Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1970 May 12 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

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

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons Committee
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC Standing Committee A [195-244]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1030-1300. Fifth Sitting reproduced in its entirety. MT spoke at cc.199, 221, 234, and 237.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 18308
Themes: Autobiographical comments, Private education, Secondary education, Local elections, Transport
[column 195]

EDUCATION (re-committed) BILL



Tuesday, 12th May, 1970

[Sir Myer Galpern in the Chair]

New Clause 1

Principles affecting provision of secondary education

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

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

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

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

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

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

(4) In this section—

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

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

Amendment proposed [7th May] as an Amendment to proposed new Clause 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.—[Mr. J. E. B. Hill.]

10.30 a.m.

Question again proposed.

The Chairman

Perhaps I should just explain that I am acting as temporary Chairman during Mr. Brewis ' absence abroad on a Parliamentary engagement.

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

When we rose on Thursday, I had just described what was most likely to happen at the I.L.E.A. boarding school at Woolverstone Hall, and had said that the new [column 196]I.L.E.A. would probably be looking at this whole question.

I was also dealing with the remarks of the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), who had read out a list of children who were at Woolverstone Hall School and had said that a great many of them needed a boarding school education because of their family or personal circumstances. I was making the point that it seemed strange that, if a child needed a boarding school education because of family circumstances or because of some kind of personal need, that child should have to undergo a test of ability in order to get into a boarding school.

A child who needs a boarding education ought not have to take a test of ability: the test should be one of need. I believe that in the country as a whole we need fewer selective boarding schools and more non-selective boarding schools. I still [column 197]feel that the school in Devon which I have described is the ideal. There the children who need boarding education live in boarding houses but go out to school at the local comprehensive school. This gives not only an educational but a social advantage, in that the children who come from abroad or from broken homes or from any home whose circumstances lead to a need for boarding education make friends with the day-children at the school and are thereby able to visit the homes of their school-friends, and so do not miss out entirely on visiting homes, as they would in an ordinary boarding school.

My previous reference to approved schools was somewhat misunderstood. I did not mean that the court should say that a child, instead of going to an approved school, should go to a boarding school—although I am pleased that, under the new Children and Young Persons Act, it will be possible for a variety of establishments to be available to children who have passed through the courts.

What I had in mind was that a great many, though not all, children who get into trouble, do so because of their home circumstances. I remember once going into an approved school with 120 boys. The headmaster told me that only 30 of them had been living with both their parents before they came to the school. That seemed to show that there was some need, even before the child got into trouble.

I am quite certain that many children who get into trouble do so because of their family background, and I am equally certain that that background is known to teachers and others long before the child gets into trouble. I should like to see a boarding education available to these children, perhaps for a temporary period, before they get into trouble and appear in court at all. That was what I meant when I spoke about approved schools.

Perhaps I should come back to the point which I made about the exceptions. The amendment seeks exceptions for all children for whom education as boarders is considered by their parents and by the local education authority to be desirable. This is a blanket exception, and a very wide one.

I want to make it clear that the Clause formulates a principle. In discussing these Amendments hon. Members opposite have been inclined to look at the Clause 1 as a [column 198]whole without looking at Clause 2 and the other Clauses which put the principle into operation. Clause 1 (1) formulates a principle, and the formulation of that principle admits only of the exceptions specified in subsections (2) and (3) of the Clause. Because the formulation of the principle admits only of these exceptions, plans submitted under Clause 2 of the Bill cannot admit other exceptions.

We accept—and this I have stressed all along—that, for practical reasons in the interim period pending the full implementation of the plans which will be approved under Clause 2 of the Bill, there will have to be some latitude in the application of the principle in Clause 1, and, in the context of this Amendment, there will be some cases during that period in which local authorities may lawfully and properly pay the fees of children attending selective boarding schools. But I stress again that, so far as plans are concerned, we expect authorities to provide for every kind of case not excepted under subsections (2) and (3). Their plans, when they submit them, must not only show their intentions about secondary education at day schools but must also make sufficient provision for boarding accommodation.

We are prepared to accept the possibility that, even when reorganisation has occurred, there may be the odd case for which the authority has made no provision. We have no reason to suppose that such cases will occur frequently, or at all, but, if they do, I think that we can accept that there may be a case for making ad hoc exceptions to the general rule in individual cases. However, I think that the cases will be rare and, if they are not, the local authority will have failed to make adequate provision in the plans which it will have submitted to my right hon. Friend.

However, the realistic acceptance of this kind of possibility has nothing to do with the Amendment which, as I say, is not designed to provide for the exceptional case but creates an exception for a whole category of children whose parents desire boarding education.

I hope that that statement has cleared up the case which the hon. Lady the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) has mentioned from time to time. We shall expect plans from local authorities. We shall expect those plans to say what the authorities intend to do about providing boarding education for those children who really [column 199]need boarding education. That will be a part of the plan and——

Sir Edward Boyle

The right hon. Lady has said about three times now, “We will expect plans from local authorities” . Can she give the Committee a really clear undertaking that when the rate support grant comes to be considered, and when not just the capital expenditure but the current expenditure of local authorities comes to be considered, these expectations will be borne in mind? And is she aware that what worries us most is precisely what she has been talking about in the context of the White Paper on Public Expenditure?

Miss Bacon

As the right hon. Gentleman knows—he has been in at the rate support grant negotiations—it is for the local authorities to submit their bids under the rate support grant, and it is for the Government of today to decide how much of that shall be granted. The right hon. Gentleman knows that. I cannot say what the rate support grant will be in this year and in future years, but obviously it is up to local authorities to put in their expected expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman knows that this is how it works.

I therefore cannot accept this Amendment, which gives a blanket exception for the whole of boarding education. Implicit in it is the view that need would not be so great as the ability to pass a selection test of some kind.

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

Perhaps I could first take up a point raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Newens) on Thursday, when he seemed to imply, though he modified it later, that those who send their children to boarding school are shrugging off their responsibilities in that respect. I make it quite clear that many parents who send their children to boarding school are not shrugging off their responsibilities at all. They are making very great sacrifices in order to carry out those responsibilities, because boarding school does suit a considerable number of children and can give them things which day school education cannot. I want to make that quite clear on behalf of the many parents who struggle to send their children to boarding school at very considerable personal sacrifice.

Comparing the Alice Baconright hon. Lady's speech [column 200]last time with her speech this time, I find it a little difficult totally to reconcile the two, because I think that the exceptions that she gave last time were on a rather broader basis than her definition this morning. In column 192 she said:

“There is nothing in the Bill which would exclude the very rare exception mentioned by the hon. Lady last time.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 7th May, 1970; c. 192.]

“Nothing in the Bill” . This comes down to trying to decide what are group exceptions and what are individual exceptions, and how rigid the principle is. The right hon. Lady will remember that on an earlier Amendment I invited her to say that the principle was not rigid. She would not do so. She has now had to say it, because the construction of the Bill is such that the principle is not rigid, but she has now had to say it when brought up against the practical difficulties of providing boarding school education on a non-selective basis on the part of every local education authority, because local education authorities will not provide it themselves.

Miss Bacon

There is a little misunderstanding between the hon. Lady and myself. I understood when last we discussed this point that the hon. Lady was referring to a child in the future who would be in a preparatory section of the school. What I said last time was that any child who is in any school now and in a preparatory school now would, I am sure, pass on, and there would be no change as a result of this Bill. I think that the misunderstanding is between what happens immediately the Bill is passed and in the next year or two, and what happens when the plans are implemented.

Mrs. Thatcher

Let me follow that through. I do not think that the right hon. Lady referred exclusively to the case of a child in a preparatory school, and I hope that her exceptions last time and today did not refer exclusively to a child in a preparatory school, because the facts of educational expenditure are such that local education authorities will not be able to provide boarding houses to comprehensive schools either on current expenditure or on capital expenditure, and I doubt very much indeed whether that would have priority in the right hon. Lady's building plans. If local authorities—[column 201]and they already cannot get enough money to carry out comprehensive schemes—were then to say, “We must have money to build a boarding house to a comprehensive school” , this is not likely to happen for many years, and it therefore means that for children who need boarding education—there might be a group consisting of individual cases—local education authorities will have to rely on existing boarding schools.

10.45 a.m.

Miss Bacon

But this is where the hon. Lady is going wrong. If children need a boarding education, there is nothing to say that those children who need a boarding education will be those who will pass an ability test. Therefore, a local authority will have to provide for the children who need a boarding education. What the hon. Lady wants is an exception so that these children can go to selective boarding schools. There is nothing to say they would pass a test to go to selective boarding schools——

Mrs. Thatcher

No, but a large number of them will. What the right hon. Lady is saying is that those children who will shall, nevertheless, not be allowed to go to schools which could and would take them. She will say that they must all therefore go to non-common-entrance schools in so far as that can possibly be arranged.

If the right hon. Lady were prepared to make use of all boarding schools, some common entrance and some not, she would find a very much wider range of boarding schools at the disposal of the children. She would find that local authorities could probably give a larger number of children a better education than they will be giving against the background of the rigid view that she is taking.

There are already enough boarding schools to provide for the children who need boarding accommodation. Some can pass an ability test and some cannot, but if we are to draft them all over to the schools that cannot, I think that we will be in some difficulty about boarding accommodation itself. Even that is an over-simplification because there are a number of schools which do their selection, as I said last time we discussed a similar case, for the vast majority of their pupils, but are prepared to take unusual cases who, perhaps, could not pass that common [column 202]entrance or that ability test at the time.

Although those children could not pass the test, if a selective school is prepared to take them they are precluded from doing so because of the right hon. Lady's view of this Amendment, because it must not be wholly that the school is excluded from taking such pupils even if its test is based partly on selection by ability. So it is not the case of whether one can get in or not. One may be able to get in to a common entrance school although one cannot pass the selection by ability test, because that school will waive its rules and because of the pastoral care which my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) mentioned previously.

