§ 'No money provided under this Act shall be used in any school where admission is based on a selective examination or set of tests of ability.'.—[Mr. Radice.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 4.3 pm
§ Mr. Speaker
With this it will be convenient to take new clause 2—Funding for education support grants:`Expenditure previously incurred under sections 17 and 18 of the Education Act 1980 shall be used by the Secretary of State for the provision of education support grants.'.
§ Mr. Radice
First, I should like to make it plain that we shall support new clause 2, tabled by the Liberal-SDP alliance.
As is well known, the Labour Party strongly opposed the setting up of the assisted places scheme because we believed that it would cream off able children from the state system of education and also because it was a form of subsidy to an already privileged private system. We favour a much more radical policy towards the fee-paying schools, but in the meantime they should at least stand on their own feet without all the subsidies and reliefs that they now receive from the state. The purpose of the new clause is to ensure that education support grants are not used to finance educational experiments in grammar schools, or experiments in setting up new grammar schools.
The selective grammar school is an almost extinct species. In 1965 there were well over 1,000 grammar schools; in January 1983 there were only 175. The decisive move away from selective education took place long before the advent of the present Government. Significantly enough, it also took place before the Education Act 1976 made it compulsory to move away from selection. By 1976, over 70 per cent. of secondary school pupils in the maintained sector were in comprehensive schools. I am sure that the former Labour Secretary of State for Education, the right hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice), could confirm that figure.
The movement against selection and towards comprehensive schools came from below, and the local education authorities, including many Conservative authorities, were the crucial agents in the change. They were responding to pressure from parents. The old selective system, under which the vast majority of children failed the 11-plus and went on to secondary modern schools, was deeply unpopular—and with good reason. It was unjust, inefficient, wasteful and divisive.
The system was unjust because, as many studies showed at the time, the 11-plus was as much a measurement of social class as of intelligence. It was inefficient and wasteful because, as was admitted even by its advocates, there was a margin of error with the 11-plus of at least 10 per cent., which meant that the life chances of many children were drastically reduced.
§ Mr. Radice
I was not, but my own child, who would have failed the 11-plus, got the best 0-level results of all my children. I know what would have happened if there had been an 11-plus system at the time.
The system also wasted human potential. That was recorded by three committees set up by Conservative Governments — the Crowther, Newsom and Robbins committees. Before they advocate bringing back grammar schools, Conservative Members should remember that. Even for the brightest pupils the grammar school curriculum was often extremely narrow, and the needs of the so-called third streams were largely ignored. Despite many efforts, and with some brilliant exceptions, the secondary moderns failed to provide the average child with an adequate education.
§ Mr. Radice
I wish that the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) would produce some evidence.
The system was also divisive. The continued existence of a powerful and privileged private system of education is more divisive still, but to allocate the majority of children at an early age to different types of school by methods which were a measure as much of social class as of anything else was not the best way to promote social harmony or a cohesive community. Furthermore, we should not forget the personal disappointments and heartaches caused by such early selection.
Fortunately, nearly 90 per cent. of our children in the state system attend comprehensive schools, while less than 4 per cent. attend grammar schools. It is in the light of those figures that we should consider the recent campaign — in which the Secretary of State for Education and Science played a distinguished part—for the return of the grammar schools. It is interesting, incidentally, that there has been no campaign for the reintroduction of the secondary modern schools. We should see that campaign for what it really is—a last-ditch defence of an almost extinct species. Those who wish to reintroduce grammar schools, or are tempted under the Bill to use the education support grants to help in their reintroduction, should note that recent attempts, for example, by the Solihull authority, to bring back grammar schools met with fierce opposition from Conservative parents. They should note also that a move to reintroduce grammar schools in Richmond was nipped in the bud by a spontaneous revolt by parents.
We have heard a great deal from Conservative Members—there has even been an early-day motion on it — about a recent Gallup poll. I noted that hon. Gentlemen happened to see that the majority of people in this country seem to believe that grammar and secondary modern schools together provided a better education than comprehensives. We should note that it was not a separate poll on grammar and secondary modern schools.
The point that Conservative Members do not mention, which arises from the poll, is that, when asked which type of school they would now prefer, 54 per cent. said that they wished the number of comprehensive schools to be maintained or increased. If we judge by the test of examination results—that conventional test about which we are always hearing from the Conservative Benches 172 we find that for the majority of our schoolchildren there is no doubt that comprehensive education has been a success. I shall give the figures.
Over the last decade, when the number of 16-year-olds increased by one fifth, the number achieving five O-level passes has increased by 50 per cent., and the number achieving between one and four O-level passes has risen by 80 per cent. Those who were frightened by the comprehensive schools and supported grammar schools said that the brightest children would suffer. If we study the figures, we see that the percentage of the age group passing A-levels has increased over the decade.
§ The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Sir Keith Joseph)
I have been restraining myself from expressing the disagreement that I feel with practically everything that the hon. Gentleman has said. He had the honesty to describe the rise in the number of children taking O-levels. He has not had the honesty to declare the rise in the number of those taking A-levels. If one compares the A-level results with the population growth, there has scarcely been an increase. I do not believe for one moment that examination results are the only way to measure school effectiveness, but the hon. Gentleman chooses to quote them, and I think that he is misleading the House.
§ Mr. Radice
The right hon. Gentleman cannot have heard me. I said that the percentage of the age group passing A-levels has increased.
§ Mr. Radice
It is a marginal increase, but it is an increase. I am glad that we can agree. I am quoting the figures contained in the educational statistics for 1983—the 1981–82 figures compared with 1970–71.
§ Mr. Radice
I accept that. If we take the less academically able children, we find that the numbers leaving school without passing any kind of examination have fallen dramatically. I accept that the leaving age has increased and that the CSE has been introduced, but the prophets of doom who said that the most able would suffer as a consequence of comprehensive schools have been proved wrong.
The middle range of ability has benefited greatly, if we judge by the conventional test. It is the test that lion. Gentlemen always use. I am using their test against the system. I accept that there are problems with the education of the less able in our schools, but let us be honest with ourselves. They are much better provided for now than they were under the old selective system.
Recently, the National Council for Educational Standards—so-called—attempted to prove that the few remaining selective grammar and secondary modern schools performed better than comprehensive schools. That finding has been criticised by the statistical department of the Department of Education and Science which concluded that the Cox and Marks study had failed to take adequate account of the social class factor, which partly explains why their conclusions are so much at variance with other studies such as those carried out by the National Children's Bureau and Edinburgh university.
173 For most pupils, comprehensive schools have meant an end to the nightmare of the 11-plus, improved access to learning opportunities and greater academic achievement. There have also been significant——
§ Sir Keith Joseph
The hon. Gentleman has at least had the decency to withdraw the claim that he made in The Times on Saturday that the Department of Education and Science statisticians still regarded the conclusion of the National Council for Educational Standards as being severely flawed. That judgment has been withdrawn completely by the Department of Education and Science's statisticians. As for the comment that there could have been more use of regression analysis in the study, the Department's statisticians say that that is a matter of argument between professional statisticians. I shall send the hon. Gentleman a copy.
§ Sir Keith Joseph
It is a matter of respectable argument between statisticians. They found the research done by the National Council for Educational Standards to be pioneering and useful, not flawed, and certainly not flawed by the fact that they used more or less regression analysis than some other researchers.
§ Mr. Radice
The right hon. Gentleman has tried hard to misquote me, and to defend his remarks about the National Council for Educational Standards. I never said that its work was seriously flawed. I shall quote my letter. It is always useful when the right hon. Gentleman is about to have the documents; he can then perhaps learn wisdom. I said:You find space to quote Sir Keith's welcome for their 'pioneering work' but fail to mention the substantial criticisms of the NCES's methodology contained in three of the statement's five paragraphs.The right hon. Gentleman can have that.
