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Parental Preferences

Volume 978: debated on Tuesday 12 February 1980

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

9.45 pm

I beg to move amendment No. 7 in page 6, line 25, at end insert

'in that authority or any other authority'.

No. 8, in page 6, line 35, at end add 'or—

'(d) if compliance with the preference would prejudice the provision of efficient education of another child, who lived nearer that school.

No. 9, in page 6, line 35, at end insert

'(d) if compliance with the preference would be incompatible with the arrangements for admission to schools in the authority which are not based wholly or partially on selection by reference to ability or aptitude'.

No. 10, in page 6, line 35, at end insert—

'(d) if compliance with the preference would prejudice the provision of efficient education of another child'.

No. 11, in page 7, line 1, leave out subsection (5) and insert—

'(5) In the event of a local education authority not complying with subsection (2) above by virtue of the provisions of subsection (3)(c) above, the local education authority shall explain to the parent in writing the reasons why the preference cannot be complied with.'.

No. 12, in page 7, leave out lines 4 to 6.

No. 114, in clause 13, page 13, line 37, at end insert—

'(2) The rights and duties of subsection (1) above do not apply if compliance with the proposals of any person or governor of a school would prejudice the provision of efficient education or the efficient use of resources or the arrangements for admission to a proposed school or existing school are based wholly or partly on selection by reference to ability or aptitude.'.

Clause 6, which we are now discussing, concerns the fulfilment of parental preferences. As we noted in Committee, there is no difference in principle between the attitudes held by the two sides of the House towards the desirability of parents having preferences, expressing preferences and wherever possible, having those preferences fulfilled. However, the Bill sets down limitations which can be exercised by local education authorities.

This series of amendments would make the limitations more specific and would require that a local education authority had regard to matters which are not as yet included in the Bill. For example, amendment No. 7 would require that the local education authority should not have to meet the preference expressed by a parent if the compliance with that preference
"would prejudice the provision of efficient education or the efficient use of resources"
in that authority or any other authority. This is in anticipation of the circumstances which could arise as a consequence of the implementation of a later part of the Bill—the provision that has been made for the recoupment of costs between different local education authorities.

This and other aspects of the amendments are intended to ensure that where a parent expresses a preference it is a preference that is based upon a calculation of the educational amenities and opportunities that are available to that parent's children in the area in which they live. It should be in fulfilment of an educational desire for the future of that child, and should riot be employed as a means of hopping from one area to another or from one school to another. For reasons either of commendable interest in their children or, in some cases. because of a misbegotten interpretation of what schools in the area offer, well advantaged or highly articulate parents sometimes abuse the right of preference.

The Government should have no difficulty in accepting that amendment, because it simply expands and defines the restraint which they have already sought to impose by means of the wording of the Bill.

I agree that clauses 1 to 6 are similar to those contained in a previous Bill, but does not my hon. Friend agree that the effect of removing the requirement of an educational plan which measured efficiency of education and efficient use of resources, is that those clauses will be very different from what they would have been in the previous Bill?

I am happy to draw to the attention of the House the new clause which in happier circumstances, and without the guillotine, my hon. Friend would have moved. It is a sort of "War and Peace" new clause in that it continues for two whole sides of closely packed writing. It is an admirable use of the amendment paper, as well as an admirable exercise in Back Bench capacity. It would have been an admirable addition to the Bill, if we had had the opportunity of debating it.

Clause 6, in the right hands, dedicated to the advancement of educational opportunities and the fulfilment of educational preferences, set against the background of the educational plan in the new clause, is an excellent idea. In other hands, set against the background of a Bill that in many other respects provides special advantages for parents who are well able—becauseof their individual material advantages, or the advantages of their own education—to use the Bill to depart from the general non-selective provision in an area, is a different prospect altogether.

