§ 6. Mr. MacGregor
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether, in view of his recent circular to local authorities concerning restraint on educational expenditure, especially in relation to four-year-olds and rising fives, he will reconsider his decision not to permit greater flexibility in statutory schooling for the 15–16 year age group.
§ Mr. Mulley
I have no plans to reduce educational expenditure by curtailing the period of statutory schooling for secondary pupils.
§ Mr. MacGregor
Given the increasing frustration, resentment and disillusionment, and the possible waste of resources among the 15–16 age group, coupled with the desirability to increase nursery education facilities for the rising-fives, would not it be better to allow greater flexibility of the statutory school leaving age, thus giving local authorities some discretion to concentrate their resources where they think most desirable, and not insisting on their doing so on statutory ages which many people believe to be increasingly unsatisfactory?
§ Mr. Mulley
I cannot agree with that. In my view, the raising of the school leaving age was one of the few good things done by the previous administration. It would be a retrograde step to revert to arrangements of the kind that the hon. Gentleman suggests. On the other hand, as both my hon. Friends have made clear with regard to nursery education, one of the difficulties is that although, in the rate support grant, we provide for the recurrent costs, local authorities are not spending on education the funds which have been allocated to education. Some Conservative authorities are not taking up their allocations for nursery education, but at the same time they object to the allocations given to other authorities.
§ Mr. Loyden
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the restraint is having a positive effect, especially in my area, where many children who have passed the age of five are not being admitted to schools? Is not this in contradiction of the 1944 Education Act, and will my right hon. Friend say what he intends to do about this situation?
§ Mr. Mulley
I should prefer not to give a legal ruling off the cuff, in answer to a supplementary question. If my hon. Friend will let me have details, I shall look into the position. However, if the children are of statutory school age, the local authorities concerned have a statutory obligation to provide schooling for them.