematurely.

Mr. Canavan

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman's remarks refer to Scottish education. I regret that I have not read the article to which he referred.

The hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) said—and it was a fair point—that more does not necessarily mean better. Under the old system of selection many pupils would not have had the opportunity of staying on to take the O- or H-grade certificate. I have spent most of my working life teaching in Scottish comprehensive schools. I have also marked examination papers for the Scottish certificate of education.

The hon. Member for Brent, North did a disservice by claiming that the Scottish Certificate of Education Examination Board has not been vigilant in looking after standards. I have noticed no diminution in standards in the subject which I taught. If anything, the curriculum has become more exact, and certainly much wider. At one time a pupil was able to pass a paper in higher mathematics in Scotland simply by learning a lot of mathematical theorems off by heart like a parrot. That is, rightly, impossible now. Hon. Members with experience in other subjects would no doubt support what I say.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor) made a good point about academic achievement not being the be-all and end-all of education. There has been a widening of the curriculum in non-academic subjects in the comprehensive schools. The pupil is offered a wider range of indoor and outdoor sports, both individual and team sports, and more recreational and cultural facilities, and more time is provided in the timetable to put proper emphasis on these pursuits.

We cannot measure every achievement in education. There is always a danger in thinking that because certain aspects of educational attainment are measurable we should, therefore, stick to them. How can we measure the amount of enjoyment that a pupil obtains from playing a particular sport or musical instrument? How can we measure matters like friendships or the correct social attitudes which boys and girls develop in their school careers? The aim of education is to develop all the talents of the individual—intellectual, physical, aesthetic and social. It would be wrong of any education system simply to develop one aspect of man at the expense of others. Other aspects of education have been sadly neglected by hon. Members opposite.

Several hon. Members have expressed concern about what they call the deterioration in the standards of discipline. In my experience as a teacher I have not noticed a deterioration in standards of discipline, though more experienced teachers than myself claim that there is evidence of it. Hon. Members have said that this deterioration may be due to the violence generally in society. Certainly it is unfair to blame the education system for all the violence in the world. The family plays a decreasing part in imparting discipline to children. Unfortunately, many boys and girls go home from school to homes where they are unsupervised. It is too much to expect the education system to take all the blame for the lack of discipline in society.

I have not heard many suggestions about how the education system can be used to achieve better social behaviour by children. In Scotland we have, to our shame, in my opinion, approval of the system of corporal punishment in schools, which we do not believe in for even the most hardened of adult criminals. Such a method of punishment is barbaric, and I cannot see how it has improved children's behaviour. I have noticed many boys, in particular, who have been belted frequently in schools becoming worse and more anti-social instead of better. It is wrong that a teacher, who should be an example of adult society and one of the most educated adults a boy or girl will meet in his or her life, should stand before a class with a bit of leather in his hand solving problems with violence. We should try to teach children to solve the problems of the world without resorting to violence. Yet far too often in Scottish schools the strap is the first rather than the last resort, and I should like to see it eliminated altogether.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

What is the alternative?

Mr. Canavan

I am coming to that. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State must give thought to the question of list D schools. Closer liaison between local education authorities and list D schools could be achieved if such schools came under the control of local education authorities instead of under the control of the Scottish Education Department. But list D schools—residential schools—should simply be used for extreme cases.

A good case can be made for the establishment of a remedial unit for antisocial pupils in schools. I use the word "remedial" in a special sense. I do not use it with a view simply to improving the academic attainments of pupils. In Scottish education this aspect of the word "remedial" has perhaps been more often used. I am using it in a wider aspect. There are teachers who are gifted in dealing with difficult pupils. Their gifts could be utilised to the full if they were given a small group of anti-social pupils within the school. Exclusion should be used only as a last resort. Behaviour problems should, wherever possible, be solved within the school.

As with so many problems in education, nothing can be solved without adequate resources. Here again, I well understand that there is a shortage of money. I hope that my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Education and Science will fight hard to get enough money for education despite the cuts in public expenditure which appear to be inevitable as a result of the last Budget.

For example, in my own county there is great need for more funds for school building. Fairly recently Mr. James Anderson, the convener of Stirling County Council, held a conference at Stirling University in my constituency to which he invited representatives from other education authorities to discuss the inadequacy of school accommodation and the number of pupils who are obliged to use hutted accommodation. Much of that hutted accommodation went up just after the war, the first time the school leaving age was raised. It is a disgrace that pupils should still be using such buildings. About one quarter of the pupils in Stirlingshire are obliged to use such accommodation. The situation in other counties could be every bit as bad, if not worse.

It appears from the referendum recently conducted by the Educational Institute for Scotland that the vast majority of Scottish teachers welcome in general the recommendations of the Houghton Report. We might perhaps be a little critical about the amounts here and there. I should like even more to be given to younger teachers to encourage recruitment. The fact remains—and it is a fact of which the Labour Government must be proud—that Houghton awarded the biggest-ever increase in the history of the Scottish teaching profession. I hope that the teachers remember that with some gratitude and realise that they can start negotiating immediately for a new salary increase to take effect from April. I hope that their priorities will be with the younger teachers so as to encourage recruitment.

On the question of priorities, some mistakes have, in my opinion, been made in recent years. I doubt whether the raising of the school leaving age should have had the priority it received in Scotland. More and more pupils were staying on voluntarily. Immediately it becomes compulsory to stay on, many boys and girls who would have been well-adjusted if they had stayed on at school voluntarily, resent being forced to stay on. There is nothing worse than teaching a class of fourth-year or fifth-year reluctant pupils. I hope that my right hon. Friend will make a statement fairly soon on a more flexible attitude on the school leaving age, perhaps allowing pupils to leave on reaching their 16th birthday.

Opposition Members have tended to give an undue amount of discussion time to the future of the grant-aided schools, or the direct-grant schools as the equivalent school is called south of the border. It was made clear to the electorate during the February and October elections that the Labour Government could not be expected to subsidise something which they considered to be educationally undesirable.

We consider these schools to be educationally undesirable, first of all, because they are selective. The operation of a system of selection in many areas is militating against the comprehensive system of the local education authority. Edinburgh is one example of that. We also think that grant-aided schools are educationally undesirable because they are fee-paying. One of our maxims is that educational opportunities should be available irrespective of whether parents are willing to pay fees. We do not think it right or appropriate to put parents in the position of being able to buy privilege, whether real or imaginary. If it is real it goes against the principle which I have mentioned. If the privilege is imaginary the parents are victims of a "con" trick. We promised in the Labour manifesto to phase out grant-aided schools, and that promise we mean to keep.

Conservative Members made clear their position. They would like to retain these schools. I wish that the Liberals and the Scottish National Party would make their position equally clear. Perhaps we shall hear from them later in the debate.

Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

The position of the SNP has been made clear in a speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain).

Mr. Canavan

I read that speech, and that is why I wonder what is the Scottish National Party's policy. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain) appeared to be stating categorically that the SNP was opposed to grant-aided schools, yet Early Day Motion No. 165, signed by at least two members of the SNP, asks for more money to be given to the grant-aided fee-paying schools. The members of the SNP cannot eat their cake and have it. They are either in favour of giving more money to those schools or they are not. At least we are being honest about it. We shall phase them out, which means not giving them any extra money.

The solution to the future of these schools lies with the boards of governors. I should like to see these schools continuing in existence and playing a rôle in comprehensive reorganisation. There is no reason why they should not co-operate and play a good rôle in reorganisation on comprehensive lines. I hope that the boards of governors will take cognizance of that and perhaps come to an agreement with the Secretary of State and the appropriate education authority.

Apart from the fact that these schools have proud histories, they have a useful rôle to play in the provision of boarding facilities. Many Scots parents are obliged to go abroad or to leave home for one reason or another, and there is a dire need in certain circumstances for boarding facilities for pupils. If the schools are unwilling to co-operate with the Government their future is clear. In the long run they will have to raise the money themselves. They cannot depend on Government subsidies to keep them going.

In my area we have other priorities. For example, at Bannockburn and Kilsyth we could easily use the £2.2 million that is given to these schools to provide facilities for pupils whose parents and local education authorities are willing to co-operate with the Government in comprehensive reorganisation.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford was in favour of a moratorium on comprehensive reorganisation, and he seemed to want the moratorium to extend to various changes which are about to take place in education. He misunderstands. Education is a dynamic thing. Keir Hardie's words come to mind. He said: Either we are going forward or we are driven back. There is no such thing as standing still. Movement and change are of the very essence of life.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

It is proposed to begin the winding-up speeches shortly after 9 o'clock. There are still 10 hon. Members who are trying to catch my eye. There is a simple calculation to be done, which is perhaps appropriate in this education debate. I make no criticism of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan), but he took almost 25 minutes. It is up to hon. Members to use their discretion and to show good will and co-operation with other hon. Members.

8.10 p.m.

Mr. Neil Macfarlane (Sutton and Cheam)

I shall endeavour to observe all you have said, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I only hope that the setting up of the Scottish Assembly can be hastened, if only for the fact that it will transfer the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) there to continue his peroration.

I wish to look at one particular aspect of education which I hope the Secretary of State for Scotland will examine when he replies. Whether or not standards in the three Rs have declined in the past decade or so, it is obvious that we must seek to improve on the standards pertaining at present. To do this we must investigate the causes of the illiteracy and semi-literacy of such a high proportion of our school leavers.

