§ 1. Miss Fookes
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is satisfied with standards of discipline in primary and secondary schools.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Miss Margaret Jackson)
I doubt whether any Minister has ever been wholly satisfied about this. I do not underrate the serious difficulties which can be caused in particular schools by a tiny minority, but we do not believe that these problems are widespread. 2 Teachers accept their professional responsibility to maintain order and discipline, and we have held discussions with them and the local education authorities about what can be done to help.
§ Miss Fookes
Does the hon. Lady appreciate that most teachers find it more difficult to keep order now than they have ever done, and that in some schools the classroom more nearly resembles a battlefield? What practical steps does her Department intend to take?
§ Miss Jackson
I am not sure that I accept that most teachers are finding it more difficult than ever to keep order. I accept that some are. As to practical steps that my Department intends to take, I think, as the hon. Lady must appreciate, the fact that these difficulties, such as they are, arise in the classroom means that they can be solved only in the classroom. Whether that is done initially in the classroom or by the use of special units, or something of that kind, what we are trying to do is to find out which practices local authorities and schools are using that are most helpful and to make sure that knowledge of them is more widespread.
§ Mr. Pavitt
Is my hon. Friend aware of the fact that Sladebrook School, which received a large national Press coverage, is in my constituency of Brent, South? Is she also aware that it is consistent with the traditions of this House that if another Member, in this case the hon. 3 Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson), steps into a neighbouring constituency he extends the courtesy of informing the sitting Member before he makes national Press statements?
Further, is my hon. Friend aware that this school is in a typical inner city area, suffering from not only education but housing, employment and many other problems?
To isolate education by sensational publicity of this kind does a great disservice to many devoted teachers, to a headmaster who was appointed only three years ago, and to many parents who are trying to make Sladebrook a school of which to be proud.
§ Miss Jackson
I accept that my hon. Friend is right in saying that it is frequently not helpful to parents, teachers or children facing enormous problems of this kind if people seek not to help but merely to use them for their own advantage. Much of what has been said about Sladebrook is both inaccurate and singularly unhelpful.
§ Dr. Boyson
Is the Minister aware that I did not make any statement on Sladebrook, despite a dossier being in my hand showing that 40 of the 52 children in the second year there did not know how many days there were in the year, and that only one of the 52 children knew how many yards there were in a mile? I did not make any statement until the director of education in Brent herself agreed that seven out of the nine attacks on teachers in the last three months, two of whom required medical attention, were known to the authority.
The chairman of that governing body said that when things went wrong in that school they could be "b … awful". Only at that point did I appeal for a public inquiry, because I believe that if half the things said in that dossier—of which I should gladly send copies to the Secretary of State—are true it is a disgrace for any children to have to go there and for any teachers to have to teach there, at the moment.
§ Miss Jackson
I should be glad if the hon. Gentleman would send copies of this anonymous document to the Department. I am aware that there is a strong possibility that less than half of the docu- 4 ment is true. As to the hon. Gentleman's name being associated with it, if it was without his knowledge, I am sorry, but this is a matter for the Press.