HC Deb 31 July 1930 vol 242 cc817-32
Duchess of ATHOLL

I feel it important, inasmuch as there has been no opportunity for discussing the administration of the Board of Education during the past year, to take this opportunity of trying to get rather more detailed and clearer information than has hitherto been given as to the arrangements which the President is making for increasing the supply of trained teachers in the future. I do not approach this question from the point of view of what may be the needs of the country if the school age be raised, because I quite understand that that is not a subject we can discuss to-day, but of the needs of the schools in view of the increasing measures of reorganisation and the steady reduction in the size of the larger classes. Quite obviously, when any expansion of education is in progress the question of prime importance is a supply of efficiently trained teachers, and in the course of the last six or eight months many questions have been addressed to the President from all sides of the House as to the number of additional teachers for whom he has arranged or was in course of arranging. Many answers have been given, and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will forgive me if I say that the numbers which have been mentioned in the replies have been almost as many as the number of questions put. I feel that the House is entitled to have a clear statement of the number of teachers who are actually now in training additional to the usual supply and the number of teachers who will enter the training colleges next autumn and the following autumn.

To take, first, those who are actually now in training in the two-year training colleges in addition to the ordinary supply. In November last we were informed that 1,091 teachers additional to the usual supply had entered those colleges. They should finish their training by July, 1931, but not any sooner. On the 26th March another question was put and a reply was given by the President of the Board to the effect that the output of trained teachers in the summer of 1931 was expected to exceed the output for 1930, that is, the normal output of an ordinary year, by about 1,400, and he added that it was not possible to give the numbers for 1932. That is a very considerable difference, that jump from 1,091 to 1,400. An explanation may possibly be that the second figure includes teachers trained in University training departments, but it certainly requires explanation. On 21st May, the Parliamentary Secretary, in reply to a question, alluded to the 1,014 extra students who had been admitted to the training colleges in 1929. That is a drop from the 1,091 students previously mentioned, and seems to indicate rather serious casualties among student teachers; it also requires explanation in relation to the figure of 1,400 given by the President of the Board in March.

A still more surprising thing was that on the following day, on 22nd May, the President, in giving in reply to a question, the figures of the average annual output of teachers in two-year training colleges over the last four years, gave figures from which it appeared that the additional number of students admitted to those colleges in 1929 was not more than 760 above the average. The first figure given was 1,091, the second 1,400, the third 1,014, the fourth was 760. Finally, the President on the Second Reading of the School Attendance Bill, told the House that in 1930–31 the expected increased output of teachers would be 1,250. There we have no fewer than five figures, all relating to the same period. A rather important point to notice in connection with the figure I have given from the President's speech on Second Reading is his reference to the year 1930–31. In Parliamentary parlance I think that would mean a year ending on 1st April, 1931, and not a year ending in July, 1931, but we know quite well that the teachers admitted to training colleges last September cannot finish their training before July 1931. As a matter of fact, therefore, there can be no additional teachers coming out of the training colleges in what is strictly the year 1930–31, because that would imply that the additional teachers had entered the training colleges in the Autumn of 1928, and we know that no additional teachers were entering the training colleges at that time. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to say which of the five figures given by himself and the President is the correct one for the period ending July 1931, and to say whether I am not correct in thinking that the "1930–31" in the President's speech must be taken as referring to July, 1931, and not April, 1931, as would appear on the face of it.

Then we come to the teachers who may be expected to come out of the training colleges in July, 1932, that is to say, those who will be admitted to the training colleges next September. There, again, we find some discrepancy between various statements. On the 22nd May, the figure which the President gave me as the normal annual output of teachers was 5,700, and he told me that 6,460 students were expected to enter in 1929 and about 6,200 in 1930. That statement meant that an additional 760 are now in the colleges and coming out in July 1931, and that a further number of not more than 500 are expected to enter the colleges this next autumn and to end the course in July 1932. But when I turn to the Second Reading speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I find that he told the House that he thought the expected increase in the number of teachers for 1931–32 would he 950. That is a big jump between the 22nd of May and the figures given on the 29th of May. I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary which of those figures is correct.

