HC Deb 06 July 1956 vol 555 cc1752-80

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

3.6 p.m.

Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, All Saints)

I wish to raise this afternoon a matter of very great importance to the City of Birmingham—the inadequacy of the supply of teachers in that city. I think it an understatement to say that an educational crisis is about to fall upon Birmingham.

In saying that, I want to emphasise that in my opinion the local education authority has followed a very cautious, indeed an ultra-cautious, path over the last few years. It has been most anxious not at any time to say anything which would frighten teachers away from the city, or to say or do anything which would create any alarm. Not until now, with this impending crisis a few months away, which we expect to be fully with us next September, when the educational term commences, not until this eleventh hour has the Brimingham education committee ventured to bring all the publicity and all the arguments fully out so that the public and Parliament might well understand them. I am among those who feel that the committee has been too cautious in this matter, and that it ought to have made its perturbations felt very much earlier.

I am also of opinion that, having stated all the relevant facts, the education committee of Birmingham has used all the ingenuity that it possesses to try to meet this serious crisis. I believe also that a word of very sincere thanks ought to be said for those old faithfuls who, notwithstanding the flood of teachers away from Birmingham, have stood firm and carried on teaching, with burdens far in excess of those which their colleagues in other parts of the country have to bear.

The Minister of Education, who is receiving a deputation of my Birmingham colleagues next week, must not think that he can put the blame on the local education committee. I shall give details of the steps which have been taken by the committee and the suggestions which the right hon. Gentleman has made. He must not think, when the crisis occurs in September, that the blame can be put on the education committee and that he can escape.

Under the 1944 Act the Minister, just as much as the local education authority, has an inescapable duty to provide education for the Birmingham children, and when, in September, the children of Birmingham are in some cases getting half-time education and in other cases are sitting in classes of over 50—in which case the teachers will be minding them and not teaching them—the responsibility, if he fails to take any action at all, will lie fairly and squarely upon the Minister's shoulders.

I want to give a few figures to illustrate the present staffing position and the school population in the city for this year and for last year, and estimated figures for next year. In January, 1955, we had in our primary schools 123,345 pupils, and we had 3,271 teachers. The figures for this year are 120,318 pupils and 3,268 teachers. The estimated figures for 1957 are 118,877 pupils and 3,170 teachers. For secondary schools the figures for those three years are: 1955, 58,061 pupils and 2,469 teachers; 1956, 63,353 pupils and 2,586 teachers, and for next year it is estimated that there will be 67,623 pupils and 2,524 teachers.

The national teacher-pupil ratio in England and Wales in 1951 was one teacher to 33 pupils in the primary schools and was one to 21 in the secondary schools. The Birmingham ratio last year was one teacher to 37.7 pupils in the primary schools, and one to 23.5 in our secondary schools. This year the figure is one teacher to 36.8 primary pupils and one to 24.5 in the secondary schools. Next year the number of pupils per teacher will be 37.5 and 26.7 for primary and secondary schools respectively. It will be seen that the ratio is well above the national average. Those figures give some indication of the pressure that exists now and which, I must emphasise again and again, is expected to grow worse in the next few months.

The position in the secondary modern schools is that in 1955 there were 43,608 pupils and next year it is estimated that there will be 49,368. There were 1,754 teachers in 1955, and the estimated figure for next year is 1,600. The difference between the position this year and next year in the secondary modern schools—and this is where the main crisis occurs—is that next year we shall have an increase of 3,144 pupils and a decrease of 154 teachers. That is the extent of the crisis in Birmingham's secondary modern schools.

In January this year we had a teaching staff of 5,854 but if we had been staffed on the proper national quota we should have had 6,663. It will, therefore, be seen that the present staffing, even if nothing worse happens, represents a deficiency of 809 teachers. Next year this deficiency is expected to be 1,128—unless an educational miracle happens in the city and the Minister can produce some rabbits out of the bag, of which there is no indication at present that he can.

Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Aston)

That he wants to.

Mr. Howell

My hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) is quite right.

We are very alarmed about the position, but we are even more alarmed about what we feel the Minister wants us to do, or does not want us to do. I hope that we shall have a more satisfactory answer to the debate than we had to Questions on the subject in the House a few days ago.

I want to emphasise that Birmingham has done almost everything which could be expected of it. The figures which I had this morning from the chief education officer are most revealing. Since 1950 there has been an increase in the strength of teachers in Birmingham of more than 1,000, so that the Birmingham authority has recruited 1,000 teachers in the last six years. Notwithstanding that increase and all the effort which must have gone into it, we still face a crisis.

The National Union of Teachers is represented on the Birmingham education committee and identifies itself, as do all teachers in the city, with the education authority in the difficulties which face it. The local education authority, therefore, welcomed the recent suggestion of the Birmingham branch of the N.U.T. that it should hold a survey into the reasons for teachers leaving Birmingham. The local education authority was, for one thing, anxious to find out whether there was any fault on its part and whether anything more could be done.

In view of what the Minister told me in answer to Questions on 21st June, I am delighted to have received the figures of the N.U.T. survey, as have other Birmingham Members. During the year ended August, 1954, 337 teachers left Birmingham. Of those 337, the N.U.T. sent a questionnaire to 67 per cent. and received replies from 59 per cent. The responsibility of the teaching profession is shown by the fact that 337 teachers, having left the city, 59 per cent., with no further interest in Birmingham, bothered to answer the questionnaire.

