§ 12. Mr. Patrick Thompson
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received in favour of bringing his proposals for educational reform in Scotland into line with England.
§ Mr. Michael Forsyth
My right hon. and learned Friend has no such proposals. Our education policy throughout the United Kingdom is geared to ensuring greater parental involvement in the management of schools, an extension of parental choice, and the pursuit of excellence. This is in the best traditions of the Scottish education system.
§ Mr. Thompson
Bearing in mind the evidence of strong support in Scotland for the education reforms being carried through by the Government, will my hon. Friend confirm that there already is in Scotland a majority of parents on school boards, making nonsense of Opposition claims that in some way Scotland is following England? Quite the reverse is the case.
§ Mr. Forsyth
My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the parental majority on school boards in Scotland, which contrasts with the position in England. It is a bit rich that the Educational Institute of Scotland complains in Scotland that our proposals for reform represent Anglicisation, while at the same time it comes to London to the other place to claim that Scotland is being unfairly treated because there is a majority of parents provided for in the School Boards (Scotland) Bill and urging the other place to reject those proposals to bring Scotland into line with England. The cry in Scotland appears to be Anglicisation, and in London that Scotland is being prevented from having a separate system. My hon. Friend points to the evidence of considerable support for our proposals, and he is right to do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "What evidence?"] Those hon. Members who say, "What evidence?" should have a word with their constituents
§ Mr. McAllion
Does the Minister agree that, through the ballot box and the Government's consultation process, the people of Scotland plainly rejected his plans for introducing school boards and provisions to opt out of local authority education? How does he justify introducing those wide-ranging changes in Scottish education—a specifically Scottish institution—without first seeking to gain the consent of the Scottish people?
§ Mr. Forsyth
I do not accept that the majority in Scotland are opposed to the school boards proposals. I believe that they will be welcome. Let me draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to what the leader of Strathclyde's education committee, Convener Malcolm Green, said the other day. In response to our opting-out proposals—[Interruption.] In response to my right hon. and learned Friend's hint that he might be considering opting out, he said:It is now in our interest to redouble our efforts to create a good climate so that school boards realise the real value of the service they get from the authority and what they would miss if they do not have the authority to call upon.Even the threat of opting out seems to produce benefits for parents in Scotland.