§ Sir Keith Joseph
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. By the time that he wrote that letter which appeared in The Timeson Saturday, the Department's statisticians' withdrawal of the allegations had been published. The hon. Gentleman's use of a quotation from an outdated letter was not proper argument.
§ Mr. Radice
I am quoting from the statement that the Minister made to the House. Three of the five paragraphs make substantial criticisms of the methodology used by the NCES. It is disgraceful that a fellow of All Souls should back this piece of research when his own Department has raised serious questions about its methodology. It is not up to the standard that the House expects from a Secretary of State.
§ Sir Keith Joseph
I apologise to the House Mr. Speaker; I have to leave in a few minutes to meet an obligation. I hope that the House will not think me rude if I withdraw after this little disputation.
The hon. Gentleman is, I believe, misleading himself. He is trying to tarnish this research with a taint that has been entirely withdrawn by the professionals in the Department of which I am at present the head.
§ Mr. Radice
The Secretary of State is misleading the House in what he says. Three paragraphs of the Secretary 174 of State's statement concern the methodology that the report used. The point I make is that the question of social class was not properly accounted for.
I accept that the report says:while acknowledging the difficulties of applying regression analysis.There is an argument that can be used, but most of the experts, including the Department's own experts, do not believe that Cox and Marks have taken sufficient account of social class when looking at the results. If the Secretary of State does not understand that, he is not living up to this reputation as a senior researcher.
For most pupils comprehensive schools have meant an end to the nightmare of 11-plus, they have improved access to learning opportunities and they have meant greater academic achievement. There have been other significant advantages. Comprehensive schools have meant an enriched curriculum for many children, not just the narrow academic curriculum that was characteristic of grammar schools.
The major advantage of genuinely comprehensive schools is that pupils of varying skills and abilities and from different social backgrounds meet.
§ Mr. Radice
The fact that the hon. Member says that it is a mistake may explain why this country suffers from such deep social and class division. I should have thought it can be only for the good of society that people from different social backgrounds and different abilities meet at school every day.
§ Mr. Dicks
The point I tried to make was that grammar schools allowed for a social mix. There are former Opposition Members of Parliament who rose from nothing to be Ministers of State, having been to primary schools, irrespective of social background. To mix ability in comprehensive schools holds back the ability of bright pupils to get on and of slow ones to learn. If the hon. Gentleman believes in special schools for mentally retarded people, why does he not believe in special schools for particularly bright people?
§ Mr. Radice
If the hon. Member had been listening, he would have heard my quotation from the statistics about examination results. I agree with the Secretary of State that they are not the most important point. It is a fact that the brightest children have not suffered as a result of the comprehensive school system.
As to grammar schools, only a minority of the children attending them, despite the fact they were in the state system, usually measuring about one third, came from a working class background. It depended upon the area of the school, but that was the normal figure throughout the country.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
I am trying to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument, with great interest. He spoke of the narrow curriculum of the grammar schools compared with the enriched curriculum of comprehensive schools. Would the hon. Gentleman define his terms? Secondly, how does he account for the fact that fewer children than ever before from working class backgrounds go to university?
§ Mr. Radice
In reply to the second point, there is an argument as to the reasons. This is a matter which the Secretary of State should be examining. First, there is the cutback in university provision of which I am sure the hon. 175 Member is well aware. The statistics are partly in doubt, but I think that is probably true. Secondly, because the statistics are not available we do not know whether working class children are attending the polytechnics to a much greater extent. That argument has been advanced. Given that the possession of a university degree did not lead necessarily to a job, it might be that many children were deterred from going on to university or to further education. The position must be looked at as a whole. I do not accept the basis of the hon. Gentleman's argument.
The hon. Gentleman will know that in the best comprehensives there is access to good music, good drama classes and good craft classes in a way that was not possible in the old grammar schools. This is an argument for the comprehensive system. Indeed, the point was borne out by the Select Committee of which the hon. Gentleman is a member.
It is wrong for the Government to encourage local authorities to reintroduce selection. There is nothing modern or sophisticated—and here I use the words of the Secretary for State—about selection. Selection is as old as the hills. It failed to solve yesterday's problems and is more than ever irrelevant to today's education issues. The Secretary of State and his Ministers should be encouraging the few remaining authorities that have not yet done so to go comprehensive.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Robert Dunn)
Does the hon. Member say that no selection for streaming or banding takes place in comprehensive schools?
§ Mr. Radice
There is no selection to get into comprehensive schools. In some cases there is streaming and there is, indeed, some kind of banding. There is an argument about whether that is a good thing, but at least everybody is in the same school and pupils are not separated into two different types of establishment.
If the Minister does not understand that, he does not understand the protest, or what the parents of Solihull and the parents of Richmond are saying. He ought to understand because those parents used to vote for the Tory party.
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Cambridgeshire, North-East)
Would the hon. Member ask the Secretary of State why he intends to leave the House when it was clear that the Bill that was his brainchild was coming up on Report today?
§ Mr. Radice
I am sure that the Secretary of State can answer that question himself. If he is prepared to leave the House when it is considering his only Bill this Session, he must have good reason.
§ Mr. Radice
That may well be the reason.
The Government should drop the idea of reintroducing a selective system and grammar schools and should face up to the real issues. We could do that much better without the red herring of selection. The purpose of the new clause is to assist that process, and in that spirit I commend it to the House.
§ Sir Keith Joseph
If I am involved in this or any amendment I shall of course remain in the Chamber. I have complete confidence in my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. Some of the amendments I intend to leave to him, unless I am particularly involved in the debate on those amendments.
§ Mr. Freud
I am grateful for that explanation, although had the right hon. Gentleman been rather more diligent he would have noticed that there are no amendments, only new clauses. However, it is good to know that he will be around.
The Bill is based on two premises. The first is that educational initiatives need central encouragement and that that calls for a certain amount of central money. f am not sure that I would disagree with that part of the Secretary of State's argument. But I disagree with him in that the Government are pilfering local authorities' money to pay for the scheme. It would be better if the Government were to switch money from one central fund, the assisted places scheme, to another, the educational support grants, without paring LEA budgets even more.
Local education authorities are already suffering severe financial privations thanks to this Government, and I bring to the attention of the Secretary of State—if one can bring anything to the right hon. Gentleman's attention—some of the privations that pertain in Britain. The Government inspectorate found four local education authorities in 1980 in breach of their minimum statutory duties as set out in the Education Act 1944. Despite that, we have a Bill by which LEAs are deprived of £46 million of their funds.
Government cuts force almost one third of LEAs to increase the number of mixed-age classes in primary schools. Rather than make that situation better, the Secretary of State is depriving education authorities of money. One in six primary schools now officially have unsatisfactory teaching provision. Rather than do something about that —LEAs know what to do about that could they afford to do it—we have this measure that will deprive LEAs of money.
One quarter of primary schools and one third of secondary schools officially have unsatisfactory book provision; one fifth of secondary schools lack appropriately qualified staff; one in five maths teachers in secondary schools is not qualified; and the HMIs report a reduction in the range of courses, courses that are desperately needed by those who go to school so as to find employment afterwards.
In the face of that, it cannot be equitable to take money from the state sector while propping up the private sector to the tune of £17 million, which is what the assisted places scheme costs. My argument is simple. It is that before we start supporting those who have, let us look to those who need, and the assisted places scheme—£17 million may be only a small amount—saps the morale of the state sector.
