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Volume 929: debated on Monday 4 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales what steps he has taken to encourage public debate on that sector of education in Wales within his sphere of responsibility.

I recently chaired a conference in Cardiff attended by about 200 people from all parts of Wales and representing many educational interests, as well as both sides of industry, parents and pupils.

Is the Minister completely satisfied that he is getting a full expression of parental views on all the educational issues involved in Wales? Secondly, will he urge his right hon. and learned Friend to take the utmost care before agreeing to the Welsh Joint Education Committee's recommendation that Wales should have a single examination system for 16-year-olds instead of the CSE and GCE O-level? Will he bear in mind that the Department of Education and Science has not accepted a similar recommendation for England, and that if Wales goes it alone on this it seems that we shall have no means of comparing standards of educational achievement in Wales with those of the rest of the United Kingdom?

To take the latter point first, I am aware of the Welsh Joint Education Committee's views about examinations. I must, however, give them careful consideration and come to no hasty decisions. The decisions must be arrived at between Ministers. As to the hon. Gentleman's first point, there were 70 organisations represented at our conference. Of the 52 people who spoke from the floor, many were teachers and representatives of parents in Wales.

Will the Under-Secretary accept that the great debate on education initiated by the Government is basically a "con" trick in that this great debate is taking place at a time of serious reduction in the allocation of resources to education generally and when we have a high percentage of unemployed young teachers in Wales?

It is not a confidence trick. It is a success as a conference. Two hundred people from all over Wales met to debate an important issue—the future of our children in Wales. The hon. Gentleman should remember that without any doubt many improvements can be made, even during a shortage of resources.

Will the Minister consider organising the showing of the film recently made by the BBC about a comprehensive school in Acton so that Welsh parents and governors of Welsh comprehensive schools may compare our schools with what goes on in the rest of the country?

The hon. Member was a distinguished educationist. I think he is really saying that we are doing quite well in Wales with regard to our schooling. There is no complacency, but there is much to be proud of.

Is my hon. Friend aware that we in Anglesey would welcome television cameras into all our comprehensive schools so that the country may appreciate how successful the system is?