We tabled amendment No. 9 to ensure that, if compliance with the preference is incompatible with arrangements for admissions to schools in the authority area, which are not based wholly or partly on selection by reference to ability or attitude, the preference need not be met. We seek to protect the non-selective provision in a particular local education authority area. The great danger arises, especially with the changes that are made in clauses 12 and 13, that schools can be set up. The use of schools can be changed to make a comprehensive, non-selective secondary education system in an area almost totally unworkable by ensuring that within that generally nonselective provision schools can be created that are either selective by tests of ability or attitude, or even, which is much worse in many ways, socially selective on the basis of the taste and not the educational preferences of parents. We see an illustration of that hovering on the horizon. I refer to the Twyford School in Ealing. The danger is that that could become an epidemic throughout many local education authorities. If the Government accepted the additional restraint upon the expression of preferences, the possibility of that occurring would be much smaller. The possibility of maintaining a non-selective pattern of secondary education, which is wholly desirable to the House, would be that much stronger.

I urge the Minister to give sympathetic consideration to this proposition. He recognises—although few Government supporters might agree with him—that, if the comprehensive system is required to live cheek by jowl, side by side, with the selective system, the comprehensive schools become the latter-day equivalent of the secondary modern schools, which no longer exist in many areas. Whatever the aspirations of the Minister to academic excellence—or whatever criteria he employs in the judgment of a school—he would not want the barrel of healthy, green, non-selective apples to be poisoned by the deposit of a rotten selective apple. I hope that he will take the advantage offered by this amendment to ensure that that is avoided.

The next amendment seeks to include a principle of which the Opposition are proud and one which we gladly espouse. I refer to the principle of the neighbourhood school. The shortcomings of neighbourhood schools are attributable largely to the failure, mainly of the Government—having acknowledged the afflictions that some neighbourhood schools in some, especially disadvantaged neighbourhoods experience—to compensate for such disadvantages and to solve the educational problems in those areas.

Apart from those difficulties, the whole idea of the neighbourhood school is laudable. In the overwhelming majority of communities the neighbourhood school is well-established and unexceptionable. It is welcomed and depended on by the community. It is respected and recognised by the community and used for its proper educational and social purposes. It is in areas where there is a diversity of provision, where there is a proximity of secondary schools and secondary provision, that the problem of the neighbourhood school and enmity towards it arises. That should present a challenge. The Government should seek not to avoid the problem but to recognise and move to meet it.

In asking in amendment No. 10 that the preference be restrained if compliance with it would prejudice the provision of efficient education for another child, we are seeking to prevent the creaming off and the mobility that can diminish and possibly destroy the proper provision of education for children whose parents either cannot or will not shift them around between schools.

Amendment No. 11 requires that, in the event of a local education authority not complying with a preference expressed by a parent by virtue of the provisions of subsection (3)(c), because there is a selective secondary school system in its area, that local education authority shall explain to the parents in writing the reasons why the preference cannot be compiled with.

If local education authorities still have selection at the age of 11 for secondary schools, or might take advantage of the Education (No. 1) Bill or this Bill, if a permissive Government give favourable regard to the reinstitution of 11-plus examinations, we want those authorities to provide an explanation to the parents of why a child has not been successful in those selection tests. Notices appear in newspapers, there are letters from directors of education, and announcements are made in school assembly, but no attempt is made to explain to parents that it is the upholding of this deluded system of selection and testing that has meant that some children at the age of 11 are regarded as successes and some as failures.

Local authorities should be faced with the prospect of having a duty to make that explanation to the parents of children who have not been successful in those examinations and to explain why the parents' preference cannot be met. That duty should be imposed on them so that they have to justify their adherence to the educationally insupportable practice of selection by examination at the age of 11.

I recommend my hon. Friends to resist the amendment. It would limit the parental choice, about which we are very concerned, that is built into the early clauses.