It amounts to a vote of no confidence in the state sector by the Government, to whom that sector should be entitled to look for support. They are the very people who are supposed to nurture and improve the state sector. What better boost could the state sector be given as it provides 177 for the education of the overwhelming majority of children than for the Secretary of State to have switched money from the needless assisted places scheme to education support grants to improve the state sector?
§ Mr. Freud
The Liberal party would not abolish the private sector, and we have made that clear. We would make the private sector more private. We should certainly take from it such concessions, such as charitable status, as it currently has. However, I wish to make it clear that we on these Benches, as opposed to the Labour party—which says that when it takes power assisted places will be cut at a stroke — would not wish to interfere or impose political philosophy to the detriment of children's education. We would phase it out. It would be right to stop making additional awards and to use the money thereby saved to make grants to improve and innovate the state sector.
§ Mr. Greenway
This important debate has in some ways lost its way in educational terms. I remind the hon. Members for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) and Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) that we must argue these matters in educational terms. The hon. Member for Durham, North dwelt at some length on ways of evaluating a school's success or otherwise and said that it was normal for Conservatives to evaluate schools on the basis of examination results. That was a false argument for him to adduce, although I am grateful that he exempted me from that assertion. I urge him to exempt most members of my party from it, too.
§ Mr. Radice
What about Cox and Marks? They are members of the hon. Gentleman's party and they have built a great study on examination results, which is why I felt that I should quote them in that context. Indeed, I recall educational spokesmen for the Conservative party when in opposition spending all their time talking about examination results.
§ Mr. Greenway
It is perfectly respectable to say that some schools perform better than others in examinations, and that is what the hon. Gentleman was saying. The National Council for Educational Standards has been saying that, and so has the National Children's Bureau, at great public expense, for many years, often in a Left-wing way. In my experience, the O-level is a test of memory rather than intelligence, which is why pupils often perform differently at A-level in terms of achievement than at O-level, and that point should also be made in relation to the proposed new clause.
It was dreadful to hear the hon. Member for Durham, North say—though I am grateful for the good support that he has been giving me—that there was a vast waste of human potential under the old selective system. I do not think that he could substantiate that. He added that the powerful private sector also detracted from the state sector. I was waiting to hear him talk of the tripartite system— at which he was effectively looking and in which I worked for a number of years—and compare pupil mobility in that system with some comprehensive schools today.
178 Had he done that, he would have discovered—I can assure him of this from my experience—that there was a great deal of movement of pupils between secondary grammar schools and secondary modem schools and in the reverse direction, and that there was movement of pupils among secondary grammar schools, secondary technical schools and secondary modem schools. I wish that he would stop knocking the secondary moderns so hard. There is devoted teaching and excellent learning in them. In many cases they have been successful institutions and as good as a great many so-called comprehensives today. He will know that I say that as one who has devoted more than 20 years of his life to comprehensives with a deep and honest commitment.
The House should compare the movement of pupils between the three kinds of schools within the old tripartite system for ability or other valid educational reasons with the movement today within comprehensive schools. If there is mixed ability teaching exclusively in a comprehensive school, as there is in many of them, there is no movement for children because of achievement, ability or any other reason. That is where they often go wrong. That is what draws public opprobrium to an area in which so many of us have worked devotedly and successfully for so long.
§ Mr. Radice
I have listened with great interest and respect to the hon. Member because he knows a great deal about these matters. I do not want to knock him. The waste of human potential was not my point but was referred to in famous state reports, commissioned incidentally by the Conservative party when at one point at any rate the Secretary of State was a member of the Government; I am thinking of Crowther, Newsom and Robbins. All three drew attention to the waste of potential under the old system.
As to the movement between the different elements of the tripartite system, if the hon. Member is being fair with the House he should accept that there was some movement, although it was marginal and less than the 10 per cent. margin of error which even the advocates of the 11-plus admitted there was as a result of that examination.
§ Mr. Greenway
In the tripartite system in which I was operating we accepted 90 pupils per year, and an extra 20 pupils from outside in the third year, which is substantially more than 20 per cent. movement. There is no movement like that within many comprehensives today.
Of course the reports which the hon. Member for Durham, North mentioned are important and put down markers. However, he should make fair comparisons between comprehensives now and what was outlined in those reports. The hon. Gentleman does the comprehensive system no favour by saying constantly that everything before it was wrong and that everything within it is right and should be accepted, because parents know that they must be made a great deal better in many cases. That is not to say that there is not much devoted, honest and sound work going into many of them, but in others there is a long way to go and we must not go down a road which seeks complete acceptance of what is fundamentally a dogma. Let us keep working at it to get it right.
When the hon. Gentleman said that there was no selection into comprehensives, did he forget the ILEA scheme of selecting children into comprehensive schools on three broad bands of ability, according to mathematical 179 attainment, verbal reasoning and reading ability? Does he not know that schools are allowed to accept only 25 per cent. into band one, 50 per cent. into band two, and 25 per cent. into band three? If a pupil is one over the 25 per cent. applying for a school which already has 25 per cent., then he does not get into that school but has to go down the road. That is selection by ability and no less.
§ Mr. Greenway
My hon. Friend makes a valid point. It was the other point which Opposition spokesmen omitted to make—that we have selection by area and by ability to pay to live in certain areas. If a family lives in a good area the children can get into a good school. If it is a rundown area the children may get into a good school because some schools in rundown areas are extremely good and well run, but not all of them are.
In regard to the attack upon the assisted places scheme by the Liberal spokesman, the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud), I say to him and to anyone else who is tempted down that road that they should not knock the scheme because if they do so they are knocking the chances of children who would otherwise perhaps have no opportunity of good education. They might be poverty-stricken or children whose families have broken up and who have no social opportunity to give them any sort of chance. Every time the scheme is knocked, those are the children who will suffer. If that is the way the Liberal party wants to go, let it join the Labour party, but it will be to its eternal shame.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
I have listened with interest to the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway). We have done Committee work together for a long time. A different ethos from mine pervades his approach to education. A different ethos to education from that on the Labour Benches prevails on the Government Benches. The gap will not be bridged easily. It will take a long time.
§ Mr. Greenway
The hon. Gentleman and I agree on a great deal and we know that. I am sure he is not going back on that; I never would.
§ Mr. Flannery
No. That is true.
Before I address myself precisely to the new clause we must consider to some extent what was called a shoddy little Bill. It is a nasty little Bill, as I said when we discussed it some time ago. We cannot discuss the new clause in a vacuum. It must be related to its background and to what is happening. There is an all-out attack on comprehensive education. Comprehensive education is not a static concept. It flowed from all the weaknesses of the previous system and its development is far from finished. We shall learn a great deal more as we go on. We shall continue to discuss whether the neighbourhood school is the answer. We are not sure. We would like Conservative Members to help us rather than argue against it constantly and underestimate its achievements.
§ Mr. Dunn
Does the hon. Member realise that by his early remarks about this being a nasty little Bill he is to 180 some extent distancing himself from the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) who said on Second Reading:We shall vote against the Bill. That is not because we. object to specific grants in principle." — [Official Report, 14 November 1983; Vol. 48, c. 638.]
§ Mr. Flannery
I do not think that what the hon. Gentleman has said is in the faintest way related to what my hon. Friend said. Of course we are not against specific grants. How could we be? Most people do not understand what is happening. Certainly the public, who will read about the debate in the press, if it gets good coverage, do not understand. They do not understand that we are arguing about a mere 0.5 per cent. That amounts to about £40 million to £46 million. In the normal sequence of events that money would have automatically been given to local education authorities. However, it is now being taken away from them. They are to be made to compete for it.
