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Secondary Education (Trafford)

Volume 887: debated on Tuesday 4 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions he has had with representatives of Trafford in regard to the implementation of a comprehensive system of secondary education; what is the capital cost involved in achieving this changeover; and how soon its share of the necessary resources will be made available by central Government.

My right hon. Friend has had no such discussions with representatives of the authority. He expects to receive shortly the authority's response to Circular 4/74 which called for information about the measures to be taken for comprehensive reorganisation. That circular stressed the importance of making the maximum use of existing buildings and available resources. I cannot yet say what resources will be available for school building in 1976–77 and later years.

Is the Minister aware that the estimated cost of imposing a comprehensive scheme in the Trafford district of Manchester is no less than £4 million, which will fall squarely upon the ratepayers? Is he aware that this is more than eight times as much as the total available for all capital expenditure on education in the coming year? In the circumstances, is he satisfied that the Government have their priorities right in pursuing this element of doctrinaire Socialism when in the case of the Trafford district—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."]—one-fortieth of this expenditure would provide a replacement school for St. Bride's Primary School, which is 100 years old and which has already been condemned as structurally unsound?

I am not aware of the cost of the proposals from the Trafford authority because as yet we have not received the proposals from the authority. As for our priorities, for far too long most of our resources have gone to the gifted and privileged children at the expense of those who are disadvantaged and less gifted. Because we want to get rid of the unfair and wasteful system of selecting children, this is our highest priority—

—and we are expecting a quick response from the hon. Member's authority.

Some of the authorities which have submitted their plans hope to go comprehensive in September next year. Will my hon. Friend's investigations be complete in time for them to do so?

Yes, Sir. We have in mind the desire of most authorities to abolish selection as quickly as possible. We shall deal with all Section 13 proposals as expeditiously as possible.

May I repeat the Opposition's plea to the Minister for a moratorium on the policy of compulsory comprehensivisation of schools? Does he not realise that by insisting on reorganisation and providing no money to do it he is not only lowering standards but bringing the whole idea of the comprehensive school into disrepute?

I reject the hon. Gentleman's suggestion outright, I remind him of a distinguished predecessor of my right hon. Friend, Lord Boyle, who said that the greatest fact in British education was the waste of talent. Waste of talent occurs because we label and segregate our children.