But let me take up another point which my hon. Friend also made very forcibly at the beginning of his argument. As I understand the right hon. Lady, she is saying that there is no group exception for boarding school accommodation. We are saying that there should be a group exception for boarding school accommodation because, on the whole, although it is a group, it is a group which, from the local education authority's view, consists largely of individual cases which have special needs.

This point was referred to in paragraph 273 of the first Report of the Public Schools Commission. That Commission had a number of comments to make on the exception to the comprehensive principle, and it pointed out, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) also pointed out, when we discussed this subject before, that boarding schools, on the whole, are not big enough to provide a total range of ability.

The Report recognises that fact and goes on to say, in paragraph 275, that if we force them to take in a total range of ability

“… real unhappiness would, we believe, occur, if a small group of very much less able children were admitted to a closely knit community … 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 adademic limitations in other fields of community life.”

So if they were forced to drop all selection by ability test we might find that the boarding education for the individual child—and, after all, it is a remedial education for the type of child we are discussing—would finish up, not [column 203]by helping, but very much by hindering that child.

I am just considering the problems of my own local authority in interpreting the hon. Lady's interpretation of this Clause. It would have, inevitably—most local education authorities have—a number of children who want, or need, boarding school education. It will probably look at some of the schools to which hitherto children have been sent, with very good results. Near us, in boys schools there would be Harrow, Mill Hill and Haileybury, all common entrance schools, which, I think, have had children from our local education authority.

My local authority would look at the principle in Clause 1, in which they are told to

“… 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 … selection by ability or aptitude.”

We have been through this argument before, and the trouble has been the right hon. Lady's interpretation of this principle. If the authority took the view that its duties were discharged when it had looked at the Clause, had had regard to the need, and had found that it could not act in accordance with the Clause, does the right hon. Lady's exception there work? Can the authority say, “All right, they shall go to Harrow, Mill Hill or Haileybury” ?

I think it can.

I do not think the right hon. Lady knows the true construction of this Clause, and she will not take very kindly if I go through Stroud's Judicial Dictionary of all the cases that “have regard to” . I would be quite happy to, because it would be a very interesting exercise. There are 13 cases of interpretation of the word “regard” . Two would seem to be in point.

The fourth case:

“Regard may be had to average weekly earnings”

interprets the words as was said by Lord Justice Farwell in the case of Perry v. Wright [1908] 1 K. B. 458:

“These words are to be a guide not a fetter.”

Let us just look at the sixth case in Stroud's Judicial Dictionary. I am sorry, but the right hon. Lady drove me to this last time, when it was painfully clear that, although she is paid to know the answers she does not like——

[column 204]

Miss Bacon

No, as I said last time, the hon. Lady goes out of her way to be particularly offensive in this Committee. I have said all the time that the Clause 1 must have regard to Clause 2, because Clause 2 says how Clause 1 should operate.

Mrs. Thatcher

This is a case of putting the cart before the horse, if I may say so. If there is a principle, we must look at the principle first. Clause 2 deals with only how to put that principle into a plan——

Miss Bacon

That is important.

Mrs. Thatcher

But we have to look at the principle, and if we are to draw up a plan the first thing to look at is what principle that plan is about.

This is not being offensive—just exacting. I, as the right hon. Lady will know, was brought up, in the ministerial sense, under the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), and I well remember the meeting after meeting after meeting we would have in our Ministry about the construction of each and every word in a Measure, long before it ever came to the Floor of the House. All this would have been thrashed out. I just cannot remember any case when either of us was stumped on construction. I can remember a case when we went through a whole Bill, and did what we thought was a very adventurous thing: we introduced a new word into that Bill— “skylarking” . That was the first time that had been introduced into a Bill, and that was only done after very careful consideration.

The sixth case in Stroud's Judicial Dictionary is also in point, bearing in mind that the first was a guide, not a fetter. The sixth case:

“… having regard to the interests of the company”

interprets the matter in this way:

“… those who have to have regard to the interests of the company will, in any challenged case, have to prove that they really have had such regard.”

One is therefore considering the construction of “regard” in this context, in the light of decided cases, in the light of what the local education authority has to do under the Bill with regard to a child in need of boarding school education. I suggest that the steps will be as follows.

First the local authority will look at the principle in Clause 1, if it has to have regard to the need for sending to schools [column 205]with no selection. It will look at that principle, and say, “Well, can we implement it in this particular locality, with schools to which we have been used to sending, and which we know provide a good education?” But it may say, “No, we cannot. It would mean our sending all children to non-common entrance schools, some of which are very good, some of which we are not sure of. We do not think that this principle is a good principle in regard to this child, and cannot be implemented.” It therefore would have looked at the principle as a guide and not as a fetter. It would have been able to prove that it had “had regard to” it, and then it would be able to get on with the job of finding a suitable place for the education of that child.

This is what the Bill says. The right hon. Lady is in two minds about saying, “Yes, it does” or “No, it does not.”

Miss Bacon

No. The hon. Lady again is completely missing the point. The whole of Clause 2, which we will be discussing presently——

The Chairman


Miss Bacon

Yes, perhaps. The whole of Clause 2 is designed to show how local authorities, in precisely the case that the hon. Lady is mentioning now, have to submit plans to the Secretary of State for Education and Science, and those plans have to be submitted and approved by him. That the local authority could not do.

Mrs. Thatcher

But, Sir Myer, if we ever get to it what the local education authority has to do under Clause 2 is

“… to submit … plans … for the purpose of securing the result … in … the preceding section …”

so back we are in the preceding Clause. I think that the right hon. Lady is now saying, “All right, they submit plans, and those plans include the fact that they have had regard to the need, but, in fact, have not been able to provide a suitable place. Therefore, they are going to send to selective boarding schools.” That is what she is saying, and her exception is to individual cases.

But my guess is, and let me say this quite clearly, that if local education authorities act in that way, and pursue their case up to the law courts, my [column 206]interpretation has more chance of being right than has the right hon. Lady's. Let me say that to her. I do not think that the Bill does what she says it does. When it comes to boarding education, I think the authorities do have regard to the need, which is what we are discussing now—not Clause 2. They find that the Bill cannot properly be carried out with regard to that child, and they can carry on, not in the light of what the right hon. Lady thinks the Bill says but in the light of providing for the very best educational opportunity for that child.

Our Amendment is concerned to make clear to the local authorities that they can proceed in that way, because I believe that they will proceed in that way. If they are not to, the right hon. Lady has a bounden duty to say that her Department will give capital sanction to local education authorities for providing boarding houses to comprehensive schools like that which she has mentioned down in Devon.

I do not believe that she would do so. It would be absolutely wrong if she did, bearing in mind that there is adequate boarding provision already. Bearing in mind, too, that we have the lowest expenditure on books per head of almost any country which prides itself on education, that it would be quite wrong if she then began to give priority for this kind of expenditure.

11.0 a.m.

I do not want unduly to prolong the debate. The Public Schools Commission First Report was quite clear, having looked at all the problems with regard to boarding schools, that there was justification for a group exception, namely that we could not expect all boarding schools to provide for a full range of ability and, if they did, it could have very sad consequences indeed for some children. That is something which the right hon. Lady seems prepared to ignore, although it is in paragraph 275. The Commission said that on the facts of the case there must be a group exception. The right hon. Lady says that there cannot be a group exception even though we know that the group consists mostly of difficult and sad individual cases.

I think that, even without our Amendment, local education authorities can proceed as I have indicated. Perhaps the right hon. Lady will get her draftsmen to go through all the cases of “having [column 207-208]regard to,” but I suggest that they know that the answer—as I know it is—is not absolutely as the right hon. Lady says. I therefore suggest that we vote on this Amendment, and that we add this specific group to the exceptions which are mentioned to the principle in Clause 1.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 10.

Division No. 5.]


Boyle , Sir Edward

Eyre , Mr. Reginald

Lane , Mr. David

Lewis , Mr. Kenneth

Maude , Mr. Angus

Montgomery , Mr.

Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret

van Straubenzee , Mr.


Armstrong , Mr. Ernest

Bacon , Miss Alice

Evans , Mr. Fred

Mahon , Mr. Simon

Newens , Mr. Stan

Oakes , Mr. Gordon

Price , Mr. Christopher

Price , Mr. William

Wellbeloved , Mr. James

Woof , Mr. Robert

Amendment (f) to new Clause 1 proposed, in line 15, at end insert—

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

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 10.

Division No. 6.]


Boyle , Sir Edward

Eyre , Mr. Reginald

Lane , Mr. David

Lewis , Mr. Kenneth

Maude , Mr. Angus

Montgomery , Mr.

Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret

van Straubenzee , Mr.


Armstrong , Mr. Ernest

Bacon , Miss Alice

Evans , Mr. Fred

Mahon , Mr. Simon

Newens , Mr. Stan

Oakes , Mr. Gordon

Price , Mr. Christopher

Price , Mr. William

Wellbeloved , Mr. James

Woof , Mr. Robert

Mr. Angus Maude

I beg to move as an Amendment to the new Clause, Amendment (h), in line 27, at end insert—


“any other art” means any art, science, discipline, or skill as the Secretary of State may by Order upon the application of a Local Education Authority approve.

We discussed this question on the original Clause and on a number of Amendments of which the one closest to this is that which I myself moved. As with so many of the discussions which we have had in this Committee, it was clear that the Secretary of State and the right hon. Lady viewed them with the utmost suspicion, and were clearly convinced that the intention on this side of the Committee was in some way to destroy, wreck or sabotage the Bill.

