Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1970 May 5 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

HC Standing Committee [Education (re-committed) Bill]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons Committee
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC Standing Committee A [99-146]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1030-1300. Third Sitting reproduced in its entirety. MT spoke at cc.132 and 136.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 17624
Themes: Private education, Secondary education, Labour Party & socialism, Society
[column 99]

EDUCATION (re-committed) BILL

STANDING COMMITTEE A OFFICIAL REPORT

Tuesday, 5th May, 1970

[Mr. John Brewis in the Chair]

New Clause No.1

Principles affecting provision of secondary education

(1) With a view to the ending of selection of pupils for admission to secondary schools by reference to ability or aptitude, every local education authority, in fulfilling their duties under section 8 of the Education Act 1944, and in the exercise of any power for the purpose of fulfilling those duties, shall (subject to the following provisions of this section) have regard to the need for securing that secondary education is provided only in schools where the arrangements for the admission of pupils are not based (wholly or partly) on such selection.

(2) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall be construed as affecting—

(a) the provision, whether in special schools or otherwise, of special educational treatment as mentioned in section 8(2)(c) of the Education Act 1944 (which relates to pupils suffering from a disability of mind or body), or

(b) the provision of education in any sixth form college, or

(c) the provision of education in any school where the arrangements for the admission of pupils to the school are based on selection wholly or mainly by reference to ability in or aptitude for music or dancing or any other art.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (1) of this section the arrangements for the admission of pupils to a school shall not be taken to be based on selection as therein mentioned by reason only that, in the case of pupils admitted to the school for the purpose of entering a sixth form unit comprised in the school, the arrangements for their admission are based on selection by reference to ability or aptitude as well as by reference to age.

(4) In this section—

(a) “sixth form college” means a school for providing secondary education suitable only to the requirements of pupils who have attained the age of sixteen years and of pupils below that age whom it is expedient to educate together with pupils who have attained that age, and

(b “sixth form unit” means a separate department or class for providing such secondary education as is mentioned in the preceding paragraph'—[Mr. Edward Short.]

Amendment (b) proposed (30th April), in line 3, leave out “and in the exercise of any power for the purpose of fulfilling those duties” —[Mr. van Straubenzee]

10.30 a.m.

Question again proposed.

The Chairman

I remind the Committee that with this Amendment we are taking the following:

Amendment (d), in line 15, at end insert—

(d) the exercise by local education authorities of their powers under section 9 of the Education Act, 1944 as amended in relation to direct grant schools.

Amendment (f), in line 15, at end insert—

(d) special arrangements for the education of any particular child where the local education authority is satisfied that it is not otherwise possible to provide full educational opportunity for that child.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

I am sorry that the [column 100]Committee should have to listen to me instead of hearing a continuation of the stimulating speech started by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude). I hope that no indisposition on his part will deprive us from hearing his speech.

He mentioned the terms of reference of the Donnison Commission as he saw them. I, too, thought that the terms of reference had a large bearing on the nature of the Report. It seemed to me that in both the Newsom and the Donnison parts of the Report of the Public Schools Commission the terms of reference were very restricted, in that their inquiries were confined to “how” and not to “whether” , in other words, to the means and not to the choice of ends, which were already set out and, indeed, prejudged in the terms of reference.

One can see that if one contrasts the much more open terms of reference which the other educational inquiries—Crowther, [column 101]Plowden and Newsom—were given. It necessarily follows from this that the value of the direct grant system was assessed almost exclusively in relation to comprehensive reorganisation. Had it been considered in relation to English education as a whole, I think it possible that the Commission might have come to wider views.

For example, how important in the English educational system is a variety of educational provision with different routes to the same broad objectives. How valuable is a further category of independence in education, in addition to the wholly independent sector; one that is not only independent of central government but, in any local educational area, is independent of the complete control of an L.E.A. In any event, there must be close liaison between the two systems. But, thinking in terms of parental choice and also of teachers, it must be of some advantage that there are alternative schools and employers in the area.

How desirable is it that some special provision should be made for particularly gifted children? How important is it—and this is a point of controversy between us—that there should be clear opportunities for the most able children from the poorer areas to have rapid educational advancement.

I, too, thank the Donnison Commission for the extraordinary lucidity of its Report. It recognises the sharp contrast of view with which it was faced in para 177:

“Those working for the schools saw them as independent institutions providing a service to the nation under contract to central government. Viewed in this way the social mix they contain is admirable, fee-paying is a natural expression of independence, and selection inevitable in schools which cannot admit all the children who would like to go to them. Their critics saw them as an anomalous sector of the national system, retaining the fee-paying and selection which have gone, or are going, from the rest of the system, and outside the control of local education authorities responsible for the development of the educational system of their areas. Standing between opposing forces the direct grant schools are inevitably exposed to fire.”

That paragraph admirably summarises the dilemma.

There was also some further constraint by reason of the time factor. We know that the Government were calling for the Report as a matter of urgency. It was expected in the summer of 1969, then the [column 102]autumn, then the winter and, finally, spring of this year. Its deliberations continued against a background of the strenuous reiteration of the Government's statement that the comprehensive system must be made universal by compulsion if agreement failed.

Therefore, it seemed to me that inevitably the easiest solution was to pursue the theory to the logical conclusion so that, as Donnison has recommended, the schools all either go fully comprehensive or fully independent. Instead of any evolutionary gradualism, which the terms of reference suggested, there is now a stark choice with no attempt to seek compromise. All the rôles suggested to the schools are strictly within Circular 10/65, or the original Clause 1.

I cannot help wondering whether sheer logic in this instance is the surest guide. It seemed to me that there was more creative thinking in the points of disagreement recorded by two members of the Commission in paras 223–235 of the Donnison Report. They stress the additional rôles which they would like to see direct grants fulfilling, particularly the raising of the age of selection, so that a school could take children from 14 to 18 years of age, with an intake covering a wider proportion of the total ability range which, as was suggested, should be agreed between the governors and the one or more L.E.A.s which a direct grant school is likely to serve.

Secondly, in the points of disagreement there is the further rôle suggested, of a small number of highly selective schools as recommended by five members of the Commission, and worked out in further detail in the last, and rather remarkable, Chapter 14 on educating the most gifted. The dissentients do not believe that fee-paying should be ruled out for those parents who want it and whose children meet the entry standards suggested in para 253.

My own feeling is that one can have a satisfactory school in which an element of fee-paying is mixed with free places. I do not believe that this dichotomy is inevitable, because the school is a community and, if parents wish to exercise some choice and pay for a more intensive education for their children, for whom they have particular ambitions, it is not harmful for this to be allowed.

The right hon. Lady and other hon. Gentlemen have said that there cannot be [column 103]any parental choice if there is selection. The parent chooses the school, and the child can be rejected. This is not the point. The parent, ambitious for his child's education for a variety of reasons, probably wants to exercise freedom of choice in enabling the child to try for a school which may be fairly exacting, in the sense that the child has to meet certain standards so that the school would decide that the child would benefit from acceptance. That does not deny parental choice; it simply limits the range of choice. This must be the case where there is any degree of selection, however moderate.

On any question of fee-paying, it is clearly worth while reconsidering the structure of the grant, and certain direct grant schools are already on record as saying that they would contemplate such a change. Instead of having wholly free places, it would be possible to convert all the local authority quota into assisted places, with fees graded according to parental income. That would not affect the children from the lower income groups, but it would make for a fairer over-all treatment of the middle and higher income groups.

I take the point that hon. Gentlemen opposite have argued, that a free place in a direct grant school may be won by the child of parents who are able to make some contribution to the fees and, therefore, the direct grant system is operating in certain cases to subsidise the middle classes. However, the answer is not necessarily to abolish the whole thing, but rather to re-structure the fee-paying system to avoid that situation.

I turn to the problem of the able children from the poorer neighbourhoods. After all that the Secretary of State has said about neighbourhood schools, I believe the rôle of the direct grant schools may seem more important than ever now as an escape to the more intensive and largely—but not exclusively—academic education for the very able working-class child from a poorer area whose parents want this type of education. There is nothing compulsive about it. It is an opportunity which is there to be won.

10.45 a.m.

The key to this is the pattern of work, and whether the able child learns to work relatively hard at an early age and to adopt new standards of self-discipline and study [column 104]if he is to make the best use of his natural talents. I think this is a difficult change in temperamental outlook and character for a child who has grown up in a poor family where there is perhaps no strong or established educational tradition. In the atmosphere of more academic schools, such a child would find it easier to make these temperamental adjustments than in a neighbourhood comprehensive school.

When we last mentioned the direct grant schools, we had not seen the Report, and the right hon. Lady said that we would be surprised by the real evidence as to the social links and the proportion of children from the poorer, or manual workers', families who attended them. The figures summarised in para 249 of the Donnison Report show that 75 per cent. of the fee paying places and 50 per cent. of the free places go to the children whose parents are in the professional and managerial groups. Only 15 per cent. of the fee paying and 36 per cent. of the free places were taken by the children of manual workers. I shall look forward with interest to the more detailed evidence when that is published in the Appendices.

I must say that these figures do not surprise me. I have never thought that a preponderance of children from manual workers' homes would get to direct grant schools in one generation. The important thing is that to those who do so now have an importance out of all proportion to the size of the group. It would not be practicable, but it would be very interesting—indeed, fascinating—to see a study of the occupations of the grandparents of children at these direct grant schools. I believe that it is difficult to bring about sweeping educational changes in a single generation, but if the progress of one generation is added to the next, then one finds profound changes. To deal in statistics purely in terms of parental occupation is, therefore, possibly rather misleading.

