Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1970 Mar 24 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

HC Standing Committee [Education Bill]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons Committee
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC Standing Committee A [181-226]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1030-1300. Fifth Sitting reproduced in its entirety. MT spoke at cc.199 and 213.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 16194
Themes: Education, Private education, Secondary education, Sport
[column 181]

EDUCATION BILL

Standing Committee A

OFFICIAL REPORT

Tuesday, 24th March, 1970

[Sir Barnett Janner in the Chair.]

10.30 a.m.

Resolved,

That the Committee at their rising this day do adjourn till Tuesday, 7th April, at half-past Ten o'clock.—[Mr. Edward Short.]

Clause 1

Principles affecting provision of secondary education

Amendment No. 16 proposed—[19th March]—in page 1, line 24, after the word “for” to insert the word “mathematics” .—[Mr. J. E. B. Hill.] Question again proposed.

The Chairman

I remind the Committee that we are discussing at the same time Amendment No. 17, in page 1, line 24, after “for” , insert “languages” ; Amendment No. 18, in page 1, line 24, after “for” , insert “athletics” ; Amendment No. 38, in page 1, line 24, after “for” , insert “navigation” ; and Amendment No. 19, in page 1, line 25, leave out “other art” and insert, “art, science, discipline or skill” .

Mr. Angus Maude

When the Committee adjourned last week, I was speaking about my Amendment No. 19, which is the one in the most general terms, designed to try and save the Government from some of the difficulties and anomalies into which the present draft is likely to get them. When we adjourned I was discussing the definition of “any other art” . My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South, Mr. J. E. B. Hill) asked the Government for their definition of “art” in the context of the Bill, and the right hon. Lady the Minister of State ignored the question altogether. It is absurd for the Government to put a phrase like this into the Bill and then refuse to define it or to give us any idea what they have in mind. It is clear to me that there is an enormous number of possible anomalies which could arise out of it. I mention the possibility, to put it no higher, that English Literature [column 182]might be considered an art, but, even if we take the word in what might be considered its narrowest sense, what about painting and the graphic arts? My hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) mentioned this last week.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Miss Alice Bacon)

If the hon. Member will allow me, perhaps I can short-circuit his speech. I am informed that, according to law, the general word which follows particular and specific words of the same nature as itself takes its meaning from them, and is presumed to be restricted to the same genus as those words. In other words, it is to be read as meaning only things of the same kind as those designated by them.

In the context of Clause 1(2)(c) the word is to be read only as meaning the same as words of the same kind as designated by the particular and specific words “music” and “dancing” . Those words certainly include drama and would probably include painting and sculpture, but they do not include disciplines like mathematics or languages, nor do they include athletics. I am advised that this is based on a case which has been before the courts.

Mr. Maude

I am obliged to the right hon. Lady, but if she thinks that that makes the position much clearer she is wrong. I never imagined that “any other art” included athletics, but when she says it probably includes painting, what are we doing passing Bills in which a term probably means something but even the right hon. Lady cannot tell us for certain, having taken legal advice. This is an extraordinary situation. If it “probably” includes painting, does it “probably” include sculpture and modelling?

Miss Bacon

I said that it included sculpture.

Mr. Maude

Does it include the craft of the silversmith?

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Would my hon. Friend make clear what he means by “modelling” ?

Mr. Maude

The plastic art of modelling in clay in general, part of the art of sculpture. I did not mean what my hon. Friend clearly has in his mind.

Does this include the art of the silver[column 183]smith? Is that a craft? Take a former secondary technical school which has a high reputation for craft work in metal. Is a boy to be considered a craftsman if he works in brass, iron or steel and an artist if he works in gold or silver, and, under the Bill, is he included in “any other art” or not? It is not good enough to tell us that it “probably” includes painting and other graphic arts. We have no right to pass a Bill in terms which include elements of doubt as gross as this. We can settle the question of what is not actually, if not probably, art within the meaning of the Bill, but it can still be argued that it is not relevant because we are dealing with a small number of schools.

The right hon. Lady the Minister of State, in her reply, spoke almost exclusively in terms of music and dancing and said, rightly, that there were few special schools of this nature; but we cannot necessarily suppose that more will not be set up. It cannot be assumed that the only schools which will come within the ambit of this Clause will be those specially devoted to the teaching of a particular art. My hon. Friend for Norfolk, South referred to the way in which certain schools, particularly in large and fairly scattered rural catchment areas—but it is no doubt true of many connurbations—develop a high reputation for a particular kind of teaching in an art or craft, or, as it may perhaps be a rural school, a trade. We want to know, and we are entitled to know, whether the deliberate selection of children to go to a school of this kind for this sort of reason is or is not legal under the Bill.

This is a matter of some importance because clearly some complications could arise from it. We are entitled to insist on some clear answers to a number of specific questions. We must presume that the Secretary of State is not saying that there will not be schools of this type even after reorganisation is complete everywhere, if it ever is. A school which before reorganisation was a secondary technical school is likely to continue to be a school with a particularly good series of teachers or departments or facilities for technical crafts and skills. A comprehensive school which was largely based on a large grammar school may have specially good facilities for teaching some [column 184]other things, perhaps good laboratories or facilities for teaching in the arts. I am sure that the Secretary of State will not tell us that this kind of thing will not continue after reorganisation because it is not to be expected that every school, everywhere, of whatever size or whatever kind of district it is in, will be exactly the same kind of school.

If there are these differences between schools, and certain schools are recognised by the parents and the head teachers of primary schools, or by the children as offering particularly good facilities in a particular subject, it will follow inevitably that local education authorities in allocating children to secondary schools will take account of those facilities and will try to match them to the abilities and aptitudes of certain children. That is selection by ability and aptitude, and we are entitled to know whether selection by ability and aptitude for particular schools for this purpose is legal in a Bill which purports to abolish selection by ability and aptitude and does not refer to these things in any subsection in Clause 1.

It has been suggested to me that this was not relevant and that nobody would be so silly as to interpret the Bill in this way. How can anyone tell, if somebody is anxious to upset the Bill or to challenge its validity or it raison d'etre? Who is to say that they will not challenge it on this sort of point? We should know where the Government stand. It is not the business of Parliament to pass Bills in such a way that if people take them literally the result would be chaos or a nonsense. We are expected to pass Bills which can be taken literally and with an interpretation according to the letter which will make some kind of sense. We are entitled to know how this Bill will be interpreted.

To one question we must have an answer: if we are to be told that this kind of selection by ability and aptitude—and it inevitably is selection by ability and aptitude—is all right in the Bill as drafted and nobody is going to be so foolish as to try and prevent it, perhaps the Secretary of State will tell us why this would be legal, but banding would not.

On Second Reading, the Minister of State said firmly that banding was inconsistent with Clause 1 as drafted. I do not [column 185]want to anticipate discussion of banding on a subsequent group of Amendments, but we are entitled to ask if banding will be illegal after the Bill is passed. If the sending of children outside the catchment area of their immediate neighbourhood school is illegal, why will it be legal to send a child outside his immediate home area because his abilities and aptitudes will be better catered for in a department of another school?

These two things seem completely inconsistent. Either direction of children to a school which has a particularly good department in one subject, art or craft according to their ability and aptitude is illegal under the Bill, or, if it is not, I cannot for the life of me see how it can be said that banding is legal. One cannot be legal and the other not. We should be told which of them is illegal and which of them is legal. The Government, because they have given too little thought to the wording and implications of this subsection, will get themselves in some difficulty and may face legal challenges in the courts if the Bill as now framed is enacted.

10.45 a.m.

It is the job of the Government to do two things. First, they should tell us what they think this provision means and what the implications might be if people started to take the wording literally. Secondly, they ought to tell us what they propose to do to safeguard themselves against the complications which could arise.

My Amendment, No. 19, far from being intended to destroy the purpose of the Bill, which was the right hon. Lady's immediate reaction, is the only wording I have so far been able to find which will cover the Government against the kind of nonsense which they are, in my view, perpetrating. It would not result in the creation of an enormous number of special schools for particular purposes, whether mathematics or navigation, but it would allow local authorities legally to direct children to the kind of comprehensive school with the kind of record, reputation, staffing and curriculum which would be best suited to them. The fact is that this goes on now and will continue to go on even if the Minister succeeds in imposing a totally comprehensive system on this country and on all authorities. If it goes on, then I maintain that under the [column 186]Bill it would be illegal. I also maintain that Amendment No. 19, which I shall press, gives the Minister the best chance of avoiding the sort of difficulties, and possibly court cases, which will arise.

Sir Edward Boyle

I was depressed when, at the last sitting of the Committee, the Minister of State said of the Amendments we are now discussing:

“They would drive a coach and horses through this Bill.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 19th March, 1970; c. 177.]

It seemed to me that the right hon. Lady, by using those words, showed that she did not understand the purpose of this group of Amendments.