Indeed, at that time the right hon. Lady said that acceptance of such an Amendment would drive a coach and horses through the Bill. I tried to point out that that was not the intention, and that what we were trying to do was to help the Government to get over, in advance, some of the difficulties which we foresaw that the Bill would inevitably raise for them, for the local education authorities and for parents and children. To try to disarm this innate suspicion of the right hon. Lady and the Secretary of State we have deliberately re-drawn the Amendment in a way which to the most suspicious mind can hardly suggest that we are attempting to sabotage the Government's policy, because we have put it in such a form that only the Secretary of State by Order can permit any exception to be made in the normal provisions of the Bill.

What this Amendment, as it is at present drafted, clearly means is that where an occasion arises in which either a school or a department for a particular art, science, discipline or skill is necessary or thought desirable by the local authority or where it is considered desirable that some element of selection should enter into the choice of students participating in it, the local education authority may request the Secretary of State to give it power to select for this purpose, and the Secretary [column 209]of State has then the right to turn down that request or to permit the local education authority to do this. So it is clearly not a wrecking Amendment of any kind, nor is it intended so to be. It is something purely permissive in which the Secretary of State will have the last word.

I do not want to go over all the arguments which were discussed at considerable length when we dealt with the original Clause 1, and this group of Amendments too, but there are two points which I wish to take up. First, the right hon. Lady referred in a somewhat baleful way to the Donnison Report, which was at that time not in our hands. She said, in effect, “I am speaking at 11.15. If I were speaking at 12.0 o'clock I should have been able to quote from the Donnison Committee's Report.” To the suggestion of one of my hon. Friends that we should keep the debate going long enough to enable us all to quote from the Donnison Report, she said that if he had read the Report he would not like it very much.

The clear implication of these two observations was that there was in the Donnison Report some conclusive argument which would have made the Amendments ridiculous which we were discussing. It was, therefore, with the very greatest interest that when the Donnison Report arrived I studied it carefully to see what could possibly have been in the right hon. Lady's mind. I am bound to say that if she can draw any comfort from the Donnison Commission's Report on this particular subject, I shall be delighted to hear from her how she does it.

Let us consider what Donnison says in respect, for example, of what is obviously the most relevant to this, the question of education of the most gifted children. A minority of the Commission came down firmly in favour of retaining a number of super-selective schools, which, clearly, could be of a kind which might be covered by this Amendment, namely, those dedicated to children gifted in a certain discipline or science. As for the majority of the Commission, the best that can be said for them is that they said they really had not a clue. In the chapter on educating the most gifted, they start by saying—this is page 374—

“Whatever system of education is adopted, however, we all agree that further research and experiment is required to ensure that the talents [column 210]of the most gifted are not wasted. Too little is known about these difficult questions.”

How very right. They go on to discuss what happens in Russia and the United States, particularly in reference to specialised schools for children gifted in particular subjects as well as of general academic ability. In the case of Russia, they say what they have found out, and no particular conclusion can be drawn from that. They describe the situation in the United States and say specifically on page 386:

“There is no clear conclusion to be drawn from this research and the education of the gifted in the United States remains, even now, in an experimental stage. In general, expert opinion tends to favour special programmes for the gifted rather than the creation of special super-selective schools for them.”

Then in paragraph 389:

“The question remains whether the most academically gifted children should be educated in separate schools with others of similar ability. We agree that the evidence from research is not conclusive. The findings may be interpreted in different ways.”

The minority later say:

“We agree that the evidence is inconclusive and that further research should be done on the education of the gifted.”

Finally, in the last paragraph of the chapter, which is also the last paragraph of the whole Report, we find these words:

“Whether gifted children should be segregated into separate schools or taught in comprehensive schools, at what ages selection for different purposes is justifiable, and what teaching methods can best develop ability to the full in schools of all kinds: these are vital questions which we must learn more about, whatever pattern of schools ultimately emerges from our present debates.”

What has happened, in effect, is that the majority of the Commission, having openly admitted that the research is inconclusive, that it is inadequate, that one can draw any number of different conclusions from it, nevertheless gave the opinion that comprehensive schools were best and that direct grant and independent day schools should be forced into the comprehensive mould. But it cannot possibly be argued on the basis of the Donnison Commission's research, or its conclusions, that there is no place for the education of children specially gifted in a particular subject or, indeed, specially gifted academically, in circumstances in which some element of selection enters into the choice of the schools they are to go to, or the departments within the schools which they are to join. In other words, the Donnison [column 211]Commission is completely inconclusive in this respect, and I think we should recognise that.

All we have ever said on this subject is that experiment is necessary, that there may—and no doubt will—come times when it is desirable to experiment with special methods of education for particular subjects, and for children of special aptitude and gifts in these subjects. We do not think that this will be possible without some element of selection, if only to identify the special facilities and aptitudes of these children and find out whether they are suitable for the special courses provided. We have also said—this is one of the points worrying most of my hon. Friends; it was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill), by myself, and, I think, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) in previous debates—that no two comprehensive schools will be exactly the same. The schools will develop in different ways. New schools will develop in ways different from one another even if they are designed on a similar pattern. The character, abilities and ideals of the headmaster or headmistress will differ, and schools will develop in different ways.

11.15 a.m.

What is even more significant and important is that schools which are made comprehensive, having been selective schools at one time or another before, will inevitably retain something of their characteristics before reorganisation, and, in addition, will continue to retain the reputation and popularity, or unpopularity, which they developed with the local population before reorganisation. We have seen this sort of thing happen before where a number of schools in an area became comprehensive: the one which included the largest and most favoured school, perhaps with the longest traditions, has remained the most popular school, and most parents have wanted their children to be sent to it, while the school which, perhaps, was a small rural secondary modern school before was much less popular.

Therefore, something like a selection procedure has either to be retained or, indeed, to be resuscitated in order to have the children allocated between these various schools. That is why it seems to us that the argument which the Secretary [column 212]of State has used on this subject before, that this could all easily be arranged by parental choice, totally fails to face the facts of the situation. In certain cases, there is bound to be a situation in which more parents want to send their children to one comprehensive school rather than to another, perhaps because it has a particular course or a particularly able teacher in a certain subject. This cannot always be dealt with by parental choice or even by consultation between parents and local education authorities, any more than that is always possible now.

It is not merely possible, but is actually desirable, that in certain cases a school which may have had a particular craft bias, in agriculture, metal work or whatever it may be, should continue to teach that science and specialisation and retain it even when it becomes a comprehensive school. The arguments for this happening are strong. First, it is ridiculous to suppose that, even if all the resources in the world were available for them, it would be possible to provide a full range of specialisation in every subject in every comprehensive school. It would be ridiculous to try. Secondly, it makes sense that, just as some universities attract students for particular subjects because the university itself has a reputation in them, so there is nothing to prevent a comprehensive school in a particular area from wanting to establish a reputation in a certain craft, art, science, mathematical discipline or whatever it may be. It is, surely, better that comprehensive schools, instead of coming out of an identical mould, should develop their own special personalities and characteristics, and should attract children on this basis.

We believe that, if that is to happen, under the new Clause as at present drafted difficulties will inevitably arise because there will be cases where, in order to deal with the demand to go to a particular school in a city or a rural area, it will be necessary to have something which could, at least under the legal definition in the Bill, be described as selection by ability or aptitude. It will not be anything to which any sensible person could object. But there may be such difficulties under the Bill, and legal objections could be raised by disappointed parents whose children had failed to get into the school which they wanted. It seems, therefore, to be only common sense that we should make provision to allow the Secretary [column 213]of State a way out; that is to say, where the situation will clearly present difficulties, and where a complicated legal action can arise, the local education authority should be able to ask the Secretary of State to give it powers to deal with the situation in a commonsense way. The Secretary of State should have the power to do it and should not be forced to do it. Under the Amendment, it would be perfectly in order, though not very sensible, for the Secretary of State to refuse to sanction every application which was put to him. Therefore, it cannot be said that it is doing the Bill any harm or in any way reducing the powers of the Secretary of State.

On the other hand, not only is there nothing in the Donnison Report to suggest that this is a bad or undesirable Amendment, but there is everything in it to suggest that the amount of experiment desirable in this case is very great, that there ought to be more opportunities for experiment along these lines, and there ought to be more schools of this kind to see how we can best educate children, not only those of very high intelligence who are particularly gifted in academic subjects but those who are gifted in manual skills or in the arts and crafts.

I shall not go again over the doubts which were expressed, and which the right hon. Lady quite failed to allay in the last debate, on the question of the definition of “any other art” in the Government's Clause. It was clear that her legal definition was not watertight. She said that it probably covered a number of things; but we are not in the least certain that it does, and it may be that only the court can ultimately decide what the Bill means. All the more reason, then, with these doubts, that this Amendment should be passed to give the Secretary of State power in a particular case to avoid the sort of complicated and unconstructive legal argument which might arise if any group of parents brought a case and to be able to deal with the matter in a commonsense way.

I hope, therefore, that we shall not be told by the right hon. Lady that this is a wrecking Amendment, and that she will be prepared to take the commonsense course of accepting it.

Mr. David Lane

I rise with some hesitation because I had hoped that by [column 214]now we should have had some contributions from either the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Woof) or the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved), but it may be that they are reserving their contributions for Clause 2, in which case we look forward to hearing them then.

I support the moderate and restrained argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) in moving this Amendment. I hope that the right hon. Lady will think very carefully before trotting out again the argument which she used in the previous debate.

I stress two arguments for making the Amendment. One is the sheer speed of change in the education system at the present time. If anything, it seems to be changing faster rather than more slowly than, say, ten years ago. I think that all of us, on both sides of the Committee, would hesitate to forecast the kind of views, new doctrines and results of experience which we might be considering if we were to repeat this kind of debate in ten, or even in five years' time. Given this speed of change, it is impossible for any Government to say that only such-and-such grounds, and very narrow grounds, should be inserted as exceptions on a point such as this.

