HC Deb 22 March 1956 vol 550 cc1543-9

The provisions of section eighty-one of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1946), hereinafter referred to as the "Act of 1946"), in so far as they relate to the dismissal of certificated teachers shall not apply to a teacher who has completed forty-five years of service or of service and second class service.—[Mr. Henderson Stewart.]

Brought up and read the First time.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

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

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

I think that the House can consider, with this new Clause, the Amendment in page 16, line 3, to leave out Clause 23 and that to Clause 30, in page 25, line 18, after "3A," to insert: where any teacher holds a post of special responsibility within the meaning of the regulations for the time being in force made by the Secretary of State under section seventy-nine of the Act of 1946 (which relates to the salaries of teachers) and will not, on completion of forty-five years of service or of service and second class service, have attained the age for retirement prescribed under the last foregoing paragraph, for the teacher to be deemed to have offered to resign from the said post on the day on which he completes the said forty-five years, and for the retirement of the teacher from the said post on the said day if his resignation is accepted, so, however, that nothing in any provision included in the scheme under this paragraph shall prevent he employer from offering and the teacher from accepting appointment to another host;

Mr. Henderson Stewart

The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) said a few moments ago that he thought he had better say some nice words to the Minister then because he would not have any more nice ones to say later on. I hope, however, that we may hear some pleasant expressions on this group of Amendments, because, in fact, they are intended to meet proposals put to us by the Opposition in the Scottish Grand Committee.

Clause 23—which was, of course, formerly Clause 22—was debated at the first sitting of the Scottish Committee. An Amendment was then put down in the name of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) who wanted to add to the main Clause a new subsection: (2) Any teacher who has attained the age of 65 years shall not thereafter hold a promoted post. The debate on that Amendment ranged over a considerable field, and indeed over the whole subject of the employment of teachers aged over 65 years, and the effect of the "Mundella Act"—as we call it in Scotland. I undertook to look at the matter again, upon which the Amendment was withdrawn. The Motion that the Clause should stand part of the Bill was, however, carried. I have looked at the matter again, as I promised, and I have now to make a proposition which, though it may not go absolutely all the way to meet the Opposition, does, I claim, go a considerable way.

The changes proposed in the new Clause—which replaces Clause 23—and in the Amendment to Clause 30 are as follows. First, by the new Clause, all teachers will now have the full protection of Section 81 against dismissal until they have completed the maximum period of service which can count for pension, namely 45 years, or until they reach the compulsory retiring age of 70, whichever comes first. Thereafter, no teacher will have that protection.

Secondly, by the Amendment to Clause 30, any teacher in a post of special responsibility will be deemed to have offered his resignation from the post on completion of 45 years' service, and it will be open to the education authority to accept it or to ask the teacher to continue in the post he was occupying. If the educational authority accepts the resignation it may, of course, offer the teacher another post.

I will explain those two changes in a few words. The first change is based on a proposal made to us by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin), whom I am sorry not to see in his place, and can be defended because it fixes upon a logical point in a teacher's career at which to end protection against dismissal. The teacher is given the opportunity of earning his maximum pension. I think there is no logical reason for withdrawing the protection at 65 now that the maximum age has been raised to 70. That was the point made by the hon. Member, and I think it is a good one. As hon. Members know, the choice lies between the age of 60, when a teacher may retire if he wishes and draw his pension, and, secondly, on completion of 45 years' service when he has earned his maximum pension, and the age of 70. when he must retire unless he gets special permission from the Secretary of State to continue.

That is the first change. The second one puts posts of special responsibility at the disposal of the education authority when the teacher in the post has completed 45 years. I am speaking from memory, but I think I am right in saying that that was the point particularly in the mind of the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn). The local authority association and the Educational Institute of Scotland wanted that to happen when the teacher attained the age of 65. In both cases the reason was, of course, to avoid blocking promotion. One quite understands that, but the authorities also did not wish to be saddled with teachers in such posts who in their opinion were past their best.

The view of the Government is that teachers who are willing to continue in their posts beyond the age of 65 and are efficient should be allowed to do so. The new Clause and the Amendments together provide, I think, a workable and logical scheme, which is a reasonable compromise between the various and somewhat conflicting views which have been put, on the one hand, by teachers, and, on the other hand, by authorities, and then by hon. Members in the Scottish Grand Committee. I hope, having gone a very considerable distance to meet to a large extent the requests put to us, that the House will feel disposed to accept the new Clause and the Amendments.

Miss Herbison

The Joint Under-Secretary said that the new Clause and the two Amendments, although they do not go the whole way, go a considerable way towards meeting us. I am not at all certain that they go very far at all to meet the points put particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) in the Standing Committee.

