HC Deb 16 November 1960 vol 630 cc497-512

9.35 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Teachers (Training Authorities) (Scotland) (Amendment No. 1) Regulations, 1960 (S.I., 1960, No. 1877), dated 17th October, 1960, a copy of which was laid before this House on 24th October, in the last Session of Parliament, be annulled. I wish to raise one or two points in connection with the fourth of these draft Regulations. This Regulation is before the House as a result of what took place in connection with the Moray House Demonstration School. Unfortunately, the present Joint Under-Secretary of State was not in his office at that time and he may, therefore, be treading on rather strange ground. Nevertheless, I hope that he will answer our questions.

At that time, the governors of the school proposed to close the secondary department. There was a widespread protest about this. My hon. Friends raised it with the Secretary of State and, as a result, the Government discovered that the governors had no power to do this. They have evaded the issue which arose at that time by stating that they had no legal powers to close the secondary department of the school and that, therefore, there would be the normal intake of the children to the secondary department for the present session. That has taken place.

But that has not given much satisfaction to us. This Regulation states: A governing body may make such changes in the organisation of the school as they consider desirable and may close the school. A governing body shall net exercise the power to provide a demonstration school … to provide a new primary or secondary department in a school, to discontinue a primary or secondary department in a school, or to close a school, without the approval of the Secretary of State. After these Regulations were published I wrote to the Secretary of State sending him an amendment to them which had been suggested by me to the parents of the children at present at the school. The purpose of the amendment was to ensure that before action of this kind was taken there would be consultation with the parents of the children concerned.

In reply, I received a letter from the hon. Member's predecessor, who has since been transferred to the Board of Trade, in which he refused to accept this amendment. He said that he could not see any necessity for it, and continued: There is no statutory requirement on the Secretary of State to take account of any views expressed by parents and others in relation to the closure of a school or department by an education authority, but in practice this is invariably done. Indeed, it is so obvious"— those were his words— that it should be done that we see no need to legislate for it. When the original proposal was made to close the secondary department of Moray House School nobody was consulted at all; that was one of the causes of complaint at the time. So far from it being so obvious that there was no need to do anything about it, it proved in practice to be completely wrong. No consultations took place and the parents knew nothing about the proposals concerning Moray House School until they received from the governors a communication to the very brief effect that the secondary department was to be closed this summer.

The excuse put forward by the Government for not accepting the amendment I forwarded to them, or something similar, is not a reason, because in practice it did not obtain. Therefore, I do not think that we should accept these Regulations until we receive a better assurance than we have had so far.

The agents representing the parents of the children would still like the amendment accepted or some similar words inserted into the Regulations. I do not know whether that is possible. I should like to think that it is. The agents say: … my clients would be somewhat reassured if they could take it for granted … that the Secretary of State invariably would seek the views of parents and others and that there would be no need to protect parents and others in this respect in the proposed new Regulations. Before we part with the Regulations, I hope that we shall have a definite assurance that this is intended. It is important that we should have such an assurance, because when the Regulations are passed the governors of Moray House School will at once consider again the closing of the secondary department. I think that that is the intention of Regulation No. 4, and there can be no doubt that within a few months the governors will once again consider this. We want an assurance that before they make a decision they will at least consult the parents of the children concerned.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the secondary department is likely to be closed? The Government have their own ideas about the school and I do not think that they are in very great uncertainty about what its future will be. However, we should be told this, because it is only fair to the parents and children that they should at least be given as much notice as possible of any changes to be made in the near future.

I do not ask this question simply to use up time. I ask it because it is a matter of great importance to many of my constituents and also many constituents of my hon. Friends representing other Edinburgh seats. I trust that the hon. Gentleman will be able to say something about these matters before we part with the Regulations.

9.44 p.m.

Mr. James H. Hoy (Edinburgh, Leith)

I support the Motion which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis). This is an old battle which he and I joined many months ago when the governors proposed to close the secondary department of this school. It brought immediate repercussions in my constituency, because a considerable number of children from Leith are pupils at the school. Obviously, their parents resented what they regarded as the rather high-handed action taken on that occasion in a simple intimation that the school was to be closed and the children would have to find places in some other school in some other part of the town. As a result, together with my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East, we had a meeting with the Secretary of State for Scotland to let him know just how keenly the parents felt about this proposal.