Far too many children reach secondary school unable to read and comprehend the textbooks which they will need for their courses. The weakest of these children will be given special treatment by remedial staff in very small teaching groups. A fairly large number of children for whom room cannot be found in the over-stretched remedial groups will be found to have a reading age of eight or nine. These are the children who are doomed never to make the best use of their abilities because they are handicapped by their inability to read with a fair degree of fluency. If these children are taught in mixed ability classes of 30 or so, the teacher cannot hope to give them the extra attention which they need and also to stretch and stimulate the brighter members of the class. Therefore, we must look to a remedy in the primary stage of education.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science mentioned the many groups who were put to a disadvantage. I very much hope that the primary sector can be re-examined. Much has been said about the possible harm done by new or experimental teaching methods. But there is one more far-reaching cause than this, and I refer to the size of classes in infant schools. Very few schools exist where the size of the second- and third-year infant classes is lower than 30. Many are nearer 40 and some are even larger. If the teacher is to hear each child read for only five minutes a day he will need well over three hours, and he will still not have dealt with numeracy or writing, let alone the creative subjects. Extra time can be found only by decreasing the size of class to 25 or even 20. The teaching force would be better employed in that area rather than in struggling with recalcitrant 15-year-olds who have already experienced years of frustration as they try, with a reading age of nine or ten, to read a mathematics textbook written for secondary schools. If we can thus ensure that each child has been given adequate opportunity to learn to read before he reaches secondary school, he will stand a far greater chance of benefiting fully from his secondary education.

I have been greatly distressed in the last three or four months when constituents have come to me to complain, not only about the size of class for children between the ages of five and seven but also about the fact that very often because of overcrowding many children do not reach school until they are well past their fifth birthday. This is another area at which the Government should look.

The next problem affecting our education standards is that created by the raising of the school leaving age. Many children who are forced to remain at school for the extra year are uninterested and recalcitrant, and an academic environment is not necessarily suited to them. The only lessons they actively enjoy are craft and games lessons, both of which they could pursue outside the school system.

I would ask the Secretary of State to recommend the scheme which I suggested to him in this Chamber and by letter—namely, that the children who wished to leave at 15 should be allowed to do so if they proved that they could undertake a recognised apprenticeship. Let us not make the mistake of assuming that all education can be obtained only in school. With those children more happily and usefully occupied, the children who wished to remain at school to study could do so without distraction and disruption and staff could get on with the business of teaching.

Great concern is felt in many quarters over the poor standard of many new entrants to the teaching profession. This is hardly surprising when one considers that the training colleges, in an effort to train the vast numbers demanded of them, have often had to lower their entrance requirements in practice if not in theory. A far superior method of increasing the ranks of good teachers would have been to raise salaries long ago so that more graduates would have been attracted into the profession. At long last, with the acceptance of the Houghton Report, we are moving in the right direction, and I hope everybody in the House will welcome that trend. With a raising of the quality of teachers and a reduction in the size of classes, we could be in a position to give all our children the education we wish for them.

I come finally to the vexed question of the organisation of secondary education. Many harsh words have been uttered by both lobbies but, whatever one's views on the merits of various types of schooling, it must be obvious that at this time, when standards are apparently falling and little money is available for anything but the vital work of reducing the size of classes and rebuilding inadequate schools, we must call a halt in our onrush towards comprehensive schooling. No child will benefit from a whirlwind of bureaucratic activity with local authorities having to hurry through reorganisation plans. Meanwhile, those of us who are unconvinced by the arguments in favour of non-selection will have the chance to study existing comprehensives over a period of time when they will have overcome any problems encountered at the outset and will have had a chance to show whether they are capable of achieving what we are promised.

At the same time, other forms of organisation can continue as they are now. That would please one secondary school of which I have experience and which has developed sixth-form and A-level courses and is most anxious not to become comprehensive. Let there be no mistake that the facilities offered in large comprehensives are good, but against this we must weigh the disadvantages: one neighbourhood comprehensive school being better than another because of its catchment area, a community too large for the emotional comfort and well-being of the sensitive child and, greatest of all, the increased disciplinary problems which inevitably arise.

Hon. Members who have experience of these matters will know that there should be no greater problems in those schools than in any other school because the staff-pupil ratio is the same. No doubt this applies in the classroom, but it certainly does not apply in the playground or at change of lessons when the teacher on duty is likely to know less than one-third of the pupils by name or even by sight. How, then, can that teacher follow up and deal with a misdemeanour or a piece of thuggery when the child has already vanished and the teacher has only an inadequate description on which to rely? And how many teachers would bother to try after the first abortive inquiries?

Children soon learn when they can get away with bad behaviour, and an undisciplined atmosphere spreads like wildfire. These are real problems which should be thoroughly investigated by the Government before we spend any more money on reorganisation which could better be spent in the classroom.

I hope that the Labour Government will desist from throwing education back into the political football arena and kicking it around, as has happened for so long. I hope that the Secretary of State will not threaten to apply sanctions to local authorities which have not yet reorganised their secondary education.

8.18 p.m.

Mr. Bryan Davies (Enfield North)

I shall attempt to be brief, although after a long debate there are many arguments that one could deploy.

I should like first to declare an interest since I undertake a small amount of teaching in a polytechnic, and I have a further interest since I have a child who has reached the age of 10 and is now facing the crucial period of identifying choice with regard to secondary education.

There is nothing that identifies the Conservative Party more than the attitude described in a recent The Times leader which suggested that the English education system, in London in particular, was a system in which few people had much confidence, and that middle-class people, having withdrawn their confidence, were looking for some kind of system in which a degree of selection would have a place.

The suggestion that only a limited range of people in this country are worried about standards of education and the educational development of their children is totally belied by the experience of any who take education seriously. It is because the Conservative Party is strong on criticism today but rather weak on solutions, and particularly strong on identifying the weakness of the comprehensive system, while unable to comprehend the merits of comprehensiveness, that it has paid the penalty in terms of electoral defeat over the past year.

Education is a source of concern for the vast majority of our people. Education is concerned with the distribution of chances in life, the distribution of resources in our society, and with power. On that basis people have the right to expect that their children should be treated fairly and enjoy equality of opportunity.

Underlying a great deal of the debate has been a somewhat nineteenth-century rhetoric on standards. Most of the standards identified have sounded like the traditional Rs—reading, writing and arithmetic. Although on this side we recognise that education is concerned with skills such as those, we have heard very little about the other values which education should represent. There is an immense amount of evidence in our society to identify that standards in other areas are rising. Our young people are better educated, better able to appreciate classical music, and more concerned to enjoy fine paintings, and their demands upon the resources provided by arts in our society are greatly increasing. This is a reflection of a range of educational values which I know the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) holds dear, and it is to the credit of our education system that it is moving away from total preoccupation with the narrow mechanistic definition of academic excellence.

There are three ways in which we can advance the standards of education. First, we should attempt to move with all speed, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education has given every indication of moving rapidly towards a position in which selection at 11 years old in maintained schools will be abolished.

Secondly, we must move towards a position in which power in the schools becomes more widely dispersed and in which the relationship between the school and the community is redefined. Thirdly, we must give considerable thought within the schools structure to the question of the development of the educational potential of the 16 to 19 age groups and the educational arrangements we require to cope with their demands.

This administration has made the most substantial advance towards improving education standards by contributing to a much higher morale in the teaching profession by the acceptance of the Houghton Report. I could have wished that the report had concentrated rather more on a career pattern which gave the rewards to people teaching in the classroom. I am worried about that aspect of the Houghton Report, and the changes in the career structures, which are subject to hasty negotiation by the teachers' union to a situation in which merit is identified in terms of changing one's job all too rapidly. Yet the education process is one in which we require teachers to spend a considerable time in the community of the school over a long period of years. Career advance should not be in terms of teachers moving out of the classroom into administrative posts.

The strongest possible plea needs to be made by the House for a fully comprehensive system. A democratic society cannot afford such sharp divisions as selection at the age of 11 involves. The defence of the selective schools is based on a fallacy. The choice between grammar or direct-grant schools and comprehensive schools is false. A comprehensive school is comprehensive in name only unless it enjoys the capacity to take in the total intake of students in its locality. As long as we allow the creaming off at the top of the ability range, with the persistence of the direct-grant schools, so long shall we have a mockery of a comprehensive system rather than its true fulfilment. In any case, the choice is available to very few pupils who predominantly are drawn from the more privileged sectors of the community. The social diversity which is often advanced as a major argument for the retention of the direct-grant school is purely mythical.

Moreover, the persistence of academically selective schools tends to reinforce a narrow definition of the goals of British education. It lifts academic ability, identified in narrow terms, to the peak of educational achievement. It forces many of our most creative and intelligent people into narrow channels and denies the social worth of ability and excellence in other areas.

For those reasons I contend that if we are talking about advancing standards in our education we must concern ourselves with what are the appropriate standards for a democratic community. The attempt of the education system to develop the abilities of all children is possible of fulfilment only through a system which is truly comprehensive.

My second major argument for the advance of education standards is that we should move towards a situation in which the education profession is much more open in its relationships with the community. Parents have an essential rôle to play in their relationship to the school which is not viable within the existing framework of the articles and instruments governing our present schools. So many of our schools depend too much in their hierarchial arrangements upon the quality of one man as the headmaster. This is not to say that many headmasters do not have fine records within that framework, nor that many heads have not come to terms with the necessity for wider consultations within their schools. Nevertheless, I contend that one of our major problems within the framework of our secondary education now is that we still concentrate administration in schools too narrowly and that we should open up governing bodies to parents and other members of the staff of schools other than the heads, and also to mature pupils. Within that framework one would have much wider discussion of the nature of the education which the school carries on with more informed general public consciousness of the rôle of the school. On that basis I would argue that parental concern for standards in secondary education will greatly increase.

If the public is to have faith in this educational advance, and if parents are to play an essential rôle in support of the teachers, we should recognise that the profession must be prepared to be much more open in its identification of the curricula within schools and the arguments for curricula change. Those are demands which this administration has the right to make of the profession; namely, the teachers.

I worry about the challenges presented from the Opposition because they are so often zealous in defending professional expertise and professional privilege in other areas. Their defence of a situation where consultants still do not know the basis on which merit awards are made in the National Health Service would be an example. We on this side believe that the professions have a responsibility to the community and that the community has a right to demand that the criteria of the professions are based on openness.