We now come to the extra teachers who will leave in July, 1933. Here we have only one figure, i.e., that of the Second Reading speech, and it is 1,800. That is a big jump from the figures for 1932, and, if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I find it very difficult to understand. How can the right hon. Gentleman be so certain that one-and-a-half years hence there will be an additional 1,800 teachers available! Can he corroborate that figure. I have pressed more than once for a statement of how many teachers are expected to come in next year, how many of them are men and how many are women, and how many of them are qualified for ordinary class teaching, and how many will be trained in practical subjects. The right hon.

Gentleman has been quite unable to give me any details in reply to those questions except in regard to the teachers actually in training. Only to-day the President of the Board of Education gave me an answer from which it appears that he is quite unable to say how many of those teachers who may be expected to complete their training in July, 1932 or 1933, are men, and how many of them women.

I feel obliged to say that, in the absence of any practical details, the figures which have been given are very nebulous. The teachers who go to men's colleges are men and those who go to women's colleges are women. In order to obtain the figures which have been given, surely there must have been negotiations with the various colleges, arid yet the President of the Board of Education, in announcing these very sanguine figures, is unable to fill up the details, and he says that he cannot tell us before we separate for the Recess how many are going to the training colleges. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give that information when he replies in the debate. We want to know exactly how many teachers have been arranged for. That is a very practical and a vital question because of the extended demand which arises for teachers as a result of the reduction of large classes. We have been told that for normal expansion alone, 1,750 teachers will be required in 1930–31. Those figures relate only to normal expansion without any question of the raising of the school age. Let us be clear that 1,750 additional teachers will be required during the present financial year.

The President of the Board of Education went on to say that during the last three years the numbers of certificated and special subjects teachers employed in the schools had increased by about 5,000, and he also told us that he had no reason to suppose that the normal expansion of the teaching profession would not meet the normal increase expected in the next three years, which he thought would again amount to 5,000. That statement seems to me to be a very sanguine one. The right hon. Gentleman did not give any positive reason for assuming that there will be 5,000 spare teachers roaming about the country during the next three years. I should have thought that the chances were that, assuming a large number of additional teachers had been absorbed into the profession during the last three years, there would be nothing like 5,000 left to be absorbed in the next three years without additional teachers being trained. I would like to know what are the substantial grounds on which the President of the Board of Education bases that calculation without including additional teachers in course of training.

With regard to unemployed teachers, we have been told that there were 400 unemployed two years' trained teachers last December and 300 with university training. Several months have elapsed since then, and the right hon. Gentleman is not able to tell me how many of those are now unemployed. A statement that there were 700 teachers unemployed last December does not carry us very far considered in connection with the statement that 1,750 will be required in the year ending 31st March next. Again, the right hon. Gentleman told us that in the year 1931–32 normal expansion will require not less than 3,500 more teachers. Besides that it is estimated that 5,000 more will be needed that year on account of the raising of the school-leaving age. To meet the need for these 8,500 teachers we have only the President's expectation that the normal expansion of the profession will be equal to the normal expansion of the demand, and whatever extra teachers may now be in training. By the year 1932–33 the President has told us that the needs of normal expansion will have risen to 5,000, and of the school age to 8,000. To meet these figures we have only the President's expectations and unknown numbers of teachers in training. We do not know how many of this estimated number of teachers are men, how many are women, and how many have been trained in practical subjects.

I submit that it is vital to know the answers to these questions, quite apart from the raising of the school age. The hon. Gentleman knows that reorganisation has been undertaken in the interests of the older children in the primary schools, in order that they shall have instruction suitable to their years, and shall not have to be taught with the younger children. In particular, one of the main reasons for the reorganisa- tion is, surely, to take the bigger boys out of the small schools, in which they are being taught with younger children by women teachers, and to bring them into bigger schools where they will be taught mainly by men. Far be it from me to minimise the value of women teachers in the profession, for it seems to me that we shall always have to have a majority of women teachers, because I think we must look to women to teach, not only the girls, but also the younger children.

