HC Deb 11 February 1999 vol 325 c458
11. Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon)

If he will make a statement on the admissions policy of Mill Hill county high school. [68882]

The Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mr. David Blunkett)

Mill Hill county high school has a substantial partial selection policy, with the usual admissions implications for parents in the area, and for other schools there. The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 and the statutory code give parents the ability—like admissions authorities in the LEA area—to call on the adjudicator to make a judgment about the impact of those selective policies and the way in which they distort the real choice and preference of parents in the area.

Mr. Dismore

Is my right hon. Friend aware of a real sense of outrage felt by many parents in my constituency at the fact that 45 per cent. of places at the school will be allocated by aptitude, with the bulk of the remainder going to siblings? Only 10 of the 210 places at the school are reserved for local kids. My right hon. Friend will understand why one parent has written to me, saying: The implication is that local children are not worthy of a place at this school. What hope can he offer the many parents who live close to the school that their children will not have to travel many miles every day because of the elitist aspirations of the school's governors, which discriminate against local kids?

Mr. Blunkett

I understand both the concern expressed by parents and the understandable outrage displayed by my hon. Friend. Forty five per cent. of places depend on selection, not aptitude—

Mr. David Willetts (Havant)

What is the difference?

Mr. Blunkett

The difference was invented by the previous Government and the previous Secretary of State. Perhaps the House can tell why I am so keen to ensure that history stays in the national curriculum. On the Opposition Benches, amnesia is matched by a lack of literacy and numeracy.

The code and the 1998 act will deal with partial selection. We shall respond through adjudicators to the outrage to parents' feelings that my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) has described. We shall ensure that all children have proper access to a decent education.