Columnists clash on schools
TWO Catholic MPs clashed during last week's Commons debate on the abolition of direct grants to schools.
Supporting the Direct-Grant Grammar Schools (Cessation of Grant) Regulations, Mr Kevin McNataara, Labour, Kingstonupon-Hull Central, said he supported the Government's policy because it was correct for Catholic children and education in general.
Mr Norman St John-Stevas, Shadow Minister for Education, led the debate by asking for the new regulations to be annulled. He said: "If the regulations are confirmed . . . there will be a major defeat for education, and it will he a major setback for the cause of maintaining and raising the quality of education in our schools."
The academic record of direct-grant schools was unequalled by any other group of schools in the country, he added.
"Thirty-two per cent of the pupils gain university places as against only 20 per cent in independent schools, 19 per cent in maintained grammar schools and 4 per cent in comprehensive schools. "In addition to that university record, 30 per cent of direct grant school-leavers go on to other forms of higher education. That constitutes a unique academic record." He said this had been achieved with a positive saving to the taxpayer, as parents paid directgram schools fees of between £12 million and £15 million:
Mr St John-Stevas promised that the next Conservative Government would reopen the direct-grant school list.
Mr McNamara said it was an Insult to many Catholics teaching in voluntary aided comprehensive, primary and grammar schools to suggest that the quality of education they offered was inferior to that offered in direct-grant schools.
"One terrible aspect about the way that opposition to the Government's policy has been whipped up has been that it is the implication of an attack Upon religion and religious schools.
"Nothing could be further from the truth. If the State wanted to attack the teaching of religion in schools, the existence of any independent direct-grant or voluntary aided school wbuld not stand in its way."
He said Mr St John-Stevas' guarantee that a future Conservative Government would reopen the direct-grant school list was "a load of rubbish."
The Commons passed the Bill by 292 to 249 votes.