HC Deb 08 July 1955 vol 543 cc1518-44

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Godber.]

1.12 p.m.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

I wish to call the attention of the House to the shortage of science teachers in the country and to ask the Government what they propose to do to meet that shortage. As the debate has begun a little earlier than some of us anticipated, may I take the opportunity to thank the Ministry of Education for the courtesy which is always shown to hon. Members in search of information, even though that information may be going to be used against the Ministry?

I wish also to express, as I am sure many hon. Members would wish to, our thanks to the Library research staff for the help they are willing to give to hon. Members at all times.

The seriousness of this problem has been so often stated recently that it becomes almost platitudinous to state it again. The danger is that we are becoming used to statements about the gravity of the situation and are doing little to meet it. Briefly, we are living in an age of science. We compete in the markets of the world for trade which is our life blood. In such an age, and against such competition, we need more and more scientists, technicians and technologists. Our schools contain the human material from which all the scientists demanded by industry and commerce, by research and by the schools themselves have to be drawn. The child population has expanded rapidly since the war, and I believe that it can provide all that we need. But the number of scientists whom we are recruiting to meet this ever-increasing need lags woefully behind. The greatest shortage is in science teachers. In the long run that can mean only the drying up of the nation's human scientific material.

Incidentally, one healthy sign is the keenness of the interest shown by British industry in this and other educational problems. I am glad that British industry is showing an ever-increasing keenness in education. In my own town—and I am sure that this experience is met with elsewhere—keen practical help has been given by many industrialists to the growth of technical education during the last 20 or 30 years.

Those who have expressed concern about the shortage of scientific teachers include the Federation of British Industries, which set up a committee to examine the matter; the Association of Scientific Workers; the science teachers themselves and the Central Advisory Council for Education in England, under the chairmanship of my distinguished friend, Sir Samuel Gurney-Dixon, whose report on "Early Leaving" I will refer to in a moment.

Some universities have examined the problem, notably the Senate of the University of Nottingham, and "The Times" Educational Supplement has done yeoman service to this cause month in and month out in recent years. Attention has been directed to this matter by hon. Members on both sides of the House and indeed in both Houses, notably by Lord Cherwell in another place.

The Ministry of Education has a committee—the National Advisory Council on the Training and Supply of Teachers—which has reported on the shortage of scientists, and the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy serving under the Lord President of the Council has also dealt with the matter. There is no excuse whatever for ignorance about the gravity of the situation. Indeed the country and the Ministry have suffered almost from a plethora of information and suggestions to meet the problem.

Now for a few disquieting facts. Nearly a thousand science teachers left the country's grammar schools during the last ten years in search of better paid jobs elsewhere. Yet a headmaster writing in "The Times" Educational Supplement last year said: It is easier for a second-rate Arts man to find his way to Oxford or Cambridge than it is for a first-rate scientist. In 1954 Oxford and Cambridge awarded 906 scholarships and exhibitions. Of these, 174 were in classics, 189 in history, 104 in modern languages, 46 in English, 29 in music and 48 in miscellaneous subjects, a total of 590 scholarships for the humanities. On the other hand, they awarded only 211 in science and 105 in mathematics. If the "red brick" universities of this country followed the pattern of Oxford and Cambridge, the present position would be far more parlous than it is.

I am not anti-humanities, but I seriously question the wisdom of our ancient universities in awarding nearly as many scholarships in Greek and Latin as in the vast, expanding field of science. Though I am an arts man myself, I sympathise with the pungent comments of Lord Cherwell, who ventured to doubt whether Juvenal and Cicero should in this day and age take pre-eminence over, say, Eddington, or Cockcroft, or even Lord Cherwell himself. According to Professor Robert Pears, the science courses in the universities are roughly 10 per cent. of the total.

Let us examine the grammar schools. The National Advisory Council on the Supply and Training of Teachers reported: First class honours men in mathematics and science fell from 14.7 per cent. of the total in 1938 to 4 per cent. in 1954. The joint Report of the Women's Science Teachers and Science Masters Association complain of a fall in the ratio of science teachers to the rest of the staff. They examined a number of schools and found 115 unfilled science teachers' posts. They found that 84 science departments had been closed down in grammar schools because there were no appropriate teachers and that other science departments were curtailing their teaching programme. Yet, 4,200 boys and girls capable of taking advanced courses in science and mathematics entered our grammar schools in 1946 and left without going into the sixth form.

In 1953, of the graduates who left universities with science degrees, only 18 per cent. went into teaching; 46 per cent. went into research, and the general pattern suggests that most of those who went into research did not afterwards go into teaching but went into industry and commerce; and 27 per cent. went straight into industry and commerce. From the figure which the Minister gave less than a fortnight ago, only one in five of the graduates in science and mathematics is entering the teaching profession. Take away the maths men, and the figure would be even more alarming.

One other word on the general position. I believe that science is an integral part of the education of every child, of the child in the secondary modern school as well as of the child in the grammar school. The demand that we have to meet is not only the production of enough science teachers to train brilliant young boys and girls to make their way as scientists to the universities, but also less academically qualified science teachers to give a general education in science to the 70 to 80 per cent. of our children whom we send to the secondary modern schools of the country.

