HC Deb 17 February 1977 vol 926 cc726-90

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Frank R. White.]

4.31 p.m.

Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)

The Opposition are delighted to have this opportunity on the Adjournment to raise the question of education standards. Strictly speaking, it should be the responsibility of the Government to have a debate on this issue, especially as they apparently attach so much importance to it. But, in the absence of any sign from the Government that they will give the House an opportunity to debate this important topic, the Opposition have stepped into the breach. [Interruption.] I understand the strong feelings of hon. Gentlemen. I trust that our discussion of standards of education will be of a calmer character.

It would be strange if the only body not to be consulted or not to have an opportunity to state its views on the vital question of standards were the House of Commons. I believe it to be fruitless to get into a discussion of whether standards have fallen, because we cannot in the nature of things establish that matter. Therefore, let us deal with the facts of the situation.

The facts from which we start our discussion are, I think, generally accepted: first, the anxiety and dissatisfaction of many parents with the education that their children are receiving and, secondly, the fear that is felt both by representatives of employers and trade unions that we are not equipping young people for the needs of twentieth century industrial society. We certainly welcome the Government's conversion to the standards gospel which we have been preaching for over three years. It is irritating politically to have one's clothes stolen, but educationally we are delighted. If I may have the right hon. Lady's attention for a moment, the more of my clothes that she takes, the happier I shall be.

What is important is that the right policies are followed. It matters not who initiates these policies, provided that the interests of children and young people are served. We certainly hope that there has been a true conversion here—a real [...]. I know that the Under-Secretary of State suffered at her convent school, so I shall translate it for her. It means a real change of mind and heart on this subject and in this context the putting forward of a new set of priorities.

I wish to pay tribute to the Secretary of State for Education and Science. The right hon. Lady is a very great improvement on her predecessor. But that, of course, is a qualified compliment. After the reign of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition at the Department of Education and Science—a reign which has earned in this House the soubriquet of the glorious reign—there followed an ice age. Now, after the ice age, there are the first few rays of sunshine. It would be foolish to be angry at the sun. The Secretary of State could well turn out to be one of the great Secretaries of State for Education and Science of a similar calibre to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I cannot say more than that.

But—there is always a but—I fear that there is a flaw in the crystal. That is the continued vendetta which is being waged against the grammar schools and the obsession with the question of secondary reorganisation. I fear that there will be a diversion of much needed energies into that dead end and into the dragooning of the one-third of local education authorities which have neither the will not the means to turn all their schools into comprehensive schools.

It is totally inconsistent with the policy of promoting high standards to destroy good schools where high standards have been achieved. I think in particular in recent days of the decision to cease to maintain the Marylebone Grammar School which, I should have thought, epitomised what we are trying to do in the education system. It is a school of moderate size—500 boys—with very high education standards, 76 per cent. of the entry to A-Levels being successful. One could say the same of the Mary Datchelor Girls' School which is facing a similar fate. I am afraid that we have this reservation, so it can be only two cheers for the Secretary of State—two cheers for Shirley.

We hope that the right hon. Lady will be able to show herself more reasonable on this other issue than her predecessors have been. I hope that she will guide her self here by education, not political, considerations. It would be a tragedy if she thought that she might climb into No. 10 over the dead bodies of the grammar schools. The right hon. Lady will get to No. 10 in due course, but she must wait her turn. There are others in the queue. I repeat, she should be guided here by education, not political, considerations.

I want to examine a little more the vexed question of selection and the secondary system. There is common ground here. First, I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House agree that the education system in the foreseeable future will be mainly comprehensive. We are united in rejecting the 11-plus examination. There is no question of returning to the old tripartite system. Everyone accepts that all is not well in our schools. Whatever else the comprehensive gospel has delivered, it certainly is not the millennium. It is something less than that.

Therefore, the dispute over the organisation of the secondary system is narrowed to one extremely important point—namely, is there room within a predominantly comprehensive system for local option and for the retention of a number of selective schools? Of course, if one takes the view that selection is a mortal sin—or, to vary the metaphor from theology to the law, that it is malum in se—there can be no discussion of this issue and progress cannot be made. But if one considers the matter not on grounds of doctrine but from the educational point of view, one may get a different result.

I was interested in a statement that the Secretary of State made in the television programme in which we both took part the other day. It was something less than a "love-in", but it was not exactly a punch-up. I am quoting from a report in the Daily Mail, but I recall it myself. It said that the right hon. Lady admitted last night that the comprehensive system is failing the gifted child. Her exact words are here quoted: It is an embarrassing and difficult point that the pro-comprehensive lobby, to which I am attached, finds it impossible to defend. I quote that statement not to embarrass the right hon. Lady. I think that we shall get nowhere if, when a Minister manages to escape from the deadly embrace of a departmental brief and actually says something that is relevant, important and true, she is exposed to attack. What the Secretary of State is recognising here is the real problem of the gifted children, which could be met in part by a certain number of selective schools.

This has been recognised in, of all places, the Soviet Union. A letter in The Times written by Mr. Kolesnikov, the vice-chairman of the executive committee of the Novosibirsk City Soviet of Working People's Deputies, puts the case for selective schools in a way which no one could better: Our sole criterion in selection is the gifts of a child. For, the early purposeful education and training of a bright teenager is of great benefit to society: he more quickly repays it to the maximum. Olympiads and this democratic method of an extensive search for talents amongst popular masses have been amply justified. We have found very many gifted teenagers in both cities and remote Siberian villages who, for example, studied higher mathematics in the 7th form. Why should we not search for such young people and help them energetically to devlop? For, such youth is the golden fund of any State!

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

He is a Conservative.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I shall not read out his long title again, but the writer of that letter is a member of a high-ranking committee in the Soviet Union.

However, the point which is being made—it is the crux of this issue—is that a selective school is not about privilege but about opportunity. It is above all about the opportunity for a bright child with a working-class background in a city such as Liverpool or Birmingham who, without that safety valve of a selective school, will be confined to a neighbourhood school where his talents may well not be able to flourish.

Last year's Education Act compelled local education authorities, against their judgment, to turn their schools into com- prehensive schools. We stand by our pledge to repeal that Act. But what is important is not only the repeal of the Act but what comes after it. As the Secretary of State rightly said the other day, she would be unwilling to introduce a new Education Act without the support of the Opposition. I hope that she will seek to be open-minded on this issue of selection, that she will not launch a crusade against local authorities that are seeking only to do their best for their pupils, with totally inadequate resources, and that she will seek to be reasonable in practice on this vital issue.

Although we support the campaign for higher standards, we do not of course go along with everything that the Govern-are doing. One reason that we have sought this debate today is that we want to put down some markers in the development of the debate.

First, it is essential that the Secretary of State gets her priorities right. This is all the more important at a time when the education budget is being so savagely cut. It has been reduced by this Government are doing. One reason that we have severest cuts that we have seen in the history of education in this country. The Secretary of State can thank her stars that she is facing a responsible Opposition—[Laughter.] The hon. Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Davies) may laugh, but we all know, if we had been the Government and had made cuts of this nature, what fury, synthetic and otherwise, we should have faced from Labour Members. The trouble is that we get a responsible Opposition when it is the Conservative Party in opposition, but, unfortunately, not when it is the Labour Party.

The first priority in relation to standards should he teachers and the second, buildings. The Secretary of State will have to look for economies in her budget. I would suggest that one place to look is the administration of education. In 1964 the administrative and non-teaching staff in schools comprised 40 per cent. of the teacher force. The teaching staff represented 60 per cent.

A decade late, in 1974, the administrative staff were 49 per cent. and the teaching staff had gone down to 51 per cent. That is an extraordinary increase in 10 years. The number of administrators had risen from 410,000 to 700,000. It the Secretary of State has to have economies, that is where she will find scope for them.

But for heaven's sake let the right hon. Lady not cut down on the number of teachers who are actually teaching. Let her look also to the local authorities. I suggest that she could consider giving them back freedom over questions of school meals and school transport so that they can decide their own priorities within the limited money available to them.

My second point also concerns priorities, but this time within the overall concept of standards. If the Secretary of State tries to do everything, she will end up doing nothing. It is in literacy and numeracy that the main burden of the attack should still be. I would counsel her to go back to the national standards which existed in literacy and numeracy until they were mistakenly done away with by the Labour Government in 1966. Nothing would do more to raise standards in schools than a return to that discipline.

But within that spectrum I appeal to the right hon. Lady to give first place to mathematics. There is a real crisis in schools in mathematics, a virtual collapse in mathematics teaching in many primary schools. The key is better teachers. Two out of five primary school teachers have no O-level mathematics. We believe that the teaching of mathematics should require a qualification up to O-level for all teachers who teach mathematics in primary schools. That is the minimum qualification and it is not unreasonable.

In practice, it would mean that all primary teachers would have to have an O-level qualification in mathematics. Secondary school teachers should obtain qualifications up to A-levels in mathematics although not all, of course, would teach mathematics in a secondary school. But that would also serve to raise standards.

What about those who are already teaching in the schools? Surely they should be helped by in-service training, because so often it is not the pupils who need remedial education but, unfortunately, the teachers. As the Secretary of State herself said in January: During the golden years of expansion some young men and women entered the profession who had no great talent for teaching". She can say that again! But a statement of the problem does not solve it. An analysis is not an answer. They have got in and how are they to be got out?

The Secretary of State has a talent for grasping nettles. I would offer another to add to her rather poisonous bouquet. Has she considered the problem of contracts for teachers? Has she considered whether the time has not come for teachers to be on fixed contracts, including head teachers? I hope that is something that her Department is considering.

A third marker that we seek to put down concerns sixth-form colleges. I was alarmed by the speech that the Secretary of State made recently at the Labour Party conference in Harrogate. Even allowing for the setting it was a worrying speech. The right hon. Lady seemed to go overboard in her enthusiastic espousal of sixth-form colleges. I beg her not to make the same mistakes over sixth-form colleges that were made over comprehensive schools and uncritically accept a form of organisation that may well have something to be said for it, but that also has a great deal to be said against it. Just as we want a variety of schools, so we want a variety of sixth-form provision. It is far too early to say that the only type of sixth-form organisation should be the sixth-form college.

I know that there are arguments of economy such as economy over equipment and over the shortage of skilled teachers. But economy, after all, is not everything in education, otherwise, I suppose, we should abolish all the village schools. Yet those schools are worth preserving on community grounds which outweigh the financial disadvantage which they may have. It is a parallel situation with regard to the sixth-form college.

The fourth point that we would make concerns examinations. The Secretary of State has been elegantly figure skating along the edge of this problem and has been doing figures of eight and other manoeuvres. But the time is really overdue for a decision on this matter and on the ill-thought-out proposals put forward by the Schools Council for a common examination.

In November I read with alarm that the Chairman of the Schools Council was saying that these proposals were still very much alive. If they are it is the Secretary of State's responsibility to kill them off. It is high time that these proposals, which have been so heavily criticised throughout the education world were dropped. It is a chimera to think that one can have a satisfactory common examination because confidence in the whole system will be undermined. Nor is an approach where standards are made subjective as opposed to objective satisfactory. One has to remember that the customers of the system should have confidence in it.

I welcome very much what the Secretary of State has said about the possibilities of a revised form of school certificate with compulsory subjects such as mathematics, English, science and one foreign language. That is an excellent idea and at a stroke might well solve this difficult problem of the core curriculum.

The fifth point we wish to make concerns the curriculum and the world of work. I am in agreement with the Secretary of State in that neither of us wishes to see a centralised control of the curriculum. It is essential to retain flexibility within the system. Today's relevance does tend to become tomorrow's irrelevance.

With regard to the Schools Council, what we need is not a revolution but a reform. We should very much like to see more representation from industry on the council, but wo do not want to see the council reduced to being a creature of the Secretary of State.

It is important in education that there should be independent bodies which are able, without fear or favour, to voice their views on education matters. It would indeed be a tragedy if, at the very moment when the imperial presidency is apparently dying in the United States, we were to find it reincarnated in educational form in of all unlikely places Elizabeth House. The Secretary of State a constitutional sovereign, yes; the glittering smile, to which the Secretary of State has referred, is fine, as well. But I hope that behind that smile she will resist any thoughts or temptations of turning herself into some kind of queen empress ruling absolutely over the educational world. Our success in the educational system has been a result of the division of powers rather than a concentration of them.

