HC Deb 03 August 1976 vol 916 cc1425-6
19. Mr. Forman

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many local authorities have not yet submitted plans to his Department for the introduction of comprehensive secondary education.

Mr. Gerry Fowler

One authority has not submitted proposals for the introduction of comprehensive education in any part of its area. Six others have not yet indicated their intention to end all selection and introduce a fully comprehensive pattern throughout their areas.

Mr. Forman

Is the Minister aware that local education authorities which have not yet submitted their proposals are merely trying to stand out against imposed uniformity from the Labour Government? Is he further aware that they are doing so with the full support of the European Convention on Human Rights, which his Government have just signed, and with the full support of parents throughout the country?

Mr. Fowler

But not with the full support of this House, since it gave a Third Reading recently to the Education Bill.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is reported that the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) has stated that if the decision over Tameside were reversed by legislation it would probably be challenged in the courts? Does that not call into question the authority of Parliament?

Mr. Fowler

I agree with my hon. Friend if that comment were made. The remark has escaped my attention, as does so much that is said by the hon. Gentleman.

Sir J. Eden

Does not the Minister agree that it would be premature for local authorities to submit plans for reorganisation unless the Secretary of State can first guarantee that the necessary resources for such reorganisation will be made available?

Mr. Fowler

No. It is always better if one is embarking on a journey to have a map and to know one's destination. That is what planning is all about.

Mrs. Millie Miller

Is my hon. Friend aware of the great distress that is being caused to many parents and children at this time by the activities of the Tory Redbridge Council, which is insisting on retaining only two grammar schools in its area and upon imposing unsatisfactory selection methods in its comprehensive system of education?

Mr. Fowler

Yes, I am aware of that. It reflects a doctrine commonly advanced by the Conservatives that it is possible to have selection and non-selection coexisting. That is a logical contradiction, not a practical one.

Dr. Boyson

If the Government were convinced of the true merit of comprehensive schools, should there not be an inquiry into the results of existing schools to convince the sceptics that the Government are right, instead of the Government driving headlong onwards as at present, which will cause revolt against existing comprehensive schools?

Mr. Fowler

The hon. Gentleman never misses a chance to knock our education system. I do not remember a cry from the Conservative Benches for an inquiry into the standards of grammar schools. Some small country grammar schools had very poor results, as the hon. Member knows. He did not ask for an inquiry into them. He knows, equally, the difficulties of inquiring into educational attainment at schools which are called comprehensive but which are creamed by the persistence of selection in many Tory authorities.

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