§ 3.49 p.m.
§ Report stage resumed.31
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, by leave of the House I should like to make two comments, both factual, on what has been said. The first is that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, referred to Luton in a sense which suggested that it was selective. It is not selective at the moment. Secondly, the difference between the figures quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, and mine were so wide that I must repeat my figures, which come from the Department. Of the 72 sixth form colleges and two sixth form centres in operation in September 1976, only three still operated selective admission procedures and, of those, two are moving towards becoming open access colleges. This being a Report stage discussion, I shall not resume the argument.
§ Lord SLATER
My Lords, I rose to my feet prior to the Statement of the noble Lord the Leader of the House in regard to the serious situation in which we find ourselves, in order to follow Lord Belstead. I listened to his opening speech and also to the speech he made later on the Amendment. What was noticeable was that he quoted from an ex-Minister of Education, in the person of Lord Eccles, and he also praised Lord Robbins on the Cross-Benches. He played with the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, because of his knowledge of the educational position in this country prior to his coming to this House. But he had not a word to say in reply to the questions that were posed to him by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, or my noble friend Lady Bacon. Nor had he anything to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Brooke, in regard to the very important question which she put.
There is another aspect which has never been brought within the ambit of consideration regarding the 17s to 19s, quoted in the course of the debate—these young people who are not prepared to go in for their A-levels after being successful in their O-levels. There is one thing being overlooked, in my submission, and it is this. A lot of these young people who have left the sixth form have left the schools, and have not made application to go into these colleges but have gone into industry, have what is known as day release. They go to technical colleges; this is where you are going to get your technologists from and not so much from 32 the universities. It is to the technical colleges that we look these days to produce those young men and women for the future of this country. I do not know whether Lord Belstead will make any reference at all to what was said by Lord Beaumont and my noble friend Lady Bacon, seeing that both of them are educationists in their own right. I was a member of a county council before I became a Member of Parliament, and I say this in all sincerity and without any sense of arrogance. Lord Alexander did not always receive the praise of local educational authorities up and down this country before coming here. I would say to Lord Belstead that he has played his tactics very well on this occasion, but the time will come when he will try such tactics once too often and he will find that he will be brought down. He will find that what he has to say on important issues like this will not come off in the way it has today.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Lord ELTON
My Lords, I trust that the House will indulge me in exercising my normal prerogative. It is a difficult task to reply to this debate. It has in part turned out to be a debate about the merits and demerits of the sixth-form colleges as a means of education. To start at the point of greatest difficulty, I must refer to the third intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, which was by leave of the House. We are in some difficulty about the figures, because although there is a difference between the figures presented by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, this week and those presented by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, this week, there is also a difference between the figures presented by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, this week and the figures presented by him last week. To get a reduction from 14 to three in a matter of seven days is progress of a very high order.
The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has already advised us to look at this carefully because the question is not as simple as it seems to be thought to be in some parts of this House. First of all, I must emphasise to noble Lords who dislike the idea of an increase in the number of sixth-form colleges that, deplorable as their effects may be in some directions, there are those who feel that they are less 33 deplorable than the effects of gargantuan size which in many cases are the alternative in a straight-through comprehensive school covering the whole of the ability range. This, I think, is a point that should be brought home to the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon. And I am sure that my noble friend Lord Belstead had no intention of being discourteous either to her or to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, as the noble Lord, Lord Slater, seemed to think he might have, in not referring to what they had said. He referred in substance to what they had said even if he did not refer to them by name, and perhaps it is the courteous thing to refer to by name only those who have uttered sentiments with which one agrees.
The fact is that come the passage of this Bill, in whatever form, there is going to be an increase of demand for places in sixth form colleges and there is going to be in some cases an excess of demand over availability. We have heard nothing from the Government so far to say on what basis they would allocate the insufficiency of places to the over-sufficiency of pupils applying for them. Is it not going to be on the grounds of aptitude or ability? I shall be very surprised if it is not.
We are in a much more difficult position when we come to examine the noble Lord's reply to the substantive point that I sought to make in my speech in introducing this Amendment. He has said in effect that the admissions criteria for an institution are not the sum of the admissions criteria for the courses which that institution offers. Even if we look at it only in those simple terms, I feel that this is a matter of such importance that it must be decided on an irrefutable authority and one which we have had time to examine. I would have thought that this was something in which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack might well interest himself between now and Third Reading, because if we do not have an assurance of the rectitude of Lord Donaldson's interpretation of this Bill, then, like Lord Alexander, we simply cannot accept the assurance of an intention as being superior to the clear duty of the court to rule in a contrary sense if a case is brought. It does seem to me difficult, and indeed odd, to suggest that if a pupil should arrive at a sixth form college and say, "I want to study history. I have got 34 an O-level in history", he can be brought in; but if he arrives and says, "I want to study history but I have no O-level in history", he can be told that he cannot come in to that college.
What happens if he addresses himself to the head of the college and merely says, "I wish to come to your college. I have no O-levels"? He is then not going to be qualified to enter any course, or indeed the college. On a layman's view, it seems to me prima facie to suggest that a sixth form college is selective if it says that. Indeed, my doubts as to what the noble Lord means by an open college and a non-selective college are deepened by the figures he gave in his last intervention just before my reply. He said that the college at Luton was non-selective. I just wonder what non-selective is in that case, and I shall want to study that against the undertakings that the noble Lord has given as to the intentions of the Government.
What has been said by the noble Lord is so set about with uncertainty that it would be irresponsible to move this Amendment at this stage, since we shall be moving on uncertain ground. As I' said at the last stage, it is the duty of the Government to make clear what is the law and it is for the Government to draft their legislation in such a way that it can be understood outside the courts as well as inside the courts. Therefore, if the noble Lord cannot do better than he has now done, I hope your Lordship, will bear with me if I reserve the right to come back with this Amendment at Third Reading. Frankly, we are not satisfied. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Lord BEAUMONT of WHITLEY moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 2, line 11, at end insert—
("( ) Subject to subsection (1) a Jove, local education authorities shall have. I duty to arrange for the admission of pupils with particular needs to the schools most suitable for them.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, if it is indeed right that I should be sparking to this Amendment at this time—because I too was advised that it would be taken in a different order—I should like to move the Amendment standing in my name. This arises from an argument which we 35 had on Committee stage, I think very largely on a Conservative Amendment. The trouble with that Amendment as the Government saw it, and indeed as I saw it, was that it could have been used to wreck the Bill and to destroy subsection (1). I hope that this Amendment does not have that disadvantage, because it makes subject to subsection (1) what we are trying to put forward. That means that it cannot be used in any way to subvert the comprehensive principle, but it makes a positive virtue of the fact that local education authorities must do their best to arrange the admission of pupils with particular needs to the schools most suitable for them.
§ We shall be told that education authorities do this already, and I am quite prepared to believe that that is so in the great majority of cases—in fact I am sure that they do. But without joining in the competition as to whether we can be most paranoic about odd Secretaries of State, or rebel authorities, I think we are safe in trying to work on a basis that not every local education authority will be entirely faultless, and that there is always a like-lihood, in the bureaucracies of overworked and undersupplied authorities, that these matters are not always looked at with individual pupils quite as carefully as they might. By imposing this duty, I think that we can give a ground for parents and children to stand on when trying to get admission to a particular school for a particularly good reason.
§ It is not my intention to weary the House with a number of instances. I shall merely take one. In the library at Swiss Cottage of Camden Borough there was over the last month—and may be still for all I know—a remarkable exhibition of photographs by two girls aged 8 and 13, the daughters of a professional photographer, who were obviously guided, but not overtly helped, by their parents. The photographs of both of them were extremely good; in fact the photographs of the younger one were perhaps the more outstanding.
§ When it comes to choosing a school for a child like that, obviously it would be right that, if there was a school with good darkrooms and with an art teacher who specialised in photography, the child should go to that school. Although we 36 on the Front Benches here are agreed on the comprehensive principle, I hope that we are also agreed upon the principle of excellence, and that where we find excellence we ought to cultivate it. Here is a situation where a sensible education authority, when appealed to to make this choice in this particular allocation, would do so.
§ But not all education authorities are perfect, although most of them are very good for most of the time. I am sure that noble Lords can think of many other cases, it merely happens that the one I mentioned has come into my experience in the course of the last few months. When we come across a case like that it is right that we should lay an especial duty on the local education authority to make that kind of choice. I cannot see that this Amendment can do any harm to the general principle of the Bill at all. It seems to me that it strikes one of the very small blows which are available for the freedom of choice of parents and children that we should all like to see increased. Therefore, I beg to move.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Baroness STEDMAN
My Lords, we discussed a rather similar Amendment at Committee stage, which was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, but warmly welcomed by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont. On that occasion I explained that the Conservative Amendment would enable local authorities legally to retain their selective systems, and it was then withdrawn. This Amendment, although, similar, has one important difference. Local authorities would have a duty to arrange suitable education for pupils with particular needs, but subject to the comprehensive principle. This Amendment does not share the defects of the former one; in principle it is reasonable but, as I hope to convince the noble Lord, totally unnecessary.
In earlier debates we established the fact that, whether or not the first fourteen lines had been added to Clause 1, local authorities are to have regard to the comprehensive principle,in the exercise and performance of their powers and duties relating to secondary education …In other words, the duty to have regard to the comprehensive principle in no way absolves authorities from their duties 37 under Section 8 of the 1944 Act to offer such variety of instruction and training as is necessary in view of pupils' different ages, abilities and aptitudes. Authorities are already under a duty to provide children with a suitable education, and when the Bill is enacted, they will still be under a duty to continue to do this while having regard to the comprehensive principle—that is, within a school that admits children without reference to ability or aptitude.