I understand that the Scottish people have also been discussing this problem, and I gather from the Press that some alarm has been expressed by the humanists in Scotland that we are overdoing this question of the importance of science. I remember that when we discussed technological education, the humanists of the country were worried lest the student of technology in the technological college lost his liberal education because he missed all the human studies of a university. Yet they tend to regard it as a heresy if one suggests that the arts boy who throws away science the moment he has his certificate of education, or even before that, in our grammar schools, public schools and independent schools can also lack a liberal education by concentrating merely on the humanities.

One is worried about the place of science in the educational system of the country. On the whole, our secondary technical schools are filled by boys who fail to get into the grammar schools. We treat them as second-best. We follow the pattern of the famous, or infamous, Norwood Report which divided our children into three classes, the élite who go to the grammar schools the common or garden children who go to the secondary modern schools, and the second-rate intelligences for whom we patronisingly provide secondary technical education.

In our attitude to the whole question of science in education I think that we still have something of a hangover from the century which regarded only the humanities as the true content of education, and which 130 or 140 years ago would not allow Shelley to study chemistry at Eton except in secret in his own room.

I want now to look at some of the possible remedies for the shortage of science teachers. First, it cannot merely be a question of buying out scientists from industry, commerce and research. They are needed there as never before. America is spending far more on young scientists in industry, commerce and research than we are, yet I heard a senator in Washington lamenting the fact that America was lagging behind the Soviet Union in the sums which that country was devoting to scientific education, on the one hand, and to science in industry on the other. In any case, if we set out to outbid industry for science teachers, industry could put up the price and could outbid the State once again.

Having said that, it is abundantly true that the paramountcy of the claim for science teachers is that, in the long run, all other supplies of scientists depend on the teachers. If there are no teachers, there will be no scientists for industry, and if the quality of science teaching declines, as it is doing, then the quality of the scientists who will be supplied to industry will also decline. We need many more scientists, but, having said that, one must also say that, whatever given number of scientists we have, we ought to see that they are used to the best advantage.

We need many more. The Barlow Committee underestimated quantitatively the need of scientific manpower. One can understand it doing that because 10 years ago nobody could foresee the geometrical progression of the rate of scientific development in this modern age. Therefore, we must recruit many more scientists from the children in our schools.

If the purists and the academicians in the universities, and, indeed, sometimes in the grammar schools, say, "But we are already scraping the barrel," and if they talk about the dangers of lowering standards by admitting more young scientists to the universities, such talk in the last analysis—as the Report of one of the Minister's own Committees I believe somewhere points out—is an admission of utter defeat. If we say that we cannot recruit more young potential scientists from the children who are pouring into our schools, then we are saying that Britain cannot match the demands of this age.

I certainly do not believe that. The Report entitled "Early Leaving," which I have already mentioned, gives a figure of 4,200 potential young scientists who left the grammar schools before going to the sixth form. Fortunately, they are not all being wasted. Some of them continue their education in a variety of other ways outside. But one of our greatest educational tragedies at the moment is the early leaver from the grammar school, and that is something which we must check.

I like to be fair, and before I look at the general figure it is worth remembering—one wishes that one had time to expatiate on this—that the position is better now than ever in our history. In 1938, more than 30 per cent. of our children left the grammar school under the age of 16, and at that time there were only 65,000 children in our grammar schools. In the last year for which I have the figures, only 16 per cent. of our children left the grammar schools under the age of 16, but then the grammar school population had grown to 95,000. Therefore, it is a much lower percentage leaving-age of a much larger school population. But it is still far too high.

It is worth remembering that, even now, 36 per cent. of grammar school children leave school without taking the Certificate of Education. To those who believe in the canalising and rigid tripartite division of our three kinds of secondary education, that fact ought to give food for thought. It seems to me that, sooner or later, we shall have to prevent the whole of this bitter wastage of children in the grammar schools who should not be there and who leave because they find that they should not be there. It is bitter, too, because sometimes children who want to go to grammar schools are excluded and the places are taken by children who are unable to profit by grammar school education, and who leave for that reason. I have not the time to discuss that now.

I want to say a word about the able children who leave grammar schools before the age of 16. According to the Report on "Early Leaving" there are 10,000 who, in the opinion of grammar school teachers, ought to have stayed on to the sixth form, and gone on to advanced courses, leading to the universities in one way or another. Among them were 4,200 potential scientists. An examination of a number of schools has revealed that, of those who leave the grammar schools prematurely, 11 per cent. do so because of poverty at home; 23 per cent. because they are offered a good job outside, and 33 per cent. because they say, "they wish to be independent." We can reduce these percentages at once by increasing the maintenance grant. I know that we cannot compete with the flashy attraction of well-paid dead-end jobs outside, but we can more nearly approach competition than is done at present by the meagre maintenance grant, which varies in size according to the enlightenment or meanness of the education authority.

I want to look a little further at the 33 per cent, of our boys who leave grammar schools early because they "want to be independent." I sympathise with them.

