HC Deb 03 August 1976 vol 916 cc1422-4
13. Mr. Sims

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will disband the Schools Council.

Miss Margaret Jackson

This issue was debated at length in this House on 21st July. My right hon. Friend welcomed the withdrawal of the amendment to the Education Bill which sought to discontinue the Schools Council.

Mr. Sims

Does the hon. Lady accept that, whatever might be the obvious advantages of having an independent body such as the Schools Council to give advice, the proposals that the council has put forward in recent years, particularly those relating to the existing examination structure and its future, have led to a loss of confidence in that body by one of the most important elements in the education structure—namely, the parents?

Miss Jackson

The hon. Member is making a sweeping assumption. He is concentrating on one aspect of the Schools Council work—that of examinations. I am not aware of any evidence of gross dissatisfaction among parents with the present system such as he outlines. Certainly there are other aspects of the council's work. It gives advice to my right hon. Friend and to teachers on aspects of the curriculum and it produces all kinds of information to assist teachers. In this aspect of its work it is of great value to schools. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are too fond of concentrating on one aspect of the council's work and criticising it in a very ill-informed way.

Mr. Flannery

Once again, Opposition Members are trying to destroy the Schools Council. That is characteristic of the way they behave. They want to destroy a great deal of our educational system. The statement made by the hon. Member that the council has lost the support of parents is absolute nonsense. The Schools Council is a valuable body which takes account of what is happening in education—unlike hon. Members opposite—and endeavours to advise my right hon. Friend on the best way to advance education.

Miss Jackson

It was notable in the debate we had on this matter on the Education Bill that hon. Members opposite sought to have the Schools Council abolished but had no proposals about what should be put in its place.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Does the hon. Lady recognise that there is a need for reform of the composition of the Schools Council? Will she recommend this course to her right hon. Friend so that the customers of the education service—the representatives of industry, the trade unions, commerce and the professions—are better represented on the council? Education is too important to be left to educationalists alone.

Miss Jackson

The hon. Member was either not listening or he has a very bad memory. When we debated this matter, I made it plain that reform of the membership of the council was under consideration.