HL Deb 24 July 1979 vol 401 cc1822-39

3.31 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Report be now received.

Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Baroness Young.)

On Question, Motion agreed to: Report received.

Baroness DAVID moved the Amendment: After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:


. Those local authorities to whom sections 1, 2 and 3 of the Education Act 1976 applied in whole or in part prior to their repeal by this Act shall have the duty of ensuring that pupils can transfer easily from secondary modern schools to grammar schools and of publishing annually information for parents and teachers detailing the methods and costs of transfer from one type of secondary school to another.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, there was a good deal of sympathy for the new clause on transfer that I moved last Thursday. This sympathy, and the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, that a clause declaring a general duty of LEAs to facilitate transfer and to provide information to parents and teachers might be acceptable, have caused us to come forward with this new clause.

The noble Baroness the Minister, in rejecting the clause that we put forward in Committee last week, said: …were we to put into a Bill a requirement like this, we should be disturbing the balance between central and local government". And, again, because it would go fundamentally against this important but rather delicate relationship between central and local government in education … I cannot accept this Amendment ".—[Official Report, 19/7/79; cols. 1560–61.] I hope that our new clause will be acceptable to the Minister, as it interferes not at all with the relationship between central and local government. It asks simply for transfer to be made easy.

I have some sympathy with the attitude of my noble friend Lady Bacon, who thinks that any tinkering with a bad scheme is not helpful. But I feel that individual children may suffer badly in areas that are continuing with the selective system, and that great injustice may be done to them. They will not have the opportunities that they should have. This new clause asks for information to be freely available to parents and teachers, and everybody in the local community, and this I understand to be very much a tenet of the Government at this moment. So I hope that the House will be able to support the new clause as it now stands. My Lords, I beg to move.

3.33 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I have every sympathy with the wish of the noble Baroness, Lady David, to facilitate the transfer of pupils from secondary modern schools to grammar schools during their school career, where this would be right, and to ensure that full information about the admission arrangements to secondary schools is published. I think, however, that it would only be right for me to explain at the outset that this new clause is not germane to the Bill, because the sole purpose of the Bill is to restore to local education authorities and to governors of voluntary schools, where appropriate, their right to initiate proposals relating to secondary school organisation, and to repeal the powers of the Secretary of State to require such proposals under duress.

Section 8 of the 1944 Education Act already provides that it is the duty of every local education authority to secure that there shall be available for their area sufficient schools for providing secondary education that is suitable to the requirements of senior pupils. In order to be sufficient in the terms of that section, the authority must provide, … for all pupils opportunities for education offering such variety of instruction and training as may be desirable in view of their different ages, abilities, and aptitudes". It is on this statutory basis that authorities have provided opportunities for transfer from secondary modern to grammar schools, where they still exist.

The details of such arrangements have always been a matter for local education authorities to determine in consultation with the schools in their area. They have many years of experience in these matters, and I see no justification for introducing a further statutory requirement. So that, so far as the first part of this amendment is concerned, local education authorities already have the power to do what the amendment is asking. Pupils can transfer from one school to another, and we see no need to replace this with a further duty on local education authorities.

So far as the second half of the amendment is concerned, I share the view—and I am sure that this is one which is held by other Members of your Lordships' House—that much more information about schools and their admission arrangements should be published. I hope the noble Baroness will accept that when we said in the gracious Speech that we would introduce legislation to ensure that, parents' wishes are taken into account in the choice of schools for their children and that there is a local appeals system", it is our intention to introduce this legislation in our second Education Bill, which we hope to introduce in the autumn. That being so, we believe that the second part of this amendment will be met in subsequent legislation.

I think, therefore, that a clause about information for parents would be far more appropriate in the later Education Bill, because that Bill will also make provisions covering admissions to all schools and not just transfer between secondary schools. We shall also have an opportunity to debate the clauses on school admissions included in the Bill, and it seems to me only logical that a comprehensive provision on the publication of information should be part of whatever clauses are agreed to on school admissions. School admissions and transfer and information are, as it were, two sides of a very important point and one needs to be balanced against the other.