The second reason, which in a way is related to the first and which my hon. Friend powerfully put, is the need for continuing experiment. One thing which has come out very clearly in contacts with teachers and administrators in the last few years, whatever differences of view there may be between them, is their acceptance that many experiments must go on year by year as fresh knowledge comes up—at each stage, primary, secondary and other stages. They accept that, whatever the organisational pattern, experiments in all sorts of ways must continue.

The Government will be extremely shortsighted if they try to pass the Bill with the exception restricted only to music and dancing. It is presumptuous of the Government to say that there can never be a need for any other kind of art to be provided for in some special school or in a school with special emphasis on that particular form of knowledge or discipline—whatever words be used.

I stress what my hon. Friend said at the beginning of his speech. He said that the careful wording here gave ample safeguard to the Government. It is not a [column 215]matter of leaving total freedom to local education authorities. The Amendment appeals to me because of that. May I say kindly to the right hon. Lady that I have lost count of how many sittings we have had, but it is high time we saw the Government move at least one inch from their posture of total opposition to Amendments from this side, which we mave moved in very reasonable fashion, day after day, and I hope that we shall have a gleam of light shortly from her side.

Sir E. Boyle

My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) put the case for the Amendment with such force that I need add little to what has been said.

We are not saying that all those specially gifted in a particular subject should be educated in special schools for that purpose. That is not the case behind this Amendment. We have two types of case in mind. One of them was referred to by my hon. Friend, who reminded us, as we should never cease to remind ourselves, that under a comprehensive system everybody does not go to the same school. There is always the tendency to speak as though, if we do away with separate grammar and modern schools and have a non-selective system, all will go to the same school. Of course, they will not. As my hon. Friend rightly said, history never starts completely anew. The reputations of schools will be affected by their pasts, and in a big city, where there are many comprehensive schools, it will be only right and proper that particular schools will develop particular biases.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon said, with a great deal of justice, that, when dealing with the problem of the admission of pupils to a variety of comprehensive schools in a big city, it is absurd to say that a boy or girl's performance in a particular subject should be the one thing which can never influence whether he or she goes to a particular school. It seems quite reasonable that particular comprehensive schools may develop particular biases, and to say that a child's school record should never, at any stage of his career before the sixth form level, affect whether he is moved to a particular school is a very extreme position for the Government to take up.

Secondly, we still believe that there will be scope in the 1970s for authorities to [column 216]have the option, at least, and for the Secretary of State to have the power, at least, to approve experimental schools for those who are particularly gifted in a subject. In other words, what we are discussing this morning is not whether we should go on with the old system we have had hitherto but what range of options should be open to a local authority and the Secretary of State in the 1970s. It still seems to me quite absurd to rule out the prospect of a limited number of experiments with schools for children specially gifted in certain subjects.

11.30 a.m.

I shall now do something which I hope the Committee will welcome, that is, introduce here one argument which was not used on Second Reading or in the previous twelve sittings we have had on the original Bill and on re-committal. We must bear in mind the developments in primary schools. Anyone visiting primary schools today knows how many first-rate experiments are going on in mathematics teaching at these schools. If I may say so, I have some knowledge of this as a partime publisher concerned with educational books. Large numbers of remarkably young children are beginning to understand more clearly the basic concepts behind arithmetic, the rudiments of computer arithmetic, and so on, and I believe that, in the 1970s, the case for a limited number of schools for the mathematically gifted will be considerably greater than ever before precisely because of the head start a number of children will be receiving in the primary schools.

I said at an earlier stage that my complaint about the Bill is that it looks backwards. It seeks simply to abolish selection for secondary education as we have known it and puts in a few reservations which merely codify what certain local authorities are already doing. The right hon. Lady the Minister of State made perfectly plain at an early stage that the exceptions and reservations in this Clause relate purely to what schools are already doing. I maintain that we should be much wiser to pass the Clause in a form which would make it suitable for the educational developments of the 1970s. It is worth remembering that the 1944 Act, with all its limitations and the deficiencies which may have shown themselves over the years, has none the less proved, by and large, able to stand the strain of 25 years [column 217]of development. That is because Lord Butler and Mr. Chuter Ede deliberately did not exclude experiments which authorities might want to carry out. It was no accident; it was deliberate. I have often made this point against supporters of my own side when necessary: it was a quite deliberate purpose that the 1944 Act did not exclude what were then called multilateral schools. Authorities had very considerable ability to experiment as they wished.

I hope that the right hon. Lady will even now accept an Amendment to Clause 1 which will make it easier for local authorities in the 1970s to meet the needs of particular children in accordance with the best educational thinking. If not, I am bound to say once again that the shorter the life the Bill has on the Statute Book the better.

Miss Bacon

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) in moving the Amendment quoted from the Donnison Report to try to disprove something that I had said in our last debate on the subject. I thought that the way he chose his quotations from Donnison was unfair both to me and to Donnison. He quoted the last sentence of paragraph 374. He did not quote the first sentence,

“Most of us are convinced that children with exceptional gifts of a more general academic kind should be educated along with their less able contemporaries within a comprehensive system—both for their own sake, and for the sake of other children.”

He chose to quote not that sentence but the sentence at the end of the paragraph.

Mr. Maude

Because that is, as we all know, the substance of the majority recommendation. They are saying, “most of us are convinced that” —but they go on, not only in the following paragraph but in the last paragraph of the whole Report, to nullify the value of this as a recommendation by saying that not enough is known, “they do not know” , “they think” , and more ought to be found out about it.

Miss Bacon

It is still a fact that the hon. Gentleman quoted only one sentence without quoting the majority decision contained in the first sentence of that paragraph. It was similarly unfair when he quoted from other paragraphs. In paragraph 390, the Commission said: [column 218]

“Most of us conclude that the evidence, despite its weakness, suggests that academically gifted children are best taught in the various forms of comprehensive school now developing. But special arrangements must be made for them. Various programmes are possible.”

In fact, the Donnison Commission would make exceptions to this, and the exceptions which they would make of music and art are the exceptions which we make in the Bill.

One hon. Gentleman opposite said that the form of the present Amendment would make clear what the Bill means and is somewhat better than some of the Opposition Amendments moved on the last occasion. This is just not true. This Amendment is open to grave objection as to its form. The major objection is that it enables the Secretary of State to legislate by a procedure which is not subject to any form of parliamentary control. It reads:

“‘any other art’ means any art, science, discipline, or skill as the Secretary of State may by Order upon the application of a Local Education Authority approve.”

This is giving very great powers to any future Secretary of State to alter the whole form of the Bill without any Parliamentary discussion——

Mr. Maude

That cannot be so. An Order is always subject to Parliamentary control, whether positive or negative.

Miss Bacon

This is the way in which the hon. Gentleman would proceed, and I am informed that in this case it would be without any Parliamentary discussion.

Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee

Considerable care and thought has been given to this Amendment. It may not be perfect in every respect. The facilities available to an Opposition are not those available to Governments. We all know this, and the right hon. Lady and her colleagues will soon experience it in practice. The point is that there can be no form of Parliamentary Order which is not subject to Parliamentary procedure.

Miss Bacon

I am informed that, as drawn, this would not be subject to Parliamentary discussion. I am so informed, but I can take further advice. I asked our legal experts, and that is what I was told.

Then we come to the definition of what “any other art” means. It says, in effect, that the expression “any other art” means whatever the Secretary of State for the time being says it means. This is wrong in principle. Then, rather curiously, [column 219]it says that “any other art” means, first, “any art” , and then any “science, discipline, or skill” , which are not arts at all. The form of the Amendment is quite ambiguous, and, for that reason alone, it should be rejected.

On the substance of the Amendment—that is, that we should be able to have special schools for particular arts—first, there is no evidence that local education authorities have suggested the creation of specialist schools for such purposes, and I think that we are here confusing curriculum needs with admission arrangements. I agree with the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) that it would be a good thing for some comprehensive schools to have a particular bias in one subject or another, but there is nothing in the Bill which would prohibit them from doing this.

A great deal was said on an earlier occasion about specialising in silverwork in Birmingham, but there is nothing in the Bill that would prevent that from being done. I still maintain that it could be done without any particular selection or test; and that children could go to a certain school by parental choice in this way. Here, again, we are confusing the curriculum of a school—there is nothing to prevent a particular school from having a particular curriculum—with its admission arrangements and we say that admission arrangements should not be by test of ability and aptitude.

It was said earlier that if the school were too full and more parents were opting for this kind of education for their children there would have to be some form of selection to determine which parents had their choice. If local authority schools remained static that would be so, but in an area where a great many parents desire their children to become proficient in a particular skill it would be up to the local authority to increase the provision for that subject within its schools. It would be for the local authority to do that.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The right hon. Lady is on a very important point here: perhaps she will assist the Committee a little further. Assuming the position to be—and, after all, under any Government we will always be very short of money compared with what we should like to do—that there is a greater parental demand for a certain skill than there are places, [column 220]can she say how she thinks selection should be made?

Miss Bacon

I have just said that if, in any particular area—the silversmiths in Birmingham were discussed last time—more parents were opting for children to have a certain kind of education than there were places in, say, one comprehensive school, it would be up to the local education authority to increase the provision of the subject in question by making it available in other schools within the city of Birmingham.

Mr. van Straubenzee

And in the meanwhile?

Miss Bacon

The meanwhile could not be more than about a year or so: it would surely be evident to a local authority if a particular subject were so important. Indeed, in a city like Birmingham, with its reputation for silverware, and so on, the subject should be available in a great many of the comprehensive schools. It could be tackled in this way.

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) talked about the experiments in primary schools and I agree with him in this respect. The great experiments which are going on in education today are not taking place in independent or what used to be called “experimental” schools but in the State primary schools. But he then went on to argue from the fact that, because we have new methods of teaching mathematics, younger children are much more proficient in mathematics and that there should be special schools for the mathematically gifted. I entirely disagree.