The Opposition are fighting so hard about this matter because the cuts in education are horrific. To provide an adequate service for our children, we are reduced to debating a tiny sum of money that the Conservative party is taking away. Even though there will be an element of competition to obtain funds, the Conservatives are also taking away £70 million of public money to give to private education, which is already wealthy and powerful. They know what they are doing. They are taking away urgently needed money. They are giving it to a part of education that is already overflowing with money.
As to the tears of the hon. Member for Ealing, North, he knows full well what his party is doing. He is an intelligent man. He takes refuge in saying such things as, "Of course there were good secondary modern schools and of course there was movement in the tripartite system." The implication in his argument is that we have said that teachers and children in those schools were not working admirably. However, they were working under frightful conditions. The movement from secondary modern to grammar school was almost nil and the hon. Member for Ealing, North knows it.
§ Mr. Flannery
I might give way a couple of times later but to be interrupted constantly will stop the flow of the debate. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for not giving way.
The Bill will organise a competition — a sort of 11-plus — for local authorities to prove that they need money which hitherto they have had access to without such competition. Such competition is being heaped on top of cuts in rate support grant. The local authorities are already miserably hard put to provide a proper education for children in their areas.
It must be obvious that local education authorities must now work out their priorities with insufficient money for their education provision. They will have to reduce the number of priorities in the belief that they will be better able to compete by showing the difficulties that they face getting something from the pitiful amount of money that they are to be given. They are being told that needy children will be helped by the assisted places scheme. That is utter nonsence. The money is being taken away so that it can be given to those who already have enough. The Conservatives know that.
181 We should not concede one iota because this wicked Bill is filching money from needy children while the Government pretend that they are helping them. We shall fight tooth and nail the Government taking money away from our children and giving it to those who are already well provided for.
§ Mr. Flannery
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for not giving way but I want to move on.
The Secretary of State has often said that he wants to influence education spending at the margins. That is one of those wonderful expressions, which really mean that he intends to cut education to the bone. Subjects such as music, more literature and things that we fought for, such as the provision of free swimming, are to be hived off, while money is to be spent on the private scheme. I am glad that the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) mentioned that. Spending cuts have already eliminated the frills. Our children are now being deprived of such things as free swimming to which even children in the 1920s had access.
Local authorities have some discretion but their scope has been steadily eroded. That process is being increased by reductions in rate support grant and the reductions that we are discussing. The 0.5 per cent. cut is yet another deliberate erosion of the funds that we desperately need to provide a proper service for our children. The Secretary of State has great discretion in regard to educational expenditure. That discretion is filtered through many organisations, such as the Secondary Examinations Council and the School Curriculum Development Committee.
Conservative Members say that we are laying too much store on examinations. We have fought all our lives against the examination mind. It is the employers who have been making it clear that they want a narrow curriculum. They are laying down the law. They are not members of the Labour party. They want a return to the three Rs in primary schools and to reintroduce the 11-plus. The Opposition are fighting such a proposition tooth and nail. We have the support of most Tory parents because they want their children to have comprehensive education. They remember their days of being faced with the 11-plus examination. The hon. Member for Ealing, North and I probably invigilated some of them. I remember visiting schools to see delicate children who I knew would "fail" that examination. No child is a failure. It is anti-educational to blare into a child's ear or a parent's ear that a child has failed an examination. That has nothing in common with the broad concept of education for all of our children.
Most people do not understand that all primary schools in the state system are comprehensive. They take children regardless of qualifications. Some children come from nurseries and others come from playgroups. They are better for that but they all enter a comprehensive system. The 11-plus destroyed that and began to separate the children. It creamed off a maximum of about 20 per cent. of children, who went to a grammar school.
New clause 1 has been tabled because of Conservative Members' beliefs in grammar schools. Grammar schools took away 20 per cent. of the children who would have gone to a comprehensive school and, having creamed them 182 off, their gifts and talents were denied to the rest of the system. That meant that the highly vocal parents of that 20 per cent. did not come to parent-teacher meetings at the secondary modern schools. The children who attended grammar schools usually came from better homes in which books were available, while they were not available in the homes of the other 80 per cent., and usually the parents of the grammar school children had better jobs. That is a description of the child who usually passed the 11-plus, and who had all the advantages.
The absence of those parents who would have attended parent-teacher meetings, who would have spoken and struggled for their children, affected the other children and parents.
The Government wish to revert to an elitist system, which the Opposition and many Conservative Members have struggled to eliminate. The 11-plus examination was an educational abomination, which we fought for many years to abolish. However, the assisted places scheme is an attempt to return to the earlier system by creaming off some children who can get a toe-hold, in advance of a foothold. The next stage is to launch endless black papers and Cox and Marks reports, which are selective and biased in the extreme. The object is to denigrate a dynamically developing system of education which is achieving results that are far better than we ever had.
My hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North said that fewer working-class children go to university. This year the University Grants Committee, which is the pliant tool of the Conservative party, prevented many highly educated working-class children from attending university by increasing the required qualifications. Such action has excluded many pupils who are suitably qualified because they attended comprehensive schools. My hon. Friend said that many of those children have instead attended polytechnics, which are advancing dynamically. They are not as elitist as the universities. The main universities—Oxford and Cambridge — generally take their students from the public schools, which gives them the edge on the rest of us. The official Opposition have differences with Liberal Members—thank God for that. I would hate to have to agree with them on everything. Although the Liberals support comprehensive education, they still have a foot in the private camp. They cannot rid themselves of the foothold and I doubt whether they ever will.
Of course, many hon. Members attended a grammar school. I remember my grammar school —[Interruption.] There were no comprehensives in those days. How could we not go to the grammar school? Fifty per cent. of the children at my grammar school passed the so-called scholarship, but 80 per cent. of the children in the city failed the exam primarily because there were not enough places in the grammar schools. Cities varied as to the number of places available at their grammar schools. If a pupil had an IQ of 100 he got a place at the grammar school in one city but an IQ of 117 was necessary to get into a grammar school in another city. The position was silly in that the cleverer child was unable to gain a place in a grammar school in one city whereas the child who was not so bright gained a place elsewhere. Educationists finally rebelled against that procedure. Fifty per cent. of the boys at my old grammar school received financial 183 assistance. The ordinary people were unable to pay for their children, so more than 80 per cent. of the children in the city did not receive a grammar school education.
Most of the children who went to grammar schools were the favoured children, from better-off homes in the good districts. To revert to that position would be dreadful. We are arguing about a pitiful amount of money. The reason why there is insufficient money for education is that it has been siphoned off into private education. We are trying to ensure that none of that money assists private education and the selective process. That is a good educational aim. It is our aim, but, to its shame, it is not the aim of the Conservative party.
§ Mr. J. F. Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)
The problem in following the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) is that he scatters so many red herrings about that the difficulty is knowing which ones to pick up. However, I shall take the hon. Gentleman to task on two points.
First, the Bill is not, as the hon. Gentleman said, an all-out attack on comprehensive education. He knows as well as I do that there are many excellent comprehensive schools, and thank God for them. Secondly, many of the comprehensive schools — indeed, the majority — were created under Conservative rather than Labour Administrations. The hon. Member for Hillsborough referred to the assisted places scheme. As he is a fair-minded man, I know that he will not object to my reminding him of the words of my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security, who was then the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, when he introduced the assisted places scheme. He said:It is to give able children from less well-off families the opportunity of attending good independent schools and to widen the educational opportunities available to children from financially less well-off homes by helping with the cost of tuition fees where parents cannot afford the full or the partial costs." —[Official Report, 9 February 1983; Vol. 36, c. 1093.]The hon. Member for Hillsborough will be pleased to know that 62 per cent. of the public approve of the assisted places scheme, according to a ORI poll in January. The hon. Gentleman cannot overlook those facts.