It is not our intention tonight to argue the merits of that dispute except to make it clear that when we interviewed the Secretary of State for Scotland, we proved convincingly to him that even if the school were allowed to take over these classrooms, that would in no way provide a solution to the problem which confronted Moray House School. That was made perfectly clear.

After all the discussion, it was found by the Scottish Office that the governors did not have the power to close the school. When that was found out, the governors then moved more quickly than I have known them to do in anything else which they have been asked to do. Within a week or two, tonight's Regulations were produced so that they could take this power, which provides them with a little bit of retrospective legislation—in fact, to make it possible for them to do what they found it impossible to do when the proposal was first made. I am bound to say to the Joint Under-Secretary that the parents resent this sort of tactic by the Scottish Office. They regard it as a little bit of a slick trick which is being perpetrated by the Department and they want certain assurances.

It is true that when we were written to by the secretary of the parents' association, I was associated in the protest with my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East and the amendment which he has mentioned was submitted. The secretary of the parents' association said that they would like to take it for granted that the parents would be consulted if any changes had to be made. I, for one, am not prepared to advise them that they should take things for granted.

What we seek tonight is specific assurances that if changes have to be made, the parents will be consulted. I should like to know whether the governors have already intimated to the Scottish Office that they propose to go into this matter once more to take action which they were prevented from doing a month or two ago. That is the feeling which the parents have. If that be the case, the Secretary of State for Scotland cannot get out of it, because it must be done with his approval. Therefore, he would be held responsible to this House. If it is intended to take a step of that kind, he can be assured that he will meet the opposition of those of us who had to fight the case before.

Whatever happens and whatever transactions take place in future, we certainly want the specific assurance that the parents of the pupils concerned will be consulted.

9.48 p.m.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

I want, first, to associate myself with the case which has been made by my hon. Friends the Members for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) and Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy). It seems to me to be of the greatest importance in this matter of the education of children that there should be the closest consultation and co-operation if any change is to be made in a child's school. I hope that the case which has been made by my hon. Friends will be fully taken into account by the Secretary of State.

Regulation 1 deals with the provisions of premises for an additional college of education. It outlines the steps that will be taken if the Scottish Council has any proposal to make about an additional college. When I turn to Regulation 45 of the principal Regulations to which Regulation 1 refers us, I find that it deals with a fairly minor matter.

Regulation 45, "Contributions to other bodies", saids: The Scottish Council may contribute to the funds of any body providing services which in the opinion of the Council supplement the work of a college of education or are otherwise of value to persons undergoing courses at such colleges. Then we are to have tagged on to that fairly minor Regulation this extremely important Regulation with which we are dealing tonight, a Regulation which will affect Regulation 45. We find in the beginning of this Regulation 45A: If in the opinion of the Scottish Council it is at any time necessary for the achievement of the general object set out in paragraph (1) of Regulation 1 that an additional college of education should be provided, they may make a specific proposal to the Secretary of State … I think that is of the greatest importance.

When we turn back to that first paragraph of the first Regulation of the principal Regulations, what do we find there? This is the object under the heading, "Incorporation of training authorities": With the general object of ensuring that teachers are adequately prepared for service in the educational establishments of Scotland … That is the general object of the whole of the principal Regulations, and according to Regulation 45A that is the general object of these new additional ones. I want to emphasise that it is that teachers are adequately prepared for service in the educational establishments of Scotland". These Regulations which we are discussing tonight came into operation on 25th October of this year.

Yesterday I had a Question which I hoped would be answered orally; however, because we did not reach it, I got a Written Answer. In that Question asked the Secretary of State: What will be the range of students in the proposed new College of Education.", because, just as my hon. Friends assert, I thought this was an afterthought to carry something out. It seems to me that, if the Government seriously considered these matters, they might have thought that at some time in the future, and the not too distant future, an extra college of education would be required, but they do not seem to have thought that at all when they presented the principal Regulations, and the new Regulations which we are discussing tonight give us the principles which will govern the setting up of a new college of education. In reply to that Question the Joint Under-Secretary of State had this to say: No decision has yet been taken, but my right hon. Friend has just received a recommendation from the Scottish Council for the Training of Teachers that the new College should train up to 900 women, all taking the three-or-four-year diploma courses for teachers of general subjects, with the possibility of developing courses later in certain practical subjects."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1960; Vol. 630, c. 20.] Here in this new Regulation 45A we are told: The Secretary of State may approve in principle the proposal with or without modification or may withhold his approval. I ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State, will it be the case, when the Secretary of State is considering any proposal which comes from the Scottish Council, that he will have very much in mind the object outlined do the first paragraph of the principal Regulations? That is of the greatest importance, because the object is to have adequately trained teachers for Scottish educational establishments. If that is the case, then the Secretary of State will turn down completely this first proposal which has come from a Scottish Council for the fifth training college.