On amendment No. 7, a choice must be made without affecting the efficient use of resources in the local authority area in which that choice is made. Acceptance of the amendment would mean that the efficient use of resources would have to be considered in that authority or in any other authority. If a child who lived on the border between authority A or authority B wanted to go to a school in the area of authority B, before that authority could accept the child it would have to

Division No. 174]


[10 pm

Abse, LeoConlan, BernardField, Frank
Adams, AllenCook, Robin F.Fitch, Alan
Allaun, FrankCowans, HarryFlannery, Martin
Anderson, DonaldCox, Tom (Wandsworth, Tooting)Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterCraigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill)Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Armstrong, Rt Hon ErnestCrowther, J. S.Forrester, John
Ashley, Rt Hon JackCryer, BobFoster Derek
Ashton, JoeCunliffe, LawrenceFoulkes, George
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)Cunningham, George (Islington S)Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven)Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)Dalyell, TamGarrett, John (Norwich S)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodDavidson, ArthurGarrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Lianelll)George, Bruce
Bidwell, SydneyDavies, I for (Gower)Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertDavis, Clinton (Hackney Central)Ginsburg, David
Boothroyd, Miss BettyDeakins, EricGolding, John
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough)Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Gourlay, Harry
Bradley, TomDempsey, JamesGraham, Ted
Bray, Dr JeremyDewar, DonaldGrant, George (Morpeth)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Dixon, DonaldGrant, John (Islington C)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)Dobson, FrankHamilton, James (Bothwell)
Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S)Dormand, JackHamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith)Douglas, DickHarrison, Rt Hon Walter
Buchan, NormanDouglas-Mann, BruceHart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Duffy, A.. E. P.Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Campbell, IanDunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale)Haynes, Frank
Campbell-Savours, DaleEadie, AlexHeffer, Eric S.
Canavan, DennisEastham, KenHogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire);
Cant, R. B.Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall)
Carmichael, NeilEllis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)Home Robertson, John
Carter-Jones, LewisEllis, Tom (Wrexham)Homewood, William
Cartwright, JohnEnglish, MichaelHooley, Frank
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Ennals, Rt Hon DavidHoram, John
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)Huckfield, Les
Cohen, StanleyEvans John (Newton)Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Coleman, DonaldEwing, HarryHughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)
Concannon, Rt Hon I. D.Faulds, AndrewHughes, Roy (Newport)

check with authority A that acceptance of the child would not affect the efficient use of resources there. The amendment would import a limitation, massive bureaucracy and a huge abuse of expenditure which we would not wish.

The battle on recoupment tomorrow evening will be exciting, and many of us look forward to it. In North-West London and other areas the question of automatic recoupment, so that there can be movement between schools that were built before the new boundaries were made, is something that parents want. We do not want any limitation on that.

Amendment No. 8 deals with neighbourhood schools. We should all like to see these schools working, but we also know the limitations of neighbourhood schools in many areas of our cities at present—

It being Ten o'clock, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Order [ 29 January] and the resolution this day, to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 242, Noes 315.

Janner, Hon GrevilleMillan, Rt Hon BruceSilkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Jay, Rt Hon DouglasMiller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride)Silverman, Julius
John, BrynmorMitchell, Austin (Grimsby)Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)
Johnson, Walter (Derby South)Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)Soley, Clive
Jones, Barry (East Flint)Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe)Spearing, Nigel
Jones, Dan (Burnley)Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)Spriggs, Leslie
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldMorris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)Stallard, A. W.
Kerr, RussellMorton, GeorgeStoddart, David
Kilroy-Silk, RobertMoyle, Rt Hon RolandStott, Roger
Kinnock, NeilMulley, Rt Hon FrederickStrang, Gavin
Lambie, DavidNewens, StanleyStraw, Jack
Lamborn, HarryOakes, Rt Hon GordonSummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Lamond, JamesOgden, EricTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Leadbitter, TedO'Halloran, MichaelThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Leighton, RonaldO'Neill, MartinThomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Lest or, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)Orme, Rt Hon StanleyThomas, Mike (Newcastle East)
Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West)Owen, Rt Hon Dr DavidThomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Palmer, ArthurThorne, Stan (Preston South)
Litherland, RobertPark, GeorgeTilley, John
Lofthouse, GeoffreyParker, JohnTorney, Tom
Lyon, Alexander (York)Parry, RobertUrwin, Rt Hon Tom
Lyons, Edward (Bradford West)Pavitt, LaurieVarley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. DicksonPendry, TomWainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
McCartney, HughPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)Walker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
McDonald, Dr OonaghPrescott, JohnWeetch, Ken
McElhone, FrankPrice, Christopher (Lewisham West)Wellbeloved, James
McKay, Allen (Penistone)Race, RegWelsh, Michael
McKelvey, WilliamRees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
MacKenzie, Rt Hon GregorRichardson, JoWhite, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Maclennan, RobertRoberts, Allan (Bootle)Whitehead, Phillip
McMahon, AndrewRoberts, Ernest (Hackney North)Whitlock, William
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central)Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)Wigley, Dafydd
McNally, ThomasRobertson, GeorgeWilley, Rt Hon Frederick
McNamara, KevinRobinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
McWilliam, JohnRodgers, Rt Hon WilliamWilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Magee, BryanRooker, J. W.Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Marks, KennethRoper, JohnWinnick, David
Marshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n)Ross, Ernest(Dundee West)Woodall, Alec
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Rowlands, TedWrigglesworth, Ian
Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)Ryman, JohnWright, Sheila
Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn)Sandelson, NevilleYoung, David (Bolton East)
Maxton, JohnSever, John
Maynard, Miss JoanSheerman, BarryTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Meacher, MichaelSheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)Mr. Terry Davis and
Mikardo, IanShort, Mrs RenéeMr. James Tinn.