It was found that the reasons, which are most detailed, were very varied. A copy of this questionnaire can be made available to the Minister, if he has not got one. There was not a single reason which could be picked out for teachers leaving Birmingham, except the legitimate desire to get nearer to their own homes as soon as vacancies in their own areas became available. That is very important. There is no evidence from the questionnaire to suggest that housing entered the matter. I mention that because I have very good reason to believe that the Minister will tell us that we should build houses or hostels for teachers who come to Birmingham. There is no suggestion that housing forms any part of the reason why teachers leave. The reasons are many, mostly personal and the pressure to which teachers are subjected, and the fact that they can go elsewhere and get jobs where the pressure is much less.

I come to the question of the size of classes next year. The N.U.T. again performed a valuable service in having a survey made of all the schools in Birmingham and again sending the result of the survey to Members of Parliament. The survey shows the position which will obtain in the City of Birmingham from September of this year. Bearing in mind the national ratio of pupils to teachers which I have already given—23 in the case of secondary modern schools and 33 in primary schools—in Birmingham next year there will be at least 10 secondary modern schools with classes of more than 50. At least 352 classes, which is 40 per cent. of all the classes in Birmingham, will have between 46 and 50 pupils; 383, which is 43 per cent., will have between 41 and 45 pupils; 145 classes will have between 30 and 40 pupils. Not a single class in Birmingham will represent the national average.

It is shocking to think that 84 per cent. of the classes in Birmingham will contain between 45 and 50 pupils. How can any teacher teach anything in those conditions? Here I want to emphasise the great importance of Birmingham in the national economy. In his technological programme the Minister has, quite rightly in the view of most of us, given great prominence to the Birmingham College of Technology. What can be the recruiting level of boys and girls who will go to the advanced College of Technology if they do not receive the groundwork which is necessary if they are to take advantage of the advanced courses which the Minister is hoping to provide?

In this connection it is revealing that at the end of September there will be 15 classes in metal work, nine in woodwork, eight in science, and 13 in domestic science without teachers. So there are 48 specialist classes in Birmingham which it will not be possible to hold because there are no teachers for them.

One could quote cases all over the city of inferior education or of no education being available, but out of the many quotations that I could give I will select two, because they are both in my constituency. They have not been specially chosen for this debate but have been picked at random, and if the Minister wants any others, he can have them. First there is the St. Francis Roman Catholic School, which covers the Roman Catholic community in my division and in other neighbouring divisions. That has eight classes. It will be opening in September with four teachers, with no prospect of getting any more to cover the eight classes which will comprise between 45 and 50 pupils. What an impossible position that represents.

Then there is Watville Road Secondary Modern School, with 390 boys and girls. It will have nine teachers and it should have two specialists in woodwork and domestic science. In that school, incidentally, since October, 1952, there have been 16 new teachers and only three of those remain. Since October, 1952, there have been 37 staff changes at that one school. What a problem that presents. Children who are in the process of having their minds formed and matured, who ought to have confidence in their teachers, do not know from one week to the next whether they are to have the same teacher or whether these perpetual changes will continue. I could quote other cases, but I am sure that the two which I have quoted will show the Minister the problem.

Now I want to deal with what the authority has done. I have given the figures. One thousand extra teachers have been recruited in the last three years. This is sufficient to show the ingenuity with which Birmingham has relentlessly combed the training colleges of this country in an attempt to get trainee teachers to go to the city. At the present time, therefore, at least half of the teachers in Birmingham are fresh from their training colleges and so, in the main, and with every respect to them, they are inexperienced teachers. Yet an authority such as the City of Birmingham ought to have a high proportion of long-standing, established and experienced teachers. There is nothing more important in large secondary schools in such an area than to have people with a good grounding and background. I am sorry that we have not got that proportion in Birmingham.

We also knew that there was a grave deficiency in respect of girls' education in the city. I will tell the House what Birmingham has done since the war in providing additional facilities for girls in an effort to obtain more local women teachers. We have increased the number of grammar school places. Almost immediately after the war, we converted a secondary modern school into a grammar school. We have built and opened a new grammar school and two technical schools. All those are for girls.

We have built and opened two new comprehensive schools, for both sexes, and we have under construction two new grammar schools for girls and two new technical schools for girls. No one can examine that programme, appreciating the difficulties which have faced the education authority and the nation since 1945, and fail to say that the Birmingham education authority has done as much as it could possibly have done to encourage Birmingham girls to qualify and become teachers.

Birmingham has also provided a new teachers' training centre with a teachers' club, at a cost of £40,000. There was some public criticism of it, but the decision of the education authority has been vindicated by the present position. Events have shown that the authority was wise to provide every possible facility for teachers, especially for those coming from outside the city. All this shows that Birmingham has done practically all that could be done.

We must, therefore, face the position and ask ourselves what will get us out of the mess which exists in the largest city in the country outside London. It seemed to us that there were only two reasonable answers. One was that we should provide an extra allowance, a territorial allowance, and the other was that we should ask the Minister for a system of quotas. I know that territorial allowances are not very popular in some places. The Minister will probably say that it is not his job to interfere with the Burnham Committee, and, to a certain extent, we accept that, although he has some representatives on the Burnham Committee—

The Minister of Education (Sir David Eccles)


Mr. Howell

At all events, I am sure the Minister could find ways of making his wishes known to the Burnham Committee, if he wished to do so. I hope that the Burnham Committee will very carefully read in the OFFICIAL REPORT the information which I am about to give the House showing how widespread the operation of territorial allowances in Birmingham is, in respect not of teachers but of practically every other class of person employed by the council.

In May, 1955, the Birmingham education authority proposed to the Authorities' Panel of the Burnham Committee—I know that both sides of the Burnham Committee are against us on this, although both sides in Birmingham support the proposal for a territorial allowance—that from 1st April, 1956, there should be paid a territorial allowance of £40 per year, which would not rank for superannuation purposes. We felt that if we had difficulty in getting teachers because their burden in Birmingham was so great, the teachers who went there ought to be compensated.