I hope the right hon. Lady will also devote her energies to closely relating the last years of school work to the work of industry. The Minister of State made an excellent speech on this not so long ago. He said: We have allowed the schools to drift further and further away from the realities of life in a production-based economy, with the result that more and more of the best brains of each generation of students seem to have been motivated by the determination to keep their hands clean at all costs. We are now witnessing the ultimate absurdity: a country that depends more than almost any other on its manufacturing capacity is churning out thousands of sociologists, psychologists and environmentalists. Those are indeed words of wisdom. What the Secretary of State is suffering from must be catching and others are contracting this disease. If she would allow her Under-Secretary of State to speak occasionally, she might show the same symptoms.

We must treat the relationship to the world of work with the utmost urgency My hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Forman) will shortly be organising a conference on this. I hope that the discussions which the Secretary of State is arranging at her own conferences will be fruitful.

It does not matter whose fault it is that the thing has gone wrong. What is important now is to get it right. Of course the purpose of education is to develop the personality, talents, intellect, affections and emotions of those who are being educated, but to do that for life in the real world and not for a life in some kind of platonic world of abstract universals.

What we wish to develop is education for life in Britain in the second half of the twentieth century—a Britain which is struggling to survive in an even more competitive world—and to sell the products of our industry without which all our ideals for society will become a chimera and compassion will be a mere sentiment which we shall not be able to translate into reality.

Mr. Bryan Davies (Enfield, North)

Once again in his speech, tempered though it was with moderation, the hon. Gentleman has sought to distinguish the characteristics of the pre-occupation with the world of work and industry. But is he not again defending the system in which academic concentration of our more able people is devoted towards academic objectives in higher education and not to the objectives that he is now putting forward?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The criticism about a lack of relation to industry applies to all schools, whether they be selective or non-selective, and a reshaping of the curriculum should apply right across the board to all those schools. Certainly we should get rid of the idea that, because a pupil has followed an academic bent, there is not room for him in industry. There is a great need in industry for people with that kind of qualification, especially in our more advanced technological industries.

Man lives by bread. That is true. We accept that. But he does not live by bread alone. It is a disappointment to us that in the course of her reappraisal, the Secretary of State, apparently, has left out the sphere which is perhaps of the greatest importance and which is most in need of renewal. I refer, of course, to the sphere of religious and moral education.

We support the entrenched sections of the 1944 Act, which provide for a common act of worship and for religious instruction in the schools. But the danger to those sections is not assault from without but decay from within. It is a sadness to me that, apparently, it is not a subject for discussion at the conferences which the right hon. Lady is organising. Again, we shall be seeking to fill this gap by co-operating in a conference on this subject later this year.

The purpose of religious education cannot be the purpose that was laid down in the religious sections of the 1944 Act. Yet it is a purpose that is equally important. It is to arouse in young people an appreciation of the importance of the spiritual. That, after all, is also, ultimately, the purpose of art education. It is also to arouse in them an appreciation of the possibility of making religious commitments and a realisation of the important part that Christianity has played both in our culture and in our history.

Although it is true that our religious life in this country has been enriched greatly by the worship and the beliefs of those of other faiths, it is nevertheless a fact that the principal religious experience of this country has been the experience of Christianity. By and large, religion has come to this country through the Judeo-Christian tradition.

It is essential also that moral education be kept closely related to religious education. Standards are important here as well. By "moral education", I do not mean sex education, although that is very important. I mean the need to impart a sense of values, a sense of what is right and what is wrong, and a sense of personal and social responsibility to those in our schools.

In one sense education is not a political subject. But in another sense it is right at the centre of the political stage. It is infinitely more important than the dismal science, if it be a science, of economics which so much dominates our debates. Long after those debates have been consigned to the bound volumes of Hansard—and it is difficult to think of any deeper oblivion than that—the decisions that we take in education matters will still be alive and of importance and the branches of that tree will still be bearing fruit. High standards of intellect and moral excellence in our schools are the goals upon which we must set our sights. By the criterion of whether our educational policies promote or retard those standards those policies must be judged.

5.5 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science and Paymaster-General (Mrs. Shirley Williams)

I am sure that the whole House welcomes this opportunity to debate education standards, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) for the moderate way in which he put his case. I wish that the same applied to all his hon. Friends and to all parts of the Press. However, I remind the hon. Gentleman that we have extended an invitation to the spokesmen of the Conservative and Liberal Parties to attend the regional conferences, and I trust that there will be an opportunity for them to say there to a wider public audience what the hon. Gentleman has said here today.

I want to touch upon two of the matters referred to by the hon. Gentleman which are of importance. He mentioned St. Marylebone Grammar School and the Mary Datchelor School in London. I readily agree that they are both good schools. I do not deny that there are good schools in almost every sphere of education. But it is worth putting on record that in the case of both those schools my hon. Friends and I have made a real effort to try to keep them in the system.

In the case of St. Marylebone Grammar School, there is a certain irony in the fact that its destruction flows almost directly from the action of the parents' association in taking to court its refusal to consider an amalgamation with another school in consequence of which the school could not continue with the very small level of entrants which it would otherwise have had.

In the case of the Mary Datchelor School, where there is strong parental support for the school to continue in the ILEA system, not only have we done everything possible to urge upon the governors and the staff the need for this school to survive, but the Inner London Education Authority has made it clear that it would be willing to continue discussions even after the closure notice on the school, and I am pleased that the London Diocesan Board has itself come forward with an offer to sustain the school. Therefore, it is open to the school governors, at any point that they wish, to continue this school. It is not our wish to close it. We believe that the school, admittedly in a comprehensive pattern, has much to contribute to education in South London. I readily take this opportunity to ask the governors to reconsider what I believe to be a short-sighted attitude which is not in the interests of the education of all our children.

Mr. Harry Lamborn (Peckham)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the governors consistently, throughout the whole saga of Mary Datchelor, have refused to meet the parents? They have on two occasions turned down resolutions which would have convened meetings of the parents, the staff and the board of governors. They have taken decisions. They took a decision to turn down the offer of the London Diocesan Board of Education to ensure the future of the school without even having the courtesy to invite representatives of that body to explain their proposals to the board of governors.

The most ironical feature of all was that the proposals to make the school non-selective emanated from the Cloth Workers Company and was strongly supported by its representatives on the board of governors. It was only when they could not take the school out of South London to Sutton that they changed their attitude and rejected their previous decision for the school to operate on the basis of a non-selective intake.

Mrs. Williams

My hon. Friend is a member of the governing body and what he says attests to the hard work which he and a few others have put in to attempt to get the governing body to reconsider the position. However, as far as I am concerned, the position is still open, and I hope that the governing body will give it further consideration.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford also made reference to what I said in a television debate about the gifted child, and I know that he would not deliberately distort what I said. He will recall that the context in which this was discussed was a suggestion by the Nobel Prize winner, Sir George Porter, that there was a handful of children—he himself said one in 1,000 or 2,000—who were so exceptionally gifted that the ordinary school could not deal with them, and one might say the ordinary grammar school as much as the ordinary comprehensive school.

I do not deny that there is a problem with regard to those children who are virtual geniuses, whether their genius lies in music or in mathematics. It is a general problem for all of us in education, because there is a conflict between making the highly gifted child part of the whole community in the sense that he understands the social and other needs of his fellow citizens and stretching him to the limit of his capacity.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford will recall that what I said was that in my view, within a group of comprehensive schools, it might be possible for some to specialise in shortage subjects, provided that not one school specialised in all shortage subjects because that would be to introduce selection by another route. The hon. Gentleman said that if the cuts in education had been made by a Conservative Government, they would never have been accepted by the country.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

No, by the Labour Party.

Mrs. Williams

I apologise. It is worth putting on record that it is Conservative education authorities that are implementing some of the most disturbing cuts. I understand the difficulties that some of them are in, but they are making suggestions that seem odd in terms of education priorities.

For example, it is proposed in Norfolk to end all school meals. We have had to point out that that is not in line with the law of the land. Secondly, some authorities are unwilling to look again at the extensive use of places in independent schools while being willing to see pupil-teacher ratios deteriorate rapidly. It is because of that degree of the use of discretion that I do not go along with the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that the Department of Education and Science should still further abdicate its influence in local government.

I end my remarks on these matters by saying that in respect of in-service education, which I believe to be of the most crucial importance to the quality of education, I know that I have the support of my own party—I do not know whether I have the support of the Conservative Party—for urging that such education should be among the highest priorities, whereas I am afraid that it is becoming the target of many local authority reductions.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

If the right hon. Lady is to give a fair picture of the situation, surely she should recognise that the rate support grant has been—I hesitate to use the word "rigged"—perhaps slanted towards the urban cities, the large urban authorities, and that the rural authorities have suffered, which at present happen to be mainly Conservative authorities. Therefore, responsibility for the squeeze is that of the Government. The unfortunate Conservative rural authorities are having to struggle as best they can with a reduced amount of money.

Mrs. Williams

It is fair to say that the rate support grant settlement moved towards the conurbations. I do not quarrel with that, However, I was making rather a different point. I was saying that some of the education priorities in respect of cuts and what is to be sustained in some of the shire counties seem very odd. In some cases authorities have been extremely unwilling to increase rates, even where they are below the rateable levels of the surrounding local authorities, to sustain such crucial matters as staffing standards. Doubtless there will be other occasions for pursuing this issue.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton)

Is the right hon. Lady aware that there is a majority of local education authorities under Labour control and that the majority of them, at least 26 according to my information, are not doing as much as they undertook to do for nursery education when they were elected? Indeed, if anything, they are cutting back in that sphere. Nursery education was one of the commitments in the 1974 manifestos upon which the Labour Party now seems to be reneging.

Mrs. Williams

If the hon. Gentleman cares to send me his information, I shall gladly examine it. My latest information is that the only authority that is closing nursery schools is a Conservative authority.

My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Davies) referred to the whole question of the relevance of industry and working life. As I intend to devote most of my remarks to standards in rather a narrow way, I shall take this opportunity to make one or two observations on what he said.

I believe that my hon. Friend's remarks are of profound importance to the country and the House. Deeply embedded in our traditional education system—notably in the universities, the so-called great independent schools and the grammar schools —is a strong hierarchy of view that to become a professional person or an academic person is in some sense a much finer calling than to work in industry in any capacity.

I think that the whole House recognises that that tradition, which so clearly downgrades industrial and craft achievements, is one of the greatest problems with which we have to cope in education. My hon. Friend was implying—I am sympathetic to his view—that one of the fruits of reorganised education from which we may benefit will be the opportunity to look again at this tradition and to establish a fairer hierarchy of values. If my hon. Friend is right, and I believe he may well be, that alone will have gone a long way to justify the whole of secondary reorganisation.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford referred to religious education. I say immediately that a number of the most important issues in education may not, by the very nature of things, be discussed in the present education debate, but that does not mean for a moment that we shall not move on to consider them. The hon. Gentleman referred to religious education but I believe that it is also necessary to consider, for example, discipline and punishment in our schools and the role of parents. We shall consider all these matters and I hope that we shall consider them with Parliament. The fact that they have not been included in the existing education debate does not indicate any lack of recognition of their importance.

I turn briefly to what I want to say about standards because it is terribly important to lay before the House and the country the evidence that we have. I believe that we have as much evidence as anyone else in the country, and more than most, and it indicates that standards have improved over the past 10 years. They might not have improved as much as we might wish, but as the system settles down again after reorganisation, and above all after the rapid expansion of the late 1960s and early 1970s when there was an explosion in the size of the school population, there are most encouraging signs coming through of which I shall give evidence to the House that standards are beginning to turn up more rapidly.

The broad position is highly encouraging, although there are some areas of serious concern that I have no intention of disguising. It would not be right or fair to the generation of children who can never be educated again to disguise any weaknesses that may exist. I say that to my hon. Friends, who, I think, will support me in the general view that standards are rising. For us, too, it would not be right to pretend that there are not some areas of concern.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

My right hon. Friend has talked about education standards and it is a fundamental point. Does she not agree that when we use the term "education standards" we are talking about standards of measured attainment and that standards of education and education standards as such are different? They might be related, but I suggest that education standards are matters that cannot easily be judged, and are probably more subjective and qualitative than quantitative. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is the overlap between the two concepts that has made some of the previous debates on this matter not as fruitful as they might have been?