I listened with interest to the clear and unambiguous commitment of the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud), who said that the Liberal party, if elected, would abolish the charitable status of public schools. The hon. Gentleman must know that that would sound the death knell of the majority of our public schools. I hope that parents clearly noted that statement given without qualification.
It is worth noting that only six Members of the Opposition are present for the debate, five from the official Opposition, one from the Liberal party and none from the Social Democratic party. That fact may be a sign of the importance that the SDP attaches to education.
§ Mr. Pawsey
That is twice as many hon. Members as are here to represent the official Opposition.
The hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) used new clause 1 as an opportunity to launch an attack 184 on the remaining grammar schools. He said that they are an extinct species. The hon. Gentleman may think that they are dead, but they certainly will not lie down. They are as vigorous now as they ever were. We may even see a generous revival taking place. The hon. Gentleman drew from his family experience when he said that his daughter would probably have failed selection, but went on to get the best O-level results in the family. Many local authorities operate a safety net which means that if someone has not entered a grammar school or a school which operates the system of selective education, and the child then does well at his comprehensive school. he can later move to a grammar school or to a school which has selective education. The chances are that the hon. Gentleman's daughter would have done just as well with the system that I have outlined.
The hon. Member for Durham, North also mentioned what he described as the cohesive community. The comprehensive school is not cohesive. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State said in an intervention, people will vote with their feet. If one comprehensive school has a better reputation than another, parents will willingly pay up to £2,000 to £3,000 more for a house in that catchment area to ensure that their children can enjoy the benefit of what they consider to be a better education. Those are the facts, and I suggest that they show a much more unfair selection than the hon. Gentleman said applied to grammar schools.
§ Mr. Radice
Is the hon. Gentleman advocating that the Conservative party should adopt a different housing policy?
§ Mr. Pawsey
That remark is unworthy of the hon. Gentleman. We have heard better arguments from him, and we even heard better arguments than that during his opening speech.
The hon. Gentleman also said that the Bill represented a last-ditch defence. It does not, but it may well be an opportunity for second thoughts. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the improvement in O and A-level results, but he did not mention the massive and dramatic increase in the funding of education during the past 20 years. He might wish to consider that the increase in funds made available to education and the improvement in pupil-teacher ratios had some bearing on the improvement in standards. Another reason why A-level results are now so much better is that we take into account the fact that the independent sector scores many A-level successes. The hon. Gentleman cannot say that the comprehensive sector should take all the credit for the additional A-level successes.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)
The hon. Gentleman has concluded his argument in favour of grammar schools. What proportion of children does he believe should go to grammar schools and what proportion to secondary modern schools? In the old system there were great variations. If he is asking us to return to the old system, he should tell us whether he believes that the proportion should be 15 per cent., 20 per cent., 25 per cent. or 30 per cent.
§ Mr. Pawsey
I have not argued so far, although I shall try to get on to it in a moment, the case for grammar schools. However, I shall not dodge the question. The 185 proportion should be about 20 per cent. to 25 per cent., but I appreciate that many people have different opinions about it.
It is significant that philosophies as different as those found in the United States and in the Soviet Union operate selective education. Each country tries to get its brightest children into special schools. The United Kingdom operates a similar policy, with selective schools for our brightest musicians and for those involved in physical education. Selective schools are not such a novel idea as Opposition Members would have us believe.
§ Mr. Pawsey
I have given way a great deal, and I wish now to get on with my speech.
A fundamental principle of the Bill is that it creates funds that can be used for experimental purposes. New clause 1, as it is drafted, would preclude one part of the current state education system from taking part in those experiments. The Opposition are being unduly vindictive and are allowing their spite and prejudice to show.
The Education Act 1976 sought to remove choice from local education authorities and parents, but one of the Conservation Government's first acts when they came to office was to repeal that Act. It is interesting that the hon. Member for Durham, North referred to parental choice, but if the Opposition truly believe in parental choice why do they not support the present education system with the choice that currently exists—the choice that allows local education authorities to decide the system which best suits their locality? Why should educational specific grants not be used to aid children in grammar schools? They are part of society in precisely the same way as are the children who attend comprehensive schools. They are part of the state education system, and it is vindictive to try to exclude them. The hon. Gentleman will recall that the parents of children attending grammar schools pay rates and taxes just as do the parents of children who attend comprehensive schools. Their children are taking advantage of a system that still permits some parental preference. Why should they be singled out for discrimination in new clause 1? Why should they be discriminated against in the way argued by the hon. Gentleman? Why can they not be part of the new scheme, which will allow grammar schools to receive funds from the system?
The reason why Opposition Members argue as they do is not based on educational grounds but on ideology, and nothing that they say will persuade the House otherwise.
§ Mr. Pawsey
I am arguing from personal experience. Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I have personal experience of the state sector because I was educated in it.
§ Mr. Pawsey
In elementary school and in technical school. The hon. Gentleman has chosen the wrong man to argue with. I went to an elementary school and to a technical school, and my six sons were educated in the 186 state sector. I did not opt out, and I probably know better than does any other hon. Member exactly what the state sector is about. It is significant that my children and I were educated in that sector, and I shall not listen to the hon. Gentleman's strictures on the matter.
§ Mr. Radice
I assume from the hon. Gentleman's remarks that all his children went to comprehensive schools—
§ Mr. Radice
I assume that six of his children went to comprehensive schools and that they were successful, so what is the hon. Gentleman worrying about?
§ Mr. Pawsey
I must not follow hon. Members down the road which they are signposting. My constituency of Rugby is in Warwickshire, which has maintained grammar schools, and five of my sons went to grammar schools. My sixth son did not, but he is not regarded— as the hon Member for Durham, North sought to imply during his speech — as a failure. Children who do not attend selective schools are not failures, and I should be grateful if Opposition Members would get that into their heads.
I do not understand why the Opposition believe that the only good secondary school is a comprehensive school. That is clearly not the case. In this debate we should discuss ways of improving education, and I am convinced that the Bill, by allowing some experimentation, will assist education generally. It is significant that we had to introduce the technical initiative using funds provided by the Manpower Services Commission. If this Bill required any justification, there it is; it is ridiculous that the Department of Education and Science and the local education authorities have the schools, but only the MSC has the money. The Secretary of State had no powers to provide such a facility.
For that reason, if for no other, the House should support the Bill. I hope that some Labour Members will retain open minds and might be persuaded, even now, to vote for the Bill.
§ Mr. Michael Stern (Bristol, North-West)
I rise to make a brief contribution because I was particularly struck by the claim of the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) that the policy adopted by his party, of abolishing the assisted places scheme, was a policy free of political bigotry. If, after the millenium the hon. Gentleman's party was given the opportunity to introduce its policy, it would act drastically to reduce or eliminate the only opportunity of choice for many children who otherwise would be at the direction of the local authority as to their choice of schooling. If that was not a policy of bigotry, I could describe it only as a policy of another word with the same meaning.
The assisted places scheme, which both Labour and Liberal Members take delight in attacking, gives wider opportunity in education for the children of less well-off parents. I find it difficult to comprehend why such an honest and sincere aim can prove to be so difficult to swallow for Opposition Members. In 1982, 228 schools participated in this scheme and 4,400 pupils took up places 187 under it. Some 64 per cent. of the places taken up under the scheme went to the children of families whose income was less than £150 a week.
§ Mr. Freud
Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman. The reason why we take exception to the scheme is not that able children are sent to good schools but that they are sent to good independent schools. The debate has argued that there are good schools in the public sector. We mind that the assisted places scheme is confined to the private sector.
