Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1970 Apr 9 Th
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 [271-304]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1030-1300. Seventh Sitting reproduced in its entirety. MT spoke at cc.295 and 298.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 11693
Themes: Private education, Secondary education
[column 271]

EDUCATION BILL

STANDING COMMITTEE A

OFFICIAL REPORT

Thursday, 9th April, 1970

[Mr. John Brewis in the Chair]

Clause 1

Principles Affecting Provision of Secondary Education

10.30 a.m.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

I beg to move Amendment No. 21, in page 1, line 25, at end insert:

(d) the provision of boarding accommodation either in boarding schools or otherwise for pupils for whom education as boarders is considered by their parents and by the local education authority to be desirable.

The Chairman

We can also discuss Amendment No. 40, in page 1, line 25, at end insert:

(d) the provision of education in a school for a child in respect of whom board and lodging is provided as mentioned in section 50(1) of the Education Act 1944.

Mr. Hill

These two Amendments deal with a most important field. Amendment No. 21 would except boarding education from the general rule of the Clause. We say, not that selection procedure is necessary, but that it should not be outlawed by the Bill. Amendment No. 40, on a different point, deals with the powers under Section 50 for local authorities to provide or assist with the costs of board and lodging for pupils who go away to a place of education, but not in a boarding school or college.

We believe that an element of selection by ability and aptitude must enter into most, if not all, cases, not only because of the physical limitations of existing boarding schools, but because we believe that that is in the best educational interest of many children. Much information has become currently available on boarding education in the last few years, thanks largely to the work of some research experts, notably Dr. Royston Lambert. Inspired by his early work, the Boarding Schools Association holds an annual con[column 272]ference, which is meeting this week, where everyone concerned with boarding education meets, not only from the independent sector—still less from a limited sector such as the H.M.C. schools—but also from the maintained sector. The present chairman is the headmaster of Ottershaw. Foreign experts on boarding education frequently attend.

In the last few years, we have had the two Reports of the Public Schools Commission. Whatever one may think of their terms of reference and conclusions, both Reports contain a valuable survey and some profound thinking about boarding need. The best introduction to this subject is undoubtedly Chapter 6 of the first Report. I commend to the Committee the opening series of quotations in paragraph 151, coming as they do from a whole range of expert opinion, both within and without Government. The next paragraph sums up the position:

“Many children live in conditions of social and thus of educational deprivation. It would be absurd to suggest that all deprived children need to live away from home in order to receive suitable education; and for those who do need to live away from home, it does not follow that a boarding school is necessarily the right place. Nevertheless, the need of many children for an alternative home for the whole or part of the year may be held to include, as one of its elements, boarding schools as the best answer for a proportion of children. So long as even a small proportion of deprived children fall within this category, they will represent in numerical terms a formidable challenge to public authorities to provide or assist them with boarding education.”

Therefore, it is wrong to suppose, if anyone still does, that boarding education is just a middle class luxury.

The State's overall responsibility for the young starts with certain categories of acute educational and social need which are accepted by public authorities without question. The first is the educationally subnormal children who, when their needs cannot be catered for on a day attendance basis, are boarded in independent schools and State schools. There are about 25,000 of them. Mentally handicapped children to date known as “Section 57 children” under the 1944 Act and hitherto deemed ineducable, are shortly to be transferred to the care of the Department of Education and Science. About 30,000 are in residential institutions. When one moves from physical and health disabilities which need boarding provision, there is the question of delinquency. There are 5,500 boarders [column 273]at approved schools and 22,000 children in care, who are often boarded, while attending day schools, for short periods.

Coming to strictly educational need, there are children who are living too remotely for daily travelling and have to be boarded. Some rural homes are an intolerable travelling distance from school. There are about 2,000 such children.

These are all categories of imperative need. There is no answer but a residential boarding provision. There is no option in public policy but to meet these needs in full.

But when we move from acute difficulties of health, delinquency and social stress and come to boarding need predominantly on educational grounds, it becomes harder to decide exactly how far State provision should be made. There has been a long history of local administrative responsibility which has naturally produced a wide range of interpretation and practice in fulfilling the duties under Section 8(2)(d) of the Education Act, 1944, the words of which are reproduced in our Amendment.

Therefore, some years ago, a working party was set up to consider assistance with the cost of boarding. It reported in 1960, and the Report is known as the Martin Report. It defined four categories of boarding need. The first was cases where both parents were abroad, and the second where parents lived in England and Wales but were liable to move frequently. The number of such parents is increasing: I do not think that it is declining. The third category covered cases where the home circumstances were seriously prejudicial to the child's normal development, and the fourth covered cases of special aptitude which required special training, available only through boarding education.

Since 1960, the local education authorities have generally been working on these lines, but still with considerable variations in interpretation and practice. So the first Report of the Public Schools Commission elaborated the Martin recommendations into more detailed categories, which are well worth reading. They end in paragraph 157 by saying that there must be one final criterion— “any other exceptional circumstances” than the nine categories which they classify,

“which severely impede a child's educational progress.”

[column 274]

Therefore, my first question is, what is the Government's view of the validity of the criteria contained in that Report? Do the Government accept those criteria?

I would never suggest that a child whose circumstances placed him in one of these categories must go to a boarding school. The pros and cons are well argued in the Report and have to be applied individually. Whether or not to board is of crucial importance to any child's future and happiness. It is an important question of parental choice, and willingness and consent are necessary. But I do not think that, in all cases, parental choice should be conclusive against boarding, because for some children boarding education may be in their best interests, even if the parent is reluctant. The Commission stressed the need for the most sympathetic guidance from primary and secondary heads and teachers. Parental attitudes are additionally important because of their bearing on numbers.

Two considerations are worth bearing in mind. Largely for historical reasons, the parental attitude towards boarding varies broadly with social background. There have always been very few boarding school places in relation to the population, and there always will be. Since these have mostly been fee charging, except for the scholarship element, they have mainly been taken up by children of wealthier and middle class people. For the majority of people, the idea of a child going away from home was much more commonly associated with ill-health, misfortune or failure. There has, I think, been a long-established prejudice against boarding education, but as it dies away, as I think it is fast dying away, we may expect a greater increase in parental demand. 10.45 a.m.

Secondly, any analysis one makes of boarding need in its widest aspects shows, not a sharp division between extreme defects of health and behaviour on the one side, and on the other, purely scholastic needs, but rather a spectrum of human ability and deficiency, of talent, health, character and temperament, varying infinitely between children and widely within each child. Whatever criteria we select for identifying need, common to all children in boarding need, is an unsatisfactory educational environment. Any boarding school policy can succeed only [column 275]if it provides an educational environment to match the needs of a child. That reinforces my belief that selection in some cases is inevitable.