I want to give the reasons for it. I would not have considered that one of these 900 teachers in the first three or four years or any of the others who may follow would match up to what is laid down in that first paragraph of the principal Regulations. We have been told—the Joint Under-Secretary of State will correct me if the information is wrong—that it has already been decided that this college will be situated in Hamilton.

The Joint Under-Secretary appears to be nodding his head, so that must be the case. It is to be placed in the centre of the biggest industrial county in Scotland and next door to the City of Glasgow. What shall we find that this college will turn out to be? It will be nothing but a glorified post-secondary school. Almost everyone who is interested in education in Scotland is completely opposed to a non-graduate college or a college that deals only with non-graduate women.

Who in the main will be attracted to this college? They will be girls of 17, the great majority of them having been in Lanarkshire from the time of their entrance into the infants' department at the age of five until their leaving senior secondary school at 17. They will go from their school in Lanarkshire to their college in Lanarkshire and they will have had no experience of anything outside their county or the areas from which they come. The Secretary of State for Scotland will have the greatest difficulty in attracting to such a college staff of the calibre that we must have if we are to train teachers adequately for our schools. We in Scotland are proud of the calibre of our staffs in the colleges of education.

In the four colleges of education there are non-graduate women, graduate women and graduate men. There are ordinary graduates and honours graduates. They are a group of people who attract a very good type of staff to deal with the training of teachers in Scotland, but we shall not have that type of staff under this proposal.

There is the further point that many of these students who have not been outside Lanarkshire for a single hour of their education will go into Lanarkshire schools when they leave to teach Lanarkshire children. What a background for teachers. We want teachers with a great width of vision and teachers who in their training colleges rub shoulders with people from the widest possible area. We want non-graduate women in our colleges to be trained as teachers with graduate women and graduate men. In other words, we want to import into the training colleges the intellectual stimulus that the students who have taken a degree at a university will bring.

If this proposal from the Scottish Council is accepted by the Secretary of State for Scotland we shall be greatly damaging Scottish education. There is talk of a fifth university and talk of this new college in Hamilton. I represent a Lanarkshire constituency and I would be very delighted to have in Lanarkshire a college of education like Jordanhill in Glasgow or Moray House in Edinburgh, but that it not what we are to have.

If what we are to get is what has been proposed, then as a Lanarkshire Member I should be willing for the Secretary of State to take into account the siting of a fifth university, if it is needed, with this training college, which is quite definitely needed. The Minister of Education in his speech on the 7th November time and again gave assurance to the English and Welsh Members that the new training colleges in England and Wales would, wherever possible, be beside universities. He gave that assurance for the very reasons that I have tried to adduce tonight.

Instead of going forward in educational matters in Scotland, under this Tory Government since 1951 almost every step that has been taken in the training and the provision of teachers has been a retrograde one.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have great difficulty in relating that to the Prayer. I have been following the hon. Lady with the greatest care but she has gone a bit wide in her remarks.

Miss Herbison

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. It may be that I have gone a bit wide, but if you look at the Regulation to be added to Regulation 45 as Regulation 45A, you will see that it says quite specifically that this provision is to meet what is laid down in Regulation 1 of the chief Regulations.

Mr. Speaker

With respect, it does not. It says that If in the opinion of the Scottish Council it is … the Secretary of State may … I am not much assisted otherwise. The form of the proposition is: If in the opinion of the Scottish Council it is …

Miss Herbison

It says: If in the opinion of the Scottish Council it is … necessary for the achievement of the general object … Even though we are only discussing these arrangements tonight, the Scottish Council has already decided that it is necessary, so this is no longer a matter of opinion. The Scottish Council has already signified to the Secretary of State that another college of education is necessary, and that knowledge, the agreement of the Secretary of State, and the answer I got yesterday show that there is no longer a matter of opinion in this tonight but, instead, a certainty that the Scottish Council has proposed it.

I shall not, however, continue further with that, Mr. Speaker. I think that I have made my point sufficiently clear in showing the opposition not only of this side of the House but of everyone who is interested in this matter.