I feel strongly, however, that in the case of boys in their teens it is very desirable that their instruction should be mainly in the hands of men, and, as we know, there is at present a serious shortage of men teachers in the profession. I am glad to know that, of the additional teachers who came into the colleges last September, the majority were men. That is very satisfactory, but the difference between the number of men entrants and the number of women entrants is very small, compared with the shortage of men teachers in the profession generally. Towards this shortage of teachers, which will remain after allowing for the additional teachers trained in the next year or two, and for the President's sanguine expectation of 5,000 teachers rising from the ground, as it were, to meet normal expansion, it is suggested that 4,000 women teachers will be available, as I was told in answer to a question, from those who otherwise would be expected to retire on marriage. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary, how is it going to be possible to ensure the benefits to the older boys that we all wish to see from the reorganisation, if it is necessary to depend largely, in teaching those boys, on young married women teachers?

I would remind the Parliamentary Secretary of the stress that is laid in the Hadow Report on the need for more practical instruction, both for boys and for girls. It is no answer to that need for more practical teachers to refer, as the President did, to 500 specialists with high qualifications who might be obtained from the universities. I do not wish for one moment to discount the value of the high qualifications that those teachers might possess, but I would remind the Parliamentary Secretary that, when we want teachers of practical subjects, we are not accustomed to go to the universi- ties to find them. We expect to get from the universities teachers of the academic subjects of the classroom, but the universities are the last places in the country from which we can expect to find the teachers of practical subjects who are needed in such largely increased numbers for these reorganised schools.

9.0 p.m.

Therefore, I feel that the Rouse has a right to be assured as to the exact figures that have been arranged for to date. I can quite understand that it may be difficult to give very exact figures far ahead, but I submit that, if figures are given, they should be consistent, and should be based on negotiations with colleges which either take men or do not take men, or which either take women or do not take women. Therefore, we ought to be given more details about the figures than we have yet had. Again, we ought to know whether many of these teachers, or some of them, who may be looked for from the colleges are teachers in practical subjects. Unless we can be certain that these figures stand on some assured foundation, it seems to me that the position, merely in regard to the needs caused by normal expansion, is distinctly disquieting, while as regards the raising of the school age it seems to me, on the figures that have been given, it is a mockery to expect that raising the school age next year can realise the benefits which everyone interested in education would wise to see that Measure bring.

There is another question that I should like to ask, and that is with regard to the standard of certification for teachers. The hon. Gentleman will, of course, remember that the late President of the Board of Education invited the universities to come to the assistance of the Board and the training colleges on the question of the final examination for certification of men and women teachers, and, as a result of that invitation, to which the universities very cordially responded, joint examination boards were set up by the universities and the training colleges, to arrange for these examinations. Some important reservations, however, were made when the invitation was sent. Two very important reservations were that the Board would continue to inspect training colleges in respect of practical teaching, and that it would have to be convinced that the syllabuses drawn up for the colleges were suitable.

The late President of the Board also indicated that it would be necessary for the Board to assure itself that a uniform standard would be adopted by these various examination boards. No actual steps, however, were taken to set up any standardising body, because it took some time to get the examination boards in being, and it was recognised that the arrangement was made for an experimental period—that it was a system in which the way had to be felt. But I own that I am disquieted to find, on page 54 of the Board's report for this year, a reference to the examinations conducted by these examination boards from which it appears that, in two of the areas at least, the standard recognised for passes has been lower than when the examination was conducted by the Board. The figures indicate that there have only been 58 failures altogether, whereas at the Board's last examination there were no fewer than 269 failures. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to tell the House what steps are being taken to ensure an adequately uniform level between these various examination boards.

It seems to me that the responsibility of the Board in this matter of training teachers is one of the greatest of the responsibilities of that great Department. The Board, in my view, cannot divest itself of responsibility for seeing that teachers in the grant-aided schools of this country are suitably and efficiently trained, so long as Parliamentary grant is taken towards the training of teachers; and, as we know, the Parliamentary grant very largely meets the cost of training teachers. I believe that the universities never made any difficulty about the Board setting up the Secondary Schools Examination Council, which satisfies the Board as to a uniform level for the school certificate examination, and it seems to me that, great as is the Board's interest in the school certificate examination, its interest in the examination and certification of teachers is even greater, because the teacher is the main fulcrum of education, the pivot of it all, and, so long as the Board is responsible for the efficiency of education in this country, it cannot divest itself of responsibility for ensuring that the teachers are efficiently trained.