I should have thought that that argument would appeal to the Minister. Every day of the week he and the Government stand by the laws of supply and demand, saying that they must operate. But when the Birmingham education authority wants to apply the laws of supply and demand in the present situation, it is not allowed to do so by the Burnham Committee, and it does not receive much encouragement from the Minister.

This is not a new problem for Birmingham. When I was chairman of the health Committee of the Birmingham City Council we had this same problem in respect of sanitary inspectors. As the chairman of the committee responsible for an adequate health service in Birmingham, I realised that although we were one of the finest training centres for sanitary inspectors in the country—and I hope the Minister will make a note of that, because it may be pertinent—and although we were training far more sanitary inspectors than any other authority in the country, we were losing them for the same reason that we are now losing teachers.

We proposed that there should be an extra payment in respect of sanitary inspectors, and I am happy to say that after proper negotiation with the National Joint Council, sanitary inspectors in Birmingham were given an allowance of £60 per annum. Although that extra allowance did not get us many more sanitary inspectors, it had the one saving grace of discouraging so many sanitary inspectors from leaving the city.

The first requirement is to stop so many teachers leaving the city. The £60 per annum allowance did the trick in relation to sanitary inspectors, and there is every reason to believe that it would do the trick in relation to teachers. Knowing that that arrangement had been successful with sanitary inspectors, I wrote to the town clerk this week and asked how the scheme for a territorial allowance for council employees in Birmingham was proceeding. I have just had the reply to my letter. I am amazed that something which I had the pleasure of helping to start has been extended so widely.

I want to give these other examples because they are important. The National Joint Council for Local Authorities' Administrative, Professional, Technical and Clerical Services has decided that foremen inspectors shall be paid £26 per annum above the usual rate. The National Joint Council for Local Authorities' Services (Manual Workers) has decided that men shall get 10s. and women 7s. 6d. a week above the usual rates in Birmingham. The National Joint Council has also agreed that women cleaners should be paid 2s. 0⅞d. per hour.

All this has happened in the last 12 months. Building trade craftsmen in Birmingham, under the joint negotiating committee for local authority services, are to get 11s. a week above the national scale. Building trade labourers are to get 10s. a week above the national scale, and all building trade operatives not included in those categories are to get an incentive bonus of 4d. an hour above the rate.

The appropriate national joint negotiating committee, which produced a uniform hourly rate for the country of 4s. 10½d., decided recently that engineering craftsmen in Birmingham should receive an increase of from 3d. to 5¼d. an hour, and semi-skilled engineering employees are to be paid from 3½d. to 4½d. an hour above the national average.

The National Joint Council for the Waterworks Industry has recently agreed that water department employees should be paid 10s. a week above the national rate. Further negotiations are proceeding at this moment with the appropriate Whitley Council for a Birmingham territorial allowance for the fire brigade, domestic staff and all other people within the purview of the ancillary staffs council. The establishment committee, at its last meeting, agreed to support further applications for special weighting allowances for all employees of the non-manual staff in Birmingham, and the city council has, on two or three occasions, confirmed its policy. In June, 1954, the city council reaffirmed its allegiance to Whitleyism. That is important, because every one of these increases above the national rate has been carried out and properly negotiated with the appropriate national joint council.

We can ask ourselves why teachers in Birmingham are the only employees of the local authority who are not to receive something above the national rate. Practically every class of local Government employee is to receive an amount of money in excess of the national minimum. Therefore, it can be seen that there is a very good case indeed for territorial allowances. In the case of sanitary inspectors this did the trick, and there is every reason to believe that it would be equally successful in other cases.

Birmingham put this proposal to the Burnham Committee in May, 1955. It was told that the Committee was very sorry, that it was not a matter with which it could deal and that Birmingham's peculiar difficulties should be put before the National Advisory Council on the Training and Supply of Teachers. The Minister knows all about the Council because it is supposed to advise him, when he cares to take its advice, which does not appear to be very often. The National Advisory Council consists of 16 representatives of the local education authorities, 14 representatives nominated by associations of teachers and eight representatives of universities and area training organisations.

We were rather apprehensive when we were told that our scheme was to be referred to the National Advisory Council, although we could see the logic of it. The Council was to consider the supply and recruitment of teachers, and, naturally, we went to it. We had already had experience of the Council. We approached the Council in 1928 on the question of women teachers, when it recommended that there should be a quota system for women teachers in the country. That quota system was put into operation, and, as a result, Birmingham began to get more of what were known as "ration" teachers. That system has considerably helped authorities, such as Birmingham, which could not get teachers.

On 29th October, 1955, we went to the Minister's own National Advisory Council after having had our claim for a territorial allowance rejected by the Burnham Committee. Many discussions took place, and by a large majority the Council advised the Minister that some form of establishment scheme should be adopted to deal with the distribution of teachers. In December last members of that body saw the Minister and discussed the advice which they had given to him. On 9th February, 1956, the Minister issued Memorandum No. 524 abolishing the existing scheme in respect of women teachers. That was done despite the advice given to him by an overwhelming majority of the members of the Council that there should be some system of quota for all teachers. In other words, the Minister was pleased to make confusion worse confounded in the teaching world, and especially in Birmingham.

In turning down the advice of his own National Advisory Council the Minister shoulders a very heavy responsibility. If, as a result of the Minister's action, Birmingham cannot pay more than the basic rate, and if it is not to have a quota by which it can obtain its fair share of teachers, then the right hon. Gentleman has a very great responsibility to this House and to Birmingham to explain in what circumstances he feels that the crisis can be overcome in Birmingham.