We do not say that all local authorities should as a matter of doctrine provide for specially gifted children in special schools. That is not what the Amendments say. The fact that the right hon. Lady seemed to interpret them in that way is a sign of something we know already, that is, the tendency of hon. Members opposite to think that nothing matters except the policy of the central Government. I do not hold the view that all gifted children should be educated in special schools. Indeed, I always resist the proposition that as a matter of doctrine everywhere the top 5 per cent. in ability should be educated separately from other children. What we are saying in these Amendments is something different.

I wish to confine myself to the important issue of mathematics. As I said on Second Reading, we take the view that we should not rule out the possibility of trying experiments with new kinds of selective schools, for example, for children who are specially gifted in mathematics. It is absurd to pass legislation which will preclude the possibility of a local authority trying out the experiment of a selective school for those who are mathematically gifted.

When I think of the possibility of some such experiment again. I do not necessarily mean an experiment which starts at the age of 11. We are quite flexible, as any authority must be, as to the age at which an experiment of this kind could start. We should not rule out the possibility, for a number of reasons. No one can doubt the need of this country to foster exceptional talents in mathematics. Nobody can doubt the need in this country to take any step which might have the effect of increasing the number of good [column 187]mathematics teachers in our schools.

There are two perfectly sound educational reasons why it would not be unreasonable or a bad idea for a large authority, say, in a big city to wish to try out the experiment of a selective school with a special mathematical bias. First, as we all know, there is a limited number of children who need rapidly to be mastering new resource in dealing with mathematics. The number of boys and girls who should be starting the calculations at the ages of 13 or 14 may not be all that numerous, but they undoubtedly exist. After all, mathematics teaching is very largely a matter of how soon boys and girls are introduced to new types of basic resource which must be the foundation of their further studies.

Secondly, mathematicians are very good at sharpening one another's edges, if I may put it that way. The special atmosphere of a gifted class in mathematics can be very important in helping young people to get the best out of one another. As the right hon. Lady gave a personal reminiscence, may I give one of my own? A number of criticisms of the teaching at my old school, Eton, I think could rightly be made, but the mathematics teaching there was in fact extremely good. We had what I think was the very good custom that in each block of a year's work 20 boys were put separately into what was known as the select division for mathematics. If one was in the select division, one had to do, not only the ordinary curriculum, but a weekly problem paper on which one was expected to spend no less than four hours. I was a not particularly distinguished member of the select division and I did not as a rule achieve more than a 40 per cent. average during the term on the problem papers, but I have never regretted the time I spent doing them. In particular, I was very conscious, as a not particularly brilliant member of the class, of the advantages one gained by working side by side with those who were cleverer than oneself from the atmosphere of a class—I think my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) would confirm this if he were here—in which there was a limited number of brilliant pupils.

Looking ahead to the nation's needs, the idea that we should legislate away the right of an authority to experiment with a selective school for the mathematically [column 188]gifted seems to me absurd. Quite apart from the aspect of those who are specially gifted in mathematics, there is also the important point just made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude). As he rightly said, we must get away from the absurd fallacy of supposing that under any kind of comprehensive system everybody goes to the same school. The first lesson to learn in a subject is that whether one has an old-fashioned by-partite system—for which none of us on this side of the Committee contends—or some other form of comprehensive system, children do not all go to the same school. There has to be some basis of selection for one or the other.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon correctly said, an increasing number of authorities' schools will develop special biases. The biases of individual comprehensive schools will in all probability be influenced by their past. Educational institutions in this country seldom spring absolutely from green fields; one has to think where the teachers were before and what the position of the school in an earlier incarnation may have been. It is, in my view, perfectly right that in a big city a number of individual separate comprehensive schools should start to develop different biases.

Is it sensible to say that at the age of 13 or 14 a boy or girl should not be transferred from one comprehensive school to another because the second school has a certain bias from which the boy or girl might benefit? Is it really suggested that absolutely no tincture of selection by aptitude or ability is to influence that transfer? This seems to me absurd. I start from the proposition that the more this can be done without too overt selection, and by parental choice, the better. But to suppose that for the future, when there are a number of comprehensive schools in a city, right through a child's school career his ability or aptitude should never influence the school at which he does his O level—and I will not say “or his A level” because I realise that exception is made in the school of sixth form work. To say that no element of selection by ability could ever influence the school in which a boy or girl does his or her O level is an absurdity which we are determined to resist Amendment by Amendment and Clause by Clause. [column 189]

What I find depressing is that right hon. Members opposite are spending time on fighting again the battles of the 1960s. The right hon. Lady is saying, “So long as we get away from selection at 11, so long as we have a non-selective transfer from primary to secondary school, nothing else really matters” . That is a view which we on this side contest.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon and I made our position on the 11-plus perfectly clear on Second Reading. Very few of us on this side of the Committee imagines that it makes sense to continue with a situation in which 20 per cent. of the children go to grammar schools at the age of 11 and 80 per cent. go to modern schools. The trend, we know, is away from that. But let us not commit the absurdity of saying that, because on the whole we approve that trend, though the speed at which it goes must depend on money and the soundness of individual schemes, the only step is to rule out in advance any proposals for the future that contain any tincture of selection by ability. As I say, I regard that as absurd. The Amendment on mathematics shows up its absurdity more clearly because we all know there are boys and girls specially gifted in this subject.

I hope that we vote on more than one of the Amendments.

Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee

I will, in contrast to my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir Edward Boyle), concentrate on a rather different aspect of the Amendments, and, in particular, on the helpful speech made at our last sitting by the right hon. Lady the Minister of State. In col. 174 of the Official Report of our proceedings on 19th March the right hon. Lady introduced a very helpful reference to the transfer to the Department of Education of the education of severely handicapped children. That considerable contribution on the matter from the right hon. Lady included the vesting day date she helpfully gave the Committee. The matter raised by the right hon. Lady is covered by the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill about which we have today heard a good deal introduced into another place by the noble Lady the Baroness Phillips. For most of us, I think, far and away the most important part of that Bill is the subject matter mentioned by the [column 190]right hon. Lady, namely, the transfer to her Department of the education of severely handicapped children.

11.0 a.m.

That does not mean that there will not be at appropriate stages, when it is in order so to do, opportunity to discuss other matters in that Bill. It is important that we should get the balance reasonably right on this very important subject. I introduce it now only because the right hon. Lady introduced it. I think the right hon. Lady knows that there is widespread anxiety among, I believe, hon. Members on both sides about conditions of service of those who will be teaching the children to whom this Bill refers. It will be principally to that point that we shall wish to return when the Bill to which I have referred reaches us from another pace.

I wish to take up another point made by the right hon. Lady. I think that probably she genuinely made a slight error, which it is easy to do when one is asked a quick question. It would be as well, if my view is correct, to put the record right. At our last sitting the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) made this intervention by way of a question his right hon. Friend:

“Does this new legislation cover children who of necessity are confined to their own homes, who are not in any kind of school—and we all know children like this—who may have a particular talent?”

The right hon. Lady replied:

“It does not deal with those children because there would have to be some special reason why they were not in school. If they were not in school, their education would have to be provided for in some other way.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 19th March, 1970; c. 175.]

This matter is governed by the words introducing Clause 1, which refer quite specifically to the duties of local authorities under Section 8 of the Education Act, 1944. That Section includes subsection (2)(c)

“the need for securing that provision is made for pupils who suffer from any disability of mind or body by providing, either in special schools or otherwise, special educational treatment …   .”

It is both “in special schools or otherwise” .

The proof of this is that those words are reproduced in subsection (2)(a) of the Clause we are now discussing. I think it must follow that the answer which the [column 191]right hon. Lady gave off the cuff was not quite correct.

Miss Bacon

The words “or otherwise” refer also to hospitals.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I do not dispute that, but this Bill refers to the kind of children the hon. Member for Bootle had in mind. It would be as well to make that clear. There is no party issue here. I raise this point merely to be of assistance with reference to a section of young children who have the sympathy and understanding of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee.

One of the problems for a member of this Committee, which is an agreeable Committee to serve on, is that one is apt to find one's words referred to in distinguished journals. That is very agreeable. You, Sir Barnett, no doubt regard The Times Educational Supplement as part of your bedtime reading and will have noticed that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price)—whose temporary absence from the Committee I regret—wrote a column in the current issue which referred at some length to words which I had used in this Committee. I am deeply obliged to him for giving far greater publicity than otherwise would have been the case to such wisdom as I was able to muster. He wrote:

“I agree that there is no knowing these days what judges will do once they get their teeth into educational law. The Enfield judgments certainly turned prevailing assumptions upside down about the law on issuing notices when a local authority changes the ‘character’ of a school.”

It is the contention of those who are concerned with these Amendments that the judges will have ample opportunity for sharpening their molars as a result of the way in which this subsection has been drafted. Although I realise that the right hon. Lady, in her very erudite intervention at the start of our proceedings this morning, was, as always, trying to assist the Committee, I suggest that there are very severe traps ahead of her right hon. Friend and herself. Notice that the words used in the Clause are not

“ability in or aptitude for music or dancing or other arts” .

