HC Deb 07 April 1960 vol 621 cc734-42

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. J. E. B. Hill.]

11.37 p.m.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

A year ago I dealt in the House with Glasgow's serious teacher shortage and offered what I thought were helpful suggestions. I am afraid that little attention was paid to them. I hope that tonight in calling attention to the problems created by the school leaver that I may have more success.

However, before doing so, I want to remind the Joint-Under Secretary of State for Scotland that his hon. Friend who spoke for him last March made a definite promise that consideration would be given to the pension-plus-salary recommendation of the Knox Committee. The Scottish Office has had a year to consider its attitude and I hope that I shall hear something definite from the Joint Under-Secretary tonight.

Last March I warned that, if the Secretary of State did not show more regard for what was happening in Glasgow, part-time education would require to be introduced into the city's educational system. That happened last autumn. Since the spring term started, 2,197 secondary pupils have been subjected to part-time education in Glasgow and 1,174 pupils in 14 primary schools are in the same position. While rolls in primary schools have fallen by 3,000 pupils, the school staffs have dropped by 100, so that the average size of classes remains at 39.

In secondary schools the rolls are up by 4,000 in the last year, due to the increased influx of first-year pupils and also to the greater numbers remaining in school to the fourth and subsequent years. In 1954 the figure was 4,500. Last year it had risen to 6,600, a most remarkable and admirable tendency, and one which should be encouraged. Yet the number of secondary school teachers rose by only 57, a totally inadequate increase. Altogether, if the Glasgow teacher shortage problem is to be met, between 1,000 and 1,100 teachers are now required to bring classes down to the maximum number regulated by the education code, to replace teachers over 70 years of age and to displace uncertificated teachers. To do this Glasgow must offer inducements, particularly in housing, promotion and salaries.

I trust that tonight the hon. Gentleman will be able to tell me what steps he has been taking in these matters over the last year. However, apart from his emergency plans for Glasgow, the hon. Gentleman must have a long-term plan for overcoming the staffing shortage in Scotland. I should like to know how far his plans for the expansion of training facilities will meet Scotland's teaching requirements, bearing in mind the current shortage of 3,000 teachers.

I now want to look briefly at a problem which faces us in Glasgow and also in Scotland as a whole; that presented by the school leaver. In December of this year National Service will cease, so that vacancies created by the call-up will no longer be available. At the same time the introduction of new technologies and new industrial processes intensifies our difficulties. Computers, electronics and integration tend to diminish our dependence on the human element, while radiation and reactor technologies speed up automation.

These new technologies and new processes are making themselves felt, particularly in office work. They thus help to increase the number of those who are looking for jobs. This situation makes the problem created by the school leaver even more important. In 1956 15,600 boys and girls left school in Glasgow. In 1962 20,200 will leave. On 10th December, 1956, there were 360 young persons unemployed in Glasgow. At the corresponding date last year the number was 1,126. Also, the incidence is greater in the case of boys, because for every girl who was unemployed there were six boys. If one compares Glasgow's situation with that prevailing in a like city, one finds that for every boy unemployed in Birmingham there are 14 boys unemployed in Glasgow.

That is the problem we face, and I ask what we can do to help. I suggest the extension of day-release schemes, which would create more training places and so lead to the recruitment of staff to replace those on day release. That means the co-operation of industry and commerce and I am sure that they will recognise their responsibilities to the nation and to youth in this matter. For the hon. Member it means more teachers and, if he is to help in meeting this problem, he must provide more facilities for the school youth service. That is already being shamefully neglected by the Secretary of State for Scotland, even before the problem of the bulge is felt. If the right hon. Gentleman does not get a move on, he will simply shed his problems on the police courts in later years.

Years ago, it was said that accommodation for the storage of equipment for youth work should be provided in schools when they were being built. The Secretary of State refused to allow that. Now, in addition to that handicap, the youth service, at the most vital period of its existence, suffers through lack of premises, playing fields and swimming ponds. Crabbed old age refuses to loosen the purse strings, so the main job of some of the groups is to raise money, and I suppose that that can be called "working out their own salvation." I hope that the Secretary of State can at least spare a sardonic grin as he views this unhappy scene.

