HC Deb 04 April 1957 vol 568 cc677-82

Motion made, and Question proposed,That this House do now adjourn.—[Colonel J. H. Harrison.]

7.49 p.m.

Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)

I ought to apologise to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education for the fact that he is unable to attend another function because he has to be here to answer this debate. Perhaps we shall not be here for very long and he will be able to grant me what I am going to ask for and then fulfil his engagement, although he may make a late arrival.

The question does not concern large numbers but involves an important point of principle. It is a question of justice, and in this House we should be very jealous about justice, seeing that justice is done to everyone. It does not depend upon the number of people involved.

On more than one occasion I discussed this problem with the Parliamentary Secretary's predecessor, and with him also the question of a national salary scale for youth officers. The hon. Gentleman has inherited that problem, and I understand that he is giving it his personal attention. I am glad to hear it. People who do the same sort of job with the same sort of qualification and experience should have some similarity in their remuneration. I hope that the Minister will extend the scope of his activity and include swimming instructors with youth officers. The problem does not involve large numbers; the number of swimming instructors is not large and is diminishing, but the smallness of the numbers does not justify inequalities of remuneration.

I understand that it is the policy of the Ministry that swimming instruction shall increasingly be given by school stall. It is not my purpose to discuss the merits of that policy. Where there is a qualified teacher who is also a qualified swimming instructor, it is probably better that he should undertake the swimming instruction. No one will underestimate the importance of swimming instruction. We ought to make certain that in our junior schools every child who is not prevented by ill health should be taught to swim, and so long as there are swimming instructors employed by a local education authority there ought to be a basic scale applying to all of them.

The Parliamentary Secretary will be aware that local education authorities have no common basis of remuneration. I will cite three cases of local education authorities in fairly close proximity to each other, each employing swimming instructors. Let us compare the rates which they pay. The first local education authority I will call "local authority A". The scale it pays its swimming instructors begins at £475 and rises by increments of £20 to a maximum of £675. The second authority, local authority B, employs instructors with the same qualifications as those of authority A. In this case the scale is £ 456 2s. 6d., rising by increments of £15 to £589 7s. 6d.

I believe this scale is in accordance with that for one of the miscellaneous grades of local government officers, to whom any revision of the scale automatically applies. That is not so in the case of swimming instructors, who have to make individual application to the local authority when any increase takes place. This application then goes to the Ministry for approval. I understand that this is a new scale which was introduced last year. It is worthy of note that the local education authority did not place the instructors on the appropriate place in the scale according to years of service.

The classes of local authority A are always accompanied by a teacher from the school, while the classes from local authority B frequently are not. Therefore, though the remuneration is less, the responsibility is greater.

Let us come to the third authority, which I will call "local authority C." The payment here is one guinea per session, with an increase of 2s. per session after five years' service. Since authority C is a county authority and does not possess its own swimming baths, it often uses the same baths as authorities A and B. The Parliamentary Secretary will notice the wide difference in remuneration, and will agree that there are serious anomalies for which there can be no justification.

I hope that the Minister will give as sympathetic consideration to this problem as I know he is giving to the problem of youth officers. If there are other officers of the education authorities for whom no national scale exists, I hope that the same consideration will be extended to them.

I would put a suggestion to the Parliamentary Secretary. Would not the fairest solution in regard to swimming instructors be for the Ministry to negotiate with the local education authorities a salary scale, the maximum of which would represent a certain percentage of the qualified teachers' scale? I will not name any percentage. Whatever changes took place in the scale for the qualified teachers could then take place for the swimming instructors.

I shall listen with interest to what the Parliamentary Secretary has to say. I promised him that I would not speak for very long, and I have now said all I have to say. I hope that his answer will not be that as the swimming instructors are a diminishing number the Ministry intends to do nothing about them. As I said at the beginning, justice does not depend upon the number of people involved.

7.57 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Sir Edward Boyle)

I thank the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) for the kind words at the start of his speech. I am sure that anyone who has written a first-class biography of a former much beloved Minister of Education is fully entitled to keep the Parliamentary Secretary at 8 p.m.

