asked the Secretary of State for Wales what proportion of fifth-form scholars entered the sixth form colleges during this academic year in those areas in Wales which such colleges exist; how this compares with the proportion of sixth-formers to fifth-formers in neighbouring conventional secondary schools; and whether he will make a statement.
The only sixth-form college in Wales was established in 1972. It has received about 17 per cent. of fifth-year pupils from its catchment area compared with 30 per cent. entering sixth forms in neighbouring secondary schools. By 1977, however, the proportion should approach that of neighbouring schools.
Does my hon. Friend appreciate that that is a disappointing answer? Does he agree that the sixth-form college is a major educational innovation which may bring forth unexpected and unlooked for results? Therefore, before agreeing to any additional schemes, will he make and publish an assessment for the whole community, using comprehensiveness as a criterion?
It is a major innovation. I understand my hon. Friend's concern. I am opposed to selection at any stage of secondary education.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that community colleges with open access for 16-to-18 year-olds are far preferable, both socially and educationally, to sixth-form colleges, and will he ensure that plans for the establishment of such institutions in Wales are expanded?
We in the Welsh Office are in no way bigoted or committed to one line in education. We always take on board experienced remarks such as those uttered by the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas).
Does my hon. Friend agree that the criteria both of comprehensiveness and of open access to the community are satisfied in junior colleges which are situated in what hitherto were colleges of further education?
I am inclined to agree with my hon. Friend about that.