HC Deb 11 December 1963 vol 686 cc517-36

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Peel.]

9.32 p.m.

Sir David Robertson (Caithness and Sutherland)

The matter I refer to tonight concerns the breaking of the law by the education authority in Caithness and by the Secretary of State for Scotland also, the law as laid down in the Schools (Scotland) Code, 1956, made on 8th June, laid before Parliament on 18th June, and coming into operation on 1st August.

This matter reached me on 17th July this year in Caithness, when I was asked to meet a body of citizens, including a number of teachers. I found it a very impressive meeting. I have forgotten many other meetings, but I will always remember that one, because they were extremely angry. They felt that this code, which lays down the regulations for Scotland, had been broken—and for no other purpose than to enable a certain person to get a job who was not qualified to get this job under this code.

The facts are as follows. There was a new school built in Penny land in 1962–63, I suppose to take up the additional children. Because of the siting of the atomic energy station in Dounreay, in Caithness, the population of Thurso, which used to be 3,000, has grown to about 10,000. I imagine that Miller Academy was bursting at the seams, and had too many children in the classes, and that this other school was built to relieve the pressure. The director of education went up in May to Thurso from Wick, and he told the teachers in Miller Academy that the usual practice of advertising was not to be followed, but that the authority would try to take teachers in Miller Academy, who had become surplus, to the new school at Pennyland.

There was a fully qualified teacher, a Miss Grant, in Miller Academy, and she asked the director for the job. He said, "You are fully qualified, and have had 20 years' teaching experience, but we have not appointed a headmaster yet. We are going to advertise for one and it would hardly be fair to handicap a new headmaster with an infants' mistress without a year's probation".

Miss Grant said that under these conditions she would not dream of taking the job, although she had all the qualifications necessary, both by examination and experience. But it was only a ruse to keep her from getting the job. The director knew very well that no one with any spirit would accept a job under those conditions. That opened the door to the jobbery which came along afterwards.

On 19th July I wrote to the Secretary of State, giving all the facts. I always start like that. I never begin by putting in a Question to the Table. I have here a thick file of correspondence demonstrating my efforts to keep this case from becoming public and taking up the time of Parliament. It took a long time for a reply to arrive to my letter of 19th July. I did not accept that reply and so the thing went on. I was forced, in the end, to put down a Question. It will help hon. Members if I read out the exchange which took place in the House on 27th November last. Sir D. ROBERTSON asked the Secretary of State for Scotland for what reason he has supported the temporary appointment of an infants mistress to a Thurso school who does not hold the qualifications appropriate to the post; and why no steps were taken to obtain applications for the appointment from teachers in Caithness or elsewhere who are qualified under the Schools (Scotland) Code, 1956. Lady TWEEDSMUIR: As has been explained to the hon. Member, my right hon. Friend considers that the education authority acted reasonably. The teacher concerned was a certificated teacher already in their service and of proven ability, who undertook to obtain at summer courses the additional qualification necessary for a permanent appointment. The authority already knew the appropriately qualified teachers in Caithness and their circumstances, and had given local teachers an assurance that promoted posts in this school would be filled as far as possible from teachers serving in it. Sir D. ROBERTSON: When did it become possible for any Minister, either senior or junior, to override the law of Scotland and support a group who had broken it? Is the hon. Lady aware that this post is only one of dozens of posts and that all the others have been advertised but this one was not, and that the teachers of Caithness regard it as a piece of jobbery? Lady TWEEDSMUIR: The Schools (Scotland) Code allows a certain amount of discretion to local school managers. The local authority's policy has, of course, been to fill promoted posts wherever possible. The teacher in question has been with the authority since 1958 and has undertaken to get the necessary infant mistress's endorsement Mr. ROSS: Was there no one in the area with the requisite qualifications and, failing there being anyone in the area, was there no advertisement to ensure that somebody with the requisite qualifications could apply? Lady TWEEDSMUIR: There was no advertisement of this post because the local authority had given an assurance to the local teachers that as far as possible it would try to fill the post from among the school's existing teachers, and the mistress in question had given very good service with great ability for some years and had undertaken to take the extra endorsement."—[Official Report, 27th November, 1963; Vol. 685, c. 252–3.] I expressed dissatisfaction with my hon. Friend's replies and that is why we are discussing this tonight. I want to repeat her last words. She said: …the mistress in question had given very good service with great ability for some years and had undertaken to take the extra endorsement But the school opened in spring this year and I understand that now that they are found out this lady is to take the endorsement next year. The whole thing reeks of something radically wrong and the Scottish Education Department cannot be divorced from it.

There has never been a suggestion that Miss Grant, the first qualified lady in the Miller Academy, was other than a very competent teacher. In all this file of correspondence, there is not a word to suggest that. I hope that no such suggestion is made tonight. If it is, I will certainly deal with it. The post was never advertised. The post of the new headmaster was advertised, but every step was taken to ensure that this appointment came through.

