Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1970 May 7 Th
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 [147-194]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1030-1300. Fourth Sitting reproduced in its entirety. MT spoke at cc.159, 177, 186, and 191.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 16981
Themes: Private education, Secondary education
[column 147-148]

EDUCATION (re-committed) BILL

STANDING COMMITTEE A OFFICIAL REPORT

Thursday, 7th 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.]

10.30 a.m.

Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee

Perhaps on a nice morning like this, Mr. Brewis, I might start by saying, “Good morning.”

I beg to move as an Amendment to new Clause No. 1, Amendment (e), in line 6, leave out “only” and insert “mainly” .

We have very properly spent some considerable time on the important question of direct grant schools, a question which clearly interests both sides of the Committee. Although it is not for me to give advice to my hon. Friends as to what they might think appropriate, I suggest that we could deal with this Amendment expeditiously. It is important, but not lengthy. It would be in accordance with the spirit of our proceedings that we deal with it expeditiously. I shall move it shortly for that reason, because we are concentrating in this new Clause only on the major points as we see them.

As the new Clause is at present drawn, it requires that for the purpose of fulfilling its duties a local education authority

“Shall … 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.”

That is, the selection as defined.

This simple Amendment is designed to secure, not that in those circumstances secondary education should be provided “only” in such schools, but that it should be provided “mainly” . I expect I shall be picked up on the drafting side on the use of “mainly” . So I make it clear to the right hon. Lady the Minister of State that, if she feels it necessary to comment on the use of “mainly” from the legal point of view, I shall accept her strictures in advance. She will understand, however, that we are putting the argument on its feet. If she accepts the [column 149]spirit of the Amendment, there will be no difficulty about agreeing to a form of words.

There are several reasons why we think it would be wise to loosen the wording somewhat. The word “mainly” recognises the facts of the situation which we have discussed before. I do not need to go over them again. They are essentially non-party political because, as we have reminded one another several times, the movement towards realistic comprehensive provision is non-party. The difference between us is vested in the Government's belief that there must be a totally uniform system, as distinct from the point of view that we on this side have.

There would be nothing given away by the Government if they took the next step and said that this education should be given “mainly” in schools where the admission was not based upon the selection as defined. I am sure that it will be understood that there will be a few places where even this provision might not be received with great appreciation. In one or two of the places one has in mind there might indeed be some criticism of hon. Members on this side for advocating the provision “mainly” in comprehensive schools. It would clearly result in a change of outlook.

I face that squarely. We are quite prepared to face that if these words are agreed. We are objecting on good grounds to the uniform nature of the system which the Government are so anxious to see introduced and operated.

The second reason is that one of the things which has emerged so clearly in our discussions is that, for as long as any of us can sensibly plan ahead, the provision of secondary education will, in many places, be, not “wholly,” but “mainly,” in non-selective schools. This is acknowledged by the Government. This is entirely in accord with the realities of the situation. This is what is imposed on any Government by our financial situation. There will, therefore, be what we have in our discussions termed a mixed economy. It seems to us to be much more sensible to recognise this squarely and to put the appropriate words in the legislation, rather than words which all of us know cannot be implemented within the foreseeable future, or as far as any of us can sensibly plan.

We all know that, whatever our ideology, we must make a success of a mixed [column 150]economy in education. We must do it for as long as we can foresee. We on this side see merit in this, because we are not attracted by uniformity. I realise that this is a controversial matter, but this is our position and we have stated it. I believe, incidentally, that it has much more attraction in the country than is sometimes realised. It must be at this moment extraordinarily unwise for the House to lay down that this form of education shall be the only one provided, or that that is what we aim for, and to insist that it shall be the “only” one. I have made my position clear on the comprehensive issue. I do not need to say it again, and weary the Committee. But we must not lose our critical faculties just because we use the emotive word “comprehensive.” We acknowledge that mistakes have been made in the past. That which has been cited, and to which the Secretary of State on the Floor of the House nodded his agreement when I mentioned it, was that of size.

Our views on the size of a meaningful comprehensive school are very different from what they were in years gone by. We also have to acknowledge that some of the social lessons coming out of some of the comprehensives organised in some ways are disturbing. I feel sure that none of us blinds himself to it. Those who say that the system must be uniformly comprehensive may in later years look back and recognise that they made a mistake. If that is right, surely it is right to move by degrees. That the object of the exercise here.

There is another attraction in this Amendment which I know will commend itself to the right hon. Lady more than any other argument I have used so far. It is probably true that if this word were inserted—and here I am obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) who is always so eagle-eyed in his attention to out affairs—it would not be necessary for the next Conservative Government to repeal this measure. This is the argument that will commend itself most to the right hon. Lady.

It is an advantage in our educational work, to search out, as far as possible, the measures that are agreed in this sphere. I have never been ashamed of searching for a bipartisan approach in as wide a range as possible. There are certain things about which we disagree, and disagree strongly, and that is healthy and [column 151]good, but I see no need for being apologetic in searching diligently for those areas where there is agreement.

We should probably agree that in education we should try to avoid the ding-dong process of legislation and repeal, repeal and legislation. Agreement is more healthy for the educational service as a whole. The right hon. Lady has great gifts of statesmanship, and it would be pleasant if one of her closing actions in a distinguished Party career were to see the statesmanship of the course that I am now offering, and to see that there would be much advantage in avoiding subsequent legislation. This has probably not occurred to her, and she will not, therefore, have had a chance to take advice from her right hon. Friend. It would be nice if she were to surprise him.

Quite seriously, we get a much wider measure of agreement by our Amendment. I undertook to speak briskly, and I hope I have fulfilled my undertaking. It is a serious point but, by comparison with some of the other points we have discussed, it is not of such fundamental importance in relation to new Clause No. 1, though the principle behind it is important.

Mr. David Lane

I support this appeal to the right hon. Lady. The more I look at the clause, the more unsatisfactory it seems. The unsatisfactory element which I wish to stress this morning is one which has been pointed out before by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill), namely, that the present wording includes a rigid principle and then a list of exceptions—an open-ended list, in the sense that one can add more if one can persuade the Committee to do so. I agree that it would have been better if the principle had been stated alone in one Clause, and the exceptions dealt with in later Clauses.

In support of this Amendment, I underline what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee). We are making an effort to state the principle here more realistically and more in tune with what we all know will be the development of secondary education over the next few years, whatever happens to this Bill, and in whatever form it reaches the Statute Book.

I wish to say a word about selection. I am sorry that the Secretary of State's favourite old canard keeps on raising its [column 152]head. It raised its head again in the debate on the Floor of the House on the 22nd April, when the right hon. Gentleman returned to his old parrot cry “The Opposition want to keep the 11-plus” . On a pleasant summer morning I do not wish to be so rude to the Secretary of State as to compare him with the Prime Minister but, frankly, in this matter he is getting almost as bad as the Prime Minister in distorting the words of the Opposition.

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

The hon. Gentleman could not pay me a greater compliment.

Mr. Lane

I emphatically deny again that either I nor any of my hon. Friends here wants to keep the 11-plus. I have said before, but I must say again, because the Secretary of State keeps on with his parrot cry, that I am in favour of the steady diminution of selection. However, I think that there is room for argument—and I think hon. Members opposite would agree because of the form in which the Bill is drafted, even as it stands—as to how big an area this residual area of selection should be, and at what speed one should change the relative pattern.

I am not prepared to say that we have to get rid of selection totally, even over the next five or ten years.

Mr. Ernest Armstrong

Not at eleven.

Mr. Lane

No, it is not a case of 11-plus. If the hon. Gentleman will re-read his own party's Bill he will see that, even in its original wording, a certain amount of selection is provided for: sixth form colleges——

Mr. Armstrong

No, not at eleven.

Mr. Lane

No, not eleven, but that is what I am complaining about. The Secretary of State is saying that we want to keep selection at 11-plus. I have never said any such thing. I do not want to go over the ground again, but hon. Members may compel me to do so. We accept the movement away from 11, anyway to 12 or 13, or to later ages. This is agreed between the two sides, and I hope we shall not hear this parrot cry again from the Secretary of State.

10.45 a.m.

Let me remind the Committee for [column 153]a moment about the local authorities' difficulty here. It is important that nothing that remains in this Measure should put strain on the local authorities in the schemes they are producing for reorganisation. The right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend have assured us more than once that they have prevented some local authorities from going ahead with schemes which, in the Government's judgment, were unsuitable. This is fine, but if the Clause goes ahead in too rigid a form there will be a greater risk that some local authorities will be forced into bringing up schemes which are not sound. So I think it would be wise to introduce some more latitude, and I appeal again to the Government to give more thought to this, and accept the Amendment.

We should leave some more elbow-room particularly, I suggest, in the large conurbations. This is not the time to go over again the arguments about banding, though I hope there will be some future opportunity to do so. The Government were not prepared to accept the excellent Amendment on banding which my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) successfully carried through the Committee, but would they not consider that this Amendment would have the advantage, in our view, that in certain—possibly exceptional—cases, and mainly cases in the big conurbations, it would give the authorities some discretion to do some banding where they thought it necessary? In other words, they could introduce a small amount of selection where they believed they would get a better balance of ability than by sticking to the present strict wording of the Bill.