Some of my hon. Friends who also represent Birmingham constituencies, and I, asked the Minister some Questions on 21st June, in reply to which the Minister said: I decided against a quota system because in my view it was more likely to result in a loss of teachers than to divert any to the hard pressed areas. I am sorry to have to quote the Minister's own Reports, but I want him to give us a proper explanation as to why he gave this advice to the House on 21st June.

Paragraph 36 of the Annual Report of the Ministry of Education for 1954 stated: … as in previous years, the scheme"— in respect of women teachers— undoubtedly helped to prevent deterioration in the less well-staffed areas. Paragraph 14, in page 8 of the 1952 Report stated: A maximum establishment of women teachers was again fixed for each authority and resulted in continued improvement in the distribution of teachers available. Paragraph 30, in page 11 of the 1953 Report stated: The distribution of women teachers again improved … as a result of the continuance of the scheme for prescribing a maximum establishment for each authority. Those are very revealing passages in the Annual Reports of the Ministry.

If, as those passages seem to indicate, the Minister admits that the scheme was working well in respect of women teachers, what change of circumstances has made him turn a complete volte-face at this time, when an even more critical situation exists in Birmingham? We are entitled to ask for an answer on this point, especially in view of the Reports of the Ministry itself, from which I have quoted, and in the light of which the Minister's Answer on 21st June seems to be a lot of nonsense.

In his reply to a supplementary question on that day, he went on to say: If I thought that a negative direction of labour would help the authority we should consider it very carefully, but we have no means of guaranteeing that if a teacher were not allowed to teach in one of the more fortunate areas he would go to Birmingham. His own reports belie that suggestion, and I consider his answer to be absolute nonsense. No hon. Member is more firmly opposed to the direction of labour than I am, but in every walk of life the principle is followed that an establishment shall be laid down and that staff shall be recruited up to that establishment. It happens in the Ministry of Education. Is it not a fact that in that Ministry establishments are laid down, and civil servants recruited up to the maximum? Although many other civil servants may want to go to the Ministry of Education they cannot do so. Does the Minister claim that that is direction of labour?

This principle applies throughout the Civil Service, in practically all local government, and in many responsible private firms. It is an accepted pattern of industrial employment. The right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that this would be a negative direction of labour can only be regarded as a piece of great nonsense, and I am amazed that the Minister stands by it. We want to know whether it is the Government's intention to scrap establishment quotas in every Government Department and in the administrative sections of local education authorities, for which he has as much responsibility as he has for the teaching section.

Later in his answer to one of the supplementary questions on 21st June, the Minister said: I am sure that the local authority can do a good deal more to help itself than it has done so far.

Sir D. Eccles

Hear, hear.

Mr. Howell

The Minister says, "Hear, hear", but that statement is received in education circles in Birmingham with the deepest resentment. Since the Minister said "Hear, hear"—and I am delighted that he interrupted—we shall want to hear from him in what respect he thinks the education authority can help. I hope that he will tell us.

He went a little further on that occasion, and in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates), he said: I think that the authority realises that there are certain things which it might do."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st June, 1956; Vol. 554, c. 1629–30.] I am authorised by the education officer of Birmingham and the chairman of the Birmingham education committee to say that they deeply resent that statement, that they certainly do not know of any more steps which they might take and that they are very much alarmed because the Minister said they do know of such steps. I agree with them that it is the Minister's prime responsibility to look after his own Department. It is not for him to suggest that the Birmingham authority knows that it could do much more, for he should realise from meetings which have been held with him that the authority knows of no other steps that it could take. The reason for the public outcry is to find out what other steps might be taken. The Birmingham education authority has tried practically everything.

We suspect, from what the Minister told the education authority at a meeting with it, that he means that Birmingham should provide houses for teachers. Indeed, at a local authority conference in the country some time ago he said he wanted local education authorities to provide more houses for teachers. If that is what the Minister means, I am bound to tell him that he is living in cloud-cuckoo land. Birmingham already has a waiting list for houses of 60,000 people. With a waiting list of 60,000 homeless in the city, does he suggest that any responsible person in the city—and this is not a matter of party politics—could propose to start building houses for teachers? If we accepted such a claim on behalf of teachers, does he think we should be able to resist the claims of doctors and nurses for our understaffed hospitals?

As I have shown from the N.U.T. survey, housing is not the problem. It is interesting to note that West Bromwich, a neighbouring authority with much the same problem, had a hostel for teachers. A local personage gave a large house which was converted into flats for teachers, but the teachers never took them up. If that experiment failed in West Bromwich, on our doorstep, it would certainly fail in Birmingham, even if it were practical—and in any event it is not a practical proposition. No responsible authority facing a grave housing situation could offer to build houses for teachers. In any event, no more building land is left in Birmingham. I wonder where the Minister thinks we should build houses for the teachers. We should be very interested to hear from him how he would solve the problem of finding land, since we have no land on which to house the 60,000 homeless. His suggestion does not represent a solution to the problem.

I think that I have given a fair summary of the case. A breakdown of the education service in Birmingham is inevitable in September. The crisis is with us now, and as a result of it we shall have either part-time education in Birmingham or grossly overcrowded classes. Whichever happens, one thing is certain—that the school children of Birmingham will not have the education facilities to which they are entitled under the 1944 Act and which it is the responsibility of the nation to give them.

The people of Birmingham demand action, the city council demands action, and hon. Members representing Birmingham demand action. We do not want the nebulous replies which we had to Questions on 21st June, given, if I may say so with respect, in the rather supercilious manner which we have come to associate with the Minister of Education. We do not want to lay too much blame on anyone. We have tried to deal with the problem in a constitutional manner, by approaching the Minister, by approaching the Burnham Committee, by approaching the Minister's Advisory Council. We have done, in a constitutional manner, all the things which we ought to have done. We do not want to apportion blame, because our prime consideration is the service. As a consequence, we shall be prepared to take any steps to meet the Minister and to consider any scheme with him—provided that it is a reasonable scheme, and not such a scheme as he suggests for the provision for housing, which, as I have pointed out, is not practical. That is an impossibility in the present housing situation in Birmingham.