In any case, it is always a great pleasure for personal reasons to reply to a debate on swimming instruction. I was no great athlete at school. I never scored a goal, and my life aggregate at cricket is somewhere between 40 and 50. Nevertheless, I passed my swimming test on the first Sunday afternoon.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for the moderate and careful way in which he has presented his case. I will bring all the points he has made to the attention of my noble Friend when he returns from America.

First of all, I should briefly explain to the House my noble Friend's position in this matter. Under Section 89 of the Education Act, 1944, the Minister has to appoint a committee which recommends to him salary scales for teachers. He has no authority whatever to prescribe salary scales which are not contained in the Report of the Burnham Committee. The Reports of the Burnham Committee are, of course, limited to certain well-defined categories of teachers. The Committee is primarily concerned with qualified teachers, but it also prescribes scales for certain special types of teachers in service before 1945 or for teachers who are granted the special status of temporary teachers. The Reports do not prescribe scales for people who have no formal qualifications to teach.

In general, swimming instructors do dot have qualifications which would entitle them to be regarded as qualified teachers. This is the difficulty. The large majority of them have not taken a course of teacher training and do not hold qualifications which the Minister can accept for the status of qualified teacher. My noble Friend does not think he should accept for qualified-teacher status qualifications in swimming alone. In recent years there has been considerable thought about the sort of physical education we want to see in our schools. One conclusion which is generally accepted among physical education experts is that swimming should be regarded as part of the wider curriculum of physical education and that, if possible, it should be taught to those who are able to treat it as part of an integrated course. After all, it is not the job of schools to train future Olympic champions, but we want schoolchildren to receive a thoroughly balanced course of training in all aspects of physical education.

I say all this in order to make it quite clear that swimming instructors cannot be regarded as full members of the teaching profession. It follows from this that the Minister cannot regard them as qualified teachers in the technical sense—the sort of term of art sense in which we use that expression. But, having said that, I should not for a moment like to give the impression that my noble Friend does not appreciate the very valuable service which many swimming instructors are performing.

I know there is, as the hon. Member has pointed out, considerable variation in the various scales being paid by local education authorities. Some authorities pay instructors on local government scales, others have adoptedad hocscales according to the qualifications and experience of the particular individual, and sometimes these scales are related to the Burnham scales. I can assure the hon. Member and the House that my noble Friend would raise no objection to proposals received from authorities to bring some of the lower scales up to the level of the highest ones, but this primarily is a matter to be decided between the individual local education authority and its instructors. I am, however, quite sure that local education authorities throughout the country will note the points that have been very properly made by the hon. Member tonight and that the specific cases to which he referred will be carefully considered by them.

I cannot go further than that this evening, except to say that I am very glad the hon. Member has raised this matter, and to repeat that my noble Friend, certainly for his part, would raise no objection at all to proposals received from local authorities to bring some of the lower scales up to a higher level.

Mr. Blackburn

I thank the Minister for that reply—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)

The hon. Member can speak again only by leave of the House.

Mr. Blackburn

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I want to make it quite clear that I was not asking for swimming instructors to be paid as qualified teachers. Obviously that would be quite wrong. I realised, of course, that the Minister had not power to prescribe scales of salaries, but what I am worried about is what the Parliamentary Secretary has just said, that the Minister will be prepared to receive suggestions from individual local authorities. Of course, that is what has been happening and why we have such wide variations in the scales which are being paid by different local authorities.

I was hoping that the Minister would be prepared to have discussions with local education authorities or to bring these matters to their attention to see if a unified scale for the country could be arrived at.

Sir E. Boyle

I speak again, by leave of the House, to answer the point raised. One of the difficulties one always has in all these matters is the relationship between the central government and local education authorities. As I have said, this is primarily a matter to be decided between the individual local education authority and its instructors, but I will certainly bring to the attention of my noble Friend the suggestion the hon. Member has made. I do not think I can go further than that this evening.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at five minutes past Eight o'clock.