I have carefully noted the points that the noble Baroness and other speakers made when this matter was debated at an earlier stage. I have read them carefully and I shall take note of what has been said this afternoon, so that all this may be borne in mind in the preparation of the second Education Bill. With that assurance, I hope very much that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, I do not think that some of us can really accept either of the points which the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is making. On the first one, about provision for transfer between schools, I admit that there is an arguable case on both sides, though I think that in putting forward this amendment a lot of us had in mind the really appalling difficulties that have been found in the past in seeing that this happened. The noble Baroness spoke rather as if everything went smoothly, and children were transferred when they needed to be. We know from speeches made at the Committee stage that the system does not always work well, and the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, gave us an example of that. Back in the days when there was selection universally, many were the horror stories about the difficulty of getting children changed from one type of school to another, when it was necessary. A very great deal of that has disappeared over the years, because of the comprehensive system. But where that system does not apply, there are still difficulties and there is probably still a need for that to be in the Bill.

But much more important is the second half of the amendment. I entirely take the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that provisions to this effect will be in the second Education Bill which is to be brought forward, and certainly, I, for one, will heartily support them when that happens. But there is a particular point. We are dealing in this amendment with those schools and those education authorities which come under the classification with which this Bill is dealing. These schools will be having problems, making decisions and going through processes during the next few months, and it is not good enough to say that we must wait for an autumn Bill to include this. With regard to these schools, it is now that this is needed. If it were not that I know the noble Baroness, Lady Young, to be as innocent as a dove, I should suspect that the reason for putting off this Amendment is that, if we pass it, it will wreck either the Government's legislative programme or the programme of another place. However, since I know that the noble Baroness would not approach the problem in that light, I find it very difficult to understand why this amendment is opposed. Therefore, I hope very much that it will succeed.

Baroness BACON

My Lords, I must apologise for not being in your Lordships' Chamber when this amendment was moved. However, I was under the impression that there was to be a debate on the Finance Bill and that eight noble Lords were to speak in that debate. That being so, I thought that I had time for a cup of tea before the Report stage of the Education Bill began. It will be remembered that when we discussed the Committee stage of the Bill my name was attached to all of the amendments except the one about transfers. I explained during the Committee stage that this was because it was very difficult to devise any satisfactory method of transfers. I hope that transfers, no matter how easy they become, will not be regarded as an answer to the 11-plus separation which takes place. It was for that reason that I did not put down my name to that amendment. However, this is a rather different amendment from the one which we had before us during the Committee stage.

Although I do not in any way take back anything that I said about this amendment not being an answer to the 11-plus, I feel that I can fully support it because it says that it will be the duty of these local authorities to ensure: that pupils can transfer easily from secondary modern schools to grammar schools…". That is absolutely essential in those few backward and reactionary places where there will still be secondary modern schools and grammar schools.

My experience has always been that it is the number of places available in the grammar schools to which children are proposed to be transferred rather than the ability of the children who are being transferred which is the important factor. However, it is essential that the suitability of the child whom it is proposed to transfer to the grammar school should be considered, rather than whether or not there are enough places in the grammar school.

Although mistakes are made over the 11-plus, I very rarely hear of children being transferred from grammar schools to secondary modern schools. However, I am sure that, with the 11-plus, mistakes are made both ways. Children who should have passed the 11-plus do not pass, and sometimes it would be better if some children, who have gone to grammar schools, were doing different courses. Of course, all courses are provided in comprehensive schools. That is the beauty of the comprehensive school system. I hope that the noble Baroness will accept this amendment, because it asks that transfers should be made easier—and that, I think, is absolutely essential in those places where the 11-plus remains.

Viscount SIMON

My Lords, I added my name to this amendment because I felt that it went a long way towards meeting the objections which were made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, to the amendment which was put down at the Committee stage by the noble Baroness, Lady David. As I understood it, those objections were based on her feeling that, as originally proposed, the amendment was upsetting what she described as the delicate balance between the duties of the local education authority and central Government. It was my noble friend, if I may call him so, Lord Beaumont of Whitley who suggested during the Committee stage that the case might be met by a declaratory clause of this kind.

I would not suggest for a moment that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has changed her ground. However, she has come forward with two objections to this amendment: first, that the first half of it is unnecessary, because it is already provided for, and, secondly, that the second part of it would do better in another Bill. I am sure that there is a great deal to be said for both of those points of view. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, has said, there is clear evidence that transfers have not been easy and that there have been difficulties about these transfers in a number of areas. Therefore, it seems to me that there is no harm whatever in repeating something which, as the noble Baroness rightly says, is already the duty of local education authorities.

