HC Deb 29 November 1977 vol 940 cc256-7
13. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what practical steps she intends to take to ensure that parents are more closely involved in making decisions in schools attended by their children.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

My Department issued on 25th November a circular underlining the importance of providing full and detailed information about schools for all parents. If the parliamentary timetable permits, I also hope to introduce legislation to provide that each school should have its own governing body and that a proportion of the governors should be parents of children at the school, elected by the parents themselves.

Mr. Adley

While welcoming the contents of the circular, I should like to know whether the Secretary of State is aware that many parents are concerned about discipline in schools. Will she ensure that where parental views conflict with those of the educational establishment at any school, in the overall policy of discipline, equal, if not greater, weight will be given to the parents' views?

Mrs. Williams

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that if there are governors representing the interests of parents on school governing bodies, it will be for them to give their opinions on these matters. It is perhaps particularly in such extra-curricular matters that parents' views can have a special influence.

Mr. Bryan Davies

Does the Secretary of State accept that it is a far more intelligent policy to put the emphasis on parental involvement in the development of schools rather than to throw emphasis—as the Opposition are so keen to do—solely on the parental choice between schools?

Mrs. Williams

Parental involvement in the government of schools is extremely important because most parents send their children to the nearest school. However, it is worth saying, loud and clear, that this is the first circular ever to have been issued by any Government asking that parents should receive information about schools. That shows where the authentic concern for parents really lies.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is the right hon. Lady aware that we welcome this circular, which closely follows the recommendations of our parents' charter of 1974—there has been three years' delay, but better late than never—but that there is one glaring omission in it? Does she realise that she has made no request for local education authorities to publish something in which parents are intensely interested, namely, the education records of schools?

Mrs. Williams

The hon. Gentleman may recall that the Leader of the Opposition was Secretary of State for Education for four years, and during that time no circular about information for parents was issued. Perhaps actions speak louder than words, to quote a famous proverb.

On the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I cannot give him the assurance that he seeks.