I would remind the hon. Gentleman that this question of the efficiency of teachers becomes more and more important with every additional student teacher who is brought into the profession. It is clear from another statement earlier in the report that, in order to admit these additional teachers to colleges last autumn, a lower level of candidates had to be taken. It is indeed obvious that that must be the case, and, therefore, it seems to be all the more important that the Board should keep its eye very carefully on the final examination and certification of teachers, because no greater disaster could befall education than that there should he any lowering of the standard of the certificated teacher


I thank the Noble Lady for having given me some measure of notice that she was going to raise some of the points she has raised, but I should have been more glad if she had given me more particulars, especially that she was going to contrast figures which have been supplied to her at various times during the preceding months in order to point out what seems to her to be an inconsistency between the figures. It was important that I should have notice of this because it is rather relevant to know in what form she asked the question on the occasions to which she refers.

Duchess of ATHOLL

I did give the hon. Gentleman verbal notice that 1 could not make out the various figures that have been given me and I was anxious to be clear about them.


I am afraid there has been some sort of misunderstanding between us. I am sure she has not done it intentionally, but it is somewhat inconvenient for me to charge my memory at this moment with all the particulars that she has spoken about and I cannot very well give an explanation with regard to each of the figures that she has invited me to examine, but I can perhaps give one or two as illustrating that it very much depends on the form in which she originally asked the question. Let me take one figure. She asked for an explanation of a figure of 1,400 in relation to students in training colleges. There is a disparity, let us say, between the figure of 1,400 and the figure of 1,250 which my right hon. Friend used in the education debate. That is not difficult to explain. The 1,400 covers the entries for the two years from 1929 onwards, but it also covers the entry of one years students in 1930. That makes a substantial difference, because my right hon. Friend, in the debate on the Second Reading of the Bill, used the figure of 1,250 in a different sense. Let me take again a figure of which she asked an explanation. She took the figure of 1,091. In point of fact, 1,091 represents the extra numbers admitted in 1929 over the ordinary entries. The disparity in the figures is not one that shows any inconsistency at all, but rather indicates that the answers to which the Noble Lady refers had relation to a particular problem which she had in her mind and in no way controverts the figures my right hon. Friend gave in the previous Education Bill debate.

Duchess of ATHOLL

I think the hon. Gentleman will remember that, when I came to the figure of 1,400, I said that might be accounted for by the inclusion of university trainees, but there is still a discrepancy between the answers referring to two year trained teachers of 1,091 given on 7th November, the 1,014 referred to on 21st and the 760 on 22nd May. In every case the question was clearly related to two year training.


The Noble Lady takes me somewhat at a disadvantage. These figures are thrown across at me without any notice and I really cannot answer her as adequately as I should have liked to do if I had had full notice. We can, no doubt, discuss these particular differences at a later stage, but what she really wants to-night is that I should discuss in a few brief moments the problem as to whether we are in fact meeting the situation which must arise in connection with reorganisation by providing an adequate supply of teachers. If I do not follow her in a discussion of the figures about which she has asked me, I am sure she will acquit me of desiring to avoid them. It really arises from the fact that I have not had adequate notice to enable me to examine them. There is one point that I should like to answer quite specifically. She asked whether the figures refer to the end of April or the end of July. They refer to the end of July and not April.

The general point the Noble Lady has raised is one of very great importance. It is as to whether the supply of teachers that will be available will be adequate to the needs of the schools of the country in connection with this great problem of reorganisation. May I remind the House of what my right hon. Friend said on the occasion of the Education Bill a few months ago: I first take the figures of the normal expansion. In the three years ending March, 1930, the numbers of certificated and special subject teachers employed in the schools increased by about 5,000. The normal expansion of the profession met those needs. There seems to be no reason at all to suppose that the normal expansion of the profession will not meet the normal increase in the next three years. There remain the 8,000 additional teachers required arising from the raising of the school age and reorganisation. That figure has been subject to some meticulous examination from the point of view as to whether it is not an exaggerated estimate of the number of teachers that will be available. My right hon. Friend went on in this way: I am expecting the following special output from training colleges; and that is without calculating on any further steps which it may be possible to take to meet the present emergency. In 1930–31 the expected increased output will he 1.250;

Duchess of ATHOLL

The hon. Gentleman says the reference means the year ending July, 1931. That means to say there will not be any additional teachers coming out of the training colleges until July, 1931. This does not mean April?


