HC Deb 21 June 1956 vol 554 cc1626-8
43. Mr. D. Howell

asked the Minister of Education whether he is aware of the shortage of teachers in Birmingham which threatens a breakdown in the city's educational service; in these circumstances why he rejected the advice of the National Advisory Committee upon the training and supply of teachers to the effect that quotas should be fixed for each local authority area; and what steps he intends taking to meet the deficiency of 800 teachers in Birmingham.

62. Mr. V. Yates

asked the Minister of Education at what rate teachers are at present leaving the employment of the Birmingham Education Authority; and if he will take immediate steps to confer with the local education authority with a view to checking the present drain upon the teaching staff in Birmingham schools.

63. Mr. Shurmer

asked the Minister of Education whether he is aware that, owing to the high cost of living and lack of suitable living accommodation in the city of Birmingham, the education authority of that city is unable to recruit the teachers whom it needs; and this is causing a serious situation in schools; and what action he proposes to take to help in this matter.

Sir D. Eccles

The staffing position in Birmingham has been serious for some time and the local education authority fears that it will grow worse. I have twice discussed with the authority the measures which it might take to attract teachers and to keep them longer. I have also asked authorities who find it easy to recruit to exercise restraint in making appointments. I decided against a quota system because in my view it was more likely to result in a loss of teachers then to divert any to the hard pressed areas. In reply to the hon. Member for Lady-wood (Mr. V. Yates), I cannot say at what rate teachers leave Birmingham, but this is the central difficulty, they do not stay as long as in other cities.

Mr. Howell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his reply is completely unsatisfactory, and that the local education authority fears a very serious breakdown in the service? Is he aware that there are a hundred fewer teachers now than there were a few months ago and that the position is worsening? As the right hon. Gentleman has tried to appeal to other local authorities not to take more than their fair share, and they are understandably taking no notice of that, what action does he propose to take to carry out his responsibilities in the matter of education?

Sir D. Eccles

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. I am sure that the local authority can do a good deal more to help itself than it has done so far.

Mr. Yates

Would not the last remark indicate the need for the Minister, in this emergency, to meet the local authority immediately? If the right hon. Gentleman says that he cannot say at what rate these teachers are leaving, is it correct to say that by the autumn term we may be 800, 900 or 1.000 teachers short? Is not this a grave situation for a city like Birmingham, and does it not call for immediate action by the Minister?

Sir D. Eccles

I have met the authority twice recently, and spent two afternoons with it. I think that the authority realises that there are certain things which it might do. Perhaps the hon. Member would care to come and discuss them with me. I should be very grateful if hon. Members from Birmingham would help in this situation.

Mr. Howell

On a point of order. I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.