As I said during the debate on the previous similar Amendment, the principle in Clause 1 is really quite narrowly drawn: all that it does not allow is the making of special arrangements for the admission of pupils on the basis of their academic ability. It would be permissible for a pupil to be admitted to a school in order to benefit from special facilities if his admission was not governed by his general academic ability and it would remain a duty of the local authority to ensure that each child was provided with an education suitable to his or her needs. It is because this ideal is more readily attainable within a comprehensive system that we support comprehensive rather than selective schools. I hope that in the light of what I have said the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the Amendment; if not, I must ask the House to reject it as being unnecessary.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, has assured us that the Amendment is unnecessary because Section 8 of the Education Act 1944 remains in force and that that lays a duty on authorities to provide schools which are suitable to the age, ability and aptitude of pupils. I accept from the noble Baroness that she means exactly what she says, but I confess that she could have fooled me, considering the reception which our first Amendment had in Committee when we tried to write in Sections 8 and 76 of the 1944 Act and for which it seemed the Government were not particularly enthusiastic. That aside, I have a more positive concern about this issue and it lies within the new draft Manual of Guidance which the Department of Education and Science issued in the summer and to which I referred in Committee.
The reply which the noble Baroness just gave does not seem to be quite in tune 38 with new draft Manual of Guidance, a document which has raised considerable anxieties. As I pointed out in Committee, there is no mention in the new draft of the part which would b played by religion in deciding admissions to voluntary schools. In addition, there is no mention in it of many of the other reasons why parents want their children to go to a particular school; because it is large or small, because it uses new or traditional methods, because it is mixed or single sex or—and this is, I think particularly worrying the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley—because it has especially good teaching in a particular subject. The noble Baroness kindly wrote to me on 20th October on this general point and in her letter she said:You also referred to the draft circular about the admission of children to schools of their parents' choice. Reference to religious factors was omitted quite deliberately, together with reference to other factors of a general kind (e. g. preference for single sex education) because such factors are mainly relevant to the general arrangements made by authorities for allocating places, whereas the draft circular was intended, unlike the old Manual of Guidance, to be concerned with particular cases which might be referred to the Secretary of State.I am grateful to the noble Baroness for writing to me, but I find that passage worrying. Surely it is precisely on the grounds referred to in her letter that particular cases of parental choice get referred to the Secretary of State. It is because parents want a single-sex or denominational school or a small or traditional school that they sometimes come in conflict with their local education authority and eventually the case goes to the Secretary of State under Section 68 of the 1944 Act.
Am I to assume that because there are legitimate reasons for parents wanting choice of school and because they are accepted as being legitimate reasons by the Department of Education and Science, they do not need to be referred to in the new draft Manual of Guidance? I should like to think that I have t tat right, but my hopes were dashed when I read on in the draft manual and, on coming to paragraph 8—which I have quoted before but will repeat—I read:Questions of a school's suitability to the ability and aptitude of a child are not expected to remain of practical significance for much longer as they should not normally arise in the case of admission to a comprehensive school.39 With their obsession for academic selection, I could have understood it if the Government were saying in their draft circular that questions of the ability of a child should not be allowed to arise in the case of admission to a comprehensive school. I would not applaud it, but I could understand it.
As noble Lords have pointed out incessantly in these debates, the aptitude of a pupil may require choice of one school and not of another. I am therefore particularly glad that the Amendment refers to the needs of children. In Committee I gave an example of a dyslexic child I knew who was not making any progress at school and was moved to another school where his need for specialised teaching would be met. Could anybody doubt that that boy had been admitted to his second school on grounds of need, the need in that case of his particular disability? My noble friend Lady Faithfull spoke in previous debates on this subject of children who were not categorised as handicapped but who were in need of special care and education, often in boarding schools, because they had symptoms of maladjustment and were probably backward. Those pupils are placed on grounds of their needs, the needs of their aptitudes and sometimes of their abilities, also.
The point to which I did not receive a reply in Committee was the question of what one does if one has a very gifted child who will obviously make progress in one school rather than in another. Presumably the Bill will prohibit admission to one school rather than the other because the admission of that pupil would be decided on the grounds of his or her need, in this case the need of ability, which can strike at the very root of the life of a very gifted child.
I was particularly glad that Lord Beaumont pointed out that this is not a wrecking Amendment but is subject to subsection (1). It says that there should be the discretion of local authorities to be allowed to take those pupils of whom I have tried to give illustrations into one comprehensive school, if the Government like, and not into another. The Bill, so far as can be seen, will prohibit the placing of a child in one school rather than in another, even if they are comprehensive 40 schools. If I am right on that, then that is the reverse to progress in education and the Amendment would help to rectify the damage which I still believe Clause 1 will do in this respect.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Lord ALEXANDER of POTTERHILL
My Lords, I am sorry that, because of its drafting, I cannot support the Amendment. To place a duty on local education authorities to arrange for pupils to go to particular schools because of their particular needs is not in my opinion a practical proposition; that is, unless one accepts the entire principle of selection over all schools in the area. I should have no objection whatever if it was so drafted that it was not a breach of Clause 1 for a local authority to arrange for the admission of pupils with particular needs to schools most suitable for them. Then one would rest on parental choice.
This is a very real problem. The banding system will not work in practice, in my view, because of the difficulties of transport and the complaints of parents. It would be a very difficult operation. Inevitably, therefore, comprehensive schools will vary a great deal in their nature; they will vary in the range of ability in the schools according to the districts or areas in which they are. I am thinking of the last city in which I administered; the comprehensive school in Fulwood would be very nearly a grammar school while the comprehensive school in the Attercliffe Valley would be a very different comprehensive school indeed.
Obviously if one accepts what is now the amended Clause 1, the provision of Section 76 applies and parents would have the right to say to an authority, "I would prefer my child to go to this rather than that comprehensive school because he has particular needs, "whatever these might he, "and I should be happy if the authority will say we accept that and we agree." He is not required to go to the neighbourhood school, so to speak, if a case can be made. Obviously it would depend on the availability of places in the particular schools. However, to place a duty on the authority to arrange to do that is very different. I do not think it is a practical proposition in terms of administration.
§ Baroness STEDMAN
My Lords, by leave of the House I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has said that this is not a wrecking Amendment. On the other hand, we think it is quite unnecessary and, perhaps I may refresh the memory of the House as to what Section 8(1) of the 1944 Act states. It is that:It shall be the duty of every local education authority to secure that there shall be available for their area sufficient schools—(a) for providing primary education … and (b) for providing secondary education … and the schools available for an area shall not be deemed to be sufficient unless they are sufficient in number, character, and equipment to afford for all pupils opportunities for education offering such variety of instruction and training as may be desirable in view of their different ages, abilities, and aptitudes, and of the different periods for which they may be expected to remain at school, including practical instruction and training appropriate to their respective needs.That part of the 1944 Act still goes side by side with this Bill when it is enacted and we are still subject to it.
So far as the comments which I made in my letter to the noble Lord are concerned, if he had read on it would have said:There is no intention of implying that denominational preferences should no longer play a part in school allocations but as explained in the debate at column 1624 we are going to have another look at the arrangement for allocations for school places and the Secretary of State will, among other things, be reviewing the draft circular to which he referred.I am quite sure that this Amendment is unnecessary. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, that it would be unwise to place a duty on authorities, and I hope the noble Lord might withdraw it.
§ Lord ELTON
If I might intervene briefly, my Lords, to take up a point which the noble Baroness made. She quoted to us in extenso the part of Section 8(1) of the 1944 Act which sets out the duty of a local authority to provide places,… sufficient in number, character, and equipment to afford for all pupils opportunities for education offering such variety of instruction and training as may be desirable …Of course, the whole Bill is concerned about whether children who have the needs meet up with the places that offer the resources they require. Therefore, I do not think that what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, seeks to do is in 42 any way superflous at all. That was the substance of our Second Reading and a good deal of our Committee stage debate, and I am surprised that it seems to be slipping away from us. The ethos of the comprehensive idea, the respectable content of the comprehensive idea, is that you remove from a child the agonising and odious choice between schools with different academic and, therefore, different social connotations and you present the same choice to the child within a school where the choice is no longer odious because it is not publicly discerned.
That is a condensed but recognisable description of the situation. That is what the noble Baroness and her friends seek to do. What we are saying is, "A 1 right"—and I specifically said this at the last stage on this Bill—"if that is what you are seeking to do and if you can do it, well and good." What we want is for children to be well-educated, educated as well as is possible with the resources at our command. But we said that we are not confident that it is physically possible to produce all these different choices in the one school. It becomes very big if you do and we have just had a debate about the sixth-form colleges which arose simply because of the need to make these schools less big.
Another solution is to split them up in some other way. But if you split them vertically instead of horizontally, and split them according to some criterion other than age, then some of the resources you want will be in one school and not in another; the choice will no longer be within the school, and thus the covert choice—to extend the paraphrase I have used—will be an open choice between two schools. Now, obviously, if the comprehensive principle is to survive, it must not be a choice resting upon academic aptitude and ability of the mass of the children, because that brings you back into the bipartite system.
What you have to do is to say that the schools are generally selected without reference to ability and aptitude, but in particular cases—and the noble Lord has wisely used the word "particular" as we did in our first draft—wherethere is a brilliant teacher of music in one school and you have a musically gifted child in another, regardless of any other considerations that particular nerd and 43 we have avoided the use of aptitude and ability) shall be taken into consideration and the child shall be transferred. You cannot say that is not a choice by reference to aptitude and ability and that destroys the principle of the Bill in reference to that school. Here is a child who is admitted to that school in regard to its particular ability for music. I am sorry I chose music, because there is an Amendment covering music already. Let us say it is sculpture or Greek—it does not matter what it is so long as it is a breach of the principle.