§ Mr. Stern
The hon. Gentleman, while seeking to give an explanation, betrayed his cause because he used the word "sent". The point of assisted places scheme is that children are not sent but are given the opportunity to go.
I can illustrate my point by saying that the vast majority of places on the scheme go to children of families of below average income.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
How many families who receive supplementary benefit gain from the scheme? The hon. Gentleman will find that few of those who are on really low incomes do so.
§ Mr. Stern
I shall not argue with the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) about the definition of low income. The Conservative Party would not be claiming the universality of compassion if we said, by the definition that I just used, that below two thirds of average income could be defined as low income.
As an illustration of the pupils and the families at whom the scheme is aimed, I quote an incident in the city that I have the honour to represent. The daughter of a herdsman outside the city achieved a place at one of the central city schools. She would not have achieved that had it not been for the scheme. She is enjoying the benefits of education that would have been impossible for her without the scheme.
It is unfortunate that in other areas the dictatorial attitudes of local authorities are designed to frustrate the workings of the scheme. There are many counties and education authorities whose attitude to the scheme is to take every opportunity to stop parents from exercising their choice under it. As the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West I am ashamed to say that the county of Avon is among the authorities that so frustrate the initiatives of parents and the desires of pupils. However, I am delighted to be able to say that I came here immediately after a spell on the education committee of the London borough of Ealing, with which my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) is acquainted. There we took the attitude that if parents and children decided to exercise their options under the scheme, it was none of our business. I suggest to Labour Members who seek to take away opportunities from people who desperately want them that they could follow the same attitude.
§ Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)
Various hon. Members have described the Bill as a nasty little Bill. I feel that I must rise to do my bit to rebut some of the pernicious nonsense from such hon. Members. We have heard from the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), a gentleman who admits that he has been educated at a grammar school, which gave him an opportunity similar to that given to me, to aspire to this august place. However, he wants to kick the ladder away, as do other members of his party.
I remind the hon. Gentleman of something that I saw reported on BBC television two or three years ago—that 188 in his city of Sheffield, events such as those described by my hon. Friend the Minister are taking place. People buy the more expensive houses to move themselves into the area where the better comprehensive schools are. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman would wish to try to deny that, but that was the situation two or three years ago. It will happen in more and more places as time goes on.
The most glaring examples of hypocrisy are corning from the Opposition Benches, from two who have attacked the assisted places scheme. One such, the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud), was according to the book, educated at Dartington Hall and St. Paul's. The hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) told us on Second Reading that he was educated at Winchester and Magdalen college, Oxford. What has happened to them along the way? I ask myself whether they, in the dormitory when they were little boys, cuddled their stuffed bloodhounds and said to themselves, "Oh we do hate this place and when we are grown men we must campaign in the Houses of Parliament to stop other people going along this pernicious road of success. We must make sure that they go somewhere else. We must kick away the ladders that our wealthy parents have given us and which the assisted places scheme gives to others."
My hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security said when he was Under-Secretary of State for Education that the aim of the scheme wasto widen the educational opportunities available to children from financially less well-off homes by helping with the cost of tuition fees where parents cannot afford the full or the partial cost."—[Official Report, 9 February 1983; Vol. 36, c. 1093.]That is a laudable aim. We must ask in the debate, as Opposition Members choose to open the discussion up, whether my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State intends to channel money from the Bill for this purpose. We are told that the Government wish to take away money from the assisted places scheme. Has the scheme been a success story? The answer must be yes.
In September 1982, we heard that 4,400 pupils had taken up assisted places at schools in England, and that two thirds of that intake had spent at least the two previous years in maintained schools. About four out of 10 of the new assisted places pupils came from families whose income was below two thirds of the average family income in this country. May I point out to the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish that that figure is well known. Another one third came from homes where the income was less than the average family income.
I shall give examples of children going to schools with the help of the assisted places scheme. Let me quote again my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North. He said on 9 February this year:One example is Mark, a West Indian boy from Lichfield who gained an assisted place in 1981. His single parent mother is a shop assistant and does not have to pay anything towards his fees … Her child is having an opportunity that he would not have otherwise.He gave another example:Martin from Wolverhampton is benefiting also. His father, a bus driver, wishes some of his other six children could have had the same opportunity." — [Official Report, 9 February 1983; Vol. 36, c. 1095.]Those are the kind of examples that I give Opposition Members. I wonder whether they would like to face the parents and repeat some of the things that they have said today.
189 Let us move to 1983. An increased number of assisted places have been granted. Now, 13,000 children in England participate in the scheme. The cost has been budgeted at £16.5 million for the financial year 1983–84. A similar percentage come from families whose income is below two thirds of the average family income, and a similar percentage from homes where the income is less than the average family income.
Perhaps the crucial aspect of the scheme is that the major beneficiaries of the scheme are single parent families and unemployed people—the very people that this Conservative Government seek to help through this scheme. Woe betide Opposition Members who seek to criticise that help.
In cases where the relevant parental income is less than £5,616, it is encouraging to know that the scheme is fulfilling the original objectives of its supporters. Incidentally, one group that is profiting from this scheme is the children of ministers of religion.
I do not understand why Opposition Members seek to criticise the scheme so energetically, unless it is through spite or, as I suggested at the beginning of my comments, through hypocrisy. According to a MORI poll conducted in January of this year, no fewer than 62 per cent. of the public approve of the scheme. Opposition Members should bear that in mind before they face the electorate again. It is perhaps because of their opposition to well thoughtout schemes such a as this from the Conservative Government that they suffered such a trouncing in the June election.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Bob Dunn)
I am delighted to respond to the debate, because it has enabled us to elicit certain information from the Opposition parties about their attitudes to the private sector. It is well known that the Labour party, if in government, would abolish the private sector, and take away funding for pupils at assisted places schools. That would cause monumental disruption for those children and be pernicious in the extreme. The Liberal party, on the other hand, would stop any advances and would phase out the money under the assisted places scheme until the scheme did not exist.
The difference between the two parties is simple. The Labour party would abolish and kill immediately, while the Liberal party would go in for a process of slow strangulation. In both cases, the private sector would be a corpse in the end. As my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey) said, it is no surprise that they are on the Opposition Benches and that we are on the Government Benches.
In considering the intentions behind these two ill-conceived new clauses, I am reminded of Dr. Johnson's comments about Rousseau and Voltaire. I might say about these two new clauses, as he said:It is difficult to apportion the degree of iniquity between them".The two new clauses reveal the true views of the Opposition parties on parental choice and educational opportunities. I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends will join me in soundly defeating them this evening.
I remind Opposition Members that it is not immoral, illegal or wrong for an authority to have a selective system 190 of secondary education. It is for local education authorities to take a view on the form and pattern of secondary education that is best suited to local circumstances and parents' preferences. If LEAs wish to propose any of the steps set out in sections 12 to 15 of the Education Act 1980, they must publish proposals and go through the relevant statutory procedures, and, subject to certain exceptions, those proposals are decided by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State. In other words, the LEA proposes and my right hon. Friend decides. His is a purely reactive role.
We on the Government Benches fully appreciate that the Labour Government deprived LEAs of that freedom in their 1976 Act. We restored it. We believed, as we believe now, that there should be variety in the provision that is made for secondary education, in accordance with local circumstances and parents' wishes. Local education authorities are free once more to consider patterns of school organisation that include grammar schools. I have done no more than remind them that they again have that freedom, thanks to the election of a Conservative Government in 1979. If an authority publishes proposals to reintroduce grammar schools, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will decide those proposals on their merits and in the interests of all the children concerned.
