HC Deb 22 May 1979 vol 967 cc861-3
15. Mr. Forman

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will publish details of the legislation he proposes to introduce to restore freedom to local education authorities to organise education in their areas along lines of their own choosing.

Dr. Boyson

I refer my hon. Friend to the Bill published on 17 May which would implement our undertaking to restore to local education authorities the freedom to formulate their own proposals for the organisation of secondary education.

Mr. Forman

Is my hon. Friend aware that that Bill will be most welcome to many parents in the London borough of Sutton and elsewhere in the country, largely because it will remove the uncertainty and educational blight which has hung over the prospects of many schoolchildren?

Dr. Boyson

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. The section 99 order for Sutton, made by the Labour Government, which compelled it to submit revised proposals for reorganisation, has now been withdrawn. It is for Sutton to decide what amended proposals, if any, it now wishes to submit. I am glad that Sutton is pleased by the freedom that has been given back to it.

Mr. Armstrong

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that where an authority wishes either to retain or to reinstate the 11-plus his Department will stand idly by? In view of his comment about teacher morale, will he tell us of any body of teachers which is asking for reinstatement of the 11-plus?

Dr. Boyson

The question refers to a return to the 11-plus. Under the previous Act, authorities which wanted to retain selection were compelled to wipe it out and to bring in comprehensive education.

On the second point, if we go back to the NOP surveys in The Times Educational Supplement three years ago, one year ago and recently, it will be seen—although we are not advocating this—that there is overwhelming support among teachers for some form of selection both between and in schools.

Dr. McDonald

As many LEAs have neither direct-grant nor grammar schools, will those LEAs wishing to provide selective education for bright children have to take up boarding school places? How much will these cost? Can the hon. Gentleman guarantee that this will not be done at the expense of the State comprehensive sector?

Dr. Boyson

If a local education authority is happy about its area being totally comprehensive, it is entirely for that authority how it runs that system. But if it wishes to bring back some form of selection it will be up to the authority to put forward such proposals.