Finally, comprehensive education cannot be viable and will not develop public support, particularly in the inner cities to which so much criticism is directed, unless we recognise that it must cater adequately for the academically capable. Within this framework, each comprehensive school should have a full band of abilities but should also create opportunities for the able child. There is a problem here. In many inner city areas, where the catchment area presents difficulties, the number of pupils generated for sixth form work is too limited to be viable. There is a case for a fresh look at the education of the 16 to 19-year-olds.

In the inner city areas, the technical colleges and the sixth form sections of comprehensive schools could develop mutual relationships and so canalise their efforts to make sixth form courses viable. We reject at our peril the reasoned and legitimate demands of the parents of the academically capable. We must make viable those arrangements within the comprehensive system which are at present attracting valid criticism.

I imagine that the Conservative Party is not tonight concerned with the social redistribution of the wealth involved in this motion and has not bothered to identify exactly where the £2,000 should go. It has instead in this motion launched an attack upon a comprehensive system which is only partially completed and which this Government should ensure becomes complete in the near future.

8.32 p.m.

Mrs. Margaret Bain (Dunbartonshire, East)

I shall bear in mind the request of the Chair for brevity and try to condense all the material for a speech that I have brought into the Chamber.

I am disappointed that the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) has left. He took 20 minutes to get round to his usual attack on the Scottish National Party. I had hoped to use my remedial qualification in reading to point out to him two basic statements.

The Scottish National Party election manifesto said: The SNP believes in a non-selective system of education and in ending State support for private schools. The early-day motion to which the hon. Member referred said: and believes that it would be fair and just for the real value of grants to be maintained in respect of those children actually enrolled in the schools at the time when any such reorganisation is introduced and approved. All that we have done, as I pointed out on Thursday, is put a time limit of five years on that idea.

We all know that teachers are the lifeblood of any education system. It is distressing that the Scottish Office can issue misleading statements. The Under-Secretary of State has shown great optimism about the numbers of teachers who will come into the primary and secondary schools, but the figures are not so optimistic. Particular colleges and sectors of education show a much more worrying picture.

I received this morning a document from Jordanhill College of Education which showed that the total decrease in graduate entrants was 21 per cent. and in honours graduates 27 per cent. Even more worrying figures can be seen in two particular sectors, science and mathematics. The number of scientist entrants dropped by 32 per cent. and the number of mathematicians by 21 per cent. I am sure that the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire will share my concern since he once put up with me in his maths department as a junior teacher of mathematics with an O-grade qualification. This picture is typical of many schools, in which teachers are teaching subjects for which they are not qualified.

I have another statistical reference. It is a Written Answer to myself from the Secretary of State for Scotland in connection with the school building programme and temporary accommodation in the form of mobile classrooms, to which reference has already been made. If one looks at the increase in mobile classrooms in the period from 1967 to 1974, one finds it appalling that the Government have not implemented some kind of emergency programme for eradicating this situation. In 1967 Glasgow had 584 mobile classrooms. By 1974 it has 682. The county of Ayr, about which I am sure the Secretary of State for Scotland is deeply concerned, had 286 mobile classrooms in 1967 and 449 in 1974. In Lanarkshire the number has increased from 346 to 662.

I had intended to bring in more statistics, but I am trying to watch the clock and not hold back other hon. Members who wish to speak.

These are appalling statistics. Added to them is the fact that in many schools in Scotland the permanent buildings are medieval and totally unsuitable for the teaching of children. This is horrifying and it is a terrible condemnation of successive Westminster Governments, not to mention successive local corporations which have not done much better.

The difficulties that face Scottish education, however, go beyond merely the statistics that we have from the Scottish Office. Education is only part of the environment in which many of the people in Scotland find themselves. I should like to quote from the report of the National Children's Bureau, called "Born to Fail?": Where socially disadvantaged children are found. One child in 16 was the proportion of disadvantaged among all children in Britain, but in individual regions the prevalence varied. In Southern England there was only one in 47 children. In Wales and in Northern England, on the other hand, there was one in every 12. But the most disturbing proportion was found in Scotland, where one in every 10 children was disadvantaged. Eleven per cent. of the 11-year old British children lived in Scotland, but 19 per cent. of disadvantaged children were found there. The education system in Scotland must be brought in with the whole environmental argument about what is happening in Scotland. We have 1 million Scots living near or on the poverty line. These statistics have been verified by the Child Poverty Action Group and by the recent report of the Low Pay Unit. We have 200,000 substandard houses. If the Government really regard education as a social service, they must integrate it with a complete change in the whole environment in certain areas of Scotland, especilally West-Central Scotland where the problems are at their worst.

We are in this situation as a nation which has great resources and great wealth. We want to see that money being used for the socially disadvantaged children about whom I have spoken, to give them a future and something to which to look forward, to enable them to escape from the slums and slum schools in which so many find themselves.

We are, however, a charitable party. We shall go through the Lobby with the Government tonight, because we do not think that they are entirely responsible for the situation. There have been other Governments in power. It does not matter a whit to the SNP, whichever party is in power, how much the Secretary of State for Scotland is paid, because ultimately the whole thing comes back to the fact that the Scottish people are being ignored and treated as second-class citizens. We also bear in mind what we did to the previous Secretary of State for Scotland. We should like the present one to have an opportunity to save up for his retirement.

8.39 p.m.

Mr. Bryan Magee (Leyton)

I start by disagreeing with something that was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Davies). He said that the Opposition were strong on criticism but short on solutions. I wish that they were strong on criticism. The debate has been bedevilled all afternoon by the weakness of the case put forward by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas). who moved the motion. In every speech that he makes, not only inside the House but outside it, he seems to display an ignorance of the subject for which he is nominally responsible, and not only an ignorance of it but a lack of feeling for the real education world and the real-life schools in which the mass of teachers and children have to work.

The hon. Gentleman said that he was not in favour of the 11-plus examination. What exactly does he mean by that? Does he mean that he is not in favour of selection in secondary education by examination but is in favour of selection by some other means? If the hon. Gentleman is against selection by examination only, one cannot escape the suspicion, having heard his many speeches on the subject, that he wants our secondary education system to select but that he wants it to select by socioeconomic criteria and that he wants us to have a system which gives privileges and advantages to the children of the middle class regardless of their ability.

If the hon. Gentleman is against selection at 11-plus or selection in secondary education on any criteria, what can that possibly mean except that he is in favour of comprehensive schools? If he is in favour of comprehensive schools, let him come out and say so and let him try to swing the support of the Conservative Party, for which he speaks on this subject, behind the success of comprehensive schools.

The hon. Gentleman said that he was against social engineering. Everything he says makes me doubt that statement. I think he wants to use our education system for social engineering purposes, but for social engineering purposes that have nothing to do with education. I think he wants to use our education system as one of the means whereby a class divided system, in which both parents and children in the middle class have massive social advantages, can prosper, and he wants to use the education system to defend entrenched social interests.

The hon. Gentleman betrays not only a wrong general attitude to our education system but an ignorance of it in detail. It is quite clear from what he said today that he is under the impression that if we have comprehensive schools we necessarily have mixed ability classes. That is not so at all.

The hon. Gentleman said that children should not be used in education experiments until those experiments had been tried and found to be successful. Who are the experiments to be tried on and with if not children? Are they to be tried on the middle-aged civil servants in the Department of Education and Science? This is nonsense. The hon. Gentleman is utterly divorced from the realities of education that we are discussing.

One of the experiments which the hon. Gentleman quite explicitly said should not have been tried in education is the experiment of the open-plan school. It so happens that only three days ago I spent the whole afternoon in an open-plan school—the Beaumont Primary School in my constituency. What is remarkable about this school is that all the pupils come from one housing estate—the Beaumont Estate, which has become a byword beyond the bounds of my constituency for the social problems associated with it. The London School of Economics has just produced a very large sociological survey of this estate precisely because it has given rise to multiple social problems in recent years.

I could not have been more impressed by the quality of the work being done in that school. It is a school of 200 children with only seven teachers. It was opened this year. I spent an afternoon in the school. I came away convinced that the children were receiving a degree of education which could not be surpassed within the State education system in any other country in the world whose system is known to me.

None of this is recognised by the hon. Gentleman and those who have supported him. Of course there are problem schools, and I am well acquainted with some of them. However, for every problem school there are 10 schools like the Beaumont Primary School.

The terms in which this debate have been couched are utterly mistaken. Conservative Members have talked about a decline in standards. This is an extraordinarily historical approach. When was the time in the past when the marvellous standards existed from which this decline is supposed to have taken place?

I was educated exclusively in East End State schools until I was aged 11. About 20 years ago I returned to problem schools in London to teach in them, to give myself the experience of what those schools were like from the teacher's point of view and not from the pupil's.

On the basis not only of reading and of other people's research but of my own experience as a pupil and as a teacher, I am utterly convinced that in all fundamental respects, whether it be education, specifically academic matters, teaching or discipline, the standards prevailing in our schools today are immeasurably superior to those that generally prevailed in the State system 20 and more years ago.

The Secretary of State is to be congratulated on presiding over some magnificently successful progress in education. It has much further still to go, and I look forward to future progress that will match the progress of the past.

8.45 p.m.

Dr. Keith Hampson (Ripon)

I welcome the inquiries announced by the Secretary of State today. Will he tell us either tonight or in the Official Report how many inquiries are now afoot in total? One I have asked for and which he has established concerns the numbers not now going into higher education, but there are many others. The comparative factor with other countries would also be an important field of inquiry. The Bullock Report deals with a most important question, and I am anxious to know when we may expect it—

Mr. Prentice

Next month.

Dr. Hampson

I hope we shall get a direct commitment from the Government that they will implement the recommendations, and I hope that they will go further and institute an inquiry into numeracy.

The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Magee) displayed a remarkable degree of ignorance on two facts. First, the Secretary of State has not presided over the great advances in education of the last 20 years. They took place under the Conservatives. The other aspect concerned local Conservative education committees. These committees have acknowledged all the aspects of educational advance that he talked about and they have paid tribute to them. Some of the comments he made about the party were not called for.