The Government's record shows that we look at proposals on their individual merits. Since 1979 we have approved 22 sets of proposals to end selection, one to establish a grammar school and five to amalgamate grammar schools. As for rejections, six were to end selection, two were for new grammar schools, and one was for an amalgamation. In Committee I confirmed that the use of education support grants to set up new grammar schools was not in the list of possible uses for those grants. My right hon. Friend will shortly discuss the list with representatives of the AMA and the ACC.
New clause 1 concerns something different and more pernicious. It is meant to prevent local education authorities from using education support grants for any purpose whatever in selective schools, be it improvements in mathematics or for any of the items on the shopping list that we intend to create. This is an attack on the discretion of LEAs, and it should be rejected on that ground.
Before I come to new clause 2, I shall have a little curtain-raiser. We heard a great deal from the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud). Indeed, I think he still believes that the Lib-Lab pact is rosy and kind and will benefit the British people. In 1976, the hon. Gentleman was a member of the Standing Committee that considered the Labour Government's Education Bill. The hon. Gentleman, who then represented Isle of Ely, was the Liberal party's education spokesman. He was, therefore, theoretically in opposition.
In Committee there were 68 Divisions, one of which was on the sittings motion, when the hon. Gentleman voted with the Conservative Opposition. There were a further 12 occasions when he voted in Committee. On two occasions he voted with the Conservative Opposition and on 10 he voted with the Labour Government. On 55 occasions, when further Divisions were called, he did not vote. If silence is consent, the hon. Gentleman consented with all the vigour that he could muster to the 1976 Bill.
The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East is against choice. The Liberal party is as opposed to choice as the Labour party. That was clear in Committee in 1976 191 during the Lib-Lab pact, which ended in a lovers' tiff. We saw the pact operating in Committee when it was in full flow.
New clause 2, which was introduced by the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East seeks to transfer resources that have been allocated to the assisted places scheme to the new education support grants.
§ Mr. Dunn
I have chosen to answer the hon. Gentleman's question. If the hon. Gentleman does not like my answer, he can lump it. The assisted places scheme is now well established, and, is an accepted part of education provision. There is no question of the schemes being wound up in the way that has been suggested during the debate.
§ Mr. Flannery
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I asked a straightforward question about children who failed the 11-plus examination. The Minister said that he would answer the question but he has moved to another subject.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
It is not unusual in this place for hon. Members to be displeased by the answers that they receive from Ministers. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) has not raised a point of order.
§ Mr. Dunn
I am grateful for your protection, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The assisted places scheme has been successful in widening the educational opportunities open to children from less well-off families. It has enabled them to enjoy the best of the secondary education that is provided in good independent schools. After three years' intakes, about 13,000 children in England are benefiting from the scheme. As the scheme becomes fully implemented, with children progressing right through the schools, the total number will grow to nearly 40,000. That will represent not very far short of 15 per cent. of all pupils of secondary age in independent schools. Moreover, the 223 schools that are in the scheme are among the very best in the country. We are opening up, typically, a third of the places in those schools to pupils from low income families who are selected on merit alone.
If Opposition Members had their way, independent schools would have to close their doors to thousands of deserving children whose parents could not afford the fees. Let there be no mistake about that. The assistance that we give is much concentrated on those who most need it. The income scale is a steep one and it is aimed precisely to 192 achieve the end to which I have just referred. The House will be aware that 70 per cent. of the places provided by the scheme go to children from families whose incomes are below the average and that 40 per cent. of the places go to pupils families' whose income is low. In the latter instance, the families obtain full fee remission.
The returns that we have received suggest that a high proportion of the children assisted come from broken homes. Many others have parents who are unemployed through redundancy, sickness or disablement, or because they have retired. I am not referring solely to middle-class parents who have fallen on hard times. The parents of the children who are assisted do not show the bias of Labour Members. They include a high proportion of manual workers, such as bus drivers, railway signalmen and miners. Many parents who fall within low-paid categories have children who are assisted by the scheme. The Government are committed to widening opportunities and choice and the assisted places scheme is a fine example of that commitment.
The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East, as I have said, is the Liberal party's education spokesman. I am glad that he is so well supported by his hon. Friends. Apart from the hon. Gentleman, the Liberal Bench is conspicuously empty. I have two observations to make about his party. To try to define Liberal party education policy is rather like trying to strangle a jelly. It is impossible to know where the hon. Gentleman stands and impossible to know where his party stands.
§ Mr. Dunn
I shall give way in my own time. I remind those who served in Committee that there was one occasion when the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East had to pray in aid a Labour party document. That must have given the Labour party a great deal of moral support.
If the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East continues to drive down the middle of the road, he will collide, sooner or later, with a bollard. The Government look forward to the hon. Gentleman's continued support of Socialist policies because there is no doubt, however benign the hon. Gentleman may be, that in truth he is a Socialist. We must have no doubts about that. I must advise my right hon. Friends to reject the clauses.
§ Mr. Radice
The Opposition are against the Bill partly because it takes away local authority money to spend on purposes which cause us concern. We tabled new clause 1 because the Minister continues to make speeches during weekends in favour of selection and grammar schools. We were rightly concerned about the way in which local government money would be used.
We have argued during the debate—I believe rightly — that the old system, which included the 11-plus examination, was unfair. It was a selective system in which the majority of children failed the 11-plus and went to secondary modern schools. We have argued that. it was wasteful and we prayed in aid the reports which were 193 commissioned by Conservative Governments, including the Crowther, Newsom and Robbins reports. Those reports stated that there was a great waste of human potential under the old selective system. We have said also that it was a divisive system socially.
It is true that there are not many grammar schools left. Under the Conservative Administration their number has been reduced by a quarter. We did not hear about that from the Minister but I congratulate him on his Government's record. It is a proud record, and the Minister in a benign way is helping the spread of the comprehensives. I am also glad that he will not use this money to support the setting up of new grammar schools. We managed to tease that out of him. He was reticent about it in Committee. I made that point, and the Minister just nodded his head. However, this time he has actually announced his intention, and it is a move forward for which I thank him.
There are problems with the comprehensive system of education. There are problems with schools, and external problems associated with mass unemployment and inequality of opportunity. It was interesting to hear the arguments of Conservative Members about the problem of the neighbourhood comprehensive and the comprehensives in the richer areas. Parents buy houses in those areas because they want their children to go to better schools. It was interesting that Conservative Members should use that argument, because schools in themselves cannot make a great difference, if there is already an inequality of housing.
The Secretary of State and I have argued and will continue to argue about spending cuts. There is also a problem of falling rolls. However, such matters are external to the education system. Schools also face the internal problems of devising exams and curricula that are suitable for all children. We shall return to discussing those problems.
The Under-Secretary referred to ILEA banding. The ILEA banded to create genuine comprehensives with a broad range of ability in each school. My children went through that system, and it seems to be a fair system. The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) talked about the difficulty under the selective system of students not being able to move from one school to another. He argued that children could move, while I said that they could not. There is a considerable amount of mixed ability teaching in the comprehensive system. Where there is streaming, there is movement between streams. The hon. Gentleman was less than fair in his arguments on that point.
§ Mr. Greenway
That is the crucial point. If there is streaming, there can be movement between one stream and another, depending on a child's improved performance. My point was that in too many comprehensive schools there is only mixed ability teaching. By definition, that means that there is no movement between one band and another because there is no streaming or setting.
§ Mr. Radice
The hon. Gentleman has great experience of education, and he knows that the examination system sets a limit to any mixed ability teaching. There is never mixed ability teaching after the third year. I think that the hon. Gentleman will accept that point.