There is a powerful objection to this “creaming” of comprehensives, as it is said. The point is made that, if all maintained grammar schools are abolished as grammar schools, it would be unfair to exempt any direct grant schools. I can see the argument, but we do not agree that all grammar schools, maintained or independent, should be abolished. The whole of our thesis is that some should be retained to provide the variety and the intensity of education that some children and parents may require. Therefore, there [column 105]is nothing inconsistent in our wish to see the direct grant system retained, if modified and brought up to date. Many of the schools should continue to fulfil their functions. But it is difficult to be specific because there is such variety in the schools, just as there is variety in local educational services.

I hope, therefore, that the Secretary of State will not announce any root and branch decision, but rather gather the reactions to Donnison from the schools, from local education authorities, from parents and from educational and public opinion generally. I believe that any sweeping decision may destroy the basis for the negotiations which are already in train. I do not see this as just an educational problem. Many of the arguments for nothing but pure comprehensives are merely aiming to produce an egalitarian society by social engineering. This is obviously not part of the political philosophy for which I stand, nor is it strictly an education policy at all. In a free society and a necessarily mixed economy, it seems to be much more a part of doctrinaire enthusiasm, rather than practical wisdom.

The case for the direct grant system ought to be seen on wider grounds as a strand in our democratic freedom. I was interested to read the views of an acute political observer, who is not, as far as I am aware, in the ordinary run of his job an education specialist. Mr. Ronald Butt, wrote in The Times of 19th March:

“The case for the direct grant schools is not to be judged by whether they are, or are not, a dangerous elitest wedge in blanket comprehensiveness. The case for keeping the direct grant schools rests primarily on the simple fact of their independence.”

“A healthy political community demands the retention of a reasonable number of good schools outside the state system which are not subject to the pressures of the prevailing wind of fashion in educational techniques to which schools within the state system are increasingly subject. It demands the retention of some schools which are not simply the servants of a monopolistic employer—the state.”
That puts the case in a nutshell. The Government feel that uniformity and an insistence on one single pattern is best for the education of the children of this country, whereas we stress the advantages of variety and the diffusion of educational power and influence.

We are also discussing other [column 106]Amendments. The first Amendment covers the position of the independent day schools. All I would say about them is that as they mainly do not depend, except possibly in certain areas, upon grant aid from the state, most of them will be able to face the possibility of losing state pupils with economic equanimity, because I have little doubt that, if this Bill goes through, it will give a powerful boost to independent day schools. This is the way human nature tends to work. A reform that is brought in by compulsion often works in a way curiously other than its promoters suspected. I think that if the independent day schools lose their local education authority pupils, both the schools and those pupils will suffer a loss, which I would prefer not to insist upon. I would prefer to see L.E.A.s. free to make the educational choices which seem sensible to them.

That leads me to Amendment (f), which reflects the anxieties of the Association of Educational Committees and seeks to preserve discretionary powers which are essential if they are to provide full educational opportunity for all the children for whom they are responsible. From time to time any school may find that it has children to whom it cannot do justice. There is the problem of the uncommon child. We know that the child who is markedly below average can, under this Bill, go to a special school. I think that, as a working rule, “markedly below average” is something like 30 per cent. below. We know that no local education authority need be over-anxious about its ballet dancers and musicians, if they are really gifted children, but there remain a fair number of children whose intelligence and capacity is so far above average that they cannot easily be fitted in to most schools. It is not uncommon for a conscientious headmaster to say that he cannot really cope with the needs of a certain child. Clearly, that is not likely to be said by the headmaster of a large 2,000-pupil comprehensive school with the very great range of courses and a highly trained staff, but in a smaller school, one with not more than 900 pupils, with limited sixth form opportunities, such a child would be hard to deal with fairly.

The sort of children I have in mind are in the top, certainly no more than 2 per cent., group of children who may be 30, 40, 50 per cent. above average, who could and should take their O-levels at 14 and [column 107]probably have done their A-levels by 16 if we are thinking in terms of contemporary examination standards. It is not that these children would not get by in whatever school they were in. Admittedly a few, for temperamental reasons, might become rather idle, simply because they were not being stretched, and possibly discontented. A child can drift down that path into an unhappy situation. I think the more general pattern is that a child having that ability will get by all right and will probably enjoy the school. But he will not be stretched; he will not learn in time how to use his abilities to the full. This links with what I was saying a little earlier on the direct grant school Amendment, with the greater opportunities that may be open to him in a direct grant school.

11.0 a.m.

But my point here is that a local education authority ought to retain discretionary power to make what seems to it the right exceptional educational provision for these children. As the Bill stands, it seems that there is no statutory discretion reserved for local education authorities.

We have said that one of the sadnesses of the Bill is that it appears to tip the balance of the so-called partnership in favour of central Government and against local education authorities. In one of our earlier debates, I mentioned local education authority concern. As I say, this Amendment is particularly designed to provide relief for that concern. Therefore I hope that the Government will accept it, because if the Amendment is not accepted—I would not insist on the actual words, but if the spirit is not accepted—it means a further denigration of local education authority responsibility and powers—and I should say judgement as well—which I think would be deplorable.

I therefore hope that the Government will accept the local education authority Amendment, and will also accept the spirit of the direct grant Amendment, bearing in mind that that Amendment is not conclusive today. It keeps the door open for further consideration. If in the end it is not accepted, then the Bill will operate with such Draconian severity, that the direct grant schools, as direct grant schools, cannot be considered by local education authorities in their plans.

[column 108]

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

I want to confine my remarks mainly to the direct grant schools issue, which we have discussed before but are now discussing in the light of Donnison. I was interested to see two Press reports over the weekend. Both of them were by the educational correspondent of The Times. One was on Monday, 4th May, and the first paragraph reads:

“A declaration that it intends to end the system of direct-grant schools is to be made by the Government when it publishes its plan for a new Education Act early next month.”

That is the first quotation, but the interesting thing is that this followed on another article published on 2nd May, again by Brian MacArthur, which dealt with the conference held in the Westminster Central Hall at which the Prime Minister apparently enunciated what he believed would be the various themes of the new Education Bill—themes apparently given to him by the Secretary of State for Education.

The first theme was:

“How the aim of a full development of every child's potential could be built into the system and the closing of options at 11 or any age could be prevented.”

First of all “at any age” does not apply, since the options at the age of 16 are open in the Bill. And we have no dispute about 11-plus, but I shall not go into that.

The second theme was:

“The structural changes needed to make the system relevant and sufficiently flexible for a changing society.”

I thought that that contradicted the comment about getting rid of the direct grant schools; that in so far as it apparently represented the views of the Minister on the new Bill it was contradicted by this Bill, since the word flexibility does not apply to education in terms of this Bill. So that if the right hon. Gentleman is trying to get flexibility into his new Bill, if he really wants to do that, he had better drop this Bill, because it destroys flexibility altogether.

The third theme, apparently, in the new Bill was:

“The devolution of power from central to local government, as well as the devolution from local government to schools or colleges.”

But this Bill destroys devolution of power. The debate on the direct grant schools is in terms of the Minister imposing his views on the local authorities. So how the Minister is to get either flexibility or [column 109]devolution of power with his new Bill, when he is destroying them in this Bill, I do not know.

Finally—I could go on about one or two points but I shall not go into these, because I do not want to delay the Committee too long, we have:

“A massive effort to rid the system of outdated slum schools, many dating from the 1870s.”

That is a very worthy aim on the part of the right hon. Gentleman and the party opposite, and I shall come to it in a minute, because I have some doubts whether, in the light of what they are now proposing to do in the comprehensive field, it will be possible.

If we read these comments in The Times, we come to the conclusion that they are fraudulent, since both devolution and flexibility are impossible. Of the fourth, getting rid of the slum schools, I have some experience in my constituency at the present moment——

The Chairman

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can get on to slum schools in these Amendments.

Mr. Lewis

Then I shall tackle it another way. If we are to get rid of direct grant schools, if we are going to insist on total comprehensive education, we shall be involved in an enormous building programme. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) said last week that the economic cost would be great. Where are we to get the money to carry out the aim which is to be laid down in the new Bill for getting rid of the slum schools if we have to find money for new schools in order to create a comprehensive system which does away with many of the direct grant schools? The country has the use of their buildings now, but once those schools go independent, the State will have to put up its own buildings.

I do not think that the right hon. Lady and her hon. Friends have at all considered cost. In seeking their policy, they have simply said: “Here we have a theory. Here we have a dogma. Let us go ahead with it—the cost will look after itself.” The costs of Government Departments never do look after themselves. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has an unhappy habit of looking after the costs of Government Departments, and all the theories of Ministers are swept aside once [column 110]the Chancellor of the Exchequer determines what he can allow to be spent within his Budget.

New buildings, new teaching staff, increase in teaching staff, an increase in administrative and ancillary staff, all these will be necessary in the State sector if we get rid of the direct grant schools and force them to go independent. This is the practicality of it. If a direct grant school goes independent it will also tend to cream off the best pupils. I wonder if the right hon. Lady has thought about this.

There is a great complaint at the moment that the direct grant schools tend to cream off the best pupils, but if a direct school goes independent it will cream off the best pupils because people will be prepared to pay. Since the right hon. Lady shakes her head, let me remind her that the cost of boarding education is going up very high indeed and that many people who are sending their children to boarding schools are beginning to wonder whether they can continue to afford it. If direct grant schools go independent, they then bring in a day stream which is much cheaper than boarding. Two groups will tend to send their children to such schools—those who decide that boarding education is too costly and place their children in the day stream, and those who want to opt out of the comprehensive stream, cannot afford boarding but can just afford the day fees. So the creaming off will happen whether the right hon. Lady likes it or not, but it will be into the independent sector instead of into the State system.

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

Is the hon. Gentleman arguing that those who can afford to pay for the private education of their children are parents of the top five per cent. in England?