The noble Lord has a point and the noble Baroness has not answered it. I did not anticipate that she would because it will be very difficult to do. If the draft which the noble Lord is submitting to the House has the effect that I think it has, as the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill—who is exercising a considerable effect on our debates this afternoon—thinks, then if he is right in this interpretation, and he would seem to be, you could say that every child is a particular child and every child has particular needs. Therefore, we are back to where we tried not to be before; though it might give a certain glow to our political hearts it would be in direct contradiction to the principle of the Bill. That, I know, is not what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, wishes to do, and far be it from me to egg him on to do things which are contrary to his principles. But he has a point and I feel that the noble Baroness has not answered it. It must be answered if unfairness is not to result, and I hope that we resolve this question before the Bill leaves this House.
§ Lord BEAUMONT of WHITLEY
My Lords, one thing is quite clear, and that is that the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, and the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, cannot both be right. It cannot be both unnecessary and impractical. So I should like to take the two arguments separately. I take very seriously the point which the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, has made, but I would say to him that if we cannot find a way in this Bill whereby we can make it more flexible for individual children without breaching the whole principle, we certainly will have failed in this House. I believe we can find such a way. I believe that my Amendment is 44 two-thirds of the way there, if not further. It is my intention to ask the House to divide on this issue and I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, that perhaps he and I could get together in order to bring an Amendment to the Bill, as it will be amended, on Third Reading and to put in an extra qualification if one is needed. It seems to me that what is needed is a qualification about what is practicable for local education authorities. We can pass this Amendment now and then put in an extra qualification if necessary at Third Reading. I believe that would be a very straightforward way of dealing with the matter and would waste less time in your Lordships' House.
To the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, I would merely emphasise what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said. Section 8 of the 1944 Act does not lay a duty on local education authorities actually to help put children into the right schools. What it does is to say that they must provide the requisite number of places in order to deal with them, of particular types over a whole local education authority, which is a very different point altogether. The noble Baroness says that this Amendment is unnecessary, but I think that it ought to be put in because everyone knows—the Government Front Bench knows—that there is considerable worry in this country that what the Government are trying to do is to impose a rigid grey comprehensive system over the whole country. Whatever noises the Conservative Front Bench may be making at this particular moment, the Government Front Bench and myself know that this is untrue; but it is very important in my mind that we should make it quite clear to people that it is untrue and that we should make the system in such a way that it cannot be made true. It was for that reason, and with the assurance to the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, and anyone else who feels the same way he does, that we will examine the possibility and desirability of putting down a further qualifying Amendment at a later stage that I ask the House to divide.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 102; Not-Contents, 53.45
|Airedale, L.||Emmet of Amberley, B.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Amory, V.||Erskine of Rerrick, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Faithfull, B.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Ferrers, E.||Onslow, E.|
|Arran, E.||Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Platt, L.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Glasgow, E.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Glenkinglas, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Banks, L.||Gray, L.||Reigate, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Grey, E.||Rochdale, V.|
|Belstead, L.||Gridley, L.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Berkeley, B.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Sackville, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, B.||St. Davids, V.|
|Byers, L.||Hampton, L. [Teller.]||Sandys, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Hanworlh, V.||Savile, L.|
|Carr of Hadley, L.||Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Sharples, B.|
|Carrington, L.||Harvey of Prestbury, L.||Simon, V. [Teller.]|
|Cathcart, E.||Hylton-Foster, B.||Spens, L.|
|Clancarty, E.||Inglewood, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Kimberley, E.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Kinnaird, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Lauderdale, E.||Sudeley, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Long, V.||Tenby, V.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Lyell, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Macleod of Borve, B,||Thomas, L.|
|De Freyne, L.||Marley, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Denham, L.||Merrivale, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Derwent, L.||Mersey, V.||Vivian, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Monck, V.||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Morris, L.||Ward of North Tyneside, B.|
|Ebbisham, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Eccles, V.||Munster, E.||Wigoder, L.|
|Elles, B.||Newall, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Northchurch, B.||Young, B.|
|Aylestone, L.||Harris of Greenwich, L.||Phillips, B.|
|Bacon, B.||Henderson, L.||Popplewell, L.|
|Birk, B.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Jacques, L. [Teller.]||Shepherd, L.|
|Brimelow, L.||Janner, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Kirkhill, L.||Slater, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Leatherland, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Burntwood, L.||Lee of Newton, L.||Stone, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]|
|Champion, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Summerskill, B.|
|Collison, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Maelor, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Crowther-Hunt, L.||Maybray-King, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Cudlipp, L.||Melchett, L.||Wigg, L.|
|Darling of Hillsborough, L.||Northfield, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Oram, L.||Wise, L.|
|Gordon, Walker, L.||Pannell, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Hale, L.||Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal.)|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Viscount ECCLES moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 2, line 11, at end insert ("or
(c) the provision of education in any school where the arrangements for the admission of pupils are based partly on selection to ensure the most effective use of qualified teachers of mathematics.").
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this Amendment does not open the door to all kinds of exceptions to the general principle in Clause 1. I should not want it to do that. It creates one new exception—mathematics—to be added to music and dancing. When I put down the Amendment, I did not know that, in a matter of days, the Prime Minister would declare himself a strong supporter for the reasons which have prompted my new subsection. In his speech at Ruskin College, the right 47 honourable gentleman made my case for me. The part of his speech which dealt with the decline of standards in mathematics received very wide and favourable publicity and so, with such backing from such an important quarter, it would be grotesque if the Government did not accept the Amendment. It replaces the one which I withdrew at the Committee stage; and, as your Lordships will remember, on that occasion all noble Lords who spoke recognised that the standards of teaching mathematics varied very much from school to school, and in many schools adequate teaching was almost non-existent. It was agreed by all of us that action was required. The Amendment which I then moved sought to divide that action into two parts. It called for the attainment of minimum skills in mathematics to become a statutory aim in all schools—something which the Prime Minister warmly endorsed in his speech—and it provided for the selection of pupils to attend schools where the subject was taught by highly qualified teachers.
§ The Amendment which I am now moving is reduced in scope. It proposes the first essential step towards making an all-round improvement in the teaching of mathematics, and that cannot be done unless the very best possible advantage is taken of all the qualified teachers in this subject that we have at the present time. It needs to be said again and again that the lowering of standards in mathematics has not occurred in the grammar schools but in the primary schools and the non-selective secondary schools. At the Committee stage, the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, with his customary vigour, described the abandonment of elementary mathematics in many primary schools. It was there, he said, in the primary schools, that the rot had set in. That is indeed part of the story, but if the teaching it unsatisfactory in the primary schools that cannot be put right until more boys and girls secure reasonable passes in O-and A-level mathematics and until a fair proportion of them go on to become teachers. I wonder whether your Lord-ships realise that last year 38 per cent. of all students entering colleges of training as teachers did not have a pass at O-level in mathematics. That is the root of the trouble, and we must deal with it as best we can in this Bill.48
§ What has been the result of this long neglect? Thousands of children are leaving primary schools hardly able to do the simplest sums. That was the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, and no one can deny the truth of his statement. When these unfortunate children reach seconday schools, unless they receive remedial teaching in mathematics they abandon the subject as soon as they can. This is bound to happen on a considerable scale because, as your Lordships know, in many non-selective schools there are not enough qualified mathematics teachers to cope with the children who arrive having been well taught in primary schools, let alone the children who arrive knowing next to no mathematics, not even their tables. It would be very interesting to know how many are these deprived innumerate children; and we have to say that we do not know because the authorities do not tell us. If they did, they would have a prodigious row with the parents. But it would not be far out to suggest a figure between 30 and 40 per cent. of the total intake of the non-selective secondary schools.
§ I want to add one or two further points for your Lordships' consideration. The child who leaves school without having mastered the basic skills in mathematics is unlikely to acquire them later in life. Once out in the world, boys and girls may be inclined to educate themselves by reading, by watching TV, by taking up some hobby; but how often do they buckle to and learn elementary mathematics? This job has to be done in the schools if it is to be done anywhere. Yet—and this is my second point—if British industry is to keep up with the rest of the world, young entrants should have received a good grounding in mathematics. The Prime Minister made much of that in his speech last Monday, and, of course, he was right. Numbers are the language of technology. I could not, but industry, at a pinch, can do without music and dancing: industry cannot do without mathematics.
§ Therefore, my Amendment is designed to make it possible to maintain and enlarge the pool of potential mathematicians. I am not driving a coach and horses through the general principle of Clause 1, but in this House we ought to add to music 49 and dancing any further specific exception if we are quite sure that such an exception is in the national interest and that the result could not be attained by any other methods. Of that, my Lords, I think there can be no doubt at all. Selection for mathematics is a very high national priority, at least as high, your Lordships may think, as music and dancing, and it ought to be written into the Bill. Whatever comes out of the Secretary of State's review of mathematics teaching—and we all hope that she will undertake that review with thoroughness and expedition—she will need to have this power in the Bill. Without it, she cannot get very far, and that is why we must put it in now.