The Secretary of State still has the right and the duty to give consideration to these proposals, and before he does so I hope that he will have a word with the Minister of Education, and perhaps this time copy from him something that might be worth while—because the Minister of Education is, in the main, copying what has obtained in Scotland for a very long time.

10.3 p.m.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

I endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) has said about the siting of this new college. Already in the midlands of Scotland, in Falkirk and the surrounding area, they have begun a great campaign to raise money for the establishment of Scotland's fifth university in the vicinity. I hope that this university will be established somewhere in the midlands of Scotland.

It is vital that the college of education should be associated with that university. It would be tragic to have these two developments taking place in different areas when they could so easily be associated. I also endorse my hon. Friend's view that education is something more than the mere training of people in school books. Many of the greatest people in universities agree that it is tragic when a person becomes a lecturer, either in a college or university, without having had any other experience, but coming straight through school to his position.

These colleges and universities must be associated with the life of the people. I agree that Hamilton is a little too close to Glasgow and that this college should be situated somewhere where there is room to breathe.

Miss Herbison

I was not really dealing with the issue of the siting so much as with the importance of our getting a fifth university, and I do not care where it is, provided that it is in the place where it is most needed, and the training college should be with it.

Mr. Woodburn

I quite agree. The main point of the discussion is that the two things should be developed simultaneously and in association with each other. Whether they go to Hamilton, Stirlingshire or wherever they go, the two things should be developed as one project.

There is a danger about this. There is sometimes a certain amount of conflict between the training college and the university. I hope that this problem will be resolved in the case of any new college of education and that there will be no such friction to prevent the development. According to the contribution of the new college of education, the university is to be associated with it, and I hope that they will be associated in the happiest possible way. If the new university is developed, I think consideration should be given to whether overlapping could not be avoided by the greatest merging and utilisation of the staffs with a view to a certain amount of economy, on the one hand, and the maximum of integration, on the other.

I support the plea made by my hon. Friend, and I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will give us an assurance.

10.7 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. R. Brooman-White)

I understood that the main points to be raised in the discussion by the mover of the Motion, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), and his hon. Friend the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy), arose out of the fourth of the Regulations, and I will deal with that in a moment or two.

Before coming to that, perhaps I might answer the slightly broader point raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) and the right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn). The object of the main Regulations, I can assure the hon. Lady, will be fully observed by the Secretary of State in considering proposals which may come to him, with the general object of ensuring that teachers are adequately prepared for service in the educational establishments of Scotland.

That, as the hon. Lady said, is the primary aim of the initial Regulation, and that remains the object of the operation throughout. There may be differences of interpretation in this, and differences in emphasis on the new recommendation to which——

Miss Herbison

A different emphasis?

Mr. Brooman-White

Perhaps the hon. Lady will let me continue for a moment.

The Scottish Council for the Training of Teachers would be very upset to think that the hon. Lady regarded it as a sort of annex to the Tory Party when the Tory Party holds one view and the hon Lady holds another. She knows the background to this, that the increased recruitment of teachers is causing a great strain on accommodation. All the existing colleges of education have building work in hand; they have actually started the work or have it in an advance stage of preparation.

It has become clear that an additional college is needed. The decision has been taken that this college should be sited at Hamilton. I understand that the primary reason was the urgent need to ease the strain at Jordanhill. The decision about siting has been taken, but the decision about size and composition—the hon. Lady's point—is still under consideration, and it would be wrong for me to prejudge the decision now. All I can say is that the views which have been expressed from all sides will be known to my right hon. Friend and will be very carefully considered when the final decision is taken in the light of the aim to get the best possible training for teachers at this time of urgency and pressure.

Miss Herbison

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again. I meant to welcome him to his new position. I appreciate that he has not a very easy task tonight. However, twice he has spoken about the great urgency at this time of shortage of teachers. My information is that no one who has had the qualifications has so far failed to find a place in a training college in Scotland. If that is the case, then the greatest consideration should be given to the need for having a really integrated form of education in what is going to be the new college.

Mr. Brooman-White

Yes, I understand that the overcrowding and strain on accommodation is imposing a very severe handicap at the moment. That is what I meant when I referred to the urgency.

To go on to the main basis of these new Regulations, the training authority which was set up by the Regulations made in 1958 was not empowered to provide or even to plan a new college, and the main purpose of the Regulations under discussion tonight is to enable the central Scottish Council for the Training of Teachers to do just this. The Council, through its special building committee, will build the new college and look after it until it gets its own governing body.