In conclusion, I say that the education committee having done all that it could, the city council having done all that it could, and Birmingham Members of Parliament having represented the position as urgently and as fully as they can, then, if a catastrophe occurs in September, as undoubtedly it appears that it will, the responsibility will lie fairly and squarely upon the shoulders of the Minister of Education.

3.50 p.m.

Mr. Roy Jenkins (Birmingham, Stechford)

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. D. Howell) has deployed a very powerful case indeed, and I merely want to add a few brief comments to what he has said. I do not think that anyone who has listened to my hon. Friend, or anyone who reads what he has said, will doubt that he has made the case completely fully that there is a very serious problem here.

Probably the Minister would agree that the ratio of teachers to the size of classes is a problem to some extent affecting the quality of education in the whole of the country. Clearly, in Birmingham and the surrounding areas this is a more severe problem than the average for the country, and it is causing great local concern. It is certainly just as acute in my constituency as in that of my hon. Friend the Member for All Saints. Perhaps it is particularly worrying now that the bulge is affecting Birmingham worst at the secondary modern stage, because that stage of education is one that stands out as needing improvement more than any other.

A shortage of teachers inevitably generates a sort of vicious circle. If one has a shortage of teachers and very large classes that of itself makes the area in which it applies less attractive to teachers who are thinking of taking up work with the authority. Therefore, there is more than a chance in Birmingham—an actuality—of a progressive deterioration in the situation. I know that we are to meet the Minister next Wednesday for a further discussion, but I hope that he will be able to tell us now that he fully recognises the urgency of the problem, that talk of a breakdown in the education service in Birmingham in September is not rhetoric but a dangerous possibility, and that he recognises the problem and will communicate to us the lines along which he hopes to see it solved.

As my hon. Friend said, the local education authority has suggested a number of ways in which it thinks the problem could be solved. The Minister has the right to say that he cannot accept one or all of these suggestions, but any such attitude on his part carries with it a very strong obligation on him to put forward, not vague suggestions that the authority might do more, but a clear programme designed to show how he would like to see the problem solved. I hope that, at the very least, he will do that today.

It is difficult to see how one will be able to solve the problem without adopting one of two fairly obvious alternative lines. The first is the payment of the additional area allowance in the Birmingham area; or, secondly, the adoption of the scheme of allocation or rationing of teachers, or whatever one likes to call it.

It is some time since the Minister of Education and I took part in the same debate. He used to be more concerned, in previous Parliaments, with issues which I am more accustomed to discussing. In those days he used to be closely associated with a policy which was described by him as a "dash for freedom". He was an upholder of the market economy rather than the controlled economy. I should have thought that this, from his point of view, would make him attracted to the solution of meeting a particular local shortage by giving a higher rate of payment to deal with the problem.

I know that some Ministers in the past have sometimes been described as Radicals in every Department but their own, but I am not sure that I would apply that label to the Minister of Education. I do not know in what Department he would be a Radical. I hope we can say of him that he is a market economist in every Department but his own. There seems to be a slight danger of this, in so far as he is turning his back completely upon the solution of attracting teachers into this area, in which they are very short, by means of an additional payment. Assuming that, for various reasons, he so decides, rightly or wrongly, surely it is most incongruous to say that he will not give a financial incentive at all—the incentive of a free market economy—and, at the same time, for him to be equally rigidly opposed to any scheme of rationing or allocation, which is surely the only possible alternative solution.

I hope that the Minister will not talk too much about the vague incentives which the local authority should give. My hon. Friend the Member for All Saints has dealt with the housing problem, and there are very grave difficulties there, particularly for an authority placed as Birmingham is. But perhaps the crux of the issue is not that difficulty. It is the fact that, on all the information available to us, the housing incentive, even if given, would be almost totally ineffective. I hope that the Minister, if he does talk on housing, will deal with how to overcome this difficulty of the fact that teachers, in giving their reasons for leaving Birmingham, do not regard housing as important. If, therefore, he decides on some other incentive, I hope he will stipulate absolutely clearly what it is.

The basis of the problem is that Birmingham does not produce nearly as many teachers as the city needs. I happen to represent a Birmingham constituency, but I was brought up and lived the early part of my life in South Wales in an area in which the position was the reverse of that in Birmingham, and in which there were more teachers. I suspect that the difference goes back to the considerable difference in employment conditions, in tradition and in outlook and the relative attraction of various other jobs. It is certainly not something which could be changed by any step within a short period of five or ten years.

This is a problem which is not a very short-term problem, but is nevertheless an immediate problem of the next five years or so. Therefore, from the point of view of that period, one has to accept the fact that Birmingham is a low producer of teachers, but it is a fact which cannot very easily be changed for the purpose of this argument.

I would only conclude by saying that my hon. Friend has made a very powerful case. This is a very serious problem affecting everybody in Birmingham concerned with education. I hope that the Minister will apply himself very closely to the kind of questions which we have asked, and will give us clear answers.

3.58 p.m.

The Minister of Education (Sir David Eccles)

I am glad that the hon. Members for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. D. Howell) and Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) have raised what is a very serious problem. It is a problem which, I hope, I shall be able to show is by no means restricted to Birmingham, and, in approaching the difficulty of the supply of teachers, I am sure that the first thing to realise is that unless the Ministry and the local authorities go into partnership we shall never reach a solution.