I said on the last occasion that I was one of those who, had this been the case when I was at school, would have been at a special school for mathematicians. I cannot think of anything more terrible for the child concerned. It might be good for mathematics; it might be good for the country; but for a child at an early age to have its future completely determined is even worse than the selection which we have at present into secondary modern and grammar schools. We would be putting children into schools according to their ability in a particular subject, and we would be predetermining the whole of their future life. Even though a child is good at mathematics, it does not follow that, when he is a little older, that is what he will want to do for the rest of his life. [column 221]That is why I am fundamentally opposed to putting children into special schools of this kind.

Therefore, while I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in his praise of the new methods of teaching mathematics, for the sake of children I do not think that it would be a good thing for them to specialise at an early age, and particularly at such an early age as this Amendment would entail.

11.45 a.m.

Sir E. Boyle

The right hon. Lady is attributing to me views which I did not express or mean. I was not saying that at the age of 11 children should be put into schools where they did mathematics and nothing else. I had much more in mind the possibility that at 13 or 14 children might be in schools where there was a specially strong concentration of mathematical teaching to do justice to their special abilities. Would the right hon. Lady not agree that there is a possibility that, just as the general improvement in the primary schools has, in my view, made some reorganisation of secondary education inevitable, so the remarkable development in the teaching of maths might make it reasonable to try experiments of this kind?

Miss Bacon

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is describing anything that could not be done within a comprehensive school. I am quite certain that the arrangements which he has just described could very well take place within a comprehensive school.

I was challenged on the Order. An Order is not, as such, subject to Parliamentary review at all. It is subject to Resolution only if the Bill says so. As I say, I do not like the Amendment anyway, but I do not say that my opposition to it is based solely on how it is phrased and worded. Rather, I disagree with the fundamental principle underlying the Amendment, and I ask the Committee to reject it.

Mrs. Thatcher

Having come from sitting opposite the Richard MarshMinister of Transport, I know full well that there are many sorts of Order—some Orders in Council—which are not subject to Parliamentary procedure: they spew out under the Transport Act which the right Alice Baconhon. Lady's [column 222]Government passed, and there is no Parliamentary procedure which has control over some of them.

When we decided to put down an Amendment in different form—being rather anxious to observe the rules of the House about repetition in spirit as well as in form—we considered whether to specify the Order in Council procedure; the negative or the positive procedure. We did not think that it would matter because, if the right hon. Lady were prepared to accept the substance of the Amendment, there would at this stage remain Report and the House of Lords in which to correct its form. Our main concern, therefore, was not with the form but with the substance.

Without the Amendment, we are still in the same difficulty—and I understand that local education authorities are in the same difficulty—about the construction of the present exceptions. I looked at the ejusdem generis rule in relation to

“… music or dancing or any other art”

but could get very little help from it at all. I think that it would cover drama schools, but I do not think that it would cover a great deal else, though of course one would have to wait for a specific case to come before the courts before it could be construed.

Every argument which the right hon. Lady has used against the possibility of special provision for mathematics also holds against special provision for music or dancing. She said that this would be determining a child's whole future life. The same could apply to music or dancing, and perhaps to an even greater extent, since the other educational subjects might not be given quite so much space in the curriculum as they would have in association with an essentially academic subject like mathematics or languages.

Miss Bacon

The hon. Lady will remember that I expressed personal doubts about this when we last discussed it, but in fact there are 10 or 11 of these schools already in existence, and we had regard to those.

Mrs. Thatcher

One of the reasons why the opportunity is there is that young people need very early training in these subjects if their skills and talents are to be developed to the requisite degree by the time they are in their late 'teens. This was the test used in paragraph 373 of the Donnison Report which has been fairly [column 223]well quoted. The last sentence pointed out that the reason music and ballet were excepted from the general rule was that,

“Outstanding performance in these fields calls for an early start and special teaching skills.”

I should have thought that mathematics was another such subject calling for an early start and for special teaching skills. In one sense, it is on all fours with music or ballet.

The right hon. Lady said that there is nothing to stop some comprehensive schools from developing special subjects. I can think of a number of schools which one would expect to develop a special bias in scientific subjects. But this is a very expensive bias. The right hon. Lady said that, if the demand is greater than the supply of these places, she would expect local education authorities to provide an increased number of places, and it should not take longer than a year or so. That is just not in accordance with the facts. Already, local education authorities under reorganisation are having great difficulty in finding adequate money to equip existing schools with proper basic laboratories, let alone some of the very complicated new apparatus and equipment required for a school specialising in sciences. I should expect some comprehensive schools to specialise in providing an excellent scientific education, possibly far beyond what the general run of schools can provide. But the equipment is very expensive, and will become more expensive; it could not suddenly be provided in other schools, and even if the equipment could, the staff certainly could not. One would probably have to concentrate them in certain schools.

I understand the right hon. Lady to be saying that, when a local education authority has, perhaps, concentrated expenditure on, say, two big comprehensive schools to provide excellent facilities in all the sciences—physics, chemistry and computer technology—the one test which cannot be used to determine whether a child can have a place there is the test of whether he is capable of profiting from that particular equipment and teaching. It does not make sense. If parents want their child to have a scientific education, to become an engineer, or to become a computer technologist, they can put that down in respect of the school of their choice. But parents sometimes have inflated ideas of their children's capacity to deal with [column 224]these subjects. It might be as well to have their views confirmed at any rate by an aptitude test conducted by those dealing with admissions policy to these schools.

Miss Bacon

That is selection.

Mrs. Thatcher

It is selection, but it is economic use of staff and economic use of equipment; it is economic use of talent. I do not understand why the right hon. Lady bridles from saying that, if we are to have schools specially equipped to teach science, we should not in some cases be able to make certain that the pupils at those schools are specially able to profit from special science teaching. She has admitted that schools will develop in different subjects, but she will not go further along the road to say that the subjects in which schools develop should enable the education authority to have an aptitude test to ensure that pupils can benefit from those subjects.

We put down a rather different Amendment partly because local education authorities still find some difficulty in construing the original Bill in this respect, and, secondly, because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) said, we wanted to leave the way open for experiment in specific cases. Once again, the right hon. Lady has taken an extremely rigid anti-progressive line. We on this side are especially anxious to have the possibility of experiment, progress and innovation in education. We are anxious that our mathematical tradition should come to equal that of Japan, which at the moment leads the world. But it cannot necessarily be done on a rigid system. We should like it to equal that of Russia, and we should like our position in science to equal at least that of the United States. And why should we stop there? We should like it to be better. We do not see why we should not benefit from experience in other countries, but this Bill does exactly the reverse. It refuses to allow the possibility of benefiting from the experience in comprehensive education in other countries. We dislike the rigidity, we dislike the anti-progressive element in the Bill, and we shall vote for the Amendment.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 10.

Division No. 7.]


Boyle , Sir Edward

Eyre , Mr. Reginald

Lane , Mr. David

Lewis , Mr. Kenneth

Maude , Mr. Angus

Montgomery , Mr.

Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret

van Straubenzee , Mr.


Armstrong , Mr. Ernest

Bacon , Miss Alice

Evans , Mr. Fred

Mahon , Mr. Simon

Newens , Mr. Stan

Oakes , Mr. Gordon

Price , Mr. Christopher

Price , Mr. William

Wellbeloved , Mr. James

Woof , Mr. Robert

Question put, That the Clause be added to the Bill:

The Committee divided: Ayes 10, Noes 8.

Division No. 8.]


Armstrong , Mr. Ernest

Bacon , Miss Alice

Evans , Mr. Fred

Mahon , Mr. Simon

Newens , Mr. Stan

Oakes , Mr. Gordon

Price , Mr. Christopher

Price , Mr. William

Wellbeloved , Mr. James

Woof , Mr. Robert


Boyle, Sir Edward

Eyre, Mr. Reginald

Lane, Mr. David

Lewis, Mr. Kenneth

Maude, Mr. Angus

Montgomery, Mr.

Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret

van Straubenzee, Mr.

Clause 2


12 noon.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 2, line 18, leave out from “him” to “showing” in line 19 and insert “a plan” .

It has taken me a very long time to get to this Amendment. I remember that before the Government lost their original Clause I was just about to move my Amendment——

Miss Bacon

A long time ago.

Mr. Lewis

A long time ago, as the right hon. Lady says. I am not sure, Sir Myer, whether the right hon. Lady did not partially reply to Amendment No. 1 when we were talking about half an hour ago about boarding education. She certainly referred to Clause 2 and the sense of my Amendment, so, presumably it is quite in order for me to go back to Clause 1, as I develop my case on the Amendment.

The Clause states:

“The Secretary of State may require any local education authority to … submit … one or more plans …”

Clause 1 is the policy of the Bill, and Clause 2 is the teeth. Clause 1 tells us what the Minister wants, and Clause 2 tells us that the man in Whitehall knows best. I cannot quite make up my mind whether this is an escape Clause for the Secretary of State, or whether it is just a straitjacket for the local authorities. I have an idea that the pretence is that it is an escape Clause, and that in the long run the Secretary of State knows perfectly well that, much as he would like to do so, he will not be able to bring quite so much pressure on the local authorities as he thinks.

In so far as the Secretary of State is asking for a plan or plans, the local education authorities may put up a plan which they prefer. They may not wish to put up a second plan. They may not wish to put up a plan which will appeal to the Secretary of State at all, but as the Clause stands they have to do so. They have to placate the Secretary of State. If they have one plan that they agree with but know the Secretary of State will not agree with it, if they have a plan that they want which they know the Secretary of State will not want, they are put in the position by this Clause, which I am seeking to amend, where they have to provide something which they do not want, and put it forward to the Secretary of State.

It looks, therefore, as though what the Secretary of State is seeking is to get direction without the odium of direction. What he is saying to the local authorities is “If you have a plan that does not appeal to me, I must have from you a plan [column 227]that does appeal to me. If there is something that you wish to do yourselves, but which does not fit in with this Measure, you must, despite the fact that you are not enthusiastic about it, provide a plan which does fit in, and which is what I, as the Secretary of State, want.”