They are

“ability in or aptitude for music or dancing or any other art” .

[column 192]There would be some considerable doubt, at least in the mind of a judge with a molar that he is anxious to use, as to whether the much closer interpretation given to this subsection by the right hon. Lady is as accurate as she hopes it will be.

Mr. Maude

It will be within the recollection of my hon. Friend that the right hon. Lady could not be specific because she said that the phrase “probably” included painting.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I appreciate that. It adds to the difficulties of all of us, and later, if the Bill becomes law, it will add to the difficulties of all who have to operate it. My central contention remains valid. I should have thought that there was considerable doubt about whether the kind of art mentioned in this subsection is the kind of art which the judges will say it refers to if the matter is contested.

In an effort to try to keep up with the general high intellectual character of the Committee, I have been consulting some of the authorities on this matter. I have, for example, turned up the definition of the word “art” in the 1967 edition of Everyman's Encyclopaedia published by Dent. This is how the phrase is defined there:

“The term art, in the most general sense, may be defined as the skilled exercise by human faculties. It would be justifiable to say that there is an A in many different things that human beings do, or can do: e.g., one can speak of the ‘A of household management’ or even the ‘A of war’ as well as the ‘A of painting’, etc. Thus, under the heading of art, the ancient Chinese included ritual, music, archery, charioteering and calligraphy.”

One has a remarkable picture of a school being permitted under this subsection to select for charioteering. That is something which I would not expect to find frequently happening. The central point is that in the most general sense the definition of “art” is

“the skilled exercise by human faculties”

This is a danger signal, I should have thought, in the interpretation of this subsection.

It is always important to go to the appropriate authorities on these occasions. If the right hon. Lady cares to do what I am sure those bringing the matter before the courts will do and looks at the 1970 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica she will find that art, it is said, in its most basic meaning means a skill or ability. This [column 193]would be exactly what we should imagine. It says:

“While art continues to be associated with basic skills (e.g. the art of gardening), the term more generally carries the connotation of nonutilitarian activities, the art of painting, the art of poetry and the art of music” .

I do not frankly understand why, taking the position she does, the right hon. Lady and her advisers have put in these words. I do not take her position, but I can understand, and indeed I am thankful for the exceptions made for music and dancing. I realise very well that there are very considerable arguments about early selection in music, for example, about which my knowledge is very limited indeed but my appreciation is considerable. I realise from what has been said earlier that the right hon. Lady takes a different view of early selection than do other people.

In this regard it is highly significant that at our last sitting the right hon. Lady indicated quite clearly that she would have frankly preferred not to have these exceptions. She said:

“We are dealing here with the exceptions to selection, and all the Amendments which have been moved this morning are exceptions for one reason or another. My inclination is that I would like not to have made all those exceptions, and certainly I would not like to extend them.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 19th March, cc. 173–4.]

She said:

“I would like not to have made all those exceptions.”

You, Sir Barnett, possibly know that of all the various interest groups in the country, the lawyers are perhaps the most deserving of public sympathy and understanding. Anything that produces more financial assistance for them would, I am sure, meet with your approval. The more important point is that we surely want to pass into law a Measure which is perfectly clear. It is for that reason that we have a Committee stage. I should have thought that I have been able to show today that at least the right hon. Lady should take those words back and look at the phrase, if only to make sure that the interpretation she gave will stand up.

I have concentrated on the right hon. Lady's speech on certain points and on the narrow point of the construction of words, but in conclusion I want to echo what has been said on the merits of the matter. It seems regrettable in the extreme that by this Bill we should positively exclude selection in certain fields which in later years [column 194]educationalists of all political persuasions may feel it was wise to implement. Unlike my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), I was not fortunate enough to be selected in this way at an early stage in mathematics. I had the gruelling experience in later years of spending a year at the University of Edinburgh on a very intensified and rarefied form of mathematical course which was supposed to fit me for what then were His Majesty's Forces. I have an inborn inability to master the mathematical art anyway.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Edward Short)

Hear, hear.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I am glad to hear that we have that in common. I was, however, conscious of a lack of grounding which would have been of great assistance to me, particularly in earlier years, and the great difficulty in coming to these abstruse subjects, as it were fresh, at a later age. I am quite sure that in future we shall very much regret it if we irrevocably shut the door to selection of any kind, except for those causes mentioned in the subsection. For those reasons, I very much hope that the Amendment will be pressed.

11.15 a.m.

Miss Bacon

I shall be very brief because we are anxious to get on to the next group of Amendments before my right hon. Friend has to leave.

I thank the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) for what he said at the beginning of his speech and for helpfully drawing attention to the fact that the Bill that is being presented today in another place deals with the very important subject of the transfer of responsibility for severely mentally handicapped children from the Department of Health and Social Security to the Department of Education and Science.

We are discussing two distinct groups of Amendments and two different views of the Clause. First, we are discussing the words in the Bill

“music or dancing or any other art”

and secondly, the Amendments to widen this Clause to include mathematics and other things. The hon. Member for Wokingham quoted the dictionary definition of the word “art” . I am informed that in law “or any other art” after “music or [column 195]dancing” is restricted to the same kind of art. I think the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) will understand this because she murmured the appropriate Latin phrase and the courts would interpret it not widely but in a narrow sense.

I am speaking at 11.15. If I were speaking at twelve o'clock I would have been able to quote from the Donnison Committee's report which is to be issued at that time.

Mr. Lewis

Would the right hon. Lady like us to keep the discussion going until twelve o'clock?

Miss Bacon

I think that if the hon. Gentleman had read the report he would not like that very much. [Interruption.]

It is not in the Vote Office. It is embargoed until twelve o'clock. There is in the Report a passage on gifted children which I hope right hon. and hon. Members will read.

The reason we included

“music or dancing or any other art” ,

is that there are at present nine schools catering for music or dancing. It was put to us by local authorities and by other organisations that there should be some phrase in the Bill to cover these schools. As I said at the last meeting of the Committee, there are only nine of them—eight are independent, one is a voluntary aided school—and they cater for about 1,500 children.

I said that the phrase “probably” included sculpture because as everybody knows, until the case has been taken to court it is difficult to be precise. But I am advised that the law would interpret this, not widely, but narrowly as being the same kind of art as music or dancing, and not art as defined in a dictionary.

I come to the exception that hon. Members wish to make. Again we have had a plea for an exception for mathematics. I made my view quite clear about this at the last meeting of the Committee. I am very much opposed to putting gifted children, particularly children gifted in mathematics and science, into one particular school and giving them a special education. In the schools of the future, in the comprehensive schools, there will be ample opportunity and scope for children who are gifted in mathematics and science to receive the education they require. [column 196]

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) said that we were fighting the battles of the 1960s and that we were fighting all over again selection at the age of eleven. If that battle had been won, especially with the persuasive powers of the right hon. Gentleman in his own city, I would have thought the City of Birmingham would not have needed in the 1970s to be forced, as it were, into ending selection at the age of 11, because in the City of Birmingham there is still selection and there is no prospect without this Bill of Birmingham bringing an end to selection at the age of 11.

I come to the point made by the hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) and the right hon. Member for Handsworth, that at present various secondary modern schools have a bias in one subject or another. It has been suggested that in future children will not be able to go to these particular schools if they have a special bent in a particular subject. This Bill deals with the future and under this Bill the schools of the future will be not secondary modern schools but comprehensive schools. I know that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned comprehensive schools, but the hon. Member for Norfolk, South, spoke at the last meeting of the Committee about the present secondary modern schools which have a bias in agriculture or fishing in and around his constituency. Within the comprehensive schools I hope that there will be scope for all these children.

Even so, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have been confusing the curriculum with the admission arrangements. If there was a comprehensive school with a bent in a particular subject—though I cannot at the moment think of such a school—and another comprehensive school reasonably near it that specialised in another subject, it would be a simple matter of parental choice as to which child went to which school; it would not be a matter of selection.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

Surely there must be an element of reference to the child's ability and aptitude before the local education authority decides to send a child to a particular school. Admittedly, I framed my remarks in the light of the local situation with which I have to deal, [column 197]namely, secondary modern schools, but the argument applies just as strongly to comprehensive schools. Is not the right hon. Lady aware that a teacher of excellence may create a small centre of excellence to which children, because of their aptitude, say, in silver metal work, want to go.

Miss Bacon

That is the whole point. There is really nothing between us on this matter. The hon. Gentleman has said that because a child has an interest in a particular school presumably the parent would want that child to go to that school. I agree with that and it would be a matter of choice for the parent and the child, which is entirely different from selection and the child being allocated to a particular school on the basis of ability and aptitude. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are very keen on parental choice. I should have thought that this was a matter eminently suited for parental choice. To that extent if there was a comprehensive school with a very good course in agriculture or fishing, and if parents wished their children to go to that school, they could do so under this Bill. What the Bill prohibits is a strict selection procedure which allocates children according to their ability and aptitude.