We should notice from these reports, and especially the appendix to the first Report of the Commission, a quite astonishing variety in the boarding schools, not only in size and numbers, but in type and scope of their aims and facilities. It is very difficult to generalise about boarding schools even in groups, quite apart from the fact that any boarding school—like any day school, but perhaps more so—develops its own personality.

Turning to the numbers, one is again trying to find an answer to the questions, what is the extent of boarding need, how far is it being met, and in what schools? Again, one has to rely gratefully on the work done by the Public Schools Commission. In Chapter 7 of the first Report there is a detailed analysis of numbers, which is summarised for those who have only the second Report, in paragraphs 340 and 341. It is clear from the start that this need within these criteria is very hard to estimate and project, but it is interesting that the estimates reached by the Commission's own methods were in close agreement with the estimates and projections of Dr. Royston Lambert, working by different methods and separately in this respect from the other Commission experts.

The figures of estimated need for 1966 were 61,000 children, and the projection for 1970, 63,000, for 1975, 75,000, and for 1980, 80,000. In the provision being made, we have figures only for 1966–67, where 35,500 children were being wholly or partly assisted from public funds at boarding schools. Of these, 19,000 were in independent schools recognised as efficient, 11,000 in maintained schools, 4,000 in direct grant schools and 1,500 in independent but unrecognised schools. There seems clearly to be very considerable need.

Mr. Simon Mahon

What the hon Member is saying is most interesting, but these figures relate to provision for past need. They go up to only 1966–67. We have been passing social legislation recently—for instance, the Divorce Bill. Does the hon. Member agree that over a period of years, with easier divorce, there will be more broken homes? Therefore, to my mind—I say this regrettably—there may be need [column 276]for more children to go into boarding schools because of neglect and the atmosphere in their homes. Does he consider that we are making mistakes in this direction?

Mr. Hill

I agree that that is broadly true. This is seen in discussions within the Boarding Schools Association. There are these social problems which do not decrease with rising standards, but tend to change their pattern. I should suppose that the projected trend is a fairly conservative estimate. The hon. Member's interruption prompts me to ask the Minister of State whether the Department could consider in future collating and publishing more statistics about boarding provision. I do not think that in all the volumes of educational statistics one can get much information about boarding provision, although I imagine the statistics must be available with all the information which is already collected. Some informative statistics, if possible of estimated need, but certainly to cover availability and provision, should become a feature of the annual volumes.

My main question on these figures is, what is the current Government view of this estimate of need? Do they accept it, or would they put forward some estimate of their own? I make clear that I am not asking how this need should be met. In nothing I am saying am I asking the Government to give any view about the recommendations contained in the two Reports, but the figures have been with the Government for a long time. It is two years this month since the first Public Schools Commission Report was made to the Department. I hope that the Minister can tell us her view of the estimates.

It seems indisputable that the current arrangements must continue and most children in boarding need will have to be accommodated in school buildings which exist. The question therefore arises whether these schools as they exist can comply with the requirements of the Bill unamended. Neither I nor the schools themselves think it possible to treat as a feasible proposition the statements made by the right hon. Lady in her winding up speech on 12th February, when she said:

“It is, therefore, implicit in the Bill that authorities who pay for children at direct grant and independent schools should have regard to whether the school concerned is comprehensive or not—that is, whether its admission arrangements are based wholly or in part on the ability or aptitude of pupils.” —[Official [column 277]Report, 12th February, 1970; Vol. 795, c. 1577–8.]

What perhaps is more important is that the Donnison Report does not believe that a feasible proposition.

Paragraph 342, which admittedly refers to direct grant schools, points out:

“Thus from their relatively slender resources the direct grant schools are already making a major contribution to meeting the country's boarding needs. Although they provide only some 6 per cent. of the country's boarding places, they provide more than 11 per cent. of the assisted boarding places.”

Paragraph 343 goes on to say:

“Can they go further still? There are limits to what they can do. The number of places they can offer now and for the foreseeable future is fairly small. Most of them are relatively small grammar schools and therefore unable to cover the whole range of ability for which boarding education is needed. It is more difficult for boarding schools than for day schools to expand or change their age range.”

It is very difficult for a boarding school suddenly to increase its size. A fully comprehensive pattern usually is possible only when, for example, a boarding school wing is built at some large existing day school. I have in mind as an example the lodge which was built at Crown Woods comprehensive school in 1965 by the Inner London Education Authority, mainly to accommodate the children of personnel serving in the Armed Forces overseas, taking, I believe, up to about 200 children but attached to an incoming daily complement of nearly 2,000. It is comparatively easy in those circumstances to be non-selective but the other schools have, and I think they mostly have to maintain, some degree of selection.

The grammar schools, maintained and independent, which cater for academic pupils, the so-called public schools, with I suppose about 75 per cent. academic and 25 per cent. non-academic, are almost the exact reverse of the comprehensive school pattern. The other independent schools take varied bands of ability according to the character of the school. Many of them concentrate on what I think are miscalled “11-plus failures” , and specialise in bringing children on and, when those children get O levels which they would not otherwise have obtained, make them into “late developers” . Therefore, I doubt whether many of them could operate on a completely unselected intake. It is not merely a question of teaching difficulties. [column 278]Any school could extend a limited way downwards, perhaps more easily than upwards but, as I hinted earlier, there is the question of pastoral care. 11.0 a.m.

The child in a boarding school above all needs to feel that it belongs to it and is needed by the community, which is that school. The danger of having too wide a range of ability is that groups of children at the extremes may feel isolated from the rest and suffer, and conceivably make others suffer, in consequence. The question of pastoral care and fitting into a community, for the first time in their lives for most children is an argument against having very big boarding schools. It is common practice, almost without exception, that in a large boarding school the children have to be organised on a house system, or some variation of it.

What is significant—and it arises in the first Report and in the educational comment that has followed it—is that the whole ability range, while it cannot easily or in many cases be covered in any one school, can be covered in a series of boarding schools catering for different levels and needs and, of course, with considerable overlap. That system is probably of greater educational benefit to many children for the reasons I have adduced. It inevitably involves a decision as to which school is most suitable for the individual child, and that must imply an element of selection partly by reference to ability and aptitude. Without some measure of selection, a school cannot maintain its unity and its purpose. This experience is common to both independent and maintained boarding schools.