Mrs. Williams

My hon. Friend's point is profound. However, I do not have to follow him down that road. Even on the narrow basis of measured attainment, I think that we can show that there has been no fall in standards of the sort to which so much currency has been given by some parts of the Press. One of the most common features of education is that there is always someone who will complain about standards. Perhaps the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) will find himself in sympathy with the Chief Secretary of the Education Department in 1904, who stated: there are millions of children in this country who from their babyhood up to the age of 14, are drilled in reading, writing and arithmetic upon a system, the result of which is that when they attain the age of 13 or 14 and are finally dismissed from school, they can neither read, nor write, nor cipher". So much for what that Chief Secretary said in 1904, at a time when teaching was essentially learning by rote in exactly the way to which some of our less well-informed newspapers would wish to see us return.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Except The Guardian.

Mrs. Williams

Yes, with that exception. I make a broader point. If we regard the much more recent achievements of the selective system, it is not unreasonable to point out that in 1974 the estimate of the number of illiterates was 2 million and that of those 2 million 88 per cent., on a sample basis, were over the age of 21, which means that they cannot have been educated in the comprehensive system. They have now come back within the adult literacy campaign, and over half of the males have been over 30 years old.

So it will not do for so many people to pretend, as presently, that illiteracy is something which has suddenly emerged from nowhere when we all know that one of the tragedies of our history is that there is a substantial number of illiterates in our society, many of them educated entirely by the methods which are being so shortsightedly advocated in some quarters.

There is, however, more recent evidence. The Bullock Report, referring to reading, said: The most reasonable conclusion is that the standards of 15 year olds have remained the same over the period 1960–71. It then quoted the following mean scores of reading for 15-year-olds. They are: for 1955, 42–18; for 1960, 44–57; and for 1971, 44.65. That shows a steady, if gradual, improvement. The report said in paragraph 2.25: What appears to be happening is that while reading standards at the lower end of the ability range have improved in most socio-economic groups, the poor readers among the children of the unskilled and semi-skilled have not improved their standards commensurately. This is to a great extent the so-called inner urban problem.

There is a much more recent survey. The National Foundation for Educational Research has given mean scores for reading tests for 11-year-olds. These are: for 1955, 28.71; for 1960, 29.48; for 1970–when the statistics are uncertain because the sample was small —it was 29.38, which is a dip. The most recent figure is for 1976. I shall not place upon it more weight than it can bear, but it shows an improvement to 31.07, which is the best mean score since 1955, when the tests began.

There is also evidence from a different field—that of verbal reasoning tests of pupils undertaken by the Inner London Education Authority. The tests were on pupils transferring from primary schools. The median scores are: 101.1 in 1965, which roughly coincides with the major expansion in the schools, down to 94 in 1969. I am delighted to say that the figures have shown a steady improvement from that year to the figure of 98.4 in 1976, almost recovering to the level of 1965.

The crucial point is this. I have taken the figures for inner London, where the surveyors have pointed out that there has been an unfavourable population movement out towards the new towns and the suburbs. So we are looking almost certainly at a catchment area containing lower income and unskilled groups, which is a different position from that which obtained in 1965. That point was made not by me but by those who undertook the survey.

All this shows that there is no evidence in any of the national tests that have been undertaken or, for that matter, in the local tests, to support the assertion that standards of reading are generally lower. I think I have already mentioned the reasons for this. First, there has been, or there was until recently, a high rate of turnover in schools. Secondly, the moves for reorganisation have taken up the time of teachers. Thirdly, the profusion of methods and approaches to teaching have to some extent been confusing to young teachers passing through the colleges.

I believe that much the most significant factor, and one that we frequently overlook, is the colossal rate of turnover of teachers in recent years. I can give one instance of this. In the Inner London Education Authority area —I could take other areas—the turnover of teachers was 25.8 per cent. in 1973–74 —I cannot lay my hands on the figures at the moment, but I shall check them to make sure they are correct This fell to 17.8 per cent. in 1974–75, and last year they were down to 11.9 per cent., which is one in eight. So, over the last few years, the rate of wastage of teachers has markedly slowed down.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

There are not the jobs for them.

Mrs. Williams

That is not the point. The significant point is that there is a much lower wastage rate of teachers, and I am talking about the wastage of teachers holding jobs, not about the number of teachers taken on. I think that the hon. Member for Chelmsford is bright enough to understand the distinction.

Let me say a word about two recent tests which are likely to be quoted by the hon. Member for Brent, North and which point interestingly in opposite directions. To take a recent survey in Manchester, it is true to say that there was a decline in the number of O-level passes there between 1974 and 1976. The figures for the county schools show that in 1973 there was a 54 per cent. pass rate. For 1974, it was 47 per cent.; for 1975, 46 per cent.; and for 1976, 46 per cent. The interesting point here is that a decline is reported in the unreorganised Roman Catholic schools in Manchester, though it was not such a rapid decline. The same thing has happened in respect of A-levels.

Let us now take the results for the Oxfordshire authority, which has the same problems of rehousing and population movement as Manchester, but where the trend is in the opposite direction. The A-level pass rates there—it is a largely reorganised county—went from 67 per cent. in 1974 to 74 per cent. in 1976. This demonstrates again what the less sophisticated critics of education are very unlikely to mention, and that is the extent to which population movement, new estates, new towns and the like have much more to do with what is happening in education than some of the more general remarks that are made about education standards.

Let me end with a few more statistics. There has been an increase in the last 10 years, between 1964–65 and 1974–75, of approximately 7 per cent. in the number of children of all ages leaving school. Of these children, the number passing one or more A-levels has gone up—admittedly not very much—from 14 per cent. of the total school population to 15 per cent. of the total school population. There is no evidence of falling standards there.

Those passing five or more O-levels at higher grades have also increased in this same period. The most recent figures show an increase from 8 per cent. of the total age group to 9 per cent. Again, there is no evidence of falling standards there. However, there has been a dramatic improvement in the number of children getting higher grades of CSE or the middle grades of O-level. This has gone up from 14 per cent. of the age group in 1964–65 to 25 per cent. in 1974–75.

There is, therefore, evidence of a slight improvement in A-level and O-level pass standards. I am referring to percentages, not to absolute figures, in order to leave out of account the change in the size of the school population. There has been a dramatic increase in the average grades in terms of examination passing, with the overall result that four out of five of our children now take some sort of public qualification, whereas 10 years ago only just over one in two managed to achieve that.

Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell and Wishaw)

Has my right hon. Friend any equally encouraging evidence on standards of admission to universities, a subject about which there has been a great deal of criticism?

Mrs. Williams

The only immediate evidence which springs to mind—perhaps my hon. Friend will pursue this subseqently through questions—was the recent statement by the vice-chancellors to the effect that they did not see any decline in the standard of entry of those coming into the universities.

Earlier I mentioned the wastage rate for teachers. The House may like to know the overall national figures. These indicate an opportunity for substantial further improvement in standards in the next few years. Nationally the wastage rate has fallen from 10½ per cent. in 1968 to 6½ per cent. last year. Of course the rate for inner London is much higher. That means that we are moving into a situation in which we have a much more stable teaching force, with all that implies in terms of greater opportunities for children, in particular the most disadvantaged children. The rate of turnover in disadvantaged schools is many times higher than that in the more favoured and advantaged schools.

I turn to three areas which have caused considerable concern—modern languages, mathematics and science. I am rather worried about the situation in modern languages. We have placed a full report by Her Majesty's inspectors on these three subjects in the Library. My main worry about modern languages is that more and more schools are offering only French, and many youngsters do not appreciate the great opportunities in industry and commerce that come from learning some of the less popular languages. The number of youngsters taking French at CSE level rose from 8,000 in 1965 to 104,000 in 1974. The number taking A-level French fell from 26,000 in 1965 to 25,000 in 1974. The same pattern is repeated in German where there has been a 16-fold increase in CSE and no appreciable change in A-levels. The trend towards slight increases is seen in Italian, Russian and other languages. Ordinary boys and girls in comprehensive schools who never took languages before are now taking French. That is a good thing, but we are rather disturbed about the drop-off in language studies in the higher years, particularly the sixth form.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Does the Secretary of State attribute this trend to the fact that languages are being taught where middle schools have been introduced?

Mrs. Williams

The hon. Gentleman has a point. Where middle schools have been introduced, children are taking languages rather younger. But primary schools have abandoned language teaching. The inspectors are not quite sure about that. We must encourage more youngsters to study languages, especially in upper secondary school.

In mathematics the position is a good deal better than the House might expect. The number of A-level passes rose from 35,000 in 1964 to 44,000 in 1974. The number of O-level passes rose from 160,000 in 1964 to 171,000 in 1974. After English, maths is the most popular subject for O-levels and is emerging as a common course subject. In CSE grade 5 or better the number of passes in maths increased from 166,000 in 1970 to 295,000 in 1974. That is a remarkable increase in a four-year period and is evidence that a great deal is being done for the average child.

But if we are to extend mathematics, we must encourage interest in the subject beyond the age of 15 or 16 into the sixth forms whether they are academic or nonacademic. We must also tackle the shortage of maths teachers. The Department of Education and Science has mounted a crash course in this field and we are looking at certain proposals for increasing the number of maths teachers.

In the science subjects the position is in many ways very encouraging. There has been a 24 per cent. increase in the number of boys and a 100 per cent. increase in the numbers of girls passing O-level physics. There has been a 20 per cent. increase in the number of boys and a 90 per cent. increase in the number of girls passing O-level chemistry. There has been a 91 per cent. increase in the number of boys and a 30 per cent. increase in the number of girls passing O-level biology.

From these figures—for the period 1964–74—it emerges quite clearly that there is an educational myth growing up that boys should be chemists and physicists and girls should be biologists. That is absolute nonsense. The upsurge of interest in science and the obtaining of science qualifications by both boys and girls is one of the encouraging aspects of education today which the Press has overlooked. From reading the papers one gets the impression that people are running away in hordes from science and technology. In fact, there has been a substantial shift of interest towards science up to university and polytechnic levels.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

What about the influence of the Prime Minister in this respect?

Mrs. Williams

There is a resurgence of public feeling following the Prime Minister's invitation to pupils to become scientists. That is a scientific demonstration of the opinion of my right hon. Friend.

Before I sit down I shall make a point about the Schools Council's examination proposals, because there is liable to be wide misunderstanding about these. I share the Schools Council's objective of hoping to get a common system of examining. At the moment we are struggling with multiple examinations and we have been doing so for far too long.

It is my absolute and inescapable responsibility to find out whether a common system is feasible. I do not know whether it is, because it would have to cover a wide range of youngsters. At the moment 80 per cent. of the school population takes a form of examination, and obviously it would be much better to have a common system. The Schools Council looked at a common examination and backed away from that, but I think that we should have a common system. We are looking at this urgently and I shall determine my position in the light of the studies being undertaken.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford raised the point of the independence of the Schools Council. I put my point of view on the record. The last thing I want to see is a Schools Council which is the poodle of the Department. That is no way forward at all. However, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the Schools Council should have a wider representation of lay people. In this respect I agree with the findings of the Select Committee, and it is not unreasonable to suggest that there should be wider discussions between my Department and the Schools Council about some of the priorities for work.

We have different sources of information and it is in the interests of education to put together the knowledge we have and determine where our main priorities lie. I have no desire to change the Schools Council into a rubber stamp for Ministers and officials in the Department of Education and Science.

I hope that I have shown that there has been a great deal of exaggeration in the claims made about falling standards of education. These claims do not stand up to the evidence available. The problem is that by its very nature the evidence is somewhat patchy and regional. I have given the House the evidence we have in abbreviated form. More is available in the Library for those who wish to pursue it.

While it is true that standards have improved and in some cases improved markedly, none of us should rest until we reach the highest possible standards for all children in the maintained sector. Whether we are teachers or Members of Parliament, that is our responsibility.

I believe that we can raise standards reasonably rapidly in three ways. The first way is not in issue between the Opposition and Government Front Benches, although sadly it may be in issue in respect of what happens at local authority level. I refer to the significance of in-service and induction training of teachers. Much the best way of dealing with the problem of teachers who need support is through such developments.

Secondly, we accept that there should be individual monitoring to pick up children who are having difficulty with reading, writing, arithmetic, or whatever it may be. That is not the same thing as having a set of national tests after a year illustrating a deleterious rather than a favourable situation. I hope that the House sees the distinction between monitoring, which any good teacher employs, and endless national tests with a great deal of publicity of the results, which is destructive to the school that is trying to do a good job in a difficult area and which runs counter to what we want to achieve in education terms.

