Victims of Middlesex Scheme
SIR.--Since my letter appeared in your issue of July 3, 1 have been hearing from Catholic parents who feel they arc the victims of the Middlesex scheme for grammar school education.
The cases may be classified under three headings: (1) Children whose parents selected three Catholic grammar schools from the Middlesex list of schools, but were offered instead a place in a non-Catholic grammar school; (2) children whose parents selected three Catholic grammar schools, made clear the fact that they did not want an assisted place in a Catholic independent school, but were offered an assisted place just the same; (3) children whose parents selected three Catholic grammar schools. including two which provide free education, but were offered an assisted place in an independent school. It should be made clear that all offers are on a "that or nothing" hasis, and amount to absolute direction.
It is not difficult to see the injustice when a Catholic parent has only the offer of a non-Catholic grammar school for his child, or when he is subjected to a means test (repugnant even to the destitute), and to a financial penalty, simply because the school he selects is chose(' on denominational grounds." But there is more to it than that. It is a verified fact that the Catholic-aided grammar schools in Middlesex (with one exception, because the head teacher knows his rights and has the courage to stand up for them) are directed by the L.E.A. officials to admit each year many non-Catholic pupils, while Catholic pupils are directed by the same officials to non-Catholic grammar schools, or to Catholic independent schools, where the parents have to pay part of the fees after subjecting themselves to a means test. When this scheme-and many people may be forgiven for thinking that it is a scheme in more senses than one-was put before the Middlesex Education Committee for approval over two years ago, the members were asked to endorse proposals which were couched in such apparently innocuous language that their full effect was not then evident. In a year when economy was the general policy, the emphasis was on economy, and the proposals were approved.
The Members were not told that the proposed grammar-education scheme is the very antithesis of the "General Principle to be observed by Minister and by Local Education Authorities" (Section 76 of the 1944 Education Act)-that "pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents" provided that the education is efficient and that unreasonable public expenditure is avoided. "Unreasonable" does not mean, and was never intended to mean, "additional." To many L.E.A. officials the words are synonymous, and they can always get their decisions approved by some committee, or the chairman thereof, without allowing the parents' case to be presented by anyone other than themselves. It IS not surprising that a man of such eminence in these matters as Mr. Chutes Ede, M.P. (Mrs Butler's assistant in the framing of the present educational system) should state in the House of Commons on July 13 that he was amazed at the ingenuity displayed by some L.E.As. in trying to avoid their duties under the Education Acts.
As regards the situation in Birmingham. 1 say this: Catholic parents should not stand idle while proposals to provide extra non-Catholic grammar-school places are being published. Ten or more local electors have the right to object to such pro posals. and cause local enquiry. Catholics should be ready with facts and figures to state at the enquiry that these proposed school places are being provided (at least in part) for atholic children who do not want them, and that Catholic places can he provided at less cost to the L.E.A. than brand new county school places would cost. It can he as easy as that.
Parerits who feel that they have been victimised by the Middlesex scheme for gramme-school education have decided to meet and unite for action to remove the iniquities of the scheme. Further information on this development will gladly be supplied to anyone who is interested. Anyone in a position to make the matter known to the parents of Middlesex assisted-place holders is asked to do so, in order that all may he able to share in the effort and in the resulting reward.
J. J. Bateman. 159 Prestwick Road, Carpenders Park, Herts.