HC Deb 30 April 1976 vol 910 cc705-6
Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)

Mr. Speaker, it is a great joy to be back temporarily in my old place on the Back Benches this morning.

I beg leave to present to the House a petition on the subject of freedom in education and to amend the Education Bill which is now in Committee. The petition has been signed in 10 weeks by 561,110 people from places which include Lancashire, Wales, Surrey, Sutton, Buckingham, Bexley, Kingston, Essex, Chelmsford, Kent, Tonbridge, Coventry, Birmingham, Worcester, Tyneside, Reading, Yorkshire, Hull, Cumbria, Croydon, Plymouth, Burton-on-Trent, Knutsford, London, Bristol and Dorset—an ecumenical selection, Mr. Speaker.

The petition also has the signatures of various distinguished individuals. It is a non-party petition supported by Members of all parties and of none.

The petition is in no way against comprehensive schools, but it seeks to end the imposition of those schools everywhere without regard to local conditions, educational considerations, parental wishes or financial resources. It seeks to preserve the rights of parents, children and teachers to a variety of schools and freedom of education.

The petition states: Wherefore your Petitioners pray that the House of Commons do amend the Education Bill at present before the House, so as to increase the opportunities of parents to choose from within the maintained sector comprehensive schools if they so desire, but also other types of school if they so prefer; to enable a variety of school to be provided to meet the different abilities and aptitudes of children in accordance with section 76 of the 1944 Education Act; to enable local education authorities to continue to exercise their present powers and discretion on the best provision of schools for their areas; to preserve the freedom of local authorities and parents to choose different types of school within the maintained sector; and to concentrate resources not on changing the character of schools of proven academic worth, but on improving and maintaining standards of education in maintained schools of all types. And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.

To lie upon the Table.