Thirdly, I wish to refer to the work of the inspectorate, which will shortly complete a wide study of primary schools and which is engaged in taking a 10 per cent. sample of secondary schools from which the best practice in the schools clearly will emerge. We shall learn many lessons provided that we have the humility to make sure that those of us who have ground to make up learn from those who have achieved a great deal. That surely is the best way forward in our decentralised system.

I conclude by saying—

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West) rose

Mrs. Williams

I cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman. I have already allowed a good number of interventions.

I have sought to lay before the House the evidence that we have before us. I believe that it shows that there are gaps we need to make good, but it does not bear out some of the wilder charges made by those who are in no way friends of education.

5.43 p.m.

Mr. William van Straubenzee (Wokingham)

If we are to hear a reasonable number of Back-Bench speeches, clearly we must all be brief, and I shall attempt to observe that rule. Therefore, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) and the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State for Education and Science will forgive me if I do not refer to a number of matters mentioned in their contributions.

I begin by saying that this is one of the most encouraging education debates in which I have taken part in some years in this House. I warmly commend the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford, who set the tone of the debate. I echo his words by saying that there is no point in going round the country saying that there is ample evidence to suggest a major drop in standards. Instead, I believe that we must concentrate on improving standards instead of constantly crying "Woe" loudly on every aspect of education.

The truth is that there is very little sound evidence to suggest that standards across the country are falling. However, that does not necessarily mean that we must be complacent. It does not mean that we should overlook the fearful problem of some schools in inner and urban areas. We must bear in mind the burdens on school staffs. For example, I recently visited a school in Leicester which contained an 80 per cent. immigrant population and in that school there was an admirable educational effort with parents and children, and that effort was socially necessary.

In many areas—and we can rejoice in this situation—there has been a rise in standards. Let me instance the county of Surrey, which over a period of three years has screened the reading ability of children of 7-plus. There has been an improvement of approximately 3 per cent. over that period in the number of children needing basic help with reading. That is not a matter for complacency, but it is encouraging.

At secondary level it is extremely hard to find comparable statistics from which to make comparisons. Furthermore, there is one other aspect which has not yet been mentioned but which is relevant, and that is the fact that over a wide area children have increasingly been staying on at school. For example, in 1952 the figure of children in England and Wales who stayed on after the compulsory age of 15 amounted to 26 per cent. By 1972, with the raising of the school-leaving age, the figure had risen to 58 per cent.

In the same period the number of 16 and 17-year-olds staying on had tripled. This is relevant to the anxieties one hears from employers, and it means that the bright young lad who would have gone into banking or industry at the age of 15 in 1952 chose to stay on to take the GCE by the year 1962 and, by the year 1972, was going increasingly into further and higher education.

Therefore, we are not comparing like with like. What has happened is that there has been a rising standard of expectancy of parents in respect of their children, and that is a good thing and should be warmly encouraged. It means that much less able children or young people are tending to seek jobs which they would not have considered a few years ago.

Let me give an example involving an employer in a publishing business who complained about the standard of literacy of a particular young girl whose spelling left a good deal to be desired. That employer felt that that was conclusive evidence of falling school standards. I made some inquiries into the matter and discovered that the girl had an IQ of 80 and her level of attainment was very much higher than she would have achieved 10 years ago. Far from being discreditable, it reflected enormous credit on the girl and on her teachers. It is a good example of the way in which good teaching has helped such a child.

We are in danger of lowering the morale of the teaching force by an over-flood of criticism, although we must not fall into the trap of complacency. We must bear in mind that it is discouraging and disheartening for those involved in education to hear constant criticism.

Let me make three short points related to the raising of standards, and let me pick up the last words of the Secretary of State. I believe that we are apt to overlook the critical rôle of the inspectorate. Many years ago I was PPS to Lord Eccles and I remember the advice given to him by the inspectorate, which he often consulted.

In recent years there has been a considerable increase in the number of local authority inspectors, but it has coincided with a decrease in the number of HMIs. It is sometimes said that it took a Labour Government to reduce those numbers. Factually that is correct, and Labour is also blamed for the fact that formal inspections were largely abandoned, but what is forgotten is that both proposals emanated from a report of a Select Committee of this House in 1967–68.

I look with some scepticism at the great mass of reports that come from Select Committees, most of which are not debated and some of which are poorly researched. I must draw upon my own experience. Before I went to the Department in 1970 I had not realised how that report had affected the morale of Her Majesty's Inspectorate.

When history comes to be written, and when we can talk about these things more freely, the actions that were taken by the present Leader of the Opposition in seeking to rebuild the confidence of the inspectorate will be regarded as one of the most significant contributions that the right hon. Lady made during her long tenure at that Department. But the fact is that numbers have fallen and there has been a considerable decrease in the inspectorate, and I commend that matter to the attention of the Secretary of State.

The recent booklet entitled "Ten Good Schools" came out, among other things, with a result that all of us who are interested in education—and that means all of us here today— would have been able to state a long time since. It was that a crucial rôle in the school is played by the head. That rôle is not important just to the children. I was recently told by the headmistress of a school in a difficult East London area that she spent 50 per cent. of her time with the staff, particularly young staff in their difficult early stage.

Is it not time, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford said, that we looked at the tenure of appointment of heads? I remember that my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) —if he will allow me to put it in this way—flew a kite in this respect during a previous Parliament. What interested me was that there was far less hostility to the idea of a restriction on the tenure of a head than I had expected.

Of course there was some hostility. One cannot expect that such a proposal could be put forward without opposition. But I am sure that this is one of the good things that we ought to lift from the independent sector where a man or woman is appointed for a term of years, with terms of compensation, but not necessarily for the whole of his or her professional life.

The Secretary of State was courageous when she referred to the teachers who, as she put it, "in the golden years of expansion"—and she really meant the golden Tory years of expansion —went into the teaching profession with no great inclination or talent for teaching. We have to solve this problem, but it must be done through careful consultation with the unions and with an appeal procedure that would take away from it the sting of witch-hunt. An intelligent and able young teacher who is a nuisance to the head should not be a subject of the procedure. Such teachers are often valuable persons to have on the staff. There must be a proper and adequate system of compensation. The tragedy is that it is because of those people that the Secretary of State identified as being in the profession, that the young, trained teachers of today—many of them are of a very high standard—cannot get teaching posts.

I hope that all the points that I have made have been a constructive contribution to the debate which has—until I started to speak—been of an exceptionally high standard.

5.53 p.m.

Mr. Giles Radice (Chester-le-Street)

I shall take up the points that were made by the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) in his extremely well-informed and well-argued speech as I go along. But I should like to start by apologising to the House for intervening on a subject on which I have not previously spoken and on which I am no expert. If there is a case for my speaking, it is that I am a parent of five children—not all my own work— all of whom have been to one London primary school and who are in four London comprehensive schools. I should like to make a few observations as a parent, as an ex-school governor and as a Member of Parliament whose constituency has recently moved from a selective to a comprehensive system.

I should like to deal with the argument about falling standards. The Secretary of State has shown conclusively that general standards are not falling and that, if anything, they are rising. I am glad that the Opposition spokesman admitted that in his speech. In any case, we are not really comparing like with like. After all, over the past 30 years the school leaving age has been raised twice and the school population has increased by 30 per cent. So we cannot compare the achievements of the old system—with the 11-plus examination and the selective system, which devoted more to the excellence of a minority than to the majority, and which, as the Secretary of State has shown, is mainly responsible for the illiteracy in our adult population—with today's emerging system, which is rightly concerned with the excellence of all our people.

I want to deal with the argument that one often hears—though I am glad to say that we have not heard it much this afternoon—that comprehensive reorganisation is largely to blame for all that is wrong with the school system. Any organisational structure must of necessity reflect the wider society. For obvious reasons it is easier to teach in a school in the country or in the suburbs than in a school in the inner city with all its problems, whether the school is a grammar, secondary modern or comprehensive.

Comprehensive schools are not to blame for the difficulties of teaching in the inner city areas nor for the changes in attitudes towards authority in our society. The changeover to comprehensive education cannot be blamed for the problems that have arisen from teaching and teaching methods. Primary schools are just as involved in the current debate and they have not been reorganised at all. The truth is that the changeover to comprehensive secondary education was essential.

The previous system was unjust, socially divisive and inflexible. The establishment of comprehensive secondary education has enabled us to concentrate as never before—and as we are now doing—on the essential question about how we should achieve equality of opportunity for all by raising the standards of all our children. That is the central point.

On that question I was struck by the conclusion of the recent survey carried out by the inspectorate on 10 successful schools. That conclusion was: The strengths derive above all from the professional skills of the head and staff in creating a well-ordered environment in which learning can flourish. That is absolutely right and that is a conclusion that I have drawn from my own experience. It is the teachers who count and who, with the assistance of the inspectorate, will improve the quality of teaching.

What can we do as politicians to contribute to the debate for which the Prime Minister called last year and which the Secretary of State is so ably leading? I want to make several short points. Teachers must avoid becoming slaves to teaching fashions. Any parent who has children in a comprehensive school recognises the wide range of ability that exists in such a school. That parent also recognises the need to develop everybody's skills in the school.

There must be a place, perhaps a large place, for mixed ability teaching, but it should not be carried further than the ability of the teachers concerned. Otherwise there is a danger of an over-reliance on mechanical aids and such things as work sheets, which can lead to inefficient teaching and that would be to the detriment of all pupils, whether more or less able.

We have heard a great deal recently about discipline and there is a critical rôle here for the heads. While a head must not intervene unnecessarily, a staff is only as strong as the backing it gets from a head.

While it is true that parents can be excessively interventionist, they have a lot to contribute to the running of our educational system and there is a strong case for having more parents on the governing bodies of schools.

I have been struck by the comparative indifference displayed by at least some of our schools to the needs of industry. There are no instant solutions to this problem, but I was impressed by the suggestions in the DES discussion document and they must be considered carefully.

The subdued speech of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) strengthened my conviction that the Government, who have carried through the great comprehensive revolution in secondary education, are very much on the right lines in their strategy for raising educational standards.

6.2 p.m.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

I hope that there will be several debates in the House during the wider debate on education, but we must be brief tonight if all hon. Members are to have a chance to speak.

Priority in achieving standards in education must go to the provision of teachers, good teachers and a good ratio of teachers to pupils. Teachers are more important than buildings—I recognise this will involve difficult decisions at times—and often more important than equipment and ancillary services.

We have pulled teachers out of the classroom to an extraordinary extent in recent years. The Burnham Committee has a lot to answer for because of the extent to which negotiations within it have led to the creation of allowances for other kinds of responsibility which may have a value but which are secondary to teaching itself. The teachers who want to provide the best for their families are drawn out of the classrooms to get allowances for becoming advisers, year tutors or taking other non-classroom responsibilities which, in the past, we somehow managed to accommodate within the system. That temptation to move teachers out of the classroom must be resisted, and priority must be given to front-line teaching in the classroom, in contact with the children.

I can think of no better way to strengthen the pressure for standards in schools than the maximum parental involvement. I agree here with what was said by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice). The trouble that blew up over the William Tyndale School was only resolved through the determination of parents not to send their children there because they were not satisfied with the standards available. Involving parents from an early stage could bring benefits in other schools, because when things are going wrong they could apply pressure from their own deep motivation to ensure that standards are maintained. They would have a vested interest in doing so, and if they were given the opportunities within the system they would take them.

There are some warnings that I wish to give. Among the chief curses of the education world are fads and new fashions. There have always been those in education who, like the Athenians, could not resist "some new thing". Adherence to fashions has been one of the things which have helped to undermine basic standards. We began to believe that children should not be doing their multiplication tables, that there should be no streaming in schools and that the initial teaching alphabet would enable children to read more quickly. Even assessment itself was thought to be unfashionable.

We have learned now that we were wrong on some of those things, but we should be doing a disservice to education if we were to allow another swing of fashion to destroy the good work that is being done in—for example, in developing initiative and creative work among whole categories of children who, in earlier years, had no creative opportunities. We must not swing the other way and have another turn of fashion to deny opportunities to children who did not previously have them.

