HC Deb 03 August 1976 vol 916 cc1412-4
5. Mr. Dodsworth

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many parents will be unable to send their children to the comprehensive school of their first choice in the forthcoming academic year.

Miss Margaret Jackson

The Department does not normally receive this information from local education authorities, and in any event it is too early to say what the position will turn out to be next term because the allocations have not been completed in all cases.

Mr. Dodsworth

Will the hon. Lady take the opportunity to advise the Secretary of State to consult parents in the South-West Hertfordshire area who have failed to obtain a first choice for their children in comprehensive schools, with the result that they feel there is a diminishing influence among parents in terms of school choice? Will she ensure that the fullest opportunity is taken to restore the Watford Grammar School to a proper place in our educational system?

Miss Jackson

Such choice of school cases which have been passed to my Department are being carefully considered on all the facts at our command. We shall write to the hon. Gentleman as soon as a decision has been reached.

Mr. Noble

Is my hon. Friend aware that in Tameside 90 per cent. of parents have a first choice and that out of 800 children only 240 places can be allocated? Is she further aware that only 60 of those pupils who are so placed will be girls? In these circumstances, what does the Department propose to do to bring back real parental choice to Tameside as existed before the Tories were elected to power there?

Miss Jackson

I think that the final part of my hon. Friend's question is for my right hon. Friend later. It seems to me to be an excellent example of what is really meant by parental choice as evinced by Conservative Members.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Will the Minister explain how it comes about that parents have their first choice if they then prefer to choose a second school, having been given the option by the council?

Miss Jackson

I think that the hon. Gentleman does not really understand his own question. If parents are given a choice of school in a system which they know is intended to be comprehensive, it is a rather different matter from where parents have a choice of schools in a system which is divided between grammar and secondary modern schools, where, one presumes, the situation in the past was that less money was spent on secondary modern than on grammar schools.

Mr. Madden

Is my hon. Friend concerned at the proposal of the Tory-controlled Calderdale Council to reintroduce selection into Elland, in my constituency, where it was abolished 17 years ago, by proposing not to provide temporary accommodation for a temporary increase in the number of pupils wishing to attend Brooksbank School, thereby denying to parents the opportunity to send their children to this school and enforcing selection because their children must attend schools outside the area?

Miss Jackson

My hon. Friend knows that we on the Government side are very much opposed to selection with all its inaccuracies and difficulties, and that we believe in comprehensive education. Nevertheless, as my hon. Friend will know, many of these matters are very much within the power of local authorities to decide.

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