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We are offering a range of choice and diversity. That will mean that some schools will desire selection but it does not mean that all schools will. We are not looking at compulsion for schools; we want schools themselves to respond to the desires of the parents and to make the choices themselves. We believe that that is the right way forward; but that is not to bring back the grammar schools-secondary modern divide.
Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, perhaps I can bring a little rationality and lack of passion to this debate and point out the insularity of our discussion. In Germany there is a tripartite system and people do not feel a sense of failure. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, that there were problems up to the 1944 Act caused by the parsimony of the party with which I now stand and by the ideology of the parties opposite.
Everywhere in Europe--in Germany post-13 years of age, in France, the Netherlands, and Spain post-16 years of age, there has been diversity of choice without the passion and, dare I say it, the ideological nonsense which has bedevilled English education for the past 50 years. There was passion on both sides and I am merely trying rationality. We must look abroad.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I do not believe that I have been giving an ideological speech, and that is a bit rich coming from the party opposite. That is the party that brought in a system that was trying to bring a sameness to everything and identical provisions to everything. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Pilkington for making the point that diversity is what we should desire. There should be diversity along with equality of esteem between the different types of school and that is what we are seeking to achieve.
Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, I wish the Minister would look back to see what has really happened. He is full of Central Office jargon rather than pure education. He should look at his own county a little more and see what has happened there. He would then realise that he is talking nonsense in so many ways.
I wish to put the record straight so that the Minister realises the situation. For four years I chaired a committee looking at the interests of schools and of the management of schools. I welcome the first part of the Minister's Statement regarding the financing of schools and giving more authority to governors. The whole idea behind the committee was to get the politics out of education and to bring more community involvement into schools. Is the noble Lord aware that 98 per cent. of the parents in my authority get their first choice and that only 0.2 per cent. get their third choice? In my authority there are comprehensive schools, a grammar school, an independent grammar school, which was formerly a direct grant school, a Church grammar school and a technical college with two sixth forms attached to it? There is everything within my authority. We do not want any more choice. The parents in my area are happy with the choices they have. Why try to bring in something else? Where will the money come from? The Government do not have the money. We do not have the money now.
As the noble Lord on the Liberal Benches said earlier, parents want quality. That is what they are crying out for and not the choice that the Government are trying to give them. They do not say "impose"; they say "suggest", but what it means is imposition in some way or other. I ask the Minister to think again or we shall certainly think again when the White Paper is printed and we can read it properly.
Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord and I come from neighbouring parts of the world. I suspect that the authority he refers to is Lancashire. He is right to stress that within Lancashire there is a great deal of choice available to parents. In looking at the map within the White Paper I cannot see the precise boundaries of Lancashire but I can see that there are a large number of grant-maintained schools, both primary and special, and that there are a large number of grant-maintained schools in the secondary sector. There are a large number of independent schools in Lancashire making use of the assisted places scheme. The same is true of all three of those in my own authority of Cumbria. It is also true that there are a large number of technology colleges and language colleges, although I do not think Lancashire benefits from a city technology college. There is choice and there is diversity. I should like to see more choice and more diversity should that be the wish. I do not want the noble Lord to speak on behalf of all of the parents of Lancashire and say that they are totally and utterly satisfied with what they have at the moment. If we can bring them more choice and if we can give them more diversity, that will do a considerable amount towards raising standards and bringing the quality the noble Lord wants, and I want, for the parents of Lancashire and many other LEAs throughout the country.
Lord Addington: My Lords, we have heard a great deal about ideology and people's attitudes. I should like to ask a straightforward question. Can the Minister guarantee that any new funding required either for the construction of a new school or any conversion--there
Lord Henley: My Lords, we are not here talking about new money. I wish I could get that over to the noble Lord's party as well as to the party opposite which first raised the question of £2 billion. At any time, whether we have this White Paper or not, there will always be a need for new schools here and new schools there according to demographic changes up and down the country. If a new town grows up or a town grows faster than others one needs new provision. It is a matter for the local authority or for the FAS to fund that school through the usual mechanisms of money reaching it from the central taxpayer through the Government. Nothing is changing. What we are looking to is giving schools greater choice about how they look at themselves--changing their status--and that need not necessarily cost money as the noble Lord implies it will.
Lord Skidelsky: My Lords, it is worth repeating the point made by my noble friend Lord Pilkington. The position taken up by the Opposition has been very parochial. The comprehensive system which we adopted in the 1960s onwards is almost unique in Europe. Throughout Europe, and not just in the countries mentioned by my noble friend, but in eastern Europe as well, there is much more diversity of provision than we have. They do not do it as inflexibly as we did under the old 11-plus system and they do not do it at the same age. But no one on this side of the House is proposing that that should happen. It is essential to emphasise that point.
Secondly, it is because of our comprehensive experiment that we have had the crisis in standards which the other side accepts as well. Why are we, uniquely in Europe, talking about our crisis in standards? There seems to be a direct connection between that and the sweeping away of the grammar schools in the 1960s and 1970s. This is part of the policy of improving standards. It will be understood by all other countries in Europe, none of which has followed us down the disastrous path which the Opposition parties now want to strengthen.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I am more than grateful to my noble friend for again stressing the point that seems rather difficult to get into the minds of the party opposite. I refer to the importance of diversity and the importance of extending choice through diversity. I know that the party opposite does not like that choice and does not like that diversity, but we believe that offering parents choice about the kind of schools they want and the kind of schools that are appropriate for their children does an enormous amount to involve those parents in their schools and, by so doing, to raise standards. But my noble friend, myself and other noble friends can probably go on saying that until we are blue in the face. We can probably go on saying that we do not want to refight the arguments of the 1950s and 1960s, as I made clear to the noble Lord,
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