I agree with the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Davies) about the need for flexibility. Let us consider providing unschool-like schools for pupils such as sixth-formers and a different approach for the post-16 period by using institutions other than the school and the classroom. That is what the whole basis of Conservative educational thinking is about—flexibility and diversification. I hope that we shall encourage schools to go along their own way and urge teachers to develop schools in the way they think best.

We need to encourage specialisation in schools. Most countries have specialisation in their State schools, together with a more flexible transfer system so that children are put into schools where their potential can be developed. One speciality is academic learning. Our defence of the grammar school is based on our concern for a certain type of high-quality academic education, not for one particular administrative pattern. The hon. Member for Enfield, North quite rightly said that we ignore academic education at our peril. We want to ensure that the comprehensive system, as is the case in many comprehensive schools, does a good academic job. Why cannot we preserve it in certain other schools? Why cannot we incorporate the direct-grant schools in this? Are the Government saying that the Bristol, Newcastle and Manchester grammar schools and other direct-grant grammar schools, which take 6 or 7 per cent. of the city's intake, alongside say 30 2,000-strong, 1-stream entry schools, will de-comprehensivise the system? It would not have any profound effect on those comprehensive schools. The Government are driving out these high quality academic institutions from the State system and allowing them to be used only by people with money. It is an indictment of the Secretary of State in that he has given in to pressure from Left-wing Labour MPs below the Gangway.

So many of these people refuse to see some of the problems we are highlighting. We accept some of the great developments but we should not ignore the problems. Mr. Geoffrey Earnshaw, Secretary of the Associated Examination Board, said the other week that the situation was serious but not yet calamitous but it could be if no action is taken. Yet tonight we have heard Labour Members saying that there is nothing wrong with academic standards. All the examiners noticed a decline in spelling and punctuation", and it is getting worse. It is not a distinctive feature of comprehensive schools or of any system in this country alone. The same problem is found in Australia, where so many children now spell "ready" as "redy" that teachers are recommending a change in general spelling there.

If we do not want the problem to become critical, let us have an inquiry into it. The Conservative Party has asked for a major inquiry into standards. There has been no discussion in the debate of what sort of standards there should be in education. One of them must surely be intellectual. We are in danger of going down a slippery slope, even if we are only at the start of it.

We should know by now that education is highly personal. Many Labour Members have almost suggested an inquiry into the structure of education, but standards are not related to structure. Organisational differences do not determine standards. However, we should examine what the structures are and see which are better than others, and where the problems are.

Not long ago we were told that it was inescapable to have big comprehensive schools. Now the trend is the reverse. We should have an inquiry, because there has not been a review since the appraisal of comprehensive schools in 1972 by the National Foundation for Educational Research.

The Government are concerned only with the means, and not the end, of education. They say in effect "Let's get it off the ground as fast as we can, and then deal with the consequences somehow, some time." That is a sad development. I came across the following passage in "Seventy Questions to be Asked and Answered on Labour's Educational Policy", published in 1960: Does the Labour policy mean a uniform pattern for all secondary schools? No. A Labour Government neither could nor would impose a uniform pattern. Yet we are now seeing a bullying tendency to get things done as fast as possible. Let us have tolerance.

It is a human problem. Teachers are critical in dealing with human relationships and developing the children's potential. I urge the House to support the motion condemning the Secretary of State and the direction of his Department in one key respect. The right hon. Gentleman has not acknowledged the significance of what has been said by himself and others on the Labour benches about the teacher supply situation. Over the years members of the Labour Party have rightly gone on and on about the need for more teachers as the essence of good education and improving the system. One can imagine what they would be saying now if a Conservative Secretary of State were proposing the sort of cut-back in teacher supply that the right hon. Gentleman now proposes.

When the Secretary of State tells me that we are in an economic crisis and that education must bear its share, I reply that the education service should stand up for itself and get as big a share of national resources as possible, because it is the biggest national resource that we have, in today's society more important than ever. That is what Labour Members have said over the years, yet they are now—all of them tonight—retreating from that statement. Why is not the Secretary of State telling his Cabinet colleagues to stop escalating the subsidy bill to £1,000 million and start earmarking resources for teacher employment, because local authority after local authority will fail to take up its quota and this will cut back employment of the increasing numbers of teachers who are due this year?

For example, Leicestershire is now likely to fall short by about 300 teacher places that it will not take up.

Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South)


Dr. Hampson

I do not have time to give way.

Leicestershire is 6,000 school places short. We are producing a generation of children educated in huts. Twenty-five per cent. of children in Leicestershire schools are taught in such buildings.

The Secretary of State should defend his service, safeguard teacher supply and obtain a bigger chunk of resources, instead of telling the House "We haven't done so badly", with all his supporters saying that we must accept the situation.

Teachers are the critical factor. They are the priority. Let us have tolerance in the secondary system. No authority can reorganise its secondary schools without having resources which it does not now have. Therefore, it has to take resources from other sectors, such as books and facilities, or allow teacher posts to fall vacant.

The Secretary of State must get his priorities right. I plead with the Government to slow down comprehensive reorganisation, to think again. Otherwise the right hon. Gentleman will go down in history as the Secretary of State who inaugurated a new dark age in our education system.

8.55 p.m.

Mr. John Garrett (Norwich, South)

I often feel that not only should there be a convention that Members should declare an interest but they should declare a lack of interest. In debates of this nature it would be instructive if participating Members who are parents declared whether they have opted out of the State system rather than deciding to help to make it work. When Conservatives talk about falling educational standards it seems that one of the things that most concerns them is the tribal feeling of an almost wholly middle-class regional party that working-class kids are no longer willing to sit quietly and pay sufficient attention so that they may be turned into docile factory hands and farm hands. They are alarmed because the air of the State education system is thick with challenge and dissent. As the major purpose of education is to provide the fullest opportunity for personal self-fulfilment and development, I should have thought that the change was wholly for the good.

In the large comprehensive school where I am now a governor and where I was for a time the chairman of the governors I am always impressed by the air of creativity and challenge and the wide range of activities and opportunities to learn. To traditionists that creates an atmosphere of indiscipline. When we mounted a study on discipline in the school we found that the only substantial problem was that the young children who had come from primary schools and were used to a relaxed discipline had some difficulty in adjusting to the academic régime of a secondary school.

In that school of 2,200 pupils there has never been any evidence that size alone has had an adverse effect on discipline, on learning or on anything else. It is possible to organise a large school in such a way as to create small units to which a child can relate successfully without feeling alienated or overwhelmed. On the other hand, the advantages of scale in individual schools are very great. I do not mean to go into the subject in any detail at this hour. The opponents of large schools have had all the running in recent years and for far too long. Far too few of them can ever produce any evidence as to the adverse effect of size in secondary education.

The best evidence we have at the moment of falling academic standards in secondary education is the 1972 study carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research. This survey on trends in reading standards showed that standards improved until the middle 1960s and then appeared to decline. The matter is now being investigated by the Bullock Committee. The committee is investigating reading and the use of English in our schools. It is important that we wait for the committee's report before we as laymen start to jump to conclusions about the imputed weaknesses of learning by discovery and by other child-oriented approaches to primary education. In my view such approaches have transformed the primary school from a prison with authoritariain and vindictive wardens with a deep interest in flagellation to a place of warmth and enjoyment.

What is much more alarming is the difference in standards of attainment between middle-class and working-class children. The National Children's Bureau's National Child Development Study showed a wide divergence between reading comprehension correlated with social class. Only 12 per cent, of children of social classes I and II had a poor reading ability at 11 years as against 42 per cent. of children of class IV and 52 per cent. of children of class V, the unskilled manual workers. The home environment and lack of interest shown by the parents is the main determinant of poor academic attainment. The child who never receives any intellectual stimulation at home and whose parents dislike and mistrust schools has a strike against him from the very beginning and he never makes it up. The British education system is not providing the avenues of social mobility that many of us have always desired.

An expanded nursery programme may be the answer to the problem or may contribute to the answer. But far more important is the home-school relationship. If there is any money available for increasing teacher complements the money should go first to teacher-social workers whose task should be to bring the home and the school together rather than to reduce the average size of the class. But much could be done without spending any money.

Too many head teachers still shut out parents and fear and resent parent-teacher associations. Head teachers are less accountable to the community than any other public officials, and many of them will not permit the formation of parent-teacher associations. I believe that such associations should be obligatory on all local education authorities. These associations should be democratically constituted and should elect parent-managers to the school management bodies. I am glad that my right hon. Friend is having a study carried out into the constitution of managing bodies. I understand that some heads are actually trying to select the parent representative they want on the school managing body.

All too often, parents are made to feel unwelcome at a school or are tolerated only if they do no more than fund-raising. The parents of working-class children are often intimidated and overawed by head teachers, who themselves often have no idea of the stresses and social conditions of poor families and their effects on the children and their school work.

Too often there is a barrier between home and school which means that the school remains insensitive to the social problems of many of its children. Schools should be open to parents on every occasion possible. Parents should be free to visit the school and meet the teachers frequently and not solely by permission of the head teacher. The multi-purpose use of school premises should be encouraged. Classes for parents should be arranged to familiarise them with the new teaching. Parents should be encouraged to help around the school, with sports coaching, listening to reading, helping with practical subjects. Teachers should be allowed time to talk to parents in their homes.

This country wastes and under-develops its talent on a huge scale, and yet talent is our main national resource. One of the reasons why talent is so wasted is that the working class does not feel welcomed or wanted by educational institutions or the education process. Opening the school to the community is a first and essential step to removing class barriers. We shall also never make any significant impression on class barriers while a large proportion of the children of the middle class do not go to school with the children of working-class parents. How can we bleat about standards while our children do not share a common education experience?

