§ Mr. Ancram
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has completed his consideration of comments on the consultative paper "Admission to School: A Charter for Parents"; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Younger
A wide range of bodies offered comments and observations on my consultative paper. Careful study of these comments has confirmed my view that I should seek to put on a statutory footing my proposal that education authorities should accept an obligation to meet, wherever practicable, parents' wishes with regard to the school their child should attend.
When parliamentary time permits, therefore, I propose to bring forward legislation which will require education authorities to make and publish arrangements for admission to schools, and to consult parents and other interested bodies about major changes in these arrangements. Education authorities will also be required to publish information about schools under their management—including examination results. Parents will be given the right to apply for a place in a school other than that which their child is attending or which the education authority wants the child to attend, and the freedom of education authorities to refuse admission to schools under their management will be limited to a number of specified grounds; in particular, the place of residence of parents will not in future be a permissible reason for refusal of admission.
Authorities will be required to set up appeal committees to hear appeals from parents not satisfied with the initial decision on their requests. I have also decided that parents aggrieved by the decision of an appeal committee will have a new right of appeal on summary application to the sheriff. I hope that the new provisions will have the effect of satisfying 642W the majority of parents that their requests have been given a full hearing, and that the appeal committees will be seen to operate fairly, but those parents who think that this has not been so in their case and who feel that their request has been turned down for inadequate reason will be able to take their case directly to the sheriff in this way without, as at present, first having to withhold their child from school until an attendance order is served.
Finally, some of the present controls which the Secretary of State exercises over education authorities will be replaced by a statutory duty to consult parents about school closures and proposed changes in school organisation and to have regard to any views expressed in reaching a decision on such proposals.