HC Deb 01 December 1953 vol 521 cc1117-26

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith.]

11.34 p.m.

Mr. Martin Lindsay (Solihull)

I make no apology for raising the subject of graduate teachers' salaries tonight, although the Minister of Education has not yet received the recommendations from the Burnham Committee. But she will appreciate that this may be the last opportunity of doing so before the Christmas Recess, which will begin three weeks from now, and that she will probably have to take a decision upon the decision upon the recommendations before Parliament meets again in the latter part of January. We know what the recommendations of the Burnham Main Committee are going to be, and I wish tonight to concern myself with the proposed differential known as the Graduate Addition. This is that the present provision relating to an addition of £60 for men and £48 for women graduates will remain as it is at present. There is a new proposal under which all First Class Honour graduates will receive an additional allowance at the rate of £30 for men and £24 for women, and at the discretion of local education authorities Second Class Honour Graduates may receive the same addition.

In my opinion, this proposed differential between graduate and none-graduate teachers does not go nearly far enough, and I hope that the Minister, who has no power to alter the recommendations, will send them back to the Burnham Committee to ask them to reconsider the recommendations in this respect. I ask this on two grounds; first, in justice to the special position and responsibilities of graduate teachers; and secondly, on national grounds.

I would remind the Parliamentary Secretary that before the war the differential between graduate teachers and non-graduates was about 25 per cent., which has now been reduced to approximately eight per cent. Non-graduates take the General Certificate of Education at 16, and can enter gainful employment until obtaining a vacancy at a teaching college, usually at the age of 18, and then, apart from the requirements of National Service, they can start teaching two years later; whereas the would-be graduate has to obtain his university award at the age of 18 and often 19, and then he has to undergo four years education and training, as a result of which he emerges far better qualified for his life's work.

The work of those who teach in sixth forms, coaching scholars for Open Awards, is comparable to that of a first year in a university, and only those with high academic qualifications can measure up to this responsibility for which they should be adequately paid. I personally believe that if these recommendations are accepted, grammar schools in particular, whose staffs are 80 per cent. graduates, are going to suffer, and that the effect upon the nation will be unfortunate. I believe that the threat to grammar school efficiency is a threat to national efficiency at a high level. The high standards attained by the grammar schools in the last 50 years constitute one of the outstanding features of English education, and it is, to my mind, essential that grammar school masters should be men and women of high intellectual attainment and personal qualities.

A month ago, on the initiative of the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine), we debated the shortage of science teachers, which is already the direct result of inadequate remuneration. I believe that no longer will we get adequate graduate recruits to the teaching profession unless the differential is raised. More and more would-be teachers are choosing the two-year course, and this cannot be considered to be progress in education.

I have said that we know what the recommendations of the Burnham Committee amount to. But unfortunately we also know that they are not unanimous recommendations but only those of a majority, for they have been emphatically rejected by the Joint Four Associations which in particular represent grammar school teachers.

I am sure that the Minister will not allow herself to be misled by the fact that the National Union of Teachers has approved these proposals, because non-graduate teachers are the great majority among its members. Is the Minister satisfied that the Burnham Committee, as it is at present constituted, satisfactorily represents the interests of graduate teachers? It seems to me to be heavily weighted in favour of non-graduate teachers. This is inevitable, since these are in the vast majority. Does not the Minister think that their interests ought to be represented by a separate panel, as was, in effect, achieved by the Burnham Committee which existed before the Education Act of 1944.

Nor am I happy about the proposal to increase mandatorily the increment of first-class honours degree graduates by £30 for men and £24 for women, and permissively for those holding second-class honours degrees. This is unfair because universities and faculties have different standards. For example, I am informed that often approximately 30 per cent. of chemistry graduates at one university receive first-class honours, whereas only 3 per cent. of English graduates at another normally obtain this distinction. Everyone knows that universities encourage teachers to take general degrees, and only some universities give honours in general degrees.

Then there is the special position of those whose university careers were interrupted by either of the two world wars, and who therefore obtained unclassified degrees which were nevertheless honours degrees. How are they to be treated? To sum up, there is no doubt that more and more school teachers are becoming gravely dissatisfied with the failure of the Burnham Committee to recommend any improvement in the amount of the Graduate Addition, apart from the trifling increase proposed for the holders of first-and some second-class honours degrees, or to provide compensation and encouragement for teachers who delay their entry into salaried employment to follow extended courses of training and study at the universities. They are equally disappointed that no substantial improvement is recommended in the arrangements made by the local education authorities for the payment of special allowances in respect of special responsibility and work of special value.

The position is all the more serious because discontent is most marked among the teachers in those schools which have to carry an increasing responsibility for the education of the nation's ablest children. The number of boys and girls in the sixth forms of the grammar schools has already greatly increased. During the next few years, when the post-war increase in the birth rate will have its effect on the number of boys and girls in the grammar schools, staffing difficulties will become still more acute, particularly in certain subjects, and at certain levels of teaching.