Adley, RobertBrocklebank-Fowler, ChristopherDunn, Robert (Dartford)
Aitken, JonathanBrooke, Hon PeterDurant, Tony
Alexander, RichardBrotherton, MichaelDykes, Hugh
Alton, DavidBrown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Amery, Rt Hon JulianBrowne, John (Winchester)Eggar, Timothy
Ancram, MichaelBruce-Gardyne, JohnElliott, Sir William
Arnold, TomBryan, Sir PaulEmery, Peter
Aspinwall, JackBuck, AntonyFairbairn, Nicholas
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)Budgen, NickFairorieve, Russell
Atkins, Robert (Preston North)Bulmer, EsmondFaith, Mrs Sheila
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)Burden, F. A.Farr, John
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Butcher, JohnFell, Anthony
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)Butler, Hon AdamFenner, Mrs Peggy
Banks, RobertCadbury, JocelynFinsberg, Geoffrey
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyCarlisle, John (Luton West)Fisher, Sir Nigel
Beith, A. J.Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)
Bell, Sir RonaldCarlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)Fletcher-Cooke, Charles
Bendall, VivianChalker, Mrs LyndaFookes, Miss Janet
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)Channon, PaulForman, Nigel
Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Chapman, SydneyFowler, Rt Hon Norman
Best, KeithClark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Fox, Marcus
Bevan, David GilroyClark, Sir William (Croydon South)Fraser, Peter (South Angus)
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnClarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Freud, Clement
Biggs-Davison, JohnCockeram, EricFry, Peter
Blackburn, JohnColvin, MichaelGalbraith, Hon T. G. D.
Blaker, PeterCope, JohnGardiner George (Reigate)
Body, RichardCormack, PatrickGardner, Edward (South Fylde)
Bonsor, Sir NicholasCorrie, JohnGarel-Jones, Tristan
Boscawen, Hon RobertCostain, A. P.Gllmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)Cranborne, ViscountGlyn, Dr Alan
Bowden, AndrewCritchley, JulianGoodlad, Alastair
Boyson, Dr RhodesCrouch, DavidGorst, John
Bradford, Rev. R.Dean, Paul (North Somerset)Gow, Ian
Braine, Sir BernardDickens, GeoffreyGower, Sir Raymond
Bright, GrahamDorrell, StephenGrant, Anthony (Harrow C)
Brinton, TimDover, DenshoreGray, Hamish
Brittan, Leondu Cann, Rt Hon EdwardGreenway, Harry