This is, perhaps, an uncomfortable place to make my second warning, but if politicians try to make the education debate a partisan affair—which they have conspicuously not tried to do today—whatever good it may do them, it will not do our education system any good. It would be absurd to claim that the party in power at any particular time can or should determine classroom trends or overall teaching methods and styles. The trends of educational opinion go far wider than political parties, extend beyond the tenure of office of any Government and also go beyond only this country.

An article in a recent edition of The Christian Science Monitor, which is an American publication, said: They came with their sleeping bags and sack lunches, bundled up and prepared to spend the cold night waiting for the school doors to open the next morning. The several hundred parents who gathered outside the Diablo Vista Elementary School here, late last month were determined to enroll their children in a new "back-to-basics" education program their school district had recently adopted. They are part of a movement in public schools across the United States, a response to declining scores on standardized tests and what is perceived by many as the failure (and sometimes high cost) of innovative programs to meet basic educational needs. The same arguments are going on all over the place. The same things are occurring in other countries, and we politicians should not suppose that we have some ideal answer. We must beware of pushing arguments simply to suit our own political interest.

My final warning is to those who believe, as I do in many ways, that if we are not careful the result of this debate could be to stifle education and simply to turn out children programmed to meet the needs of our present society and never to question the assumptions on which it is based. That is a danger. Education can never have the needs of industry as its sole purpose, but my warning to myself, as well as to others who have that fear, is that those who believe that education must have wider horizons must remember that we have no right to deprive children of the basic equipment which they need to live and prosper in the society in which now we live.

If we do that, whatever choices we can make, they can make none. They cannot choose whether to prosper in society, to question society's values or to opt out and to do other things. Without the basic equipment they can make no choices. We have an obligation to our children to see that they can make these choices and that we do not make them for them.

6.8 p.m.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

This important and far too brief debate is being listened to by the British people. The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) made a moderate speech, and, although I did not expect to, I agreed with much of what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said.

Despite this, we must remember that we are discussing standards in education against the background of an onslaught on education which, although it comes from outside this House, is nevertheless a reality. Even our cosy existence must be ruffled at times by what appears in the media. We are having this debate against the background of Draconian cuts in education expenditure, which the Conservative Party would make even worse, whatever nonsense they talk now.

We also face massive teacher unemployment, with 20,000 teachers out of work and young people coming out of teacher-training colleges and meeting other young teachers who have been un- employed for the past two years. It is nonsense to talk about improving standards in education when all these young people, who should be in the classrooms, are unemployed, and when a great deal more money should be spent on education.

Against that background McCarthyism in education has flourished. Statements have been made by hon. Members such as the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) about wishing to go back to when the school leaving age was 14. That attitude was recently mirrored in Sheffield. I hope that that attitude will suffer the same fate as McCarthyism in a different context in the United States.

It is not possible to discuss education without discussing resources. At conferences throughout the country teachers complain that the subject of resources is not one of the four main subjects discussed. We must welcome any attempt to prompt informed and constructive discussion about the aims and content of education and about the work and problems of schools and other educational establishments. This is a continuing process. We have heard some enlightened speeches today. Occasionally Opposition Members also make enlightened speeches, but they usually suffer for it and are removed to the Back Benches.

Education is not a commodity to be poured into a jug in precisely measurable quantities. Learning is not a simple facility in the exercise of mechanical, repetitive techniques. It is far more subtle if we apply it to growing people in a changing world. There is so simplistic approach to the subtlety of educational problems in a rapidly changing society. Parents, teachers, children and the general public are moving into the orbit of education in a way that we have not seen before. Hon Members are also taking a greater interest. Contrary to what many believe, education is dynamic, not static.

Why are we discussing it now? Why is there such an increase in the tempo of discussions about education? Why is there this increased interest? It is because education is being democratised. Democratisation of education is going ahead by leaps and bounds and the elitists are against it. Many of them have been forced in speeches in the House to say that they agree with comprehensive education, although many hon. Members sat for 80 or so hours in Committee hearing endless speeches of a backward and backwoodsman nature directed against the whole idea of comprehensive education. We seem to have won that battle, because Opposition hon. Members now either agree with comprehensive education or pretend to agree with it.

Because of the further democratisation of education the interest of Opposition hon. Members and their kept Press has been directed to the detriment of education, against teachers who are conducting reasonable and sensible experiments in order to advance the cause of education. They have been wondering whether their methods are totally wrong.

I was pleased to hear the contribution of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) because I know Berwick well and I know some enlightened head teachers in that area. The hon. Member said that he did not want to throw the baby out with the bath water and that we should recognise and keep some of the good methods of the past. I welcome that.

We have taken a major step away from elitism and there has been a major invasion of wealth and privilege in education. The fight is on a grand scale, but the hon. Member for Chelmsford extolled private and grammar school education as if we should aim for more of it. I see Opposition hon. Members nodding their heads and I know that that is what they want. Yet,, most people want their children to be educated in the State system. A further attack is developing in education; it is implicitly an attack on the Labour Government.

The Act to provide comprehensive education is one of the most far-reaching since the initial education Acts. It will mean that more children will have a good education.

I was pleased to hear what my right hon. Friend had to say, after the so-called Yellow Book, which could be described as a jaundiced approach to education. Many teachers were flung into confusion because they thought that she believed that standards were going down. The speeches made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in the North of England made many people deeply worried and made the teachers' unions wonder whether the Department was on a collision course with the teaching profession. My right hon. Friend's speech today will have dissipated much of that feeling. She said many things that I did not expect her to say and revealed a change of approach—shades and nuances of approach—about the thinking of the Establishment.

The 1944 Act had many fine aspects, but it was an elitist Act. Many people glorified it and there was no struggle between the two sides at the time. Everyone agreed with it. That was because it enshrined selection, which is so dear to the heart of the Opposition. At that time Labour Members did not understand what a menace the 11-plus was. In 1944 educationists in general, even on my side, did not understand the menace of the 11-plus and selection. Our latest Act has disenshrined selection. For that reason the Opposition fought that long, endless struggle of 80 or so hours. They talked nonsense most of the time in an attempt to get rid of the measure.

Against that background the Black Paper mentality developed. I know that I am being harsh, but I intend to be. We all agreed that the onslaught on education, prompted by the Black Paper mentality of the Conservative Party, unleashed on education an attack that rocked it. But, the speech this afternoon by my right hon. Friend recognised the need to struggle back to good methods. Democratisation is well under way.

The Inspectorate that issued the Yellow Book was implicitly criticising itself. If the situation had gone as far back as it said, why did it not say so before? By saying what it did it gave power to every backwoodsman in the education world. That is why teachers throughout the country were deeply worried. I hope that the Press will take note of what my right hon. Friend and other of my hon. Friends say today. I hope that we shall see it in all the newspapers tomorrow, as we have seen condemnation in the past.

Standards of education, far from declining, have actually risen. At the risk of boring some hon. Members—I know that it will bore them—I shall read one or two of the things said recently in a document by the National Union of Teachers: From 1965 to 1975, the efforts and commitment of the teachers allied to the aspirations and endeavours of both pupils and parents led to an explosion of educational attainment. Over the next 10 years, the numbers attending university grew from 185,000 in 1965 to 263,000 in 1975. The document goes on to give examination results which are massively higher than anything that we have witnessed previously.

I hope that that will be published tomorrow, as my right hon. Friend put it, so that everyone, most of all those of the Black Paper mentality on the Opposition Benches, who have pushed against this so hard, will see tomorrow in the Press that there has been a change.

As regards the public expenditure cuts, the talk about increasing education while maintaining the cuts is nonsense. Of course there are many problems. Teachers and pupils would be the last people to say otherwise. There are bad hospitals, had factories, bad Members of Parliament, bad workmen, bad councils, bad Governments and bad Ministers. Does anyone think that in an expanding educational establishment, with the massive expansion that it has undergone over the last few years, there will not be a school here and there that does not suffer from the terrible problems arising from the background that it represents? Of course there are problems. However, to generalise about them as though they were the whole system is sheer wickedness and irresponsibility, because all of us know that things are getting better. I knew that the laughter from some Conservative Members would come, because I am talking about reality, and they do not like that.

As my right hon. Friend has said so many things that I welcome— Conservative Members will enjoy this—I shall cut short my speech. I conclude by saying that things have improved. They are getting better. Teachers, parents, children and the rest of us together are seeing to that. I wish that my right hon. Friend would give us more resources for education. I hope that, in the discussions up and down the country, resources in education will be allied to the other four topics to be discussed.

6.23 p.m.

Dr. Keith Hampson (Ripon)

Since I have been a Member of Parliament, there has not been in this House an education debate in which I have pot spoken immediately after the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery). Today, I do not want to follow that rhetoric without substance, which is almost the hallmark of his speeches. I want to be brief and, although I shall be critical at the start, to end on a constructive note.

I take as the theme of my opening criticism the remark of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) when he urged his own side as well as everyone else not to get bogged down in making assessments only on what is quantifiable and to look instead at matters in qualitative terms. I think that he used the word "subjective". Yet his own Secretary of State then got caught by doing precisely that. When it suits Labour Members to use figures, they use them. If Opposition Members have figures to cite to show something else, Labour Members say that they are irrelevant and that we should think qualitatively or subjectively. That is exactly my point. It is to urge upon the Secretary of State and Ministers not to take some of the figures that they cite just at face value.

Certainly vice chancellors and others have been concerned over the past few years about the quality of people coming through the system. Engineering professors are concerned about the capacity of young people coming into their departments to manipulate figures. The Coventry Employers Association, which I visited only recently, has much interesting material on which it has been working in its area, showing how concerned employers are about the capacity of apprentices, both to express themselves in writing and to do simple arithmetical calculations.

This is a very serious matter. This is the subjective view, whatever the figures show. Indeed, it leads me to question whether there has not been within the marking system some sort of grade slippage, as the Americans call it. Some of us have seen the Wilmott Report, since I released it to the Press, which indicates that in GCE and CSE, in key areas, over the years there has been some grade slippage. It is a perfectly natural thing to expect, but it means that we must be careful about using figures that might indicate that people are getting better when in reality they are not good at coping with the tasks for which they are being employed. They are not doing as well as people have done in the past.

That leads me to one particular area—mathematics. Both sides of the House are agreed on how important this subject is. The Secretary of State has said that crash programmes are being launched. I was totally disappointed and disillusioned by her remark to me in reply to a Question on Tuesday, when yet again nothing concrete was forthcoming about maths. It was announced back in December that we have only 10 pilot projects to investigate the possibility of retraining courses in craft and design, but nothing yet in maths. If we go back a whole year, to December 1975, the then Secretary of State highlighted the importance of maths and talked about mathematical illiteracy and how much we needed a crash programme. However, what has been happening? It is over two and a half years since we started reorganising teacher training, and we could have mopped up some of the places by launching retraining programmes in these specialist areas, but nothing has been set up.

Maths is vital not merely in the sense of teachers coming through into the schools in greater numbers than hitherto. It really affects the attitudes of young people to all the other courses into which we are trying to encourage them to enter —science and technological subjects and engineering. If young people are not happy with maths they are unlikely to enter into science and technological subjects in general. Therefore, the problem goes all the way down to the primary schools. Unless we get at that level teachers who have enthusiasm for teaching maths and who can convey that to the pupil all the way through into the secondary schools young people will not feel happy about going into technological subjects. Maths is an absolutely fundamental and crucial area of teaching.

When one also considers what the Secretary of State has admitted about a falling off in sixth-form activity in both maths and languages—many of us have been highlighting the problem regarding the minority languages for a long time— it seems to me that the line that the Opposition very responsibly put forward —I say that to the hon. Member for Hillsborough—in all those months during the Committee on the Education Bill is really a line that should be examined more closely. The suggestion has been that, particularly in our urban areas where there are problems of ghetto schools which have no academic stimulus or challenge, we should set up some sort of—for want of a better phrase— "magnet" classes: specialised, high-powered classes for surrounding schools in maths and languages so that people who have talent can be provided for. The search for talent is vital, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) highlighted in relation to the Soviet Union. We need to search for talent and to have "magnet" schools into which talented people can be drawn.