The end of July—the end of the training college year: in 1931–32, 950; and in 1932–33, 1,800, or 4,000 in all. This leaves 4,000 teachers to be provided from other sources by 1933. There are 4,000 women teachers who have, or will have, retired by that time. There are 1,000 teachers who might be retained after reaching the pensionable age. We can draw from both those sources. There are 500 young teachers unemployed after first leaving college; and it is no exaggeration to say that 500 specialists with high qualifications might be obtained during that period from the universities. These figures give a total possible reserve of 6,000 teachers to meet a requirement of. 4,000."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th May, 1930; col. 1524, Vol. 239.] I understand that the Noble Lady controverts those figures in certain particulars. For instance, she has some doubt as to whether there are, in fact, 500 unemployed teachers available.

Duchess of ATHOLL

I did not say that. I gave the figures of unemployed teachers, but I did not press the hon. Member on that subject. I said that 500 specialist teachers from the universities were no use for the practical side, and that 4,050 married women teachers would be no good for teaching the older boys.


I take the specialist teachers. It is true that in regard to specialist teachers our main fear is as to the position in the future, but while that is true, I want to assure the Noble Lady that there is no reason to suppose that the supply of specialist teachers will be inadequate to meet the immediate needs of the schools. I will give one or two facts concerning the supply of specialist teachers. Let us assume for a. moment that there is an immediate shortage. What is the Board actually doing in order to replenish the supply of specialist teachers? First, there are short courses, as the Noble Lady knows, conducted each year by the inspectors of the Board. There are about 2,500 teachers, mostly head teachers of country schools, who have passed during the last two years through those special courses. Those are courses conducted by the inspectors of the Board. They do not include the short courses conducted by the local education authorities. If you add those courses to those I have already mentioned, it will be obvious to everyone that the supply available must be very considerable.

Duchess of ATHOLL

Are these courses really long enough to insure that a class teacher will be able to emerge a practical teacher?


It may be that one course taken in the summer vacation may not be adequate, but a large number of students, many of them to my personal knowledge, attend the same course for one, two or even three successive years, and that makes them into pretty efficient teachers for undertaking the task of giving specialist instruction in schools, especially in handwork and other practical subjects. There are improvements in process of realisation in the ordinary course of training in the training colleges, and a new development is taking place—I am not claiming that any special merit belongs to this Government—in the direction of affecting closer co-ordination between some of the training colleges and technical institutions in the immediate neighbourhood. I will give a case in point. There is the Nottingham University College which is effecting a pretty close degree of co-operation with the Loughborough Technical College. In that way we are giving teachers a special course in practical mechanics, with some instruction and preparation for understanding industrial life and with opportunities of gaining industrial experience. There are plans for intensive training by using technical institutions so that intending teachers may equip themselves for new tasks which may devolve upon them. I have indicated that we are not overlooking the general need for equipping teachers for special duties which will arise when reorganisation is an accepted thing throughout the country.

I will now say a word or two upon the question of the teaching of domestic subjects. One hundred and twenty-nine teachers of domestic subjects are being trained above the four years average and they are expected to issue in 1931.

Duchess of ATHOLL

They are included in the total of 1091.


I think not. I am giving an answer, subject to correction, of course. In 1932, there will be another 101 additional places offered, and in 1933—though I cannot give the actual figures—we expect that the output will be repeated, and that probably there will be an addition of something like 150. These facts indicate that we are having regard to the need for developing more preparation for teaching in domestic subjects. There are other special subjects for which we are making more preparation. We are doing our best to push forward the development of the teaching of woodwork, metalwork and other practical subjects, including physical training. I am able to give a firm assurance to the Noble Lady, and to the House, that the question of providing for efficient teaching in the new reorganised schools for older children is not being overlooked by the Board in any sense whatever.


