HC Deb 13 July 1978 vol 953 c1721
13. Mr. Gow

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent representations he has received about the Government's proposals for the future structure of secondary education in the Province; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Carter

The Government continue to receive representations both from those who support the decision to eliminate selection by perceived ability at 11-plus and from those who are opposed to that decision. The most recent representation received, from the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance, representing 27,000 members in Northern Ireland, urged the Government to proceed with the introduction of comprehensive education as quickly as possible.

Mr. Gow

Does the Minister agree that under the present law he has no statutory power to impose comprehensive education in Northern Ireland? Will he undertake that there will be no such imposition, save with the full-hearted consent of the parents and teachers concerned?

Mr. Carter

We are moving on a voluntary basis. It is clear that 27,000 teachers in Northern Ireland are very much in favour of these proposals, as are many other sections of the community in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Neave

Is the Minister aware that on several occasions we have asked about the cost if all secondary education in Northern Ireland were turned over to the comprehensive system? What is the estimate of that cost?

Mr. Carter

We have not worked the figure out because we are proceeding on the basis of agreement. If we can proceed on that footing, obviously the cost will be considerably reduced compared with the cost if we were to proceed in another way.

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