Church schools stay, says M.P.
An assurance that Church schools will not be abolished was given by Finchley M.P. Mrs. Margaret Thatcher when she spoke to an audience of 250 Roman Catholic parents, teachers, priests, nuns, and councillors on Friday last week.
Fears that the forthcoming White Paper on education would recommend the abolition of all church schools were unfounded, she said.
Neither the present Government nor the Conservatives “would ever think of trying to undo the tremendous work of these schools.”
Her remarks were well received by those who crowded St. Alban's Parish Centre, North Finchley, members of the Barnet Central Council of the Westminser Diocesan Catholic Parents and Electors' Association.
Mrs. Thatcher had been invited to speak in her capacity as shadow minister for education, and the meeting was held on the exact centenary of the first compulsory Education Act of 1870.
Speaking generally on the background of nursery, primary, secondary and further education, Mrs. Thatcher said the over-riding problem was lack of money, although the present education budget was already £2,000 million a year.
Voicing her doubts on comprehensive education, she was loudly cheered when she said: “I feel very strongly you should not destroy the best in order to improve the worst.
“The existing Plan C doesn't seem to me to have a great many friends judging by my correspondence bag.”
A member of the diocesan C.P.E.A., Cr. B. C. A. Turner, asked Mrs. Thatcher what hope there was of the present Education Bill before Parliament being an all-party Bill and she replied: “None at all, if it embodies the new comprehensive proposals—it is far too rigid.
“I never thought we knew enough about education to insist that throughout the country we have one type of school and none other.
“In the U.S.A. they have had all children going to the same school for a long time, yet it doesn't seem to me that they have created either the kind of society that would suit us, nor have they got rid of their social problems, nor have they got supreme educational standards.”
She felt, however, that the Education Bill should be an all-party measure, like the 1944 Education Act.
Mrs. Thatcher also answered many questions on such subjects as teachers' salaries, pensions and the general aims of education.
Among the more indignant protesters was a young Irish teacher who described himself as “a first-class graduate living in squalid conditions” because of the low rate of teachers' pay; and Mrs. A. Gatti, a former Barnet headmistress, who commented: ‘If the young teachers worry about their salaries now—Lord help them when they retire!”
Mrs. Gatti went on to complain of the movement towards turning out all teachers over the retiring age, at a time when there was such a shortage of teachers.
Asked by a lady in the audience whether she agreed with abolishing “O” level G.C.E., Mrs. Thatcher said that something better would be needed to replace it, such as a strengthening of the C.S.E examination
Earlier in the meeting she had deplored the situation where 25 per cent. of teacher-training entrants did not even possess maths “O” level. This remark was challenged by a young man in the audience.
Mrs. Thatcher stressed the high academic achievement in the Borough of Barnet. Barnet had the highest proportion in the United Kingdom of 17- 18-year-olds going on to university.
Asked about two other controversial subjects she stated that she believed in retaining compulsory religious education in schools and she felt the raising of the school-leaving age to 16 was inevitable.
She summed up her educational aims as: to bring out the talents in every child, to provide sufficient skilled manpower to develop a capacity for informed judgment, to teach people to lead personally-responsible lives, and to advance the frontiers of knowledge.
Other guests at the meeting included Mr. John Eyre, chairman of the Westminster Executive Council C.P.E.A.; Mr. R. Flach, chairman of the Barnet branch; Mr. W. A. Elfer, secretary of the Westminster Schools Commission; Mrs. A. Gatti and Mrs. J. Wren, secretaries Barnet C.P.E.A.; Father de Felice, Rural Dean of Barnet; and local priests Fr. More O'Ferrall and Fr. B. Mc-Guiness. The chair was taken by Cr. Mrs. C. Riordan. [end p1](2) Finchley Times, 8 May 1970
MP attacks ‘one system’ proposal
Finchley MP Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, Shadow Minister for Education, attacked the proposed Comprehensive Education Act when she spoke to a packed meeting of the Westminster Diocesan Catholic Parents' and Electors' Association on Friday night.
She said her main objection was that the Bill insisted there be only one system of education throughout the country. Mrs. Thatcher added that she could not see the reasoning behind the Bill.
“In America they are totally comprehensive and students are going en mass to universities, but they have not created the type of society we want or got rid of their social problems,” she said.
Mrs. Thatcher touched on every level of education in her “thumb-nail” sketch, running from nursery schools to universities.
She told the gathering at St. Albans Social Centre, Gainsborough Road, North Finchley, Friday was exactly 100 years to the day that the first compulsory Education Act was passed by Parliament.
At the present time more and more children were staying on for further education, and because of this, although £2,000 million a year was being spent on education, there was still a need for more money.
She pointed out that the 1944 Education Act was an all-party measure, and, although central Government set out standards of education, it was the local education authority that decided on how they were implemented, dependent upon the ability and aptitude of children in its area.
Mrs. Thatcher pointed out that money for education was providing evenly by both the Government and local education authority, and therefore, the authority should have some say in the matter.
Starting with the primary schools, Mrs. Thatcher said they had to provide for children of varying ability.
She said that in some areas children go from primary schools to a middle school, where the age range could be from 10 to 14 years, eight to 12 years or nine to 14 years, depending upon the local authority.
There are no fixed age of move to the secondary or grammar stage of education and it gave late developers a chance to come along, she said
Referring to Leicestershire, an often quoted example of a comprehensive education area, she said it took this area 13 years to go fully comprehensive, and they did not do this until they had the proper buildings and equipment.
Mrs. Thatcher said that in the South of England more children were staying on at schools until they were 16 or 17-years-old.
This was not so in the North of England, she said, and when the school leaving age is raised in 1972–73 this will cause problems in the North.
The South had already had to build extra buildings to cope with those staying on; the North has yet to do so.
Referring to the Borough of Barnet Mrs. Thatcher said it had the highest proportion of 17 and 18-year-olds going on for further education than any other education authority in the country.
She pointed out that as there was more success at any level of education it put more pressure on the stage above.
“Roughly twice the number at present qualifying for university or polytechnic places will be doing so within the next 12 years,” she said.