Can my hon. Friend give us an assurance that these teachers are being trained to stand up before a class and teach, apart altogether from their knowledge of technical subjects? Are they being given any facilities for learning how to teach?


I agree with my hon. Friend that that is one of the factors which must necessarily occupy the minds of people who are interested in the standing of the handicraft teachers in the schools of the future. It is an important point, and one which ought not to be overlooked. The handicraft teacher of the future ought not to be a person made to feel that he is apart from the rest of the staff of the school. Therefore, it is in the highest degree essential, and we hope that it will be realised in the future, that the handicraft teachers shall be trained people in the fullest sense of the term, but having an extra qualification of being able to teach handicraft or other special subjects. In that way they will be saved from isolation from the rest of the members of the staff. In my judgment—it is only my opinion—one of the ways of safeguarding the status of the fully-trained specialist teacher in the future will be for the local authorities themselves, when they come to appoint heads of schools, to give encouragement to such specialist teachers by considering them for the headship of schools. That will show that they are not debarred from the full measure of promotion enjoyed by their colleagues on the staff.

Duchess of ATHOLL

Is the hon. Gentleman arranging for any additional supply of teachers of that kind apart from domestic science teachers? I think that what he has been speaking about apart from domestic science teachers, has been class teachers who have been getting a special course of instruction. Can he tell us if there are any specialised teachers of woodwork or mechanics who are getting training as teachers?


As far as we possibly can, we are providing as adequate a supply as possible of specialist teachers who are able to take any special subject that may be included in the curriculum of the schools. But at this moment there is not an adequate supply of people specially trained for every given subject. We must, of course, for the time being, make shift with those who have been specially trained, plus the teachers who have taken short courses. In due time, no doubt, we shall be able to say that the supply of people specially trained for special subjects will be adequate to meet the demand.

I am sorry that I have taken up so much time of the House, but I should like to turn from the general assurance I have just given to the final point which the Noble Lady raised. It is the question of the standardisation of the qualifications of teachers who emerge from the various training colleges. She referred to that part of the Education Report of 1929, and said her mind was very much exercised over the fact that there were two areas which, she thought, had fallen short of the general standard. I appreciate her concern, but I think she should take some comfort from the fact that the mere mention of that point in the report indicates that the Board is taking cognisance of it, and, further, that we propose to watch developments very carefully. Not only am I able to give that assurance, but the Board's inspectors who attend, in the various areas, the meetings of the examining bodies, have reported to us that the point has been noted and that the notice in the Report is having the desired effect. They think that the previous standards are likely to be more closely maintained.

The question of standardisation was raised during her time at the Board of Education, and it was then recognised that arrangements for securing it would have to be made. I am happy to tell her that in prosecution of that policy a committee is about to be set up for correlating the work of the various examining bodies so as to effect more easily the standardisation which she desires. I am authorised by the president to say that he has invited Mr. Mayor, a distinguished ex-servant of the Board of Education, who has already presided over a committee which went into this question, to become chairman of a central advisory committee to examine the matter. I am happy to say that Mr. Mayor has accepted the invitation, and in association with him on the committee there will be representatives of various universities and university colleges, local education authorities, local education authorities providing training colleges, other bodies responsible for training colleges, representatives of teachers and training college staffs. These people are actually being chosen by the various bodies who will be represented, and I have no doubt the committee will set to work as speedily as possible. The fact that Mr. Mayor has accepted the chairmanship will, I am sure, be adequate assurance to the Noble Lady that the work will be well and efficiently done. I have now covered quite briefly the points she has addressed to me. I apologise for having failed to give the precise answer as to the particular figures asked for, but I hope on the general question I have given a firm assurance that the work is being well looked after.

Duchess of ATHOLL

I am sorry I did not make it clear to the hon. Gentleman beforehand exactly what points I wished to raise. I am very glad to know of the steps which have been taken towards standardisation of the certificate examination, and to emphasise how fortunate the Board is in having the services of Mr. Mayor as chairman. There could have been no better choice.

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