HC Deb 23 July 1985 vol 83 cc847-8
1. Mrs. Currie

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science, pursuant to his answer of 21 February, Official Report, column 533, if he will specify the compelling educational considerations which would lead him to decide against the retention of a good school's sixth form.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Bob Dunn)

The compelling considerations are likely to include the impact of falling rolls on all schools in the area and the opportunities, including alternative provision, available to the local education authority in order to provide an effective range of educational opportunities for those of secondary school age.

Mrs. Currie

Does my hon. Friend agree that the sixth forms of our good state schools provide the best education in the country? Will he confirm that the restructuring proposals available to the teachers' unions include elements that will allow recognition of the skills and talents of the staff that make those sixth forms the best?

Mr. Dunn

I am sure that my hon. Friend is right in the general thrust of her comments. It is our intention to seek to retain all that is good at all levels of educational provision in this country. Our policies and results are in stark contrast to those of the Socialist parties on the Opposition side, which would abolish the grammar schools, the assisted places scheme and the independent schools and would seek to abolish the voluntary controlled schools and do a great deal more damage of an extremist type.

Mr. Lilley

Is my hon. Friend aware that all three opposition parties on Hertfordshire county council, which collectively have a majority of seats, propose to abolish sixth forms in our state schools and replace them with separate colleges? Is he aware that the proposal is causing grave alarm among parents, pupils and teachers? Will my hon. Friend give me an assurance that if any such proposals are put to him he will veto them?

Mr. Dunn

The legal position of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State does not permit me to give such an undertaking. However, I assure my hon. Friend that it is for Hertfordshire county council to review school provision and to make such proposals as are necessary, and they will be very carefully considered by my right hon. Friend if they should come before him.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Does the Minister accept that we must balance the need for a wide curriculum at A-level, which may necessitate the provision of tertiary colleges, with the need to maintain community schools? Will he, therefore, reject the one-sided and narrow advice of the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Lilley)?

Mr. Dunn

The hon. Gentleman falls into the category of a Socialist in education. He wishes to impose one model of provision on all local education authorities.

Mr. Meadowcroft

I said the opposite of that.

Mr. Dunn

The hon. Gentleman did not. He implied that a comprehensive system with a tertiary college was by far the best. I say that that is not the case.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Andrew Bennett, question No. 2.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think that it has been agreed that we should take this question at the end. Is that correct?

Mr. Speaker

If the Secretary of State says so.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Sir Keith Joseph)

I understood that that arrangement was made with your agreement, Mr. Speaker.