The Donnison Report, in paragraph 343, and the first Report, in paragraph 214, stress that all boarding schools should have a substantial number of pupils without educational need; in other words, where parents desire to have their children at a boarding school and are willing to pay for it. If it is essential on educational grounds, judged by this Commission which has looked at it critically and exhaustively—one figure of 30 per cent. is given of pupils who should be within the schools but without this educational need—it follows that parents must expect to have a variety of choice and to choose schools which reflect their needs, and therefore an element of selection must be preserved. [column 279]The figure of 30 per cent. refers to maintained schools, in which there are 3,000 boarders not in educational need.

I do not know how many maintained boarding schools are mainly academic. The one I know best in Norfolk, Wymondham College is, and Woolverstone Hall, the G.L.C. boarding school in Suffolk, is, about which I hope one of my hon. Friends will say something. Neither of those schools could do an effective educational job without some selection. Wymondham College is somewhat unique. It comprises on one campus a county day grammar school, and, its main feature, the quite separate residential boarding school established since the war which has a three form entry at 11-plus, taking five years to O level, and a two form entry of late developers coming in at 13, 14 or 15-plus, perhaps taking three years to O level. The earlier stream and the late developing stream combine in the sixth form of 200 pupils, about half of whom attempt A levels. This is an invaluable way of identifying the late developers and, with Norfolk's scattered communications, it enables children who need a more academic course to be identified by their secondary modern headmasters, who, with parental consent, put them forward for entry.

The Bill puts a complete stop to that process, and it would be disastrous. Given the geography of Norfolk, I do not see how that school could become a comprehensive unselective school and still be of service to the children of the county as a whole. That school also takes the children of Service personnel who may be posted overseas, many of them in the R.A.F.

That leads me to ask the Government, in the light of the Bill, if selection is banned in boarding schools, what their policy is towards the employees of Government departments who, as parents, receive an educational allowance for 18,000 children in boarding schools at the moment. I suppose that there would be repercussions both on and from the parents concerned. For example, are the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Overseas Development to be treated differently from local education authorities? The parent employees of these departments may wish to remain free to choose particular schools, and that must mean schools some of which have selective entry.

To draw these threads together, if one [column 280]accepts that there is no way of continuing to make provision for existing need except by using existing institutions, it must be suicidally unwise to disqualify most of them from one month after the passing of the Bill. I say nothing about expanding to meet future needs; that is certain, and is not likely to lessen, as the hon. Member for Bootle emphasised. If, however, the Committee and the public accept the argument that boarding schools catering for something less than the full ability range are more suitable for many children, one must allow some selection by reference to ability and aptitude to remain for boarding schools. To that extent, the Amendment is no less urgent than the exception in the Bill for children needing special education.

Nothing in the Amendment prejudges or inhibits the Minister and the Government in whatever considered view they may later come to on the Reports of the Public Schools Commission. As it stands, the Bill rejects at least one important Donnison conclusion, namely, that most boarding schools cannot go comprehensive. More important, the Bill must throw into confusion the present system whereby local education authorities are properly discharging their duties under the 1944 Act. Worst of all, the Bill threatens to damage the educational prospects of children needing the benefit intended by the Act.

For those reasons, I very much hope that the Government will accept the Amendment. I am sorry to have spoken for so long, but may I refer briefly to the different problem of Amendment No. 40?

Section 50 enables local education authorities to provide for board and lodging—billeting as it is sometimes called—in three broad sections: to enable a child to attend a special school; to enable a child to attend a further education institution—they are not within the scope of the Bill, but that probably constitutes the widest use of the Section, certainly in Norfolk. Thirdly, refers also to the board and lodging of children attending a particular primary or secondary school.

How much of that Section 50 provision may be caught by the Bill? I just do not know, because it can be used in so many ways. One obvious way which is not caught is when parents move out of one local education authority area so distantly that the child either has to leave school or, so as not to interrupt the continuity of educa[column 281]tion, particularly if that child is nearing examinations, the local education authority will often decide to enable that child to stay on, on a board and lodging basis, if a suitable landlady can be found. Authorities which do not have a school, such as Wymondham College in Norfolk, may have to send a child away for a particular reason or for particular tuition; for example, to attend a course that is not available in the school immediately near at hand. 11.15 a.m.

If it is sixth form work, I imagine that is all right, but there is no definition as to exactly what constitutes a sixth form. It may be that some children go away on a weekly boarding basis to a school without coming within the sixth form exemptions. The local education authority has to justify the extra expense involved under the Section. It must be satisfied that the child's ability, aptitude and needs will be best met at that school. Therefore, there is at least a probability that there will at some stage have to be a reference to that child's ability and aptitude. This question arose partly on an earlier debate when the right hon. Lady suggested that it was parental choice whether a child went to a specialist course at a particular school. As far as the application is concerned, this may be so, but as far as the acceptance by that school is concerned, and more especially by the teachers within the school, it may have to be decided whether the applicant will benefit from whatever course it is. I would have suggested it is almost certain to import some reference to ability and aptitude, otherwise some specialist teacher cannot run a specialist course.

I am not sure how may cases may arise, but it is important that the Minister should give us his views. It would be most unfortunate if, after this Bill were passed, we found that any Section 50 activities were caught and frustrated.

Mr. Mahon

In view of my intervention in the speech of the hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill), it is incumbent on me to embellish the view I expressed when he was speaking of independent boarding provisions in this new society of ours. He has pointed out that there are relatively few places. That is a matter of argument. A thought occurred [column 282]to me in the House recently when people were advocating new standards in the home. Perhaps I would not be out of order if I followed up that thought. Hon. Members will be aware that I am talking of recent social legislation which has been passed.

Those of us with some experience of the administration of education on any level are aware that the best education comes from a combination of the best educational opportunity with the right sort of child in the right sort of home. Normally it is a partnership between the home and the school. What happens when that partnership cannot be afforded to the child? What sort of provisions will we make when that partnership no longer exists? We should be deluding ourselves if we thought that this would not be the situation in increasing numbers in the new society.

I want to be as honest about this as I can. One reason why I have always supported an extension of comprehensive education is that early in life I became aware of the tremendous inequalities oppressing so many people in so many walks of life. Those inequalities were not easily defined. It was not just a case of poverty. Sometimes poverty had nothing to do with it. Sometimes parents made up for the poverty afflicting the home by virtue of the tremendous parental contribution they made. Sometimes the poverty was equated by what has rightly been called pastoral care. I can think of very deprived areas in Liverpool where we were very poor but where there was a standard of pastoral care given to myself and others like me which could not have been bought in the best public schools in this country.