So I ask the Government to look again at the Amendment, with the banding problem particularly in view. Whenever the Bill gets the Royal Assent—whichever party forms the next Government—and whether or not the Bill will ever come into force effectively—we all know that progress towards ending selection and extending comprehensive education will remain gradual. Indeed, the Government acknowledge that. The argument is about pace. In view of that, surely it would be in keeping with the reality of the next few years that some more flexibility should be admitted into the Clause. I hope that the Government will look more sympathetically at the Amendment.

[column 154]

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

All our efforts have been designed to import a degree of flexibility into the operation of the Bill without damaging the main comprehensive principle. When I looked at the Clause, I originally thought that I could amend it—and such an Amendment occurred on the Notice Paper in my name—by substituting in line 7 the word “mainly” for the word “partly” , but I realised that to do so detracted from the enunciation of the comprehensive principle. One wants to keep the principle, but so to modify its application that L.E.A.s in practice can do their job in the light of the circumstances that they have to face.

The Secretary of State would retain effective control in approving plans, and the Amendment would have the very great advantage of adding to the Statute Book a Measure which was not, on the face of it, so rigid and controversial that some Government, even another Labour Government, might find themselves compelled either to amend it or not to observe it in practice. It has been our tradition to make all our educational legislation as far as possible non-party controversial. The emphasis between the political outlooks of different Governments is best taken up in administration, so that a Labour Secretary of State might press rather harder, while a Conservative Minister might think that wise in certain areas to relax pressure in view of the balance of circumstances.

It seems to me that to amend the Bill as we propose would meet a lot of the objections that have been put forward by such as authoritative bodies as the Association of Education Committees, and it would meet the view expressed in different parts of the reports, certainly in the Donnison Report, that this battle-dore and shuttlecock approach to educational administration is very bad for education.

It seems to me that the Secretary of State is hoisting a signal “England expects everyone to go comprehensive forthwith” . That is an intelligible signal. But it is a mistake to nail to the mast that signal with such a word as “only” . Nelson did not nail signals to the mast for the simple reason that if one nails one's signal to the mast one destroys one's means of communication and one cannot add an amending signal such as “Instead of ‘forthwith’, please read, ‘proceed with all deliberate speed’” . “All deliberate [column 155]speed” in an educational context is not without some significance.

I hope that we will not be told that this is a wrecking Amendment. It is not. A wrecking Amendment is designed to put a Bill on the rocks. This Amendment is designed to pull the Bill off the rocks.

I conclude that it is probably too important an Amendment to be accepted at short notice. Therefore, without adding to other arguments which are available, I express the wish that if it cannot be accepted this morning we may have a chance of reconsidering it at a later stage. I believe that it is fundamental here.

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

The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), said that I would probably object to the word “mainly” on legal grounds. It is quite true that “mainly” is very difficult to define. Even so, I shall not put that as an obstacle to the Amendment: I disagree with the Amendment on a fundamental principle. The hon. Gentleman asked whether I would accept the spirit of the Amendment. I want to make it clear that I do not accept the spirit of the Amendment, therefore I shall not go into the question of the word “mainly” . The hon. Member said that it is a very simple Amendment. I would be very simple if I accepted it. Its effect would be to provide for the maintenance of selective schools alongside comprehensive schools as a permanent feature of the education system. To retain selective schools as a permanent feature of the education system, even on a limited scale, for some children necessarily entails the retention of the whole procedure of selection.

It is quite misleading to say that this selection would be at the option of parents. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) talked about how big the residual selection would be, but this is an entirely false way of looking at it. As I said on the last occasion, when we were talking about direct grant schools, if we had only a residual 2 per cent. or 5 per cent. selection we would have all the apparatus of selection for every child in a primary school. To me, that is very much worse than even a 20, 30 or a 40 per cent. election.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for [column 156]Cambridge said that the age of 12 or 13 might be preferable to the age of 11. As I pointed out on the last occasion, quite a number of local authorities have sent in plans, which have been accepted—and some of them are already in operation—and those plans include transfer at the age of 12 and at the age of 13. Therefore schools are already operating within the comprehensive system without rigid adherence to the age of 11.

I have always felt that the age of 11 was a very great mistake. I could never see any reason for it, and that is why I am glad that some secondary schools are getting away from the age of 11. This does not mean that we must have selection at the age of 12 or at the age of 13 but we can have the transfer at the age of 12 or 13 within a non-selective system.

Mr. Lane

I am very interested in this argument. We are not talking about a great division of principle here, because the Minister's own Bill later provides for selection for sixth form colleges at an age, which I think the right hon. Lady will admit could be as early as 14. So there is not very much between us.

Miss Bacon

First of all, as my right hon. Friend explained when we discussed the sixth form, there are only about two or three selective sixth forms in the country, and we should look very carefully before we admitted any more. The number of children who are admitted to one of those sixth forms at the age of 14 or 15 must be almost minute. I do not think that we could count that as a general principle in any way at all.

Mr. van Straubenzee

But will the right hon. Lady not cast her mind back to the fact, and it is all here recorded, that the Secretary of State's position was that at this stage we do so little that it would be very unwise to prohibit the principle. The right hon. Gentleman was very clear, was he not, to say that he was keeping an open mind? I hope the right hon. Lady is not closing the line at all, because it was kept very wide open by the Secretary of State.

Miss Bacon

What my right hon. Friend has never said is that he is keeping an open mind about selection at the age of 11 or 12 or 13.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Oh, no.

Miss Bacon

We are getting a bit [column 157]confused because of the argument of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge. The hon. Member said that some local authorities would be forced to put forward schemes that were not very satisfactory, unless we put “mainly” in the Clause. This is just not true, because, as I have said many times, the Clause is concerned with plans for the future.

We have never pressed local authorities to put schemes into operation quickly where we knew that they were not educationally sound. It is just not true that we have pressed local authorities in that way. Indeed, quite the opposite has been true, as the hon. Member for Cambridge mentioned. So to say that, without “mainly,” local authorities would be putting forward schemes which were not educationally sound because we would be pressing them on timing is just not true. In fact, the timing does not come into the Amendment at all. The Amendment is designed to ensure permanently that selective schools should exist side by side with a comprehensive system.

11 a.m

We have been accused of being rigid. Well, we are firm on one principle, and that is the elimination of selection for secondary education. But it is quite clear that, although hon. Members opposite keep saying at the beginning of their speeches that they are against selection in principle, every Amendment that they have put forward is designed to retain selection in some form or other. It is perfectly true with regard to this Amendment.

There is a mixed economy at the moment, and there will probably be a mixed economy for a few years to come. But the mixed economy, as it operates in some places now, is no more than a necessary interim stage in the rapidly evolving process of establishing a fully comprehensive system. That is why I cannot accept that we should put “mainly” into the Bill for the future, which would mean the retention of selection as a permanent feature of our secondary education system.

The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) said that, if this word was inserted, it would not be necessary for a Conservative Government to repeal the Bill. There will not be a Conservative Government to be able to repeal the [column 158]Bill, but the hon. Gentleman's argument that, in the unlikely event of a Conservative Government ever being returned, the insertion of this word would mean that they would not find it necessary to repeal the Bill makes me even more suspicious of the thought which lies at the back of the Amendment. Therefore, I cannot accept the Amendment; and I urge the Committee to reject it.

Sir Edward Boyle

I had not meant to speak on this Amendment, but I am stimulated to make a brief contribution by the speech which the right hon. Lady has just made.

First, let us get one thing clear; there is nothing in the Amendment which makes it impossible for a local authority, if it wishes, to present a reorganisation scheme for the whole of its area. As I have always said we on this side have never been opposed to any authority that has a sound reorganisation scheme which makes educational sense.

Miss Bacon

The right hon. Gentleman will also admit that, if the Amendment were accepted, there would be nothing to prevent a local authority from submitting a scheme which would retain selection permanently.

Sir E. Boyle

I am just coming on to that point. I will say why I think that the right hon. Lady's attitude is unwise. I would say that, if the whole House of Commons were to agree, as we certainly would be prepared to agree, with the spirit of the Amendment, two very important things would be gained. First, we would be registering as a united House of Commons that we were decisively moving away from the idea that the normal organisation of secondary education was 20 per cent. to grammar schools and 80 per cent. to modern schools, at the age of 11; that is, we would be moving away decisively and as a united Parliament from the idea that the old-fashioned bipartite system was the norm which we would normally expect local authorities to follow.

Next, the right hon. Lady often refers to the number of authorities that are totally resistant to change. If this Amendment were to be carried, those of us who would like to see some movement in those authorities would be very much strengthened in our position if we could say that the whole House of Commons was [column 159]agreed that, mainly, secondary education should be developed on a non-selective basis.

The right hon. Lady has herself admitted that for a number of years to come we shall have to operate a mixed economy, at any rate in many of our larger cities. I have always believed that, particularly in education, the law is most effective when it codifies the best existing practices and at the same time makes room for a certain amount of experiment and innovation.

