• Secondary Schools • Mr. Wilson and EFTA ON one aspect of secondary education everyone is agreed. It is that it is not good enough. The eleven-plus selection is arbitrary and unwieldy, preferring the smart pupil at the expense of the intelligent and often causing great mental stress.
Mr. Crosland's determination to change the system will, therefore. meet widespread approval. There is clear need, from the purely educational point of view, for a daring and imaginative new experiment to make as vast a change as the Butler Education Act of 1944 did.
Whether comprehensive schools will prove the answer is another question. In any case, a sudden and complete changeover to them, while administratively suitable, would be neither feasible nor desirable. Mr. Crosland is. therefore, right to seek the widest possible consultation and agreement before acting.
But the Government is clearly as much concerned about the sociological as the educational aspects. The secondary modern, grammar and public schools divisions are too water-tight, with no real freedom of interchange. They perpetuate the class distinctions which are the strongest divisive factor in this country.
It is here that the real crux is likely to arise. For while parents will accept the views of the experts as to what is educationally necessary, they will want to retain the right to decide for themselves what is sociologically desirable. Inevitably, then, the comprehensive school question will become a political issue.
On questions like this, the value of the Swiss referendum system is apparent. Lacking it, Mr. Crosland would be advised to proceed cautiously and in full consultation with the local authorities education experts. Our children's education should not he made the shuttlecock of doctrinaire politics on either side.
MR. WILSON has been busily "building bridges" with the Common Market at the meeting of the European Free Trade Association in Vienna this week.
But it is open to question whether he has not, in fact, been widening rather than narrowing the gap between them.
He resurrected a scheme which has already failed—that the Common Market should join EFTA, so forming a single free trade area. This is political dyna mite in Europe, and could blow up any bridge.
True, he said that to unite they would have to make mutual adjustments; but he gave no indication of what these might be. Most important, he gave no indication of what Britain was prepared to do.
It is now far too late—if it was ever early enough for Britain to shilly-shally about going into the Common Market on complicated special terms of her own. Mr. Wilson was told, firmly enough, in Vienna that her EFTA partners expected the import surcharge to be lifted quickly, and this should be example enough of what Europe expects from us.
Mr. Wilson said that "EFTA is one citadel and the Market another. There is no question of one side coming out waving a white flag."
It is high time that he brought Britain out of her isolated citadel prepared to sign the Treaty of Rome immediately it is possible —that is, in the present context. as soon as De Gaulle goes or shifts his ground.
No one is going to object if Mr. Wilson does it waving a Union Jack—but as part of the European community.