There can be no doubt that the grammar schools are going to be unable to recruit and retain the services of sufficient teachers of the quality which is required unless they are able to offer salary scales comparable with the awards that could be obtained in any other profession.

11.46 p.m.

Mr. Ralph Morley (Southampton, Itchen)

The hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) is wrong in assuming that the National Union of Teachers does not represent graduate teachers. There are, as a matter of fact, as many graduate teachers in the membership of the National Union of Teachers as there are on the other bodies in the joint organisation. The hon. Member is also wrong in stating that this Award was carried only by a majority. Voting on the Burn ham Committee is by panels, and each panel votes as a unit. This Award was agreed to by both panels on the Committee—by the Teachers' Panel and by the Local Authorities' Panel—so it was not carried by a majority; it was carried by the decision of both panels.

I quite agree with the hon. Member that there should be an even bigger graduate allowance than was actually awarded, but that was not the fault of the teachers' representatives. The Teachers' Panel put forward a claim for a graduate allowance of £125 instead of the present allowance of £60. I would point out that the hon. Member did not relate the full story about the present graduate allowance, because there is not only a graduate allowance of £60, but also an allowance of two increments of £36 for the additional two years of training which the graduate undertakes. So in practice the graduate allowance is not £60 but £96, and in the new Award there will be £30 for a first-class honours degree and £30 for a good second-class honours degree.

As it will be very difficult for local authorities to decide what is and what is not a good second-class honours degree, we can assume that everybody with an honours degree will get £30, and the total addition to be received by the graduate, provided he has an honours degree, will be £126. The teachers asked for a graduate allowance of £125, plus more for the incremental addition, and tried very hard to get it, but they were not able to convince the local authorities. It is to the local authorities that the hon. Member should direct his arguments in this matter and he should not make very unjustified criticisms of the National Union of Teachers.

The Parliamentary Secretary wants at least 10 minutes to reply, and I have only one more minute to deal with the argument put forward by the hon. Member, but I do hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will not advise his right hon. Friend the Minister of Education to send back the recommendations of the Burnham Committee. That Committee is a duly constituted, statutory committee, set up by Act of Parliament, and both sides of the Committee have agreed to this Award. If the Minister turns down the Award of a negotiating body to which both sides have agreed, it will strike a very deadly blow at all negotiations.

I should have thought it would be something with which hon. Members on both sides of the House would strongly disagree. I say that the Award has not satisfied everybody, but it is an Award agreed to by both sides—the teachers side and the employers' side.

Mr. M. Lindsay

I do not want to interrupt, but the hon. Gentleman said it is an agreed Award. How can he say that when it has been emphatically rejected—

Mr. Morley

But the organisations are represented on the Burnham Committee. Each have their due proportion of representatives. The Joint Four have their representatives on the teachers' panel, as well as the National Union of Teachers, and the teachers' panel as a body, including the representatives of the Joint Board, agreed to accept the last offer of the authorities' panel because their experience during the negotiations had convinced them that no more could be wrung from the authorities. So far as the Burnham Committee is concerned they are agreed recommendations, and I certainly hope that the hon. Gentleman will not think of advising the Minister that she should turn down the agreed recommendations of a statutory negotiating body.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)


Mr. Speaker

Mr. Pickthorn.

11.51 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mr. Kenneth Pickthorn)

I am very sorry indeed, but I think I should be more to be criticised if I did not rise now. The House will have observed from both hon. Gentlemen, for whose moderation I am indebted, the considerable extent to which they cancel each other out, though I do not think myself likely wholly to agree with either of them. I think that may be evidence to the House that this is a very complicated matter. To discuss the details of what is to be a salary scale arising out of a Burnham Committee discussion—at a stage where the Committee have still to meet once more, I think in a fortnight's time, to discuss what still has no statutory effect—would be an innovation, and it would be of doubtful propriety for the House here to endeavour either to induce or advise the Minister to make a decision before the meeting which will happen in a fortnight's time. That would plainly be improper.

I think it would also be improper if I said anything in discussing this matter which might seem to encourage or discourage either of the professional sections or the individual persons who will be at that meeting. I should be very much open to criticism if I said something which might seem either to strengthen or weaken any variety of opinion in that meeting. I can assure the House, and I do not think the House needs assuring, through its knowledge of the Minister's conduct in office—and if the House pays enough attention to me it may know well enough my own views from the whole of my curriculum vitae—that neither of us is likely to underestimate the value or the importance of the grammar schools to the national life and national survival.