The sum and substance of the new Clause and the Amendments in effect mean that a man can stay in his promoted post until he is 70 years of age. Earlier, in a debate on another Amendment, it was pointed out that when one took into consideration the two years of National Service which is compulsorily imposed on men teachers, some of them would be 70 and some may be 71 before they have completed 45 years service. The Joint Under-Secretary said that one of the provisions which we would get from this Clause and the two Amendments would be that those teachers who wished to work beyond the age of 65 and were efficient, would be able to do so. By these Amendments and the new Clause the man has the full protection of the Mundella Act—whether he is efficient or not. It is on that ground that I criticise the decisions which have been reached by the Government.

7.15 p.m.

I criticise them on a further ground. During the Committee stage we asked very strongly indeed that no man or woman should hold a promoted post after the age of 65. We did that for two reasons. The first was that we felt if we were to attract to this profession men and women of the best calibre it was important that they should know that their chances of promotion were fairly good. If almost every teacher may stay in a promoted post until he or she is 70 years of age, the chances of promotion will become fewer than they are at present. That is the first reason why, although this proposal goes a little way to meet us—a very little way—I criticise the proposals which the Government have brought before us today.

The second reason is that, although at present a man or woman may teach beyond what is considered the normal retiring age, the local authority takes it for granted that he or she has retired and these posts of promotion become vacant. If the man or woman continues to teach he or she will be in charge of a class—in a primary school, unfortunately, it may be one of more than fifty pupils and, in a secondary school, a class possibly of between thirty and forty pupils. If that man or woman has really passed his or her best as a teacher, the children who suffer will be those in that one class.

If the man or woman is left in a promoted position, as under these provisions, every child in the school will suffer, and there may be 800 or 900 children in the school. If the man or woman is head of a department there may be quite a few hundred children who will be adversely affected by the fact that these new provisions make it compulsory on the local authority to keep the man or woman in that promoted post.

We do not propose to vote against these proposals, because they have gone a very little way to meet us, but I ask the Joint Under-Secretary to consider what I have said and what I know one of my hon. Friends means to say on this matter, and to give some further thought to it. It is not only that we are making representations. In putting these views forward, the hon. Gentleman has met the wishes neither of the employees nor the employers. For those reasons, I ask him to consider the matter again and, perhaps in another place, meet much more fully the wishes of everybody connected with this profession in Scotland.

Mr. Ross

When we raised this matter during the Committee stage we were concerned with a balance of interests. I recognise the difficulty of doing all that would require to be done. At present it is the most difficult thing in the world to sack a teacher in Scotland before he reaches the age of 65 because they have protection, which is not available in England, under the Mundella Act. If we are to insist on teachers staying on and making the new age of retirement the normal age and that the teacher should get the normal protection up to that age, we have to recognise the effect of what will happen when the teacher is so much older.

It may well be that with a view to protecting the child and the interests of education, a local authority might want to suggest to a teacher that he should retire without undergoing all the formalities. But then we must remember what will happen under the Bill, because to derive the maximum benefit from it the teacher must teach for 45 years. Therefore, to protect his benefits under the Bill, a man must teach until the age of 70.

Thirdly, the question must be balanced in relation to promoted posts, thinking not only of the man himself but of the other members of the profession who have looked forward to promotion at a certain age but who now find that, with the change that the Government are making, promotion is blocked for four or five years. All the difference that the second Amendment would make is that instead of the age being definitely 70, it might be a little lower. In many cases it is bound to be 70, because a man will probably have to teach until well beyond the age of 70 to get in his 45 years service for full pension rights. The whole position must be considered in the light of the difficulty of recruiting for the profession, and I hope that much more serious attention will be given to that aspect.

If the Government refer to the Report of the Royal Commission on Population, they will see that paragraph 645 states: With further ageing, competition for promotion may be expected to increase, and a powerful sense of frustration may arise among the young. This would reinforce the demand for earlier retirement which on other grounds would be against the national interest. It is essential, however, to secure that experience in leadership should begin early, and that the community should get the full benefit of the diminishing supply of youth. Later retirement therefore should not apply to posts at the top. That is important. It may be possible to employ those retired as consultants or in positions of less responsibility. It is sometimes difficult to apply that procedure. In areas where replacements are unobtainable, it may be impossible. For those reasons, the difficulty of the inflexible approach was recognised in Committee.

The Government have tried, although not very hard, to reach a conclusion. They must come to a decision on this question. They have the Royal Commission Report behind them if they do so. In fact, they have the teachers of Scotland behind them, the young and the old, in trying to avoid frustration among the other members of the profession by the complete blocking of promotion. We must recognise that the Government have gone a little way, but they have not gone nearly far enough. I hope that they will further consider the point which has been made once again by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison).

Mr. Ede

I understand that the Clause and the consequential Amendments apply only to Scotland. I hope I may have an assurance that in this matter we shall not have these complications added to the English education service.

Sir D. Eccles

indicated assent.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.