Grieve, PercyMarshall, Michael (Arundel)Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)Marten, Neil (Banbury)Shelton, William (Streatham)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Mates, MichaelShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Grimond, Rt Hon J.Mather, CarolShepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)
Grist, IanMaude, Rt Hon AngusShersby, Michael
Grylls, MichaelMawby, RaySilvester, Fred
Gummer, John SelwynMawhinney, Dr BrianSims, Roger
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinSkeet, T. H. H.
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Mayhew, PatrickSmith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Hampson Dr KeithMellor, DavidSmith, Dudley (War, and Leam'ton)
Hannam,JohnMeyer, Sir AnthonySpeed, Keith
Haselhurst, AlanMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)Speller, Tony
Hastings, StephenMills, Iain (Meriden)Spence, John
Hawksley, WarrenMills, Peter (West Devon)Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Hayhoe BarneyMiscampbell, NormanSpicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)
Heddle, JohnMitchell, David (Basingstoke)Sproat, Iain
Henderson, BarryMoate, RogerSquire, Robin
Haseltine, Rt Hon MichaelMolyneaux, JamesStainton, Keith
Hicks, RobertMonro, HectorStanbrook, Ivor
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Montgomery, FergusStanley, John
Hill, JamesMoore, JohnSteel, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)Steen, Anthony
Holland, Philip (Carlton)Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)Stevens, Martin
Hooson, TomMorrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Hordern, PeterMudd, DavidStewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildford)Murphy, ChristopherStokes, John
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Myles, DavidStradling Thomas, J.
Hunt, David (Wirral)Neale, GerrardTapsell, Peter
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Needham, RichardTaylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Hurd, Hon DouglasNelson, AnthonyTebbit, Norman
Irvine, Charles (Cheltenham)Neubert, MichaelTemple-Morris, Peter
Jenkin, Rt Hon PatrickNewton, TonyThatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Johnson Smith, GeoffreyOnslow, CranleyThomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Johnston, Russell (Iverness)Osborn, JohnThompson, Donald
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelPage, John (Harrow, West)Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithPage, Rt Hon Sir R. GrahamThornton, Malcolm
Kaberry, Sir DonaldPage, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)Townend, John (Bridlington)
Kershaw, AnthonyParkinson, CecilTownsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Kimball, MarcusParris, MatthewTrippier, David
King, Rt Hon TomPatten, Christopher (Bath)Trotter, Neville
Kitson, Sir TimothyPatten, John (Oxford)van Straubenzee, W. R.
Knight, Mrs JillPattie, GeoffreyVaughan, Dr Gerard
Knox DavidPawsey, JamesViggers, Peter
Lamont, NormanPenhaligon, DavidWaddington, David
Lang, IanPercival, Sir IanWakeham, John
Langford-Holt, Sir JohnPeyton, Rt Hon JohnWaldegrave, Hon William
Latham, MichaelPink, R. BonnerWalker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Lawrence, IvanPollock, AlexanderWalker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Lawson, NigelPorter, GeorgeWaller, Gary
Lee, JohnPowell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)Wallers, Dennis
Le Merchant, SpencerPrentice, Rt Hon RegWard, John
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkPrice, David (Eastleigh)Warren, Kenneth
Lester, Jim (Beeston)Prior, Rt Hon JamesWatson, John
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Proctor, K. HarveyWells, John (Maidstone)
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)Raison, TimothyWells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Rathbone, TimWheeler, John
Loveridge, JohnRees, Peter (Dover and Deal)Whitney, Raymond
Luce, RichardRees-Davies, W. R.Wickenden, Keith
Lyell, NicholasRenton, TimWiggin, Jerry
McCrindle, RobertRhodes James, RobertWilkinson, John
McCusker, H.Ridsdale, JulianWilliams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
Macfarlane, NeilRifkind, MalcolmWinterton, Nicholas
MacKay, John (Argyll)Roberts, Wyn (Conway)Wolfson, Mark
McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)Young, Sir George (Acton)
McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)Younger, Rt Hon George
McQuarrie, AlbertRost, Peter
Madel, DavidRoyle, Sir AnthonyTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Major, JohnSainsbury, Hon TimothyMr. John MacGregor and
Marland, PaulSt. John Stevas, Rt Hon NormanLord James Douglas-Hamilton
Marlow, Tony

Question accordingly negatived.