Skip to main content

Assisted Places Scheme

Volume 972: debated on Tuesday 23 October 1979

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to bring forward proposals on aid to assisted schools.

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to the assisted places scheme, the establishment of which is provided for in the Education Bill which my right hon. and learned Friend will present to the House shortly.

Is it not outrageous that the Government are going ahead with this wretched scheme to provide an extra £90 million for the tiny 5 per cent. elitist sector in education while making cuts of hundreds of millions of pounds which affect the other 95 per cent. of school children? How can the Minister pretend that this is not the most blatant discriminatory action to create two nations in our education system?

This legislation is discriminatory. It discriminates in favour of poor children who cannot afford to go to such schools. I remind the Opposition that between 1974 and 1978 the percentage of blue collar workers' children who attended universities fell from 28 per cent. to 25 per cent. Practically everything done by the Labour Government since 1974 reduced education chances for working-class children.

Is the Minister aware that the undertaking given yesterday by the Secretary of State at the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association conference that cuts will not be made in education expenditure to provide for the assisted places scheme holds mathematics teachers spellbound? There seems to be a new law in mathematics, that one can take hundreds of millions of pounds out of the State maintained sector and give scores of millions of pounds to the independent sector without there being a connection between the two. Does the Minister expect anybody to believe that nonsense? Does he think that it will be accepted by anyone involved in education administration, by trade unions, or even by public school headmasters?

The money for the assisted places scheme is not drawn from the rest of the education system. The scheme was a specific commitment in our manifesto. Many people in the Labour Party believe in fulfilling manifesto commitments. So do we. A means test will be operated. Therefore, the average cost of sending children to independent schools under the scheme will be approximately the same as the cost of sending them to a State secondary school. The scheme will, therefore, have little effect on the overall budget.

Do not questions such as that asked by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) smack of dubious intent since he and some of his colleagues were educated at public schools? Is this not yet another example of "Do as I say, not as I do"?

I am grateful for those comments. All the recent reports from the inspectorate indicate that there are problems in inner city schools and deprivation among the children there. We are going ahead with the scheme, with those children in particular in mind.