The phrase "one nation"—a Conservative Party phrase, I understand—means ending class division or it is meaningless. The Government, the local education authorities—particularly the Conservative-dominated education authorities in the shire counties—must have that simple fact brought home to them. Only then will the standards rise, when we have the wholehearted interest and commitment of all sectors of the community to good State education for all.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Mr. Rifkind.

9.3 p.m.

Mr. Malcolm Rifkind (Edinburgh, Pentlands)

I was interested—

Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I object strongly to the fact that you have called an hon. Member who has not been in the Chamber for hours. I have been here since 3.30. With great respect, by what right does this hon. Member claim order of precedence in the debate?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The question of the choice of speaker is entirely in the hands of the Chair.

Mr. Rifkind

I have, in fact, been in the Chamber for at least two-thirds of the debate, and I am entitled to participate in it.

The hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Garrett) suggested that those who have opted out of the State education system should declare their interest. I suggest that he should direct that remark to members of the Government. If he did, he might find a depth of silence among them which would be very eloquent.

I want to concentrate on the case of the 120,000 children who attend direct-grant and grant-aided schools in the United Kingdom. These children, as individuals, have an equal right to be heard by Governments of either party as any other children have. They have also been the object of a concerted attack on their educational structure such as they have not seen for many years.

In attacking the grant-aided and direct-grant schools, the Government suggest that they are basically an obstacle to the comprehensive system. But I have never been able to understand why the Government should feel it necessary to take that view, which implies that anything standing in the way of a monolithic uniformity must be swept aside according to some law of the Medes and the Persians. Quite apart from the fact that the Government's long-term aim is wrong, in the short term their policy fails by any standard one cares to apply.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science has given a guarantee that the grants will be withdrawn in the next Session. We have had no such assurance from his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland about grant-aided schools. The Secretary of State for Education told us today that he hoped within a few weeks to be able to give us details of his policy towards the direct-grant schools; as yet we have had no such assurance from his Scottish colleague, but I hope that this evening we shall.

There is an enormous lack of sensitivity on the part of members of the Government, who have maintained throughout that they have no objection of animosity towards the pupils presently at grant-aided or direct-grant schools. If the Government wish to attain their long-term objective, why is it necessary at this stage to impose a freeze on the grant? Why not maintain the grant at its previous real level?

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said in the debate on the Consolidated Fund that the freeze on the grant was not because of costs or because the Government objected to the amount being spent. In that case, why do the Government insist on the freeze? It will not hasten by a minute the achievement of the comprehensive ideal, because when the Government completely phase out the grant, as they presumably will, it will not be simply the grant-aided and direct-grant schools but the local authority schools that will suffer.

For instance, in my city 25 per cent. of secondary schools do not belong to the local authority sector, but there is already an enormous interest in and possible intrusion into local authority schools. At the end of the day, the grant-aided schools may go compeltely independent. If so, the local authorities deserve the right to be consulted, and they are being denied that right by being denied the information they need. They need a timetable, as does every parent and every child, of the Government's intentions.

9.7 p.m.

Mr. John Watkinson (Gloucestershire, West)

I wish to make a plea on behalf of a small group in our society. We have heard a great deal today about the generality of education, but I should like to make a short plea on behalf of children suffering from dyslexia.

I have a constituent who has a child suffering from this complaint. Naturally, I made inquiries of the Department and attempted to put down a Question on the subject, but I was preceded by the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud). The answer was that the Department had insufficient information about this problem.

I asked my local authority what services were available, and I was told that all that was available was basically that which existed in ordinary schools with remedial teachers—when they were available. My plea concerns the significant number of children who suffer from dyslexia. The number is sufficiently large for it to be beneficial for the Government to take up this matter and to establish some form of Government centre to which the children could go for specialist treatment. Certain funds ought to be set aside for the purpose.

Truancy has been mentioned today. I have been approached on this subject by headmasters in my constituency. They suggest that one of the prime reasons for the level of truancy, particularly in the summer term, is the school leaving date. I ask the Secretary of State to consider some form of unified school leaving date so that after they have taken their CSE children may all leave together at the end of the summer term examinations. That would assist towards ending truancy.

I thoroughly agreed with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) about the importance of school children going to work in their last year to gain work experience. I ask the Secretary of State to consider the insurance cover for such children. They are not covered by the National Insurance Acts, and if they were seriously injured while at work they might be unable to get continuing disability payments.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to speak.

9.10 p.m.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

It is a rather unusual task for a Scot to wind up a debate which has largely concentrated on education problems in England. This has been a fascinating debate. It is always difficult to discuss education with the Socialist Party because so many of its members give the impression, and I think some of them believe, that they have the monopoly of knowledge on education problems and that the only thoughts and ideas on education which are valid or valuable are Social thoughts and ideas. We thus have a group of people who think they know all the answers and are not prepared to listen to another point of view.

We saw that demonstrated particularly well by the speech of the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Magee), who gave the impression that those who did not agree with the policy of universally imposed comprehensivation were guilty either of blind folly or of criminal irresponsibility. I should ask the hon. Gentleman to sue "The Times Guide to the House of Commons". I listened, as I am sure we all did, with great feeling and a great deal of regret to the hon. Member's harrowing experience of life as a child, educated entirely at a tough East End school to which he returned as a teacher. The Times guide describes him as having been educated at Christ's Hospital and Keble College. I hope he will sue that organisation, as I hope will many other Labour Members who say such dreadful things about grant-aided schools but nevertheless manage to send their children there.

It has been a fascinating debate and not only for what we have heard from the Government. We had a remarkable demonstration of a new trend in Liberal thought from the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) who clearly indicated that, sad to say, the Liberal Party has finally abandoned the cause of the direct-grant school.

Mr. Freud

What I said was that the Liberal Party had accepted direct-grant legislation, as opposed to grant-aided school legislation, as outlined by the Secretary of State. That is a very different matter.

Mr. Taylor

It may be that the Government will nationalise a good many industries. I do not like that and I will fight it in all ways that I can. I shall vote against the Government. If the Liberal Party is against this shameful policy on direct-grant schools, it should not give up the battle at this stage. Let it fight the Government and try to get the policy changed. This was an astonishing demonstration of a failure of opposition, of feeble qualities and of flabbiness. The Liberal Party is saying that simply because a policy is going ahead it will not fight it. This is not the view of the Conservative Party.

We had another astonishing demonstration of the new thought prevailing in another minority party, namely, the Scottish National Party.

Mr. Douglas Crawford (Perth and East Perthshire)

The hon. Member said that the Scottish National Party was a minority party. May I point out that it is not a minority party in Scotland?

Mr. Taylor

It is a minority party in Cathcart and will be for a long time to conic. What has astonished me has been the change in some of the policies of the Scottish National Party. There has been a complete ideological change recently. We used to look upon the party as comprising moderate, reasonable people. The hon. Member was so agitated that he jumped whenever I mentioned the Scottish National Party. He recently supported a motion which I tabled saying that the Secretary of State should maintain the real value of grants for those at grant-aided schools. That would mean that for at least six years there would be grant aid in real terms for those at maintained schools.

Then the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain), who appears to be dragging her party to the left on all issues from grant-aided schools to the Clydebank councillors and Polaris bases, says that she wants to abolish these schools within five years. On the one hand the party says that it wants to keep such schools for six years and on the other hand the hon. Lady proposes to abolish them in five years. I should not like to be a first-year child if there were a Scottish National Government in charge.

It would be rather pointless to concentrate on the problems of the minority parties. We know that when it comes to educational matters it is those who face the problems with responsibility who count. We have achieved quite a bit simply by having this debate. Following the brilliant speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), we have had the welcome announcement of a new Government policy. For example, the Government have said that they will introduce an inquiry into the government and management of schools. That is a step in the right direction. It applies to England and Wales. It will be interesting to see whether the Secretary of State for Scotland announces something similar.

Mr. D. E. Thomas (Merioneth)

I have been fascinated in reading the terms of the motion put forward by the Conservative Opposition. It refers to lowering the salaries of the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Secretary of State for Scotland but not the Secretary of State for Wales. This would seem to imply that the Conservative Opposition have either neglected to realise that part of education in Wales is a devolved function or they have been completely converted to total legislative devolution in education policy. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will explain the situation.

Mr. Taylor

I am sorry if I have offended the hon. Gentleman. I have made a bitter attack on the Liberal Party and Scottish Nationals. I have not mentioned the Welsh Nationalists, for which I apologise, because they have not spoken in this debate—wisely, I think, bearing in mind the activities of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues. If they speak, I shall say something about them.

Progress has been made. We have had the announcements about talks on truancy and violence, from which we hope something will emerge, and the announcement of the new capital allocation for schools in Wales which, although less than what we were hoping for, is, as the Secretary of State said, a minor improvement.

However, we are not happy with the Secretary of State's comments on other matters. Let me deal first with his response to our fears and those of many local authorities about the comprehensivation programme. He said that we should not worry about it because most local authorities were co-operating. He said that about three-quarters of the local authorities had already responded to his request to submit schemes, and it seems that that is so.

On the other hand, the Secretary of State said he hoped that we would continue to be reasonable and that everyone would co-operate and enter into discussions in a spirit of reasonableness and concession on both sides and in a spirit of flexibility. However, he also said "If they do not co-operate, I shall legislate next year to make sure that they do". This kind of sweet reasonableness, with the threat of the jackboot round the corner, will not lead to meaningful discussions. If the Secretary of State thinks that he can use the threat of legislation to enforce something which he knows is bitterly opposed by some local authorities, is questioned by others and is certainly doubted to some degree by many parents, and when he suggests that he has the co-operation of local authorities in threatening action of this sort, he is going too far.

We were distressed by the Secretary of State's response to questions about direct-grant schools. He said that he will phase out the grants because of some of the problems which have been mentioned about direct grant schools, particularly by the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Garrett), who spoke about the question of class. The thing which appals me is that those who complain that the direct-grant schools do not have a sound social base, are too biased in favour of the middle class and do not have enough working-class children in them are the very people who will make things worse by ensuring that fees go sky high and that we have not, as at present, freedom of choice in education for many people but freedom of choice only for the wealthy. This will be the direct result of the Government's policy of phasing out grants and ensuring that we have only an independent sector and a State sector in education. This will be bad for education and bad for social justice.