I spend most of my life trying to understand children. Sooner or later we shall have to regard sixth form work as a kind of apprenticeship, and treat it as such. An apprentice does not earn as much as a child in a dead-end job, but he does earn. He is a young man; he helps to keep home, and to keep himself. If a grammar school boy, especially one living in a poor home—whether or not his parents are unwilling that he should stay at the grammar school—mingles with his old street mates from primary school days during the weekends and sees that they are earning money during the week and are working no harder in their apprenticeships or dead-end jobs than he has to work, the inclination to leave must be a strong one.

People sometimes fail to realise just how hard grammar school children work. As a grammar school master, one of my tasks for 25 years was to prevent some children from working too hard. Many conscientious children overwork at their home work. The difficulty always was to strike a balance and set that amount of homework which would not make the conscientious child work itself into a nervous breakdown but which would, at the same time, persuade the lazy chap to do something.

I do not think that we shall ever abolish the sacrifice that a long education means to all parents. I know the sacrifies that are made by middle-class parents, and the real sacrifices made by people such as the bishop who recently spoke about devoting two-thirds of his income to the education of his children. I also know that these sacrifices are nothing to those made by poor parents—such as mine were—to send me to grammar school and then to the university. I know many a poor parent who, even with the help of the maintenance grant, the payment of examination fees and the maintenance which is given if the child reaches the university, is making a tremendous sacrifice for his or her child. We must build up that spirit of sacrifice among parents. This is the great example in morale which middle-class parents can give to the rest of our parents.

We can mitigate that sacrifice by adequate allowances. We can step up the allowances we make to the boy at the grammar school if he has some young brothers and sisters coming along. Especially can we step up the allowances for a boy in his 17th or 18th year—his second or third year at the grammar school—when he is in the sixth form. We can also do much more to educate parents. We need a positive public campaign—to recruit scientists to recruit more children for courses leading to the university—and we need that campaign at Ministerial level, local education authority level, and, above all at staff level in the grammar schools.

We need conscious recruitment for the sixth form. Many teachers do steadily recruit and inspire their bright pupils. Many teachers find it difficult to carry out this recruiting with enthusiasm when they reflect upon the lowly financial position of the teaching profession to which they belong. We had a nurses' recruiting campaign which produced many nurses. We want a parallel recruitment of young scientists, in grammar schools, universities and in the nation at large. I find it difficult to express what I feel about the service which the newspapers could render to causes like this from time to time—if only they would. They could do a tremendous job.

But we need more grammar schools. The variation in provision of grammar schools runs from 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. in some parts of the country to as low as 9 per cent. in others. The paradoxical fact is that there is less wastage from schools in areas which make the most generous provision than in those which' make the meanest and lowest provision. Unless we are building secretly far more grammar schools than I think we are the percentage provision of grammar school places is likely to drop rapidly during the next two or three years. Indeed, the process might already have begun this year. By 1962, the secondary school population will have risen by 1¼ million—the famous 1¼ million upon which some of us have addressed the House frequently. Every local education authority should by now have built or be building 25 per cent. more grammar school places than it had in 1950. There should be one grammar school more for every four which existed in 1950.

I doubt very much whether that provision is being made. If it is not, are local education authorities making comparable alternative provision for the education of this expanding potential grammar school pupilage which will be coming up into the secondary schools?

Unless they are, one in five of the lads of this generation—and if I speak of boys I mean girls, too—is going to be deprived of the educational opportunities which his elder brother had, and some of us are by no means content with the opportunities which that elder brother had.

The position is more serious than that. There are 400,000 children, being educated in all-age schools, who are deprived of all but a vestige of secondary education. Among them are some of the potential young scientists that we need in order to match the demand of this age, but nothing is being done to complete the reorganisation of all-age schools in urban areas. There are also children of ability in our secondary modern schools. Those who condemn comprehensive schools out of hand—excluding the public schools—have to justify themselves by making sure—as I hope the Minister is making sure—that provision is made in every secondary modern school to see that no child who is good at science or anything else is deprived of his opportunity of pushing on towards the university if he later reveals the ability which he did not show in time to satisfy the 11-plus examiners.

I urge the Minister to look at the science laboratory provision in secondary modern schools. Every secondary modern school ought to have a science lab. I said that at a meeting a year or two ago and someone cynically pointed out that every grammar school ought to have an adequate laboratory. Not every grammar school is provided with the laboratory equipment that it should have. I went to a training college, an excellent one, where I was struck by the capacity and the calibre of the young men I met and spoke to, but was also infinitely disappointed at the laboratory provision.

Perhaps the most important problem in connection with the shortage of science teachers concerns salaries. The F.B.I. Report gives figures for 1953 which show that a science graduate with a good honours degree in teaching comes out at the age of 24 or 25 and starts at £612 per year, can rise to £851, and if he is lucky gets a special allowance, and can then get up to £941. That is his maximum for life unless he is fortunate enough to become a headmaster.

The comparable figures for the graduate going into industry—these are not propaganda figures from an educationist like myself—show that he gets £605 when he begins and can rise to a maximum of £1,740.