So a local authority will have to provide three plans: the plan that it wants; a second plan that it may think that it would not be enthusiastic about but would accept; and a third plan which it does not want at all. The Secretary of State will then be able to ignore the first plan, which is the plan the local authority really wants, he will most probably ignore the second plan, which has been put forward reluctantly, and he can impose a plan the local authority would not wish to implement.

This is direction with a long spoon. Taken with the words which I seek to take out,

“… plans, in such form as the Secretary may direct” ,

this really is destructive of any local initiative. In fact, if the Secretary of State were honest, he would not have Clause 2 in the Bill at all, or at least a large part of it. The whole basis of the Bill, through this Clause, is that the Secretary of State will get his way come what may.

There is not any doubt, I think, that there will be an increase in comprehensive education, and in so far as this is acceptable to L.E.A.s we agree with it. It is a matter for them.

I have recently had in the Lincolnshire area, pressure, which has now been accepted, for a certain amount of comprehensive education alongside a grammar school. The county authorities wish to have, and it is acceptable to the local people, a system whereby the grammar school is retained, and that there is also alongside it a comprehensive system. What hon. Members opposite have said, times out of number, that it is impossible to have the two running alongside, will, in my view, be proved quite wrong in Lincolnshire. It has nothing to do with the 11-plus. I have no doubt that the L.E.A. will create a system of entry into the grammar school which will fit into the comprehensive system and will not define entry at the fixed age of 11.

One does not need to destroy an order which already exists in order to provide a certain amount of comprehensive education. If Lincolnshire, or any other county, were to propose plans which had a certain [column 228]amount of comprehensive content in them, which retained grammar schools, it would put such a plan up to the right hon. Gentleman. With the Clause as it is, the right hon. Gentleman could say that it was not good enough, despite the fact that it was acceptable to the L.E.A. and acceptable also—and here I am anticipating Clause 3—to the wishes of the managers or the governors of the schools in question, apart from the wishes of the parents and the L.E.A. itself.

This is why I think that my Amendment, which seeks to call for a plan rather than plans, should be acceptable to the Committee, because if, in the terms of Clause 1, an L.E.A. puts up a plan which is a mixture it ought to be acceptable to the Secretary of State. If it is not acceptable to the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State is failing to take into account the possibilities of making progress within an L.E.A. area, which progress is to its advantage and to the advantage of the parents and the teachers of that area.

Why should any plan that is put forward by the people locally on the spot be thrown out, as it can be thrown out under this Clause by the Secretary of State? Unless it is, of course, that the Minister wants to be completely doctrinaire, which is what we believe he is seeking to be. If he is going to the extent of being prepared to throw out a reasonable plan he ought to accept the responsibility of that action, and then make it quite clear that throughout the country as a whole he is prepared to enforce a pattern. I do not think that he intends to enforce a pattern, because I do not think that it would be practicable to do so. But the Bill does not say that. It gives the impression that he is prepared to enforce a pattern.

I hope that the right hon. Lady will at least give us and the people of the country some comfort, on the basis that the L.E.A.s themselves know what is best for their area and that they will be given every opportunity to maintain a system which seems to them to be the best system for their area, which may well be a mixture of the comprehensive with the grammar or the direct grant schools.

This weekend a book has been published which I have not yet seen: I have not yet got it from Her Majesty's Stationery Office. It must be an extraordinary book if reports are right, because it has the fearsome combination of some writer called Mr. Tyrrell Burgess from the [column 229]London School of Economics, but it is produced by the Department of Education and Science. The most extraordinary thing, judging from the reports that I have read, is its comments on comprehensive education. They remind me of the comments that were made by someone called Churchill on the painting by Graham Sutherland, when he said, “I have never seen anything like it before.”

In that particular case the comment was ironic comment, but the comments in this book on comprehensive education have nothing of the ironic in them. They appear to say that comprehensive education is so wonderful that we did not start to be educated until we had comprehensive education; that we have only just started to provide education with comprehensive education. This book says that our young people are now, apparently because of comprehensive education, a creative and critical generation.

12.15 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Lady have put their names to this book. It is produced by their Department. The generation which the author is talking about was mostly not educated in comprehensive schools, anyway. We are only beginning now to move into comprehensive education. The numbers of comprehensive schools in the last few years in relation to education in the country as a whole is still comparatively few. In any case, if this is an attempt to compare generations of young people, I issue a word of warning, for I am not prepared to accept that my generation was uncreative or uncritical or that——

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is creating some difficulty for the Chair. He is beginning to stray far too widely, and I am glad that his smile recognises my point. I have allowed him to get away with it so far, but I would ask him now to direct himself to the very limited aspect of this Amendment, which is whether the wording should be “a plan” or “plans” .

Mr. Lewis

I expected that that might happen, Sir Myer. We seek to be up to date in this Committee, and this book has been in the newspapers in the last day or two and I thought it was necessary to comment on it. However, it has some link with the “plan” , or “plans” , that the [column 230]right hon. Lady is calling for, for she has said all along in this Committee, and it has been emphasised in this book, apparently, that the great advantage of the plan which she wants of really comprehensive education is that it will provide a generation of young people who are creative and critical, as though this had never happened to any previous generation; as though there were something very bad about the previous generations.

I remind the right hon. Lady and hon. Members opposite that it was those of my generation who were educated in grammar schools who held out for a year against the whole world in a war—[Hon. Members: “Oh” .] Of course. Grammar school boys and secondary modern school boys, the educational mixture as we have it, provided the finest generation that this country has ever produced——

Mr. Newens


Mr. Lewis

The hon. Gentleman confirms what I think Members opposite believe about this. He says, “No, it was not,” but I say that it was.

Mr. Newens

It is sheer nonsense for the hon. Gentleman to designate his own generation as the best generation which we have ever had. He just spoke of “the finest generation ever” . I do not accept this for one moment. I believe that every generation that comes along is better than the previous generations as long as we are able to improve their educational facilities. It is sheer nonsense for the hon. Gentleman to harp about the past in that way.

Mr. Lewis

I repeat that I think that my generation, when young, was the finest generation——

Mr. Newens

Better than the present generation?

Mr. Lewis

Wait till I have finished. Up to this point——

The Chairman

Order. We cannot debate a comparison of successive generations and I must seriously ask the hon. Gentleman to direct himself to the terms of the Amendment.

Mr. Lewis

The hon. Member opposite intervened, and I wanted to tell him that I was not casting any aspersions on the present generation. If it can be better than mine, that is splendid. But comprehensive education as such will not do it. It can [column 231]make a contribution, but if the plan or plans that the right hon. Lady and her hon. Friends are proposing destroy what is good in the present educational system which helped to create my generation, if they destroy that in seeking to blanket the county with comprehensive education, they will not assist this generation to be better than my generation.

I believe that it is the mixture of the old system with the new that will assist our young people, good as they are—and they are, like every other generation, a mixture of the good and the bad. If one talked about what is being created, one could talk about the “skinheads” and the “demos,” but this is a long debate and I will not go into that. The right hon. Lady will get a chance to come back to this subject when we have read this book, as it has given us an opportunity for several debates as we go through this Bill.

The book can be obtained downstairs, I understand, and we can all bring it to subsequent meetings. The Department has published it coincidental with this Bill. If the Department thinks that it can get any steam out of it, well, the best of luck to them, for we think that we can get some steam out of it, and we intend to do so. One does not help our educational system by decrying past educational systems——

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Member is really trading on my lenient attitude. I was about to suggest that it might be worthwhile for him first of all to read the book and then come back and tell us what the book has said. In the meantime, we have agreed to the principle of comprehensive education and to me the issue now involved is equally simple, as I am sure it is to the hon. Member. It is to decide whether the authority should submit one plan or one or more plans. Therefore the general debate will, I am afraid, be ruled completely out of order from now onwards.

Mr. Lewis

All right, Sir Myer. To get the matter in its proper perspective, I must say that I was assuming that the plan or plans that could be put to the right hon. Lady could provide a mixture of comprehensive with the grammar schools and the direct grant schools. Certainly there will be plans put to the right hon. Lady which will be a mixture of the old and the new.

The whole idea in my Amendment is very simply that there should be a plan instead of plans put forward which the [column 232]L.E.A.s want; and that in so far as they believe that they have a system of education, whether it is geared to a grammar school or to a direct grant school, on to which they can impose comprehensive education, that plan should be acceptable to the right hon. Lady, and she should not, in my view, seek to demand an education committee to vary that plan in any way—it is the L.E.A.'s responsibility—or impose on it a dictated plan from her Department and from her right hon. Friends.

If we really believe that the local education authorities have delegated authority on their education, they and they alone, having consulted the governors of the schools and, we think on this side—and I am anticipating another Amendment—the parents, they and they alone should be able to determine how best they can fit in their plans with Clause 1. If the right hon. Lady does not accept this view, I am sure it will be taken by education authorities clearly that she is simply seeking to dictate to them.

Mr. Lane

I am glad to support my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) because here is another point where we have real suspicions about the Government's intention through the Bill, and it is important to get a clearer statement of what is in the Government's mind. I hope we shall get it from the right hon. Lady.

I should like to repeat once again, because we seem to have to go on repeating this in view of what is said from the benches opposite, that the argument over the Bill has not been primarily about the comprehensive principles but about compulsion, and whether the Government need or should introduce into the delicate balance of power in the education system which has survived well for many years the additional compulsion which in so many respects the Bill represents. We put this Amendment forward partly to probe the Government's intention and to get some more explanation from them about how this procedure would work, but also to try and get some reduction in the additional amount of central dictation and control which the Bill brings about.