One point which must be made clear is the point ably made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee). He said that we should make clear, and I make it clear, that there is no question whatsoever of the Conservative Party being opposed to comprehensive education. A number of accusations have been made by Labour Members to that effect, but they are not true. The Conservative Party has supported comprehensive schools where local authorities want them, where they think them appropriate and where it is the appropriate way to organise education.

We do not say that we necessarily support the imposition of comprehensive education everywhere, because we recognise as a party that circumstances vary from one local authority area to another. Let me give a simple example. We have in some county towns in Scotland comprehensive schools which work perfectly. They have a good social mix. Children of parents of all types go to the schools. They have good academic records and traditions. On the other hand, in some of our cities the imposition of territorial comprehensive education has resulted in a system of virtual class segregation. The kind of education that one's children get depends not on the tradition of the school or on the ability of the child but simply on where one buys a house and the kind of area in which one resides.

I recently had to sell my house and buy another. The reason was the arrival of another child, so I have become even more interested in education. Because we had only one room on the ground floor, there was a problem when bands of people came to see us to protest about Socialist policies. We moved into a slightly larger house. About 14 people called to see the house we wanted to sell and every one of them asked the straight question "What is the school for this area?"

The Secretary of State will be aware—certainly the Secretary of State for Scotland is aware—that in Edinburgh, which has moved towards comprehensive education, there are streets which are split down the middle so that the people living in one half have to send their children to one school and the people living in the other half have to send their children to another school. The houses on one side of the street sell for more money simply because the children go to what is regarded as a better territorial comprehensive school.

If the hon. Members for Norwich South and West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) think that by abolishing selective education and grant-aided schools we shall do away with injustice and inequality of opportunity, they are not thinking seriously about the problem, Certainly in the cities we are making the class barriers more rigid and making it more and more difficult for a working-class child with ability to break through the class barriers. That has been one of the greatnesses of our Scottish educational system, and we are destroying it by imposing a rigid system throughout the country.

I hope that the Secretary of State for Education and Science will pause to think about the consequences of his policy. We are not saying that comprehensive schools are bad everywhere. We are not saying that they are good everywhere. We are saying that circumstances vary and that the Secretary of State should bear in mind the consequences of his policy, which we believe could impose inequality and class segregation instead of academic segregation as we have had in some sectors of our selective education.

I appreciate that the situation is different in Scotland and England. The hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Barnett) stoutly defended comprehensive schools in his interesting speech. He said that standards were not falling and that we were imagining it. He said that if we looked at impartial evidence and did not listen to the Tory Party we should find how things had improved. He especially asked us to look at an article which appeared in yesterday's Sunday Tunes about comprehensive education.

The Sunday Times is extremely expensive—it is very expensive for a Scotsman to buy because it has gone up to 15p. Happily the House of Commons Library has copies. The hon. Member for Greenwich said that the article showed that there were no grounds for believing that there was any reduction in standards or any reason for us to be concerned about discipline, education of attainment. I obtained the Sunday limes from the Library and I read it while I was having my tea. Some of the experiences mentioned in the article surprised me.

Let us take the question of respect for authority, which is a subject on which my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsfor spoke at some length. The person who wrote the article was having a discussion with the teacher in charge of the sixth form and a child psychologist when a young lad walked in and said to the teacher "Can I have a word with you?" The article goes on: 'What do you want?' he said, looking up and smiling. 'I want to strangle your neck, that's all', said the girl. 'There's my diary, find my next free period and write your name in.' Some people might suggest that this represents a new healthy attitude, a new understanding between teacher and pupil, but, although it may appeal to educational psychologists and to people who write articles in expensive Sunday newspapers, I suggest that it is not the kind of atmosphere in which the average parent wants his children to grow up and be educated.

The headmistress of the school referred to in the article is a Mrs. Molly Hattersley, who claims that she is related to a Labour Member of Parliament. She said of her attitude to uniforms, which some people regard as of reasonable importance, The only thing I won't accept is bare feet. That's unhealthy. However, I appreciate that things are probably different in England.

Mr. Guy Barnett

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has found the point of difference between the two sides of the House.

Mr. Taylor

The difference is that the people of this country will show with their feet precisely what they do not want. The attitude of the hon. Member for Greenwich is representative of the attitude which we Conservatives resent. He and his colleagues believe that what education psychologists and other so-called education experts in the House of Commons think is good for education should be imposed on the people of Britain and on our children whether we like it or not. I believe that we need a fundamental rethinking of education policies to ensure that parental wishes carry as much weight as do the views of education psychologists or Left-wing Members of the Labour Party.

We have expressed concern on a number of matters. We have suggested that there is a problem over illiteracy and that an even more serious situation is developing. However, we have been told that this is all nonsense. Labour Members who take that view should examine the issue of The Teacher—the magazine of the NUT—for 17th May 1974, which carries a survey conducted in Inner London showing that one-half of the total of a sample of 16-year-old day-release students had a reading standard below the standard normally achieved by a child of 10. We are not suggesting that we should take individual cases and reports and say that they represent a major problem. We appreciate that the problem has existed for some time, but we are suggesting that it is getting worse. We certainly want to express concern about it.

We also express concern about truancy. There is ample evidence that although truancy is not a new problem there are clear signs that it is getting worse. There is evidence from the Department's own survey, published in July 1974, that the average school absence was 9.9 per cent., of which a total of 2.2 per cent. represented unjustified absence. There are signs that those figures are rising.

We are extremely concerned about violence and we have had clear evidence from Government figures that it is a growing problem. We see a problem in terms of the decline in basic standards of education in reading, writing and arithmetic.

What is the answer? We have been challenged on this score time and again. We believe that we must take speedy action to raise standards in education. This will involve a strengthening of the system of school inspection and will mean the recruitment of more inspectors. National standards of reading, writing and arithmetic need to be set and the training period for teachers should give more attention to the teaching of the three basic skills and the maintenance of discipline.

The situation in Scotland is different. In Scotland we have a different tradition of education. One of our main complaints against the Secretary of State for Scotland, and the reason why we ask that his salary should be reduced, is his blind subservience to the ideological policy pursued by the Labour Party, despite the special nature of Scottish education which makes that policy less appropriate in Scotland compared with England and Wales.

If we have one major complaint—and there are many complaints—it relates to the right hon. Gentleman's decision to freeze grants to grant-aided schools. In this debate we have had a major discussion about the future of grant-aided schools. We have had suggestions that the grant-aided schools cream off the able pupils. That comes a little strangely from the Labour Party which regards the 11-plus examination as in no way an exact determinant or assessment of ability of children, but which in some cases suggests selection at the age of eight or even five, with the suggestion of a creaming-off in terms of carefully defined ability.

It has been suggested by Labour Members that expenditure on grant-aided schools is a waste of taxpayers' money. I wonder whether those same hon. Members appreciate the consequences for the taxpayer if we were to abolish all grant-aided schools. It would mean a massive increase in spending and less money for the areas of need of which the Secretary of State spoke. It would involve many problems.

Our complaint is not only about policy. I appreciate, as does every democrat, that a party must have the right when in government to bring forward a policy and to implement it. We object very strongly to the mean and spiteful way in which the policy is being applied—a way which will cause the maximum damage and distress to the children and to the parents of those children now at school.

Mr. Russell Kerr (Feltham and Heston)


Mr. Taylor

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is aware of some problems facing parents with two or three children at grant-aided schools in Scotland—one child in the fifth year, one in the third year and one in the first year—who are told that the fees will be increased by 50 per cent. or 100 per cent. in one year. It will involve such families in enormous stress and hardship and will result in the education of their children being disrupted. I suggest, even to someone as extreme as the hon. Gentleman, that although we accept the policy change's make-up, it is the duty and obligation of the Government to take steps to protect those who are caught in the change of policy.

Apart from anything else, 7,000 of the 21,000 grant-aided Scottish pupils come from Edinburgh. If there is a change of policy, which will result in many of those children being forced to leave the grant-aided schools, a situation will arise where the local authority schools will be unable to cope because they are already full and will not be able to take anything like the figure of 7,000 pupils mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton).

We object to the fact that this policy and other policies are being imposed purely for dogmatic and ideological reasons. They will not achieve the social justice longed for by hon. Members such as the hon. Member for West Stirling-shire and the hon. Member for Norwich, South, because they will create a situation of segregation by class and sex according to the kind of house we buy and the area in which it is situated.

I now bring to the attention of the House some figures given to me recently by the Secretary of State for Scotland with regard to part-time education. On 20th November he explained that because of the work-to-rule 47,000 secondary school pupils were receiving part-time education in Scotland. That is a substantial number, but it is not an enormous number considered against the total number of children in Scotland receiving secondary education. The problem is that those children are concentrated in some parts of Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Inverness-shire.

The Secretary of State well knows that one school in the Glasgow constituency which I represent is short of 22 teachers, whereas down the road there is another school with no such shortage. That is the situation which the Secretary of State seeks to impose throughout England, Scotland and Wales. It is not a system which will bring about equality. We want a system whereby the needs of each area are taken into account before policy decisions are made.

We shall vote against the Government tonight, unlike the Liberals, who apparently cannot make up their minds, and unlike the nationalists who will vote for the Government for no apparent reason. We shall do so because we have a Government who place ideology before education and dogma before parental wishes. We shall vote against them because the Government have a policy designed to remove even the limited freedom of local authorities to arrange their school organisation according to the needs of their locality. We shall vote against the Government because they refuse to recognise or take action on the widespread and justified fears of parents about standards of education. We shall vote against them because their attitude to direct-grant and grant-aided schools is nothing more than a policy of educational vandalism.