These inequalities are not easily defined, and I shall not try to make it easy. I know that the independent schools which have provided a boarding service for varying categories in this country have provided a wonderful service. There is no argument about that, whether those people provided for remote areas in this country for people who wanted their children educated in a certain way or whether they provided for children of members of the Army, Navy or Air Force. Those were all essential in past days. They are still essential. Indeed, the growth of commerce, industry and travel to many parts of the world means that they will be increasingly needed. Whoever provides, they will be increasingly needed. [column 283]That is the way the world is going.

How are we to provide for the deprived child? In my party we have been talking about deprived children for a long time, deprived not of the luxuries of this world but of the most essential thing which a child is entitled to have. If a child is entitled to have anything in this world—and I do not want to moralise about this—he is entitled to the love, care and protection of, not one parent but both parents, whether they are together or separate. They both have an obligation to see that the child is cared for and is given reasonable opportunity.

What will the Government do when that parental care and protection are no longer available? Do not we have an obligation to the child if the parents fail to supply that care and protection? How shall we provide it? Shall we give the child a second class education because we have failed to provide a substitute for the home, albeit that it is impossible to do that? There are people in society who have always tried to provide a substitute for a home in circumstances such as this. I can remember many organisations, lay and otherwise, which provided care for orphans in the maritime world in which I lived. The seamen's orphanage provided boarding schools, boarding education and homes in as good an atmosphere as they possibly could for children who needed boarding schools of a kind, albeit they were called orphanages. They were provided because they were necessary. We remember what happened during the war for children who were left homeless without parents. We did our best to make provision for them.

My contention is that we must take into account the legislation which we have already passed. Provision will have to be made not for one class of people, because I would be less than honourable if I did not say that I believe the middle class will ride the oppressive legislation that we have passed in this House better than the working class. I hate the word “class” , but for the needs of my description I believe that the middle class of this country, contrary to general opinion, will ride better the oppression and difficulties of modern social legislation. The working class gets an example from television, stage, screen and radio, and from high society, which makes oppression and difficulties in the home, divorce and everything else, look attractive. When it takes place inside a home, the catastrophic effect of divorce [column 284]at working class level cannot be measured. It is impossible to measure the effect of such a tragedy on those children.

Therefore, in our own interests, we must consider what we shall do from the point of view of making this sort of provision. Before we take final action on many of these independent schools, we should consider what the position will be vis-à-vis the State's relationship with them, having in mind the provision which we may have to make by virtue of previous legislation.

By and large, I do not believe in boarding school education for class reasons only. I would deplore that in every shape and form. Most of the boarding schools I know have not been based on that premise. It would be churlish to say that they have. There are many reasons why children have attended boarding schools. Parents have sent them there for class reasons. I know that many parents do, but I deplore it.

The hon. Member for Norfolk, South spoke about the needs of the Defence Department and the Foreign Office. I am sure that the Government will have to consider the needs of the Department of Social Services more than the needs of the other two Services which are depleted in numbers today from what many of us can remember.

All the time it is the child who matters. Nothing else matters in this Committee except the future and the future education of the child. Therefore, if inequality is to be created by the modern society, I want the Government to make provision to give the child equal opportunity to offset the greatest deprivation which a child can suffer—to deprivation of warmth and affection in its own home. I came from a big family. We were not terribly poor. My father was hardworking and healthy, and so was my mother, thank God. We had to do the best we could. There was nobody to help us very much. We managed, and we lived in an atmosphere of dignity that could not be equated in any part of the country; my mother saw to that.

I want the Government, therefore, to say categorically what the future relationship is to be and will have to be, because I am certain, most regrettably, that we shall be in need of more boarding education for more children.

11.30 a.m.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

The Government [column 285]have to face up to the need for boarding schools, either run by themselves or, better still and which I would like to see, in co-operation with existing boarding schools. If doctrinaire views were forgotten, it would save the Government, and the Ministry of Education in particular, a lot of money in years to come. If we recognise that there will be a need for boarding schools, it is absolute nonsense to seek to recreate something that already exists. It is far better to make use of existing schools and infiltrate into them. Once that is decided, we have to decide whether there is a need for selection, and I cannot see that it would be possible to proceed otherwise than by selection.

The word “aptitude” provides a tremendous amount of scope. I have never understood why hon. Members opposite should talk in terms of selection meaning absolutely the 11-plus. I should like to know from the right hon. Lady whether the Government accept that there is a need for boarding education at all. If she says that, in her opinion, there is not, she ought to take note of what has been said by the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon). There are all kinds of reasons why boarding schools have been necessary for the children of people who cannot afford to pay for them. There are a great many reasons why there will be more of them in the future. We know that up to now a great number of people use boarding schools, whether direct grant schools or the few boarding schools run by local authorities; and there are even some for children of the Forces.

I have always taken the view that one of the “perks” that ought to be extended to attract recruits to the Services is provision for education for the children of Servicemen. I remember two or three years ago putting down an Amendment to the defence budget to achieve that. Although members of the Forces are given grants for boarding school education for their children, the size of those grants does not match what has to be paid. Therefore, although quite a number of members of the Forces know that a boarding school education would be desirable for their children, they just cannot afford it. It would be possible, therefore, wholly on social grounds, to justify increasing the number of children of members of the Forces who can go to boarding school. [column 286]

The reason for that is obvious. Service people move around every three years. That is the maximum length of time that they are stationed in any one place. Clearly, it is not to the advantage of any child to be moved every three years; Education must be reasonably steady. If those children were able to spend most of their life in one school, it would be to their advantage; and it is the children of whom we must think. Here is a field which is used at the moment and which can be more widely used, which the Government must recognise.

There are also many more people working abroad now than there were 10 years ago. I am told that there are now more people in India working on behalf of British companies than there were when the British Raj was there. Those people want schools for their children, and since they are in India their children can go only to boarding schools. People who work for firms engaged in exports must move from place to place and country to country; and in order to avoid their children's education being upset they must perforce choose a boarding school education, even though, in political terms, they may entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman and the right hon Lady that a comprehensive education is really what is wanted. For them that is just not possible, or if it is then children will either have to stay with relations or to move from one place to another.

All of us, as Members of Parliament, must have had from time to time letters from widows saying how difficult it is to educate the children and to work at the same time. A woman left without a husband at a young age, and with young children, tries to keep the children as best she can. If she lives near a school with boarding education, if the local authority is amenable to providing grants, then boarding school education is probably the best answer for her and therefore places in these schools must be available. Then there are problem children whose home environment adds to their problem. Many children who go through the courts or are sent from time to time to special schools and get no better would, if they were put into a boarding school when they first got into trouble, benefit by the previous lack of good environment being replaced by what they got at that boarding school.