Following on the need to draw out talent, it seems to me that talent requires goals to be set, and that the maximum use should be made for them in schools. My hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) referred to the assessment at 7-plus in his county for reading, and told us how there had been a marked improvement over the time that the test had been taking place. That leads me to the conclusion that this has been one of the failings that has emerged in the system since we scrapped the 11-plus. I am not advocating the 11-plus as a streaming system for different routes, but what it did was to set targets for teachers to aim at. That has now been admitted by the National Foundation for Educational Research. That is why that foundation is studying an alternative system of monitoring and assessing, so that the teacher has something for which to aim. Then improved standards are achieved in the schools. Set targets and get the pupils up to that level. Without anything, the whole thing is inclined to drift.

I end by suggesting, on a constructive note, a new sort of incentive that the Secretary of State could launch if she is really serious about drawing more young people, and more of the best people, into engineering and technological courses. A few weeks ago the right hon. Lady suggested that it would encourage young people to go into engineering courses if the regulations were changed so that industrial scholarships up to £500 would not affect grants. That is not much incentive at all. It is an indirect incentive at best. At the same time, as firms will be paying the £500, they are now having to pay substantially increased fees for their people to be released into engineering courses.

We need to be much more positive and create many more incentives. The Secretary of State should consider a national industrial scholarship scheme. We do not want to switch large numbers of people from the arts in general into the sciences in general. That would not necessarily do very much. What we need is to have those people with the best brains moving into the key areas of applied science and technology.

We need more selectivity and discrimination in the sort of schemes that we set up, something which does not distort the delicate balance between the supply of students and the provision of courses.

I suggest the provision of about 100 to 150 scholarships in a highly prestigious scheme. The scholarships would pay between £500 and £600, making a total cost of about £500,000. Spending this relatively small amount of money on an industrial scholarship scheme might produce a disproportionate impact. It would not only attract the cream into key areas, such as production engineering, but would boost the status of such courses and engineering in general. A momentum might be established.

Such a scheme, which some professors of engineering support, could be tried for an experimental period of three or four years. If it did not succeed in attracting more talent or having a wider effect, it could then be scrapped. We do not want empire building, but it is worth trying, particularly in the context of the terms of reference set by the Prime Minister for the great debate on education. It would not involve much in the way of resources.

Obviously, resources are vital, but it seems tragic, particularly when a Labour Government are in charge, to look back over the years and realise that since 1959 there has never been a time when the average annual rate of growth in spending on education was lower than it is now, and as it will be for the rest of the decade. That is not only tragic in the sense of what is possible in schools, but it forecloses some of the exciting options that many of us would like to see.

The Secretary of State has told us how vital it is to get the schools right because children could never be educated again, but I want to see a system where it is possible for people to be educated again.

One of the problems about the current great education debate is that it is being conducted with such a narrow focus on schools. There is a Socialist notion that schools are social engineering instruments. We shall never have perfect schools. They will never be totally free of discrimination and hardship. They will never cease to reflect the backgrounds from which pupils come. It is vital to have a system in which young people who have started work and are now better motivated have a second chance to retrain, to make up for what they missed in their neighbourhood ghetto comprehensive. When they realise the importance of education, and the need for qualifications, they should be able to attend topping-up or work-related courses. We should try to be more flexible in the use of resources, particularly for young people of the immediate post-school years, aged between 16 and 20, and in other further education sectors, to give them a second chance.

The adult literacy programme, for example, has had enormous success for peanuts—at a cost of only £1 million a year. With such a stimulus in the system all sorts of exciting schemes have resulted. People who missed out in their 11 or 12 years at school are now, because they have extra motivation, learning successfully. For a small amount of money it is possible to generate creative activity and get good results. We should take this lesson to heart. By applying it throughout the system we could, even with limited resources, do much more than we are doing at the present.

6.34 p.m.

Mr. Caerwyn E. Roderick (Brecon and Radnor)

I was most encouraged by the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I am sorry that I praise her in her absence, but I am sure that the message will be carried to her. When I came to the House this afternoon I was fearful because of the views that had been expressed, or we thought had been expressed, in recent times by members of our party, so it is nice to be able to praise my right hon. Friend.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) seemed to abandon to some extent his party's battle cry in recent months that standards are falling. I had been afraid that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had fallen for the bait that had been put out for them and that they, too, would say that standards had been falling. I cannot accept that there has been a decline in standards, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State proved conclusively with some of the figures which she quoted that I am right. If I repeat some of her figures it is only to emphasise my point.

Anyone who claims that standards have been dropping must justify that claim. I have been trying to discover on what basis the claim might be justified. All that I could find was some examination results. Here I shall give two figures which my right hon. Friend did not mention. One which is significant is the increase in the number of boys and girls leaving school with five or more O-levels. In 1963–64 the percentage of school leavers with five or more O-levels was 16.6. By 1973–74 this had grown to 23 per cent. In 1963–64, 5.1 per cent. of school leavers left with three A-levels. By 1973–74 this had risen to 7.9 per cent. These are typical of the examination results over the past decade, and, if we can judge by examination results, standards have certainly risen.

I do not like to judge educational standards by examination results. The criticisms that have been made are based on subjective judgments which I do not accept. I think that the quality of education has broadened and improved to such an extent in recent years that it is incomparably better now than in previous years.

We have concentrated too much attention on examination results. Of course we need assessment, but there are other ways of assessing people than by examinations.

The hon. Member for Chelmsford spoke against the proposals for a common examination, as I expected him to, because he is in favour of selectivity and selection. Having established the Cer- tificate of Secondary Education, with all the innovations which that produced in assessment, the time has come to move forward. I do not expect my right hon. Friend to go down the road of the Conservative Party. I was glad that in rejecting that approach she said that she had an open mind and was hoping to be convinced on the question of a common examination. I suspect that the Schools Council is in danger as a result of its advocacy of this proposal for a common examination, but I am encouraged by what I have heard this afternoon. What we need more than a common examination is a common certificate. I hope that we can produce a common certificate for and assessment of every child leaving school.

I find it difficult to accept that so many children leave school without even a piece of paper to show that they have been there, nothing to show for all the work that they have done. Every child should have a certificate, a report on what he or she did at school. I am not saying that it should be on the present lines. We must think anew on the subject.

There has been a great deal of talk about numeracy and literacy. I wish that we could have more definition of those words. I fear that the campaign on educational standards has been sparked off by people who take a very narrow view of education.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister stressed the needs of industry. I was frightened that industry would start dictating the curriculum and the methods to be employed in schools. I am more encouraged by the realistic view that is being taken today. We must be responsive to the needs of industry, and to the needs of the users of mathematics especially. As a former mathematics teacher, I am conscious of that need. But very often industry does not know what it wants in the teaching of mathematics.

Parents used to come to see us at school, especially when we changed over to what used to be called modern mathematics, saying that they could not help their kids with their homework. What they could not understand, they did not like. The same goes for industry; because it does not understand training in mathematics today, it does not like it. We are not producing people with certain mechanical skills. We are trying to produce people who can think originally —and that, after all, is what mathematics is about.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

The Joint Matriculation Board has said that young people can use pocket calculators in examinations. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with that trend? Are children to lose the opportunity of understanding how arithmetic and mathematics really work?

Mr. Roderick

Understanding is needed in using calculators. If their use enables one to do mechanical processes quickly, they are to be encouraged, but I would not encourage them unless all the children were able to use them. I would not give some an advantage over others. After all, all children are provided with log tables for examinations, and the use of calculators could be in the same way. I would not like to see some schools using them and others not. That would mean that types of examination would have to vary. One would have to have different questions depending on whether this simple aid was being used. Does the hon. Gentleman want to return to the old kind of test in which we slaved away for weeks working out HCFs and LCMs in their thousands? What purpose was there in that? What industry ever used any of that work and the training that was put into it?

I am disturbed by a report published by the Royal Society that 58 per cent. of the entrants to colleges of education in 1974 had O-level mathematics. That is ominous and we must do something radical about it. Too often, when students leave college and obtain posts in primary schools, the attitude will be "Anyone can teach maths", so teachers not qualified to do so will be given the job, and that is dangerous. We should have specialists in each primary school capable of ensuring that mathematics are capable of ensuring that mathematics standards are maintained.

We should also be taking advantage of the present situation in colleges of education. We are seeing a reduction in numbers due to the falling birth rate, but we should use the opportunity to bring about a massive increase in in-service training to make up for the loss of teachers who have gone through the system without mathematics training. We could use the period to get ahead with an all-graduate profession. We could extend the move towards every teacher having a B.Ed. degree.

I do not want to see us reducing the number of teachers being trained while there are complaints about standards of literacy. We can improve standards of literacy only if we massively increase the number of teachers employed in primary schools so that every child can be heard in reading far more often by his teacher. Only thus can we improve reading standards.

I want to be brief because of the shortage of time, so I will close with a quotation from the departmental document "Education—the Great Debate". It states: The curriculum has been marked in recent years by a greater emphasis on an appreciation of music and arts. I believe that that is largely because of the virtual disappearance of the 11-plus, and I hope that we will not reverse the trend.

6.45 p.m.

Dr. Rhodes Boyson (Brent, North)

This debate is being held because of massive concern about educational standards. That concern has been expressed by parents, in our constituencies, in the Press—much as the Press is disliked intensely by some Labour Members—and by many of the teachers' unions. Only 10 days ago the National Association of Schoolmasters, the second largest teachers' union, produced a report showing that 73 per cent. of its members believed that standards have declined.

The Secretary of State today produces statistics showing an improvement. My hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) referred to a decline. The right hon. Lady turned to the Bullock Report. But we can all take statements out of reports which prove different things. The Bullock Report states: From the evidence available there seems to be a 'prima facie' case for saying that children of 7 are not as advanced as formerly in those aspects". I do not know what reading ability cannot be measured by tests.

I do not want to go on with statistics. The debate is being held because standards are static or have declined in many classes. I suggest that there has been a massive decline. That is why the Labour Party is having its great debate. The Prime Minister realised that the Labour Party was losing votes because of its education policy, and he made his Ruskin College speech. There were undoubtedly not only educational reasons but political reasons for the launching of the great debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) referred to the things we are concerned about—literacy, numeracy, teacher training, the standards of teacher intake and so on. My hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) referred to the question of teacher contracts. We shall have to consider teacher contracts not only for heads but for assistants as well, instead of allowing lifetime tenure, to cover cases where those concerned have ceased to fulfil the job that they were originally doing. We are concerned also that the GCE and the CSE, for example, should not be combined so that they are meaningless. They must have meaning. That is why we are sceptical of the suggestions of the Schools Council.

We welcome the fact that there is more teacher stability. The right hon. Lady herself made this point. There is less wastage, there is easier recruitment. It is ironic that these two factors have arisen because of the Government's policy of unemployment. People dare not leave their jobs in case they cannot get work elsewhere. The Government have unintentionally brought about greater teacher stability, which is surely one of the biggest factors in improving the standards of education.

We are concerned that there should be no secret gardens in education that we cannot explore. Some of us, however, suspect that there are certain secret gardens that we cannot touch becuse they are part of the dogma of the Labour Party—for example, the question of whether comprehensive schools are really working in the cities. The figures for Manchester are very different from those for Oxfordshire. Part of the big debate is surely whether comprehensive schools work in the big inner cities. Are Manchester and London typical? Or can we have the great debate only as long as we do not touch the Labour Party's arks of the covenant or dogmas?

Reference has been made to St. Marylebone and Mary Datchelor schools. I was interested to hear that the right hon. Lady knows about them. At a time when there is growing lack of faith in many of the big schools in central London, to close these two schools seems to be educational vandalism. Children from my constituency go to St. Marylebone Grammar School. There have been a lot of working-class children there, the sons of taxi-cab drivers, salesmen and shopkeepers, who have gone to university. There is by no means an elitist intake into the school. The Mary Datchelor School for Girls south of the river takes only 50 per cent. of its pupils from the professions; the remainder are working-class children. That school has a high record of sending girls to university. Out of an intake of 90, 48 girls went to university in 1976. Seven girls have already won places in 1977 at Oxbridge in degree subjects in science, mathematics, German, medicine, history and Oriental studies. If such a school were closed, working-class children would be deprived of the opportunity to increase their chances of higher education. It is interesting to note how many Labour Members sent their children to schools which the Government are now destroying.