We shall vote against the Secretary of State for Scotland for failing to assert, or to achieve, the right of Scotland to opt out of the ideological policies which are totally in conflict with the greatness and diversity of Scottish traditional education. In those circumstances I hope that the vote and this debate will be a warning to the Government about their future policy and a condemnation of what they have so far announced.

9.35 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) on his speech. It was quite a good one; it always was quite a good one. I must have heard it at least a dozen times. He excels when he defends fee-paying in local authority schools or in direct-grant schools.

I have been happy to hear the occasional Scottish voice now and again. Only one Scottish Member spoke from the other side of the House, and he entered the Chamber at 8 o'clock. It shows our forbearance that even though he had heard nothing of the debate—

Mr. Rifkind

Does the Secretary of State realise that if he had been in the Chamber for the earlier part of the debate he would have seen me present for at least two-thirds of the debate? He is correct in saying that I entered at 8 o'clock; what he did not mention was that I had left previously at 7.30.

Mr. Ross

I can assure the hon. Member that I took careful note of the comings and goings of all Scottish Members on the other side of the House. For him to suggest that he was here for two-thirds of the debate is quite wrong.

Mr. van Straubenzee

On a point of order. Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for any hon. Member, whether on the Front Bench or one of the back benches, specifically to question the word of another hon. Member?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

Customs vary in this House.

Mr. Ross

The debate has covered a wide field, including many important constituency points. It has covered educational standards, illiteracy, direct-grant schools, comprehensive education—not only in principle but in relation to school organisation—discipline, vandalism, truancy and teachers' morale. I was surprised when Conservative Members dealt with this last point, bearing in mind that the last great row we heard from them was about teachers' salaries. A sudden change has come over them. There has been silence since Houghton reported, and all who have spoken today have appreciated the effect on teachers' morale of that report.

Many of those who have spoken with such sincerity should remember that it was this Government who established the Houghton Committee, and we are grateful for the reaction of the great majority of teachers. It does not matter what kind of school a child attends. What matters most is the quality of the teacher. The great pride of Scottish education is that in schools which were not physically at their best we had qualified and dedicated teachers, many of them teaching classes of mixed ability—often even in the same room. If we can maintain the improvement in the morale of the teachers—I do not dismiss conditions altogether, because this is an important part of it—we shall be going a long way towards achieving the kind of standards we want. But it is a bit much for people to be harking back to it and saying "All right, we are not opposed to comprehensive education in principle, in general, but we are always opposed to it in relation to many specific cases."

That is the trouble with Members of the Opposition. I think it was the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) who read a little lecture to his side of the House about their attitude to comprehensive education. He seemed to think that they had been mistaken in the past in giving an impression to the country that their main interests were in certain sectors of education. But they will have to be careful now, because the people of this country do not like to be deceived—by people giving merely the appearance of being for comprehensive education and then being opposed to it whenever it rears its ugly head and is unpopular. This harking back to the three Rs and the suggestion "Yes, but let us stop; let us have an inquest, a big inquiry into comprehensive education", is another rearguard action, and it will be seen as such; certainly from the speeches today that became fairly obvious.

Let the Conservative Party make no mistake about it. Comprehensive education has been accepted and wanted by the people of this country. In Scotland there is no argument about it. Even the hon. Member for Cathcart admitted that 98 per cent. of the pupils entering secondary schools in Scotland are comprehensive intake. This is part of our tradition in Scotland. It is a democratic tradition, and our opposition to the other kinds of system is because they divide the nation. I would advise the hon. Member for Cathcart to read the report of the Public Schools Commission which was intended to cover the grant-aided schools. In that it became clear that Edinburgh was rotten with these.

Mr. David Lambie (Central Ayrshire)

There are too many Englishmen there.

Mr. Ross

The existence of these schools in Edinburgh distorts the education system and handicaps that education authority in seeking to get proper comprehensive education.

It is interesting that on the last occasion on which I spoke from the Opposition side of the House about education I read out the will of George Heriot. What did he leave the money for? for the maintenance, relief, bringing up and educatiowne of puire, faitherless bairnes. It was left to support the poor in education. There is no one who can look at that grant-aided system and suggest that the people who benefit are the poor of Edinburgh.

The same thing is true of many other schools run by the Merchant Company. I had the pleasure of addressing them on one occasion as Secretary of State. I did my homework in relation to the origin of these schools. The fact is that it was not until 1872 that a change of law enabled the schools to change the terms of endowment and to widen the whole thing. But the thing has been organised for the benefit of the middle classes, not the poor. It got to the stage where it was distorting the education system and had handicapped an education authority determined to press on with education so to achieve it.

The last of these schools established in Scotland was established in Ayrshire by a man called Marr, who left money for the poor of Troon. Eventually a school was built. This is a modern grant-aided school. The school is for all practical purposes a local authority school. The hon. Member for Cathcart agrees with that. It is one of the finest schools in the county. Is there anything to prevent grant-aided schools in Scotland from going comprehensive and doing exactly the same as has been done in relation to this college?

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Is the hon. Gentleman seriously saying that the right educational policy for Troon, which is a pleasant small town on the coast of the Clyde, is appropriate for a city like Glasgow? Our point is that circumstances vary and that the problems which arise in Troon do not arise in Glasgow. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that because a policy is right for Troon it is right for Glasgow?

Mr. Ross

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it can be done in Edinburgh. Why did he compare Glasgow with Troon? Let it not be thought that Troon is the prototype little Scottish town. It is far from it. It is a town where property is probably more expensive than it is in Edinburgh. One of the reasons why the population in Troon increased was the existence of this fine school run by a local authority.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher (Edinburgh, North)

I do not understand why the right hon. Gentleman is afraid of the Merchant Company in Edinburgh. The resources of the State, of which he has control in Scotland, are capable of competing with the Merchant Company schools and putting them out of business in fair competition. The Merchant Company schools should be allowed to continue with the traditions and the excellent education that they have established over many years. If the State system is better, people will soon voluntarily move into it and leave the Merchant Company schools—when the State system is better, but not before.

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman suggests that we should have competition but that the Government should subsidise their competitors. This is at a time when financial resources are scarce and every penny is required for the State system. We would be failing in our stewardship to the nation if we gave aid to a system which catered for only 2 per cent. of the school population.

The hon. Gentleman asked questions about phasing out. He knows that our policy on this has been clearly stated for a long time. The last time we were in Government we took exactly the same action. In pursuing that policy we froze the grant paid to these schools. Our policy has been made clear at about three elections since then. We have had the support of the Scottish people for that policy.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

Not in Edinburgh.

Mr. Ross

I assure the hon. Gentleman that Scotland is not Edinburgh.

There is a considerable difference between the system in England and Wales and that in Scotland. In England and Wales the direct-grant schools are duty-bound to take 25 per cent. of their pupils from local education authorities. The local education authorities also have the right to another 25 per cent. of places if they want them. That position does not prevail in Scotland, and never has. It has never been suggested. If such a system had existed in Scotland there just might have been something to be said for the argument which is advanced from the other side. In Scotland the grant-aided schools are exclusively fee-paying. There is freedom of choice there only if people can pay for it. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) suggested that we further subsidise the fees at the expense of the rest of the children. We are not doing that and we cannot.

Much has been said about the standards of education in comprehensive schools. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) produced figures which showed that since the introduction of comprehensive education more children are getting and accepting the opportunity of staying on and getting qualifications. I sincerely hope that the improvement will continue. One of the things which will help it to continue will be an increased supply of teachers.

I agreed in one respect with the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain), who was not so gloomy about the prospects of teaching being an attractive profession. I think the Houghton Report will make a big difference in this respect. There are more teachers in secondary and primary schools than ever before, but we still need even more because there are shortages, as she suggested, in the mathematics departments, and attention is being given to that.

On the management of the schools Conservative Members welcomed the announcement by my right hon. Friend of a review of the managers and governors of schools south of the border. We do not have that system in Scotland, nor will we have it. The hon. Member for Cathcart asked if I had an announcement to make. He was a member of the Government which enacted the legislation reorganising Scottish local authorities. This was one of the matters his Government dealt with. They put a statutory obligation on the local authorities to establish school councils. These councils might relate to a particular secondary school or feeder schools. That system has still to go forward, and it would be unfair to embark upon a review of it before it has been introduced.

I now turn to the question of vandalism and truancy. There have been valuable contributions from hon. Members on the subject today. I think the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) did a disservice to education by attaching so much importance to the subject in a debate on education. I do not believe that vandalism or even indiscipline in schools are attributable solely to education, and the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) made some important points in that respect. However, the hon. Member for Chelmsford highlighted the matter as one of his discontentments with the policy of my hon. Friend the Secretary of State. It has been suggested that the school leaving age should be reduced from 16 to 15, and, whatever justification there might be for that, it cannot be found in truancy, indiscipline or vandalism.

We have only to ask those who are most concerned with indiscipline in one aspect of life, those who run football matches, which cause a lot of the trouble. We should find that it is not the 16-year-olds but the 13- and 14-years-olds. Truancy is not found so much among the 16-year-olds. In Scotland we have set up the Pack Committee to investigate truancy, and, because this is not purely a matter for schools, parents are involved along with educationists and people interested in a wide range of social activities.

We seem to have forgotten the big change which has taken place in education. We tend to think of schools and teachers and our attitudes towards them in terms of our own days at school. Before the war I was a teacher in the Gorbals, and we were not without violence there. The problem has always existed. However, as a nation we must take account of the indiscipline which exists in public behaviour not only in schools but elsewhere. This serious matter is being studied, and it is unfair to say that it is a matter just for the teacher. It is a matter first for the parent.

We must build bridges between parents and teachers, in parent-teacher groups, and that is what we are doing. That is one of the reasons why Conservative Members are being advised to vote against us. There has been no neglect by the Government. We are going into the matter seriously. We are seeking to create the proper conditions within the schools, and seeking properly to reward the teachers and to bring the parents and teachers together.