The Minister's answer to a Question which I put to him yesterday suggests that he thinks that the new special responsibility allowances will put things right. They will not. They will go only to some science teachers, and they do not make the maximum figure much over £1,000. I am certain that the figures which the F.B.I. quotes for 1953 in respect of science teachers in industry are already out-of-date and that there has been a further step up from £1,740. The allowances which the Minister recommends to local education authorities will not raise the salary of any science teacher to that figure—perhaps one or two at Eton and Harrow, but I doubt it. It will not raise any science teacher to the £1,740 which he can look forward to in industry.

Moreover, the special responsibility allowances to which the Minister referred are not only for science teachers. As my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) pointed out, the teaching profession is bitterly opposed to differentiation according to subject taught. Here "The Times Educational Supplement," which is interested in this problem, steadily puts the sound view. We cannot put a price on subjects: "Sixth-form science, 30s.; six-form geography, 25s.; sixth-form Latin, half a crown." It just has to be mentioned to show how fantastic it is.

It is right to pay for extra qualifications, extra duties and extra-responsible work, but if the Minister wants the heads of the grammar schools or local education authorities to use the new allowances merely to pay extra to science masters he will have not only the teaching profession, but educationists everywhere about his ears.

One of the real troubles is the decline in the financial status of the teacher. Again, the F.B.I. Report has comparable figures for graduates. There has been a 71 per cent. increase for graduate teachers over the pre-war figure, as against an increase of 100 to 120 per cent. for industrial workers. If we are to give the science teachers sufficient inducement to buy them out of industry, or at any rate to check the drift into industry, we must adequately recognise all graduate work in all subjects and also the non- graduate work which laid the foundations for the superstructure.

We have never yet either in this House or in the country faced the cost in buildings, equipment or teachers, of an adequate national system of education. On the whole, all we are doing in our educational system is holding on, keeping pace, making the schools smaller to keep the price down, cutting our trimmings, as some even boast and adding to our educational budget merely the rise in the cost of living. We are not even compensating for the rise in the population of our schools.

The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) has been asking for exemption for young scientists from National Service. There is a lot in that. Lord Cherwell has made similar suggestions. I only wish those who plead the cause of exemption from National Service would not go out of their way to denigrate somebody else, and would not take the opportunity to sneer at young merchant seamen, forgetting that, in war-time, merchant seamen did wonderful national service.

There is a positive case for the exemption of science teachers from National Service but it is not to attract young people into careers. I resent the suggestion that exemption from National Service is some kind of bribe to dangle before someone to get him into a job. We normally exempt farmers, seamen and others, and we should exempt scientists, because they give better national service in the job for which they have been trained than in a job inside National Service itself.

If the Minister of Education or the Minister of Labour cannot grant complete exemption, they might release science teachers who have completed their initial stage of training, or after their basic training, when they might be allowed to come out to do the job which the schools of Britain so desperately need.

I asked yesterday that State scholarships might be earmarked for intending teachers. I can understand the Minister's turning down what he regarded as a retrograde step, but the position is desperate and requires desperate measures. If he will not do what I asked him to do yesterday, he could at least earmark some State scholarships for science and add an extra number for this specific purpose. He could ask the universities to consider stepping up the number of their science awards or to increase their provision for science studies.

I know the spirit of independence of our universities, but the Minister might send them copies of the excellent report which the Senate of Nottingham University is getting out and in which the Senate, overwhelmed by the case based on the infinite number of reports about the shortage of science teachers, has told the world what it proposes to do. It says that it will ensure that guidance is given to students —a reference to positive recruitment of scientists into the universities—and that it will release some research students for part-time teaching and increase the numbers in those science departments whose building and staffing make this practicable. The universities can help a lot, but the Nottingham University Senate wisely concludes its report by saying that, whatever the universities did, the main contributions must come from the local education authorities and the Ministry.

That is what I am asking for—a bold and imaginative campaign in every field; the use by the Minister of every method suggested by the various committees which have reported to him or whose reports he has before him, so that we can increase the supply of science teachers in time to face the most critical moment which will occur in 1960–61–62, and supply, in the years ahead, a steady supply of scientists to man British industry, commerce and research, and above all to provide all our children with something of the wonder of scientific education.

1.51 p.m.

Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)

I shall address the House for but a few moments, although this is a very serious subject, and I shall be intrigued to hear the Minister's answer. In our Western democracies we are sometimes a little naïve in our belief that our sceptical, scientific society can ultimately solve all our difficulties. In the realm of social and human relations we have something very difficult of solution. As I see it, this sort of impasse—this tunnel with a dark ending—in education seems inherent in a capitalist society.

I do not make any political points here, but the present Government's tendency—to put it no higher—to swing over to laissez-faire economics is emphasising to our people that it is better to go for the jobs with the most money, and that life somehow has a materialistic or cash nexus. I am, therefore, not at all surprised that what has for quite a long time been a tendency for people to leave teaching for industry has been accentuated in the last few years. The Parliamentary Secretary nods his head, but I shall be glad to hear him quote some figures later on.

In the teaching profession that tendency is becoming serious. I think that the same thing applies to our womenfolk; we have fewer domestic science workers today and more working as typists because of the more attractive return. For the same reason potential science teachers are going to Courtaulds, British Thomson-Houston and other concerns where they can earn £100, £200 or £300 a year more than they can expect on the Burnham scale.