Lastly, there is the question of selection at 13. The right hon. Lady knows as well as I do that there are a number of authorities today which do not have the 11-plus—that is, the transfer from primary to secondary is non-selective—but which nevertheless still have selective schools from 13 or 14 onwards. I am thinking of the sort of system of education that is operating in parts of Cumberland, and in parts of Kent, in a number of authorities. I am not saying that this will be the best pattern for ever. I believe that it probably will not.

Miss Bacon

Leicestershire.

Sir E. Boyle

Exactly. That is where the right hon. Lady and I differ. I welcome the fact that Leicestershire, which started the system of selective education at 14, after a period of twelve years now have completed a fully two-tier system. I believe that in due course other areas—for example, Cumberland—may do the same.

It would be much better to find a principle in advance on which we were all agreed, leaving it up to local authorities to put forward more thorough-going proposals if they so wish, but registering the view of the whole House of Commons that the old strict bipartite system as the norm no longer exists. I think that the right hon. Lady has made a great mistake in taking such a hostile attitude to the Amendment, which was so well moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham.

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

There are only one or two points that I want to make. First, as to the Alice Baconright hon. Lady's comment about the age of 11, I should have thought that that came about during the days when the statutory school leaving age was 14 and it was thought that there should be a minimum of a three year [column 160]run-up in the last school; that brought one to about the age of 11. The higher the statutory school leaving age is raised, the more latitude this gives about any age at which the change should come between the primary stage of education and the last secondary stage for those who are not going on to higher education.

I come to the specific point which I want to ask the right hon. Lady, and I will not clutter it up with other points. As I understand her argument, it is that the principle contained in the Clause is an absolute principle which permits of no latitude, no deviation, no exception. If that is her argument, instead of saying—

“… shall … have regard to the need for securing that secondary education is provided …”

she should have said—

“shall secure that secondary education is provided only …”

That would have been in accord with her argument. Nevertheless, I believe that she has got into a great muddle on this principle. It is not an absolute principle, as drafted here. Someone, either in the instructions, or in translating the instructions into the drafting, has introduced an element of latitude into the first limb of that principle, which we are reflecting in the second limb of that principle, by altering “only” to “mainly.”

Is it the right hon. Lady's view that the Clause represents an absolute principle which permits of no exception? If that is her view, I believe that her intention has not been translated into practice.

The argument she ought to have advanced on this drafting, bearing in mind that it must be construed along with the governing Act, which is the Education Act, 1944, was that there is some latitude in this principle to take account of the practical realities and that no Government can afford to ignore the practical realities, some of which are that, in some areas, as things are; and as they will be for a long time to come—selection cannot be abolished totally. The other is that there will be areas in which a blind eye must be turned to banding, even if the Government do not permit it legally.

I think that the right hon. Lady has some latitude in the first limb. We are trying to make it clear that there is some latitude and that we believe that there should be some latitude. In any event, I do not believe that her argument is right, [column 161-162]but we come down absolutely on the side of latitude to local education authorities. Indeed, our approach is in accordance with some of the sections of the original Circular, which permitted parental choice at age 13. Is the right hon. Lady saying that the Clause as drafted permits no latitude?

Miss Bacon

I wish the hon. Lady would not become so dictatorial and lecture me so much: her manner is becoming rather unbearable, if she does not mind my saying so.

We had a previous debate on this very Amendment. The hon. Lady moved the Amendment. My right hon. Friend replied to it and made it quite clear that there was latitude in an interim period, but that eventually we should move to a completely non-selective system. We explained that it did not mean that one month after the coming into operation of the Bill when enacted there would be no selective schools. This Amendment—if we keep to this for the moment—would put in “mainly” as a permanent feature of the Act. That would mean that for ever more local authorities could please themselves how much selection they had in their schools and how many selective schools they had.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am sorry if the right hon. Lady does not like the way in which I put my point. The short answer is that she has not got a clue to the answer to my question. That is painfully clear, for, if she had, it was a plain, straightforward question that she could have answered. Let me put it in a very quiet, almost gentle manner: is not this phraseology an absolute principle in accordance with what she said?

Question put, That the Amendment be made:

The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 9.

Division No. 3.]

AYES

Boyle , Sir Edward

Eyre , Mr. Reginald

Hill , Mr. J. E. B.

Lane , Mr. David

Lewis , Mr. Kenneth

Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret

van Straubenzee , Mr.

NOES

Armstrong , Mr. Ernest

Bacon , Miss Alice

Mahon , Mr. Simon

Newens , Mr. Stan

Oakes , Mr. Gordon

Price , Mr. Christopher

Price , Mr. William

Wellbeloved , Mr. James

Woof , Mr. Robert

11.15 a.m.

Amendment (d) to new Clause No. 1 proposed, 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.—[Mrs. Thatcher]

Question put, That the Amendment be made:

The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 9.

Division No. 4.]

AYES

Boyle , Sir Edward

Eyre , Mr. Reginald

Hill , Mr. J. E. B.

Lane , Mr. David

Lewis , Mr. Kenneth

Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret

van Straubenzee , Mr.

NOES

Armstrong , Mr. Ernest

Bacon , Miss Alice

Mahon , Mr. Simon

Newens , Mr. Stan

Oakes , Mr. Gordon

Price , Mr. Christopher

Price , Mr. William

Wellbeloved , Mr. James

Woof , Mr. Robert

Mr. Hill

I beg to move as an Amendment to new Clause No. 1, Amendment (g), in line 15, at end insert—

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

This Amendment is in the same form as one we discussed at our sitting on 9th April. I do not want to repeat the arguments, so far as I can avoid repeating them. I want, rather, to extend the arguments and base my remarks on the right hon. Lady's reply at that sitting, [column 163]when she rejected our arguments. We were grateful to the right hon. Lady for her reply, because she was suffering from a very heavy cold at the time; and we were grateful to her, even if we do not now accept her rejection of the Amendment. I think it best if I quote the concluding sentence of her reply on that Amendment:

“There is no case for treating boarding schools differently from day schools.”

The whole burden of my argument will be that there is a case for different treatment, which needs to be recognised by the Bill.

Earlier, the right hon. Lady, referring to the expanded categories of boarding need which were developed in paragraph 156 of the first Report of the Public Schools Commission, said this:

“We accept that these are reasons why boarding education should be provided, but surely the need for such boarding education is not related to the ability of the child. This Amendment seeks to add boarding education as one of the categories exempted from the age and ability provisions. The family and home circumstances should determine whether a child needs a boarding education. It should not afterwards have to pass some selective test to get into a selective boarding school. It is curious if a child has the need described in the first Report of the Commission that it then has to pass some kind of test or examination to determine whether it can go to such a school.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 9th April, 1970, cc. 292–296.]

I hope that that is a first, and not a final, view, because I believe it to be mistaken for two broad reasons. First, it does not take into account the all important question of the educational welfare of the child concerned. Second, it neglects the practical realities. For any child a boarding school is almost completely different from a day school. Basically, this is because, at any rate during term time, the home environment, good or not so good, ceases to be the dominant influence in the child's daily life. The child is on his own in a new, total community.

The right hon. Lady disagreed with my arguments on this score last time. I hope that she will at least consider the views contained in paragraphs 273–75 of the First Report of the Public Schools Commission, where the Commission explained why it felt obliged, despite its terms of reference, to recommend exceptions to the comprehensive principle and [column 164]omit from a full ability range intake the lowest quartile—that is, those children incapable of coping successfully with C.S.E.-level work.

The only sentence that I want to quote is the last one in paragraph 275, which has poignant importance:

“Real unhappiness would, we believe, occur if a small group of very much less able children were admitted to a closely knit community—with a life to be lived outside the classroom—in which the great majority of contemporaries were significantly more able, including some perhaps at the opposite extreme of ability. Such children might find it difficult to escape from continual reminders of their academic limitations in other fields of community life.”

Similar recommendations were made in respect of children with emotional difficulties—serious difficulties, but falling short of such extreme disturbance as to bring them within the categories for special educational treatment at special schools and, of course, to bring them within the exceptions provisions of this Bill. Such children, both the least able and the emotionally distressed, are only likely to benefit from education in boarding schools which take a more limited range of abilities so that they will not feel hopelessly outclassed. The Newsom Report said that it would like to see more independent boarding schools concentrating upon the equally important needs of these less able children.

I want to stress this, because we have not yet had the benefit of the Government's views on these two Reports of the Public Schools Commission. I remind the right hon. Lady that the Secretary of State said that he would await the publication of the Second Report before commenting on the First Report. We have waited some two years, and the Second Report is out. I hope that it will not be very long before some Government pronouncement is made. I confess that I am interested in this, because I am a member of the governing body of two schools which are within the terms of reference, although neither is a direct grant school.

Several independent schools specialise in this type of intake, of children in some difficulty, and a general willingness has been expressed to try to contribute to solving this problem. I am not saying, in any part of my argument, that these less able children should not receive boarding education if there is a need and if they will benefit from it. I am far from [column 165]saying that. It is exactly the other way round—they are a very important category. However, it is not good enough to send a child, having established some boarding need, just to any boarding school, as the right hon. Lady seemed to suggest to us last time. There must be a very deliberate attempt to match the child's temperamental and pastoral needs. I do not apologise to the Committee for being repetitive about pastoral needs, because they are very difficult to define, and for that reason alone are too often overlooked.

