HC Deb 04 April 1944 vol 398 cc1974-6

It shall be the duty of every local education authority to provide in every school maintained by it, whether county or auxiliary, adequate clerical help so as to relieve the teaching staff of as much clerical and administrative work as possible and the salaries and expenses arising out of such clerical help shall be borne by the local education authority.—[Mr. Ivor Thomas.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Ivor Thomas

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The object of the new Clause is to ensure that there shall be a full-time clerk, or adequate clerical assistance in every school. Since I put the new Clause down there has been a great deal of support for it from the teaching profession. The volume has surprised me, and I am inclined to think that teachers are even more concerned over this than over the question of salaries. There has been, in recent years, a great increase in clerical and administrative duties in schools. These duties are daily, weekly, monthly and annual. Here is a list of daily duties in the elementary schools of my consituency: Registration; checking milk and canteen numbers; the receiving, checking and signing of forms for meals; completing canteen helpers' time sheets; entering attendances on free milk and meals register; filling in cards for children attending the school clinic; attending to correspondence; making entries in the book of the Scripture lesson subject taken, hymn sung and length of lesson. I am not surprised that one headmistress says that, generally, she cannot get to her school work till the afternoon, when the children usually greet her with a pointed "Good-morning, headmistress." There has been a great increase in this burden, and teachers are anxious that they should be kept free for the work for which they were trained. It is true that it is in the power of local authorities to provide clerical assistance already, but here, as in several other matters, the time has come to bring up the lagging authorities to the average standard. For those reasons I hope that the President will see fit to make it a statutory direction.

Mr. Ede

Undoubtedly clerical work in schools has increased, partly owing to war conditions, some of which will disappear with the war, but there will undoubtedly be a more elaborate form of organisation gradually coming into the schools. We have never objected to local education authorities employing clerical assistance in the schools if they think fit. We have gone even further than that, and have issued an administrative memorandum, saying that where it is required it should be supplied, and that any reasonable salaries paid in connection with it will rank for grant. To make it obligatory that there should be clerical help in every school, would be going a great deal too far, but my hon. Friend can rest assured that our influence is all in the direction of seeing that teachers spend as much of their time as possible on their appropriate tasks. Where, therefore, clerical assistance is really needed, we hope that it will be supplied.

Mr. Thomas

The answer given by the Parliamentary Secretary greatly helps the object I hoped to achieve. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Ordered: That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—[Mr. Drewe.]

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.

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