I believe that there is a limited future supply of people who can take on jobs as doctors, lawyers, scientists, technologists and teachers at the top level. We are getting near the point when it is becoming difficult to find a sufficient supply for all these demands. In other words, if, by the present wages policy or lack of one, a certain number of men and women are pulled out of teaching into Courtaulds and other industrial firms teaching will obviously suffer, because it is difficult to find in the larger world outside a sufficient number who will train to take their places.

We see the same thing in sport. Not all of us can score goals like Stanley Matthews or hit centuries like Denis Compton. There is only a certain potential at the top in the world of sport. In the wider economic society, there is only a certain number of people with the necessary intelligence quotient, and the "stickability" needed for this particular subject of advanced science teaching; and beyond them a much larger number who are not equipped and will not come into this field of recruitment. If we have a campaign for more doctors and dentists, there are thus fewer men left for training as scientists or science teachers.

This is a big question, and by some means or other, either through secondary modern, bilateral or comprehensive schools, or by some different approach in our teaching methods we have to tap this wider pool of people who, in the past, we thought not good enough for the top level but some of whom could be made today into technologists or science teachers. If we say that democracy in the twentieth century means that the working class of some years ago now desire middle-class standards, we must apply the same principle to job classifications. In the more complex economic society of today, we want to get more people out of what were formerly the unskilled labouring jobs and into the higher posts of technology and science teaching.

One way is to offer more money, but where is the money to come from? The local education authorities' "kitty" is limited, as is also the national Exchequer. Those of us who have been on local education committees, have found in the past that we were always handicapped by the competition of higher wages from Courtaulds, I.C.I. and other big business combines. Such firms, producing cars, textiles, and other commodities, trading in a seller's market, get more and more money into their "kitty" to pay the higher wages which they can offer.

Dr. King

I do not wish to interrupt my hon. Friend, but he should mention that those firms do not pay rates either.

Mr. Johnson

Because of our earlier debate this week, that had not escaped me, but I welcome my hon. Friend's intervention.

Is there any way by which industry can help teaching? The former Secretary of State for the Colonies, now Lord Chandos and Chairman of Associated Electrical Industries Limited, has looked into this matter from his firm's angle. He has put forward the imaginative suggestion that those suitable persons now working in the British Thomson-Houston firm in my own constituency, or in English Electric, under Sir George Nelson's aegis—those science graduates working in industry—could perhaps be lent for some hours a week to the local college of technology, or to work at the specialist level of the sixth forms of the grammar schools.

There again, one faces this unfortunate fact. Many of us who were lucky to do well, and to get honours degrees at the universities, were perhaps not so hot at teaching—perhaps that is why some of us are now in the House of Commons.

The man with first-class honours or the senior wrangler perhaps cannot teach; and, therefore, many of those earning big salaries in industry might find difficulty—particularly in "coed" schools—in keeping order among, never mind imparting knowledge to adolescents of 15. 16 or 17 years of age.

This is one of the most difficult questions that I have met in education. There is no easy way out. As I say, I am intrigued to find out from the Minister's answer whether he has any approach to a solution of what I think is the most difficult problem in our modern educational field.

1.59 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

This subject is vitally important to the whole United Kingdom. In Scotland we have just had a very interesting Report on the shortage of science teachers. A Committee, which sat under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Appleton, puts the issue very bluntly. It says in its summary: Thus a shortage of science teachers strikes at the very root of national safety and prosperity. There could be nothing plainer than that.

The position in Scotland, as in England and Wales, is exceedingly serious, and not only is it serious at the present time but it is getting worse. We are told that by 1961 the situation will be twice as bad as it is now unless immediate steps are taken to improve the situation.

I have no wish to recapitulate the many recommendations of the Appleton Committee. I have no doubt that Scottish Members, at any rate, will have an opportunity of discussing them, particularly as they concern the Secretary of State for Scotland more than the Parliamentary Secretary who is to wind up this debate. They cover a number of points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King).

There is, however, one point which was mentioned by my hon. Friend which is of immediate importance. The Report concludes by mentioning three proposals which were selected by the Committee for special mention to meet the immediate urgency of this problem, and it is interesting to note that the first and most important recommendation is the deferment from National Service of specialised teachers in mathematics and science. It says that this is the only sure means of getting more teachers quickly. That is a United Kingdom matter and it comes under a United Kingdom Ministry. We must consider whether we are serving the national interest in the best possible way by putting these men into the Forces, where many of them spend a lot of time doing a number of things which frequently do not seem to matter very much. It is even doubtful whether, by robbing ourselves of a sufficient number of teachers in the future, we do the best thing in the interests of defence. If what the Appleton Committee says is correct, namely, that a shortage of science teachers strikes at the very root of national safety and prosperity it seems that by taking these people into the Forces we are endangering national safety in the future.

There can be no doubt that, after long experience of the operation of this scheme, the time has arrived when the Government ought to face the fact that the effect on our national economy, on the teaching profession, and on this problem of the shortage of science teachers, ought to be examined.