Mr. Lewis

No, I am not saying that at all. Those who can afford to pay may be a mixture. Some of their children may be in the top five per cent. but others certainly will not. I do not think that this invalidates my argument to any degree whatsoever. The simple point that I am making is that if we force the direct grant schools to go independent, we simply create a situation where the kind of privilege that the Government apparently want to get rid of persists and extends itself down. [column 111]

The State educational system gains from an involvement in the direct grant sector. It gains by involvement in educational innovation and in the quality of the teaching. It has been said that the direct grant schools improve the quality of teaching in the state sector. Is the right hon. Lady quite certain that the teachers at direct grant schools will opt for the State sector? Surely they will stay in the independent sector. When direct grant schools come into the State sector, their teachers will look for jobs in the private sector. There will be no advantage to the State system if there is an exodus into the private sector of the best teachers in the direct grant schools which the Government manage to take over.

Mr. Christopher Price

The hon. Member talked about the gains in education and innovation through the direct grant schools, which fascinated me. Could he give us some examples of the educational innovations he is thinking of?

Mr. Lewis

I do not need to give particular examples, but I know that many of the direct grant schools have led the way, including the one in my area. However, the right hon. Lady does not want me to speak again about Rutland, because I can go on about it for a very long time.

Mr. Hill

Is my hon. Friend not aware that some direct grant schools participated in the development of the Nuffield experiments?

Mr. Lewis

The fact is that on new courses, on developments of types of study, in sixth form activity and so on, many of the direct grant schools have led the way, and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Bar (Mr. Christopher Price) knows perfectly well that some of the grammar schools and, I think, some of the comprehensive schools now are copying what was previously done in the private sector, including the direct grant sector.

11.15 a.m.

Mr. Christopher Price

The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood my point. Can he give us an example of an educational innovation which is peculiar to the direct grant system? I have tried to find one, and I cannot.

Mr. Lewis

I cannot, but I think that [column 112]many of the methods and ideas now current in education started years ago in the independent and direct grant sectors of education, and I believe that in such schools today valuable new sixth form developments are taking place. That is certainly the case in a public school in Rutland. The development there is quite unique and innovative and in due course will no doubt be copied. If the hon. Gentleman wants to talk to me about the experiment going on in Uppingham School—a direct grant school—I will tell him about it afterwards.

Mr. Christopher Price

It is not a direct grant school.

Mr. Lewis

I am sorry, but I did link the direct grant with the independent. The hon. Gentleman must recognise that standing here I cannot define everything that has happened in every direct grant school. I think that if he went back to Manchester Grammar School he would probably find that there were innovations there that were worth copying and may well have been copied.

Again, if one talks in practical terms instead of about theory, many of the direct grant schools are, far from creaming off ability, taking in quite a wide range of ability. Neither at eleven nor at thirteen are the direct grant schools in my area, in either Stamford or Oakham, taking in those who are purely academic in standard. There is a wide range of ability in both of these schools, and I would guess that that applies to schools such as the hon. Gentleman obviously went to, and to many other direct grant schools. Often there is almost a comprehensive intake in relation to ability. Of course they are proved right in the end through their obvious results at O- and A-level, which is what matters. At O- and A-level, the results of many of these direct grant schools provide many indications that children who were late starters have suddenly come up at a canter. They have been taken in on the judgment of the headmaster without regard to their results at examinations, and they have made sufficient advancement to justify in practical terms the ignoring of those earlier results, whether the examination was at 11 or at 13.

Again, in practical terms rather than in theoretical terms, who can best decide whether a direct grant school should [column 113]continue in a given area or not? The right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Lady and hon. Members opposite say that they should decide. That is what the Bill is about. I have a feeling that, despite the Bill, the process of assimilation of the direct grant schools is going to be very slow—sufficiently slow in any case for us to reverse the process.

If the right hon. Gentleman believes in his theories about education, if he wants the people to make the decisions, he must accept that the people on the spot are the best qualified to make them. One has only to look round the country to see that L.E.A.s are being pressurised by teachers and by parents and to realise that the Bill is not really necessary.

If the right hon. Lady left this to the people in their own areas the pressures would work in any case to obtain an arrangement which would be suitable to the area; a mixture of comprehensive and direct grant; a working arrangement between the direct grant schools and the State education that surrounds them; in some cases, the development of a sixth form college. But, in any case, the local people themselves would determine what should be done.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) at our previous sitting did not think that there was any possibility of a working arrangement between the State sector and direct grant schools. He said:

“… the direct grant schools … are … a road block.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 30th April, 1970; c. 89.]

This is an indication, if anything is, that he does not believe that they can make any contribution to the State system and that they had best be got rid of.

Mr. Christopher Price

If the hon. Gentleman reads the whole of my speech, he will see that most of it was devoted to explaining in detail, in the case put to me by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre), exactly how the direct grant schools could fit into a comprehensive system.

Mr. Lewis

I listened to the hon. Gentleman's speech. Going on from that point where he spoke of a road block, he said that this was on a basis of the takeover of direct grant schools. There was never any question about that. There was nothing in his speech that gave any [column 114]possibility of the direct grant schools being other than dictated to by himself and his hon. Friends.

There are two ways in which the direct grant schools can continue and be involved in the system, even if there is an advance in comprehensive education. First of all, they could be used for the high fliers, the top two per cent., with perhaps a mixture of the slow starters or those who need some form of special education. At least it would leave some schools—not in the independent sector—a mixture of the State and independent which would be able to compete with Winchester. Secondly, there is no reason why the direct grant schools cannot co-operate with L.E.A.s in sixth form colleges or in some form of assistance in providing improvement in sixth-form education generally throughout the country.

But the Bill seeks to squeeze out those schools altogether; to get rid of them before we come on to any other Bill which will look at education as a whole. Of course, the squeeze has been on the direct grant schools, as the right hon. Lady knows, for some time. It is in the Bill. The direct grant schools have been squeezed on the grants provided by the Minister. They have also been squeezed heavily on what they are allowed to charge in fees. This is why Oakham has gone independent, and why others will go independent. In other words, the Minister at Curzon Street has been forcing the direct grant schools into a deficit in the hope that, with this Bill coming along on top of the economic squeeze, they will be put out of business.

The Prime Minister, the other day, offered us a Minister to cost our programme. I do not know whether the Prime Minister, or even the Secretary of State and the right hon. Lady, have costed their programme. If it did happen that all the direct grant schools were put out of business, and if half of them went independent, I reckon that it would cost the Ministry £50 million to replace them, in new buildings and equipment and the like. That is a minimum figure.

That is what it would cost if the country as a whole, or the L.E.A.s. supported by the Minister, had to replace these schools with new schools, as they would, indeed, have to do. If the right hon. Lady's Ministry does not intend to replace these schools, she is reaffirming what we have already declared, which is that [column 115]comprehensive education in such a situation would be continuing in hotch-potch inadequate buildings. Is it not better to keep the direct grant schools than to go over to a hotch-potch of buildings?

If the right hon. Lady says: “That is all right, we shall find the £50 million,” it will clearly be at the expense of what I read out at the beginning of my remarks—the fourth item of the proposed new Bill; a massive effort to get rid of the system of outdated slum schools.

It is obvious to everyone, and we do not need the Financial Secretary to the Treasury now to do it for us, that if we are to spend £50 million on re-creating schools because we have got rid of perfectly good schools, you will not have money available to deal with the slum schools at the primary level.

That is one of the reasons why we on this side believe that, whatever the theories of the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen opposite may be, in practical terms it is necessary for sometime to come to make use of these schools which are good and which provide a worthwhile service in our education.

Mr. Simon Mahon

The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) said that I might be able in some modest way to assist the Committee regarding the position of some direct grant schools, particularly in the north-west of England.

I made considerable notes and I appear to have left them behind, but I discerned a fortnight ago that my presence in this Committee was more important than my notes, so here I am with my basic proficiency.

There is no doubt that the Committee will have to pay particular attention to the position of direct grant schools in any future arrangement in which the direct grant schools can participate. I want to make it categorically plain today that in any plans for comprehensive reorganisation which will include voluntary schools, the Church authorities, who control the schools, have made it very clear, not today but for many years, that they are ready to co-operate with the authorities. There is no doubt at all that that is the situation.

In the North-West we have many marvellous schools; well-endowed, long-established direct grant schools, of which we are very proud. They did not happen by [column 116]accident. I have earlier pointed out that many of them were not as well endowed as the Manchester Grammar School, a school for which I have tremendous appreciation. Anyone who went to the Manchester Grammar School was most fortunate. One agrees with the testimonies that have been paid to it and to similar schools by those who have been fortunate enough to attend at such wonderful educational establishments. Nobody in the Labour Party would say anything different from what I am saying. We appreciate their high standards.

Those schools were well-endowed, some of them many centuries ago, but I know of good direct grant schools in the North-West which were established for the education of the poor only 100 years ago. They were very modest little schools, which Catholics had to build out of the pennies of poor immigrants. That is a point worth remembering when talking about immigration. We have built our own schools, and we have built them by the pennies of the poor.

11.30 a.m.

One of the most important, well-established and well-respected direct grant schools in the whole of the north of England is the Seafield Convent High School, a grammar school run by the excellent Sacred Heart Order in Crosby. It was started in Bootle. Not only did the Order found that school and build it up to its excellent standard, but it has its own way of spreading the form of education that it desired. Against all the inequality, those concerned not only staffed that excellent grammar school as it grew, but they went into the various poorer parts of Merseyside and other poor parts and established more little schools. Indeed, the situation at present is that many of those wonderful vocational teachers who work in the many educationally poor parts of Liverpool go home every evening back to the direct grant school, and their convent in that direct grant school. And every morning they travel. So there is influence and educational policies which need to be extended. It is the word “extended” that I want to talk about.