I am very sorry that on the 1st May I was not able to be present in person at the centenary celebrations at which, among other speeches, I understand, there was a speech by the Prime Minister. I have to [column 233]depend on Press reports. It seems to me that again we had a case where the Prime Minister's statements for public consumption were at striking variance with the provisions which his Government persist in putting in the Bills which we are asked to carry through the House, because, if I understood him, the Prime Minister said that one of the aims of the next major Education Bill, on which I obviously would be out of order to speculate further this morning, was to give extra scope to local authorities. If I read the speech wrongly, the right hon. Lady can correct me. Here we are going apparently just the other way as we went in Clause 1, because it seems to me that the Secretary of State will have considerable power on not only the number of plans but the form of plans which are to be put forward.

I am sorry that I was unable to hear the whole of my hon. Friend's speech, but I heard something that he said about the problems in Rutland. May I illustrate briefly the stage we have reached in Cambridgeshire over the very difficulties which that authority, covering two very different city and county areas, is having in producing a plan that makes educational sense. The right hon. Lady will be aware of the point that has been reached.

At the beginning there were very deep and careful consultations with teachers and administrators. That was the main first stage, and it took a considerable time because there were real difficulties to resolve. More recently, the tentative plan that has been worked out with great difficulty has been put to the parents, and a great many parents have considerable doubts about certain features of the plan. One, in particular, bears close to the example that my hon. Friend has mentioned about the combination of schools of different sizes and types in particular areas, especially rural areas.

I merely mention this to illustrate again the very great difficulty that local authorities are having, within a reasonable time-scale, given restrictions on resources, and however lucky they may be in the provision soon of new buildings, in getting out a plan that makes sense at all. Surely it is unnecessary to add further to these difficulties by giving the Secretary of State this new power to lay down the form in which the plan should be put forward.

I ask the Government to think again. [column 234]There is no question of delaying or feet-dragging in the preparation of plans in my own area—none at all. I have been following this matter with great interest during the last four years, anyway, and we have got near a state of finality, I hope. Will the right hon. Lady tell us very clearly what the Government have in mind, and what is the purpose and advantage of the words we are trying to leave out? It seems to me that, without her explanation, this is a quite unnecessary power.

Miss Bacon

I should be out of order if I attempted in any way to reply to the remarks of the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis). I must say that, when he began by saying that something had been in the newspapers this weekend, I thought that he was referring to the results of the local elections, when the people proved quite conclusively that they are in favour of comprehensive education.

12.30 p.m.

Mrs. Thatcher

May I ask the right Alice Baconhon. Lady how she reconciles that statement with the fact that we hold more local authorities than have ever been held by any other political party, and that——

The Chairman

Order. We are not going into an inquest on the recent local elections. Perhaps the right hon. Lady is quite right. The hon. Gentleman referred to was, perhaps, so busy reading the election results that he was not able to read the book to which he referred.

Miss Bacon

I am sorry if I was out of order.

I think that there is here a genuine misunderstanding on the part of hon. Members opposite about the form of words. So far as the discussion was in order, the points which they have been making could more properly be made on subsection 2(4), when we discuss the Amendments relating to the acceptance or otherwise of plans by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Let me explain why the Bill says plan or plans. It is simply because some local authorities, particularly large county areas, do not send in one plan covering the whole of their area, but several plans from time to time covering parts of their area. Cases in point are, for instance, the West Riding County Council, which started its comprehensive reorganisation a long time [column 235]ago, and sent in its plans divisional executive area by divisional executive area. The Lancashire County Council, which has been in favour of comprehensive education for a long time, has not sent in one whole plan for the whole of its area, but has sent in plans from time to time. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) recognised this when he referred to Cambridgeshire and said that it was not in one part but was in different parts.

I assure hon. Members opposite that the only reason for putting in plan or plans was to cover those large areas where local authorities decide to send in plans at different times for different areas. As I have said, the fears which they have expressed about acceptance or otherwise of the plans could come more properly in subsection (4).

Mr. Fergus Montgomery

Have the Government really given any thought to what is to happen if the Maud Report is implemented, particularly in the West Midlands where we are having five county boroughs linked with Birmingham, and where each of those five county boroughs may have different kinds of comprehensive education? If they all become one great local education authority, we shall have a terrible hotch-potch.

Miss Bacon

When we have bigger areas, it will be even more important for us to have these words in the Bill, because then it would be even more difficult to send everything in in one blanket plan. I assure hon. Gentlemen that this is why this phrase is in.

The other words which would be taken out by the Amendment are

“… in such form as the Secretary of State may direct …”

The hon. Gentleman fears that it would be a matter of policy with regard to the kind of comprehensive plan which was to be submitted. Again, I suggest that this would be better discussed under subsection (4). What we have in mind with these words is the kind of suggestion which was put into Circular 10/65. In paragraph 44 of that Circular, issued in 1965, there is an example of the kind of thing that was asked for at that time. That is what we had in mind in using those words.

We said,

“Plans should be submitted within one year of the date of this Circular, although the Secretary of State may exceptionally agree an extension … Plans should be in two parts …: (a) A general [column 236]statement of the authority's long-term proposals” .

Then there is a long paragraph expanding this:

“(b) A detailed statement of the authority's proposals, whether or not they have already been discussed with the Department, covering a period of three years starting not later than September 1967.”

Then there are several more paragraphs suggesting the form in which the plans should be submitted.

I want to make it clear that when we say,

“…   . in such form as the Secretary of State may direct, …”

we are not concerned with the type of secondary reorganisation. What we are concerned with here is the form in which the plans are submitted.

When the hon. Gentleman hears this he will probably realise that all the things he fears can be raised on subsection (4). Here it is a matter of, first, having plans where local authorities are very big and want to send in plans one at a time over a period, and, secondly, “in such form” refers merely to the technical form in which they should be submitted, and not to the kind of comprehensive secondary reorganisation for the area.

Mrs. Thatcher

Can the right hon. Lady say a bit more about the technical form? What she has said indicates that it does not really matter whether the phrase,

“… in such form as the Secretary of State may direct …”

is in or not.

Miss Bacon

There would have to be a circular to local authorities after this Bill had been passed, asking them to submit plans. It would specify, not perhaps in exactly the same words as those of Circular 10/65, the way in which the plans should be submitted; whether they were long-term or short-term, etc. But we would not, at this stage, say, “You must have a middle-school plan” or whatever it might be—not, at any rate, on this subsection.

As I have said, those hon. Members opposite who have fears about the Secretary of State's directions with regard to the acceptance of plans and so on, can properly air them on subsection (4). I assure hon. Members that looking at subsection (1) from their point of view, it is quite harmless, and merely means plan or plans in the form in which they should be submitted.

[column 237]

Mrs. Thatcher

The Amendment refers to three things in the subsection. The first word of significance is “require” ; that is, it is mandatory on the local authority. The phrase “one or more plans” we shall discuss in greater detail in a moment. The third word is “form” . All are mandatory. As I understand what the Alice Baconright hon. Lady has said, the phrase “one or more plans” cannot be used—or she will not use it; it could be used—to direct the local authority to prepare alternative plans for the same area.

This is, to some extent, what I am a little bit afraid of, because when we have alternative plans for the same area we can get in a bit of a muddle, and neither the teachers, the parents nor the electorate are fully aware of the different choices between the plan. Further, the alternative plans are often not as thoroughly worked out as one specific plan would be. It seems to me that in submitting a plan under this subsection, a local authority will have to direct its mind to a number of things including, to some extent, the view it takes towards primary education in the upper ranges, because, of course, it will have to consider whether it will accept the Plowden recommendation of 12-plus as a proper age for transfer, as that can affect its plans for secondary education.

It will also, as the right hon. Lady has said, have to consider what middle schools it is having, and whether it is advisable to have middle——

The Chairman

Order. This argument would be more appropriate on subsection (4). The question of acceptance or rejection—the negotiations that are to take place between the local authority and the Minister—really come within the ambit of subsection (4).

Mrs. Thatcher

This is not acceptance or rejection, Sir Myer GalpernSir Myer. It is whether this phrase permits alternative plans, whether the phrase “one or more plans” could be used to direct the local authority, bearing in mind that it is a mandatory phrase. The word “require” could be used to direct the local education authority to submit alternative plans, different plans, for the reorganisation of secondary education in that area. I submit, very respectfully, Sir Myer, that it can be used in that way. This is exactly what the Amendment is all about—one or more plans, or one plan—because, though one can submit several parts of a plan at different times, those [column 238]parts are all parts of one plan which coheres.

The Chairman

I have heard the hon. Lady's submission, but I think she has given what I thought was an adequate explanation of what was meant by more plans, and the circumstances that could dictate more plans because it was done on a piecemeal basis. But it is immaterial. If it is wanted to have a discussion on this all over again, we can do it now.

Mrs. Thatcher

No. I am grateful to you, Sir Myer. But I am not concerned with what is the underlying intention but with whether the intention is properly reflected in the drafting. The wording is:

“The Secretary of State may require any local education authority to prepare and submit to him one or more plans. …”

That could mean that the local authority would have to produce alternative plans. As the right hon. Lady knows, a number of authorities have produced plan A, plan B, plan C, and often this has been somewhat confusing to the local education authorities. I will not pursue the point, Sir Myer, if the right hon. Lady will give me an undertaking that we can further look into it at the appropriate time, and that the Clause will never be used to direct local education authorities. This is the undertaking I want: that the Clause will never be used to direct local education authorities to submit alternative plans for the same area.

Miss Bacon

Until I saw this Amendment on the Notice Paper it never occurred to me that it would be taken like that, and I can give the hon. Lady the assurance that it certainly was not in our minds that we should be asking for alternative plans. This was merely to cover, as I said, the areas where the authorities would submit several plans, perhaps over a few years as the West Riding County Council has done, and that was the intention.

