HC Deb 03 July 1979 vol 969 cc1083-5
2. Mr. John Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to introduce a parents' charter, incorporating a local appeals system for those dissatisfied with secondary allocations.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Dr. Rhodes Boyson)

My right hon. and learned Friend hopes to introduce, before the end of the year, legislation to ensure that parents' wishes are a major factor in the choice of schools for their children, and that there is a local appeals system.

Mr. Hunt

That is very good news. However, will my hon. Friend acknowledge that this period of secondary allocation is a traumatic time for many parents and children? Although some schools are always more popular than others, does my hon. Friend agree that there will always be disappointment among parents? Is it not important that such disappointed parents should have the right of appeal which is now to be set up? Will he go a little further and ensure that such appeals machinery contains representation which is independent both of teachers and local education authorities?

Dr. Boyson

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. It is most important, particularly at the time of allocation of children to secondary schools, that Patents should be assured not only that the first allocation is carried out properly but that there is an independent appeals system. We are taking into consideration in drafting our second education Bill, which we hope to introduce before the end of this year, representations made to us which will strengthen that independent element.

Mr. Stan Thorne

In view of the dissatisfaction with secondary education, will the Minister use his influence with his Treasury colleagues to make resources available to build new schools, including nursery schools, to provide better book facilities in school libraries and to extend laboratory facilities in secondary schools?

Dr. Boyson

The popularity of a school is often not linked with its age. Indeed, some of the older schools are the most popular. The hon. Gentleman must remember that the allocation of books comes within the rate support grant and is under the control of the local education authority.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Would it not be sensible for local education authorities to inquire of parents, not in the last year of their child's primary school education but in earlier years, what their preferences are likely to be, and to give this information to school governing bodies and head teachers in secondary schools? The appeal procedure can deal only with a limited number, and I believe that many secondary schools could make many more parents happy with the secondary school choice for their children.

Dr. Boyson

My hon. Friend makes an interesting suggestion. The only trouble is that one may disturb the primary school in question if in the penultimate year one discusses the schools which the pupils are to attend. This could lead to the pupils concerned being somewhat unsettled. Surely it would be better for selection arrangements to be undertaken earlier in the year, which would point to a time between September and December. The initial desires of the parents could then be taken into account in good time, before allocations were made.