Mr. Maude

I do not think it is as simple as that. The right hon. Lady is talking as if there would always be a school with particular facilities within very easy reach of the child or family. Such a school might be in the area of another local education authority, although in the same county, and it may not always be just a question of parental choice. Sometimes parents are irresponsible, sometimes parents scarcely exist, and there is an element of allocation on the basis of primary school head teachers' reports. This will be selection by ability and aptitude, and we want to know why this is legal and banding is not.

Miss Bacon

We shall come to banding in the next group of Amendments. The hon. Member has just raised a quite different point—the procedure for taking a child from one local authority to another local authority. That happens whether there is selection or not. There has to be, and there are, these arrangements. The hon. Gentleman has raised a matter which [column 198]is not relevant to the Amendment. There would be no more difficulty in a child attending a school in another local authority under this Bill than there is at present. A quite extraneous argument has been adduced.

Sir E. Boyle

This is the kernel of the difference between us on this Clause, and positions are being taken up which are felt sincerely by hon. Members. May I put these two points to the right hon. Lady: every comprehensive school ought to be able to cope with those it has inside it; that is not in dispute. We are saying that, when there are a number of comprehensive schools in a big city, there is nothing wrong with one of those schools being specially concerned with and making a special feature of mathematics. Secondly, on parental choice, surely parental choice will often involve discussions between parent and teacher. Is it wrong that there should be some informal examination in the school simply so that the teacher can give the best informed guidance to the parent?

Miss Bacon

Hon. Gentlemen opposite are trying to create a difference when there is none. I have recognised that there might be a comprehensive school specialising in a particular subject. I have also admitted that some parents might like their children to go to such a comprehensive school. If so, I am sure that this could be arranged without any selection procedure, but the majority of comprehensive schools today do not specialise in particular courses. Most of them are all-embracing, catering for all types of ability and aptitude. Even if there were a school specialising in agriculture, I would have thought it would be simple through parental choice for a child to go to that school without selection procedures. This Bill aims at getting rid of selection procedures.

Mr. Simon Mahon

I should like to clarify this point because it is causing me some concern. Is my right hon. Friend saying that the parents of a child who has a particular aptitude will be the sole arbiter of whether that child should go to a particular school without any reference to any other body such as a local authority?

11.30 a.m.

Miss Bacon

Obviously this would [column 199]probably be discussed with the school. The 1944 Act lays it down that a parent has the right to chose a school, providing that certain conditions are fulfilled. But here the Opposition are making a mountain out of a molehill. To widen this Clause as they propose would make nonsense of the Bill.

Mr. Reginald Eyre

I put to the right hon. Lady a question of practical interpretation in relation to the City of Birmingham, to which she made a rather unkind reference. Let us assume that there are comprehensive schools throughout the city and the adjoining area and that one school in the city develops a reputation for training in silver work, for example, which is quite possible in practical terms. Children may want to go to that school from comprehensive schools in Solihull, Sutton Coldfield and elsewhere because it has acquired a special reputation and is therefore specially attractive to them. How would the right hon. Lady decide which of the children who so opt are to go to that school, with its special quality? Does she not see that there must be some element of careful selection in such practical circumstances?

Miss Bacon

As a matter of practical politics, if the City of Birmingham had a system of comprehensive education there would be a number of comprehensive schools where silver work was a subject. Surely such work would not be confined to one school in a city like Birmingham.

Mrs. Thatcher

It is not the Opposition who are in an untenable position but the Alice Baconright hon. Lady. If the burden of her argument is correct, we do not need exceptions for music, dancing, or any other art because everything will be provided within the comprehensive system. We all know that it will not be so provided. It just is not possible in many areas for every comprehensive school to provide a complete range of subjects. It is ridiculous of the right hon. Lady to say that one can have comprehensive schools which specialise in certain subjects but that what one cannot have is a test which enables the authorities, parents or teachers to judge whether a child going to such a school can benefit from a highly specialised type of education. However, according to her argument, there could be no such test.

Miss Bacon

The hon. Lady says that [column 200]I had said that we could have a comprehensive school which specialised in mathematics, languages, and so on. It was not my argument but that of her hon. Friends.

Mrs. Thatcher

I see, then, that it is not acceptable to the right hon. Lady that we should have comprehensive schools with a particular specialisation. We are thus back to the argument that every comprehensive school should provide everything, which we know it cannot and will not do. There are bound to be comprehensive schools specialising in particular subjects.

I know the right hon. Lady argues that mathematicians should be educated in the community. I have met that argument in Russia. I visited the Department of Higher Education there and heard it. But then one asks those in the Department about the special mathematics school at Kiev and reminds them that children with special gifts for mathematics are picked out and sent to the Kiev school, as described in The Times Educational Supplement of 23rd January, 1970. The article referred to the system of early selection in the Soviet Union, describing how the authorities take budding mathematicians out of the ordinary school at the end of the first, fourth or ninth year of schooling. Thus, since education is compulsory from the ages of 7 to 17, the authorities in the Soviet Union are spotting budding mathematicians from the age of eight.

Miss Bacon

It sounds terrible.

Mrs. Thatcher

If one asks the Soviet authorities about their several mathematics schools and how they fit in with their theory about educating mathematicians in the community, they will tell one that there are special gifts which it is necessary, for the benefit of the community and the children, to bring on early, and there are not the ordinary teachers to do it.

The right hon. Lady knows that, in mathematics especially, although one can provide for individual teaching in a comprehensive school, there just cannot be in every comprehensive school a teacher with the requisite amount of talent to bring on a child as quickly as that child's talent may warrant. Either we come to our argument that the system should not be so restrictive as to preclude special arrangements for children of this kind of ability, or we come to the right hon. Lady's argument, assisted ably by the hon. Member [column 201-202]for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) that one must abolish the element of selection regardless of the consequences for the excellence and standards of education generally or of the consequences in specific subjects. We do not accept that argument. There are grounds for exceptions and the excellence and standards of education need not suffer if she were not so rigid in her approach. A number of countries make special provision for mathematics—Japan is among them—because they recognise its importance.

I have been to the English School in Leningrad, which specialises in English Language. Again, as I understand the right hon. Lady's argument, if one has a school specialising in languages the parents will have to make the choice whether their child can go and the chances are that one will get earlier specialisation instead of the tendency towards later specialisation. I understand that there are three Welsh Schools, in Pontypridd, St. Asaph and Mold, where arts subjects are taught in Welsh and mathematics and science in English. Would it not be reasonable to have some test for those schools to see whether a child can speak Welsh well enough to understand subjects taught in Welsh? That is not unreasonable. It is not we who are in a difficult position over this matter but the right hon. Lady.

I understand that there are in a number of cases special arrangements for athletics, for bringing on children quickly if they have athletic ability. This is obviously necessary if we are to compete in the Olympics. But is the right hon. Lady saying that this, too, should be precluded? It seems, according to her, that one cannot have training in athletics schools where the intake would be by ability, so that we are not to have special arrangements for competing in the Olympics.

But there are ways to get round what the right hon. Lady said. It occurs in her interpretation of schools

“… for music or dancing or any other art.”

One often finds, as the right hon. Lady knows, that musical ability and mathematical ability go very well together. They are often found in the same person. It seems obvious that the thing to do is to have a music school with a strong bias towards mathematics. If a child has dual talent, one could well give it the training it deserves.

If the right hon. Lady is not prepared to make any exceptions for any of these subjects, then the independent sector will have to do it and one can only appeal to industrialists, who may be wondering where to put their money in view of certain recent developments, to provide scholarships in science, mathematics and languages at independent schools so that children who are specially talented in these subjects can, through their ability, get the education they deserve. We shall have to register our protest to the right hon. Lady's approach.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 10.

Division No. 9.]

Ayes

Boyle , Sir Edward

Eyre , Mr. Reginald

Hill , Mr. J. E. B.

Lewis , Mr. Kenneth

Maude , Mr. Angus

Montgomery , Mr.

Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret

van Straubenzee , Mr.

Noes

Armstrong , Mr. Ernest

Bacon , Miss Alice

Evans , Mr. Fred

Mahon , Mr. Simon

Newens , Mr. Stan

Oakes , Mr. Gordon

Price , Mr. Christopher

Price , Mr. William

Short , Mr. Edward

Woof , Mr. Robert

Amendment No. 17 proposed: In page 1, line 24, after “for” , insert “languages” .—[Mr. van Straubenzee.]

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 10. Division No. 10.]

Ayes

Boyle , Sir Edward

Eyre , Mr. Reginald

Hill , Mr. J. E. B.

Lewis , Mr. Kenneth

Maude , Mr. Angus

Montgomery , Mr.

Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret

van Straubenzee , Mr. [column 203-204]

Noes

Armstrong , Mr. Ernest

Bacon , Miss Alice

Evans , Mr. Fred

Mahon , Mr. Simon

Newens , Mr. Stan

Oakes , Mr. Gordon

Price , Mr. Christopher

Price , Mr. William

Short , Mr. Edward

Woof , Mr. Robert

Amendment No. 19 proposed: In page 1, line 25, leave out “other art” , and insert

“art, science, discipline or skill” .—[Mr. Maude.]

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 10. Division No. 11.]

Ayes

Boyle , Sir Edward

Eyre , Mr. Reginald

Hill , Mr. J. E. B.

Lewis , Mr. Kenneth

Maude , Mr. Angus

Montgomery , Mr.

Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret

van Straubenzee , Mr.

Noes

Armstrong , Mr. Ernest

Bacon , Miss Alice

Evans , Mr. Fred

Mahon , Mr. Simon

Newens , Mr. Stan

Oakes , Mr. Gordon

Price , Mr. Christopher

Price , Mr. William

Short , Mr. Edward

Woof , Mr. Robert

11.45 a.m.

Mr. Stan Newens

I beg to move Amendment No. 20, in page 1, line 25, at end insert:

(d) the maintenance or creation by a local authority of catchment areas designed to secure a balanced ability intake for each school.

The Chairman

If agreed, we can take at the same time Amendment No. 55, in the names of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) and the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), page 1, line 25, at end insert:

(d) such allocation by reference to ability or aptitude of pupils to a particular school as may secure a reasonable balance of ability for each school.

Sir E. Boyle

I agree with that, Sir Barnett.

Mr. Newens

These Amendments deal with the neighbourhood school, and I imagine that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides will recognise and agree that there is a correlation between the range of abilities produced in a particular area and the type of area. A poorer area is likely to produce less academically inclined children than a more affluent area. Hon. Members may not agree with me on the reasons for this, but, in my view, the reasons are closely connected with the influence of environment on the children rather than related to differences in hereditary ability. It is inevitable that the influence of a middle class home or a home with an intellectual atmosphere will be more likely to produce academically-inclined children than another type of home. When one considers the comparatively small amount of time a child spends in school with the vast majority of time spent at home or in the neighbourhood of home, it is only to be expected that the influence of the environment in which he lives on his development is likely to be considerable. It is not merely a question of his or her academic abilities but also of his inclinations.

I know from experience of teaching in the East End of London that the pressures on a working class child, particularly a girl, to leave school as soon as possible are very considerable indeed. When a child grows up more or less accepting, because of the atmosphere in which he is brought up, that he is to do a certain type of job and that jobs more elevated in the community are entirely out of his range, this naturally places a certain influence on the child's attitude to school and school work. On many occasions I have had, as a teacher, to argue at great length with children and their parents the desirability of staying at school in the face of flat incredulity about the value of education to the child concerned. That is especially so with a girl. The result is that a school is likely to reflect the neighbourhood in its academic achievements or lack of them.

I understand from my right hon. Friends that ability, as it stands, excludes the banding procedure. That is dealt with in Amendment No. 55. There is a division [column 205]of opinion on this. There is a division in the N.U.T. Some people in the teaching profession think that banding is a desirable form of dealing with this problem; other people do not. While recognising the reasons behind banding, I believe that it is possible to achieve the results we want in a proper comprehensive system without the continuation of banding. Therefore, I am happy about the provisions of the Bill in this respect, but there is a danger, particularly in a medium-sized town or an area where travelling is easy, that particular schools will be specially affected by parents who want their children to have an academic type of education. This will be especially so if a scheme for comprehensive education is to be brought into operation for an area where the previous grammar schools tend to be favoured by parents for their children. If this is allowed to occur, specially-favoured schools will have a demand for more places than they can provide and less favoured schools will have to take children they do not want. The result could be that the comprehensive system will be completely ruined.

This was likely to happen, I believe, in Newport. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes) referred to this matter on Second Reading. The Conservatives came to power there and decided to reverse previous decisions on catchment areas. I quote from the South Wales Argus of 28th January which makes the point clear in an editorial. It said:

“Newport Town Council, taking a clear backward step, by deciding to allow parents a choice of secondary schools have reopened the old comprehensive wound which was beginning to heal. This insidious, back-door attack on the comprehensive system can at best lead to a fragmentary and politically-loaded compromise offering the worst of both worlds and the council should reverse the decision as quickly as they decently can.”

I understand that, because of pressure by the teachers and by my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, who has taken a strong stand and fought a valiant battle on this, a change has been made, but a system of complete parental choice without limitation of catchment areas could create a system of de facto grammar schools and modern schools, whether one calls them comprehensive or anything else. This would be reflected in the attractiveness of schools to the staff they recruit and if a school is known, whether it is [column 206]called a comprehensive school or not, to be rather poor in academic achievement and difficult in discipline, that school would have more difficulty in attracting the type of teacher best able to improve the standards. The result would be that the school would find itself in a vicious circle and would find it difficult to lift itself out of the rut.

It is important to take steps to avoid what I have been describing. I recognise that one would not therefore say that in all areas regulated catchment areas will be rigidly in force. I recognise, for example, that in more sparsely populated areas there is likely to be only one school because of travelling difficulties. In an area such as this, the ability mix is less likely to be particularly extreme in one direction or another because one is dealing with much larger areas. I hope my right hon. Friends will make it clear that the Bill will not prevent planned catchment areas from being brought into being. If that is not the case, the Amendment should be accepted.

Catchment areas have no validity in the sense that children can be forced to go to a particular school but catchment areas give a priority of place to children living in a particular area. I am not opposed to genuine parental choice when parents, in consultation with teachers and the child, wish to send a child to a particular school. Comprehensive schools will tend to have particular specialities, which is good and not bad.

Referring to some of the arguments of the hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) and a number of his hon. Friends during the debate on previous Amendments, if a school specialises in classics and has a good classics department and there is not sufficient demand over a wide area for every school to provide a classics department, I hope that it would be possible for children to opt, in consultation with parents and teachers and provided that places were available, to go to that school.

In Harlow, which I have the honour to represent, there are a number of comprehensive schools and it is recognised that different comprehensive schools have different specialities. There is no difference between my right hon. Friend and me on this score. If the places are available in a particular school and the children from the catchment area from that school have [column 207]not been prevented from entry, I see no reason why children from outside the catchment area should not take up the available places.

Mr. Eyre

The hon. Member has slightly changed his use of words. I pose the practical problem of a school with a reputation and a limited number of places and a great number of children from other catchment areas wishing to go to it. How does one decide who is to be given a place and who is not?

Mr. Newens

The first thing to be done is that children living in a catchment area and wishing to go there must have priority. Then, if there are a number of other places available, they can be taken up by the children who want to go there. I do not wish to burke this issue. It will be asked what I suggest if more children wish to take up available excess places than can be accommodated? In those circumstances, not all children from outside can be taken and I would think it undesirable that they should all be taken. In those circumstances, some form of choice will have to be made by the people responsible for the school.

I hope that a choice will be made by discussion between the parents, the child and the teachers concerned. If it was discovered that a child wanted to go to a particular school for a particular reason, perhaps because he was very interested in classics, that child, in my view, should be given pride of place over another child who wanted to go to the school for snob or other such reasons. I would also wish to have taken into account such things as whether a previous brother or sister had gone to the school. Places should not be filled on the basis of ability in a particular subject.

12 noon.

Mr. Maude

I am glad the hon. Member accepts the fact, which the right hon. Lady did not accept, that this kind of situation will arise even after reorganisation. He knows and I know that it has arisen already, and it is likely to arise more in the future. The hon. Gentleman must recognise that he is walking a narrow tightrope between what he calls choice and what others call selection. What he was practically saying was that whereas some schools offer particularly good facilities in certain subjects——

[column 208]

The Chairman

Order. We are getting a little far from the Amendment and going back to a debate which has already taken place. Would the Committee be kind enough to try to confine itself to the Amendment? We cannot go over previous debates again.

Mr. Maude

With respect, Sir Barnett, in the last debate we made it perfectly clear that these two were intertwined, because one cannot be legal and the other illegal.

Surely what the hon. Member is saying is that when there is superfluity of applications for places in schools offering particular facilities he will allow them in if they have a brother or a sister at the same school. Indeed, he will allow them in for any other reason except the obviously most desirable one, which is that their ability and aptitudes will be properly catered for.

Mr. Newens

I do not wish to pursue the matter to too great a length now, but I think the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) is misrepresenting me. To repeat what I said previously, I would not allow these places to be filled by selection according to ability. I am not saying that the ability of children would not be one of the factors considered, but I would fill them not by an ability test, but rather on a consideration of all the issues I have indicated. This, in my view, must be done by consultation between the parties to whom I have referred.

In the past I have been very keen on the idea of free trade. I taught in what is now the I.L.E.A. area. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) will remember that many of us associated with the National Union of Teachers, as I was before I became a Member of the House, campaigned very strongly indeed against breaking up the old L.C.C. area, which was at that time proposed by the Conservative Party.