§ It may be that the Government will object to my Amendment on two grounds. They may say that, where a comprehensive school does not have sufficient qualified teachers, the pupils wishing to take O-and A-level mathematics can at the age of, I suppose, 14 or 15 be selected and sent to another comprehensive where appropriate teachers are in post. My Lords, do not fall for that argument. The boy or girl with a bent for mathematics shows it early, as the noble Lords, Lord Snow and Lord James of Rusholme, told us on the Committee stage. They need good teaching long before they reach the sixth form. It is not only the children who will suffer from non-selection. Many good mathematicians—I know three or four—are attracted to teaching only when they can teach children all the way to A-level. They are unhappy teaching in the un-selected schools where classes of mixed ability can be the rule up to the age of 14. Noble Lords opposite may be inclined to say, "But how disgraceful! Every graduate teacher ought to be prepared to teach children of every level of ability and aptitude". Perhaps they ought, my Lords, but the facts of life are different.
§ At the Committee stage, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, dismayed some of us when he said that the Government intended all secondary schools to be neighbourhood comprehensive schools. He knows that this means that the good schools will get better and the poor schools will get worse. The reluctance to teach in the poor areas of the qualified mathematics teachers, who can pick and choose where they go because there are so few of them, will become more pronounced, 50 and the result will be that thousands of children in the poor areas will never have a chance to discover their talent in mathematics. This Bill diminishes t le chances of the able children in the working-class areas, and the social consequences are bound to be deplorable. Professional people will not want to live in areas where the neighbourhood comprehensive school is unsatisfactory. Therefore this Amendment is a test case. Do the Government want to see teaching improved and more young people with the basic skill; in mathematics entering industry; or do they prefer to discourage the qualified teachers we have today from staying in the profession and, as a result, to diminish the output of mathematicians for the future? This is a test case by which we shall know whether the Prime Minister's encouraging speech last Monday means business. It is not possible to make any serious impression on the present unsatisfactory state of mathematics teaching unless we can select the able pupils to be taught by the totally insufficient number of qualified mathematicians. I beg to move.
§ Baroness ELLIOT of HARWOOD
My Lords, I should like to support the noble Viscount in the excellent case that he has put for this Amendment. Nobody knows more than he or has more experience and nobody could put the case better. I support it because I have had experience of mathematics in my own family. True, the boy in question did not go to a comprehensive school. If he had gone to a comprehensive school he would have had to fight very hard to get anywhere where he would have received the sort of teaching in mathematics that he obtained in the private sector. Nevertheless, once taught and once reaching a very high stage, he will then be in a position to help to train others if he so wishes. But some effort must be made to bring in this particular skill. My experience as chairman of an education committee for many years was that there were certain schools and certain teachers who were extremely good at mathematics and one was able to see that the children who wanted mathematics teaching got to those schools or to those classes in the schools. But one had to make a selection; there was no other way of doing it. And mathematics teachers wanted to get pupils who would benefit from the kind of skills that they were able to teach.
51 It seems to me that to be so hidebound about the way you deal with these special and important subjects means that you are shutting your eyes to what it is possible to do. I think it is necessary to have a clause of this kind in the Bill. After all, we have it for two other subjects, music and dancing. As my noble friend Lord Eccles has said, this is of vital importance in the development of our industrial life. Unless there is something of this kind in the Bill then, as my noble friend has said, the whole standard will continue to go down. It is going down now and we must stop it from going down. Unless this Amendment is accepted we shall be simply aiding what we are all desperately anxious to stop at the present time. I support the Amendment strongly.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, the noble Viscount, in 75 per cent. of what he was saying, was talking about a serious reality which the Government would not for a moment wish to deny, which is the importance of putting right the present shortage of, particularly, graduate teachers of mathematics. Where we differ is in the view that this Bill is the place to do it. The Amendment would enable an authority virtually to retain its selection procedure on the grounds that it was an effective use of mathematics teachers. The word "partly" does little to mitigate this defect, and in a previous debate I pointed out that in a selective system pupils were only partly selected on academic ability—geographical area, age and sex all played a part in this selection. It is reasonable, however, to use this Amendment to discuss mathematics education in the light of the comprehensive principle, which is something of the greatest importance in our opinion; but if the Amendment is pressed to a vote it must be clearly seen as potentially wrecking. Hence, we shall have to ask the House to reject it.
My Lords, there can be no dispute that mathematics is a vital part of the school curriculum. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister, as the noble Viscount has said, in his speech at Ruskin College on 18th October voiced the concern of all of us that the standards of numeracy of school-leavers shall be such that they have the option to pursue careers in science and technology and to meet the 52 requirements of employers at different levels. But we need facts here. We need to know whether the achievements of the schools genuinely fail to match the needs of industry. There is a letter in The Times today, which most noble Lords will have seen, questioning this. We want to discover whether this is a serious failure to match or a matter of misunderstanding or of minor discontinuities which can be put right relatively easily.
At present there is no objective statistical evidence about national standards in numeracy. Such evidence as there is does not support the conclusion that there has been a substantial fall in standards. The Department of Education and Science has now given its Assessment of Performance Unit the task of developing methods of assessing and monitoring the achievements of children at school. The unit is treating mathematics as a priority area and is building on work already carried out for the Department by the National Foundation for Educational Research—and the noble Viscount will note that this is not a Departmental examination—in preparation for a monitoring system to cover mathematical skills. It is hoped that a start can be made on monitoring performance in mathematics in 1978. The National Survey of Secondary Schools by Her Majesty's Inspectorate is concerned among other things with the development of numeracy in the last two years at secondary schools, as I told your Lordships in Committee. This Survey, based on a 10 per cent. sample of all maintained secondary schools, will go on for 2½ years. These investigations together with information from national monitoring of performance of pupils in mathematics will give us much more evidence of the true situation in our schools.
To turn to the question of the numbers of teachers, the persistent shortage of teachers of mathematics is, of course, a serious problem. I recognise, as I think the noble Viscount does, that there is a vicious circle here. If the schools produce too few entrants to higher education in the shortage subjects, a consequence must be a shortage of teachers of quality in those subjects. This shortage itself is one of the factors which leads to too few pupils 53 studying them to a higher level. In these circumstances there can be no quick or easy remedy. But let me say again what I said in Committee. The number of A-level mathematic passes rose from 37,000 in 1964 to 47,000 in 1974. Over 25 per cent. in 10 years. This does not suggest that the rapid increase in the comprehensive education is having an adverse effect.
Let me explain the extent and nature of the shortage of mathematics teachers. The Department of Education and Science carries out an annual survey of teachers of shortage in secondary schools, based on an inquiry to heads of a 10 per cent. sample of secondary schools. On this basis, the net shortage of mathmeatics teachers was estimated to have declined from 1,140 in 1974 to 720 in 1975. This net improvement reflects the fact that heads report a net surplus of certificated teachers of mathematics. But the heads state their main need as being for graduate teachers of mathematics, and here the picture is more gloomy; the shortage of graduate mathematics teachers increased somewhat, from 1,450 in 1974 to 1,580 in 1975. This is clearly a situation which gives cause for concern.
For a number of years the Department has, on the basis of the results of its surveys, asked teacher training colleges to give priority to the admission of students who want to train to teach mathematics, or other subjects shown in the surveys to be difficult to staff in the secondary schools. The Department also keeps university departments of education in touch with its thinking on these matters. The available figures indicate that entrants to specialist courses in mathematics have not increased as a proportion of total entrants, although mathematics has on the whole been holding its own as a subject. The colleges have also been made aware of the importance of providing adequately for mathematics as part of the training offered to intending teachers of young children. The need to continue adequate provision for the subject has again been emphasised in guidance given to the colleges earlier this year for their forward plans for course provision over the next few years, as the total size of the teacher training system declines and with it the risk that those subjects to which recruitment is difficult will no longer he adequately provided for. These forward plans, co-ordinated on a 54 regional basis, are now being carefully examined by the Department so that further guidance can be given to the colleges if necessary.
One of the main results of the reorganisation of the teacher training system now in progress will be to strengthen the part played in teacher training of institutions with strong mathematics and science Departments. At the same time the establishment of the bachelor of education degree and the diploma of higher education in place of the old teacher's certificate should enable more students with scientific and mathematical backgrounds to opt for teacher training after a period in which they can carry forward these subjects beyond school level. These developments should help to strengthen the place of mathematics in the training system.
There is a further specific point to make on initial training. Noble Lords will know that, when compulsory professional training for graduates wishing to teach in secondary schools was introduced in 1973, it was agreed that new mathematics and science graduates should be exempted from the requirement because of the severe shortage of teachers of these subjects. The Advisory Committee on the Supply and Training of Teachers recommended at their meeting in June last that these exemptions from the training requirement should now be abolished. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State recognises the arguments in principle for professional training; but in the light of the continuing severe shortages in these subjects, and the contribution which untrained graduates are making to the schools, she has now decided or balance that the time is not yet ripe for removing the training exemption. We must encourage as many mathematics and science graduates as possible to teach in our schools.
In several of our previous debates I have been at pains to point out that we are legislating against selection for admission to secondary schools, not against selection for courses followed within those schools. A school whose admission arrangements are in accordance with the comprehensive principle may specialise in certain areas of the curriculum. We should consider this type of specialisation likely to be of overriding importance only at sixth form level; and, of course it may 55 apply to other subjects besides mathematics. One school may develop its mathematics provision; another its provision for languages, music or engineering. And where it is the most convenient way to arrange such matters children from other schools would attend courses at the school with the specialist teaching facilities. This kind of co-operation between schools—and indeed with the further education sector—is to be encouraged.