We have also taken the opportunity to make a number of detailed amendments which experience has shown to be desirable, but I do not think that I need detain the House with them tonight. I will go on to deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East. Regulation No. 4 is rather more than a minor amendment, and I should like to explain why it was included in the amending Regulations and what its effect is. Before doing so, however, I must make it perfectly clear that although events in one particular college—Moray House—brought out the need for the amendment, the amendment is in perfectly general terms. It applies to all Colleges of Education, and is not specifically aimed at Moray House, though Moray House showed the need for it.

As hon. Members know, the way this matter arose was that towards the end of last year, the governing body of Moray House College of Education examined the accommodation which it had available to meet the needs of the rapidly increasing numbers of students. It came to the conclusion that in order to make room for the students until the programme of college expansion provided more space, it would have to close the secondary department of the demonstration school attached to the college, and to use the rooms which would thus be freed to give instructions to students from the college in training. A demonstration school is a school provided by and run in close conjunction with a training college, and its primary purposes are to serve that college by providing classes where students in training can have practice under supervision and that sort of thing. It is, therefore, not primarily a part of the general school system, which it is the duty of the education authority and not of the college authorities to provide.

The Governors of Moray House College, faced with a shortage of accommodation for their students, sought the approval of the Secretary of State to run down for a three-year period and finally to close the secondary department of their demonstration school. They needed the space, for the reasons I have given, and they also considered that the secondary department, because of its small size and the limited number of courses which it offered, was no longer fulfilling its function as a demonstration school.

This was put to my right hon. Friend, and he took advice on the legal position. He was advised that the words of Regulation 33 of the main Training Authorities Regulations of 1958 meant, in effect, that no governing body of a college of education had the power to make such a major change in the composition of a demonstration school and had no power to close a school, should they wish to do so. My right hon. Friend, therefore, could neither approve nor disapprove the proposal of the Moray House governors, since they had no power to do what they proposed and he had no power to approve it.

This was an unexpected and, it was felt, an unduly restrictive effect of the wording in the main Regulations. It had never been intended that if a governing body wanted, for good and sufficient reasons, to alter or to close a demonstration school it would not be able to do so. Indeed, it seems clearly right that it should have the same powers in relation to demonstration schools as education authorities have in relation to the schools under their own administration; that it should not be bound to preserve these schools in perpetuity in precisely their present form.

Regulation No. 4 is intended simply to remove this unintended restriction and to give governing bodies the same powers as education authorities. If they wish to make certain changes in the organisation of their demonstration schools, it will now be possible for them to do so, but only with the approval of the Secretary of State. I am sure that the House will agree that they should not be denied that general power.

Mr. Willis

The hon. Member mentioned the necessity for the approval of the Secretary of State. Will he say something about consulting parents?

Mr. Brooman-White

Yes, but I first wanted to make the general point that these schools should not be in a different position and that the governing bodies should have normal powers.

I do not want to say anything about the merits of any proposals which the governors of Moray House College may now make. Their previous proposals were ultra vires. When the first proposals were made, and although it became apparent when we started to go into it that the Secretary of State would not have power to make a recommendation, my right hon. Friend nevertheless had a senior member of the Department get in touch with parents and ascertain their views.

I can give the hon. Member the assurance—and I hope that it will satisfy him and parents—that if the House rejects the Motion, as I believe it should, my right hon. Friend will give most careful consideration to the arguments which have been put to him, both for and against the proposed action at Moray House College. The amendment of the Regulations simply enables him to consider this or any similar question on its merits and not on a legal technicality, and I hope that in the light of that the Regulations will meet with the approval of the House.

Mr. Willis

Can the hon. Gentleman say when the Secretary of State is likely to consider this matter again, so that parents may have some idea of what the position is?

Mr. Brooman-White

Technically, there are no proposals before the Secretary of State at the moment.

Mr. Willis

Come clean!

Mr. Brooman-White

If the governors put forward new proposals on the lines of the previous proposals, I have given the assurance that the views of parents will be most carefully considered when the Secretary of State makes his final decision.

Mr. Hoy

I asked the hon. Gentleman whether the governors of the school had made any proposals about the future of the department and whether they had already approached the Secretary of State.

Mr. Brooman-White

So far as I am aware, since the new Regulations were made, no new proposals have been brought forward. I will let the hon. Member know if I am in error about that, but I think that that is the position.

Question put and negatived.