As regards the publishing of information, I should be prepared to accept the view that if the Government can give an assurance that they will bring something forward in the next Bill, this can wait. There is not, perhaps, a great deal of value in introducing a new procedure and then having to alter it in some detail within six months or a year. On the other hand, I take the point which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, that when there is this difficulty and that when these problems are going to arise immediately in respect of the local authorities which are covered by this clause—and, indeed, by the Bill as a whole—it is desirable to have something put down. And what is put down is not a detailed arrangement but merely the requirement that local authorities shall publish information annually on the lines suggested here. Therefore, on further consideration I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to accept this amendment. If she is unable to do so, I shall advise my noble friends to support it.


My Lords, I do not want to repeat everything that I said in support of the amendment which was moved by the noble Baroness, Lady David, during the Committee stage. However, I should like to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Young, what connection central Government can have with the transfer of individual children. How can they know whether an individual child in some remote part of the country is or is not suitable for transfer? The only people who can possibly know about that are the local education authority and, more particularly, the school the child is attending and the patents. They are the people who know the facts of the case. Nothing could be farther removed, surely, than central Government. I hope that the noble Baroness will not make hypothetical difficulties over this amendment.


My Lords, could I say two sentences in support of my noble friend's new clause. The first part of it is a vivid illustration of what was beginning to get better under the comprehensive system—as it grew, the need for transfers diminishing —and the new situation where there is an about-turn, even if, for the moment, only quite a small number of local authorities are going in the opposite direction. Although it is for the local authorities to make these decisions, a word from the centre—which has put them into reverse—might indicate that local authorities should observe that there is more reason now than there has been in the past to be very careful about this point.

As regards the second part of the amendment, we on this side of the House accept the good faith of the noble Baroness; namely, that in due course the kind of thing that is visualised here, in the way of information, will be included in the Government's next Bill. Indeed, I remember that during our long discussions over the 1976 Bill the noble Baroness pressed me very hard and that we circulated a very distinguished circular asking, very politely, all local education authorities to give a great deal more information than had ever been given before.

So I do not accuse the noble Baroness of being unsympathetic to this. On the other hand if we manage to keep this Government's Education Bill as long on the stocks as they kept ours, it may be quite a long time before a decision is made about this and, as the noble Viscount, Lord Simon suggested, I think that to put something in broad terms in this Bill, making it certain that that information will be available, not from next March or April but from now, will be a very wise thing. On the whole, I think my noble friend ought to press this amendment.


My Lords, as one of those who was not a signatory to this amendment and in fact saw it only when he came in this afternoon, I have only one point to make and that is very much in line with what the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, had to say in drawing a clear distinction between the two parts of the amendment. I feel quite reassured by what the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has said about the forthcoming Education Bill which will take care of the second part of the amendment. With regard to the first part, I am inclined to support the mover of the amendment, for the reason put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley—namely the time factor.

In speaking on the Second Reading of the Bill, a Bill which I regard as most retrogressive, I made the point that it would increase the inequality of opportunity which is to some extent inevitable in different areas. It would increase it because of the freedom given to local education authorities to devise policies according to their political views. In view of the decision which will be made regarding the movement of children under the terms of this Bill when it becomes an Act this autumn, it is important that it should be enjoined upon local authorities to ensure that these transfers can be made easily. From all I personally know and from what I have heard, these transfers have not been at all easy in some cases in the past. My concern is to limit the inevitable increase in inequality of opportunity which children will suffer under in the decisions to be made at the 11-plus.

Viscount ECCLES

My Lords, like the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, I also was caught out by the speed with which your Lordships discussed the Finance Bill.

A noble Lord

We did not discuss it!

Viscount ECCLES

I apologise for that, my Lords. Transfers have always been difficult, for a variety of reasons. Of course, in the first place, the grammar schools were building up and they did not want to take a number of boys or girls from the secondary modern schools while it was not possible to shed from the grammar schools the corresponding number of children back to the secondary modern schools. Your Lordships will surely know the ways of parents, as well as I do. Parents rarely mind if their child is promoted, but if their child is, as it were, demoted, they object very much, and that was one of the chief reasons why the number of transfers appeared to be unsatisfactorily low.

Of course, another reason was that the good secondary modern schools developed their own syllabus, and that syllabus did not really bring the children to the point where it was very easy to take them into a grammar school because they had been learning different things in different ways.

Baroness BACON

My Lords, will the noble Viscount give way? Is not everything he is saying now the greatest argument that I have heard for a long time in favour of the comprehensive schools?