In making this decision, there must be some reference to the child's ability and aptitude. Therefore, to condemn and forbid what is a vital judgment by saying that it constitutes a selective test, is, in my opinion, to misconceive the problem; for we must bear in mind all the time that we are dealing in these cases with children who, by definition, have a problem.

The second limitation on the capacity of boarding schools to take the whole ability range arises from their size, their numbers, and the buildings. Both Newsom and Donnison insisted that most boarding schools are simply not big enough to go comprehensive. All this has been said on earlier occasions. If we do not repeat all our arguments this morning, I hope that the right hon. Lady will not repeat all her refusals. For these objections stem, not from theory, but from hard reality. Therefore, I hope that the Secretary of State will have some second thoughts.

The right hon. Lady confirmed the important provision that local education authorities are making with their own boarding schools, over 14,000 places. She went on to say:

“As local education authorities develop the comprehensive system, the natural expectation is that boarding provision in the maintained system will match the day provision. It will be open to more children who need it and not restricted to those selected on ability.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 9th April, 1970; c. 294.]

If the right hon. Lady were to consult the headmasters of maintained boarding schools she would find that they have just the same problems of placing children in boarding schools of appropriate character as I have described. It is true that these problems may diminish, but I [column 166]doubt whether they are removed, by building a boarding wing attached to a large comprehensive school, as the hon. Lady mentioned, at Totnes and, as I mentioned, at Crown Woods.

11.30 a.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) asked whether it was realistic to expect local education authorities to build to match boarding need. Much turns on the scale of the problem. The right hon. Lady answered all my questions, except what is the Government's view of the numbers for which we should expect to provide in the future? May I remind the Committee of the projection of numbers in boarding needs as given in Newsom, Public Schools Commission Report, Part I, and confirmed in Part II. The numbers of children in boarding need were now considered to be: in 1970, 63,000; in 1975, 75,000; in 1980, 80,000. That is against the 1967 capacity in the maintained sector of 14,000. Therefore, I cannot see how these numbers can be dealt with by the normal course of L.E.A. building. I am sure that the right hon. Lady will admit that the numbers are likely to go up, rather than down.

I was interested in the Minister's remark that during her Home Office experience that she had often thought that some children in approved schools ought to have been in ordinary schools. I inferred from that that children who had been categorised, or who had categorised themselves, as delinquents were benefiting so much from the educational treatment they were receiving in good approved schools that she thought that they would benefit equally well in a boarding school.

Miss Bacon

No. That is not what I meant. What I had at the back of my mind was that a great many children who find themselves in court, and thence in approved schools, come from deprived homes; and that it would have been much better for them had they been away from those homes.

Mr. Hill

I beg the right hon. Lady's pardon. But at least she will agree with me that many children who have a phase of delinquency have benefited enormously by their experience in the best of the approved schools.

In assessing boarding need there is a [column 167]danger that we may overlook the least able children, those below the average. I have in mind some, perhaps many, of the children to whom Sir Alec Clegg referred in his lecture last Friday—the “Robinson” children of the other Newsom Report. “Half Our Future” . Some of those might well benefit in future, not necessarily by going to a boarding school the whole time, but by having some boarding experience during their normal education provision. The development of the demand for boarding courses is likely to grow as, and I believe it will, it is shown to be very beneficial to children, and particularly those living in deprived areas. Therefore, we may well want in future to put into the boarding provision programme facilities for more boarding courses.

It is inconceivable that the L.E.A.s could think in terms of providing from their own resources the present estimate of future boarding need, because that would mean 60,000 boarding school places in the next ten years. Even taking a modest estimate of £1,000 per place—and I suspect that that is much too low—it would cost £60 million. That expenditure could not possibly be justified as a greater priority than the pent-up demand for building more student hostels for those in further education and higher education—to think only of residential accommodation needed within our educational system. Still less could it be given a place in the very extensive list of educational priorities which the Prime Minister set out in his address in the Central Hall last Friday.

I cannot see how local education authorities can plan ahead except on a basis of continuing to use existing facilities. This is not just a question of bricks and mortar. The staffs are vitally important. All experience has shown that it is none too easy to obtain headmasters, housemasters or wardens to care for children on a residential basis for 24 hours a day.

Next, there is the question of timing. Both the right hon. Lady and the Secretary of State have said that the prohibitions in the Clause do not affect existing arrangements, but only the L.E.A.s' future plans. The right hon. Lady has repeated that statement this morning. She explained that “having regard to the need” was the same phraseology as that [column 168]used in the Education Act, 1944, in respect of nursery schools and county colleges. In my view the situation is not the same—far from it. Rather is it analogous to the difference between a sin of omission and a sin of commission.

As for nursery schools, we have left out and left undone much that we ought to have done. But the Bill says that the provision of boarding education as practised by the L.E.A.s sins against the comprehensive light. It must therefore stop. Against that, all educational authority and experience witnesses that the schools cannot work properly and as well conform with the criteria in the Clause, and the views expressed by the right hon. Lady at our last sitting.

How is it possible for any L.E.A. to prepare a plan with any meaning and validity unless the Government make some move to avoid the impending collision between theory and reality? I must remind the right hon. Lady that on Tuesday the Government defeated an Amendment to provide the L.E.A.s with some discretionary powers to deal with particular children. Earlier, the right hon. Lady had rejected the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), that the child in urgent need should be allowed to enter a particular selective school which was willing and wanting to take that child without imposing any test on that child. This is a not uncommon occurrence in the boarding sector. Yet the right hon. Lady said that even that very exception has to be forbidden.

Miss Bacon

As a matter of fact, I did not speak after the hon. Lady spoke.

Mrs. Thatcher

By vote.

Mr. Hill

I beg the right hon. Lady's pardon. Nobody will be more pleased than I if she admits that this is an exception that ought and must be made. We are not arguing this as one of a series of Conservative Members' Amendments, nor are we arguing it on political grounds. We are arguing from educational needs, and on the considerable authority of both parts of the Report of the Public Schools Commission which carried out this detailed survey of boarding education as a whole. I think that at least we are entitled to have educational reasons given in reply to our arguments. In summary, our arguments are that the exceptions list [column 169]must take account of the difficulties peculiar to boarding education, as such difficulties arise in the maintained boarding schools as much as in independent or direct grant schools.

I hope that the right hon. Lady will take serious account of what is necessary. If she does not like the words of our Amendment—though they are the words of the 1944 Education Act—perhaps at a later stage she or her advisers will put forward words which permit these undeniable needs to be recognised in the Clause.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

We had a debate on this subject before the Bill was recommitted and I do not wish to prolong the proceedings, but one or two new things should be said which hon. Members opposite may find interesting.

Selection of boarding education seems to me to be almost inevitable. It is an exceptional type of education in any case, certainly in the State set-up, and even in the private public schools sector there is a mixture of boarding and day. In the country as a whole, boarding is exceptional. This Bill wants to keep it exceptional, and I guess that the aim of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite is to reduce the amount of boarding education. I wonder whether they ought not to think where they are going in proposing this?

Surely the need for opening up this education was greater than the need for restricting it. If the terms of the new Clause 3, relating to ability and aptitude, are applied to boarding education, it almost seems impossible that the Ministry of Education and Science should look with any favour on boarding education. It seems to me that the word “aptitude” puts selection completely out, yet aptitude is almost fundamental when children of whatever age are taken into boarding.

It may not necessarily be ability that is the main factor. There is something of a misconception about boarding education. Public schools themselves insist that they have a certain ability intake to which they stick, and make no exceptions to it. In actual fact, most of them make exceptions all the time. But if their lists go down, this maintaining of a certain ability intake standard goes out of the window. Running a public school is the same as running anything else, and revenue has to be matched up with [column 170]expenditure. As soon as the revenue goes down because the lists have evaporated then, perforce, the governing bodies and headmasters have to work out how to match up this year's list with last year's and get the fuller intake needed.

11.45 a.m.

Quite apart from that, I am certain that most of the public schools, with the exception of one or two at the very top, have a wide range of ability intake, and they do not restrict those who come in on the basis of whether they can get a given standard at the examination at 13, however much they may pretend to do so. Those who can afford to pay for private boarding education are becoming fewer. That is why, if many direct grant schools become private day schools, one will find that a lot of people who at the moment are just managing to pay boarding fees will switch to day schools for their children. When these people consider the “exit” weekends they have to cope with, they may wonder whether it might be as great an advantage to have their children at a day school rather than spend their weekends going from one end of the country to the other to meet sons and daughters and take them out.

There is bound to be a switch to day education arising out of the Bill. That will make more places available in boarding schools. Under the Bill, the L.E.A.s are discouraged from sending children to boarding schools because, on the basis of ability or aptitude, they are discouraged from paying the fees.

Miss Bacon

The hon. Gentleman is completely mistaken. What we are discussing has nothing to do with the parents who pay fees to go to boarding schools. We are discussing local authorities who pay to send children there.

Mr. Lewis

I am surprised that the right hon. Lady should have intervened here. What I have said up to now has been a preamble. I have just said that the Bill prevented L.E.A.s from paying for children to go to schools which provided boarding facilities. This is what the Bill is about, is it not? It is about what the L.E.A.s do.