I do not wish to deal with the other matters which are raised in the Appleton Report. As I said earlier, no doubt, Scottish Members will have an opportunity of discussing them. I intervened because of the importance given to this matter by that Committee, the Report of which received a great deal of commendation in the Press when it was published. The first immediate requirement is to deal with this question of National Service, and I ask the Minister to approach the Minister of Labour to see whether something can be done. The Report says that this is the only sure means of getting more teachers quickly. Nothing could be more positive than that. As this is such an important matter, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will draw his right hon. Friend's attention to it with a view to making some approach to the Minister of Labour, in order to have the whole problem considered.

2.10 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mr. Dennis Vosper)

I should like to begin by thanking the hon. Member for Itchen (Dr. King) for the tribute which he paid to the Ministry of Education when he referred to its supply of information to hon. Members. I only hope that the facts with which he has been supplied agree with those which have been supplied to me.

I agree with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) when he stresses the importance of this subject. It is possibly the most important subject with which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education has to deal at present. I think this is a subject which merits fuller discussion than is possible on the Motion for the Adjournment, even when, as today, we have rather more time than is customary. I am sure that the hon. Member for Itchen has been wise to seize this opportunity of ventilating this matter, and I hope that what has been said, and possibly what will be said, will reach a wider audience than is assembled here.

It is recognised that this problem concerns many bodies other than the Ministry of Education. During recent months there has been a growing realisation that the future prosperity of this country depends upon our ability to train an increasing number of scientists, technologists, and technicians, but what I think is possibly not so generally realised is that the first step in this process is to ensure that the conditions are such that a sufficient supply of teachers becomes available. It is a first step in this process, because if we do not have the teachers we shall not be able to train what I believe to be the increasing number of pupils who will take science or mathematics in their secondary schools.

This debate, therefore, will perform a valuable service in bringing once again to the notice of the public the importance of that first step. It is a matter which has engaged the attention of my right hon. Friend and his colleagues for the last few months, and continues to do so. On this occasion I cannot do more than emphasise the importance of the subject, note what has been said, and comment on some of the steps that have been urged upon the Government.

First, it is important to understand the size of the problem. I do not dissent from any of the figures that the hon. Member gave, but I think it is a fact that the size of the present shortage can be exaggerated, and except in some girls' schools there is no evidence that there is a significant shortage in the numbers of science and mathematics graduate teachers. Recruitment has been better than was expected and I expect the hon. Member for Itchen will remember that the National Advisory Council on the Supply of Teachers, in its 1953 Report, forecast that there would be an increase of about 50 graduate teachers in those subjects each year. In fact, the number for the succeeding years has exceeded their forecast.

I think the House will be interested in the actual figures because I do not think these have been made available before. They are the figures of graduate science and mathematics teachers in maintained primary and secondary schools in England and Wales. The figures are as follows: March, 1952, 11,022; March, 1953, 11,287; March, 1954, 11,615. It will be seen that there has been an increase from 1952 to 1953 of 265, and from 1953 to 1954 of 328.

Mr. J. Johnson

Would the hon. Gentleman sort those figures out into, so to speak, good class honours degrees and those not quite so good? I think he will agree that we are thinking of sixth form teaching for the future university men who will go into industry. Therefore, it is important to get the best scientists for university teaching, as opposed to others who are not so good.

Mr. Vosper

I am coming to that point. That is why I emphasised the word "numbers."

These figures refer to graduate teachers of science and mathematics of all types. We must not forget the non-graduate teachers in these subjects, although they are at the moment few in number. I propose to say a word about the future in that respect presently. I agree with the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) that perhaps the quality at present is the real trouble. I do not dissent from what he has in mind, that the proportion of first-class and second-class honours degree men who have taken up teaching has fallen considerably. The hon. Member for Itchen made that point earlier in his speech.

That means that the choice of school governors is very limited. We all know of cases in which only one applicant of low-quality degree presents himself. Therefore, the position at present is that there is not so much a shortage of numbers but a shortage of the right type of graduate. I must go further than that. The real gravity of the problem arises from the fact that by 1960 the number of senior pupils is likely to rise by 650,000 over the 1954 figure. These extra seniors in schools in 1960 will require an extra 3,200 graduate science teachers. That represents an average increase of no fewer than 500 a year. That is before we allow for any reduction in the size of classes, any improvement in staffing arrangements, or any increase in the proportion of non-graduates, who, we hope, will take up science in the next few years.

To meet these deficiencies, even the favourable recruitment of the last two or three years is not good enough. It would leave, even at the present rate of recruitment, a deficiency of 1,400 teachers by 1960, and that is a formidable number. That is the problem as we see it.

I now come to the second half of the story. What can be done and what is being done about it? I think that the hon. Member for Itchen divided his remedies into short and long-term remedies. I propose to some extent to do the same. Let us take first the question of pay and allowances, which is both short and long-term. I have looked at the supplementary reply which my right hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member for lichen yesterday. I think that it would be wrong to suggest that my right hon. Friend thought that the recent Burnham decision was the complete answer to this problem. We think that it is an answer, but only one of the many answers that are necessary.