Viscount ECCLES

My Lords, on previous occasions I have said that if all comprehensive schools were good schools I should be in favour of nothing but comprehensive schools. I am taking the attitude on this Bill that I did on the 1976 Bill, because unfortunately I know that a very large number of comprehensive schools are not as good as the good secondary modern schools and for that reason we have a serious problem.

There was another reason that head teachers used to give me as to why it was difficult to make transfers. It was because all the things like having responsibility at the end of your school life, being in charge of something or looking after other children or, if you like, being captain of some sport, are very good for children and, if they transferred to a grammar school, it would perhaps not be so likely that they would have those lessons in responsibility which they could get if they remained. I think that was the reason why many head teachers did not encourage the transfers, but I am entirely with my noble friend Lady Young: we really want to wait to see the whole of this picture, because transferring between comprehensives will be just as important as transferring between secondary moderns and grammar schools.

Now that it is accepted, as the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, pointed out in his admirable speech on Second Reading, that the large comprehensive school is not viable except in the rarest cases and therefore, because of reasons of management, comprehensives have to be 800 or whatever number may be suitable, transfers between comprehensives will have to be arranged. It is far better that all that should be brought together in a new Bill. I have not seen the draft of the new Bill, but I am hopeful that—


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Viscount, the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, did not say that. If your Lordships will read what the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, said, you will see that he did not mention any numbers.

Viscount ECCLES

My Lords, I never said that Lord Alexander mentioned a number; I was merely saying that 800 is fairly often spoken about as being the sort of size of school that is manageable in a big city. I do not stand by one number or another, but I think that the problem of how we now sort out children of different degrees of ability, as we cannot have—except in rare cases—a grammar school inside a comprehensive school, is very difficult and requires new thought and, in my opinion, a new Bill. It is looking forward to that new Bill that makes me say that I would not myself accept this amendment today because it does not deal with the whole problem.


My Lords, as Lord Lieutenant I should probably remain neutral but as an ex-teacher I cannot do so. I must make a plea that we do not go backwards in time. I taught in the days of the 11-plus, when I can recall that 29 children in a class of 36 in London went to a grammar school, and I taught in a school in Surrey where 2 children out of 32 went to a grammar school. Why? Not because one group was more intelligent than the other but because there were more places available in one place than in the other.

We have passed the point where our children are at the mercy of the geography of the place in which they live for the type of education that they receive. We have got to a point where there has been some level of equal opportunities. I plead with your Lordships not to go back. This must be the most retrograde step that the new Government will take if they move back to a system that all who taught in those schools will deplore.


My Lords, I want only to make one short point. I agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said in her speech. In the new clause proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady David, the word "easily" puzzles me. I know of cases where the teacher would willingly take in a pupil in a grammar school by way of transfer but there is not room. That means that more money has to be spent in making more room. I know of an instance of this in a school with which I am connected.


My Lords, may I add one sentence to this discussion. What possible reason can there be for the noble Baroness, Lady Young, not to accept the second part of this amendment? When great changes are made, such as have been made in the Education Bill, surely the one thing that is needed is to give parents and teachers more information, adequate information, to tell them that this is what is necessary because of these changes.


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will not be influenced by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, the great advocate of the status quo. He said that new thinking is required. Where better than at the school itself, where the pupils are, at the school?

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, I think the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, and the noble Lord, Lord Clitheroe, really spoke very well for this amendment. We are asking that the local education authorities should ensure that pupils can transfer freely. I would like to remind the House that there are 59 local authorities affected by this Bill and 383,000 children still in secondary modern schools, so a lot of children can be affected.

I do want to press this amendment. It has had a lot of support. I do think that, so far as the second half of the amendment is concerned, the time gap between this Bill and the suggested new Bill—after all, that cannot be started before November, and I should think it would take about a year if it is a long Bill—will be a lengthy one. A lot of children will be going through the stage of secondary education during that time. So I should like to press this amendment.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, with the leave of the House, the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, speaking on this amendment said that I had changed my ground from the time that we debated this subject at the Committee stage. Although it may well be that I do not have all the evil thoughts that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, has attributed to me in my first reply on this particular amendment, I do, I hope, always look at amendments. If the amendment is different from the one previously moved I like to give a different reply in answering a second point. It does seem to me that one owes it in courtesy not only to your Lordships' House but to the mover of the amendment to address oneself to the point that is raised. As the noble Baroness, Lady David, said in her opening remarks, this amendment is not identical with the amendment she moved in Committee. It is for that reason that I gave a different reply from the one that I gave at Committee.