However, the right hon. Gentleman is not entirely devoid of conscience, for he says in paragraph 11 of Circular 405: Progress in the remainder of the field of Further Education, in what is usually known as informal or social or recreational education, has been disappointing in recent years and the Secretary of State is particularly concerned about the provision made for young people. Personally, I am glad to hear of his concern, because that circular from his office has now been in the hands of local authorities for more than a year and they see no practical evidence as yet of the right hon. Gentleman's concern. Indeed, the opposite has been the case, for he has recently shown his disappointment at Glasgow for seeking to relieve his concern by telling it that it could build only two youth centres when the local authority firmly believes, from its knowledge and experience, that no fewer than four are necessary.

Now, under the general grant regulations, a duty is laid on the Secretary of State to see that the provision made by an education authority is up to reasonable standards, but the right hon. Gentleman is not doing that in respect of the youth service. He is failing in his duty.

Again, in paragraph 19 of Circular 405, dealing with premises and equipment, local authorities are advised to refer for guidance to Building Bulletin No. 5, but in practice that bulletin is not being used as a guide. It has become a measuring rod and the new Nautical College in Glasgow provides a case in point. The allocation in that college for administrative accommodation, communal accommodation and circulation was 16,470 sq. ft. Twelve thousand sq. ft. are required for one gymnasium, assembly hall, and dining room.

This pattern of allocation barely leaves room for functional efficiency, and gives architects little freedom in regard to interior design and those aesthetic considerations which are so important in further education centres. I urge on the hon. Gentleman the need for equipping these centres with swimming pools. The policy of making swimming part of a young person's education should not be abandoned at the school-leaving age. Swimming has everything to recommend it. It is a body builder, an exercise in community spirit, a cleanser, and sometimes a very present aid in time of trouble. May we have a declaration from the hon. Gentleman tonight about the policy he proposes to pursue in regard to the place of swimming in further education?

I have tried to show briefly that the problem presented by the school leaver is urgent and serious. There is a little time on our side, though not much, for action. But action must be speedy. It must be speedier than the action that came in response to the speech I made on 25th March, 1959.

I therefore put these proposals to the hon. Gentleman for his consideration. First, a return to the former junior instruction centres, but not on the "bare bones" pattern of the previous classes. Although I refer to them as junior instruction centres, I am not necessarily suggesting that that should toe the description. A new description could be found. In the post-depression period these classes performed a very useful function in our great industrial cities. I think that their revival could be helpful now.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman's Department must contact the Ministry of Labour immediately with a view to establishing in Glasgow an apprenticeship training centre. Thirdly, as I have already suggested, the voluntary day-release facilities should be extended. Fourthly, and finally, I ask the hon. Gentleman to see that provision for training unemployed young people is made available in further education establishments.

In Cmnd. 603 "Education in Scotland, The Next Step", we were told: More and more young people today want to avail themselves of opportunities for secondary and further education. It is the Government's aim to ensure that the opportunities offered meet all their needs and aspirations. That may well be the aim of the Government. To date it has not been their achievement.

11.54 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Niall Macpherson)

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin), even at this late hour, certainly need make no apology for raising the question of education in Glasgow, a question which he quite rightly said he raised a year ago.

He started by putting a question to me about the consideration that had been given to the recommendation of the Knox Committee on full pay and full pensions.

That undertaking given by the then Joint Under-Secretary—now Lord Craigton—that full consideration would be given to that recommendation, was carried out. The upshot was the allowance of £100 to any teacher who had retired, was over 65 years of age, and came back into service and served for at least one year.

Mr. Rankin


Mr. Macpherson

The hon. Member says, "Deception". That was the result of the consideration. Although we are sorry we are not able to go as far as he would like, we have made abundantly clear—as my right hon. Friend made clear in the Estimates debates last year —what difficulties the recommendation raised.

The hon. Member went on to speak about part-time education in Glasgow. The situation is improving, and already the figures are slightly better than the ones he gave. There has been some part-time education in schools this winter, and there still is. Glasgow has gone to a great deal of trouble to reorganise its primary schools in order to save staff. Nevertheless, on 1st April half-time instruction was in force in 20 classes in primary schools, involving 700 pupils. There was no half-time instruction in secondary schools, but on 1st April there were six schools which had to put up with some degree of part-time instruction, involving a loss of periods, per week, of from one to four. Just under 1,500 pupils were affected. The position has improved noticeably in the last fortnight and is likely to improve still further in secondary schools.

It is noteworthy that in the counties of Dunbarton, Lanark, Renfrew, Ayr and Fife there are only two part-time classes at present, and I am told there will probably be none after Easter. Yet three of these five counties have worse staffing ratios than Glasgow. To some extent, therefore, this is an internal problem for Glasgow rather than a national one. The difficulties being experienced in Glasgow are a reflection of the brute fact that there are not enough teachers to do the work the nation wants done in education.