Hon. Members are probably well aware of the recent decision of the Burnham Committee, confirmed by my right hon. Friend, to pay additional allowances to teachers of advanced work, and that will entail science and mathematics masters, among others receiving up to an additional £200 a year. My right hon. Friend—and this is an important point—approved these allowances on the understanding that the local education authorities would implement them fully. No one expects that they will produce the complete answer. But my right hon. Friend believes that they hold out more hope of a reasonable career prospect in teaching for well-qualified graduates. They relate to teaching of advanced work of all types.

The hon. Member came to the same conclusion as the Burnham Committee—that it was not possible to discriminate between teachers of advanced work in science and mathematics and those teaching other subjects. This additional allowance is therefore made available to all teachers of advanced work. It is far too early to judge the effect of this decision. My right hon. Friend is about to ask the local education authorities for a report, to be made in October of this year, giving details of the way in which they have carried out the proposals.

As a result of this return, which we should receive before the end of this year, it will then be possible for him and for the Burnham Committee to discover how far their expectations that this step would be of some benefit have been realised. The hon. Member for Rugby will, I think, remember that at the same time as that decision was announced it was also stated that the Federation of British Industries had asked its members to refrain from raising salaries in competition with this proposal, and also to review the use which they make of science graduates. I mention that because I think that in some quarters the adverse effects of that suggestion have been exaggerated. While those proposals will help, I do not think they will adversely affect the rôle of scientists and technicians generally.

Dr. King

Before the hon. Gentleman passes from finance, will he not agree that even with the £200 special allowance the best-paid science master in the grammar school, getting everything he possibly can, will not get £1,100, compared with the £1,750 paid in industry?

Mr. Vosper

I do not suggest that there is parity even now, but that the gap between teaching and industry has been narrowed to some extent by these proposals. I think that the hon. Member will agree with me that perhaps the gap is widest, not at entry—in the early years—but in the later years, and that is a problem which we have particularly in mind.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East and the hon. Member for Itchen mentioned National Service. I do not want, on this occasion, to be drawn into a debate on the future of National Service. I will, however, put these points for the consideration of the House. I think that the teaching profession itself is divided on the merits of the proposal that certain teachers should be deferred. I have no evidence whether the majority are in favour or opposed to that suggestion.

The second point is that it would make only a comparatively small contribution to our problem. No one should have the idea that it is by any means a complete solution. The third point is that it is a breach in the principle of universality. Hon. Members know the difficulties which that raises. All I can say today is that these points have been noted, but it is a proposition that needs very careful examination. I do not think that we should attach too much importance to it when trying to solve the larger problem.

I should like to say a word or two, particularly in reply to the hon. Member for Itchen and the hon. Member for Rugby, about the deployment of scientists. They will recollect that when my right hon. Friend announced the Burnham proposals, he said that Her Majesty's Government had under review the problem of the deployment and use of scientists. Industry, the Services, and other Government Departments, are well aware of the importance of making the very best use they can of the limited number of scientists available. Of course, there is an overall shortage, and we need many more. While that review will in itself make a contribution, it is by no means the complete solution.

To reply to the point which was made about part-time teaching, I think that something is and has been done in that direction. Again, I think that it is of limited effect. It applies more to the technical colleges than to the secondary schools. I think that this is the occasion to mention what has not been mentioned—that the teachers, full-time or part-time, in the technical colleges, are just as important in this respect as are the teachers of science and mathematics.

Passing from this particular problem to the possible long-term problem, I think that it is generally agreed that its solution lies, first, in inducing more and more pupils to stay on at school and study science. The hon. Member for Itchen was right to concentrate on that aspect of the problem. I was glad to hear him say what he did, because I do not think it is generally realised that the position has been improving steadily over the years.

Many people think that fewer pupils are staying at school after the school-leaving age. That is not the case. I have not the complete range of figures, but among 17-year-olds the number has increased from 24,000 in 1949 to over 27,500 last year. The number of 18-yearolds is even more impressive, but those figures are likely to be slightly misleading. My right hon. Friend and I accept that many more could profitably stay beyond the leaving age, and I hope that the proposal announced recently in the Gracious Speech to extend the family allowances will be a considerable help in this direction. It does not, of course, rule out a further reconsideration of the maintenance allowance. The hon. Member will understand that that proposal must be reviewed in the light of the increase in the family allowance age.

As the hon. Gentleman rightly stated, finance is not the only way of solving the early leaving problem. He referred to the climate of opinion in local education authorities, and I think that particularly those in charge of the schools can assist here. He knows more about this than I do, but I have a firm belief that, given the right climate and conditions, the headmasters and masters of grammar schools can do even more to persuade their pupils to stay at school for the vital extra year. We at the Ministry can help to a limited extent but, having persuaded pupils to stay at school, those in charge of the schools can help to persuade more people to take up science and mathematics.

Hon. Members have also mentioned the alternative ladder alongside the grammar schools. We certainly do not rule out the provision of teachers from the secondary modern schools and considerable efforts are being made—I cannot say more than that—to improve the supply of non-graduate teachers from the training colleges. The new training college grant system, announced a few weeks ago, will help there. More supplementary courses in mathematics and science are to be provided in 1955––56, and I hope that, as a result of the provision of these extra courses an increasing number of students will take them and that from this source, which at the moment is very limited, we shall obtain an increasing supply of non-graduate teachers in science and mathematics. The possibility of providing courses to enable non-scientists to take science degrees is also under consideration.