The hon. Member for Bootle pinpointed the increased demand for boarding educa[column 287]tion which, though it does not exist as yet, will exist and persist in the future. That is the demand for boarding school education that will arise out of the Divorce Act. There is no doubt that there will be an increased number of divorces in this country over the years. We have willed that by passing the Act. There will, therefore, be situations in which a boarding school education is desirable from the point of view of the child. Not all children of divorced parents will necessarily need or want a boarding school education, but many of them will, because of the problems which arise on a second marriage where there are two groups of children, both the father and the new wife having children of their own. These are things which we have to face.

The Government, therefore, have to decide whether they are prepared to support an extension of boarding education in the public sector, or to co-operate with independent boarding schools or with direct grant schools which may have a boarding element. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) quoted figures on need. I believe that the hon. Member for Bootle said that the figures referred to 1967. There is a need that can be seen, but there is also a hidden need which will grow.

There is some prejudice among hon. Members opposite against boarding schools, which have always been associated with the independent sector. There is a suggestion that this is wholly snob. But I wish that they would try to open their minds a little to the fact that many people send their children to boarding schools for other than snob reasons. I accept that there are some who do so, but a great many others do so for reasons which have nothing to do with prejudice. They send their children to a boarding school because they believe it is best for them, either from the educational or some other point of view. To suggest that we should, therefore, not co-operate with those schools because they are a kind of leper educational community is to take prejudice to an extent which becomes damaging to the nation.

There is no reason why we should leave this sector wholly private. I believe that if the pressures of hon. Members opposite against these schools persist over the years, they will destroy something which they will come to wish they had retained. [column 288]It will be a costly business replacing what they have destroyed.

The truth is that they will not be able wholly to destroy it, anyway. They will be able to cut off a number of branches of the education tree so that the number of schools—whether private boarding schools or public schools as we know them, or direct grant schools—will be reduced in numbers. But this will mean only one thing—what was described by the hon. Member for Bootle as inequality. It will merely make inequality worse and privilege more restricted. If a privilege is spread widely, it ceases to be a privilege. If we cut down the number of schools, if we lop branches off this tree, the Etons, Harrows and bigger schools which are well-endowed will still remain. The Labour Party is unlikely to bring in a law to make it impossible for people to pay for private education, because it knows that that would just send schools like Eton and Harrow aboard. If it is determined, through economic pressure, to destroy these schools, it will destroy that element which is the most democratic, the mixture of those who have little money but struggle to afford it with those who can afford it. It will retain the top 50 well-endowed schools, the parents of the children at which are well-laced and can afford even fees of £1,000 or £2,000 a year.

11.45 a.m.

Mr. Mahon

Does not the hon. Gentleman feel that these lush schools have an obligation to enter into modern education, that they should not stand outside? They are getting themselves some social and educational absolution to which they are not entitled.

Mr. Lewis

That is a very helpful intervention. I agree with it, but the interesting thing is that the schools themselves would like to be involved. They do not want to be isolated. That question should be put to the right hon. Lady. It is through co-operation between the State sector and the private sector that what the hon. Gentleman wants can come to pass. If a “Berlin Wall” was erected between the two sectors—the independent schools fear that this is what the Government are doing—the isolation would be complete.

The direct grant schools are a mixture of boarding and day entry. There are two direct grant schools in my constituency, [column 289]but one, in the last week or two, has been forced to go independent. Children who attend this school come from a mixture of income groups——

The Chairman

Order. This Amendment deals only with boarding schools. Would the hon. Gentleman kindly restrict his remarks to that subject?

Mr. Lewis

The direct grant school to which I am referring has a large boarding element. Because it has been forced to go independent, it will now phase out of co-operation with the l.e.a. But the right hon. Lady is involved in this. This phasing out can only be done over three or four years, and the Department or the local authority will be subsidising entry of the school at the fees fixed by the schools. There is no grammar school. This has been the local county school. Either a new school has to be built or a considerable wing must be added to the girls' grammar school.

This can happen in other places. This is only the first instance of a situation arising out of the Donnison Report. Many such schools with a boarding element may close down and the local l.e.a. would be left without its own system, having to co-operate for a temporary period. What does the Department propose to do? This is where the Government's attitude to boarding education must be flexible, or they will run into the greatest trouble from their own policies. This will damage the right hon. Lady's policies, quite apart from damaging the schools, which she may want but we do not.

Of course it is the children, the teaching profession and the local authorities who will be affected by the damage. The l.e.a. will lose its independence. We believe that it should be able to evolve its own policies, but if it has to evolve policies roughly in tune with the Bill, at least it should be able to do so without a gun at its head——

Mr. Stan Newens

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the Rutland local authority has been exercising its independence by taking decisions which have led to the Oakham school going independent? Is not this an example, because of action taken by the Government, of a local authority exercising its independence? Yet he is now objecting to the results.

[column 290]

Mr. Lewis

It was the school which exercised its independence and not the local authority. This was always possible, but it has been precipitated by the Bill. The Amendment would give some flexibility and, if it had been in the Bill, this case might have turned out differently. It might not have had such a different effect in the long run in Rutland, but I was not arguing wholly about my own county. What has happened there can happen elsewhere. We do not board as many people at the Oakham school. Most are day entrants. We shall have to pay a heavy price for this damage. In other areas, councils are involved in the boarding element. The Minister must consider this.

Aptitude as a means of selection is a term which can vary according to which Minister is in office. It can be wide or restrictive. Mention has been made of Woolverstone Hall School, under the Inner London Education Authority, at Ipswich. This is supposed to be a selective school, an academic establishment of grammar school standard, yet it is interesting to note from a list of pupils for September, 1968, that the entry is split into a number of groups. One is “boarding asked for by parents” ; another is “normal parent's choice” . There are also some figures. Entry at the request of parents totals, 10; disrupted homes, 15; in care, 1; Service families, 5; Service families from outside the I.L.E.A. area, 12; out-county, 7; comprising parents working abroad, 6 and parents separated, 1. That fairly establishes what I said when I gave the list of people who would need to send their children to boarding schools, but it also shows that selection cannot be on the 11-plus, on a purely academic standard which gives that range of intake.

In that case, how does the right hon. Lady define selection by ability and aptitude? What will happen to this school in these circumstances? Will other schools be allowed to develop similarly? Will the Department encourage the putting of children into other boarding schools—independent and direct grant? In short, will the Bill encourage or discourage the development of boarding education?