The hon. Member suggested that there were special circumstances in Glasgow for which special remedies are necessary. He mentioned inducements, such as housing, promotion and salaries. Under housing legislation applications for local authority houses are judged on the test of housing need. No one class, profession or calling is entitled to houses more than another. It is for each housing authority to judge the housing need of each case, having regard to its own housing policy. Some housing authorities have allocated some of their houses to teachers, but as far as I know Glasgow has not. But it would be difficult to sustain the proposition, for Glasgow or anywhere else, that houses should be provided for teachers, and teachers alone, irrespective of housing need.

The policy in this respect, laid down under the Labour Government in 1948, by the then Secretary of State for Scotland, was that teachers ought not to be a privileged class in regard to housing. The position is that local authorities may provide a house only for the holder of a specific post if it can be shown that the post cannot be filled unless the house is provided. In addition, houses are allowed for headmasters if it is the existing practice of the local authority to provide such houses, or if it is in the interest of the school and the community that a headmaster's house should be provided for a new school.

An exception to this practice has already been made in Glasgow. In 1956, because of staffing difficulties, permission was given to the authority to provide houses to be let to teachers at an economic rent, that is to say, at a rent sufficient to cover the capital repayments and interest charges on the loan, together with an annual sum for maintenance and repairs. So far no proposals have been received from the authority to provide houses for teachers on this basis which is not very different from the basis on which houses are provided for key workers in many housing authority areas.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the question of promotion. That is largely a matter within the competence of the education authority. Glasgow provides for promotion only from within its own ranks, whereas other authorities attract teachers from elsewhere. The result is that Glasgow is bound to lose some teachers who are attracted elsewhere but does not attract any by throwing its promotion opportunities open to teachers from other areas. To some extent staffing problems must be affected by that policy. In the most recent Regulations we have made provision for easing the promotion problem of Glasgow, and I think that has been appreciated.

The hon. Member asked about salaries. I do not think he would expect me to go very far into that subject. The question of a special inducement for teachers in Glasgow has been examined on numerous occasions by the National Joint Council, but the Council has not approved it.

Of course, the problems of Glasgow are not unique, whether they be problems of discipline or locality or the type of school. If a special inducement were claimed for Glasgow, it would be difficult to refrain from giving special inducements to other areas in which very similar circumstances apply. In any case, this decision was reached a long time ago, just after the war, and the Council adhered to the decision that salaries should be on a national basis and not merely minimum salaries.

The hon. Gentleman then dealt with the question of employment. Of course, he appreciates that that is largely a labour problem. He was, for example, comparing the unemployment of boys in Glasgow with the position in Birmingham. He talked about day releases. As he knows, provisions have been made for day releases in the future. He stressed the fact that this is voluntary. We are doing our best to persuade employers to release their young employees for a day a week and we are making provision for the future in the confident belief that they will do so more and more.

I cannot separate the day releases and evening courses, but up to the end of last year, for the session 1958–59, the number of part-time students rose by 8 per cent. He suggested more facilities for the school youth service. I am not certain what he meant or whether he was referring to the Youth Employment Service, or to youth work in the schools. Recently I had an opportunity of seeing some of this work and I was much impressed by what was being done in Glasgow Youth work is carried out in the schools mostly in the evenings on a voluntary basis.

The hon. Gentleman spoke also of the provision of swimming pools and asked what was being done about that. The position is that the general rules provided by the Secretary of State for the building of schools are generous, and education authorities have a wide discretion how they may use this generous provision; some authorities are using part of this space to provide instructional pools, and some are using part of the space to provide the accommodation for the storage of equipment for youth work, to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Under the Physical Training and Recreation Act, local authorities are permitted to make provision for swimming, and it has been recent policy to emphasise the importance of provision of this kind.

The hon. Gentleman referred to apprenticeships. He will realise that apprenticeship involves employment; but, if he meant pre-apprenticeship, provision is being made for pre-apprenticeship courses. We think that is adequate, but there is no reason why it should not be tailored to meet requirements as they arise.

He also asked about provision for the training of young people in further education establishments. Here again, I was not quite certain what he was referring to, whether it was to full-time training in educational establishments—

Mr. Rankin indicated assent.

Mr. Macpherson

I have mentioned pre-apprenticeship courses which are on a full-time basis.

Mr. Rankin

I did not say courses, I said centres.

The Question having been proposed after Ten o'clock on Thursday evening, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at seven minutes past Twelve o'clock.