The general point would still be true. I am not at all certain that local education authorities would welcome a duty imposed on them when they already have a power to do what the first part of this amendment is asking for. I would, however, like to reiterate this about the second part of this amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, asked what possible reason I have for not accepting the second half. The reason why I feel unable to accept it is not because I and my noble friends do not agree precisely with the point that it is making. In fact we do. We said so at the time of the general election; we said that we believed in publication of much more information about schools. We said so in the Queen's Speech, and I have already indicated that it is our intention to cover this point in our second Education Bill.

However, the fact of the matter is that publication of information about schools is only one part of the argument. I believe parents need to have the maximum amount of information about schools and I think schools should publish a prospectus about themselves covering all aspects of their activities. But the problem that will arise—and this is the point my noble friend Lord Eccles made—is that where you get very popular comprehensive schools they will he over-subscribed. The more information you get, particularly details of staffing, equipment, examination results and so on, the more some schools will inevitably be thought to be better and will be better than others and will become over-subscribed. Then we have to have—and this is precisely the point the noble Baroness, Lady David, and the noble Lord Lord Donaldson, made—something about admission limits. If one accepts half of the argument without having anything about admission limits one is accepting something which will not make very good sense legally. After all, we are talking about legislation. Therefore, I think it is important to try to get it right.

There are other defects in this particular amendment, but I have not explained what they are because I do not feel that that is the important issue before the House. However, I should like to reiterate that we shall meet the second half of this amendment in our second Education Bill. As far as the first half of the amendment is concerned, local education authorities still have a power of transfer. There is one final point. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, asked whether the central Government do interfere with the transfer of pupils from one school to another. I understand that this would be a very unusual event. I would not like to say that it has never happened. The Secretary of State has power to consider admissions under Section 68 of the 1944

Act, where he believes that a local education authority has acted unreasonably. I hope that, with these assurances, the noble Baroness will consider withdrawing her amendment.


My Lords, I regret that I also was caught by the rapid passage of the Finance Bill and did not call the amendment, because I had no copy in front of me. But an amendment has been proposed: after Clause 1 to insert the new clause as printed.

4.7 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 101; Not-Contents, 133.