Conservative Members will let themselves down again with their sloganising, their disregard of real interest in the community. Attacking us with these slogans does no service to education. One Conservative Member drew attention to the number of teachers who do not support

the Labour Party but who are the first to appreciate the nature of the problem and the difficulties of bringing about a solution.

I did not think that the speech of the hon. Member for Chelmsford merited a three-line Whip. It was slightly frivolous. Remembering who was the Secretary of State for Education and Science in the previous Government, I thought that the hon. Gentleman had inhibitions about praising the work of that Government in education. There was a certain amount of exhibitionism on the hon. Gentleman's part. He was displaying his feelings about the coming election. I do not know whether he was seeking to put himself forward as one of the third candidates, but we shall watch with interest. We are in an interesting period.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that we have a system of education of which we are justly proud. The hon. Gentleman suggested that we should find out how our reading standards compare with standards in the European Community. A study has already been done, which shows that reading in Scotland, England and Wales is as good as it is in the Community. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman, giving his imitation of thunder at the Dispatch Box, should not have apprised himself of what had already been discovered.

It has been an interesting debate, mainly because of the lack of fire from the Conservative Party. I had more than an impression that Conservative Members did not believe in what they were saying. It was a sham fight.

We have not changed our minds about the comprehensive system. We are opposed to grant-aiding, with its divisive effects. We are going ahead with our policies, because we believe that the touchstone of democracy is the education in that democracy, and it is not the kind of education supported in the speeches from the Opposition benches.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 237, Noes 293.

Division No. 73.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Adley, Robert Arnold, Tom Banks, Robert
Aitken, Jonathan Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Bell, Ronald
Alison, Michael Awdry, Daniel Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Baker, Kenneth Benyon, W.
Berry, Hon Anthony Hampson, Dr Keith Newton, Tony
Biffen, John Hannam, John Nott, John
Biggs-Davison, John Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Onslow, Cranley
Blaker, Peter Hastings, Stephen Oppenheim, Mrs Sally
Body, Richard Havers, Sir Michael Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hawkins, Paul Parkinson, Cecil
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Hayhoe, Barney Pattie, Geoffrey
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Heath, Rt Hon Edward Percival, Ian
Braine, Sir Bernard Heseltine, Michael Peyton, Rt Hon John
Brittan, Leon Higgins, Terence L. Pink, R. Bonner
Brotherton, Michael Holland, Philip Price, David (Eastleigh)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Howell, David (Guildford) Prior, Rt Hon James
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Buck, Antony Hurd, Douglas Raison, Timothy
Budgen, Nick Hutchison, Michael Clark Rathbone, Tim
Bulmer, Esmond Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Burden, F. A. Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Carlisle, Mark James, David Rees-Davies, W. R.
Carr, Rt Hon Robert Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Jessel, Toby Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Channon, Paul Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Churchill, W. S. Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Jopling, Michael Ridsdale, Julian
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Rifkind, Malcolm
Cockcroft, John Kaberry, Sir Donald Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Cope, John King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Cormack, Patrick Kirk, Peter Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Corrie, John Kitson, Sir Timothy Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Costain, A. P. Knight, Mrs Jill Royle, Sir Anthony
Crouch, David Knox, David Sainsbury, Tim
Crowder, F. P. Lamont, Norman St. John-Stevas, Norman
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) Lane, David Scott, Nicholas
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Langford-Holt, Sir John Scott-Hopkins, James
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Latham, Michael (Melton) Shelton, William (Streatham)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lawrence, Ivan Shepherd, Colin
Drayson, Burnaby Lawson, Nigel Shersby, Michael
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Le Marchant, Spencer Silvester, Fred
Durant, Tony Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Sims, Roger
Dykes, Hugh Lloyd, Ian Sinclair, Sir George
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Loveridge, John Skeet, T. H. H.
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Luce, Richard Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Elliott, Sir William McAdden, Sir Stephen Spence, John
Emery, Peter McCrindle, Robert Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Eyre, Reginald Macfarlane, Neil Spicer, Michael (S. Worcester)
Fairbairn, Nicholas MacGregor, John Sproat, Iain
Fairgrieve, Russell Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Stainton, Keith
Fell, Anthony McNair-Wilson. M. (Newbury) Stanley, John
Finsberg, Geoffrey McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Fisher, Sir Nigel Madel, David Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Stokes, John
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Marten, Neil Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Fookes, Miss Janet Mates, Michael Tebbit, Norman
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Mather, Carol Temple-Morris, Peter
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Maude, Angus Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Fry, Peter Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Mawby, Ray Townsend, Cyril D.
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Trotter, Neville
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Mayhew, Patrick Tugendhat, Christopher
Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham) Meyer, Sir Anthony van Straubenzee, W. R.
Glyn, Dr Alan Mills, Peter Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Miscampbell, Norman Viggers, Peter
Goodhart, Philip Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Wakeham, John
Goodhew, Victor Moate, Roger Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Goodlad, Alastair Monro, Hector Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Gorst, John Moore, John (Croydon C) Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) More, Jasper (Ludlow) Walters, Dennis
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Morgan, Geraint Weatherill, Bernard
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral Wells, John
Gray, Hamish Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Griffiths, Eldon Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Wiggin, Jerry
Grist, Ian Morrison, Peter (Chester) Winterton, Nicholas
Grylls, Michael Mudd, David Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Hall, Sir John Neave, Airey
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Nelson, Anthony TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Neubert, Michael Mr. Adam Butler and
Mr. John Stradling Thomas.
Abse, Leo Ennals, David Lyon, Alexander (York)
Allaun, Frank Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Anderson, Donald Evans, John (Newton) McElhone, Frank
Archer, Peter Ewing, Harry (Stirling) MacFarquhar, Roderick
Armstrong, Ernest Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Ashley, Jack Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mackenzie, Gregor
Ashton, Joe Flannery, Martin Maclennan, Robert
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Atkinson, Norman Foot, Rt Hon Michael Madden, Max
Bain, Mrs Margaret Ford, Ben Magee, Bryan
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Forrester, John Marks, Kenneth
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Marquand, David
Bates, Alf Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Bean, R. E. Freeson, Reginald Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Garrett, John (Norwich S) Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Meacher, Michael
Bidwell, Sydney George, Bruce Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Bishop, E. S. Gilbert, Dr John Mikardo, Ian
Blenkinsop, Arthur Ginsburg, David Millan, Bruce
Boardman, H. Golding, John Miller, Dr M. S. (E. Kilbride)
Booth, Albert Gould, Bryan Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Gourlay, Harry Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Graham, Ted Molloy, William
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Grant, George (Morpeth) Moonman, Eric
Bradley, Tom Grant, John (Islington C) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Grocott, Bruce Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Hamling, William Moyle, Roland
Buchan, Norman Hardy, Peter Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Buchanan, Richard Harper, Joseph Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Newens, Stanley
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Hart, Rt Hon Judith Noble, Mike
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Oakes, Gordon
Campbell, Ian Hatton, Frank Ogden, Eric
Canavan, Dennis Hayman, Mrs Helene O'Halloran, Michael
Cant, R. B. Healey, Rt Hon Denis O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian
Carmichael, Neil Heffer, Eric S. Orbach, Maurice
Carter-Jones, Lewis Henderson, Douglas Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Cartwright, John Hooley, Frank Ovenden, John
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Horam, John Owen, Dr David
Clemitson, Ivor Hoyle, Douglas (Nelson) Padley, Walter
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Huckfield, Les Palmer, Arthur
Coleman, Donald Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Park, George
Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen Hughes, Mark (Durham) Parker, John
Concannon, J. D. Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Peart, Rt Hon Fred
Conlan, Bernard Hughes, Roy (Newport) Perry, Ernest
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Hunter, Adam Phipps, Dr Colin
Corbett, Robin Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Prescott, John
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Crawshaw, Richard Jackson, Miss M. (Lincoln) Price, William (Rugby)
Cronin, John Janner, Greville Radice, Giles
Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Richardson, Miss Jo
Cryer, Bob Jeger, Mrs Lena Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford) Roderick, Caerwyn
Dalyell, Tam John, Brynmor Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Davidson, Arthur Johnson, James (Hull West) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Rooker, J. W.
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Rose, Paul B.
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rowlands, Ted
Deakins, Eric Judd, Frank Ryman, John
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Kaufman, Gerald Sandelson, Neville
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Kelley, Richard Sedgemore, Brian
Delargy, Hugh Kerr, Russell Selby, Harry
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Kilroy-Silk, Robert Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Dempsey, James Kinnock, Neil Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Doig, Peter Lambie, David Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcasle C)
Dormand, J. D. Lamborn, Harry Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Lamond, James Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Duffy, A. E. P. Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Dunn, James A. Leadbitter, Ted Sillars, James
Dunnett, Jack Lee, John Silverman, Julius
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Skinner, Dennis
Eadie, Alex Lever, Rt Hon Harold Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Edelman, Maurice Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Snape, Peter
Edge, Geoff Lipton, Marcus Spearing, Nigel
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Litterick, Tom Spriggs, Leslie
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Lomas, Kenneth Stallard, A. W.
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Loyden, Eddie Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
English, Michael Luard, Evan Stewart, Rt Hn M. (Fulham)
Stoddart, David Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V) Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Stott, Roger Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Strang, Gavin Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Strauss, Rt Hon G. R. Walker, Terry (Kingswood) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley Ward, Michael Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Swain, Thomas Watkins, David Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W) Watkinson, John Wilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)
Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) Weetch, Ken Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Weitzman, David Wise, Mrs Audrey
Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E) Wellbeloved, James Woodall, Alec
Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW) Welsh, Andrew Woof, Robert
Thorne, Stan (Preston South) White, Frank R. (Bury) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Tierney, Sydney White, James (Pollock) Young, David (Bolton E)
Tinn, James Whitehead, Phillip
Tomlinson, John Whitlock, William TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Torney, Tom Wigley, Dafydd Mr. James Hamilton and
Varley, Rt Hon Eric G. Willey, Rt Hon Frederick Mr. Laurie Pavitt.

Question accordingly negatived.

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