This is what I have just said. If the Minister had intervened two minutes ago she would have been right, but at the moment she intervened I was right on the subject with which we are concerned. [column 171]It took me some time to get to it, but we have a fair amount of time. There is no problem there.

The L.E.A.s will be restricted. In that case, many of the public schools which, at the moment, have children coming from L.E.A.s, will find that they have to replace these from elsewhere in the private sector. They may or may not have difficulties in doing so, but that is not a matter for the Bill. Yet it could have the effect that there could well be, due to pressure on the public schools, on top of all the other pressures, a reduction in the number of places available for boarding.

The right hon. Lady and her hon. Friends may say that that is fine; it has nothing to do with them; that they are quite happy that there should be a reduction in the number of boarding places available. This would be splendid if there were no need for boarding education other than from the private sector. There is, in our judgment, a need for boarding education other than for the children of those people who can afford to pay. It would be equally splendid if the Minister were able to replace the places that were closed down, if they were closed down; if she could provide additional boarding school places through an increase in the number of State boarding schools. But, perforce, there must be a minimum of money spent by her Ministry on providing boarding school places. This will be right bang at the end of the queue. If she forces the L.E.A.s out of the public school sector and is not prepared—indeed, cannot—to increase the number of State boarding school places, somebody will be the loser.

Who are the people, at the moment, who have to send their children to board? Many people send their children to board who would normally put them through the State sector. They are in the Forces. They are overseas on jobs. There are more of them today working overseas. In so far as we are desirous of increasing our exports, which we are constantly told by the Government must be done, it means that more and more people spend their time whizzing round the world, working for British companies overseas. British companies overseas are themselves also employed in buying up other companies abroad. They then have to send people out for two- or three-year periods.

[column 172]

Mr. Stan Newens

I am very interested in what the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) is saying. I regard one of the causes of delinquency, and other features on which he and some of his hon. Friends have been commenting on various occasions, to be lack of attention to family life. It is not good to encourage people to shirk their responsibilities to their children by leaving them in boarding schools whenever it suits them. While there are circumstances in which children ought to go to boarding school, I do not think that it is desirable. Therefore, I do not appreciate some of the arguments at the back of what the hon. Gentleman is saying.

Mr. Lewis

The hon. Gentleman is obviously at odds with his right hon. Friend the Minister of State on this question. The right hon. Lady only a minute or two ago said that there was a need for certain children who came from very bad homes——

Mr. Newens

I am in agreement there.

Mr. Lewis

I will come to that in a moment. That was at the bottom of my list. My direct reply to the hon. Gentleman is that if we look at the way in which people in certain peripatetic jobs have to move around, we realise and recognise that the stability of the child is affected by the movements of the parents, not by the fact that the parents are shrugging off their responsibilities. They do not want to shrug off their responsibilities, but they cannot have their children going to a school in one place for three years, and then another school for another three years, and changing their education four or five times in the course of their school career. They think it is better—and I believe that they are basically right—that the child should have the stability of education at one place. This can be obtained in a boarding school. The children come home and have a perfectly good home life in the holidays.

Parents may be working in India or Kenya, for example. I am connected with a society that has, for a number of years, run schools in Kenya for English people. There was a move after the war to bring in Kenyan citizens, so that the school became a mixture of English and Kenyans. That is how it is now developing. That school, and another school there, have been taken over by the Government, [column 173]and it is no longer run on the basis of providing an education for English people, as English people want that education. There are people there now who do not want their children to go to this school. It is not exactly as it was before. They want their children to come to England. This is perfectly reasonable and perfectly good. Those people are set in Kenya, some of them working for a term, some of them there permanently.

This situation can arise in many parts of the world where, because we are now so much involved in activities overseas—even more involved in activities in our former Colonies and Commonwealth, than we were when the Colonies belonged entirely to us—this is something that is growing, and the need for boarding education is growing with it, simply because the parents are away for long periods of time.

The Government, through this Bill, will make it more difficult for these people to obtain boarding places, since it will restrict L.E.A.s providing help with the fees. They will make it more difficult also for those involved in the Services.

The hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) referred a moment ago to those children who come from very bad homes. I go along with what was said by the right hon. Lady and by the hon. Gentleman when they say that there is a lot to be said for providing boarding places for those who come from homes where they are likely, because of the tempestuous nature of a particular home, to turn out to be delinquents. Definition is difficult, but I accept that there is a need for the courts to be able to say—and the right hon. Lady has been in the Home Office, so she will know about this better than I do—that a particular child should have a boarding education. When the courts say that somebody has to provide a place, someone also has to provide the money. If the State has no boarding schools, clearly those children can only be put into a public school and the school would be paid.

It would be impossible to do that under the Bill, because these schools, in theory if not in practice, are selective. The fact that they would accept some of those recommended to go to them by the courts is an indication that they are not selective purely on the basis of ability. [column 174]Although no one would want our schools to be filled with those who come from families that may turn them into delinquents, it has already been stated by the Headmasters' Association that it would be quite prepared for these schools to accept some of these people if it were the wish of the Government that this should be done.

The Government, by this Bill, are saying that they do not want that. On the other hand, it seems obvious that they will not have the money to put up their own schools to provide the boarding places to match the need.

12 noon

Mr. Christopher Price

What provision in the Bill gives the hon. Gentleman the impression that the Government do not want children who need boarding education to go to boarding schools on the criterion of need for boarding education?

Mr. Lewis

Because, in the main, the only boarding schools that exist are in the selective sector. My case is that the Government are unlikely to have the money to develop the State sector. Therefore, whatever they may wish to do for the children, they will not be able to do it, because they are blocking the opportunities for them to go into the private public school sector, and they will not have a State sector for them.

I do not want to prolong the argument too much, but I want to say something about the provision of boarding school education for foreigners. There is overseas a high regard for our educational system, and a particularly high regard for our boarding school education. This is instanced by the number of overseas people who are prepared to pay quite heavily to give to their children a boarding school education.

It is to our great advantage that we should educate people from overseas, particularly people from the new Commonwealth. In so far as they get their education here it provides a bridge between ourselves and the country concerned which is unique and lasting. In so far as we are involved in trade with these Commonwealth countries, in so far as we are seeking good relations with them, we are assisted by the fact that we have educated numbers of their children. In so far as we can maximise this, there is everything to be gained. [column 175]

This means that the State must be involved. The numbers that can come here and be paid for privately are limited: in any case, it would not be right to provide education only for those who can pay, and not for those who cannot. I want to see the State providing, through its economic aid programme, moneys to provide boarding school education for many hundreds of people from overseas who would like to have it.

The right hon. Lady will be in a difficulty about doing that. If she takes the line, through this Bill or anything that follows it, that she does not intend to encourage boarding education for children at selective schools, clearly the Government cannot then say that they are prepared to give grants for boarding education on a selective basis for those who need it from overseas, from the former Colonies in Africa, from Asia, or anywhere else. Yet this is what ought to be done, for it is to the great advantage of the country.

I ask the right hon. Lady to think very carefully before she completely closes the door on providing entry into selective schools for any children, whether they are children of parents in the Services, in industry, and so on, before she prevents L.E.A.s contributing to their fees, in case she also prevents the Government—whatever the Government; certainly something I want to see my Government do if we are returned is subsidising, through the aid programme, boarding education for those from overseas.

The best way in which a country can gain influence abroad is by education. The Russians recognise this, and so do the Chinese. They are spending a tremendous amount of money in educating, mostly an older age-group, I agree, than I am suggesting, by taking from countries in Asia and Africa people whom they educate in Moscow or Peking, and then returning them. I believe we should be doing this at the lower level. We should be bringing in young men and young women aged 12, 13 or 14 from these countries in Asia and Africa, and we should be subsidising in the public school sector, in the direct grant sector, simply because these are the only places that are available. If there were places available through the State sector, from a boarding point of view this would be fine, but there are not.

The best education for people coming [column 176]from overseas is still in the public schools sector. The right hon. Lady should encourage the State to spend money in this way, and therefore she should think very carefully before she starts at all on boarding school education provision through the L.E.A.s.

Mr. Hill

In saying that the public schools can make a very great provision for overseas children, with which I entirely agree, would he not also agree that some independent boarding schools not within the terms of the Commission—that is to say, not H.M.C. schools, or what are popularly known as public schools—are making a very great contribution, too? I know of a school in my constituency which has, I think, eighteen nationalities all studying and learning English for O- and A-levels. It is not a public school: it is independent.

Mr. Lewis

I agree with this, with one proviso. Provided that school is inspected and accepted by the Ministry, this is splendid. The danger is that some of the private schools that are not under H.M.C. provide a rather indifferent education. That needs to be watched, particularly when they are taking pupils from overseas, because this strengthens my argument that it is necessary that students from overseas should have the best that our education can offer. We do not want them to go to schools that do not match up to the high standards: we want them to have the best education. It will remain with them for the rest of their lives, and the Government should be encouraging this by money. I do not believe that the restrictions imposed by the Bill will help that kind of provision to be made effectively in the long run.