Airedale, L. Gladwyn, L. Parry, L.
Amherst, E. Gordon-Walker, L. Peart, L.
Amulree, L. Goronwy-Roberts, L. Phillips, B.
Ardwick, L. Gosford, E. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Ashby, L. Grey, E.
Avebury, L. Hale, L. Raglan, L.
Aylestone, L. Hall, V. Rathcreedan, L.
Bacon, B. Hampton, L. Rhodes, L.
Banks, L. Hankey, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Barrington, V. Hatch of Lusby, L. Rochester, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Henderson, L. Sainsbury, L.
Bernstein, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Seear, B.
Blease, L. Howie of Troon, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Blyton, L. Hunt, L. Shackleton, L.
Brockway, L. Hutchinson of Lullington, L. Shepherd, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Ilchester, E. Shinwell, L.
Byers, L. Kaldor, L. Simon, V.
Castle, L. Kirkhill, L. Somers, L.
Clancarty, E. Leatherland, L. Stedman, B.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Lee of Newton, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Crowther-Hunt, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Stone, L.
Darling of Hillsborough, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Strabolgi, L.
David, B. McCarthy, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Davies of Leek, L. McCluskey, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Denington, B. McGregor of Durris, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Maelor, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Melchett, L. Walston, L.
Dowding, L. Monson, L. Wells-Pestell, L. [Teller.]
Eldon, E. Morris of Grasmere, L. Whaddon, L.
Evans of Hungershall, L. Murray of Gravesend, L. Wigg, L.
Fulton, L. O'Brien of Lothbury, L. Willis, L.
Gaitskell, B. Pannell, L. Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
Galpern, L. Pargiter, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Adeane, L. Berkeley, B. Cockfield, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Bessborough, E. Cottesloe, L.
Allen of Abbeydale, L. Boyd-Carpenter, L. Craigavon, V.
Allerton, L. Brookes, L. Craigmyle, L.
Ampthill, L. Buxton or Alsa, L. Cranbrook, E.
Auckland, L. Cairns, E. Crathorne, L.
Avon, E. Caithness, E. Crawford and Balcarres, E.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Chelwood, L. Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Barnby, L. Cholmondeley, M. Daventry, V.
Bellwin, L. Clitheroe, L. de Clifford, L.
Belstead, L. Clwyd, L. De Freyne, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Henley, L. Reigate, L.
Derwent, L. Hornsby-Smith, B. Renton, L.
Digby, L. Hylton-Foster, B. Roberthall, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Inglewood, L. Rochdale, V.
Dulverton, L. Kimberley, E. Romney, E.
Dundee, E. Kinloss, Ly. Rootes, L.
Ebbisham, L. Kinnaird, L. Rugby, L.
Eccles, V. Lauderdale, E. Sackville, L.
Effingham, E. Linlithgow, M. St. Aldwyn, E.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Long, V. St. Davids, V.
Elton, L. Loudoun, C. Sandford, L.
Emmet of Amberley, B. Luke, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Erroll of Hale, L. Lyell, L. Selkirk, E.
Exeter, M. McFadzean, L. Sempill, Ly.
Ferrers, E. Macleod of Borve, B. Sharples, B.
Forester, L. Mancroft, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Fortescue, E. Mansfield, E. Sligo, M.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Marley, L. Soames, L.
Gainford, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Spens, L.
Galloway, E. Middleton, L. Stradbroke, E.
Garner, L. Milverton, L. Strathclyde, L.
Geoffrey-Lloyd, L. Monck, V. Strathspey, L.
Glasgow, E. Monk Bretton, L. Suffield, L.
Glenarthur, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Trefgarne, L.
Glendevon, L. Newall, L. Trenchard, V.
Gowrie, E. Northchurch, B. Tweedsmuir, L.
Greenway, L. Nugent of Guildford, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Gridley, L. O'Hagan, L. Vickers, B.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Orr-Ewing, L. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
(L. Chancellor.) Porritt, L. Ward of North Tyneside, B
Hanworth, V. Powis, E. Westbury, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Rankeillour, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Hatherton, L. Reay, L. Young, B.
Hawke, L. Redcliffe-Maud, L.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Then, Standing Order No. 43 having been suspended, pursuant to Resolution:

4.16 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time. We have spent some considerable time discussing with great care and attention the purposes of this short Bill. Several of my noble friends—and here I should like particularly to refer to my noble friend Lord Swinton—have said that if the Bill were against comprehensive schools they would not be supporting it. If that were so, we would not have introduced it. Conservative Secretaries of State have approved the establishment of many comprehensive schools and I fully expect my right honourable and learned friend to approve further proposals for comprehensive reorganisation during his period of office. What we are against is the principle of compulsion. We do not believe in imposing comprehensive schools everywhere—that is to say, we do not believe that all schools must be comprehensive if any school is to be comprehensive.

We look forward as a Government to securing the best education for all children according to their respective needs. I said on Second Reading—and I regard this as so important that I shall repeat it again—that the real question we should be debating is the content of education, leaving local authorities to consider the form of organisation under which it should be carried out. I am sure that noble Lords on all sides of the House would agree that what makes a school good has much less to do with the type of school that it is than with the quality of the head teacher; the quality of the staff and the ethos that the staff can create for learning and discipline; the range of courses available to the pupils; the social mix of the area which the school serves; the quality of the building and its resources and, not least, the support and involvement of the parents.

My Lords, we have been concerned with this short Bill which has the simple aim of removing the compulsion on local education authorities to reorganise secondary schools along comprehensive lines. We believe that decisions of this kind should be primarily theirs. What we have done is to go back to the position before 1976.

May I in conclusion look forward to the consideration of the second Education Bill—to which I have already made reference—which the Government intend to introduce this Session. Much of what has been said during the passage of this Bill will appropriately fall within the scope of that measure also, and I look forward to the opportunity of further discussions on that occasion. In particular, we are as concerned as noble Lords opposite that urgent attention should be given to the question of admission limits to schools in a period of falling rolls. The very effect of falling rolls will influence the pattern of organisation of secondary schools and I am sure that we shall be grateful for the contribution of noble Lords on our proposals.

Today's Bill returns freedom of choice on the comprehensive principle to local authorities. Without choice, democracy withers. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Baroness Young.)

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, this Bill makes selection at the age of 11 legal again. We have made it quite clear from this side of the House that we are totally opposed to that. I shall say no more.

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.