Authorities must consider carefully their 16–19 provision. We want to make the most effective use of all teachers, not only mathematics teachers. There are several subjects for which teachers are difficult to recruit: mathematics is not unique in this respect. It is clear that certain reorganisation structures lend themselves more readily to the efficient use of specialist teachers. Sixth form colleges and tertiary colleges, catering for 16 to 19-year-olds, and upper schools, catering for 13 to 18 and 14 to 18-year-olds, can bring together pupils and teachers in efficient working ratios for the more advanced levels of work. Nothing in this Bill will prevent reasonable arrangements from making the most effective use of all teachers.
I have spoken at considerable length, which indicates the importance that the Government give to the general point which the noble Viscount has raised. In relation to this Bill, this Amendment is unnecessary and, I fear, potentially wrecking. I hope that the noble Viscount will withdraw it; if not, I must advise the House to vote against it.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Lord WOLVERTON
My Lords, I do not know what the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, will feel regarding taking this Amendment to a Division. If he does so, I will certainly support him. We have been told in this debate and in previous debates that there is a great shortage of mathematics teachers. If there is such a shortage, this branch of the profession will have to be built up and that will take time. In the meantime, I see no other alternative but to have some form of selection. This deficiency must be put right, as the Prime Minister said at Ruskin College last Monday. I fully support the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, in his admirable speech.
§ Lord ALEXANDER of POTTERHILL
My Lords, there is another problem which this Amendment would not solve—not that I am out of sympathy with its purposes. I believe the great problem in possible falling standards in mathematics is not in the secondary schools but in the primary schools. The reason for this, despite repeated attempts which some of us have made in the National Advisory Committee on the Training and Supply of Teachers, is that we have never faced the issue of making O-level mathematics a requirement for all those who wish to enter a college of education. We do so for English. It must be 15 years since I suggested we did so in mathematics but the representatives of the colleges would not accept it because the great majority of teachers going into primary schools are women and they argued that we would lose a great many good women teachers if they were required to take O-level mathematics. I reject that proposition. It is a fact that, whereas our ladies would be ashamed to suggest that they were illiterate, they can smile beautifully and say: "Figures? I haven't a clue". In other words, there is an acceptance among women that not to be numerate is in no way a disgrace—
§ Lord ALEXANDER of POTTERHILL
—and it may apply to some men also. My Lords, I suggest that this is where the attack should be made. In general, graduate teachers of mathematics do not teach in primary schools—that would be quite exceptional. The need, therefore, is an attack in the primary schools which will not cause children at that stage to have an adverse reaction. A teacher who is not interested in mathematics, and not very skilled in the teaching of arithmetic, will transmit a dislike of the subject to the children. That, in turn, will cause them not to pursue the subject subsequently. I venture to suggest that the Department might look carefully at whether the stage has been reached where requirements in mathematics, as well as the requirements in English, for all students entering colleges of education should be imposed.
§ Lord THOMAS
My Lords, I should like to align myself firmly behind the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, for his admirable 57 proposal embodied in this Amendment. In this day and age mathematics is not merely a building block but a foundation stone for education of all kinds. It teaches honesty and produces a mental discipline which is good, and although it may not have the visual or oral glamour of music or dancing, it is essentially an emotional subject. Mathematics can be extremely attractive and sentimental, if properly taught and appreciated. As I say, I should like to align myself whole-heartedly behind the noble Viscount.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Lord BEAUMONT of WHITLEY
My Lords, I must apologise to the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, for having unfortunately missed a small part of his opening remarks. I agreed with 90 per cent. of what he said, and perhaps the 10 per cent. I did not agree with occurred because of my absence during those few minutes. I think the importance of this point has been underlined by every speaker, and not least by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, when he told us about the Government's decision not to remove training exemptions. That is an extremely important decision, which must have been taken under very considerable pressure from the trade unions the other way, and which shows the importance attached by the Government to this problem.
Nevertheless, I do not think this Amendment is in fact the right way to deal with the situation. I am against our putting specific exemptions like this into the Bill. It is very difficult to know when to stop and where to start. In spite of the fact that music and dancing add to the Bill, as a correspondent whom I quoted at an earlier stage said, an almost frivolous air, they have a defence in that there are already specialist schools dealing with those subjects. I think we are going quite a long way towards dealing with the problem in the progress we have already made in this Bill. At an earlier stage your Lordships were good enough to approve the last three lines of sub-section (2)(b) of Clause 1 which gave power to the Secretary of State to make categories of exemptions in the future. That is perhaps a better way of dealing with this problem, rather than taking what are rather technical decisions in this House. At the same time your Lordships have just been good enough to pass my 58 Amendment No. 2, enabling local education authorities to match particular children with need for mathematical teaching with the best mathematical teachers in that area. If your Lordships should pass Amendment No. 13, concerning the Committee of Inquiry which would have the duty of looking into the facts of the situation, then with those three Amendments I have referred to—provided that your Lordships are firm in keeping them in the Bill, whatever happens—we shall have gone a long way towards meeting the point put by the noble Viscount, and we may be doing it in a rather better way.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Lord ELTON
My Lords, I should like from these Benches to welcome with great enthusiasm the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Eccles. I think it is 'fortunate that the Amendment should have been moved by somebody with his distinguished experience, stature and eloquence. I must say that it was not matched in content by the reply gained, although there was a great deal of interest in that. It was noticeable that at Ruskin College last week the Prime Minister said in terms:I am concerned on my journeys to find complaints from industry that new recruits from the schools sometimes do not have the basic tools to do the job that is required.He went on to say that there was concern about the standards of numeracy in school-leavers. It seems to me tint this is a matter of some urgency, when one looks at the economic and industrial scene around us. It also seems that this Bill is designed to accelerate the decline which we detect, and which the noble Lord does not detect, in the standard of mathematics in this country at the present time.
The argument is simple. I can do little more than recapitulate what the noble Viscount has said, but it may be that my approach will be somewhat different. Our resources for the teaching of mathematics are limited and inadequate. The need to make use of them is general and urgent. Surely, as a first step, regardless of any doctrinaire position adopted by any Party, we should at least ensure that wherever possible the children best able to make use of those resources are brought into contact with them. The device of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, for doing that was a sort of shuttlecock between 59 schools with mathematically able children and schools with mathematically able teachers. The noble Lord said that they would be seconded to or could attend courses at other schools. There seems to be a certain absurdity about enrolling children in one school, with the deliberate intention of then ferrying them to another school for a great deal of their school career. Everybody in this Chamber must be aware, as I am, that at an early age one is aware of whether or not one is mathematically able. I was aware of the fact, to my great regret, at the age of 11 or 12. Computers did not exist then to make the analogy, but a lot of my friends had minds like silent and swift abacuses, whereas my own was like a rather jumbled cupboard. Whether it is a matter of heredity or the elective principle I do not know, but I think that among your Lordships the distribution is about the same as it is in constitutional terms. The fact is that by the age of 11 or 12 there are some of us on whom it is not worth wasting the highest mathematical teaching talents; and I am one of them.
The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, and his Party are, it seems, completely "sold" on the comprehensive idea. When one used to ask them why that was, it used to be pretty clear that it was for the purposes of what one may loosely call "social engineering". They looked to it to produce homogeneity in our society. My own view has always been that in the long term it will produce a polarisation far less satisfactory, as a result of neighbourhood schools. But I do not want to tempt the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, to charge me again with making a Second Reading point, so I shall move on. But I would say that in one of the more revelatory passages in our Committee stage the noble Lord disavowed the idea that the motives for comprehensive education were in any way social. Time did not allow for it to be made clear what other motives there could he for this extraordinarily expensive and disruptive reorganisation of our schools. I hope the omission may soon be made good, but even if such an explanation is not forth-coming, which it certainly ought to be, we have to look no further than our Prime Minister for an endorsement of what some of us have been proclaiming for a very long time. He said at Oxford last week: 60There is no virtue in producing socially well-adjusted members of society who are unemployed because they do not have the skills.It may be that this illumination has not yet spread beyond the Prime Minister and the more reasonable occupants of the Benches opposite. It may be that some of them still think that you have to mix pupils up in batches as if they were cement in order to produce a society that is either cohesive or just.
I would refer them first to the pronouncement of their Leader, which I have just quoted and, secondly, to my two certainties about the division between the mathematically gifted and the mathematical dunces. I think that even if they do hold these views it will be seen that they ought not to resist the Amendment of my noble friend. My certainty is that the division between the mathematically gifted and the mathematical dunces follows absolutely no discernible line of social demarcation. It is as clearly in evidence in the most patrician public schools as it is in the most disadvantaged and educationally deprived areas. Therefore selection on grounds of ability or aptitude in this subject will have no effect on the impact of the comprehensive system. The choice will be mathematically determinate but socially random, if T may so express it.
Therefore it is really necessary for the noble Lord to say what he expects of the comprehensive system, other than social advantage for our society, which causes him to reject this principle, which would not upset the social impact of comprehensive reorganisation in any way. If the motive is social egalitarianism that is a recognisable motive, although we do not welcome it. I can only say that to pursue it to the extent of rejecting the advantages which selection in this area would bring to the children on the one hand and to the nation on the other seems to me to be an example of exactly that which I said our Party were set against at the beginning of the debate on this Bill at Second Reading; and that was the universal, blind and undiscriminating application of the comprehensive principle. I believe that my noble friend Lord Eccles summed it up very nicely when he said that the Government's attitude to this Amendment was a test case of the good intentions of their Prime Minister, because he has said that he deplores what appears to be our 61 shortcomings in the mathematical and industrial fields. My noble friend has gone further and said that here is one way in which we can help them.
