HC Deb 04 May 1976 vol 910 cc1043-5
5. Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he next intends to have discussions with the Chairman of the Schools Council.

Mr. Mulley

I last met the chairman on 24th March and have no immediate plans for a further meeting.

Mr. Ashley

Millions of people are deprived of their legal rights, especially in respect of housing, employment and legal agreements, because they are unaware of them. Is my right hon Friend prepared to recommend the teaching in schools of an awareness of legal rights and obligations, so that young adults may be better equipped to face the increasing complexity of modern life?

Mr. Mulley

I am aware of my hon. Friend's interest in these matters. I understand that the Schools Council is discussing with the Law Society material that it can make available to the schools for these purposes. It is, however, too much to ask that all the complex legal matters that he mentions can be profitably made a part of the school curriculum.

Mr. Fry

When the right hon. Gentleman meets the Chairman of the Schools Council again will he express to him the fears of many teachers and parents that the new examination proposals for O-levels will be a further threat to academic standards?

Mr. Mulley

The Schools Council has made certain proposals, not to me but to the bodies concerned, asking for comments. I understand that these comments are before the council, and it will be months before it is likely to make a recommendation to me. I am not in the habit of prejudging submissions. I shall wait to see what they are.

Mr. Cryer

Does my right hon. Friend accept that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) had in mind not the teaching of detailed legal knowledge, but the teaching of broad general principles? Does he agree that this is not done nearly widely enough in the schools, and that it should be implemented on a far wider basis.

Mr. Mulley

I am very glad to agree with my hon. Friend on both points. I am sure that he will understand that I am in some difficulty on curricula matters, because the 1944 Act expressly gives responsibility for these matters to local authorities.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Following the —[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am most grateful for the welcome that lion. Members on the Government Benches are giving me. Following the excellent supplementary question by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry), is the Secretary of State aware that many employers have already lost confidence in the ability of the examination authorities to maintain proper standards—[Interruption.]—and are likely to have their confidence further reduced if the Schools Council's recommendation for examination changes are carried out? Is he further aware that employers are likely to set their own examinations?—[Interruption.]Will he bear in mind—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Even for a maiden question from the Front Bench, this is getting a little long.

Mr. Winterton

I conclude by thanking the Government for their welcome and asking the Secretary of State to pay attention to the needs of employers in this country.

Mr. Mulley

I am sure that I speak for hon. Members in all parts of the House in welcoming the hon. Member's maiden appearance at the Dispatch Box. Of course I shall pay regard to all representations, but I do not prejudge a decision. I have to wait until the proposition is before me, and I understand that the Schools Council has not yet reached a final decision on these matters.