Mr. David Lane

My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) has argued a powerful and thorough case with support from both sides of the Committee. I, too, support the Amend[column 291]ments. This is an opportunity for the Government to clarify their attitude towards boarding education as the Bill is likely to affect it. My hon. Friend put a number of pertinent questions, to which I hope we shall have answers, whatever the Minister's views on the Amendments.

The Amendments would only provide an option. We are trying to lessen the negativism which unfortunately characterises so much of the Government's approach. Enough has been said about the need for boarding education. I do not see how any hon. Member re-reading paragraph 156 of the first Report of the Public Schools Commission can fail to be impressed by the number of categories and the possible growth in some of them. To put numbers on this, paragraph 210 says:

“But what is clear is that, over and above the 35,000 pupils in England and Wales already assisted with boarding education, there will be increasing numbers of children who also have a strong case for assistance.”

Examples have been given. One might also mention the possibility that joining the Common Market will mean a further increase in the number of parents working abroad for some time for whose children boarding education may be desirable.

I refer again to the illustration given by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) of the Inner London boarding school at Woolverstone Hall, in Suffolk. I have a particularly soft spot for this school. I first saw it in a previous incarnation when I was doing elementary nautical training nearby during the war. This school has had a very good record since 1951, when it was reorganised as a secondary boarding school. Admission is at 11-plus by parents' choice, under the general I.L.E.A. scheme of transfer from primary to secondary schools at that age. It is stressed that special consideration is given to boys whose parents are overseas or move frequently from one part of the country to another because of their occupations. I understand that it also has a very good record of admissions to universities and that the science sixth from is particularly strong.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford gave a breakdown of the entry in September, 1968. Those figures suggest that, of the 57 entrants at that time, at least 49 had some element of need for a boarding education. This school, typical of others which no doubt could be quoted, is doing good work. One hopes that it will [column 292]be allowed to go on doing it without unnecessary restrictions imposed by the Bill.

There seems to be very strong evidence of the valuable part played by boarding schools at present and of the certain forecasts of a considerable increase in the need for boarding places in future. In face of this evidence, I hope that the Government will have the wisdom either to accept the Amendment or to give an absolute assurance that the Bill will not hamstring further provision of boarding education.

12 noon

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

I hope that hon. Members will bear with me, as my voice is not quite its normal self, if I do not speak as lengthily as I normally do.

We have had a very interesting and far-reaching debate. We have discussed the Public Schools Commission Reports and the future of boarding education. I do not think hon. Members will expect me this morning to make a pronouncement on the Newsom Report. I remind the Committee, because listening to the debate one might have forgotten it, that we are discussing Amendment No. 21, the purpose of which is to include boarding education as an additional category among those types of secondary education which are specifically exempted from the comprehensive principle as defined in Clause 1(1).

A great deal has been said about the desirability or otherwise of boarding education. Some people think boarding education is a very good thing, and others do not. I think that we all admit that for some children boarding education is a necessity because of home circumstances. We must not get this out of proportion. At present in all our schools, independent, maintained and direct grant, there are over 8 million children. Of those, only about 180,000 are boarders. A great many of the 180,000 are in no need of boarding education, except in the sense that their parents think it worth paying for. The unmet need for boarding is most likely to be found among poor families, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) rightly pointed out. We believe that selective day schools tend to cut children off from their fellows in other schools, but selective boarding education is even worse. A child in a selective boarding school does not [column 293]meet children from non-selective schools even out of school hours.

The hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) spoke about handicapped children, delinquents, and so on. As he rightly said, handicapped children are exempted from Clause 1. A Bill is at present going through another place with the object of transferring responsibility for severely handicapped children from the Department of Health and Social Security to the Department of Education and Science. The hon. Member recognised that in delinquency the responsibility of my Department is not for approved schools. That is the responsibility of the Home Office. In passing, I recall that when I was a Minister at the Home Office and had responsibility for approved schools I often thought that some children in approved schools ought to be in ordinary boarding schools. I am not sure that it is the right policy to put all delinquent children together in approved schools. If it had been possible, as it was not under the present system, I sometimes thought it would have been much better for some children in approved schools to be in some of our other boarding schools.

We on this side of the Committee recognise that because of family circumstances some children have to attend boarding schools. Nothing in this Bill alters the financial aid which local authorities give to help those children. Several hon. Members have referred to paragraph 156 of the first Report of the Public Schools Commission. In it there is listed the reasons and criteria which we might adopt in determining whether children should be given boarding school places. The list includes such circumstances as both parents being dead, or having abandoned their children, a child living with a lone parent having full responsibility for the family, the child's parents being too ill mentally or physically to provide a tolerable home background, both parents living abroad in the course of their work, and so on.

We accept that these are reasons why boarding education should be provided, but surely the need for such boarding education is not related to the ability of the child. This Amendment seeks to add boarding education as one of the categories exempted from the age and ability provisions. The family and home circum[column 294]stances should determine whether a child needs a boarding education. It should not afterwards have to pass some selective test to get into a selective boarding school. It is curious if a child has the need described in the first Report of the Commission that it then has to pass some kind of test or examination to determine whether it can go to such a school.

I have been asked what kind of boarding education we see as appropriate in future. There are at present many maintained schools which take boarders. According to the Public Schools Commission, the total number of pupils assisted by local education authorities at non-maintained schools is 11,478 and at maintained schools 11,244. This shows that local authorities make provision for boarding education. As local education authorities develop the comprehensive system, the natural expectation is that boarding provision in the maintained system will match the day provision. It will be open to more children who need it and not restricted to those selected on ability.

There are a few comprehensive schools which have their own boarding units attached to them. Recently I visited one in Devon, at Totnes, which has been made out of the grammar school and the secondary modern school. Taken over as part of the grammar school provision were two boarding units, one for girls and one for boys. This means that for the whole of Devon the local authority is not called upon to pay any fees at any independent boarding school because the whole provision for Devon County is made within the boarding units attached to the Totnes comprehensive school. The boys and girls live in rather beautiful houses with lovely gardens. They eat and sleep there, but in the morning they go with the rest of the children of Totnes to the comprehensive school. I should like to see local education authorities doing more of this in future. It is to be commended.

The hon. Member for Norfolk, South said that this would come into effect one month from the passing of the Bill. When we were discussing the direct grant schools, I said that this was not so but that Clause 1 concerns the plans which local authorities have to submit to the Secretary of State for Education and Science. It is one of the things they will have to have in mind in thinking about their future provision for secondary education. It is not the inten[column 295]tion that one month after the passing of the Act none of the children will be able to go into the boarding schools, but it is something about which my right hon. Friend must have information when the plans come from the local authorities.