The subsection goes on to say

“… showing the successive measures which the authority propose should be taken …”

I can give the hon. Lady the assurance that that was in our mind. When we come to subsection (4), we can again discuss the powers of the Secretary of State with regard to the acceptance or otherwise of such plans.

I can also give the assurance, as I have already stated, that the phrase

“… in such form as the Secretary of State may direct …”

[column 239]refers to the form, and not in any way to whether it should be 11- or 12-plus, or 13 or middle schools; merely the form in which it should come back, to make for some sort of tidiness and order in the proceedings.

Mr. Lewis

We have had a useful debate on this matter, and the Amendment has clarified the situation. In view of what the right hon. Lady has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

12.45 p.m.

Mrs. Thatcher

I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 2, line 20, after “measures” , insert:

“and the estimated capital and revenue cost thereof” .

This Amendment arises from a number of factors, one being that it seems to me that a number of local education authorities have submitted plans without any attempt to cost either the capital or revenue expenditures connected with those plans. If they have not costed them, it also means that probably they have not begun to assess the cost or to consider how that cost would be met in the light of their capital programme, or in the light of the sums of money they will need on revenue grounds for carrying out that plan year by year in the locality.

We have had a number of previous discussions about the capital cost of the Bill, and we come to the nub of it in this Clause. It would be quite possible, without this Amendment, for a local education authority to submit a plan without taking into account any of the capital costs, and it would, therefore, be possible also for the Government to accept the plan without taking into account either the school building programme or the recurrent expenditure. Indeed, the Edward ShortSecretary of State said on 10th March:

“I do not think I said that the Bill would transform the position overnight. Obviously it cannot. It is not a matter of a legal framework but of providing resources.” —[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 10th March 1970; c. 40.]

My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) has also referred to this point on several occasions. In my own local education authority we have tried to discover the cost of the plans. It involves, of course, trying to discover the cost of adding laboratories to certain schools, but the [column 240]cost does not appear to have been worked out in detail. We feel that it would be advisable for any local education authority, in submitting plans under this Clause, to work out the detailed programme, and the Amendment is designed to ensure that it does.

Let me suggest what some of the costs will be. In a two-tier system where all children go to the lower school from 11 to 14 and then to a different upper school from 14 to 16 or 14 to 18, it will involve, in the lower school, if that has been a secondary modern school, making certain that the laboratory facilities are fully adequate for a full range of ability.

In the lower school there will probably be a larger number of pupils taking science at a further level than there might have been in the original secondary modern school, which frequently had less stress on the pure sciences and a good deal more stress on the things like metal work, practical woodwork, and where a certain number of laboratories was not enough for the full range of ability.

Then that whole group of pupils went on to the upper school, and many of the existing grammar schools do not have the full range of metalwork laboratories, and woodwork laboratories and home economics laboratories, that some of the secondary modern schools have. All these factors must be taken into account in determining what particular kind of scheme should be submitted.

A number of other factors readily come to mind. Sometimes in schemes, it is only possible to put together two schools, one of which had been co-educational, and the other which had not, and that also means making an assessment of the cost of converting one of the schools from being a single-sex school to having full facilities for co-education. I know of one such case.

The cost will often condition the rate at which the plan is to proceed. It will be recollected that the right hon. Lady said that in some cases a number of separate plans would be submitted, part by part, and that one of the reasons why they would be submitted in this piecemeal form would probably be the capital programme. I notice that the book, “In Our Experience” , by Stewart C. Mason, which gives the experience of the Leicestershire authority, it says that they were very careful, in introducing their scheme, from 1957 onwards—and it took 13 years—at each [column 241]stage to make certain that all the capital projects had been completed, and the proper equipment was there, before introducing the comprehensive scheme in each locality.

In the introduction, that author says:

“After nearly three years of trial, the Education Committee undertook a review and on such evidence as was available decided there was sufficient balance of advantage to justify spreading the system, as and when opportunity offered, over the rest of the county. This qualification is of the essence of the way we have gone about it. We were unwilling to make the change unless we had the minimum physical conditions (particularly sufficient practical accommodation in the upper schools-to-be) to enable the scheme to work smoothly.”

As the right hon. Lady knows, that scheme took some 13 years to introduce. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth, mentioned in our earlier debate the experience of East Sussex, which had tried the scheme in one of its easier areas, and then gone on to try it in other areas when it had sufficient experience to enable it to go ahead.

Another factor which will have to be considered in the plans is the different systems of allocating pupils to the different schools. I came across this very much when asking certain local authorities what their views on their plans would be if banding were not allowed, because a number of them have made their plans on the basis that each of the schools would have a range of ability in those particular schools, and are now having to remake plans on the basis that some of the schools will specialise in certain subjects.

Again, the capital costs can be very different. I mentioned laboratory accommodation, because I happen to be particularly interested in it. The capital costs of setting up big computer departments in specific schools can be very different; of having language laboratories in all schools, or in one school, can be very different, not only in the equipment, but in the number of extra buildings that one has to use.

But, whatever the plan, one feels that local education authorities ought to be compelled to cost both the capital and the revenue consequences of the plan before they submit it.

In the Government's own White Paper on Public Expenditure there are forward estimates of the amounts of expenditure that will be required. The Secretary of [column 242]State has often said that for the years 1972–73 and 1973–74 those forward estimates were done without consultation with or approval by the Departments concerned. They are in a specific part of the White Paper, and there is a paragraph about the further forward figures—not the immediate next two years, but the years after that.

One point which is not mentioned has been mentioned by the local authorities, who pointed out that not only was it not done with the approval of the Government Department concerned but that those calculations were decided centrally without consultation with the local authority in any shape or form whatsoever. It means that those figures have been decided without the approval of the right hon. Lady's Department and without consultation with the local education authorities, so that it would seem that virtually no practical account has been taken of the cost of going comprehensive.

The Secretary of State has said the cost would be astronomical. One must consider what would be the cost of any particular scheme, because it would, in large measure, have to be borne in one form or another by the ratepayer, either in interest payments or as a consequence of extra recurrent capital expenditure on both teachers and certain equipment. With that in mind, I suggest that the right hon. Lady thinks very carefully before she turns down this Amendment, which refers both to the capital and to the revenue cost, because the one can involve increased expenditure on the other.

Mr. Lane

I strongly support my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) about the importance of the Amendment, illustrating the general importance of finance in our programme for going comprehensive.

I remind the Committee, as illustrating the sheer size of the total problem ahead, of which this is quite an important part, of some forecasts that have recently been made by Dr. Ollerenshaw, chairman of the education committee of the Association of Municipal Corporations, who, I think, knows as much about this subject as anyone in practice in education today. Looking ahead for 10 years, as I understand her figures she has estimated that the total expenditure in England and Wales by 1979–80, in actual money terms then, should be something over £15,000 million [column 243]a year, which she reckons to be about 8 per cent., which is substantially above the present proportion of the gross national product, in that year.

More relevant to the Amendment are some further figures which Dr. Ollerenshaw has worked out, looking ahead over this decade, about the shift within the total expenditure from the primary to the secondary sector. I hope that the Committee will allow me to quote two or three sentences from an article she has recently published, summarising her findings, in The Times Educational Supplement of 8th May, 1970 she states:

“In 1968, primary (with nursery) education took 23.4 per cent. of total expenditure and secondary education 28.9 per cent. The equivalent predictions” ——

and this is what is relevant to the Amendment:

“for 1980 are primary (with nursery) 18.5 per cent. and secondary 34.2 per cent. This big change in balance” ——

she goes on to explain:

“is very largely accounted for by changes in the forecast numbers of pupils in primary and secondary schools.”

We are all aware of this. She goes on:

“But also the biggest increase in unit costs (that is, costs per pupil) in schools over the past 11 years, have been for the 11 to 16 age groups—a fact which can be readily explained by the impact of the 1958 White Paper, Secondary Education for All, the Newsom Report of 1963, and reorganisation of secondary schools after Circular 10/65.”

I stress these final words from the quotation:

“With so many reorganisation plans still in the pipeline there is no reason to anticipate any slackening in the next ten years in the annual percentage rise in unit costs for pupils aged under 16 in secondary schools.”

My hon. Friend has given some examples of the sort of capital provision that she thinks will increasingly be necessary if the [column 244]change-over to comprehensive education is to be done really effectively.

I do not want to talk very long on this question, because we had some discussion about it in an earlier Amendment to do with buildings, but I can ask the right hon. Lady to give us any estimate, at our next sitting, of what she reckons to be the total cost, so far, attributable to the plans for going comprehensive produced as a result of Circular 10/65? I am not aware of any estimates having been given, and it would help us to get some proportïon in this whole problem.

It is our feeling, and our anxiety, too, that the provisions that the Government have at present made for local authorities to develop their secondary schools in the direction that the Government's national policy requires, are still very inadequate in this respect. We are all aware, and we do not need to go back over it now, of the reductions made in 1968 to cut back the rate of growth which the Government were compelled to announce at that time. More recently, they have put back into the building programme, as I understand the figures, £16 million, specifically to help secondary reorganisation. But I have very great doubts whether this will be more than a drop in the ocean in relation to the amounts that will be needed if the job is to be done thoroughly and steadily during the next few years.

I hope that we shall hear a little more. A few debates ago, the right hon. Lady was good enough to give us some figures, and I hope we shall have some more figures from her next time.

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

Committee adjourned till Thursday, 14th May, 1970, at half-past Ten o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:

Galpern, Sir Myer (Chairman)

Armstrong, Mr.

Bacon, Miss

Boyle, Sir E.

Evans, Mr. Fred

Eyre, Mr.

Lane, Mr.

Lewis, Mr. Kenneth

Mahon, Mr. Simon

Maude, Mr.

Montgomery, Mr.

Newens, Mr.

Oakes, Mr.

Price, Mr. Christopher

Price, Mr. William

Thatcher, Mrs.

van Straubenzee, Mr.

Wellbeloved, Mr.

Woof, Mr.