Sir E. Boyle

No.

Mr. Newens

It was altered afterwards. A lobby in the House may have had some influence. I felt very strongly about the matter, one reason being the desirability of free trade between particular schools.

Mr. Fergus Montgomery

Very tricky.

[column 209]

Mr. Newens

I am not burking the issue. I have endeavoured to deal with it fairly.

The Amendment is designed to ensure that the authorities will be able to draw catchment areas to achieve a reasonable ability mix. In certain cases this may involve cutting out a private estate from one catchment area and putting it in the catchment area for another school, or including a council house estate in a specific catchment area. As time passes it may be necessary for catchment area boundaries to be changed. I hope the Bill will not preclude that. In certain areas catchment arrangements may be undesirable or even unworkable, but in other areas they may be extremely desirable.

If there is to be a truly comprehensive system, in certain areas the authorities—for example, at Newport—should be able to draw catchment areas to secure a proper ability mix. I very much hope that my right hon. Friend will make it clear that the Bill does not preclude catchment areas from being drawn in the way suggested in the Amendment.

Sir E. Boyle

I apologise to the Committee that, owing to an engagement this afternoon, I shall have to leave the Committee a little before the end of the proceedings.

My name is down, with that of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), to Amendment No. 55. If the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) feels inclined to press his Amendment, I would feel bound to support both Amendments, for reasons which I shall explain.

I said on Second Reading that Clause 1 of the Bill represented what I called—

“an … off-hand and even naive approach to the realities of the problems faced by educationists when they try to organise comprehensive education in a big city.” —[Official Report, 12th February, 1970; Vol. 795, c. 1531.]

I do not believe this problem is faced adequately by the wording of the Clause. That is why I regard the discussion on these two Amendments as one of the most important discussions that we shall have on this part of the Bill.

As the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) correctly said, in the absence of any deliberate planning to the contrary, there is a strong tendency, particularly in big cities, for the most successful [column 210]comprehensive schools to be those in the higher rated areas and for the comprehensives in the lower rated areas to have less good academic results and, also, as he said, less drawing power. It is no good pretending that in a big city all children have equal ability for acquiring intelligence. They simply do not. The effect of a poor neighbourhood on the operational performance of children must be marked, as it must also be on the readiness of teachers to serve in particular schools.

The hon. Member was right to remind us that we always want to increase the number of schools where these teachers are competing for jobs. One thing that always causes me concern in many contexts is the relatively limited number of schools through which the ladder of promotion in the education service normally runs. To get over this problem, many people, including a number of comprehensive heads, have advocated what has come to be known as “banding” —that is, trying consciously to ensure, by consideration of primary school records, a balanced intake in terms of ability to as many comprehensive schools as possible. The Times reminded us that it was a London comprehensive head who said—

“This seems the only definition of a comprehensive school which has real meaning.”

I felt real concern when the right hon. Lady said, when winding up the debate on Second Reading, that this would prohibit banding. I ask the Government to reconsider the matter. I realise that an argument against banding can be advanced. The argument most frequently advanced is that one wants to see which are the most popular schools and then do what one can to improve the least popular. That argument has been advanced, and I know that it is sincerely advanced. It seems to me very much better to prevent these grossest disparities from ever arising. Banding in the Inner London area has, I believe, done a considerable amount to help a number of comprehensive schools, particularly in their early stages. After all, the cost, when a school goes downhill or does not keep up with its rivals, is very considerable.

As the hon. Member for Epping reminded us, we are considering here questions like the number of children who voluntarily stay on at school beyond school-leaving age. I believe that a policy [column 211]of being frankly complacent about allowing some schools to get better while some remain less favoured, even in the short run, is extremely expensive in human terms. It is certainly expensive in terms of the quality of staff who apply for posts in those schools. We should not forget one very simple point about public education in Britain which was well summed up by Professor John Vaizey when he said that education favours the strong. As part of that general point, education certainly favours the strong schools. I would never want to pursue a policy which allowed the disparities between the most successful schools and the least successful schools to grow too wide.

What are we to do about this? In big cities I believe that the right approach is to accept the need for a combination of methods. In certain types of area I have no doubt that banding is worthwhile and that it is wrong for banding to be prohibited in the Bill. In other types of area I believe that there is scope for artificial zoning. Therefore, I support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Epping. Giving legal sanction to artificial zoning ought not to be ruled out even if this means a certain amount of bussing. I am not saying that zoning is the right solution everywhere, any more than I think that banding is the right solution everywhere. I simply think there should sometimes be proper scope for artificial zoning in order to try to make the ability intake into a school more balanced.

Thirdly, as I said on Second Reading, I should not mind seeing experiments in positive discrimination in favour of what would frankly be a neighbourhood school in a poorer area. The Plowden concept of the educational priority area should be applied to secondary schools as well as primary schools. In certain types of area it would be quite right to concentrate resources on those areas which would inevitably be areas of cultural deprivation. I merely, remark because so much misunderstanding and prejudice is sometimes aroused on the point, that certain centre city areas will tend always to be areas of cultural deprivation whatever the racial composition of the population. It is absurd to evade prejudice on that aspect of the subject. The important thing is that local authorities should have a considerable measure of discrimination. What we on [column 212]this side are constantly saying is that we believe in leaving as much freedom as possible to the good sense of those local education authorities which have responsibility for providing education.

I will not continue much longer because I sense from what is now taking place in the Committee that hon. Members will soon be keener on reading than they will be on listening to speeches. It should be recorded that there is now being distributed in the Committee a not insignificant document—the Donnison Report. My hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) reminds me that we should thank the Minister for arranging its distribution, which I gladly do. The prospects of hon. Members receiving it brightened enormously in the last hour, and we are grateful for what has been done.

To repeat my final point, I think that banding, zoning and giving positive discrimination in favour of a neighbourhood school in a poor area have places in a big city. Is it not much better to leave it to great authorities like the Inner London Education Authority to decide what they can do under Clause 2? That is why I shall support, and possibly vote for, Amendment No. 20 and Amendment No. 55.

12.15 p.m.

Mr. Short

I intervene, not to bring the debate to a conclusion, but because, as I informed the hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), I must leave the Committee at 12.30.

Amendment No. 20 would exempt a catchment area which is designed to secure a balanced intake of ability. Amendment No. 55 would exempt allocation by reference to ability or aptitude of pupils to secure a good spread of ability. Amendment No. 20 has no logical connection whatever with the other exceptions. The other exemptions are of three types of institution. The first Amendment would exempt, not an institution, but a method of admission.

Catchment areas are not a concept known to law. There is nothing in the 1944 Act about catchment areas. The statutory provisions in the 1944 Act about admission are to be found in Sections 76 and 37. I agree that almost all local education authorities draw catchment areas as a matter of convenience. Equally, [column 213]almost all parents accept catchment areas, but the fact remains that if a parent objects to a catchment area his wishes prevail over those of the local authority, provided the school to which the parent wishes to send his child is suitable to the child's age, ability and aptitude, provided it does not involve the local authority in any undue expense, and always provided that there is room in the school for the child. I receive frequent appeals from parents about schools to which children have been allocated. If these provisions are satisfied I must always find in favour of the parent, I am afraid.

Mrs. Thatcher

Why “I am afraid” ?

Mr. Short

Nothing in this respect would be changed by this Bill by drawing informal catchment areas, and that is all that catchment areas are. Therefore, I cannot agree to a legal concept—the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) said he would not rule this out—being introduced in this Bill because it would detract from and be in conflict with the parental choice given by the 1944 Act. It would take away the right of choice.

There is another aspect. The reason my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) has given for his Amendment is quite unacceptable to me. I do not believe that innate ability is not evenly distributed geographically. I do not believe that a neighbourhood school necessarily does not give a fair spread of ability. I do not accept that working-class children are less able than children from better-off homes. They may appear to be certainly, but this is the case for the abolition of selections. The intelligence quotient, we believe, is about 20 per cent. due, not to innate factors, but to environmental factors. The child from a working-class home may appear to be less able, but I do not accept that there is a correlation between social class and innate ability.

Mr. Newens

What I said previously was very similar? Would my right hon. Friend accept that when one takes environment into account there are various differences, which I agree do not reflect differences in innate ability?

Mr. Short

There is a fair measure of agreement between us. There is an unanswerable case for an admissions policy which brings in a wide social spread. I [column 214]never lose an opportunity to encourage local authorities to draw catchment areas in a way which will produce this spread in to schools. This can be done in a number of ways—for example, by the elongated catchment area which goes across a wide social cross-section of the community. I hope that local authorities will try to ensure this. Circular 10/65, in paragraph 36, encourages local authorities to try to create comprehensive schools which are

“as socially and intellectually comprehensive as possible.”

