Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1970 Jun 30 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for BBC Radio 4 Today (withdrawal of Circular 10/65)

Document type: speeches
Document kind: Radio Interview
Venue: Unknown
Source: (1) Thatcher Archive: DES press release (2) Evening Standard , 1 July 1970 (late edition)
Journalist: (1) David Smeeton, BBC (2) Jill Palmer, Evening Standard , reporting
Editorial comments: BBC and Evening Standard material summarised for reason of copyright. Item listed by date of broadcast; no BBC transcript found. The interview was broadcast on 1 July in two parts at 0700 and 0800. The Evening Standard report includes material from the broadcast interview omitted from the DES release.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 1466
Themes: Education, Primary education, Secondary education, Public spending & borrowing
(1) Thatcher Archive: DES press release

John Timpson

[Summary of question] Government's plans for secondary education now sent to local authorities, after withdrawal of Labour circular expanding comprehensive schooling. New circular says Government believes it wrong to impose uniform pattern of secondary education on local authorities, and new Minister, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, has also ended limits on school building, releasing money to authorities whose projects were blocked because they didn't follow Labour policy on comprehensives. BBC education correspondent, David Smeeton:

David Smeeton

[Summary of question] Mrs. Thatcher has told local authorities she expects these principles to be followed in secondary school organisation: general educational considerations, local needs, and wise use of resources. Where a particular organisation works well and has general support she doesn't wish further change without good reason, but authorities may tell the Department if they wish to change plans or submit new ones. The old circular, Mrs. Thatcher told me, meant Whitehall knowing best about what schools there should be locally, and she went on:-

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

With the new circular the position is that you really are fully entitled to have a say about what sort of a school you shall have locally. Now if people want a fully comprehensive system and it commands general support, and the school buildings are appropriate and there are enough teachers, then they can just as well go ahead under this circular as they could have done before it was issued.

David Smeeton

[Summary of question] NUT said this morning you are causing great confusion and anxiety for many parents. Their advisory committees [end p1] urge the union executive to campaign strongly against new policy. Union regretted that circular withdrawn without consulting those directly concerned.

John Timpson

[Summary of question] More of David Smeeton 's interview later in the programme:

Jack De Manio

[Summary of question] Broad smiles for grammar schools supporters. Today the new Education Secretary, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, told local authorities they can fix for themselves from now on what sort of secondary education they want, scrapping Labour insistence on comprehensives. Our education correspondent, David Smeeton, asked her why:-

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

Let's look at the position from two different standpoints; before today's policy decision what was happening was that the then government was saying Whitehall knows best about the sort of secondary schools you shall have locally. It further went on to say you shall not have new schools until you provide the sort of schools we say. Now, since today's policy decision, we are saying that local education authorities, and parents and electors have some right to a say in the sort of schools they shall have locally and that we're not having any sanctions on their decisions by holding up schools from being built. Indeed, as you know, we have today released some £3 million worth of school building programmes to go full steam ahead.

David Smeeton

[Summary of question] Very firmly in people's minds this also designed to preserve the grammar schools and possibly slow [end p2] up drive towards comprehensive schooling.

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

Well, the difference between then and now is that compulsion has gone and now if people want to go comprehensive, and this has full support, and a number of Conservative authorities have already gone comprehensive, they're free to do so. We really have increased the amount of freedom to local authorities, either to go further comprehensive or, if they think they've got a very good system of education, as it is now, then they can continue with it.

David Smeeton

[Summary of question] This leads us to question of resources. Will education get a greater share of resources, as many teachers and parents hope soon?

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

I quite agree with you, the crucial problem is of resources, and I think it's a great pity that we've got the educational debate onto comprehensives or other types of schools, because this isn't anything like as important as getting more money into the system really at many levels—primary schools and secondary schools, et cetera. As you know, the intention is there to increase educational opportunity, and to try to increase educational expenditure. I can't give any undertakings for this year because, as you know, Iain Macleodthe Chancellor has not yet completed his survey of expenditure, but both he and I have made our intentions very plain that education is a spending area.

David Smeeton

[Summary of question] In the circular you've emphasised need to help primary education. How exactly? [end p3]

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher

Well, I think a number of primary schools are in very bad condition. I go round and see quite a number, and it seems to me that we ought to put top priority on bringing those schools up to standard. As you know, the sort of start a child has can affect his or her whole future. It isn't only in the buildings, sometimes it's in the equipment, the books and the proportion of staff to children. All of those are urgently in need of attention. I can't have more than one priority within the educational budget, so we're putting it right there. [end p4]

(2) Evening Standard, 1 July 1970

Schools Face a Choice …

[Paraphrase of Evening Standard material] LEAs can introduce comprehensive schools if they want, but not compulsory, said Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, new Education Secretary, today on BBC radio.

MT said: “With the new circular the position is that you really are fully entitled to say about what sort of schools you shall have locally.

“If people want a fully comprehensive system, and it demands local support, then they can just as well go ahead under this circular as before.”

“Before today's policy decision what was happening was that the then Government was saying Whitehall knows best about the sort of secondary schools you shall have locally.

“It further went on to say you shall not have new schools until you provide the sort of schools we say.

“Since today's policy decision we are saying local education authorities, and parents, and electors, have some right to a say in the sort of schools they shall have locally and that we are not having any sanctions on their decision by holding up schools from being built.

“Indeed as you know we have today released some £3,000,000 worth of school building programmes to go full steam ahead.

“The difference between then and now is that compulsion is gone and now if people want to go comprehensive and this has full support, and a number of Conservative authorities have already gone comprehensive, they are free to do so.

“We really have increased the amount of freedom to local authorities, either to go further comprehensive or if they think they have got a very good system of education as it is now then they can continue with it.”

On 11-plus— Tory manifesto said 11 was too soon to decide child's future—Mrs. Thatcher said: “If the authorities weren't making provision for late developers then I think one would obviously have to contact them because they are failing in their duty to provide education suitable to the aptitudes and abilities of children.

“Every authority, whatever system of education it has, must provide for the child whose talents develop at a later stage.”

What mattered was not type of institution—but that education it provided suited.

“I took the view—and many educationalists take the view—that if you only had comprehensive schools you would get a lot of neighbourhood schools where, in bad neighbourhoods, you would get not very good schools even though they were called comprehensive.

“Whereas in other neighbourhoods you would get super schools also called comprehensive. The differences would be as great as the differences between schools which are of a different type,” added MT.