HC Deb 22 May 1979 vol 967 cc856-7
6. Mr. Moate

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will consider favourably representations to confirm as a permanent arrangement the present Thameside system of education in Sittingbourne, Kent.

Dr. Boyson

The system of education in Sittingbourne is now a matter for the Kent local education authority.

Mr. Moate

Will my hon. Friend accept that this more flexible and open-minded approach by the Government is in sharp and welcome contrast to the doctrinaire and dictatorial attitude adopted by the previous Government, who sought to destroy a system that has worked well and enjoyed widespread public support? Will he further accept that this Thameside system is a very acceptable compromise that could work in other areas? Will he look favourably upon representations, if made to him by the Kent county council or others, calling for its introduction in areas where it might be suitable?

Dr. Boyson

I am grateful for the initial remarks of my hon. Friend, with which I fully agree. I am sure that he will welcome the fact that the letter sent from the Department on 8 February this year to the Kent education authority demanding that it should submit revised proposals by 8 June has no longer any standing. That letter has now been withdrawn and the future of education in that area of Kent will depend upon proposals put forward by Kent, if and when they come to us.

Mr. Aitken

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Government's policies are enormously welcome in Kent, not only because they save good schools but because they save a great deal of public expenditure? Is he aware that under the previous Government's misguided proposals for forcing compulsory reorganisation in Kent, over £80 million of taxpayers' money would have to be spent on the buildings alone? This is now saved, and a good thing, too.

Dr. Boyson

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments. I am sure that the people of Kent will also be glad that they not only have a choice of schools but a saving in public expenditure.