Mr. Newens

I have not been silent on many of these issues from choice, but I must intervene at this point in view of some of the remarks which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) has made. I speak purely personally:—I am not necessarily associating any of my hon. Friends with what I say.

I do not deny for one moment the need for boarding education for certain categories of children; for certain handicapped groups; for the product of broken homes; for children in trouble with the law; for children whose parents for one reason or another are unable to take [column 177]proper care of them. Such children, who do exist, would suffer from remaining in their homes, and for them we need to provide boarding education.

I do not always agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon). To be specific, much as I respect his sincerity, I do not agree with his views on the subjects of abortion, law reform, divorce, and so on. However, I believe that he has been absolutely right in certain of the remarks which he has made in the past about the importance of the family as a unit within our society. I yield to no-one in saying how much I esteem my hon. Friend for what he has said on these occasions.

I believe that the family is capable of establishing bonds, loyalties, and affections for which no school can provide a proper substitute. The family is capable of integrating people within the community, in a way in which no school possibly can. I am speaking on a subject about which I feel deeply. I do not like the idea of parents shrugging off their responsibility towards their children. If parents bring children into the world, by accident or by design, they have a responsibility to see that those children are properly brought up.

It is totally wrong that our society should allow parents to shrug off their responsibility; because the children pay and society pays in the long run. It is totally wrong, not only that we should allow this to take place where it can be avoided, but that we should subsidise this in certain circumstances. I feel particularly strongly, as hon. Gentlemen opposite often talk about the need to cut down on public expenditure—a subject on which I often oppose them—that they should lament the fact that we are not spending more public money on subsidising something of this sort, on the grounds which have been advanced here this morning.

Mrs. Thatcher

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that any parent who sends his child to boarding school is shrugging off his responsibility to that child?

Mr. Newens

I meant to say any parent who sends his child to a boarding school, but I will specify quite categorically that in my opinion there are parents who send their children to boarding schools, or whose children go to boarding [column 178]schools, who are shrugging off their responsibilities and who are letting their children down and letting society down. We ought to say clearly to such people that we are not prepared to allow this sort of thing to continue, let alone subsidise it from public funds.

It is all very well for attacks to be made on what has now been called “the permissive society” and for people to raise the issue of law and order. I come from The East End of London. I know, through my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, some of the conditions which prevailed there in the past, which I believe were as bad as those which have existed anywhere in the country in the last 80 to 100 years. Environment is one of the things which produces delinquency and many problems. We must try to encourage parents to maintain proper bonds with their children, if we are to combat the sort of thing which we have seen happening here, such as drug-taking, which all of us deplore.

It is not an accident that quite a number of children who are not looked after properly by their parents, and quite a number who go through boarding schools, get into this sort of trouble. The idea of uprooting children from the new Commonwealth countries at the tender age of 10 or 12, bringing them here, away from their parents, is something which we ought to look at very carefully indeed. I am all in favour of bringing people to this country when they have reached mature age, where they may learn and benefit from our educational institutions. However, the ideas which have been advanced this morning, particularly by the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis), ought not to go unopposed.

I speak solely for myself in this respect. The subsidisation of public schools and direct grant schools, for the purposes of children who do not fall within the category I outlined of requiring boarding education, is quite wrong. I repeat that this is a matter on which I feel deeply.

12.15 p.m.

Mr. Lewis

The hon. Gentleman said that some parents send their children to boarding schools to escape their responsibilities. This may be so exceptionally, but I am certain that it is not so in general. There are parents whose children go to [column 179]day school—the hon. Gentleman knows this; he does not need me to tell him—and whose attitude, when little Johnny comes home from school, is, “Get the hell out of it. Here is a couple of bob. We do not want to see you until it is time to go to bed” . They do this night after night. The hon. Gentleman must not try to make exceptions into justifications, because exceptions can be found everywhere and, if they were accepted as reason for a policy, it would be disastrous.

Mr. Newens

I accept entirely what the hon. Gentleman says about people who send their children to day schools and who do not look after them properly. However, I do not think that we should make it easier for such people, through boarding schools, unless the children have got right out of control and it is in the children's interest. If anyone offered to pay me to send my children free to the best public schools, I would not take the offer, particularly if it was a case of sending them to boarding school. I believe that the home is most important, and many working-class families feel this. Therefore, I am completely out of sympathy with the lament that the hon. Gentleman has advanced this morning. I hope I have made clear the reasons why I take that view. They are not just brought up for reasons of carrying on this debate. They are reasons which I feel very strongly.

Mr. Lane

I am sorry that I did not hear the whole of the speech of the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens). I agree with much what I think he was saying about home life and parental responsibility, but I think that the point of our Amendment is, not an effort to stimulate a greater desire for boarding education, but to ensure that there is sufficient provision for the genuine need.

Mention has been made of the Government's views on the two reports of the Public Schools Commission. Are we still right in assuming that the Government's views on these reports will be published in the forthcoming Green Paper? Second, can the right hon. Lady give us an approximate date when the Green Paper is likely to be published? More and more people are awaiting the Green Paper with great expectation over a great many things as well as boarding education. [column 180]Anything more that she can tell us about the timing will be most welcome.

The Amendment covers a very wide field, as is proved by some of the points that have been brought up in our short debate. It is good that we have a chance to explore it a little more than we were able to on the previous occasion. I have been re-reading the right hon. Lady's speech in answer to the previous debate and, listening to the arguments that my hon. Friend has put this morning, I still have considerable doubt whether the Government have properly grasped the consequences of the Bill if it is not amended in this respect.

We are talking about children in need of boarding education. For a number of reasons which I do not need to rehearse again—they have been set out in reports and mentioned in the debates here, and the right hon. Lady accepted last time that there are good reasons—boarding education must be provided for children in certain circumstances. But I am not yet convinced that the Bill, without some such Amendment, will leave wide enough scope. I suggest that the gates to boarding education be widened a little further. The right hon. Lady has said that the total numbers in boarding education of all kinds at the moment are 180,000, quoting from the Public Schools Commission Report. Has she made any estimate of how many children who are at present being assisted in boarding places in schools which are at present selective are in danger of being excluded if the Bill goes through unamended? This is my main concern.

On 9th April the right hon. Lady again quoted figures from the Public Schools Commission. She said that

“… the total number of pupils assisted by local education authorities at non-maintained schools is 11,478 and at maintained schools 11,244 …”

That is approximately the same number, in the region of 11,000, in each category.

She went on:

“… This shows that local authorities make provision for boarding education. As local education authorities develop the comprehensive system, the natural expectation is that boarding provision in the maintained system will match the day provision. It will be open to more children who need it and not restricted to those selected on ability.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 9th April, 1970; c. 294.]

Is the right hon. Lady right to make [column 181]such a confident assumption? I should like her to think again, because we are talking about the 11,500 children at non-maintained schools, most of which, I take it, are selective schools within the meaning of the Bill. What is to happen to them? A little earlier she had talked about the need for boarding education not being related to the ability of the child, and in most cases we agree with this. She went on to say that the family and home circumstances should determine whether a child needed a boarding education, and that the child should not afterwards have to pass some selective test to get into a selective boarding school.

I wonder, also, whether she is not putting these two things into rather watertight compartments. Is she sure that need alone will enable all these 11,500 children to continue to have the boarding education they need? Would it not be wiser to take some account, in reserve as it were, of this word “aptitude” , to make sure that these children are properly catered for?

I ask her, as well as dealing a little more with figures and the number of children who may be affected to say a little more, taking one particular example of such a school, a local authority school with a selective element in it, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis). He mentioned the case of the Woolverstone Hall School, run by the Inner London Education Authority, and asked a number of questions which I should like to repeat now, because we did not really receive answers. It would be a good illustration of the Government's thinking if the right hon. Lady could tell us more.

My hon. Friend asked:

“What will happen to this school in these circumstances? Will other schools be allowed to develop similarly? Will the Department encourage the putting of children into other boarding schools—independent and direct grant?” —[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 9th April, 1970; c. 290.]

In particular, what does she think will happen to Woolverstone Hall, and how will its intake be affected if the Bill goes through without the sort of Amendment we are proposing?

Both sides accept that there will be a growing number of children in genuine need of boarding education—leaving aside those of whom hon. Members opposite have been talking this morning [column 182]who go to boarding schools mainly because of their parents' desire, rightly or wrongly. Let us look at the children in real need. We all remember the speech by the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Mahon) about the possible effects, in terms of more broken homes and so on, of some of the legislation that has been passed recently. We hope that it will turn out that he is too pessimistic, but we share his worry. There is no real issue between us on this. There is a real likelihood that there will be growing numbers. The right hon. Lady talked about the idea of boarding units grafted on to comprehensive schools. She mentioned the one in Devon. This is all very fine, but I share the doubts of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. Hill) whether enough expansion of this kind of unit can take place in the near future for us totally to dispense with the other places that are, so to speak, in reserve.

I should like to echo, too, my hon. Friend's point about special boarding courses for a limited time. This is the kind of extra flexibility that we may need to see in the whole system over the next few years. This all adds up to the continuing demand for genuinely needed boarding places. I still have doubts about the adequacy of the provision if the Bill goes through as it stands. I suggest that in this case we ought to give the benefit of the doubt to the children who may be in need, and who may be affected by the Bill in its upsetting of some present arrangements. I appeal again to the right hon. Lady to leave some extra route to boarding education in reserve by accepting some sort of purely enabling Amendment on these lines.