I should like to say to the hon. Member for All Saints that, though I can understand their position, the local authority must not spend all its time saying that it has done everything right and cannot have done anything wrong, any more than I should say that, from the point of view of the Ministry. I wish to look at this matter objectively, without trying to escape my obligations, as I think the representatives of Birmingham will do, since the situation is very difficult for the children in those areas. I hope we shall take the line that, together, we may be able to do something—

It being Four o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed without Question put.

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

Sir D. Eccles

This is a joint operation. I wish to help the authority in every possible way, and I hope that it, too, without reference to the past, but thinking only of what we can do in the future, will look at the suggestions I am going to put forward.

The shortage of teachers in Birmingham is a very old story. It happens to be a fact that if we take the teacher-pupil ratio of primary and secondary children together it was worse in Birmingham before the war than it is now. This only shows how our standards have improved, which is a very good thing. It goes right back into the past, as the hon. Member for Stechford has said, for the Birmingham authority has always run on a rather narrow basis and has always had to recruit teachers from outside.

That is not to say that the position is not very serious today. It is, but it is also true that it is by no means unique. I could suggest some quite good remedies, if we were only dealing with Birmingham, but there are other authorities whose difficulties are very severe indeed. Very many local authorities today can point to oversize classes. We are not dealing with a number of luxury areas at one end of the scale and a number of shortage areas at the other.

Such is the pressure of the 1½ million more children in the schools than we had before the war that it is only natural that we should find difficulties in the supply of teachers everywhere. It follows from that that, whatever measures we take to help Birmingham, we must he sure that they do not reduce the total supply of teachers in England and Wales. We have to keep in mind the consequences for the rest of the country of anything that we do for Birmingham.

The hon. Member has quite rightly said that on the national plane there are two main suggestions. The first of these is a special territorial allowance. If we could persuade the Burnham Committee to agree to pay the teachers in Birmingham more than teachers were being paid elsewhere, that would attract more teachers to Birmingham. But the Burnham Committee turned this proposition down, and their argument was at least understandable, namely, that the areas with a similar claim to Birmingham's are not only numerous but are changing as population changes, and as the new estates and the new towns grow. The difficulties of demarcation are almost insuperable. One has only to look at the Midlands around Birmingham to ask where would the frontiers be? It is not as though we have had no experience of this difficulty. We have had the London allowance for some time, and the difficulties on the frontier towards Essex have taught us all a very severe lesson. Teachers who live just outside, in, say, Essex, come in and teach in London, to get the extra allowance, and very great difficulties are caused in Essex. This question of demarcation would defeat us. I could point to a dozen areas in the country whose claim to an area allowance would be just as good as that of Birmingham.

On what criterion would one give an extra allowance? The London extra allowance was given because of the difference between the cost of living in London and that in the provinces. That is a historical fact which at the time was recognised and embodied in the salary scale. The Burnham Committee would now be asked to give a special allowance on statistics of shortage nothing to do with differentials in the cost of living. That would mean that we should have to agree to give an extra allowance to authorities whether they were efficient or not and whether or not they had done all that they reasonably could to attract and keep teachers in their areas. They would qualify for the allowance simply because they had a teacher-pupil ratio worse than the average. I think that that would be most difficult. Although it was not my decision—indeed, at the time I was rather sympathetic to the idea—the Burnham Committee turned it down.

There is also the question of money. The London allowance is only £36 a year. I can scarcely imagine local authorities agreeing to an allowance of more than that for other centres, and I do not think that it would be decisive unless it could be limited to Birmingham. I assure hon. Members that that would be utterly impossible; the whole of south Staffordshire would have to be brought into the scheme.

Mr. D. Howell

The right hon. Gentleman heard the long list I read of manual and non-manual staff who have it in Birmingham. Would he have a look at that?

Sir D. Eccles

I was very interested in that. It shows what an extraordinarily unattractive place Birmingham must be.

But I wondered very much how soon neighbouring authorities would start ask- ing for the same differential allowances as have been given to the Birmingham public servants. However, I cannot deal with that today.

The second measure, which the authority wants but the teachers do not want, is that there should be a quota system designed to prevent the more attractive areas employing more teachers than some number fixed by the Minister. I think it rather important that I should go into that question in some detail because, evidently, it is misunderstood. The hon. Member asked why we should abandon the quota for women teachers and not employ it for all teachers. I do not think that he has studied the matter. If he had he would see, first, that both the teachers and the authorities themselves wanted the ration for women teachers abandoned.

That scheme really in not relevant. It provided an incentive to the local education authorities to employ married women and part-time women teachers because they were not included in the ration. If we fixed a ration for all kinds of teachers—and that would be the only way once we start dealing with the secondary school difficulties—it would have the opposite effect and quite a number of immobile home-based teachers would not be employed.

I do not think that there can be any case for fixing an establishment of teachers for any authority below the number they have now. They could all point to schools which are understaffed. That is why the analogy which the hon. Member drew with Government Departments is false. Government Departments have all got their establishments, but there are schools in all areas which have not got the teachers they want. Until we arrive at the point at which L.E.As. can say to their electors, "Our children have got a distribution of teachers which allows classes to be of a reasonable size" I think it would be impossible to fix the establishment below the number of teachers they have today.

The only possible exception is Wales, but, while it is true that in Wales the pupil-teacher ratio is considerably better than it is in England, I do not think that hon. Members would expect me to ask the Welsh authorities to dismiss 5 per cent. or 10 per cent. of their existing teachers. They have good grounds for saying, "We have need of all the teachers we can get."

