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Green Paper

Volume 932: debated on Tuesday 17 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she expects to publish her Green Paper on education.


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she intends to publish the Green Paper incorporating conclusions on the great debate on education.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science and Paymaster-General
(Mrs. Shirley Williams)

I have been much encouraged by the interest shown by all sections of the community in the issues discussed during the recent debate. The series of consultations with organisations and individuals has now been completed, and I hope that the Green Paper will be published later this summer.

Does the Secretary of State agree with the general desire to achieve a closer relationship between the education system and industry? Does she accept that one of the difficulties is that so few teachers have real and practical working experience of the outside world? Will the Green Paper take up and deal with the suggestion that entrants to the teaching profession should have a period outside the teaching profession before they take up their jobs?

That matter has been discussed in the consultations with various organisations following the regional conferences. In addition, there are a number of schemes to give serving teachers a period of experience in industry, although it is brief.

Has my right hon. Friend reached the conclusion that the country can ill afford the present degree of diversity in local authority arrangements, in terms both of the records of student progress within schools and of the diversity of the curriculum, bearing in mind the increased mobility of parents?

My hon. Friend has moved into the most difficult area of all. There is no doubt that some of the diversity and innovation that decentralisation makes possible is very valuable. The Green Paper will address itself to the problems of mobility and to how those problems can be solved without abandoning the decentralised system.

May I congratulate the Secretary of State on making off with another article of Opposition educational clothing in her proposed conference on comprehensive schools at York? I hope that the shortcomings and achievements of these schools will be highlighted in the Green Paper. May I also express the hope that we shall have an announcement in the Green Paper about a return to national standards of literacy and numeracy? I hope that we shall have the opportunity of an early debate soon after the publication of the Green Paper.

I am a daily reader of the Labour Party manifesto but I am not so frequent a reader of the Conservative programme. On 17th September, the day after I was appointed Secretary of State, I announced to the assembled Press my intention to hold a conference on comprehensive schools. I was not aware at that time that it was Conservative policy to do so. I suspect that it was not. My conference is to be about the best practices in comprehensive schools with a view to extending them everywhere. The Tory Party conference, as I understand it, is to inquire into whether there should be comprehensive schools. It will therefore serve a different purpose.