We believe in the extension of these maximum qualities. It is all right for people to talk about the high flier. I am always objecting to the hon. Gentleman's phraseology. I do not like the phrase. He uses his own descriptive term. I am [column 117]now getting blamed for using the word “chop” about direct grant schools, when the hon. Gentleman used the word first. It is all right for this Committee and people in the educational world to look at education, and say, “What a pity to disturb this nice situation where 20 per cent. of our children are getting wonderful education.” We just cannot go on like that.

In my constituency, right in the heart of Merseyside, one cannot with equanimity look at the position where 80 per cent. of children in a modern society will be left in their present state of educational values and opportunity. It just cannot happen. We cannot allow it to happen.

Most of these children are probably as I was when I left school at 14 years of age. I had an excellent home, but we were in a very difficult position. I remember on one occasion having to find out for myself where were the Catholic public schools of England, because they were in another world to those of us attending the elementary schools of those days. Even though I was of that persuasion, I had to find out where Cotton was, and where Stoneyhurst was, in the geographical sense, never mind the educational sense, because they were so remote. We really would have been left, had it not been for the dedication of certain local people, in a sort of educational ghetto.

Today, some people on Merseyside, and in places like that all over the country, can have all the social inequality of the day pressing in on them, as well as a grave lack of educational opportunity. Therefore, we must change the present system. It can be argued that the hon. Gentleman wants to change it. But we want to change it fundamentally. I do not think that the changes advocated by hon. Gentlemen are sufficient to cure the ailments which I describe.

I want to say something about how these schools were built—and I want the Government to listen to this. One sometimes visits a beautiful school. Nowhere are there schools more beautiful than those of some of the voluntary orders and religions. There is the way their schools are kept, and the high standards they maintain. It would be a credit for anyone's child to go to such a school. There is an air about them that seems to come only from that sort of establishment. But how [column 118]were they built? What sacrifices were made to build those schools?

There was a time when church schools were established by the munificence of charitable gentlemen and people with foresight. I should like to put in perspective the sacrifices that the people whose children attend church schools have had to make. It is quite remarkable what ordinary working people will do to provide reasonable education for their children. It is not only the middle classes, and not only the upper classes who wish for their children to be given the best possible education. We have made tremendous financial sacrifices to establish and maintain our schools. There is no body in this country more appreciative of the work that is done and the help that is given to us than are the church schools of, say, the north-west of England.

I know that the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) is regarded with the highest possible esteem in the field of voluntary education, as is my right hon. Friend's, for the help and understanding that they gave and are giving to us. But we still are in the position, in spite of great State beneficence, of having to pay 20 per cent. of the capital cost of any school which we build.

I remember on occasions talking to the right hon. Gentleman about the position of our primary schools. We are indebted to him and others that primary schools are now covered by a capital grant of 80 per cent.—the best in the world. And his understanding is the best in the world. But we still have to pay 20 per cent. on all schools, apart from the direct grant school.

That 20 per cent. can be a formidable sum. When a school costs £100,000 and one has to find £20,000, maybe from some little church in Liverpool, or other part of the country, it is a considerable burden. A school for £100,000 would be a very modest school, but it can become a severe burden.

But, having built these schools, made these sacrifices and done all we can to keep pace with a State system of education, and having accomplished that comparison with credit, we shall not pass over our schools to any system of State control unless we have certain undertakings—financial undertakings, as well as others about status.

I am convinced that we shall get these undertakings. I am convinced that we would get these undertakings from the [column 119]Opposition if they were in control. I believe that my right hon. Friend and the present Government will give these undertakings. They would be most unwise to do anything different. Nevertheless, I repeat that those of us who have built schools with a great deal of voluntary contribution want to know where we stand and what any future change will exact from us.

I have dealt with the quality of these schools. I have dealt, in passing, with the vocational training and the vocational teaching which takes place in them. It may be fitting if I could say also that many of the direct grant schools in the North were built because of the vocationalism of people who accepted no pay for their teaching. Their pay went to build schools rather than reward them for their teaching.

I hope that the Committee has the measure of the contribution of the churches in the right perspective, because yesterday in the House of Commons I said with regard to the contribution the churches were making to the welfare of our society that we were paying scant courtesy to what the churches do to maintain the basis of our nation.

From the Donnison Report it would appear that there was one group of people who were not quite decided about what should be done about direct grant schools in the financial sense. There was another group which, to my mind, seemed to have the position well in perspective. They said that if the direct grant schools come into an official comprehensive system their financial needs should be assessed and fully realised, and any debt which they may have incurred should be considered also.

I have always maintained that this balance of the State schools and the church schools needs equating in the financial sense. I feel that we are doing no injustice by maintaining the church schools. We are doing the country a very good turn. Therefore, I can see no reason why church schools and State schools which come into any voluntary system should be treated differently from the financial point of view. We can all say that we make a contribution for our country. In peace and in war we do what we can, and the sacrifices we have made are equated with eternity. Nevertheless, from the temporal point of view, we feel that our position could be a little better understood. I do not intend to be churlish about this, because I greatly appreciate what has been done, and I hope [column 120]my appreciation will not be minimised by any subsequent speaker.

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth knows this problem because he has visited my constituency, where he was most welcome. I think that he will remember the occasion, which was most pleasant. People in my constituency were very happy to see him. I hope that he will come again in the future in what will be a new capacity, and I can assure him that he will get as good a welcome as he did in the past. He knows that my constituency is probably unique, in that 50 per cent. of our children attend church schools and 50 per cent. attend county schools. Apart from religion, our children are in all sorts of schools, and this is an excellent thing. Nevertheless, we have 50 per cent. of our people making an extra financial contribution to maintain our schools and, at the same time, giving a very good hand to maintain other people's schools.

I should like this problem to be looked at in a 50–50 way. In my constituency we have a broad appreciation, and our education relationships with the council are excellent. We have a well-balanced view of what the county schools need and what the church schools need. I can see no reason for maintaining this differentiation in financial support for State schools as against church schools.

11.45 a.m.

I do not wish to burden the Committee with any more of my views. On a future occasion I hope to be able to assist the Committee in some small way, but for the moment I just wish to make one further small point. Church schools and direct grant schools of religious persuasions did not happen by accident. In this context, it might be of some interest to the Committee to refer to a book by Dr. James Murphy of Liverpool University. Dr. James Murphy highlighted something which he called “The Crucial Experiment” , published by the Liverpool University Press. This was an experiment conducted over 100 years ago on Merseyside, when things were not nearly as advanced as they are today, when we tried to get all the children in the same school, and the Catholics, the Anglicans and others co-operated. In one school we even had a Swedenborgian child. We had all the people being educated in the same school but, unfortunately, there was an intervention which ruined that experiment. [column 121]When people are discussing educational matters, I feel that a little knowledge of this excellent book and the crucial experiment might be of some assistance in getting things into perspective.

It is right to say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that we appreciate the time and consideration that he has given, in consultation and agreement, to our requirements, which will have to be debated on a future occasion. We appreciate what he has done. I hope that I have made it clear to the Committee that while there may be no great or immediate anxiety for direct grant schools to co-operate, our general view is that, if our financial and other needs are met modestly, we are anxious to co-operate so far as we can.

Sir Edward Boyle

I must apologise to the Committee for having arrived very late this morning, due to the fact that my train from Nottingham, where I was speaking last night, arrived some 50 minutes late in St. Pancras.

I would be out of order if I were to follow the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) too closely, but I was grateful for his kind remarks about me. As he knows, I have always recognised the part which the Roman Catholic community has played in providing money for its own schools. I am glad we have got away from what I think was that absurd system that, the more urgently the Catholic community wanted a grant for new schools, the less likely it was to qualify for it. I am glad that we now apply the grant for new primary schools.

I wish to take him up on one small point. Early on he said that the party opposite wanted a more fundamental change than we wanted on this side. I hope he might sometime find time to read one of my favourite works of English political writing, “Character of the Trimmer” by Halifax, which has just been re-issued in Pelican Classics in an inexpensive edition. In it, Halifax made the remark, which I have always remembered, that, when anyone puts forward a peculiarly unwise suggestion, he always calls it fundamental. I have always thought that there was some truth in that remark.

The subject of the Donnison Report is obviously too big a subject for one Amendment in Committee. None the less, I welcome the opportunity to say a few [column 122]words on it. One reason is its urgency. I do not share altogether the feeling of my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) that, in any case, it is bound to be a great many years, in most areas, before we have a significant change in the relation between the direct grant schools and the rest. I believe that the direct grant schools are in danger at the present time. I think they have relatively few friends—at any rate, not so many as I should like. Whatever else the next election decides, it is very likely that it will decide whether or not we continue with a direct grant system. So this is an important and urgent question.

In approaching it, I should like to take as my starting point what seemed to me a very striking headline in last week's edition of The Teacher—the N.U.T. weekly. I am quoting the headline from memory, but I think it was “Manchester Grammar School Likely To Become Public School” . This struck me as a very remarkable headline and, since then, we have learned that the Bristol Grammar School is also, in the event of the end of the direct grant system, likely to go independent.

Mr. Brewis, I hope you will not rule me out of order if I look back rather more than 25 years, to the years towards the end of the war, when a number of us first became politically conscious. I cannot, even now, say what I was doing during the war, but I was in an institution where there were many people of high ability, nearly all considerably more Left Wing than myself. We discussed and debated a great deal.

One of my own favourite sparring partners was then called Private Briggs, and is now Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex.