The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has come forward with a number of interesting aspirations and intentions, but they will not mature until after the Bill has been effective for some time. I note, in passing, that it is not until 1978 that we are to have the statistics from the assessment of performance unit, which he said are the statistics that we lack before we can determine whether or not there is a decline. If he is to say that we should not take this step until we have these statistics, then he is in the position of the captain of a sinking ship with the water washing around our knees, saying: "Stand away from the pumps. You cannot use them, until I have sounded the water in the bilges", because subjectively it is clear, however objectively it may be obscure, that things are not as they should be.
There is also an absurdity in the position of a Government who reject an Amendment, which is as eminently constructive and sensible and as much in the public interest as this, and which is clearly not in breach of the general principles of the Bill, on the grounds that it is in breach of the principles, when they already have music and dancing. It seems to me that they are prepared to educate infant Neros to fiddle, while we destroy ourselves and leave the embryo Einsteins untaught in schools without adequate supervision. I think that their position is regrettable. I think it displays a far greater commitment to ideology than it does to political reality.
I would refer the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, to the article by J. B. Priestley in the Sunday Telegraph only yesterday, which said that common sense dictated that when you found a good school you left it to get on with its job and ideology dictated that you removed it and replaced it with something else. I fear that that is the position that we are in—and he is a veteran Socialist. I think that the Government are here committing themselves far beyond the brief which they originally had. They are now legislating to satisfy their ideologues, who are pushing them on from behind, and they have got out of touch with reality. So I hope that my noble friend is successful in pressing this Amendment.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Viscount ECCLES
My Lords, a really astonishing remark fell from the Minister's lips. I think I have got it right. He said, "Nothing in the Bill will make it impossible to make the best use of all our highly qualified teachers of mathematics". Let me give him just one example to show that that is not so. I know—and lie would know if I told him which I it was—an admirable grammar school in South London which had about 650 girls, a sixth form of 200 and far above the average number of scholarships to universities. Its arms have been twisted, because it has no money to go independent, and it has been compelled to come into the comprehensive system and the sixth form may be reduced to about 60. How does the noble Lord think that that kind of thing can take place, without a number of very highly qualified teachers saying: "I am sorry. I have spent more than half my life teaching sixth forms. I am not the kind of person who can teach children over the whole range of ability. I have had plenty of other offers from the computer industry, or wherever it is, for my mathematical ability, and I am off". That is happening. That is one reason why, at any rate, during the period when there are not the resources to make the new comprehensives really able to cope with the full range of ability, we shall have fewer qualified teachers than we have today.
The second reason—I am sorry, but I said it before and perhaps I did not make myself plain—is that for the production of mathematicians who will become graduates thereafter, and, we hope, return to teaching, it is no good selecting them at the age of 16 and sending them to a sixth form college, where there may be an admirable set of mathematics masters or m: stresses. Unless they learn their mathematics all the way up towards the A-level, they will not be fit and they will probably give up the struggle ever to take A-level at all. That is why selection is still needed now, because if you deny selection you will deny to a very large number of children the opportunity to be taught t y well-qualified teachers before they reach the age of 15 or 16, and in many cases that will be too late. I wish that the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, was here. He understands that far better 63 than I do, and he would put it to your Lordships most convincingly.
I now come to what the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, said. He made the case for this Amendment as no one has ever done. He said, like the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, at the Committee stage, that the rot is in the primary schools. Very well then, he said, the remedy for that is to make O-level in mathematics a condition of a student going to a college of education to train to be a teacher. But how are all these girls to get O-level in mathematics, unless we make the very best use of the highly qualified teachers we have? Any teacher who is going to do any good taking a class for O-level in mathematics, must himself, or herself, have learned mathematics to A-level, or they will not teach O-level at all well. Where are they to come from?
We know that there is a tremendous gap. We could not have had the speech from the Prime Minister, which my noble friend Lord Elton quoted, unless that gap was very widely recognised, and recognised as very serious in the national interest at this time. To carry out the wish of the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, it would be admirable that every student presenting himself, or herself, at a college of education should have an O-level in mathematics. But there will have been
§ the greatest difficulty in bringing those students together, with the inadequate quantity of higher mathematics teachers which we have today. So that to say that this Bill does not damage the situation is something which I do not think anyone in the education world, who is not absolutely prejudiced beyond belief on the political principle, can possibly do.
§ It is equally sad that the need for a massive effort to teach mathematics better should not lead the Government to see that, however many inquiries the Department may make, however many groups are sent here and there and whatever the statistics they find out, that will not do any good unless the able pupils are matched with the inadequate supply of able teachers. We shall simply go on having one report after another and we shall lose a significant number—I do not know how many—of the middle-aged mathematics teachers whom we have in our sixth forms today. Therefore we should put this Amendment in the Bill and let them have an argument in another place, where, if it goes to a vote, the Prime Minister is bound to be in our Lobby.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 96; Not-Contents, 63.65
|Amory, V.||Faithfull, B.||Lyell, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Ferrers, E.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Berkeley, B.||Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Gainford, L.||Marley, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, B.||Glendevon, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Caccia, L.||Glenkinglas, L.||Monck, V.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Gore-Booth, L.||Monson, L.|
|Carr of Hadley, L.||Gray, L.||Morris, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Gridley, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Newall, L.|
|Crawford, and Balcarres, E.||Hankey, L.||Northchurch, B.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Hanworth, V.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Harmar-Nicholls, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Harvey of Prestbury, L.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Hawke, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Derwent, L.||Home of the Hirsel, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.||Pender, L.|
|Ebbisham, L.||Ilchester, E.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Kimberley, E.||Redesdale, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Kings Norton, L.||Reigate, L.|
|Elles, B.||Kinloss, Ly.||Rochdale, V.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Kinnaird, L.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Elton, L.||Lauderdale, E.||St. Aidwyn, E.|
|Emmet of Amberley, B.||Long, V.||St. Davids, V.|
|Sandys, L.||Strathclyde, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Savile, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
|Selkirk, E.||Sudeley, L.||Ward of North Tyneside, B|
|Sharples, B.||Tenby, V.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Snow, L.||Thomas, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Spens, L.||Trefgarne, L.||Young, B.|
|Stamp, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Airedale, L.||Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Maybray-King, L.|
|Allen of Abbeydale, L.||Evans of Hungershall, L.||Melchett, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Fulton, L.||Oram, L. [Teller.]|
|Amulree, L.||Gladwyn, L.||Pannell, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Gordon-Walker, L.||Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal.)|
|Aylestone, L.||Grey, E.||Phillips, B.|
|Bacon, B.||Hale, L.||Platt, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Hampton, L.||Popplewell, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Harris of Greenwich, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Birk, B.||Henderson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Brimelow, L.||Jacques, L. [Teller.]||Simon, V.|
|Brockway, L.||Janner, L.||Slater, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Kirkhill, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Leatherland, L.||Stone, L.|
|Byers, L.||Lee of Newton, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Champion, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Collison, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Cudlipp, L.||McCluskey, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Maelor, L.||Wise, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Lord ELTON moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 2, line 11, at end insert ("; or
(c) the provision of education at any non-maintained school which can afford opportunities for education to a particular pupil which cannot be afforded at a maintained school in that area").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is the lineal successor to an Amendment that I moved at Committee stage as Amendment No. 9, which specifically reserved the right of a local authority to provide boarding education in selective non-maintained schools, and part of the group of Amendments Nos.11 to 13 to which my noble friend Lord Belstead spoke at the same stage. It would have been possible to draft the Amendment now before your Lordships more technically by again naming specifically the existing legislation to be reserved from the effects of Clause 1 of the Bill, but our advice has been that it is more effective and simpler to state instead the functions for which those powers can be employed. This method has also the considerable and somewhat unusual advantage that the resultant passage in the Bill as printed, and hopefully the Act as passed, will appear to mean what it intends to mean.66
§ The effect of the Amendment is to enable local authorities, notwithstanding the contents of Clause 1, to provide education at a non-maintained school where that non-maintained school can afford opportunities for education to a particular child which cannot be afforded at a maintained school in that area. The existing powers to which I refer, and which were referred to earlier by my noble friend and myself, are Sections 9 and 81 of the Education Act 1944 and Section 6 of the Education Act 1955. Together they permit the Secretary of State t D arrange and pay for the education pf pupils from their area in non-maintained schools when they are not able adequately to do so in their own maintained schools.
The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, accepted at Committee stage (col.1420 of the Official Report) that certain authorities are at the moment dependent upon the use of places at non-maintained schools to fulfil their statutory duty to provide suitable education to those children for whose education they are responsible. He later assured us that:
There is no intention on the Government's part to lessen the freedom which the authorities have to give assistance, provided that such assistance is not inconsistent with the comprehensive principle."—[Official Report 6/10/76; col.1421.]
That proviso is exactly at the heart of the matter because it is generally recognised
that the majority of non-maintained schools are selective. I think the House has taken the point that the Bill has the effect of preventing local education authorities laying out their funds to secure education in selective schools. That prohibition clearly holds good whatever the grounds for which the LEA selects the particular children to go to a non-maintained school because the qualification relates to the school and not to the child.
Therefore, I was interested to receive from the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, the letter which she promised to send me—for which I thank her—about the provisions for boarding. She said:
We do not intend to probe into the admission arrangements of non-maintained schools. This would be both impracticable and unnecessary".
It may be impracticable, but I cannot see that under the terms of the Bill it would be unnecessary in the light of the prohibition in Clause 1. The noble Baroness went on to say in her letter:
The important thing is that authorities' decisions to support education, boarding or day, and non-maintained schools should not be based on considerations of ability. If this condition is met authorities will not be in breach of the duties imposed on them by Clause 1.