I remember a speech made by the Secretary of State in her previous incarnation at the Education Department—I hope I am right, but I am sure I shall be corrected if I am wrong—when she was speaking in 1968 to the European Ministers of Education. The figures of the percentage of university intake from different social classes was being discussed. When the figures were mentioned for the British universities, the right hon. Lady claimed that the percentage of working-class children entering them was high. I think that it was about 27 per cent., the highest in Europe. It will be interesting to see what percentage of working-class children entering universities here will be in 10 years' time. There cannot be a debate on comprehensive schools until all their results are brought out, or there will be subjective judgments on both sides of the Chamber. Perhaps the Secretary of State has it in mind that there will be separate debates when the figures are brought out and there is no secrecy. I hope that that is the case.

I move now to the question of sixth-form colleges. In some areas comprehensive schools have succeeded and in some areas they have not succeeded because they had great problems. We were once told that 2,000 comprehensive schools were unnecessary because comprehensives were so successful that six- and eight-stream entry schools would provide sufficient numbers for academic courses in the sixth form. In my last school there were eight streams. Now we are told that such schools cannot provide a viable sixth form —and this has nothing to do with the fall in the birth rate. Six- and eight-stream entry schools cannot now provide the sixth-form academic numbers that are necessary.

Whatever else we do, we must do it slowly and it must be assessed in areas where it is being done. The risk is now in going overboard—I say this purposely because I hope that it will be denied immediately—for sixth-form colleges. We are told that there have been certain failures in the comprehensive school system that the sixth-form college may solve. Yet by this we may put the best teachers in sixth-form colleges and the not-so-well-qualified into the 11-to-16 schools. This would be dangerous because the 13- and 14-year-olds need the best instruction if they are to become scholars. If six- and eight-stream comprehensives cannot provide viable sixth-form academic courses, they will not be able to provide viable fifth- and sixth-form academic courses in physics and other subjects.

We need an assessment of what is going on in the present 70-odd sixth-form colleges before any encouragement is to be given or more are to be built. I think that the teaching profession, and the parents, are weary of educational reorganisation and they do not want another. When I was at Highbury School, a Labour alderman who is still there, who was one of my staff for 12 years, had gone through four reorganisations in London and within three years of the last one Highbury Grove was threatened with becoming a sixth-form college. The alderman said "Here we are again." We must have stability for staff and parents. I said long ago before we finished com- prehensive reorganisation that we would start another. I hope that this move to sixth-form colleges is not another. I hope that it is not the cloud on the horizon no bigger than a man's hand.

There have been indications that the Secretary of State and the Department are beginning to realise that we cannot have specialised courses in every school. We are promised that comprehensive schools would increase opportunities for older children, but they cannot. A grammar school with 750 children can offer more courses to academically-inclined children than a comprehensive school of the same size, by virtue of the academic numbers of children involved in it. Obviously there will be fewer specialised courses in the comprehensive school. Now we are told that each comprehensive school will be allowed to develop its own specialist course. They will have one each. This is something I have considered for a long time.

What happens, however, to the very gifted child if there is a separate specialised course in each school? Will the very bright child go by taxi from French at one school to take his classics at another and physics at another? As a distinguished headmaster wrote in The Times last week, there must be provision for the high flyer, otherwise our seed corn for advance and invention will be depleted.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

The Secretary of State herself has admitted that the gifted child cannot be dealt with adequately in a comprehensive school.

Mr. Flannery


Mr. Winterton

The Secretary of State has said publicly that gifted children cannot be catered for in comprehnsive schools. How does my hon. Friend believe that the gifted children can and should be treated by the Government?

Mrs. Shirley Williams

I must correct the hon. Gentleman and repeat exactly what I said. I said that the exceptionally gifted child—I was talking about the genius or the near-genius—could not be adequately dealt with in either an ordinary grammar school or an ordinary comprehensive school. This is a problem of the education system. I believe that to be so in the context that we are speaking about potential Nobel Prize-winners.

Dr. Boyson

We shall have to carry out a textual analysis of the statement of the Secretary of State. But I must press on.

I believe that 2 per cent. of children need special education because they are the gifted children, otherwise there will be problems both with their behaviour and with their academic development running at a lower speed than it should.

I turn now to the question of regional conferences. It seems to me that they will be conferences of the very "in" group which has been in charge of our staticness or decline in education. If a patient is ill and he wants a new medicine, he does not ask the same doctor who gave him the original medicine during his regressive illness to prescribe another. Those 200 of the most unrepresentative nominees from corporation organisations have been in charge of education for 10 or 15 years. They are now going to tell us why we have not done better in those years. The chalk-face teacher and the ordinary parent should be involved in control over our education. I have a letter from one parent who contacted the Department of Education and Science because he wanted to go to the conference. He was told that it was impossible to allow him to go. The conference is merely for an "in" group; no outside people may participate.

Mr. Mike Noble (Rossendale)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Boyson

No; the hon. Gentleman has only just come in. He should have been here for more of the debate.

So we have a number of regional "in" groups. Bill Buckley, the editor of the National Review in the United States of America, once said that he would be governed more suitably by the first 200 names in the Boston telephone directory than the results of city elections. We could just as well get the first 200 names in the telephone directory and see what they thought about the future of education rather than ask the invited set-piece regional conferences what should be done. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) talks about the power of parents. They were the ones who brought the business at William Tyndale to light. Regional conferences without such ordinary parent and teacher representation are no more representative than a meeting of the Tribune Group chaired by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) to discuss the honours system.

My final point is the question of voluntary choice of school, and it is one which has hardly been referred to today because we are discussing standards in schools. I do not believe that there will be high standards until parents have a choice of school. Parents will not support a school which they do not want their children to go to. The important thing is that we must somehow increase the possibility of parental choice of school so that people are involved not simply as parents and governors but because they have chosen the school. I hope that the Labour Party will move, as it has moved on some other issues, towards genuine voluntary choice of school. A voluntary choice has a potential advantage for schools when the time comes that with the falling birth-rate some schools have to close. The schools to close should not be decided by a bureaucratic education authority. They must be the schools to which parents do not want to send their children. They should be closed when the time comes.

Parental choice—I say this as a challenge—is a belief in the freedom of the individual as against the corporate government. Parental choice of schools is like owning a house or running a small business. They are part of a way of life which we on this side expect but which does not get great support from Labour Members.

To sum up, we are extremely concerned about standards in education. We have been saying that for years. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford and others of my hon. Friends and I have for years been saying that something must be done about standards. We welcome the fact that there has been some conversion of the Government, although it has worried certain Labour Members.

Mr. Flannery rose

Dr. Boyson

I shall not give way. We welcome that there has been—

Mr. Flannery

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Boyson

No. The hon. Gentleman has already taken almost 20 minutes. The fact that the Secretary of State has moved towards standards has worried some Labour Members. We support the return to high standards in schools. We do not yet welcome the return of the prodigal son and daughter and kill the fatted calf. Until we see more than has been done so far, all we offer the Labour Government and the right hon. Lady is a Buxted chicken sandwich.

7.1 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Miss Margaret Jackson)

Most of this debate, though not perhaps the speech made by the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), has been astonishing—in fact, almost breathtaking.

I particularly welcome the speech made by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) speaking, as I understood it, on behalf of the Conservative Party. I do not think that anyone who sat through the debates on the Education Bill either in Committee or in this Chamber or who listened to Questions on education for the last year would have found either the hon. Gentleman's speech or the speeches of many of his hon. Friend's particularly familiar. The hon. Gentleman, realising the direction in which many Conservative Members have been leading him, has drawn back in the nick of time from the brink of disaster. His conversion is especially welcome because it is vital to the development as well as the survival of our education system. Nevertheless, I think that we are entitled to chide him a little for the damage done to our schools by himself and his hon. Friends while waiting for the light on the road to Damascus. It is clear that, whatever light the hon. Gentleman may have seen, his hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North is still in darkness.

I hope, as does my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), that the statements made by most contributors to the debate will receive the amount and kind of publicity that has been given to so many of the damaging and inaccurate statements made by many Opposition Members in the past.

I am particularly glad that we have had the opportunity of having this debate, because it has given a much-needed chance for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to set the record straight with regard to what is happening about standards in education. The return to reality was evident throughout the debate.

The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) backed up his hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford in agreeing with my right hon. Friend that standards in education are rising rather than falling. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and my hon. Friends the Members for Chesterle-Street (Mr. Radice) and for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Roderick) were also constructive in their comments. So, indeed, was my hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough. I was surprised that he was surprised that he agreed so much with my right hon. Friend. I should have thought that someone of his lengthy experience in education and politics would know that what one says can be misrepresented and that conclusions can be drawn which do not follow from the argument. I assure him that my right hon. Friend has not changed her mind or views. What she repeated today, which I am glad my hon. Friend found reassuring, was what she and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister have been saying for a long time. If my hon. Friend has drawn any different conclusion, the blame must rest with the Press, not with us.

I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough that we do not intend to exclude the subject of resources from the regional conferences. It could not be excluded it lies at the root of many of our problems. But we are anxious to concentrate on the subjects which lie at the heart of the development of education, with which resources are concerned, rather than to centre too much of the debate solely on resources and whether we are able at present to give enough of them.

The speech by the hon. Member for Ripon (Dr. Hampson) was a return to the good old tradition of recent education debates. It was not a particularly constructive speech. It was both woolly and misinformed. Among other things, the hon. Gentleman said that we do not like the Conservative Party quoting statistics. Then he complained that we quoted statistics. I had better set him right. What we dislike is not that the Conservative Party should quote statistics but that it should so often draw the wrong conclusions from them.

I recognise the hon. Gentleman's disappointment at the formidable case that my right hon. Friend was able to marshall in defence of her argument that standards, far from falling, are in fact rising. The hon. Gentleman said that the Wilmott Report was not available. Since it is not finished, that is hardly a matter for surprise. The hon. Gentleman also drew conclusions from it in its unfinished condition which are not borne out by what it says.

The most incredible statement that the hon. Gentleman managed to make was that we should be careful about using figures and that it would be preferable if we did not use figures. Then he went on to talk about the subjective judgment of industrialists, among others, regarding attainments in schools. The hon. Gentleman is said to be an educationist. It is astonishing that it does not strike him that, although he said that we needed to be careful about quoting statistics—a fact which I concede—hon. Members on both sides need to be even more careful about resting their judgment on totally unsupported assertions, whether from industrialists or from anybody else.

Dr. Hampson

Will the hon. Lady consult her hon. Friend the Minister of State, who, shortly after I went to the Coventry Employers' Federation, also went there? Those people have done a great deal of detailed work with specially constructed tests for the apprentices going into factories in the Coventry area. All I was saying was that there was some disturbing information coming from those tests.

Miss Jackson

I have seen a report of the work of the Coventry industrialists. I apologise if I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman by thinking that he was not quoting from such a report. However, I do not think that I can be blamed, since he said that subjective judgments differed from those put forward by my hon. Friends. I assumed that he was principally talking about subjective judgments. However, my comment stands. It is worse to rest one's case on unsupported assertions than on statistics, however they may be argued about.

One thing about which I am very clear, even before the great debate begins, is that as a core objective in our educational system there is a need for an understanding of what evidence is, what it consists of and how it should be evaluated, since plainly the education system as it exists has failed to inculcate this faculty in many hon. Members.

The hon. Member for Ripon also urged us to adopt a national scholarship scheme. I am sure that he knows—if not, I mention it now—that this matter has been under discussion for some weeks and that we hope to make progress on it.

The hon. Member for Brent, North, like his hon. Friend the Member for Ripon, was infinitely more predictable and made the kind of speech to which we have of late become more accustomed. The hon. Gentleman said that he would not quote statistics. That did not come as a great shock, because he rarely quotes them. The hon. Gentleman always rests on assertions rather than on statistics. I suspect, perhaps unfairly, that he rarely quotes statistics because they so rarely support his arguments. If he will quote a few in future, we shall be able to judge better.

The hon. Gentleman asked why we were having the great debate. One of the reasons why we think that it is necessary to have the debate is that we have realised that the hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends and others outside the House have been successful in misleading far too many people. There is, therefore, a great need to set before them the facts about what is happening in schools so that they will know in future to whom they should listen.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

May I take up the point that the Secretary of State said that the hon. Lady would cover in her speech about parents? Does she support giving parents, especially the parents of primary age children, their reading age each year, and will she encourage some use of homework so that they can see what is happening inside the schools?

Miss Jackson

I am not sure about homework. I do not suggest that parents are not entitled to and should not have the maximum information about their children's progress. Whether that is best provided by a series of yearly tests is another matter. Whatever information is available, and whatever the means by which it is acquired, as much of it as possible should be made available to parents. I do not think anyone would disagree with that. The hon. Gentleman seems to have been misled into thinking that we differ in our views on the subject of parental rights and interests.