But I think it fair to say that one thing united us. Professor Elton of Cambridge has said, with a great deal of truth, that if there was one thing that united most men of northern Europe in the second quarter of the sixteenth century it was that they thought poorly of priests. If there was one thing that united all those against whom I debated in the 1940s—I do not know whether to some extent that is true at this time—it was that they thought poorly of public schools and their influence.

Who would have thought in those years that 25 years after a war a Labour Government would quite seriously put forward [column 123]the view—and that the Donnison Report would be taken seriously in regarding it as quite probable and a better alternative than at present—that a sizeable number, as Donnison says, of large famous regional schools drawing from a wide area should become much more akin to public schools. That seems to me to be the most extraordinary reversal of attitudes over a generation.

I want to state my own view this morning absolutely clearly once again. I would much rather see a limited number of public schools, independent schools of real quality, applying to be put on the direct grant list, than I would wish to see Manchester Grammar School, Bristol Grammar School and a certain number of others being forced to go completely independent and fee paying. In my view, it is no answer to say that this would only be a limited number. It is no answer to say this is only a limited fraction of the total of 178 direct grant schools. The fact is that it includes, almost by definition, a number of the finest direct grant schools, a number of the finest and best schools with the most successful results.

I believe that many distinguished Labour leaders of the past with whom I have had the pleasure of discussing education would have been very astonished at this outcome. I wonder what the late Lord Dalton, who held very strong views on education and who was very interested in the direct grant schools, would have thought of the Donnison Report? Remembering Mr. Hugh Gaitskell 's views on the subject of public schools, I wonder what he would have thought of that headline in The Teacher newspaper last week?

Mr. Christopher Price

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that the one quite serious consequence of the case that he is arguing, the retention of a small percentage of selection in every big city in Britain, is the unhealthy competitive spirit in the fourth year of all our big city primary schools—which almost every primary school teacher whom I know is trying to get rid of? Everybody agrees that one of the best consequences of abolishing selection completely is the doing away with the competitive spirit, and all the worst things that spring from it, that still remain within every single primary school within the big city, simply to keep this 2 per cent. selection.

Sir E. Boyle

Although it means I shall [column 124]have to go on a minute or two longer, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) because I believe that some of the controversy is genuinely caused by some misunderstanding of one another's points of view. It is not true that in every big city we have a direct grant school. We have not, for example, as the hon. Member knows very well, one in Sheffield. I am coming on next, in any case, to the question of the changing of the sort of reform and the sort of concessions that the direct grant schools themselves might be perfectly ready to make, which are relevant to the hon. Member's question.

We have this attitude of the Donnison Committee which says either one should go comprehensive or become completely independent, like my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) I regard this as a completely unnecessary choice. I entirely agreed with my hon. Friend when, towards the end of our last proceedings, he said the terms of reference were

“… drawn by the then Secretary of State as widely and mildly as possible to allow any number of compromise solutions …” —[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 3rd April, 1970; c 95.]

I believe that there are a number of compromises which these schools themselves would be ready to make. Two of them are specifically mentioned in Donnison, I think in page 55. A number of these schools would be prepared to compromise over the age. I personally believe there is a difference on the question of the age of 11 and the age of 13 or 14. I must say frankly that there are a limited number of direct grant schools, Leeds Grammar School has been one, that would be prepared for the free public places to be taken up after O-level; taken up at the sixth form stage. In other words, there is no inherent need for these places to be taken up at the age of 11, or even at the age of transfer from primary to secondary, or even middle school to secondary.

Secondly, and this is important, a number of the direct grant schools have specifically said that they would be ready to make some concession over the range of intelligence quotient for which the school catered. My own impression is that this suggestion would be welcome to quite a number of governing bodies of direct grant schools. Not everybody wants the range of I.Q. to be too narrow in these [column 125]schools. There is, of course, an I.Q. below which these schools are not geared to cater, but I believe that a great many people would not mind seeing some change.

There are two other points on which I believe in a number of areas further concession would be possible. One of them is highly relevant to the hon. Gentleman's questions to me and relates to catchment area. I thought there was some merit in the Leeds proposal that priority should be given to a child within relatively easy distance of the school, who could not get the course he or she wanted in the local school. Another change which many of us would say was quite reasonable, is that the public places should also be paid for on an income scale. The only thing is, if that change is being made, that I would not want the income scale to be too savage. Perhaps we sometimes forget just how sharply this income scale bites on some parents, where one is considering university education and the present scheme of payments.

My point is that a number of detailed changes could be negotiated here in order to have some impact on the sharpness of the selective method for the public free places. At the same time, it is a real merit, that we should never forget, of the direct grant system, that it enabled entry to a number of our finest schools irrespective of parental means. That is a very big thing to put into the scale opposite the other points about which the hon. Member for Perry Barr and many other hon. Members feel strong concern.

Next, I should like to say a word about the direct grant system. I am one of those who believe that there are two reasons why we should want to keep a direct grant system; keep a category of schools which lie between the completely maintained and the completely fee-paying schools. The fact that the direct grant system started to some extent accidentally does not worry me too much; after all, many of the best things in our national life start accidentally. The idea that everything that works best has been rationally planned in just that way is not the case, as history quite clearly shows.

I should have thought that there were two important reasons for wanting to keep a direct grant system, and one is history. It is an historical fact about Britain that whereas there are a number of highly [column 126]prestigious, perhaps overprestigious public schools in the south of England, there are relatively very few in the north. In other words, the best of the direct grant schools in the north of England play something of the same part in regional esteem that a number of the public schools play in the south of England. I believe that the end of the direct grant system would cause a much bigger shock in the north of England than many people realise.

It is a little unfair to quote someone like the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. L. M. Lever) who, as one of his hon. Friends on the opposite benches said not unfairly, is the only person who has regularly been returned to this House on what is virtually a non-political ticket. None the less, one has only to listen to him to realise the sense of shock that would be caused to many people, not just in Manchester, but in the north of England generally if this category of school were no longer to exist.

Another point that I would mention is the wish of teachers. I believe that Lord James was right when he said in another place some years ago that there are a considerable number of teachers who would rather teach in a direct grant school than in either a completely maintained or a completely independent school. My belief is, in talking to a number of teachers in independent schools, that many of them would like to come more into the main body of British education today. That is one additional reason why I would rather see a limited number of independent schools going direct grant, than the other way round.

12 noon

I should like to say just one word about sixth forms. I was very interested in the chapter that my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) wrote in his book that appeared last year on the subject of the various categories of sixth form that we have in our schools. As he will remember, I did not completely agree with his evaluation, for no more reason than he would agree with mine, but I think that he made a highly important point. I believe that one of the important factors about the direct grant schools are the extremely fine sixth forms that many of them have achieved. They may not be the strongest in innovation—the hon. Member for Perry Barr may be right there—but they are highly successful in their [column 127]achievements, and they are also schools that are often strong on the traditional subjects. I think that there is room, with respect, for tradition in sixth form education as well as innovation. Surely we always must remember the needs of that small number of boys and girls for whom sixth form classics is still the right course. There is still a limited number, and I have no doubt the direct grant schools play a part here.

I have a high admiration, and I wrote this when I was reviewing my hon. Friend's book, for many of the sixth forms of the London all-through comprehensives. The sixth form conference, which I have twice had the privilege of attending in the Eltham area, is one of the finest school conferences that I have ever experienced. I remember going there on a hot summer's day after an all-night sitting, feeling singularly ill-prepared, at about nine o'clock in the morning. No rational person would want to do or to say anything which denigrated that kind of sixth form or that kind of conference.

I believe that, particularly at the sixth-form level, we should not aim at too much uniformity in Britain. I want to see the sixth forms of all-through comprehensives, and of 13–18 comprehensives grow in strength. There may well be scope for a number of smaller direct grant schools to become sixth-form colleges: I should not rule that out at all for a certain number of them. We have, of course, the independent school sixth forms, but I believe that there is still, and will be for some time to come, a place for a limited number of schools where a really large sixth form, with a sizeable proportion of public places, is the apex of what is frankly a selective school with the traditional curriculum. I would not wish to see that category of school go out of existence altogether.

Lastly, if one thinks, as I believe one should, about the view of the country as a whole today, I believe that the average elector in Britain today wants to see us move away from the 11-plus. I have no doubt about this. The great majority of the electors do not want the 11-plus. Equally, they want schools like Manchester Grammar School and King Edward's School in Birmingham to continue in existence.

Some of us here may regard that as an illogical attitude. All I can say is that we should always be particularly careful [column 128]about telling the electorate that we are so much more logical and intelligent than they are. There may very well be sound sense in the view of the electorate that, in the overwhelming majority of areas, the broad trend should be away from separate schools at the age of 11, and yet that there is still room in our society to try to keep a recognisable, continuing future for a limited number of schools because of their particular quality.

In other words, I cannot imagine, if I were an elector of the Borough of Solihull, on the outskirts of Birmingham, a rational case for opposing secondary reorganisation there. It is the sort of area which seems to me to be made for it. But, equally, I have a great deal of sympathy for those in the City of Birmingham who say that, whatever happens, they must achieve a continuing, identifiable future for a school like King Edward's School. Somehow or other, the sensible line seems to me a series of reforms and compromises which enable both those things to happen.

I have spoken rather longer than I had intended, but I hope that we shall be able to come back to this highly important subject of the Donnison Report when we come to the Report stage. But even if there is not time on Report for as full a debate as we should wish, I am consoled by one other reflection, which I do not think anyone has made so far. It is that, whatever criticisms we may have to make of the Donnison Report, I suspect that they will be very strongly echoed when the Bill reaches another place.

I think that we have an extremely good second Chamber. I do not regard it as something which is at all high on the priorities for radical reform, and nobody can call it a reactionary second Chamber. But on this point, just as there were genuinely very strong views on the Government's cheating over the Parliamentary boundaries, I have little doubt myself that some very hard things indeed will be said about the Donnison Report, and about any proposals to bring the direct grant system to an end.

