HC Deb 30 March 1976 vol 908 cc1078-80
3. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if it is his policy to allow grammar streaming in comprehensive schools.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Gerry Fowler)

Subject to the articles of government, the internal organisation of any school is a matter for the professional judgment of the teachers in that school.

Mr. Stonehouse

Is my hon. Friend aware that there will be a general welcome for that answer, as what matters is the welfare and progress of the children concerned? Will he assure the House that if a headmaster decides that there must be grammar streaming in a comprehensive school, no Ministry or committee interference with that decision will be allowed?

Mr. Fowler

The Education Bill does not affect the internal organisation of schools. Personally, I regard experiments with mixed ability teaching as providing a great deal of evidence about future forms of organisation. There will be no attempt to impose any one form of internal organisations on any schools.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Does that reply mean that the Government have no view on banding, setting or streaming within comprehensive schools?

Mr. Fowler

Banding is not a question of internal organisation; it is concerned with conditions of entry to a school. In regard to streaming and setting, the Government have no view as a Government.

Mr. Flannery

Does my hon. Friend accept that although his answer relates to the existing situation, many people believe that grammar streams in comprehensive schools are anomalous? Is he aware that education thinking is moving steadily against streaming in comprehensive schools?

Mr. Fowler

I happily accept what my hon. Friend says.

Dr. Boyson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many parents are concerned about all-ability teaching in certain comprehensive schools, particularly in view of the statement made about falling standards, especially in mathematics, by the University Grants Committee last week?

Mr. Fowler

I read with sorrow what the Committee felt bound to say about the teaching of mathematics. I am sure that I speak for the whole House when I say that we all hope that more children will keep on with mathematics to a higher level at school and that the average standard of mathematical ability of children leaving school will improve. However, that does not alter my view that experiments in mixed-ability teaching, such as that at Banbury, especially in the lower age range, have proved a success.