Amendment No. 55 would exempt banding and take account of ability of pupils in arranging for admission. Admission arrangements do not require my approval; they are a matter for the local authority. An aggrieved parent can appeal to me under Section 68 and Section 37 against a placing. I would be unwilling to take away this right to appeal. The admission policy remains with the local authority, but the parent has the right to appeal against it.

Three situations are likely to arise because of this Bill when it becomes an Act. I will say what our attitude towards each of them would be. If a local authority submitted a reorganisation plan and put forward banding as part of the plan, we should certainly have to point out that this was in conflict with Clause 1(1). Secondly, if a local authority which has had its plan approved starts banding after the passage of the Bill and that comes to our notice—as it almost certainly would as everything of this kind provokes a great deal of parental comment—we would certainly look at it in the light of Section 68 or Section 99 of the 1944 Act.

The third situation concerns a scheme now in existence. This would not end overnight with the passage of the Bill, any more than grammar schools will disappear overnight when the Bill becomes law, but I make clear that we could not regard it—and we have made it quite clear to the Inner London Education Authority—as a permanent feature of the educational landscape. We could not regard it as anything more than an interim device during a period of a mixed economy. I agree that when children are creamed off to co-existing grammar schools there may be more of a case for banding. But this is an interim step when grammar schools and so-called comprehensive schools co-exist.

[column 215]

Sir E. Boyle

Surely that carries significance, particularly for the Inner London Education Authority, bearing in mind that the right hon. Gentleman has approved a plan for Inner London which continues 10 per cent. of selective schools down to 1975.

Mr. Short

Almost all things could change in London in the very near future. London has adopted a very gradual approach towards reorganisation, and so long as grammar schools are co-existent with comprehensive schools there may be more of a case for this, but I make quite clear that I could not regard it as a permanent feature.

I cannot accept either of these Amendments. I recommend the Committee to reject them if they are pressed, first, because they conflict with parental choice under the 1944 Act, and, secondly, because they are unnecessary as working class children are not less able than middle class children. It is the wish of this Committee and of Parliament that local education authorities should try to secure a social mix in their schools for social reasons and indirectly, because of that, for educational reasons.

Mr. Maude

I confess that what the Secretary of State has just said has left me slightly more confused about his aims and objects. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), I have considerable sympathy with what the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) and my right hon. Friend are seeking to secure by these Amendments, even though my interpretation and definition of what the hon. Member for Epping is trying to do may be rather different from his.

I am not clear whether what the Secretary of State was saying was that the situation that these Amendments are designed to remedy does not exist, or that it does exist and we do not want it remedied. It seemed that at various points of his speech he could have been understood as saying either or both. He said—and we have heard him develop the argument before—that he does not believe that differences in innate ability, what on Second Reading he always referred to as “so-called” ability, follow social lines. But one must assume that he recognises that differences in ability at a given age which are measurable by one means or other may vary accord[column 216]ing to the social and environmental background of the child. I do not think anyone would doubt that.

If that is so, it is clear that certain circumstances may arise where in a particularly poor, deprived area of a conurbation we may get in a neighbourhood comprehensive school a very high proportion in comparison with the national average, or particularly in a less well-to-do suburban area, of children who at any given time have small vocabularies, whose intelligence has not been sharpened by an educated family background. If we were to apply any of the normal tests, whether intelligence tests or any form of examination, we would get a situation at that time in which it was clear that there was a low general level of ability.

The right hon. Gentleman, I am sure, would say—and I do not think I would dispute it—that the object of his exercise is to try to put that situation right as quickly as possible and to bring those deprived children up to a higher level of attainment and ability. I see that, but I am not absolutely clear as to whether he is right in saying that the best way to do this is to refuse to take any steps to get a mix between them and children from other social backgrounds and at a different level of development of their intelligence and ability.

It may well be that to isolate those children with a high social, intellectual, and cultural background together will retard their progress.

Mr. Short

indicated dissent.

Mr. Maude

The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I wish that I could be quite sure that he is right about this, but I do not see why he thinks he is right.

Mr. Short

I said that the local authorities should draw their catchment areas in such a way as to get a social mix, a fair social cross-section.

12.30 p.m.

Mr. Maude

I recognise that, but this is what I find so confusing. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the social mix he wants is equivalent to an ability mix? In other words, is he saying that the social segregation which is obtained by adhering strictly to neighbourhood schools amounts to a segregation of children of a particular level or intelligence and ability or not? If he is saying so, he is [column 217]suggesting selection for schools by ability and aptitude. If he is not, I cannot see see how his argument is consistent with what he is saying about leaving everything to parental choice. It is clear that if a local authority adjust its catchment areas so as to get a social mix it will at certain points override parental choice. Children will not be sent in the last resort simply where their parents want them sent. They will be sent where the local authority decides that they should be sent in order to obtain a social mix.

According to the right hon. Gentleman's argument, this is selection, not only by social class, but, to all intents, by ability and aptitude, and it is being done, as the right hon. Gentleman said to me in his intervention just now, in order not to retard children from a deprived social background by keeping them isolated from the stimulus of children of greater ability and intelligence. There is a real conflict here, and I am bound to say that I do not think that the speech of the Secretary of State has made it any clearer.

Mr. Newens

I am still not clear on which side of the fence the hon. Gentleman comes down. Does he want selection, or does he want a social mix? He has made various objections to what has been said on this side of the Committee, but he has not made clear what he wants, although from his previous statements I think it is clear that he is a very strong advocate of selection.

Mr. Maude

There is no difficulty about understanding what I want. I said I approved of the hon. Member's Amendment and the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), but one cannot make the distinction which the hon. Member is trying to make. The hon. Gentleman went to great lengths to say that he was asking, not for selection by ability or aptitude, but for a kind of choice which would be largely parental but would involve discussions between schools, the education authority, parents and children. If he wishes to call it choice, he can call it choice. I think that what he is advocating is a kind of selection and, whether he likes to call it selection or choice, I am in favour of it. But he should not imagine that he is advocating policies purely designed to get a social mix. From what the Secretary of State has [column 218]said, it is perfectly clear that in making arrangements to get a social mix he will get an ability mix as well, a better ability mix than would be obtained by rigidly drawing catchment areas on neighbourhood units, if the exception was not allowed in the Bill.

I am entirely in favour of getting the best possible social mix. One of the most serious dangers of the reorganisation in conurbations is that there is too little social mix in neighbourhood comprehensive schools. This in turn, at least in secondary schools, produces too narrow an ability mix. I want to see the social and ability mix widened in this respect, and for this reason I support both Amendments. All I am saying is that the Secretary of State appeared to argue one way in one part of his speech and a different way in another part of his speech.

Mr. Mahon

I apologise for being absent from the Committee when my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) moved this Amendment. It was unavoidable.

I want to speak for a moment in support of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He said that working class children living in deprived areas are no less intelligent and no less deserving than children in other areas of the country. Many in this House, such as myself, were born and reared in working class areas. I was born within half a mile of Liverpool dockside. There are men in the House, born in mining villages, seaports and the East End of London, who have risen to great eminence in public life and in public esteem. However, there are obvious environmental pressures at work. There may be latent equality of ability in any child, but I want to say something about the pressures existing in certain areas and the inequalities that exist when we think about the introduction of comprehensive education and the elimination of selection in this Bill.

The implementation of this Bill will probably be one of the most difficult exercises in education that this country has ever faced. It will not be easy, but at least it is an attempt, and a necessary attempt, to bring more equality into our society. All my experience in education shows that it has never been easy to bring in a reasonable form of education.

When considering the social conditions in my constituency, in, say, the Scotland [column 219]Road area and other areas—areas which have many praiseworthy qualities but nevertheless where we want to bring equality to the education system—I believe that, with one exeception, no one has spoken about the contribution of the teaching profession in this regard. The teachers, by virtue of their professional status and their financial status, have moved away from those areas into other areas where they find it more convenient and pleasant to teach than in the dockside areas. It is more pleasant for teachers to teach outside these areas, and for that reason we shall not get a teaching mix, never mind the social mix, that is absolutely essential for the comprehensive system in industrial areas.

Mr. Montgomery

I am perturbed by what the hon. Gentleman has said. If he is saying that teachers are moving out from the more difficult areas, I do not agree with him, because a lot of teachers in this country have a tremendous sense of vocation for going to schools in such areas because they feel there is something worth while to be done there. Most of the time that I spent in teaching—over nine years—was spent in difficult schools. I found it very rewarding work, and I am sure that many other teachers find it so, too.

Mr. Mahon

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I agree many teachers are vocational. I have referred to teachers who have given their working lives to teaching. We were talking earlier this morning about deprived children and the tremendous contribution that has been made by teachers, but I believe that teachers cannot be expected to live in these areas, and, of course, they prefer to teach in the areas where they live.

Twelve years ago I took an inventory of 15,000 school children in my advocacy of the abolition of the 11-plus. At about that time I also made an examination of how many teachers and professional people lived within one mile of the Liverpool dockside for the seven miles of its length. The Secretary of State would find it useful to take such an inventory again; it would be very illuminating from the educational point of view. My right hon. Friend referred to an elongated pattern. Did he mean that instead of going north to south in a place like Merseyside he [column 220]would go from east to west? That might improve the social mix.