Miss Bacon

I do not like my speeches, when I make them a second time, as much as some hon. Members seem to enjoy theirs the second time over. But the Committee need not worry, because I do not propose to say all the things that I said when we discussed this subject before. [column 129]

I had a nightmare as it were, this morning, because I thought, when the hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) rose to speak until his hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) appeared, that if his hon. Friend did not appear until One o'clock, the hon. Member might still be on his feet.

The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) said that there was something inconsistent in the points which the Prime Minister made, in his speech last Friday in celebration of 100 years of State education, with the concept of this Bill which we are discussing today. The hon. Gentleman said that the Prime Minister had said that one of the things that we should be considering when producing our Green Paper on the future of education would be to give local authorities more power. I do not think that the two things are inconsistent at all. There are some things upon which local education authorities ought to have more power than they have at present. I could list quite a number of things which I think ought to be in local authority hands rather than in the hands of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

I believe, equally, that there are some things that must be laid down by the central Government and, just as we lay down centrally what the school-leaving age should be, so I believe that selection for secondary education is one of the things that ought to be laid down by the central Government and ought not to be left to the local authorities.

It has been said by hon. Members during the course of this debate that, when we last discussed this subject, when we had another Bill in Committee, we did not have the Donnison Report before us. That is quite true. But I do not think that there is anything in the Report to reinforce the arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite. On the contrary, all the arguments which we used on the last occasion have been strengthened by that Report.

The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) made great play of the fact that a great many working-class children could go to the direct grant schools. He said at Thursday's sitting, that I, when I had, as he termed it, lifted the veil slightly, had made it appear that the [column 130]Donnison Committee would in some way reinforce what we had said about it.

That is precisely what the Donnison Report does. In page 51, it says:

“The direct grant schools are predominantly middle class institutions. Our evidence about parental occupations must be treated with caution, as we explain in Appendix 6, Section 3. But the general pattern is clear. Three out of four pupils come from the homes of white-collar workers: three out of five have fathers in professional or managerial occupations. Only one out of thirteen comes from a semi-skilled or unskilled worker's family.”

Then it goes on, later in the paragraph:

“There are also differences between different types of schools: at schools with large sixth forms and at boarding schools about 67 per cent. of the pupils come from professional and managerial homes and only 3 or 4 per cent. from the semi-skilled or unskilled workers. The equivalent figures for Roman Catholic schools are 37 per cent. and 16 per cent. respectively.”

Table 20 on page 77 shows the figures quite conclusively, and it also shows that for working class children the Roman Catholic direct grant schools are quite different institutions from the non-Roman Catholic direct grant schools.

Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee

The right hon. Lady probably has the advantage, which we do not have, of having Appendix 6 to her hand. I wonder if she could tell the Committee whether or not Appendix 6 goes into this matter by schools? It will be interesting to see to what extent the social mix is dependent on width of catchment area. If she could assist us, it would be very helpful.

Miss Bacon

I wish that I could, but I am afraid that I am not in a position to do so, because I have not got this either yet.

Mr. Lewis

In the passages that the hon. Lady read from Donnison, the comparison is between semi-skilled and unskilled and the others, and in this category are included the white-collar workers. But what Donnison did not realise, or did not look at, was that over the last few years the number of semi-skilled workers in the country has gone down. Almost every worker now is a skilled worker of one kind or another. If the skilled workers are included in the top statistics, it weights it heavily against working class entry, and it is unrealistic.

Miss Bacon

I admire the way in which the hon. Gentleman tries to explain [column 131]away the figures in Donnison. They are there, and I cannot explain what was in the back of the minds of the Commission. It is no use saying that we should not take any notice of this, because we have been listening throughout the whole of this debate to a debate on the Donnison Report. I know that there is an overlap here, with this Amendment but, as I shall say later, what we are discussing this morning is Amendment (b). I shall come to that in a few minutes.

While I am on the subject of the Roman Catholic schools, I should like to say that I appreciated very much the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon). I am sure that he will understand that I am not in a position today to reply to the very wide questions of finance which he has raised. And I should like again to pay tribute to the way in which the Roman Catholic schools have come into the comprehensive system. Indeed, in some places, the Roman Catholic schools are anxious to have a comprehensive system before the local authority in which the schools are situated. As an example I could cite Wolverhampton, where the Roman Catholic schools are going ahead to re-organise on comprehensive lines well before a scheme was received from the local authority.

12.15 p.m.

The other point that was made when we discussed this matter before is that, somehow or other, all the direct grant schools were quite different from schools in the maintained system. It is perfectly true, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) has said, that there are a few top schools, like Manchester Grammar School. One of the difficulties of discussing direct grant schools is that many people equate direct grant schools and Manchester Grammar School, and do not realise that schools like that are the exception in the direct grant list, rather than the rule.

What does Donnison say about what kind of schools direct grant schools are? In page 5, paragraph 10, we find:

“The direct grant schools are an exceedingly varied group. A few of them are famous, large and highly selective regional grammar schools; more are well-established local grammar schools, much like the maintained grammar schools; some are boarding schools, often resembling the independent boarding schools;”

Then, in paragraph 11, it says: [column 132]

“The schools have been praised for their diverse social composition and criticised for their exclusiveness. In fact they educate a broader mixture of social classes than the wholly independent schools, but have few children of unskilled and semi-skilled workers, and are therefore more exclusive than the average maintained school.”

This shows quite conclusively that there is not something magical about direct grant schools.

The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) last week said something rather strange:

“I want to restrict myself to quite simple statements … As drafted, the new Clause to which we have given a Second Reading will eventually preclude any local authority taking up a place at a direct grant school where that school selects its pupils by ability and aptitude.”

He then explained the position as I had explained it when we discussed this before, and then went on to say:

“I think that it would be within the power of the Secretary of State under Clause 2 to approve plans which phased out the taking up of direct grant school places over a period. I hope that I have understood the right hon. Lady correctly. She was a little nervous when I put the question to her. She thought that it was a legal question and that she was being trapped.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 30th April, 1970; c. 80]

Let me tell the hon. Gentleman that legal questions do not scare me at all, having spent three years in the Home Office sitting on committees where practically every other member of the committee was either a solicitor or a barrister, and I have never heard more disagreement among lawyers than one hears in the House.

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

But if the right Alice Baconhon. Lady served in the Home Office and then here she has had more than her usual share of experience, and she does not need the law, because she knows full well that if ever the majority got the wrong decision she would change the legal rules, too, until she had the decision she wants.

Miss Bacon

That sounds very clever but it is not really on the point I was dealing with. Let me emphasise again that that Clause makes no distinction between direct grant schools and other schools. The Secretary of State, under the Bill, will ask for plans. Just as the plans with regard to grammar schools and secondary modern schools, can be phased out, so can those for the direct grant schools where local authorities are seeking to send pupils to them. Therefore, what I said [column 133]when we last discussed this subject still stands. That is what the Clause means.

Mention has been made of small schools. The hon. Member for Wokingham and the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) said that perhaps we could have a different age range; that instead of children beginning the secondary period at the age of 11 in direct grant schools it might even be 13 or 14. It has taken hon. Gentlemen opposite a long time to reach the conclusion that some of us reached years ago and which, in fact, local education authorities are carrying out in maintained schools.

The whole of the middle school plans are based on a transfer—some at the age of 13, some at the age of 14. There are some comprehensive schemes in being at the present time where there is a lower school and an upper school, the upper school beginning at the age of 14. But surely, if this is so and if hon. Members opposite feel that there could be a different age range, this would make it much easier for the smaller direct grant schools to join in local authority comprehensive plans.

Several Members opposite have advocated selection on what they call a small scale—5 per cent. or 2 per cent. We have heard this argued a great deal on the opposite side. Some hon. Members opposite, not all of them, have said that they would like to get rid of the 11-plus, so that we should not have general selection at the age of eleven. But they would like a small selection for the very able children—say a 5 per cent., or a 2 per cent. selection—as if, somehow, this were more acceptable. A 5 per cent. selection would mean a much more vigorous and more highly competitive test for children in primary schools, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) pointed out. Its effect on primary schools and on the children would be as bad as, if not worse than, a test to select 20 per cent., 30 per cent., 40 per cent., or 50 per cent.

So I do not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite are on sure ground when they argue in this way. It has been said that some smaller, not well-known, direct grant schools might become independent, as well as some of the more important. I hope not. I hope that, in the future, as many direct grant schools is possible will be able to come to some arrangements [column 134]with the local education authorities in order to come into a comprehensive system.

The hon. Member for Cambridge complained about the inadequacy of my answers. Certainly, I do not take three-quarters of an hour to say what I can say in five minutes. I think that what he really means is that I have not given him the answers that he would like. He would like me to agree with the Amendments which hon. Members opposite have been moving. That I cannot do.

I want to complain about the attitude of the Opposition in connection with their Amendments. They have put down many Amendments, and they have made long speeches. They talk all round, keeping enough within the rules of order, Mr. Brewis, for you not to rule them out of order. What they do not explain is the effect of the Amendments.

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) made an interesting speech which, I think, was nearer to our point of view than anything else we have heard from hon. Members opposite. But if I might say so, he did what almost every other hon. Member has done; he discussed the Donnison Report rather than the Amendment. I know that it is difficult to discuss the one without discussing the other, but he did not discuss this Amendment, nor its effect. He hoped that details could be negotiated with local education authorities in order to get some kind of accommodation between the two. That is precisely what we should like, and there is nothing in the Bill which prevents that, so long as there is not a selective intake into the direct grant schools.