The hon. Member for Rugby mentioned the assistance which industry can give, and I appreciate the assistance which many large industries are able to give to education not only in this but in other fields. To what extent industry will be able to help us further in the provision of laboratories and other facilities is something which I cannot say at the moment, but we are grateful for the assistance which has been and I am sure will be given.

One of the last points with which will deal is that of making the conditions for teachers in science and mathematics more attractive. One or two points here are worthy of mention. First, the question of laboratory assistance is one on which my right hon. Friend hopes soon to be able to make an announcement, as a result of discussions now going on. Secondly—and this has not been mentioned today—it is frequently alleged that there is a need for refresher courses for teachers to keep abreast of modern scientific development, and the universities are at present exploring the possibility of providing these on a larger scale.

My right hon. Friend agrees that it may sometimes be justifiable to give paid leave to teachers to take part in research, as is sometimes done in further education. He hopes shortly to be able to advise local education authorities to this effect.

The hon. Member for Itchen devoted part of his speech to the universities. He will realise that I cannot speak on their behalf today, but I am sure that the views which he expressed are well known to them and it may be that his words will come to their attention. I do not wish to add to the reply which he received yesterday about the provision of separate scholarships in science and mathematics.

Dr. King

The Minister's reply yesterday was confined to those earmarked for teaching. I take it that the Minister's objection was to their being earmarked as teachers and not to their being earmarked for science and mathematics.

Mr. Vosper

I am sorry if I did not make that clear. I think it is so. The objection was to earmarking them particularly for teaching.

The hon. Member referred to the rather wider problem of the provision of grammar schools. I will not develop that argument today, beyond saying that my right hon. Friend has stated that he considers that the provision of grammar schools should be between 15 and 25 per cent. He accepts that some local authorities are under-provided at present, and the approval of the building programme is carried out to level up the position of these authorities who do not provide sufficient grammar school places at the moment. For me to develop the argument beyond that point would be to go well outside the scope of the debate.

That also applies to the point about all-age schools. We accept that there is still a problem to be tackled here, and we hope that action will follow shortly on the heels of rural reorganisation. It is not true, however, to say that nothing is being done or has been done about it, because during the last few years a considerable amount of reorganisation has taken place in the urban areas in the normal course of events. The reason priority has been given recently to rural reorganisation is that the same trend has not been experienced in the rural areas.

Many other points could be mentioned, because the solution to this problem lies in dealing not with one particular point but with a number of points. The suggestions made during the debate will, I am sure, make a contribution to the solution of the problem, but I believe—I think this was also in the hon. Member's mind—that the solution is much more fundamental. It lies more in the public's appreciation of the teaching profession. I do not accept what I think the hon. Member for Rugby stated—that the status of the teaching profession was on the decline. If that is his view, I think he is wrong.

Mr. J. Johnson

I did not say that at all. I said that under this Government the increasing tendency was to emphasise wage packets, finance and material rewards. I said that the teaching profession is therefore bound to suffer in competition with industry and with the bigger wage packets and financial rewards paid outside the profession.

Mr. Vosper

The answer to that question lies in the very encouraging increase in the strength of the teaching profession during the last three years. That increase far exceeds the increase in any year under the Administration the hon. Member supported. I am glad that he shares my view that the status of the teaching profession is not on the decline, because I am certain much importance lies in appreciation by the public of the work of this profession.

Again, as the hon. Member knows, there has been an encouraging response during the last three years to the call for more and more teachers. This year the pressure on the training colleges is almost an embarrassment. I realise that that in itself is no complete answer to the special problem we have been considering this afternoon, but I mention it because fiscal and legislative or administrative measures are not the only answer we require.

I believe that the general supply position of teachers has been improved by the change in the climate of opinion and the increased interest which is being shown towards education, which has helped to establish teaching as a profession of importance and a career well worth following. This is a task in which hon. Members have helped and can continue to help by taking a close interest in schools and teachers in their constituencies. I fully realise that those who have taken part in this debate already do that. It would be a great help if hon. Members in all parts of the House would continue to take an interest in these problems.

I noted the reference the hon. Member made to a publicity campaign. We shall consider that—indeed, we have been considering it—but I can see some defects in the kind of campaign the hon. Member has in mind. I should prefer that continuous pressure and interest of the kind of which I have spoken, which would be more beneficial in the long run.

In conclusion, may I make it clear that my right hon. Friend accepts the fact that a serious deficiency in honours graduates in science and mathematics is liable to arise. For that reason he has already taken energetic action. Together with his colleagues, he is contemplating further measures, many of which have been mentioned in this debate. Taken in conjunction with what I believe to be a better climate of opinion towards teaching and education in general, and an increasing public awareness of the needs of science, I should like to end the debate on a note of optimism, that we shall be able to attract the men and women of quality that we need for this particular task.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-eight minutes to Three o'clock.