One would think that the Opposition were the front runners in education. If they have thought about these things, how is it that they were so slow in dealing with the areas about which I am speaking?

On the social mix point, many grammar schools which were founded in cities in recent years have moved out to more salubrious areas. If the vocationalism to which the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Montgomery) referred is of the degree he suggests, how is it that many of the finest schools established in cities have moved out to a more salubrious neighbourhood? In my constituency there are two county grammar schools; the other two grammar schools I founded in my own public life. It cannot be said of many people in public life that they have founded two grammar schools. The great city grammar schools in the City of Liverpool have all moved out, with one exception in the voluntary sense and two in the other sense, to more salubrious neighbourhoods, which must necessarily make it more difficult for working class people like myself, to get the opportunity they deserve.

These are some of the difficulties with which my right hon. Friend is trying to grapple. The St. Francis Xavier School in Liverpool has gone to West Derby. It was situated in Salisbury Street in the Exchange Division. St. Edward's College was in Everton Valley. It has now gone to the West Derby district of Liverpool. I am sure that this has happened all over the country. Maybe there are good reasons for it. In the new system of comprehensive education it will obviously be extremely difficult to get the social and teaching mix that we need in order to give our people the opportunities they deserve.

12.45 p.m.

Earlier today, hon. Members spoke of special talents. One of the special talents in my district was music. We were better at it in my district than anyone else on Merseyside. There were many reasons for it, but it may surprise the Committee to learn that one of them was the degree of unemployment locally. We had time to develop the latent talent we had, and that talent was a godsend in the area. I am [column 221]sure that, had we had more opportunity to develop it, we would have been as good as, perhaps better than, many other people in the country. On Merseyside we produce talents of many kinds. We are certainly not behind the rest of the country, particularly in what is being done by lads from working class areas of Merseyside in deploying so many talents, including quick-wittedness, which is enjoyed by many people on Merseyside.

The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) talked of sharpening one's wits in the academic sense and about the opportunity that comes from living in middle-class areas. Of course there are advantages in such areas. I agree that it is marvellous that the children should be able to sharpen their wits and intellects in such areas. But anyone who believes that this cannot be or is not done in working-class areas does not know what he is talking about. Anyone who has stood on Merseyside looking for work, in West Derby as well as anywhere else, knows what sharp-wittedness means. Indeed, in view of the limited educational opportunities which we have had in many areas on Merseyside, we have had to use sharp-wittedness to a much greater degree perhaps than other people who, to use an ugly word, may have been less hungry than working people in the days I am talking about. There is no doubt about it. If anyone thinks that deprivation does not sharpen the wits, he has another think coming.

Mr. Montgomery

rose——

Mr. Mahon

I know that the hon. Gentleman can equal any experience I may have had and I pay him testimony for it. He understands what I am talking about.

We know the limitations of the Bill. It has a lot of them, but we are trying to give more children a more reasonable opportunity of gaining better education. Of course there is no equality. We inherit our parents; we do not choose them. Very often, innocent children who come into the world inherit, apart from their environment, many other things which can never be equated in this world in any shape or form. It is no good simply saying that the Labour Party is trying to even up or even down. We are very well aware of the problems we are trying to tackle. [column 222]

I turn to another aspect of voluntary schools and social deprivation. In the voluntary Catholic sector of education, there are independent schools. Are these, with their selective social mix, not aware of the deprivation which exists in many Catholic districts in the industrial areas? How long can we afford in this country to allow independent schools of this calibre completely to cancel out any contribution they could make to helping children in the industrial areas? The independent schools, particularly the Catholic independent schools, they have to broaden their vista. We can no longer agree to a system in education in which so many Catholic children in industrial areas are deprived while a few other Catholic children can go to the more illustrious independent schools. I ask those responsible in that sector of voluntary education to look very carefully at the situation.

All my life I have tried to achieve better education in the industrial areas where so many of our children attend voluntary schools. I have looked at these selective schools and have wondered whether they were living in the same world. I support my right hon. Friend, because what is wrong with the present system of social and educational opportunity for working-class children is that their potential and latent ability which is the equal of anyone else's in the country, is being deprived of the opportunity that it should have.

Mr. Christopher Price

I do not think that I shall be able to be present at the first sitting of the Committee after the Easter Recess, so I am glad to be able to say a few words today on this subject.

I echo everything said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) about the pattern, which has developed since the war, in which good schools have moved out from city centres to suburbs. This pattern has often deprived working-class children living in the middle of cities because the schools have moved too far away for them to attend.

These two Amendments reflect the most difficult problem our education system have to face, whether it goes comprehensive or not. I have never pretended that comprehensive education will solve the sort of problems we are talking about on these two Amendments about banding and catchment areas. All these problems will be with us for many years after we [column 223]have introduced comprehensive education. However, I am sure that the introduction of comprehensive education, difficult though it is with all the problems still remaining, will make the problems easier to solve.

I have been pleased to hear hon. Members telling us how keen they are to have a balanced social mix in our schools. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) is no longer with us. Anxious as he is for a balanced social mix in the schools, I am sure that he welcomes the Report of the Public Schools Commission on direct grant schools. I look forward to being on the same public platform with him welcoming that Report, because I am sure that he agrees that it shows how unbalanced the social mix is in direct grant schools.

What the law says about catchment areas is totally out of line with what happens. Indeed, the 1944 Act does not mention catchment areas. The concept of the Act is that local authorities provide schools and parents choose them. That was all that was meant to happen. Local authorities are not even meant to allocate children except as a last resort. The parent officially applies to the school and only if there is no room in it does local authority allocation come into the picture.

The de facto position is quite different. Local authorities in big cities have for years been in the habit of simply allocating primary schools to secondary schools. I myself have sat over a map of Sheffield with secondary schools marked blue and primary schools marked red, trying to allocate them—all quite illegally. There is no legal basis for such action. I am sure that this is one of the problems which the next big education Bill must sort out, because it creates great difficulties in the cases which come all the way up to the Secretary of State when parents suddenly realise the situation.

I put my name to Amendment No. 20 in a probing attitude. I would not vote on the Amendments because I accept everything my right hon. Friend has said about catchment areas being not in the Act and that it means nothing to talk about them in such Amendments. But, broadly speaking, I feel that there are three ways of dealing with this difficult problem of trying to prevent ghetto schools. Everyone concerned in education [column 224]authorities knows that middle-class schools really look after themselves and that the real problem is trying to prevent some schools from becoming so depressed that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) says, good teachers tend to leave and there are continual staffing and social problems.

The first way to deal with this—it is one of the courses I followed as Deputy Chairman of the Education Committee in Sheffield—is to allocate primary schools to secondary schools in such a manner as to get a reasonable social mix. We had 12 comprehensive schools in Sheffield. By messing about with the primary schools and jerrymandering the catchment areas, we managed to make eight of the schools reasonable. Two or three were intractably depressed schools with constant staffing difficulties because of the geographical nature of the area, and one or two were intractably enriched schools because they were in areas where children came from an enriched background. One can do something by that means.

Another method is by banding. I look upon that as an interim measure, however, while running a mixed system and while we still have grammar schools.

The third method, which I would advocate for the period after we go completely comprehensive, is that of massive discrimination in favour of the problem schools. I admire the I.L.E.A. for what it is doing in favour of deprived schools. Massive discrimination in favour of such schools is needed.

I would go further. We have a tendency to lumber our education system with all the ills of society, and when a school breaks down under the strain we point to it and say what a terrible place it is and that it is a bad school. It is never a bad school. The trouble is that the social problems with which it has had to cope have become overwhelming. Over the next few years, I would like to see a policy of transforming educational priority areas into social priority areas. We should use the money not only on such schools but quite deliberately on a discriminatory basis in favour of the areas themselves—into schools and youth schools and clinics and housing. I would go even further. The real need in solving this kind of problem is to build a lot of council houses on Hampstead Heath, for example. That is one way of mixing up [column 225]social areas and not letting middle-class districts, by covenants or some other means, become so exclusive.

These two policies—putting municipal houses into the middle of advantaged areas and putting money into disadvantaged areas—are the best way of solving the problem.

It being One o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Committee adjourned till Tuesday, 7th April, 1970, at half-past Ten o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:

Janner , Sir B. (Chairman)

Armstrong , Mr.

Bacon , Miss

Boyle , Sir E.

Evans , Mr. Fred

Eyre , Mr.

Hill , Mr. J. E. B.

Lewis , Mr. Kenneth

Mahon, , Mr. Simon

Maude , Mr.

Montgomery , Mr.

Newens , Mr.

Oakes , Mr.

Price , Mr. Christopher

Price , Mr. William

Short , Mr. Edward

Thatcher, Mrs.

van Straubenzee , Mr.

Woof , Mr.