We want to keep the schools just as the right hon. Gentleman would want to keep the schools, and I see nothing inconsistent in this. I believe that it could be possible for the direct grant schools to come to some arrangement with the local authorities whereby they could take their place in a reorganised system but, at the same time, not have a selective intake.

Sir E. Boyle

Surely, this is the whole point. As I understand it, it would not be possible for a local authority to take up places at this school because a boy or girl could not get, say, Latin in their own local secondary school, and because it was particularly important for them to have the best possible teaching in this subject. [column 135]We quite recognise that there may be a case for widening the I.Q., for arrangements which involve a wider intake than in the past, but it is nonsense to say that these schools are geared to take a totally unselected intake. That is the difference between us.

Miss Bacon

What I had in mind was that some of the schools might have become the upper part in a comprehensive system. There is nothing to prevent some of the better schools from being 14-plus schools, or even sixth form colleges, which the right hon. Gentleman himself mentioned. I was thinking more in those terms than in terms of a selective entry.

The aim of the Bill is to end selection for secondary education, but this Amendment would retain a highly competitive selection for a very few schools. We are not prepared to end selection in the maintained sector and allow a super-selection for the entry to the direct grant schools. I have been asked to give the Government's intentions on Donnison. At the same time, hon. Gentlemen opposite have said that much thought must be given to the report before any statement is made. Indeed, the hon. Member for Cambridge said that he and his colleagues had not yet had time to meet all the bodies concerned with the Donnison Report.

The Government have not yet taken any decisions on the various recommendations in the Donnison Report. This much I can say—and make absolutely clear. Whatever the detailed decisions may be, they cannot possibly conflict with the over-riding policy that all secondary education, provided or paid for by local education authorities, must in the long run be in comprehensive schools. It is because the Amendment would retain highly competitive selection for a very few schools, and would breach the whole of our policy on comprehensive education, that we must reject it.

Mr. David Lane

Before the right hon. Lady sits down: I was particularly interested in her last few remarks. Would she say a little more about what she means by “in the long run” ? She said that all education in the long run must be in nonselective schools. Would the right hon. Lady expand on that statement?

Miss Bacon

I do not think that there is anything significant about my use of the phrase “in the long run” . The Secretary [column 136]of State and I have said on many occasions that the Bill did not mean that, a month after enactment, everything would happen. There would have to be plans, and those plans would be phased? I meant nothing more nor less than that.

Mr. Hill

Before the right hon. Lady sits down a second time, may I ask her to say something in response to Amendment (f), designed to provide the local education authorities with a measure of discretion for the uncommon child. This is a general practice, even in the most exclusively comprehensive regions. I understand that, even in the Isle of Man, some children are sent by the local education authority there to an intensive school in the south of the Island, which can provide the tuition they need. The school is King William's.

Miss Bacon

One of my complaints was that we have not heard much about the Amendment. I found it very difficult to see the Opposition's aim. The hon. Gentleman was the only Member opposite who mentioned Amendment (f). I see now that it seeks provision to send a child to some school other than a comprehensive school for what he calls “the uncommon child” . I am not sure that I understand what he means by the uncommon child, but we cannot accept this Amendment, because we believe that if we have a fully comprehensive system with a wide range of courses in the comprehensive schools we shall be able to provide for what he calls the uncommon child here without sending them to other schools outside the comprehensive system.

12.30 p.m.

Mrs. Thatcher

I should like to reply to quite a number of points which have been raised. I have the impression throughout the whole of this debate that the Government are trying to force us to an either-or choice, when there are in fact many gradations between. The choice seems to be “Either you accept total comprehensive or you go totally independent” . These Amendments are designed to modify that choice to some extent.

When the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) spoke last time, he regaled us with his own personal choice and said that he had set a precedent, practically, in his own locality by putting down a particular [column 137]comprehensive school in front of a direct grant school. I virtually asked him which one, although in general terms, because I know Dulwich reasonably well and I was jolly certain that he was choosing the best comprehensive school, which has an enormous waiting list, and not the worst one, to which I doubt very much whether he would wish to send his child. The hon. Gentleman nods. This is significant, because if a good school is a good school it does not really matter what kind of school it is, but we can be jolly certain that hon. Members on both sides will wish to send their children to a good school. I challenge him with this: if the choice was between the bad comprehensive in Dulwich—and I will not mention it, but we all know which one it is—and the good direct grant school, which would he choose?

Mr. Christopher Price

If the hon. Lady will re-read what I said in my speech just after that, she will have the answer she seeks. I said that the dilemma of the individual is totally different from the dilemma of the local authority and the Government, which have quite different responsibilities. If one is on a local authority with responsibilities or in a Government with wide responsibilities, one's fundamental duty is not to put parents in the sort of dilemma in which the hon. Lady insists they be left for the foreseeable future.

Mrs. Thatcher

I read what the hon. Gentleman said again before I rose this morning. What it seems to me he is saying now is that Governments make general rules for others which their own back benchers and Front Benchers disregard when it seems to their own children. I would rather that he dealt with the education of his own children as a parent than on any theoretical political basis. As long as he and other Members opposite are prepared to do that, I think there is some hope for the future of the educational system as well as for the future of Great Britain.

Mr. Christopher Price

I am touched by her concern for my children.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am touched by the hon. Gentleman's concern.

Mr. Christopher Price

It is her motherly concern. It is very touching. Will she make clear her attitude to the parent who is faced with a bad comprehensive school and a grammar school which everyone [column 138]wants but cannot get into, in the situation where the child is not quite good enough to get into that grammar school? What solution is she prepared to offer that parent put in that dreadful dilemma?

Mrs. Thatcher

There is no dilemma if the child cannot get into the other school. What one then has to do, as the hon. Member knows, is to concentrate every single help upon the bad school. But it is not necessary, as he knows, to destroy the good in order to improve the bad. If I say that on any public platform in this country, I shall get roars of applause—that is what my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) is saying—because the people recognise it.

The other theory that I think by implication the hon. Gentleman is putting forward I can best illustrate in the following way. Suppose we have two groups of parents, one, say the majority, consisting of 20, the other, the minority, consisting of 18. The majority tell the minority, “We say that your children must come to the same school as ours.” The minority say, “But we want our children to go to some different schools—there are some very good schools.” The majority reply, “You cannot send them there, because we say so.” The minority ask, “why not?” . The majority reply, “Because we are the majority, and the minority has no rights and no say in the future of its children” . That is the case which the hon. Gentleman is putting: if the majority says we all go to one type of school, the minority has no right at all, unless they go totally independent.

Mr. Christopher Price

I do not want this to become a mediaeval disputation, nor do I wish to be misrepresented. The case I am putting is that I know of no educational situation anywhere in the Western world where it has been possible to improve the bad schools that she talks about and we both know about, and at the same time keep out of those schools a substantial number, say 20 per cent., of the cleverer children. It is not money that makes schools good schools, it is children. And it is clever children that make schools good schools.

Mrs. Thatcher

I accept that it is not money that makes schools good schools. The hon. Gentleman is now turning to the creaming-off argument. I dislike this [column 139]argument, too, because it looks at children as a pint of milk with a certain amount of cream and no more: when one has tipped off that cream there is no more to float to the top. This is not the point from which we started. The precise point from which we started was that there is a lot more cream to float to the top. Therefore if we improve the schools every school will contain innate cream, and that will come to the top, so the problem does not arise.

In any case, hon. Members opposite get into something of a difficulty. First, we have the old system under which we said, and with tremendous idealism, that a child should have maximum opportunity according to his abilities, whatever his background, so there is no money in it at all. This was the merit argument. Then hon. Members and some educational commentators smeared the merit group with the word “élite” . They said that this would result in an “élite.” Then they turn round and say that they must have that élite in the comprehensive schools, where they will be just as much an élite as they ever were before. I think that they will regret then that they turned them into an élite.

We are getting into a very considerable difficulty by attempting to have an either/or solution, when there are, many possible middle courses which could satisfy minorities, which could satisfy a large number of other people and which could keep the best and steadily improve the worst.

The right Alice Baconhon. Lady, as so often happens, came on to the familiar middle class argument. As I listen to our educational debates, I think that the Labour Party must hate the middle class, because every time the worst they can say about a school, and the reason for changing it, is that a large proportion of the middle class get through there, hence the implication that they will change the rules until this is not so. The only Labour Minister who really loves the middle class is the Roy JenkinsChancellor of the Exchequer. He will tax them and tax them—that is what they are for in his view.

Mr. Stan Newens

Many of us in the Labour Party stand for a classless society, and this means that no school should be the province of a particular class. That is our present objection. The hon. Lady talks, of the attitude of hon. Members on this side to schools, but how many of [column 140]her hon. Friends would be prepared to have their children go to secondary modern schools? This is our point, because if one is prescribing schools for the middle classes, the middle classes also must be prepared to send their children to the secondary modern schools which the hon. Lady wishes to preserve.

Mrs. Thatcher

The grammar school was not a class school. This was its tremendous achievement. The Stan Newenshon. Gentleman can come to my constituency and see that the secondary modern school is not a class school. But if hon. Members opposite want to condemn a school, they quote something or other——

Miss Bacon

Would the hon. Lady allow me, just for the sake of accuracy, to point out that my only mention of the term “middle class” this morning was when I quoted from the Donnison Report.

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, indeed. And the Donnison Report uses the argument that the direct grant schools get 75 per cent. of the middle classes; therefore, by implication, the system must be changed.

The Clause, without the Amendment means that local education authorities cannot send the children to those schools and will have no choice of sending them to those schools—no statutory right at all. The only possibility of sending them to those schools does not come from a statutory right, unless our Amendment is accepted. It comes from impossibility of performance in that all local education authorities could not go totally comprehensive and might, therefore, have to send some children to different schools. That is impossibility of performance, and not a statutory right. The right hon. Lady, in this Clause without the Amendment, tries to stop the local education authorities from sending to a wide range of schools, and only to one particular school.

