Comprehensives may be best for new areas—Shadow Minister
Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, the Opposition's new spokesman for education, yesterday pledged herself to fight the Government Bill “to impose comprehensive education on all schools.”
Mrs. Thatcher, whose own children, Mark and Carol, go to Harrow and St. Paul's School for Girls, said in an interview at the House of Commons yesterday she agreed completely with Sir Edward Boyle, previous Conservative education spokesman, when he spoke at the recent party conference on comprehensive schools.
“I would fight to save a number of grammar schools that have played an important part in their communities,” he had said.
But Mrs. Thatcher, whose appointment was announced by Mr. Heath on Tuesday night, added that where there was a newly developed area, a comprehensive may be the “best system” of secondary education.
“What I do not like is an artificial system imposed on schools which are not designed to take one.
“Local education authorities should be allowed to make up their own minds. That has always been our policy.”
Mrs. Thatcher attended Grantham Girls High School—a grammar school—and Somerville College, Oxford.
Asked if she differed with Sir Edward Boyle over any point of policy, Mrs. Thatcher replied: “One will differ a little with anybody.”
Until now she has been Conservative spokesman for transport—opposite Mr. Richard Marsh, recently ousted from the Labour Government.
“I have followed Richard Marshhim around through my political career,” Mrs. Thatcher said. “When he was at the Ministry of Power I was opposition spokesman. Then when he was at the Ministry of Transport I again became Conservative spokesman.
“When he left the Government he said he wondered if I would follow that move too. But he's out and now I'm education. That's politics.”
Mrs. Thatcher described herself as “modern in attitude. With two children you have to be.
“But I believe in combining the best of the traditional with a great deal of modern.”
She said that a Conservative Government would not change the plan to raise the leaving age from 15. “Education is so incomplete at 15.”
She had not thought enough about universities and the students' power movement yet to comment. Mrs. Thatcher is on the Board of Governors at the London School of Economics.
“I shall keep an open mind on everything. A lot of people have a lot to say which I have not heard before.
“It's no good them saying it if my mind is already closed on a subject. We live in an age of very exciting educational development.”