Taken on its own, that statement seems to me to be a fundamental misreading of the Bill.
§ What the Bill expressly discourages is not the use of any particular selective criteria by the authority but the use by the authority of places in a school which selects upon the criteria of ability and aptitude. Those, as it happens, are precisely the criteria upon which most—though not all—non-maintained schools base their selection. However, I implied that this statement by the noble Baroness might bear a different interpretation if it was not taken on its own. By that I did not mean that it took on a different colour viewed in conjunction with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, at Committee stage. Your Lordships will recall that he said authorities were free to give assistance to non-maintained places only if that was not inconsistent with the comprehensive principle. The noble Baroness has now narrowed that principle quite without any basis in law, that I can detect, to apply only to the authority and not to the school. The context in which that passage 68 of her explanatory letter to me should be set is the context of an earlier paragraph.
§ I may be in a difficulty here owing to an accident that I had with my notes earlier. She stated that there were 11,500 boarding school pupils at non-maintained schools who were being assisted by local education authorities in schools. The force of her argument seems to be that local authorities are only bound to have regard to the general comprehensive principle and may have regard also to a number of other considerations. It imputes to the Secretary of State the power to accept or reject exceptions from the general principle. I apologise to the noble Baroness for not quoting her in extenso—she will probably do so in any case in her reply—but this was the gravamen of what she said; that is, there were a number of general principles to which the local authority could have regard and it was up to the Secretary of State to decide which of these was admissible.
§ In the first instance I would say this: it is perfectly clear to anyone who has followed the debates in either House of Parliament that it is the undisguised intention of the Party opposite to use this Bill to secure as wide an application of the comprehensive principle as possible and that no Secretary of State of their Party is likely to extend such an act of clemency or indulgence, even where it is within her power, except under something approaching duress. Secondly, I must ask the noble Baroness to point out to me exactly where in the Bill she finds the power of the Secretary of State to accept or reject any of the exceptions to the general principle. She inclines to her judicial role in the matter and we should like to be told whence it derives.
§ Thirdly, I have to remind your Lord-ships that the phrase "have regard to" is one fraught with much legal nicety and peril. Your Lordships may see fit to repose confidence in the judgments given in Watt v Kesteven County Council in 1955 and Wood v the London Borough of Ealing in 1966 and assume that the generous intention of the noble Baroness that the local education authorities are left free to have regard to other considerations is soundly based, but I would not counsel your Lordships so to do. I am confident that where they are required 69 to have regard to one general principle by statute and impelled to have regard to another by common sense then the courts probably, and the present Government certainly, will give precedence to the general principle enthroned by the Act over the general principle enthroned by reason.
§ What is more, I think that to rest our expectations of sensible conduct upon the interpretation of the phrase by the noble Baroness at least invites what I would call speculative litigation from those who feel that their authority has had too much regard to one general principle and too little to another which they prefer. This Amendment takes this matter out of the realm of speculation. It removes from the authority the expedient of throwing up their hands in despair when faced with a pupil with specific needs which they are unable to meet. It ought not to be open to them to say, "We recognise that you ought to be in a boarding school because of the circumstances of your family"—or "at a school at a certain altitude because of the circumstances of your health", or "a school of a certain size because of the conditions of your nerves but, alas and alack! we have no such school so here is a bus ticket to the local comprehensive. Good luck."
§ This Amendment leaves it clearly and unequivocally open for them to say that in those and analogous circumstances, "What we cannot provide out of our own resources we can procure for you elsewhere", and the child will be accepted into a non-maintained school at the authority's own expense, to his own advantage and the advantage of the non-maintained sector which the noble Lord has been at pains to say it is no part of the intentions of this Bill to curtail. The intentions behind this Amendment, therefore, are to enable local authorities to take up places in non-maintained schools when those non-maintained schools are selective.
§ It is upon that that the argument hinges; I have read very carefully what was said at Committee stage and I am not in any way convinced that the Bill does not prevent the placing by the local authority of its children in non-maintained schools when it cannot otherwise provide for them. I think it ought to be able to do so; I think it would be reasonable and 70 I think your Lordships would agree with me that it would be unreasonable to deny them the opportunity of doing so. This is not intended as a means o enabling them to place all their children in non-maintained schools and I do not think really on a reading of the Amendment anybody could claim that it was or that it could be so used because that recourse would be held to be unreasonable. This is a reasonable Amendment, it is not politically based, it is intended to help the children and indeed to make, sense of the Government's legislation. I beg to move.
§ Baroness BROOKE of YSTRADFELLTE
My Lords, in rising to support the Amendment which has just been extremely ably moved by my noble friend Lord Elton, I should like to bring before your Lordships' imagination for one moment a case of which I happen to know the facts. Two small girls living in a country area, whose mother had to be moved into a mental home, whose father abandoned them, had to be sent to a non-maintained boarding school in order that they might have a certain sense of security and care in being looked after. These children were of an age that had they been boarded out and sent to the local day comprehensive school I regret to say that owing to influences that were around them there would have been nothing but potential criminal tendencies developed. It is on those grounds—human grounds of the individual child or children—that I feel so strongly this particular Amendment could be accepted. I am certain that they are not in large numb m. s. But there will be cases up and down the country which, through domestic, parental, or some problem of that nature, 'will need special care and special cherishing, which one can deal with only by moving them into a non-maintained boarding school.
§ Baroness FAITHFULL
My Lords, may I support the noble Baroness, Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte, on this. I have dealt with a number of children who can only be sustained in a small school for, say, 30, where there were particular problems with the family and with the child itself. I should very much like to sup port this Amendment.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, if I may deal with 71 the remarks of the two noble Baronesses first, there is nothing in the example given by the noble Baroness, Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte, which is contrary to the practice which the Bill would authorise without this Amendment. I think there is a total misunderstanding here.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the Minister a question before he goes on. What if the children to whom the noble Baroness, Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte, was referring were placed at a boarding school, and the entry to that school did require a level of academic standard—in other words, they were selective?
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, in the absence of other alternatives, in my understanding this would be possible for the local authority to use, just as we have said from the word "go" that boarding is a priority. The local education authority has a duty to provide boarding, if possible, within the comprehensive system, but it may not be possible. This has been the position from the beginning, as I understand it. If this Amendment were to be approved, it would be open to any local education authority to take up any number of places at non-maintained schools, without having regard to the comprehensive principle, whenever they thought that a non-maintained school could offer an "educational opportunity" not available in the maintained sector. This would be a very wide freedom indeed. Of course, the Government are not opposed to widening the range of educational opportunities available as much as possible: that is, indeed, precisely our objective in promoting the current Bill. We do firmly believe, however, that the comprehensive principle should be observed as far as possible in the provision of education—the words "as far as possible" are the governing words here.
It. is for this reason that Clause I exists and it was for the same reason that Clause 5—restoring to the Secretary of State her powers to control the extent to which authorities may make use of the non-maintained sector—was originally included in the Bill. It is our intention to ask our colleagues in another place to 72 restore the powers contained in the original Clause 5 of the Bill, and if this happens we have declared our intention of administering these powers flexibly, giving sympathetic and careful consideration to a range of circumstances in which authorities, for good reason, may wish to make use of the non-maintained sector.
We are firmly opposed, however, to the selection of pupils to attend non-maintained schools on grounds solely of academic ability. If this Amendment were to be accepted, it would be open to any authority to do this simply by declaring that any particular pupil could only receive a particular educational opportunity (in itself an ill-defined and totally subjective concept) at a non-maintained school. This could, moreover, be done on a sufficient scale to undermine the provision of a fully comprehensive system. It is, therefore, not out of any desire to deny opportunities to particular pupils, but only through our wish to see a general improvement in opportunities for all pupils through the observance of the comprehensive principle that I would now ask the noble Lords to withdraw this Amendment. My right honourable friend has indicated her intention to use her powers of control over the use of the non-maintained sector sympathetically; the effect of the Amendment would be to render those powers useless, and to affect adversely the purpose of the Bill. I hope the noble Lord will not feel it necessary to press the Amendment.
§ Baroness PHILLIPS
My Lords, before the noble Lord opposite indicates his wishes in the matter—and I do not wish to throw any spanner in the works—I wonder whether the Minister could tell me what is the situation of the religious schools, the denominational schools, with which I am concerned. I listened to the case referred to by the noble Baroness opposite, and it occurred to me that there might be just such a case where the only school available of a certain denomination was a non-maintained school.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, it is exactly the same as a boarding school. If it is the only available place, it would be up to the local education authority to make use of it, as I understand it.
§ Lord ALEXANDER of POTTERHILL
My Lords, it is perhaps not unusual that I shall find myself speaking in support of both sides of this House from time to time. This Amendment cannot be sustained without destroying the Bill. There are probably three reasons why local authorities use places in non-maintained schools. The first, and much the largest, is the need for boarding education, and we do not have the facilities for boarding education in maintained schools. As I understand it, an assurance that that would continue to be effective has already been given during an earlier discussion. There are a substantial number of these, of the order of about 10,000. The second reason is where there is a special need not necessarily requiring boarding education, but where there is a genuine lack of the necessary facilities in the area of the authority. As I under-stood it, on that again, there was an assurance that that would be acceptable, although I believe it was indicated that it was presumed it would be temporary rather than permanent.
The third reason is that of authorities wanting to select pupils on the grounds of academic ability, and to send them to schools where they feel they will have a greater opportunity than in the schools of their own area. We know authorities where this happens. This Amendment would enable the third principle to operate. On these grounds, it seems to me that the Government must necessarily reject it, but I hope we can have a repeated assurance that the first two grounds would be acceptable, even if Clause 4 were restored to the Bill.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I am very glad to give that assurance.