So if we have a quota system at all we must start with existing establishments. That means that the only room for manoeuvre is in the net increase in the teacher force each year, which has recently been about 7,000. Here, I fully agree, the Minister has a responsibility to see that there is an adequate number of training establishments, but we are in this difficulty. Two, three or five years ago, when it might have been reasonable to build more teacher training colleges there were no more applicants than there were places for them. Today, when, for the first time since the war we have a large surplus of young people applying for places in teacher training colleges, it is too late, because by the time we could build any more colleges and the trainees had passed through them and gone into teaching, the bulge would be well on its way through the schools. We must, therefore, do the best we can with the addition of 7,000 a year, but for a year or two 5,000 of that 7,000 are required to match the increase in school rolls, which is still continuing.

Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)

Bulge or no bulge, does not the Minister contemplate getting down the size of classes in future by having more trained teachers as a result of more pupils going to the colleges he hopes to build?

Sir D. Eccles

We shall bring down the size of classes when the bulge is over, but I say that it is not a practical policy for any Government to build more training colleges at this moment in the timetable of the extra school population. We should only get the extra teachers when the worst crisis was over, so we must seek to do the best we can with the existing supply.

As I was saying, 5,000 of the additional 7,000 teachers are needed in the next year or two to match the increase in the school rolls. That leaves only 2,000—less than 1 per cent. of the teachers in post. That is a very tiny margin on the right side, and it can only be maintained as a net increase in the teacher force if, within the total number of teachers, we keep the married teachers—and there are 55,000 married women teaching today—and all those teachers who are over the age of retirement but are willing to go on serving, and are most valuable; and the teachers who are home-based, those who, for one reason or another, can accept a post only if they can go back to their homes at night. Unless we can keep in post all those teachers—who are generally known as immobile teachers—a very small change for the worse would mean that our net increase of 2,000 a year would disappear and we should have a deficit.

It so happens that the attractive areas are also those where many of these older and immobile teachers live. I should say that those areas have more than their fair share. They get wonderful service. On the other hand, it is highly likely that any authority which was in a position to recruit more than the quota fixed by the Minister would prefer to recruit full-time, mobile teachers rather than go to the extra trouble—and it is an extra trouble—of looking round, and interviewing and trying to get back a woman who has married and gone from school and is willing to come back after a break in service, or persuading a teacher who, at the age of 60, is hesitating to retire, to stay on for a few years.

We have had some experience of this in Wales. It is certain that if an authority is prevented from recruiting more than a certain number of teachers, and can get that number or practically that number in the form of full-time, mobile teachers, it is to them that it will first turn, with the result that a number of those immobile teachers who are of such importance to the service will be lost entirely to the schools. They cannot pick up their homes and go to teach in Birmingham or one of the shortage areas.

Even if one considers only the mobile teachers, the fact that a man or woman cannot get a post in a school in the area in which he or she wants to teach does not mean that that man or woman will necessarily immediately go and teach in one of the shortage areas. In fact, we know—it happens now without a quota—that some of these people prefer to leave the profession altogether.

What I believe to be an even more serious result of a quota is that if one prevents teachers from taking a post where they wish to go, and they have to go to Birmingham or one of the other shortage areas, they will go there with the intention of getting away as soon as possible. That, I am sure, is one of the causes of the extraordinary rate of wastage in these shortage areas.

There are also technical difficulties in applying a quota which the shortage area authorities seem to overlook. I should have to fix these establishment quotas at least a year ahead so that the authorities might know what recruiting policy to adopt. They would have to be based on estimates of the teachers available and the children in school in that area 12 months ahead, and those estimates would often prove incorrect. The shifts in the population are difficult to forecast. We are working on very tiny margins.

When families go to new housing estates they take with them a greater number of children—or so it seems to me—than the local education authorities ever forecast, and we cannot be sure of those numbers in advance. The result would be that my officials would continually be looking at claims for revision in these establishments—always upwards, and we would only have a few thousand out of which to meet any of these claims.

I conclude that the policing of a quota would be extremely difficult; the quota system itself would be ineffective; and it would make matters worse, not better. The total number of teachers who might then be persuaded to go to the shortage areas would be reduced to little more than a trickle. I am also confident that an establishment system of this kind would tend to blind the shortage areas to the action which they might take to help themselves.

I turned down the quota system, because I do not think that it would help. It is not a question of a doctrinaire dash for freedom, as the hon. Member for Stechford said. If I thought that this scheme would help, I would put it into practice. But there are things which can be done by persuasion. I think that persuasion is a more effective way to intervene in the distribution of teachers. When I said that to the representatives of the hard-pressed local education authorities, they made cynical noises, as much as to say that the rest of the United Kingdom and the Principality of Wales would never lift a finger to help the Midlands or the North. These sceptics overlook the fact that there is nothing that I can do to force an authority to employ the immobile teachers in its area. That can only be done by good will and by a desire on the part of authorities to help the nation's children as a whole.

We have had, and will continue to have, conversations with those authorities where we have reason to think that they have not really done their best to employ all the married women teachers and to persuade the elderly teachers to continue teaching. It is my belief that by dealing in a friendly way with authorities on this point, we shall get a better result than if I were to try to bully them with the big stick of a rationing system.

I ought to say that there is no analogy between the pre-war rationing system of teachers and that for which some of the education authorities have asked now. The object of the pre-war system was to deal with threatened unemployment and the falling school rolls. It was designed to bring down, and to keep down, the number of teachers employed, and to push the older teachers out of the schools as soon as possible to make room for the newly trained teachers.

The purpose was a very narrow one, of saving money rather than of improving distribution, and the pre-war experience shows clearly that if we want to reduce the number of teachers the imposition of a rationing system is an effective but unpopular way of doing it. My object today is the opposite. I want to increase the total supply of teachers and to make the profession popular. I cannot afford to drive away any teachers from the school, married or unmarried, young or old, who are willing to lend a hand in the difficult years.

