All-in schools Bill stirs Tory anger
The Government's controversial Education Bill to force local authorities into providing comprehensive education, was published yesterday.
Conservatives will fight the Bill tooth and nail, and are already pledged to repeal the measures if it becomes an Act before they come to power.
But last night they were further angered at reports that the Government were planning to rush the Bill through its second reading next Thursday.
Sir Edward Boyle, former Opposition spokesman on education, and vice-chancellor designate of Leeds University is hoping to speak in the debate, opposing the Bill's dictatorial tone.
His work on this Bill-he is hoping to serve on the committee which will consider it—will probably be his last major political battle before he gives up active politics for his academic life at Leeds.
The Bill requires a local education authority to prepare and submit satisfactory plans for the organsation of secondary school education on comprehensive lines.
If the authority fails to submit a satisfactory plas, the Minister will be empowered to seek a High Court order forcing it to carry out its statutory obligations.
Eight authorities have so far declined to submit any scheme—Bolton, Bournemouth, Bury, Kingston-upon-Thames, Richmond-upon-Thames, Rutland, Westmorland and Worcester.
Five have not submitted any scheme—Buckinghamshire, Norfolk, Salford, Torgay and Warley.
Leeds has not been included in this list as they will be submitting their fresh plan next week. They withdrew an earlier scheme.
Turn about view
Conservative MPs were commenting wryly yesterday that the Bill, which goes right against the concept of partnership between local and central government was published on the same day as the Government's proposals for re-organising local government with decentralisation in mind.
Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, the Opposition spokesman on education, commented last night: “We shall vote against the bill on the grounds that it compels local authorities to adopt one particular system of education, regardless of local wishes and however good the alternatives may be.” [end p1](2) The Times, 5 February 1970
Bill will compel schools to go comprehensive
The Government yesterday introduced in the Commons a Bill compelling education authorities to change to the comprehensive system. This would give statutory force to what is now a request.
Mr. Short, Secretary of State for Education and Science, introduced the Bill to force reluctant education authorities to remove grammar schools as part of the secondary education system.
The Bill makes mandatory the change to non-selective schools, giving statutory force to what at present is merely a request, set out in Circular 10/65.
It will be hotly contested by the Conservatives and if it does complete the passage to the statute book this session it would be repealed by a Conservative Administration, which would leave the future of grammar schools to local education authorities.
The Conservatives will also attack the clause in the Bill that would give the Secretary of State the same powers of compulsion to change plans already approved by him under the voluntary arrangement.
This could mean that many of the comprehensive schemes accepted by way of compromise or which were incomplete could be revised at the Minister's behest.
Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, shadow Minister of Education and Science, said last night:
“The Bill appears to require a number of authorities, whose plans have already been approved, to submit revised plans. We hope the Government will allow a considerable time between publication of the Bill and second reading, so that proper consultations with the local authorities may take place to see how pupils would be affected.”
Clause 1 of the Bill, requiring local education authorities to see that secondary education is provided in non-selective schools, makes exception for special education, sixth-form colleges and units, and for schools which provide specialist education in music and dancing.
Clause 2, enabling the Minister to require a local education authority to prepare and submit plans for the organization of secondary education on comprehensive lines, also imposes on education authorities a duty to consult managers and governors of schools and teachers, and to convey information to parents, before a plan is submitted to the Ministry.
Of 163 local education authorities in England and Wales, 129 have had comprehensive schemes approved (110 for the whole or greater part of their areas, 19 for some lesser part).
There are now about 1,200 comprehensive schools, compared with 262 in 1965.
Nine authorities have had their reorganization schemes rejected and have not yet submitted revised proposals; five have not submitted any scheme; eight have declined to submit a scheme.
Brian MacArthur writes: This confirms Government recognition of the growing role of parents in the education system, whose rights will be set out in detail in a policy document, Education for the Seventies.
Although the Bill apparently strengthens the powers of the Government, a careful reading shows that it is not supported by any major sanctions against recalcitrant authorities. This is because it is recognized that it will be at least a decade or 20 years before a universal comprehensive system can be established because of the shortage of finance for new building and the conditions of the present school buildings.