HC Deb 05 December 1968 vol 774 cc1813-4
8. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if, in preparation for the granting of votes at 18, he will seek powers to provide for the teaching in secondary schools of a greater awareness of Parliamentary and municipal democracy and an understanding of its working.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Miss Alice Bacon)

Local education and school authorities are responsible for the school curriculum and I would not be justified in seeking special powers in respect of a particular area of study. Many schools already devote a good deal of time to the study of local and central government and further developments in this area are to be expected. Good teaching—of any subject—which imparts the ability to weigh evidence and arrive at sound conclusions is the best safeguard of democracy.

Mr. Allaun

While appreciating that, may I ask my right hon. Friend if she will take steps to encourage the rapid extension and development of the teaching of civics on a strictly non-party basis?

Miss Bacon

I am fully in agreement with my hon. Friend in wanting to see more of this introduced in schools. A great deal is already being done. We shall be pleased to do anything we can to encourage more. My hon. Friend would agree that special powers for this would be the wrong way to tackle it.

Mrs. Ewing

Has the Minister any information about what proportion of children have the opportunity of choosing this subject? Is she aware that in Scottish schools, where the subject is available, it is one of the most popular subjects? Could she therefore recommend that more senior schools offer this subject?

Miss Bacon

I could not say how many pupils study this subject. In most schools it is one which senior pupils take. I am interested in what the hon. Lady says about Scotland.