Mr. Hill

I may be wrong, but is not the legal position that one month after the passing of the Bill local education authorities under Clause 1 must start having regard to the need to avoid selection?

Miss Bacon

Yes.

Mr. Hill

Is not the position that legally they must have regard to that, but in fact the Ministry will have to do a Lord Nelson act and indefinitely disregard this requirement?

Miss Bacon

No. If the hon. Member reads the debate we had on the direct grant schools, he will see that I explained the phrase

“have regard to the need for securing that secondary education is provided only in schools …”

I explained that this was exactly the same phraseology as is used in the Education Act, 1944, with reference to county colleges, nursery education, and so on, but it is something which my right hon. Friend could ask for from local authorities when they submit their plans to him.

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

Is the right Alice Baconhon. Lady saying that in no circumstances would the Secretary of State use his powers under Section 99 or Section 68 of the 1944 Act to preclude local authorities from carrying on as they have done until their plans have been approved?

Miss Bacon

I thought that that was implicit in the Bill—that this was a Bill asking local authorities for their secondary reorganisation plans. There might come a time—this is the subject of a later Amendment concerning the time that must be allowed—when my right hon. Friend might consider that sufficient time had been given. Then he could consider whether he should invoke Section 99, but it is not his intention to do that one month after the passing of this Measure. I thought I made that clear in the debate on the direct grant schools.

I was asked about grants paid by [column 296]Government Departments to members of the Services serving overseas. Those grants are paid as an addition to salary and as such they do not come under the Education Acts. This Bill does not alter that position. But when we have a system under a Labour Government in which we have secondary reorganisation and comprehensive education it might be that a future Secretary of State would have to have talks with his colleagues who pay those grants to members of the Forces.

The hon. Member for Norfolk, South spoke about Wymondham College. We have heard much about Norfolk in these debates, and I hear a lot about Norfolk when I am not in this Committee. Unfortunately, Norfolk appears to be rather ambivalent about its educational provision. The future of Wymondham College could be considered in the light of a plan for the area served by the authority if it produced one, but up to now it has not done so. My right hon. Friend and I would like to see the ingenuity and ability of the authority, which I am sure they have, concentrated on this central objective. Many of the undoubted problems of Norfolk should then fall into place and assume a more manageable pattern. We cannot accept Amendment No. 21 because it would be a breach of the whole of Clause 1. It would be retaining selection for places taken by local authorities at boarding schools. There is no case for treating boarding schools differently from day schools.

12.15 p.m.

I come now to Amendment No. 40, about which little has been said. Section 50(1) of the Education Act, 1944, enables a local education authority to make arrangements for the provision of board and lodging, either by providing hostel accommodation itself or by paying for the child to be boarded out, for any child it is satisfied should attend a particular maintained school—including a special school—but only if board and lodging are provided for the child. The hon. Member for Norfolk, South did not quite understand the number of cases to which Section 50(1) is applicable. These might be, for example, itinerant people, such as canal bargemen and showmen who go round fairgrounds with caravans.

Such people often have winter quarters and travel round the country in the spring and summer. They sometimes wish to leave [column 297]their children in the place where they have their winter quarters so that the children can continue their education. The child is usually boarded out with friends or acquaintances until the parents come back after their spring and summer travels. The Amendment curiously would provide that such children, rather than children who live permanently in the vicinity, should be able to go to selective secondary schools. The Amendment is absurd, because the question whether a child should have board and lodging provided for it by the authority is wholly irrelevant to the character of the education provided in the school which that child attends. These are two separate questions, and I can see no reason for the Amendment. I therefore ask the Committee to reject both Amendments.

Mr. Angus Maude

There are two points in what the right hon. Lady has said, or rather did not say, on which I should like to comment. First, she said that the Amendment was flat contrary to the purpose of Clause 1, and she could not see why boarding schools should be treated differently from day schools. This is an astonishing observation, because day education can always be provided within the maintained system, whereas boarding education in many places cannot be provided within the maintained system. Perhaps one day it will be. Therefore, an independent or direct grant school which is providing boarding places for children with boarding need nominated or aided by a local authority is in a quite different position from a day school, and there are reasons why, even in respect of selectivity, it should be treated differently.

I am not, and never have been, a great advocate of boarding education, even for boys. It has always seemed to me that a good day school and a good home provide the best education a child could have. But we know, and it is not in dispute between the right hon. Lady and me or anyone in the Committee, that in certain circumstances a good home does not exist. There may not be a father, the father or both parents may be abroad, or for one reason or another there is a boarding need for a child. In some areas there may be no alternative to boarding education, and no alternative but to get the child into a boarding school which is not maintained by a local authority. [column 298]

The right hon. Lady is surely overlooking the point made in paragraphs 259 to 262 of the Newsom Report. She has not dealt at all with this issue. The Newsom Commission found that there were a number of independent boarding schools which were providing an irreplaceable service to local authorities which were too small in numbers of pupils to become fully comprehensive. The Commission considered this point and said that, while it believed that the schools should certainly widen the ability range of their intake, it was quite impossible, given their size, for them to be viable as completely comprehensive schools. The Commission therefore recommended that the schools should have an ability intake down to the level of C.S.E. ability but not below; that is, a partly comprehensive school but not a totally comprehensive school within the meaning of the Bill.

Would the right. hon. Lady tell us why she is prepared to be more Draconian than Newsom was on this issue? These schools cannot be wholly comprehensive and remain viable. If they are forced to be wholly comprehensive, they will go independent, and they will close if they cannot, with the endowments they have, survive the loss of local authority places. The Newsom Commission suggested a compromise, which is reasonable to me and, I should have thought, to almost everyone, that the ability intake should be widened but that the school should not be made wholly comprehensive because it cannot be. Why are we not prepared to accept that kind of compromise which is within the terms of the Amendment?

Mrs. Thatcher

I, too, am a little surprised at the right hon. Lady's reply. It ignores some of the practical consequences of boarding schools, such as their size. The Amendments show well the difference between the approach of the Edward ShortSecretary of State and the right Alice Baconhon. Lady and hon. Members on this side of the Committee. Her approach to the Amendment is that which is enshrined in the Bill, which I would define in this way: to abolish all selection for secondary education by reference to ability regardless of the consequences on some children. That is an absolutely rigid approach. Our approach is different. It is to provide full educational opportunity for all children, and that is a much wider and more flexible approach. [column 299]

There should be a third approach which would unite us and which this Amendment would have given her the opportunity to accept. The third approach is that it is the Government's duty to do everything possible to compensate a deprived child for its deprivation in the way most suited to that child. I should have thought that she would have welcomed that principle, and she could have done so by accepting the Amendment No. 21.