The hon. Member for Brent, North, asked me to comment on the closure of two schools in London. My right hon. Friend has already dealt with the closure of St. Marylebone, pointing out that it is a school in old buildings and in an area of declining need. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to criticise us in particular for the closure of the Mary Datchelor School, I must say to him that it is not we who have brought about that closure but the school's governing body, and it is to that body that he should address his strictures.

It is also surprising that the hon. Gentleman made those comments. If he and his hon. Friends really care about keeping schools of this kind in the academic system, if they really care about their academic records and about their opportunity being made available, they should be talking about how we make that increasingly available to more children, and not about keeping it for one small sector.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether we would "go overboard" on sixth form colleges. No, we do not intend to go overboard on any subject in education. We intend to state the facts so far as they are available and try to reach a reasoned judgment on them. I recommend that course to the hon. Member.

The hon. Gentleman also called for a stop to further reorganisation in our school system in the context of sixth-form colleges. Do I understand from this that he has now changed his mind about the recommendation I understood him to make in the past about our returning to a selective system? If so, that conversion is equally welcome.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman referred to to our conferences and said that one did not go back to the same doctor to be represcribed the same medicine. On the evidence of his speeches on education since I have been in this House, the hon. Member is the kind of doctor who would treat a patient not only before he knew what the disease was but before he knew that a disease existed in the first place. That is not a course that we propose to adopt.

To return to the subject of standards, we accept that the evidence is insufficient. We should like there to be more evidence. We should like it to be more easily correlated, one piece of evidence with another. We accept that what evidence there is shows that standards have risen. That is why we are giving high priority to collecting and properly evaluating more and more valuable evidence about what is really happening in our schools, so that we can see where the problem areas lie and how they can best be solved.

We are principally concerned on this side about standards. As my right hon. Friend said, we are aware that in our society we are making more and more demands for higher and higher standards from the children. Where, to judge from their comments, it appears we differ from at least some hon. Members opposite, is that we firmly believe that we can have every confidence in the teaching profession as a whole to respond to these further demands that we are making, on them as on the children, and that we have a duty as much to the children, who after all are the individuals being criticised, as to the teachers to do everything possible to support them in the tremendous effort that we are demanding from them.

We do not seek to disguise problems where they arise, but we feel that we have a duty not only to support the system but to avoid wild, damaging and ill-justified attacks which are based on misunderstanding or on a blatant search for political advantage at whatever cost to the children of this country.

That is a lesson that the hon. Member for Chelmsford has clearly learned, and I congratulate him. We all agree that education should be a lifetime process. It is good to see that some hon. Members opposite at least have been re-educated. I hope—I am sure that all my hon. Friends hope—that the hon. Member for Chelmsford will have as much success in re-educating his hon. Friends, both here and in local authorities, in the realities of education as we hope and believe the teachers will have in obtaining from their pupils the increased standards that we should all like to see.

There are still many issues on which we disagree as to the best way of improving the quality of education for all—not least on whether we can have a truly

comprehensive system if, as the hon. Member for Chelmsford suggested, grammar schools are to be retained. But it is very good to see that we can once again have a constructive debate on this subject. I am sure that it is for the good of all involved in the education service.

Question put, That this House do now adjourn:—

The House divided: Ayes, 249. Noes 281.

Division No. 77.] AYES [7.15 p.m.
Adley, Robert Fell, Anthony Knight, Mrs Jill
Aitken, Jonathan Finsberg, Geoffrey Knox, David
Alison, Michael Fisher, Sir Nigel Langford-Holt, Sir John
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Latham, Michael (Melton)
Arnold, Tom Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Lawrence, Ivan
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Fookes, Miss Janet Lawson, Nigel
Awdry, Daniel Forman, Nigel Lester, Jim (Beeston)
Baker, Kenneth Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Bell, Ronald Fox, Marcus Lloyd, Ian
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Loveridge, John
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Fry, Peter Luce, Richard
Benyon, W. Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. McCrindle, Robert
Berry, Hon Anthony Gardiner, George (Reigate) Macfarlane, Neil
Biggs-Davison, John Gardner, Edward (S. Fylde) MacGregor, John
Blaker, Peter Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)
Body, Richard Glyn, Dr Alan McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Godber, Rt Hon Joseph McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Bottomley, Peter Goodhart, Philip Madel, David
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Goodhew, Victor Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Goodlad, Alastair Marten, Neil
Braine, Sir Bernard Gorst, John Mates, Michael
Brittan, Leon Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Mather, Carol
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Maude, Angus
Brotherton, Michael Gray, Hamish Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Grieve, Percy Mawby, Ray
Bryan, Sir Paul Griffiths, Eldon Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Buck, Antony Grist, Ian Mayhew, Patrick
Budgen, Nick Grylls, Michael Meyer, Sir Anthony
Bulmer, Esmond Hall, Sir John Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)
Burden, F. A. Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Mills, Peter
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Miscampbell, Norman
Carlisle, Mark Hampson, Dr Keith Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hannam, John Monro, Hector
Channon, Paul Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Montgomery, Fergus
Churchill, W. S. Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Moore, John (Croydon C)
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Hastings, Stephen More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Clark, William (Croydon S) Havers, Sir Michael Morgan, Geraint
Clegg, Walter Hayhoe, Barney Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral
Cockcroft, John Heath, Rt Hon Edward Morris, Michael (Northampton S)
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Hicks, Robert Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Cope, John Higgins, Terence L. Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)
Cordle, John H. Hodgson, Robin Mudd, David
Cormack, Patrick Holland, Philip Neave, Airey
Corrie, John Hordern, Peter Nelson, Anthony
Costain, A. P. Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Neubert, Michael
Critchley, Julian Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Nott, John
Crouch, David Hunt, David (Wirral) Onslow, Cranley
Crowder, F. P. Hunt, John (Bromley) Oppenheim, Mrs Sally
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Hurd, Douglas Page, John (Harrow West)
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Hutchison, Michael Clark Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Page, Richard (Workington)
Drayson, Burnaby James, David Parkinson, Cecil
du Cann,Rt Hon Edward Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Pattie, Geoffrey
Durant, Tony Jessel, Toby Percival, Ian
Dykes, Hugh Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Peyton, Rt Hon John
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Pink, R. Bonner
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Jopling, Michael Price, David (Eastleigh)
Elliott, Sir William Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Prior, Rt Hon James
Emery, Peter Kaberry, Sir Donald Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Eyre, Reginald Kershaw, Anthony Raison, Timothy
Fairbalrn, Nicholas Kimball, Marcus Rathbone, Tim
Fairgrieve, Russell King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Farr, John Kitson, Sir Timothy Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Rees-Davies, W. R. Skeet, T. H. H. van Straubenzee, W. R.
Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts) Smith, Dudley (Warwick) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex) Speed, Keith Viggers, Peter
Ridley, Hon Nicholas Spence, John Welder, David (Clitheroe)
Ridsdale, Julian Spicer, Jim (W Dorset) Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Rifkind, Malcolm Spicer, Michael (S Worcester) Wall, Patrick
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Sproat, Iain Walters, Dennis
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Stainton, Keith Warren, Kenneth
Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks) Stanbrook, Ivor Weatherill, Bernard
Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Steen, Anthony (Wavertree) Wells, John
Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Royle, Sir Anthony Stokes, John Wiggin, Jerry
Sainsbury, Tim Stradling Thomas, J. Winterton, Nicholas
St, John-Stevas, Norman Tepsell, Peter Wood,Rt Hon Richard
Scott, Nicholas Taylor, R. (Croydon NW) Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart) Younger, Hon George
Shelton, William (Streatham) Tebbit, Norman
Shepherd, Colin Temple-Morris, Peter TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Shersby, Michael Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret Mr. Spencer Le Merchant and
Silvester, Fred Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S) Mr.Michael Roberts.
Sims, Roger Townsend, Cyril D.
Sinclair, Sir George Trotter, Neville
Abse, Leo Davidson, Arthur Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)
Allaun, Frank Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)
Anderson, Donald Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)
Archer, Peter Davies, Ifor (Gower) Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)
Armstrong, Ernest Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Janner, Greville
Ashley, Jack Deakins, Eric Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Ashton, Joe Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Jeger, Mrs Lena
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Atkinson, Norman Dempsey, James John, Brynmor
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Dolg, Peter Johnson, James (Hull West)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Dormand, J. D. Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Douglas-Mann, Bruce Jones, Alec (Rhondda)
Bates, Alf Duffy, A. E. P. Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Bean, R. E. Dunn, James A. Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Beith, A. J. Dunnett, Jack Judd, Frank
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Edge, Geoff Kelley, Richard
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Kerr, Russell
Bidwell, Sydney Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Bishop, E. S. English, Michael Kinnock, Neil
Blenkinsop, Arthur Ennals, David Lambie, David
Boardman, H. Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Lamborn, Harry
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Lamond, James
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Evans, John (Newton) Latham, Arthur (Paddington)
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Leadbitter, Ted
Bradley, Tom Faulds, Andrew Lee, John
Bray, Dr Jeremy Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Lever, Rt Hon Harold
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Flannery, Martin Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Brown, Ronald (Hackney S) Foot, Rt Hon Michael Lipton, Marcus
Buchan, Norman Ford, Ben Litterick, Tom
Buchanan, Richard Forrester, John Loyden, Eddie
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Luard, Evan
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Lyon, Alexander (York)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Freeson, Reginald Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Campbell, Ian Freud, Clement Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
Canavan, Dennis Garrett, John (Norwich S) McCartney, Hugh
Cant, R. B. Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Carmichael, Neil George, Bruce McElhone, Frank
Carter, Ray Gilbert, Dr John MacFarquhar, Roderick
Carter-Jones, Lewis Ginsburg, David McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Cartwright, John Golding, John MacKenzie, Gregor
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Gould, Bryan Mackintosh, John P.
Clemitson, Ivor Gourley, Harry Maclennan, Robert
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael Grant, George (Morpeth) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Cohen, Stanley Grant, John (Islington C) McNamara, Kevin
Coleman, Donald Grocott, Bruce Madden, Max
Colquhoun, Ms Maureen Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Magee, Bryan
Concannon, J. D. Hart, Rt Hon Judith Mellalieu, J. P. W.
Conlan, Bernard Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Marks, Kenneth
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Hayman, Mrs Helene Marquand, David
Corbett, Robin Heffer, Eric S. Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Cowans, Harry Hooley, Frank Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Horam, John Maynard, Miss Joan
Craigen, Jim (Maryhill) Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Meacher, Michael
Crawshaw, Richard Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Cronin, John Huckfield, Les Mendelson, John
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Mikardo, Ian
Cryer, Bob Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Hunter, Adam Molloy, William
Moonman, Eric Rodgers, George (Chorley) Tierney, Sydney
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton) Tinn, James
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Rooker, J. W. Tomlinson, John
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Roper, John Torney, Tom
Moyle, Roland Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Urwin, T. W.
Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Newens, Stanley Ryman, John Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Noble, Mike Sedgemore, Brian Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Oakes, Gordon Selby, Harry Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Ogden, Eric Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
O'Halloran, Michael Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Ward, Michael
Orbach, Maurice Short, Mrs Renée (Wole NE) Watkins, David
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) Weetch, Ken
Ovenden, John Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Weitzman, David
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Silverman, Julius Wellbeloved, James
Padley, Walter Skinner, Dennis White, Frank R. (Bury)
Palmer, Arthur Small, William White, James (Pollok)
Park, George Smith, John (N Lanarkshire) Whitehead, Phillip
Parker, John Snape, Peter Whitlock, William
Parry, Robert Spearing, Nigel Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Pavitt, Laurie Spriggs, Leslie Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Pendry, Tom Stallard, A. W. Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Penhaligon, David Steel, Rt Hon David Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Perry, Ernest Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham) Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Phipps, Dr Colin Stoddart, David Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Stott, Roger Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Price, C. (Lewisham W) Strang, Gavin Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Price, William (Rugby) Strauss, Rt Hon G. R. Wise, Mrs Audrey
Radice, Giles Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley Woof, Robert
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S) Swain, Thomas Wrigglesworth, Ian
Richardson, Miss Jo Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W) Young, David (Bolton E)
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Robinson, Geoffrey Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW) Mr. Ted Graham and
Roderick, Caerwyn Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon) Mr. James Hamilton.
Question accordingly negatived.
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