Mr Norman St John-Stevas, Conservative MP for Chelms f rd and Opposition spokesman on education, said in the House of Commons this week that Britain had never spent so much on education — £4,000 million — but dissatisfaction with the system had never been so widespread.
Violence and indiscipline were growing in the schools and fears about declining standards were genuine and profound.
The Education Minister's doctrinaire circular on comprehensive education had succeeded in diverting the enetgies of his Department back into the sterile conflict between comprehensive schools and grammar schools.
Mr St John-Stevas called for an independent inquiry into the relative merits of comprehensive and selective schools and the state of religious and moral education in them. They were under a statutory obligation to provide this, but it was clear that in many schools this obligation was going by default, Mr Reg Prentice. Education mister, said the last week or two had seen the spectacle of Mr St John-Stevas going round the country trying to stir up local resistance groups in the fitht against comprehensive reorganisation, playing the unlikely tole of "some kind of bourgeois Che Guevara," trying to raise the flag of revolt.
He challenged the Conservatives to prove that good schools had been destroyed through going comprehensive.
He said Government support of selective direct-grant schools was anomalous. lie hoped to bring proposals before the House on this particular point "in a matter of a few weeks."
Announcing an inquiry in the government and management of 30,000 schools in England and Wales he said it would concern itself with the relationships between governing bodies and local education authorities, head teachers and their staffs, 'schools and parents. He accepted that there was a bigger demand from teachers and parents for a voice in decisions in schools and said the inquiiy would have a big effect on the future of the educational system.
Norman St John-Stevas —P4.