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Secondary Education (Selection)

Volume 932: debated on Tuesday 17 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what percentage of local education authorities are now operating selection-free secondary education.

There are 22 local education authorities, about 23 per cent., in England which no longer operate any selection process whatsoever for entry to their secondary schools. Another 19 per cent. have no selection for maintained secondary schools, and a further 57 per cent. are partially reorganised on non-selective lines.

Although this may represent an improvement over the position of a few years ago, is my hon. Friend seeking any additional powers from the House to ensure that the aim of the Government of establishing non-selective secondary education is achieved?

Will the hon. Lady take note of the fact that the county council which wrote to her regarding the establishment of a sixth form college in Lancashire, which published the letter the day before the county council elections, was soundly beaten when the citizens of Lancashire made their views clearly known on this aspect, which relates to the Question but more particularly to Question 10, for which the hon. Member concerned was not present?

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the words of the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) in 1972 when writing in the Black Paper "Crisis in Education", when he acknowledged that grammar schools and comprehensive schools could not exist side by side? Is she aware that the hon. Gentleman wrote that in those circumstances comprehensive schools were little better than secondary modern schools? Will she press ahead to ensure that we have a comprehensive system rather than comprehensive schools with the best creamed off from them?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. That is one article of the hon. Gentleman's clothing that we are pleased about.

Does the hon. Lady accept that selection within schools will be inevitable for as far ahead as we can see, even if there is not selection between schools? Will she give an undertaking that none of the schemes of enforced comprehensivisation will be allowed to damage the good schools still in existence?

It is our intention not to damage any schools but to make all schools thoroughly good and satisfactory. I do not accept that selection within schools is an automatic necessity.

Does the list of authorities include counties such as Cambridgeshire which, while having largely non-selective systems of their own, still take places at independent schools? Does that not mean that further action is required by my right hon. and hon. Friends?

As I think my hon. Friend knows, this is a matter that we are dealing with in another way under Section 5 of the Education Act 1976. We are asking local authorities to justify their need for places at independent schools.