Perhaps I can make the point clearer by giving an example which is based on a real case and which follows on something which the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) said. A child needing boarding education at an age below secondary education can get it only, apart from a few maintained schools, at a preparatory school. Many local authorities take advantage of this for 8, 9 and 10 year old children who are suffering from a difficult home background. My case is that of an adopted child whose father worked in India and whose mother spent her time between India and this country. The child went to a preparatory school and during that time the parents were divorced; the father stayed in India, no more money came and the child obviously went through a very difficult period, as would any child affected by a divorce, let alone an adopted child. The child suffered the worst possible set of circumstances.

The question arose as to the secondary education of the child. This meant going on to the main independent school which had, largely, an ability intake. The vast majority had to take and pass Common Entrance, but specific exceptions were allowed. The right hon. Lady is saying that in no circumstances whatsoever would she allow that child to go to the school to which all its friends were going and from which it had drawn stability and security.

Miss Bacon

If this is a selective school with entry according to ability, what would have happened if the child had failed to pass the entrance examination?

Mrs. Thatcher

The right hon. Lady has not listened to what I have been saying. That school always made exceptions for difficult emotional cases. This happens quite often in preparatory schools which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) said, often extend a great deal of pastoral care to children. The schools are small, it is [column 300]known that if a child goes through a difficult patch it may not be able to pass Common Entrance, so some schools where selection is partly by ability are prepared to take some extra children who do not pass Common Entrance.

The Bill applies to schools where the arrangements for the admission of pupils are not based wholly or partly on such selection. So even though an ability intake school will admit exceptions, the policy of the right hon. Lady will not. Under her policy, her theories are more important than what happens to the child. In a case like this, I do not care two hoots for any theory. It is the third principle that matters to me, which is how we can make up to that child for the tremendous difficulties it has suffered in a way best suited to the needs of the child. The worst thing to do would be to tear that child away from the school and from its friends and so deprive if of its only security and stability.

Mr. Newens

Hundreds of cases could be cited of children who are subject to stress and to difficult problems and who are torn away from their friends and companions because of the theory of selection which the hon. Lady advocates. This happens all over the country. I could cite examples of two children who have been very close friends. One has gone to a selective school by passing an examination, and the other one has not been able to do so. The hon. Lady says that she is not prepared to accept this on the basis of any theory, but why does she insist on adhering to her theory of selection?

Mrs. Thatcher

This is an enabling Amendment which enables a large number of children requiring boarding accommodation to be dealt with. Faced with this particular case, the Stan Newenshon. Member is saying that that child cannot go to that school, even though it needed to do so because it was the only stable background it had. A number of independent schools will have arrangements based partly on selection by ability and are prepared to make exceptions of the sort that the right hon. Lady is not prepared to make. Preparatory schools and a number of independents provide an enormous service in this respect. According to the right hon. Lady, that child is to be torn from this background, and she will make no exception. I would prefer a policy which was prepared to make an exception in this kind of [column 301]circumstance. I know a number of cases of this kind, where the very worst thing that could happen to that child is that it could not go on to a particular boarding school with the friends it had made at an earlier stage.

12.30 p.m.

The second main point I want to make about the right hon. Lady's reply has already been picked up on this side of the Committee, namely, that many boarding schools are not big enough to go fully comprehensive. Certainly there are some boarding schools which have an only ability intake, some which have a partly ability intake, and some of which have an all-range intake. She will say this child can go to an all-range intake, a non-common entrance school, a school that will not make exceptions, or a school which is a very small one, usually a State school, where the children are taught in classes of six or seven, of which there are not nearly enough. I would agree with her if she is prepared to provide boarding schools up and down the country with an all ability intake for every child who needs a boarding education. There are some, and some of them are absolutely marvellous. They are usually very small with about 40 to 50 children. They are expensive to run because of the staff-student ratio.

Miss Bacon

The hon. Lady has misunderstood. When I talked about the Totnes school, the boarding accommodation is small but the comprehensive school is big. The children are not educated in the same building as that in which they live. It is only the boarding part which is to be provided.

Mrs. Thatcher

I was not thinking of that kind of boarding provision. I was thinking of some of the special schools, not those for delinquent children, but those for emotionally maladjusted children, the maladjustment resulting from the home background. There are a number of those. They have only about 50 pupils. They [column 302]receive a marvellous education. Certainly they are small. They have an all-ability intake, but they deal with that by teaching in one class children with ages ranging possibly from 10 to 16 according to their mental ability at the time. They operate their own type of selection within that school and teach according to the emotional age of the child and not in the normal way according to a combination of its ability and its age taken together.

Our Amendment would allow children who need boarding education to go to all types of boarding schools, according to the one best suited to their needs. It would not stop a child who could get an ability intake place into a common entrance school from taking up that place. That is what the right hon. Lady is saying—that there are a number of difficult cases, that she knows they exist, but that she will permit of no exception whatsoever. That is a very reprehensible principle.

To any main principle, even the rigid one enshrined in this Bill, there should be exception. If the right hon. Lady had a better principle, namely, to provide full educational opportunity for all, she would find that she was enlarging the flexibility and latitude instead of becoming more and more rigid in approach and saying the theory must triumph over individual cases and practices. I should be happier if she were trying to adapt the theory to the individual need. She regretted that approach. We on this side reject her approach to our Amendment. We also think she is rejecting a large part of the factual finding of Newsom and Donnison, but that is her problem. I hope that we shall vote in favour of the Amendment.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 6.

Further consideration adjourned—[Miss Bacon.]

Committee adjourned accordingly at twenty-four minutes to One o'clock.

Division No. 13.]

Ayes

Hill , Mr. J. E. B.

Lane , Mr. David

Lewis , Mr. Kenneth

Maude , Mr. Angus

Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret

Noes

Armstrong , Mr. Ernest

Bacon , Miss Alice

Mahon , Mr. Simon

Newens , Mr. Stan

Oakes , Mr. Gordon

Price , Mr. William [column 303]

The following Members attended the Committee:

Brewis , Mr. (Chairman)

Armstrong , Mr.

Bacon , Miss

Hill , Mr. J. E. B.

Lane , Mr.

Lewis , Mr. Kenneth

Mahon , Mr. Simon

Maude , Mr.

Newens , Mr.

Oakes , Mr.

Price , Mr. William

Thatcher, Mrs.