§ Lord BEAUMONT of WHITLEY
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, said that the objective was to put into effect the comprehensive principle as far as possible. If that were so, I think it would be a bad thing. Luckily, I do not think that it is so in fact. I think that what we are agreed on is that the comprehensive principle ought to be put into practice all over the country, and that we should have a comprehensive system of education in this country. But 74 it appears as a pattern from this Report stage and also from the Committee stage that within that system, we should be making the greatest flexibility for individual children, as much as we possibly can.
What this really boils down to—and the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, put his finger on it, although I dc not agree with him—is whether we are going to be more paranoic about a Secretary of State than we are about local education authorities. I think that in this case we are right to be. It is very much more likely that whatever the present Secretary of State says, there may be another Secretary of State who says something completely different. This is much more likely than that local authorities are going to use money which they now have not got, and which they are unlikely to have. for the next 20 years, as far as I can see, to breach the comprehesive system in a massive manner by sending lots and lots of children to maintained schools because of their academic ability. This seems a nightmare, and one which has no remote likely-hood of happening.
On the other hand, I think the vision of a future Secretary of State not using the powers against local education authorities which he or she is given under this Bill is a very real one. That is why, if very sadly the Government decide they will put back the old Clause 5 in another place, I hope your Lordships will not agree with it. I hope your Lordships will, complete the good work by passing this Amendment today.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
My Lords, am not entirely happy with the assurance, given in good faith I know, by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, to the noble, Lord, Lord Alexander, that where there is a question of boarding need or a genuine lack of the necessary facilities in the area of an authority the Secretary of State will use her powers under the Bill (if the old Clause 5 is put back) to see that authorities can go on taking up places. I am not happy about this for two reasons: first, because the Government have defended their intention to revoke arrangements to take up places at independent schools on the grounds that by the use of these powers local education authorities might seek to avoid complying with the comprehensive 75 principle of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, repeated this view today and it was also effectively dealt with just now by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley.
That is a fundamental misconception of the way in which local education authorities go about their duty to provide education. If possible, authorities will always want to provide their own schools, not least their own sixth forms; but for different reasons, often financial, authorities choose to take up places at independent schools which pupils in the locality have often attended for a great many years. In passing, may I say that surely it is fundamental to the autonomy of authorities that they should be free to decide how to place their pupils at the most suitable schools. In recent years authorities have built up considerable expertise with staff consisting of educational advisers, psychologists, doctors and very often their own inspectors. What is the use of building up a structure like that if an authority is forbidden to use its discretion as to where to place its pupils?
My second reason for being unhappy about the undertaking which the noble Lord has given is connected with the question of boarding need. No one knows more about this than the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, who three years after the Martin Report chaired a committee on the question of boarding education. This evening he has put his finger on what was always held to be the fourth criterion for boarding education, where the special aptitude of the child requires a special training which can only be given by means of boarding education. One is talking about a report which was produced 16 years ago and it is interesting that the Public Schools Commission of 1968 not only accepted the Martin Report categories but elaborated on them and added two more which are particularly relevant to this Amendment. The Public Schools Commission—which, after all, is not notable for its particularly Right-Wing views—held that pupils should be considered for boarding education, and I quote—If the child's aptitude or intended course of study requires some special educational provision not available in accessible day school or college of further education …and the Public Schools Commission added 76 a final criterion to which they said they attached great importance, namely—where there are any other exceptional circumstances which severely impede a child's educational progress".When the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, was replying in Committee to the Amendment on boarding education, the noble Baroness disregarded the fourth criterion of the Martin Report and the recommendation of the Public Schools Commission, and it is for this reason that I am worried also about the undertaking which has been given concerning boarding need. We should get plainly into our minds that it is a limited undertaking.
In addition there are a variety of other reasons, with which I will not weary the House and with which we are all familiar, as to why parents sometimes want their child to go to a non-maintained school. My noble friend Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte and my noble friend Lady Faithfull have mentioned some of them in passing. My noble friend Lady Faithfull made the point on previous debates that you may get children who are in need of boarding education because they arc bordering on being maladjusted, and my noble friend Lady Brooke made the same point. When he was proposing this Amendment my noble friend Lord Elton said that the difficulty here is what happens if unfortunate children of that sort are placed—as is likely—in a non-maintained boarding school which is selective in its intake.
If the Government are going to refuse this Amendment I would suggest that they will be meddling with arrangements which have continued for many years and where schools have often committed themselves to substantial expenditure in order to enlarge or convert, perhaps from single sex to mixed, or simply to improve their premises for the good of children in the area. I happen to live only I z miles away from a very ancient foundation, Woodbridge School, which spent a huge sum of money out of its own pocket in order to provide—and I know the Government will be pleased to be reminded of this—for a totally open sixth form for all pupils of the area. But they cannot be absolutely sure that under old Clause 5 of the Bill the Secretary of State will allow this arrangement to continue. 77 Further, when one considers that 20 per cent. of all sixth form pupils in the country are still at independent schools and that some 35 per cent. of all independent school-leavers go to university one must conclude that sixth form facilities in the independent sector ought to be made available as widely as possible, not as narrowly as possible.
If the Government refuse the Amendment they will be rejecting closer links between the maintained and the independent sectors and will be affirming that what they really believe in is educational monopoly. I think this Amendment is very modest in its effect. In essence it is no more than an extension of Section 8 of the 1944 Education Act which we have written into the Bill, saying that as part of the opportunities of education for pupils authorities should be able to use independent education. This has been the law since 1944. Local authorities have had full discretion in this respect since 1959. I hope we may have persuaded the Government to look with a little more favour on this Amendment than they have suggested during the debate. If not, I very much hope that my noble friend will press the Amendment.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Lord ELTON
My Lords, may I inquire whether the Government Front Bench intend to reply to what my noble friend has said before I reply to the debate?
§ Lord ELTON
My Lords, it would be inappropriate for the same voice to speak twice, but there is more than one voice to cut off anything which the noble Lord wished to say. I wished to say two things myself: first, I notice that whenever there 78 is an Amendment to which the noble Lord and the noble Baroness opposite take particular exception they instantly say that it is a wrecking Amendment. I presume this is because they wish to label it with something which will produce a shout of rage when it goes down the corridor. If they look at the wording—even with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill—it provides for "opportunities for education to a particular pupil". Flow you could expect to use that reasonably to send all your best pupils out of the local authority to non-maintained schools at considerable expense to the rates and in the face of popular hostility among the local electors I do not know. It is not a wrecking Amendment.
The noble Lord laid great stress on the words "as far as possible" being a limitation of the duties of the 13111, but if those words are to have effect or the problem that we are discussing then they would have to occur at line 17 of page 1 of the Bill, because they would have to qualify,the general principle that such education is to be provided only in schools where the arrangements for the admission of pupils arc not based wholly on selection by reference to ability or aptitude.They do not there occur. Thirdly, what the noble Lord says is very welcome in the form of an undertaking, but it is not what the Bill says, and, as I said before, it is to the Bill and not to Hansard that he courts will address themselves when any case is brought before them. Therefore I feel that the noble Lord and the noble Baroness have not answered the case we made. We made it before, we took it away to consider after listening to their arguments and they still have not satisfied us. Therefore I beg to press the Amendment.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 4) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 104; Not-Contents, 54.79
|Airedale, L.||Emmet of Amberley, B.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Amory, V.||Faithfull, B.||Newall, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Ferrers, E.||Northchurch, B.|
|Ashdown, L.||Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Gainford, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Gladwyn, L.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|Barrington, V.||Glendevon, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Glenkinglas, L.||Pender, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Gray, L.||Platt, L.|
|Berkeley, B.||Greenway, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Birdwood, L.||Grey, E.||Reigate, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Gridley, L.||Rochdale, V.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, B.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Hampton, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Byers, L.||Hankey, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Caccia, L.||Hanworth, V.||Sandys, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Savile, L.|
|Carr of Hadley, L.||Hawke, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Cathcart, E.||Hylton-Foster, B.||Sharpies, B.|
|Chelmer, L.||Ilchester, E.||Simon, V.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Kemsley, V.||Spens, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Kimberley, E.||Stamp, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Kings Norton, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Kinnaird, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Lauderdale, E.||Sudeley, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Long, V.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller,]||Macleod of Borve, B.||Vickers, B.|
|Derwent, L.||Mancroft, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Marley, L.||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
|Dudley, E.||Merrivale, L.||Ward of North Tyneside, B.|
|Eccles, V.||Mersey, V.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Monck, V.||Wigoder, L.|
|Elles, B.||Monson, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Morris, L.||Young, B.|
|Elton, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Alexander of Potterhill, L.||Gordon-Walker, L.||Pannell, L.|
|Allen of Abbeydale, L.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal)|
|Ampthill, L.||Henderson, L.||Peddie, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Phillips, B.|
|Bacon, B.||Jacques, L.||Popplewell, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Janner, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Birk, B.||Kinloss, Ly.||Shepherd, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Kirkhill, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Leatherland, L.||Slater, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Lee of Newton, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Stone, L.|
|Champion, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]|
|Collison, L.||McCluskey, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Maelor, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Melchett, L.||Wells-Pestell, L. [Teller.]|
|Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Noel-Buxton, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Evans of Hungershall, L.||Oram, L.||Wise, L.|
|Fulton, L.||Paget of Northampton, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Baroness STEDMAN
My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration of the Bill on Report be adjourned.
§ Moved, That further consideration of the Bill on Report be adjourned.—(Baroness Stedman.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.