Mr. Simon Mahon

I say at once that I believe that whoever initiated the term “permissive” for our society did our nation a grave injustice. The older I become the more I believe that the country is not permissive to the degree that some people would say. Ours is a tolerant and compassionate nation, and the most understanding nation in the world. My only regret is that our standards are not emulated in other parts of the world. Indeed, I think that we are a very favoured nation when one considers the rest of the world, and it is against this background that I speak. I hope that the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) will be proved right. I do not want to be pessimistic in [column 183]any way. I am only trying to see what the effect of legislation, on top of the present conditions, will be.

None of us in this House wishes for a further breakdown or disturbance of family life which would affect us ultimately, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Newens). There is not much difference between us on these things. We became involved, as I sometimes do, in a great turbulent argument in the House some time ago. I think that I was right and ultimately will be proved right. But, in the meantime, he is only a young man with a long way to go in a very distinguished Parliamentary career.

We were talking before about boys for whom I cannot now find the right word. Words like “delinquent” , “approved” , and “deprived” hardly suit the sort of children that we want to describe. Who wants to describe a child who has to go to a boarding school as delinquent? It used to be said that the only people who were delinquent were the parents, but that is not always true, either.

I rather think that we can take a good lesson in this regard from a rather amusing story about Pope John XXIII, who went into the Regina Coeli gaol. His family name was Roncalli, and when the Press reporters saw this famous Pontiff going into the gaol so early in his Papacy, which was most unusual, they asked him when he came out, whether he had anything to say. “Yes,” he said, “I met far too many Roncallis in there.”

I think that we all could be in that position if we looked at the occupants, say, of a prison which is very near me. My father used to say to me—and the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir Edward Boyle) knew him well— “Simon, they will always tell you about your cousin in Walton Gaol, but they will never tell you about your cousin who is the Bishop.” That is the sort of background I remember about this sort of thing.

Talking about approved schools, when I was a young man there was—and still is—a very pleasant suburban town outside Liverpool called Hightown, but I had never visited it. The name Hightown used to scare me out of my wits because I knew a boy who went to Hightown and, so far as I am concerned, today the only comparison I can make with my childish reaction then is if someone told me they were going to Alcatraz. We were all boys [column 184]and girls together living in the same environment. What was it—in the same environment, the same district, going to the same church, doing all the same things—that had sent some boys that way and other boys this way? I do not know. It might have been sickness. It might have been the high rate of tuberculosis. It might have been the war. It might have been anything.

12.30 p.m.

Trying to get this Amendment into perspective, I would recommend to any hon. Member of this Committee a visit to the St. Thomas More Approved School in another pleasant place, Freshfield in Lancashire. They could not all have been delinquent boys. The War Memorial for the First World War in that school has to be seen to be believed. The boys could not have been any more than 16, 17 or 18. There are the hundreds of names of young men who sacrificed their lives for this country in that time. Surely, society has made a mistake.

Maybe I am suggesting today that we need to give more and more attention to this. I do not like groupings of children. I do not like the position where one says “a mass of people” or “a group of people” . We are all individuals, and we are subject to what we have inherited mentally and physically. Therefore, this aspect needs to be considered.

Whatever the demand is in our society it must be met, and if it is to be met appropriately, it must be met for boarding education. If boarding education has to be the thing, the Department of Education and Science will have to see that it is met in the interests of the individual child, whatever that need is. This is our country, and we do not look at these things ungenerously. There is not an hon. Member who would willingly deprive one child of the best aspect of education that is needed, where the warmth and the affection and the understanding are. If that is best provided, in all the circumstances, in a boarding school—and it well might be—it must be provided, and it will be.

My right hon. Friend has referred to the excellent comprehensive school that she visited where there were children who were in some way deprived, so that they lived in hostel accommodation and attended the same school as everyone else. That is a marvellous thing to happen.

We all know how hard it is to place a [column 185]special case in our new society. We cannot place a geriatric, and we have great difficulty in placing a child who is in a special category of physical or mental handicap. These children must be educated. Sometimes it is more important to educate the educationally subnormal child than it is to educate the most brilliant.

Many years ago I remember having to make provision for one of these children, who is now dead. The father had a distinguished war career, and the home was broken up through no fault of his own. He had to educate this child, and somebody told him that it would cost him £300. I thought what a desperate thing it was that we were to deprive his child because we had to educate it at home just for the sake of £300. When we put the case to the education committee there was only one abstention.

Regrettably, I think that there will be increasing demand for boarding education from the Department of Social Service. The fewer there are, the better I will like it, but I am not blind. I have letters on my desk now about children who would be better somewhere else because in their homes, as my hon. Friend said, there is no affection or warmth, but only bad example. They would be far better away. A bad home is a hard thing to describe. Sometimes it is better to get domiciliary care into that home, and make the improvement in that way.

The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) spoke of people abroad. It seemed to me that these were the well-heeled people. I am not saying they were very well off, but they were fairly well-heeled, and they were able to send their children here if they thought fit. That is perfectly right. No-one suggests that it should be otherwise. Some people go abroad and make a great contribution to their country. Why should their children be at a disadvantage?

Is this stretching the imagination too far? The other day on television I saw bodies floating down the Mekong Delta. I do not know who those people were, or what type of people they were, or whether they were rich or poor. I only know that they were dead, and that they were the victims of oppression.

Who is going to make provision in our world? Some say that the Russians will make provision, or that the Chinese will make provision. What sort of provision [column 186]are we to make? Whether it is in those nations or in our nation, there are victims of this oppressive society which we have inherited. We are a favoured nation, and we all know we are, but God help those children who are equally entitled to the care, the protection and the succour which we are trying to give to our children here. Have we no obligation?

In this country we have many Catholic independent schools and Catholic boarding schools. They are in no danger of being wiped out. For hundreds of years they will be needed and, as society progresses, they will be more needed. Is the hon. Lady puzzled by what I am saying?

Mrs. Thatcher

It appears to me that if the Bill goes through without the Amendment, boys who needed the education could not, for example, be sent to Stoneyhurst or Downside, which are common entrance schools.

Mr. Mahon

There are many more small boarding schools, and they speak to me about their future. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) said the other day that he would have no objection to these schools opting into a direct grant system. Equally, I should have no objection to the same schools looking at the world and, seeing the way the world is, saying to themselves, “Is the position where we are giving education to the privileged few not out of tune with the tone and tenor of our times?” They can look at the condition of the world and see if they can make boarding provision for the least privileged of our society, rather than for the more privileged.

Mr. Lewis

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, the whole basis of my argument was that we hoped that the Government, of whichever party, one day soon might wish to make a private aid programme available on the basis of providing boarding education free for such under-privileged people.

Mr. van Straubenzee

It is always one particularly delightful contribution to our affairs that is given by the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Mahon). He brings to our affairs a great warmth of spirit and of heart. I am sure we have all benefited enormously from what he has just been saying to us. [column 187]

I shall not follow him in his geographical survey, but I should like to say that his particularly valuable contribution to this Amendment—if I may say so, I hope not condescendingly—is that he has reminded us, and so wisely reminded us, that we are not exclusively, not overwhelmingly, talking about what the country calls delinquent children. This is not so at all. Boarding provision should, most emphatically, not be equated with the provision for delinquency. It has been very valuable to all of us to be brought back to that essential point.

The fact of the matter is that we know he spoke with all sincerity when he said that he agreed that if boarding provision were necessary in any case it would be made available. I must put to him that in the intervening period there is surely a very real danger of a gap. As the Bill stands at present, and he knows this better than any of us, it will not be possible for a local education authority to take up a boarding place, once its plan has been approved, at a boarding school which selects by ability or aptitude. This is common ground between us. These are the facts, and we both know this to be what is intended.

He could be right. The State—to be precise, the L.E.A.s—might be able to make alternative provision available, and that this would be available progressively throughout the country in time, to take up the places which, under the Bill, they would no longer be able to take up. He could be right, but I think that he will at least grant to us some reasonable grounds for being very unsure about that.

I should have thought it was a very tenable argument to say that when one already has existing boarding provision which, almost by definition in many cases, cannot go comprehensive, it seems regrettable that one quite deliberately cuts oneself off from using those boarding facilities. This seems to be a perfectly respectable argument, even if he and others do not agree with it.

It seems to me a very odd thing indeed to have a Bill before us which, I repeat, cuts us, in the State centre, off from taking our places in those institutions which select, and must, as far as we can foresee, go on selecting. I agree with him that to regard these boarding places as the exclusive prerogative of the [column 188]delinquent is to get the thing totally out of perspective.

Regrettably, there are a substantial number of young people—in fact, there are more young people involved in these places—who ought to be in boarding institutions of some kind. It is not in order for us this morning to speculate what the causes are. There are doubtless all sorts of reasons.

I am one of those who, like the hon. Member, are very cautious before I castigate the past in this respect. Among other things, there are much better statistics today than we have ever had before. We know a great deal more about what goes on than we used to know, and it may well be that some of the so-called “good old days” were nothing like as good as some people would like us to believe. Whatever the past may have been and whatever the future may be, we are left with a very considerable problem of children for whom some kind of boarding provision ought to be made.

