HC Deb 22 May 1979 vol 967 cc863-4
17. Mr. Silvester

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals he has for assisting parents dissatisfied with the processes of local education authorities in the allocation of their children to particular schools.

Dr. Boyson

The Gracious Speech promised the introduction of legislation to ensure that parents' wishes are taken into account in the choice of schools for their children, and that there is a local appeals system.

Mr. Silvester

When this matter comes before the House, will the Minister take into account the fact that a number of local authorities provide an inadequate appeals system? Will he ensure that there are bodies outside particular local authorities which can be relied upon to produce fairness as between one local authority and another?

Dr. Boyson

One reason why we opposed the Education Bill proposed by the previous Administration was that we considered its appeals system to be totally unsatisfactory. There is a requirement that, in a local appeals system, some body different from that which made a decision should decide whether it was fair. The views expressed by my hon. Friend will undoubtedly be taken into account when we draft our Bill, which is proposed for later this Session.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Will the Minister assure the House that if parental control is to be introduced the parents of mentally and physically handicapped children will have the same right of choice for effective education as other parents?

Dr. Boyson

I know that the hon. Gentleman, who defeated me at the election in 1970, feels very deeply about handicapped children. I give the assurance that, wherever possible, we shall give maximum choice not only to the parents of normal children but to the parents of handicapped children to ensure that they have a say about the schools to which their children go.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

In the proposals that the Government intend to put forward to establish a local appeals procedure, which I very much welcome, will there be any final appeal to the Secretary of State?

Dr. Boyson

The Bill has not yet been drafted, so I cannot answer my hon. Friend's question authoritatively. In the ultimate, there must always be some form of overseeing of decisions made locally. We do not envisage a second appeal system to that extent.