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Comprehensive Schools

Volume 649: debated on Thursday 23 November 1961

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asked the Minister of Education if he will set up a small committee to carry out a nation-wide survey of comprehensive schools and report on their development, so as to assist local education authorities which are considering the establishment of such schools for the first time.

I agree with the view expressed in the recent report on London comprehensive schools that it would be premature to attempt a considered judgment on the success of this type of school. I have no evidence that local education authorities are unable to obtain advice in particular cases when they need it.

What I was asking for was not a considered judgment but a factual report which would be of benefit to local authorities, who are considering how to get rid of the 11-plus examination and may be unaware of the wide diversity of comprehensive schools which exist and the different techniques and methods being used? As they may also be unaware of the substantial success scored by many of them, would not such a factual report be of great benefit?

I do not see how such a factual report could be of value unless it went into all the circumstances and considered whether this type of school was as good or not as good as other types. That is a very difficult thing to do when they have not had long enough to establish themselves.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman will agree that, although it may be a difficult thing to do, it will be no more nor less difficult later? Valuations of this kind are always liable to be somewhat subjective. Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that, when a local authority embarks on an experiment of this kind, it means a very great deal of wasted time and effort if it has to rely on its own individual contacts to inquire of other local authorities precisely how they have done this, that or the other? The London survey is now two years old. There are schools in other parts of the country which could be treated similarly. Would the right hon. Gentleman please think about this matter again?

I agree with the London County Council against the hon. Lady. I do not think that such a report would be of use at this time.