There were two points mentioned to which I should refer. One was about the University "A," where 30 per cent. of chemists get firsts, and the University "B," where only 3 per cent. of English graduates get firsts. I deprecate all such comparisons very much, but in so far as an argument can be based upon them, it rather busts the hon. Gentleman's argument. I myself have, only naturally, a persona] prejudice in favour of graduates. But to argue that graduates vary almost infinitely in glory, like the stars in their courses, and then to argue that remuneration should continue to depend very largely indeed upon being a graduate, and not upon performance within the profession after being a graduate, and to have the argument about 3 per cent. and 30 per cent., really busts the hon. Gentleman's case.

One other small point, before I use my last few minutes going through what I had prepared to say—or to gallop through as much of it as I can in the time left. It is the point about unclassified honours degrees in war-time. I am not familiar with that subject. On the whole I think that those who came back afterwards, people who had had some wartime studies, rather benefited. They had been allowed terms, and so on. I shall make what inquiry can be made about the questions put to me on that point.

On the principal points made I think I have now said as quickly as I could the most important things to be said, and I now turn to what I had been meaning to say. There is not the slightest evidence to suggest that the large increase in the number of the two-year teachers, those who come from the training colleges after two years, has been at the expense of the graduate teachers. The number of two-year students completing courses of training satisfactorily was 3,872 in 1939 and 9,191 in 1952. The number of graduate teachers completing courses satisfactorily was 1,744 in 1939, and was up to something over 3,000 in 1952. One would not expect the two to go at proportionately the same rate, but the fact that the second one, too, has gone up very considerably in that period disposes of the suggestion, for which there is no evidence, that people are being tempted, because of the insufficiency of the differential, to opt for training colleges rather than for universities. I do not think there is any evidence that that is happening.

My hon. Friend spoke of the differential in favour of the graduate, as exists at the present time. I think I could give more details, because I have had the best expert advice, than the hon. Gentleman opposite has given, but what the hon. Gentleman opposite said on that point may be sufficient for our argument to night. Neither averages nor comparisons with pre-war conditions are really very useful, but so far as we can get anything like an average, something like this may be said to be a reasonable guess: that the average graduate gets a salary 27 per cent. above the non-graduate at the bottom end and 13 per cent. above it at the top end. But that is leaving out the additional payment for special responsibility and value, which would add on to those percentages; and we must assume—otherwise the whole argument busts itself—that graduates will have an advantage in competition with other people in seeking positions of responbility and value.

I would not deny that there has been some levelling as between the two since the 1944 Act, and it is not my business, even if there were time tonight, to say whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. I would say only two things: it was indeed a levelling up, although to be fair to the House, one has to add, a levelling up in numbers of £sterling, and one must admit that various things have happened to the £ sterling since 1944. Secondly, although a fall in the value of the £ sterling would be a fair enough argument for the necessity of the subsistence element in salaries being looked at again, it cannot be advanced as the ultimate argument, for obviously the inflationary spiral would become infinite and absolutely insuperable. It would mean that the moment that the £ sterling dropped another penny there would have to be another penny added to salaries—hon. Members will appreciate the point.

As to the adequacy of the Burnham system in general, about which I must say a word; that could not be discussed at sufficient length even were I given 29 out of the 30 minutes of this Adjournment debate. It is a very complicated subject. I am not certain whether it would require legislation. I do not assert that; I have not been able to make up my mind. Section 89 of the 1944 Act does not specify; it states that the Minister shall appoint one or more committees. But my right hon. Friend cannot now do anything except within the general background of the Act, and within the pattern of school organisation which has grown up under it.

If I may delicately hint at a critical tone, the hon. Gentleman seemed sometimes in his logic to shift feet from graduate teachers to grammar school teachers, as if the two categories were an identity. Anything of the sort he desires to be done would need a definition of "grammar school," which does not occur in the Statute. Even if it did not need legislation, it would have great practical difficulties because of the difficulty about what is exactly a grammar school. I am not suggesting it could not foe done. If the whole matter could be thrashed out no doubt it could be done, but it would take long and detailed debating after long and detailed discussions outside, and it is not a matter upon which a junior Minister ought to pontificate in a half-hour debate.

I hope I have kept the "padding" down to a minimum and answered the main points, although it is difficult to do so at this, which is not the best moment or occasion for discussing either what are to be the rates of salary, or what the Burnham Committee is or should be; it is the moment when the Burnham people are coming to the end of their labours, but about which there is nothing officially publishable. I hope that what I have said has been relevant and that in the circumstances the House will think that I have said as much as can be said, and that is all which in the circumstances I dare attempt.

12.4 a.m.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

I am grateful to the Minister for the statement he has made. I think it is a dangerous thing if we try to start a debate in this House. It will have to be argued out in the Burnham Committee. It will cause controversy in a profession in which it is important it should be felt that justice is being done. As the Minister pointed out, quite clearly the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) had not clarified in his mind the position of the graduate in the primary school.

The Question having been proposed after Ten o'clock on Tuesday evening and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Four Minutes past Twelve o'clock.