§ Mr. Greenway
I do not wish to take up the hon. Gentleman's time. I seek only to pursue an important educational argument. There are comprehensive schools —I am not moving away from my commitment to them — in which children are allowed to sit not O-level exams, but only the CSE examination. There is mixed ability teaching in those schools through to the fifth year. That is undeniable and I can take the hon. Gentleman to such schools.
§ Mr. Radice
The hon. Gentleman and I can discuss that issue. Perhaps he will name those schools and we can discuss them afterwards. I believe that all children ought to be able to take the exams that they want to sit. That is one reason why an early decision should be taken on amalgamating the O-level and CSE exams. So far the Secretary of State has declined to take that decision.
§ Mr. Radice
There should be as little streaming and setting as possible under the present examination system. That is my off-the-cuff definition. Perhaps we can discuss that matter later.
§ Mr. Flannery
Does my hon. Friend agree with my earlier statement that the comprehensive school is not a finished item on the education agenda, and that within different comprehensive schools — although we are accused of not experimenting — there are differing opinions? There is nothing wrong in that. In time, certain sections will overcome others. I am against streaming. I may be defeated, but there is an honourable conflict of opinion on this matter which is as yet far from being concluded.
§ Mr. Radice
I thank my hon. Friend for his definition of the problem, and I am sure that it is right.
The comprehensives have been a success——
§ Mr. Radice
I have given way four times, and I think that it would be wrong to give way again. We must try to conclude the debate, as there is other business to discuss.
§ Mr. Radice
I have given way twice to the hon. Gentleman, and I shall not give way any more. We can discuss this matter later.
The comprehensives have been a success. The Secretary of State and I agree that during the past decade A-level results in the maintained sector have marginally improved. They have certainly not worsened, as the prophesiers of doom said. The O-level results have also improved considerably.
The results among the less academic groupings are far better than they have ever been. There are other advantages to which my hon. Friends have referred, such as the enriched curriculum and the social advantages that the comprehensive school has over the old system. It is time that we forgot about grammar schools and the selective system—this red herring of selection which the Under-Secretary keeps raising in his weekend speeches 195 —and improved the education system for the country as a whole. We need to do that, and I urge my hon. Friends to vote for our new clause, and that tabled by the alliance.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) has no right to address the House again.
§ Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 152, Noes 238.197
|Division No. 88]||[6 pm|
|Alton, David||Godman, Dr Norman|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Golding, John|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Gould, Bryan|
|Barnett, Guy||Gourlay, Harry|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)|
|Beith, A. J.||Hardy, Peter|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Haynes, Frank|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Blair, Anthony||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Boyes, Roland||Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Home Robertson, John|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Howells, Geraint|
|Caborn, Richard||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Hughes, Roy (Newport East)|
|Campbell, Ian||Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Cartwright, John||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Clarke, Thomas||Kirkwood, Archibald|
|Clay, Robert||Lambie, David|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)||Lamond, James|
|Cohen, Harry||Leighton, Ronald|
|Coleman, Donald||Lewis, Terence (Worsley)|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Corbett, Robin||McCartney, Hugh|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Cowans, Harry||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Craigen, J. M.||Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|Crowther, Stan||Madden, Max|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Marek, Dr John|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Martin, Michael|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)||Maxton, John|
|Deakins, Eric||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Dewar, Donald||Meacher, Michael|
|Dixon, Donald||Meadowcroft, Michael|
|Dormand, Jack||Michie, William|
|Douglas, Dick||Mikardo, Ian|
|Dubs, Alfred||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Eastham, Ken||Nellist, David|
|Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n SE)||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Ellis, Raymond||Brien, William|
|Evans, loan (Cynon Valley)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Ewing, Harry||Park, George|
|Fatchett, Derek||Patchett, Terry|
|Faulds, Andrew||Penhaiigon, David|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Pike, Peter|
|Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Fisher, Mark||Prescott, John|
|Flannery, Martin||Radice, Giles|
|Forrester, John||Randall, Stuart|
|Foster, Derek||Redmond, M.|
|Freud, Clement||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Robertson, George||Soley, Clive|
|Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Rogers, Allan||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Rooker, J. W.||Stott, Roger|
|Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Sheerman, Barry||Wainwright, R.|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon R.||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)||Wareing, Robert|
|Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)||Winnick, David|
|Silkin, Rt Hon J.||Woodall, Alec|
|Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||Mr. James Hamilton and Mr. John McWilliam.|
|Adley, Robert||Favell, Anthony|
|Alexander, Richard||Fenner, Mrs Peggy|
|Amess, David||Finsberg, Geoffrey|
|Arnold, Tom||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Ashby, David||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Fox, Marcus|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Franks, Cecil|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Fraser, Peter (Angus East)|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Freeman, Roger|
|Baldry, Anthony||Fry, Peter|
|Batiste, Spencer||Gale, Roger|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Galley, Roy|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Benyon, William||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Berry, Sir Anthony||Gow, Ian|
|Best, Keith||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Grant, Sir Anthony|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Greenway, Harry|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Gregory, Conal|
|Body, Richard||Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)|
|Bottomley, Peter||Ground, Patrick|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)||Grylls, Michael|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Gummer, John Selwyn|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Bright, Graham||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Brinton, Tim||Hannam, John|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Hargreaves, Kenneth|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Hawkins, C. (High Peak)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)|
|Budgen, Nick||Hawksley, Warren|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Hayes, J.|
|Burt, Alistair||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Butterfill, John||Hayward, Robert|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Carttiss, Michael||Heddle, John|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Henderson, Barry|
|Chapman, Sydney||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Chope, Christopher||Hill, James|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)||Hirst, Michael|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)|
|Clarke Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Holt, Richard|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Hooson, Tom|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hordern, Peter|
|Colvin, Michael||Howard, Michael|
|Conway, Derek||Howarth, Aian (Stratf'd-on-A)|
|Cope, John||Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)|
|Couchman, James||Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)|
|Dicks, T.||Hubbard-Miles, Peter|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Hunter, Andrew|
|Dunn, Robert||Jessel, Toby|
|Durant, Tony||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Jones, Robert (W Herts)|
|Eggar, Tim||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Key, Robert|
|Evennett, David||King, Roger (B'ham N'field)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Knight, Gregory (Derby N)|
|Fallon, Michael||Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Knowles, Michael||Pollock, Alexander|
|Knox, David||Porter, Barry|
|Lang, Ian||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Lawler, Geoffrey||Powley, John|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)||Raffan, Keith|
|Lightbown, David||Rathbone, Tim|
|Lilley, Peter||Renton, Tim|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant)||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Lord, Michael||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|McCrindle, Robert||Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|McCurley, Mrs Anna||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Silvester, Fred|
|McQuarrie, Albert||Sims, Roger|
|Madel, David||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Major, John||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Malins, Humfrey||Spence, John|
|Malone, Gerald||Spencer, D.|
|Maples, John||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Marland, Paul||Steen, Anthony|
|Marlow, Antony||Stern, Michael|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|Mates, Michael||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Mather, Carol||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Maude, Francis||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Mellor, David||Terlezki, Stefan|
|Merchant, Piers||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Moate, Roger||Thurnham, Peter|
|Moore, John||Tracey, Richard|
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Moynihan, Hon C.||Walden, George|
|Mudd, David||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Murphy, Christopher||Ward, John|
|Neale, Gerrard||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Needham, Richard||Warren, Kenneth|
|Neubert, Michael||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Wheeler, John|
|Norris, Steven||Whitney, Raymond|
|Onslow, Cranley||Wilkinson, John|
|Oppenheim, Philip||Wood, Timothy|
|Osborn, Sir John||Yeo, Tim|
|Ottaway, Richard||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Page, Richard (Herts SW)||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Pawsey, James||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and Mr. David Hunt.|
|Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
§ Question accordingly negatived.