I am very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) took up the point so firmly made by the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Newens). It is undoubtedly true, for example, that some parents send some children to nursery classes and nursery schools for the wrong reason. Maybe they want to part with the child and get rid of it, but neither he nor I would condemn nursery schools for that reason.

I also think that we do not want to condemn the entire boarding system because—and I have no doubt this is true—there are are some parents who use it for the wrong reasons. There are many parents who use it because they cannot help themselves. I have here, for example, the figures for a school which has already been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane); that is to say, Woolverstone Hall, run by the Inner London Education Authority.

The total roll for the autumn term of 1968 amounted to 361 boys. This is, as the right hon. Lady knows, a boys school. Of that 361, the family backgrounds are: parents in the Services, 120; parents employed abroad, 22. Therefore, before we go any further, 142 are of parents in the Services—who, by definition, are mobile people—and parents employed abroad. Here one has a group of people, who are [column 189]probably very good parents, at least as far as we know, but who for very substantial and sound reasons chose or applied for boarding provision.

I hope the right hon. Lady will respond to the request of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge, because here is a very good example. I happen to know Woolverstone Hall. I have sailed there with the greatest of pleasure in the company of some of the boys and friends of mine who live there. It is a most glorious river for sailing, as some will know, and one can see some of the aspects of their educational provision.

12.45 p.m.

The interesting thing about it is that this is a continuing non-party political programme. This school has developed under, formerly, the L.C.C., now the I.L.E.A., under both parties. It has not been a party-political matter in the least, and it is even less of a party political matter for me to raise it, and for my hon. Friend to raise it now, because of the complexion of I.L.E.A. as it is at present. But a school, which must select by a measure of ability and aptitude, 361 boys is, as I read this, doomed under this Clause.

The right hon. Lady will be bound to concede that she will not be able to accept a plan from I.L.E.A. which retains Woolverstone Hall as a permanent feature of its secondary provision. I think that this must be so. I do not see that she can possibly escape this, and I trust that she will make the position clear. In so making the position clear, she will be dealing a very severe blow not just at Tories but at both parties.

I repeat, this is a continuing matter, and this is a school of 361. As far as I know, the right hon. Lady would not suggest that that could meaningfully be made into a comprehensive school. She would not suggest that as it is situated out near Ipswich it would be possible for it to be—using an Army term— “brigaded” with other secondary provision in Inner London. I would not imagine that something of this kind could take place. A useful and valuable provision will have to be closed eventually, as I understand it.

Mr. Brewis, you might be interested in the analysis of the home backgrounds from which some of these young people [column 190]come. I have the figures for one admission year. I am not proposing publicly to give the particular admission year, because it would be improper to do anything which might identify individual boys, but I am perfectly prepared to do so privately to any hon. Member who may be interested.

The total intake was 57. Boardings asked for by parents—that is, the normal choice of parents in I.L.E.A.—were 10. Disrupted homes—for example, an orphan child or the child of unmarried parents—were 15. One was in care, and five were Service families. For those outside I.L.E.A., it was Service families, 12; parents working abroad, 6; and one case of an out-county family where the parents had separated.

This illustrates the way which, with sensitivity, the former L.C.C., and now the I.L.E.A., has made these provisions. I believe that it is a growing provision. One can see it as a growing provision in another aspect of boarding. There are many schools today which, entirely of their own volition, are providing temporary boarding accommodation for part of the year.

I am thinking of the Timber Top provision. One finds it in various parts of the country, and it is immensely valuable. It is clearly the way in which we are moving. Indeed, the school with which I am closely associated in the public sector is actively engaged in looking for a house of this kind. We all feel that a period of boarding is character-forming and valuable in rotation for the school. I am not suggesting that this process will be stopped by the Bill. I am sure it will not. But the whole State sector is exploring and moving into the boarding provision in a way which would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

With that history behind us, it is remarkably foolish to exclude positively the ability to take up places at boarding institutions which must, by definition, in the foreseeable future, select by aptitude and ability. That is the gravamen of the point which we are putting to the right hon. Lady. That is the gravamen of the charge which she must meet.

Miss Bacon

The Amendment is not about whether or not boarding education is a good thing. If it were, my views would be very much those of my hon. Friends the Members for Epping (Mr. Newens) and for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon).

We all have noticed during the last couple of years the number of autobiographies and biographies of well-known-people who have described how miserable they were when they were taken away from their homes and put into a boarding school. This debate is not about whether or not parents should be allowed to pay for the education of their children. This Amendment and this debate is about how public money should be used. That is what we are discussing here this morning. In what circumstances and under what conditions should local authorities pay money for boarding education?

First, let me answer some of the detailed points which have been made. The Hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) asked about the Green Paper. I cannot say exactly when this will be published, but I stand by what I said last time that our views about the two reports of the Public Schools Commission would be made known in that Green Paper.

The hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) talked about the number of children who would be excluded under the Bill. I want to make it clear that no child who is in any school now, direct grant, independent or boarding school, will be excluded from the school in which he now is. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman meant the kind of children who would be excluded in the future, but I want to make it clear that no child will be taken out of any school which he has entered now for his education.

Mr. Lane

Indeed, I did not mean that, because I know that no child already there will be taken. I mean what the right hon. Lady said latterly: their equivalent of the next school generation. Those are the children about whom we are concerned.

Miss Bacon

I will come on to that later in my speech.

Mrs. Thatcher

Supposing a child is at a prep school which is a prep school of a specific recognised public school, will that child also not be excluded from that particular public school, even though it is a common entrance school, under the ruling the right Alice Baconhon. Lady has just given?

[column 192]

Miss Bacon

In the case of a child who is being paid for by the local authority at a prep school, the local authority will have to show to us in the plans which it submits what are its future plans for secondary education. There is nothing in the Bill which would exclude the very rare exception mentioned by the hon. Lady last time. Local authorities must have regard to the principle; and this leaves open the possibility, in rare cases, of exceptions in individual cases—but they are very rare exceptions. The whole of the hon. Lady's speech on the last occasion was devoted to the case of the child who was in the prep school with all her friends, and so on. In general, the local authorities will have to show in their plans what are their future arrangements for taking up places in private schools, whether they be day schools or boarding schools.

Mr. Hill

Surely what the right hon. Lady has just said is in conflict with her rejection of the Amendment to which I spoke, which was designed to put into the Bill the discretion which the local education authorities say they must have in respect of the rare child?

Miss Bacon

This is not so, because it would have been written into the Bill as a group of children. I am talking of the very rare exception. What the hon. Gentleman wanted to put into the Bill was an exception for a group of not really identified children. This is very different.

I now pass on to Woolverstone Hall which was mentioned on the last sitting by the hon. Member for Cambridge and has been raised again. I am glad that it has been raised, because what is about to happen at Woolverstone Hall illustrates what could happen in other parts of the country. At the moment it is a two-form entry grammar school maintained by the I.L.E.A. and, as such, is a selective school. Although when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wokingham read out the kind of children who were there, those from deprived homes and so on, I could not help wondering what had happened to the others in the same classes who did not happen to pass the entrance examination to this particular school. Apparently, there was no room for them.

As everyone knows—and we are very pleased about it—the I.L.E.A. has just changed hands. I have not had an [column 193]opportunity of discussing with the new Labour group in control of I.L.E.A. what are its plans for Woolverstone. But, even under the previous administration, discussions were taking place between the I.L.E.A. and my Department about the future of this school, and a meeting was held recently in my Department.

What the Authority had in mind was the enlargement of the school to an ultimate 5-form entry size. It is accepted that this would cost a good deal of money; it could be as high as £700,000 for enlargement to a 5-form entry. We have indicated to I.L.E.A. that we would be prepared to contribute in due course through the school building programme to the cost of this project. I have not had the opportunity of discussing this with the Labour group on I.L.E.A., but I am fairly certain that it will not continue to retain Woolverstone Hall as a selective school.

When I.L.E.A. produces the complete reorganisation plan, it will show how it proposes that Woolverstone Hall will [column 194]cease to be selective on the basis of ability. I am fairly certain that it will say that the school will be enlarged to become a comprehensive boarding school. The hon. Gentleman read out details of the classes of people there, quoting so many from disrupted homes. They were the children who passed the common entrance examination, but there surely must have been many more from disrupted homes who were unable to get into the school.

That is the whole of our case. We believe that with the maintained system this could happen, and for children who were attending the maintained boarding schools the local authorities could ensure that these schools were non-selective schools. It is only by making them non-selective schools that we can ensure that the children who really need a boarding education get there.

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

Committee adjourned till Tuesday, 12th 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.

Eyre , Mr.

Hill , Mr. J. E. B.

Lane , Mr. .

Lewis , Mr. Kenneth

Mahon , Mr. Simon

Maude , Mr.

Newens , Mr.

Oakes , Mr.

Price , Mr. Christopher

Price , Mr. William

Short , Mr. Edward

Thatcher, Mrs.

van Straubenzee , Mr.

Wellbeloved , Mr.

Woof, , Mr.