That brings me to the question of Birmingham and the other shortage areas, particularly Birmingham. Their difficulties lie chiefly in not being able to keep the teachers they recruit. The hon. Gentleman cited the teachers' survey in Birmingham, but I regret to tell him that he cannot place much reliance on that.

Mr. D. Howell


Sir D. Eccles

Listen to the figures. From 800 to 900 teachers retired from the authority's service, of whom 337 went to other authorities. The questionnaire was sent to 67 per cent, of the 337. Of that 67 per cent. only 59 per cent. replied, that is, 133 teachers out of the 800 or 900. Why did those 200 teachers leave to go to other authorities?

Mr. Howell

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but his figures are not correct. The 337 are the number who left in one year, so 67 per cent. of one year's deficiency were questioned. Of those 67 per cent., 59 per cent. answered, which, in view of the fact that they had no further interest in Birmingham, was, I think, commendable on their part.

Sir D. Eccles

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. About 800 or 900 teachers leave the service every year—

Mr. Howell

In Birmingham?

Sir D. Eccles

Fourteen per cent. out of 6,000 have left already last year, according to the latest figure I have.

This brings me to housing. I do not believe that it is impossible to persuade the housing authority to do something. There are 65,000 families on the housing list, which shows how short housing is in Birmingham. My information is that the teachers in Birmingham suffer great difficulties in getting houses. I do not see how it can be otherwise with so large a housing list.

It is said that we cannot persuade the electors of any big city to give priority to teachers, but other local authorities are doing it. After all, if a person has not got a house that is serious, and the delay is most uncomfortable, but once he gets a new home he makes, one hopes, a happy life. With a child it is quite different. Years pass, and if the child misses its schooling, that can never be retrieved. This is an argument which the people of Birmingham might well consider.

In addition to housing, there are a number of other things which I believe the Birmingham authority should look into. There is, first, the method by which it appoints its head teachers—

Mr. Roy Jenkins


Sir D. Eccles

I am sorry, but I was asked for some suggestions and there is not much time left. Birmingham appoints no head teacher from outside, only teachers from its own school staffs. The result is that when a headship is advertised outside Birmingham, any Birmingham teacher can apply, and no doubt some do, and get the post. So there is a loss of a potential head teacher to Birmingham. However, when Birming- ham advertises a headship only their head teachers can apply—

Mr. Howell

The right hon. Gentleman is wrong.

Sir D. Eccles

Except in the case of the grammar schools.

Mr. J. Silverman

Surely the prospect of promotion is an inducement to teachers to stay.

Sir D. Eccles

That is what the teachers say, but I think that we ought to have free trade in teachers in all authorities. There is no doubt that it is a weakness in the primary and secondary modern schools of Birmingham that no head teachers come in from outside.

The secondary modern schools are the centre of the problem. The hon. Member for All Saints should look at the governing bodies of the secondary modern schools in Birmingham. He will find that there are 30 secondary modern schools grouped together under one governing body. Unless the local education authority takes trouble with its secondary modern schools and gives each a body of governors to support the teachers and give the school a character of its own, it is, in my view, not doing as much as can be done to deal with the special problem of secondary modern school staffs.

Again, the Birmingham authority does not make individual appointments to secondary modern schools. That matter requires looking into. If I were applying for a job in Birmingham, I should like to know to what part of Birmingham or to what school I was going. The matter should be investigated, to ascertain whether it would not be more attractive if the appointments were made individually.

I am not at all sure that in Birmingham enough trouble is taken to get part-time work from older teachers. It is true that there is no retiring age, as it were, in Birmingham, which is rather different from the position with other authorities, but has the authority really taken the trouble not just to refrain from dismissing a teacher when he is over 60 or 65 years old, but to ensure that the older teachers stay on, even if it is only for part-time teaching? All these things need looking at again.

Birmingham is a very great city, the second city in England, and it is because it has this great reputation that I feel it does not really wish to admit that there may be possibilities of doing a very great deal more than has been done. I look around at some of the other cities which have these difficulties and see what they are doing. It is clear that their basic troubles are the same. Large industrial cities are, I suppose, less attractive to live in that the countryside is. However, they are all trying to help themselves, and I think Birmingham could do so, too. I am hopeful that a good deal more could be done and will be done.

As to the area allowance, as long as there are other authorities with teachers who do not want it, it is really not for the Minister to start a system of payments over which the practical difficulties are so great. I am convinced that a quota system would damage the country's total supply of teachers and do our education service grave harm. Teaching must be made to be a great profession. If we start applying this sort of control, we shall lower the status of teachers. My responsibility is to help the authorities as much as I can, and I shall do so. I look forward to my next meeting with the Birmingham Members, when we can again discuss what the hon. Member for All Saints and I have said.

4.28 p.m.

Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Aston)

I should like to make just one or two remarks in the minute or two that is left. We hope to meet the Minister next Wednesday. He has told Birmingham what he thinks Birmingham should do. The Birmingham education authority has investigated all the things which he has mentioned.

Mr. Howell

Every one of them.

Mr. Silverman

We want to know what the Minister is going to do. He has said that the crisis is a matter for partnership between himself and the Birmingham authority. Apparently he proposes to be a sleeping partner, because we have not heard what he proposes to do about it.

The right hon. Gentleman outlined the two solutions. In the case of one solution, he hides behind the Burnham Committee and says that he can do nothing about it. In the case of the second solution, he advances totally inadequate reasons for declining to accept the principle of some form of rationing—

The Question having been proposed at Four o'clock and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at half-past Four o'clock.