Let me read the answer to the paragraph which the right hon. Lady quoted. It comes from Peter Mason. It was published in The Times Educational Supplement on 3rd April, 1970. I am quite well aware that if the Edward ShortMinister were here, and one quoted anything from any paper one would be called a Right Wing reactionary. Peter Mason states:

“I entirely agree with the opening sentence of paragraph 115, if the term middle class is used loosely to include quite humble white collar occupations as well as the professions.” [column 141]

He goes on:

“Out of roughly 200 boys in the second-year sixth form at M.G.S. [Manchester Grammar School] in 1967–68 parental occupations were as follows: …”

He has taken them in alphabetical order:

“… accountants three, civil servants three, clerks 11, company directors [sic] 18, …” children of deceased parents “… 10, divorced … three, doctors seven, dentists two, draughtsmen four, engineers 12, industrial unskilled workers 16, inspectors … three, librarian one, local government officials two, manager (bank) one, policemen two, Post Office workers three, research workers five, representatives [which I take it mean sales representatives] 13, solicitors three, schoolmasters 15, senior industrial executives 20, shop workers 13, surveyors three, self-employed one, teachers in technical colleges … six, television producer one, translators two, turf accountants two.”

That seems to me to be a pretty wide social list, and the consequence of Manchester Grammar School having to go independent would be, in future, to deny a number of comparatively poor children the benefit of that type of education.

My right Sir Edward Boylehon. Friend mentioned one of our very distinguished Manchester Members, the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. L. M. Lever), who, if he were fit to be here in the House—and I regret very much that he is not—would be on our side when it came to this. I also say to the right hon. Lady, that his Harold Leverbrother, who is one of the products of Manchester Grammar School, I believe to be quite the best Minister in this Government without exception.

Mr. Mahon

The hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. L. M. Lever) and myself have one or two things of importance in common. In defence of my hon. Friend, who is not here——

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not attacking him.

12.45 p.m.

Mr. Mahon

I just want the hon. Lady to realise what I feel my hon. Friend's position would be. I would be quite sure that there is a good chance he would be right alongside me.

If I may ask, is that not a remarkable list for a city like Manchester? Is it not remarkable that in it there was not a labourer—[Interruption.] Mr. Brewis, I have just as good a knowledge of industry, and what constitutes an important industrial town like Manchester, as any other man. There is not a labourer——

[column 142]

The Chairman

The Committee is getting very disorderly and the hon. Member should cut his intervention as short as he can.

Mr. Mahon

I was about to do so. Is it not amazing that there is not one labourer, or joiner, or bricklayer, or electrician, or any other amongst that long list which the hon. Lady has given?

Mrs. Thatcher

I have … “industrial unskilled workers 16 …” and “engineers” covers such a wide number of people, as the Simon Mahonhon. Gentleman knows. I should have thought “industrial unskilled workers” covered the point.

I would not dream of arguing with or contradicting the hon. Gentleman on any of the points in his speech, but I think that as he and my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) have put a number of things on the record about that particular group of direct grant schools, it might be as well to put on the record as well the letter written by the Chairman of the Association of Catholic Direct Grant schools to The Times on 3rd April, 1970. I make no comment about it, so that if he is Right Wing reactionary it is not my fault.

The letter was this, from Mr. A. D. Doyle, S.J.:

“Many comments on the second report of the Public Schools Commission have assumed that, if it were implemented, the majority of the 56 Catholic direct grant schools would be obliged to opt for aided status. This is not wholly accurate. The report offers two alternatives to those schools which do not choose independence—Scheme A, (‘full grant’ status under a central body) and Scheme B (locally maintained status). There is almost equal support on the commission for either scheme … Catholic schools would, for the most part, not opt for independence, because they wish to continue to serve the whole Catholic community. If they could not keep the present system, which they much prefer, most would undoubtedly choose Scheme A …” —that is the “full grant” status—because of the greater flexibility and freedom that it offers.”

I make no comment. I merely point out that according to the Chairman of the Association of Catholic Direct Grant Schools the Catholic community much prefer the present system.

Miss Bacon

Perhaps I may comment? I have here a letter dated 4th May, which has come from the Secretary of the Catholic Education Council, and among other things—I will not read the whole letter—it says: [column 143]

“The policy of this Council has been to favour and encourage the participation of the Catholic direct grant schools in schemes of reorganisation, and we are pleased that nearly all the Catholic schools have accepted this as a principle, subject to the necessary means of participation being made available.”

There is more as well——

Mrs. Thatcher

The right hon. Lady has put that letter on record. I have put the one from the Chairman of the Association of Catholic Direct Grant Schools. I just leave it there.

There have been a number of comments by a number of hon. Members about the way in which the direct grant schools work in with the local education authorities. It has been made abundantly clear by the direct grant schools that they are fairly flexible in some of the proposals they are prepared to adopt in order to work in with the local education authorities. I think it a little naïve for the right hon. Lady to say that they can come into the system provided they change substantially their very nature.

In a letter to The Times on 2nd April, 1970, Dame Kitty Anderson, who has done such wonderful work for the direct grant school, said this:

“As far as schemes for reorganisation are concerned, the direct grant schools are not wedded to any particular age or procedure for the admission of assisted pupils; what they are confident of is that they have facilities to offer and that these could make a useful contribution to many of the local schemes.”

I think that they are very anxious to retain their quality and excellence, and to ensure that it can still be offered to children regardless of their parents' means.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) about the importance of independence in education. It is extremely important that there should always be an independent education system, because this is the only safeguard against a complete monopoly of State education. If we have the “either/or” of the Bill without this Amendment, independence will be denied to people who make sacrifices to send their children to independent schools. Independence will be restricted to those whose parents can afford it. The Amendment means that the independent way is still open to parents through the direct grant schools, and some places in independent schools being offered by the local education authority. This is extremely important.

May I also say a word about the [column 144]argument that if one carries on with the direct grant schools and some places in independent schools, one will be depriving the poor of their proper education. I do not believe that the best direct grant schools have deprived one poor child of an excellent education. They have offered to a number an education which they would not otherwise have had and which, if the Bill is passed, they will not be allowed to have.

It is often said that the direct grant schools are a bridge between the totally independent sector and the total State sector. I believe that they are, and that they have done excellent service to the community. It is because they are so good, and because they are in such demand, that the Government want to destroy them. They are not prepared to keep them even as offering a wider range of choice to a number of parents.

The direct grant schools have also done a very good job with regard to the education of girls. This has not been mentioned this morning. I am obviously very conscious of it. Members of the Labour Government are very conscious of it, because so many of them have used either North London Collegiate or St. Paul's School for Girls. Even my Carol Thatcherdaughter comes home and says that so-and-so's father is a Member of Parliament. Her next question is: is he Conservative or is he Labour? I do not understand why Labour Ministers are so anxious to deprive other people of facilities which they have been so swift to see for their own children. There is one general rule, but a different one when it comes to considering one's own particular position.

We wish to retain the possibility of sending ordinary children, whose parents could not otherwise afford it, to direct grant schools or to independent schools. That is why these Amendments are in the Notice Paper.

We also wish it to be quite specific that if particular comprehensive schools in some areas cannot offer maximum educational opportunity to individual children, under this Bill they should be allowed to send their children to other schools, some of which may well have a selective ability intake. Regardless of what the right hon. Lady says, there will be schools which cannot offer the full opportunity. There will be some parents who still want wider choice.

There was a letter to The Times on 2nd [column 145-146]April, 1970, headed “Better opportunities” from a person called Arundel Barker, who pointed out that his daughters, but for the direct grant school, would have had to go to a co-educational comprehensive school eight miles away. They did not have a comprehensive school offering the facilities they wanted within reasonable distance. Are they to be allowed to go to a nearer church direct grant school? Under the Bill, I doubt whether they would be able to do so.

Our objective is to retain more flexibility than is present in the Bill; to retain and enlarge the area of parental choice, and to continue to give substantial opportunities to children who, if these Amendments are lost, may not otherwise have those opportunities. I hope that shortly we shall come to a decision. We shall vote vigorously in favour of our own Amendment.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:

The Committee divided: Ayes 9, Noes 10.

Division No. 2.]

AYES

Boyle , Sir Edward

Eyre , Mr. Reginald

Hill , Mr. J. E. B.

Lane , Mr. David

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

Wellbeloved , Mr. James

Woof , Mr. Robert

The Chairman

The next Amendment is (e).

Mr. van Straubenzee

Perhaps I might address you on a point of order, Mr. Brewis, before I move the Amendment. We have had a good and useful debate on one particular subject, and we are now moving on to another. Would it not be for the general convenience of the Committee if I were to move the Amendment at the start of our next proceedings?

The Chairman

In that case it would be necessary for the right hon. Lady to move that further consideration of the Bill be now adjourned. It would cause no inconvenience.

Further consideration of the Bill adjourned.—[Miss Bacon]

Committee adjourned accordingly at two minutes to One o'clock till Thursday, 7th May, 1970, at half-past Ten o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:

Brewis , Mr. John (Chairman)

Armstrong ,Mr.

Bacon , Miss

Boyle , Sir E.

Evans , Mr. Fred

Eyre , Mr.

Hill , Mr. J. E. B.

Lane , Mr.

Lewis , Mr. Kenneth

Mahon , Mr. Simon

Maude , Mr.

Montgomery , Mr.

Newens , Mr.

Oakes , Mr.

Price , Mr. Christopher

Price , Mr. William

Thatcher, Mrs.

van Straubenzee , Mr.

Wellbeloved , Mr.

Woof , Mr.