During the years that I have been in the Northern Highlands I have found out from my early days that we have "fixers", people who can arrange things, curious people who are in the background and who wield some kind of influence. Without being immodest, I think I can say that I have forced a few of them out of business. I hope that it happens in this case, because this is a serious matter. Teachers are almost the most precious persons in this or any other country. Caithness has always had a very fine reputation, as have other Scottish counties and towns, for the quality of its teachers and teaching.

I felt that the men I met, the fellows who impressed me so much, had lost confidence and thought that if that kind of thing could go on it only pointed to the question, "What is the good of trying to teach children to behave and to be decent and honest citizens when jobbery of this kind can happen in a school?". I make it clear to my hon. Friend that I know the people concerned and that I have not the slightest doubt that this was complete jobbery and entirely contrary to the law. I am amazed that the Secretary of State for Scotland upheld it.

9.41 p.m.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

Unlike the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson), I do not know any of the people involved in this case. I know nothing of the teacher who has been appointed and none of the teachers in the area. However, it seems to me that they have a just grievance. It is important that we should have somewhere like the House of Commons where that grievance can be aired and, perhaps, something done to get rid of it.

I have always understood that when an infants' mistress is appointed everything possible is done to get a woman teacher with the infants' mistress endorsement. That means a teacher not only qualified as a teacher in general subjects but one who has given her time—sometimes during the summer, and it may be a number of summers—to take further training resulting in her receiving the infants' mistress endorsement. I have also understood that before she receives such endorsement one of Her Majesty's Inspectors goes to her school to examine her work, and that it is only on that examination, over and above the extra classes which she has taken, that the infants' mistress finally receives the endorsement.

My first question to the noble Lady is whether there was no single woman teacher in the whole of this education authority area, not just the town involved, with the infants' mistress endorsement. It is the strangest story that I have ever heard when a director of an education authority says to a group of teachers in one school, Miller Academy, that, whatever promoted posts are going in the new school, they will be confined as far as possible to the teachers of Miller Academy. That was another grave injustice to all the teachers outside that Academy, and to any teacher in Caithness who had the infants' mistress qualification. When a complaint was made, the Secretary of State for Scotland ought to have inquired why this promise had ever been given to any group of teachers instead of replying to my hon. Friend as he did, "Well, this was a promise that was made."

If a teacher at the Miller Academy had this; qualification, she ought to have been considered before any other teacher in that education area. It is true that the Regulations provide that under special, circumstances a teacher who has not the necessary qualification can be appointed, but what are these special circumstances? The situation must be such that it is impossible to find a teacher with the requisite qualifications who is willing to take the job. My information—and no doubt the Undersecretary of State will tell me if I am wrong—is that women teachers with the necessary qualification were available for the job. Those teachers had to stand aside. They were not even interviewed to see whether they were otherwise suitable for the job.

I have no complaint against the lady who was given the appointment. I do not know her, and she may be a very good teacher. My complaint is that this appointment has caused discontent among those in the teaching profession in that area. The Under-Secretary of State knows how difficult it is to attract people to the teaching profession. She knows what a muddle she and her right hon. Friends are in over the proposed payment of an extra £50, yet we move from muddle to muddle on that question.

The hon. Lady and her right hon. Friend ought jealously to guard the position of qualified teachers. I understand, and I can well believe it to be true, that the other teachers feel a great sense of injustice. They are aggrieved and frustrated because of this appointment. When this sort of thing happens the teachers become the worst recruiters for their own profession, and the right hon. Gentleman should therefore safeguard their rights to avoid them feeling any sense of grievance or frustration.

This unqualified teacher is in charge of an infants' department, with authority over qualified teachers. She has promised the Director of Education, or the education authority, that she will obtain the necessary qualifications at some time in the future. What will happen if she fails to get that qualification? What will happen if she obtains it and one of Her Majesty's Inspectors, after examining her work, her standards, and her methods of teaching, decides that she should not be given the infants mistress endorsement?

That sometimes happens. What a position the lady herself would be in, and what a position the director of education and the education authority would be in. Were these points taken into consideration by the Secretary of State when they were brought to his notice by the hon. Member? Unless the Under Secretary has an overwhelming case to show why this lady and no other teacher in this area should have been appointed, after tonight the sense of grievance in this area will be greater than ever. The fact that a post in a bright new school to which so many people want to go was not advertised has created a great deal of suspicion.

I want to hear something better than this foolish statement that a promise was given that wherever possible the promotions would come from this school. I want to know what was the real reason why, when the headmaster's post was advertised, the post of infants' mistress was not similarly advertised.

9.50 p.m.

Sir Myer Galpern (Glasgow, Shettleston)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), I have no first-hand knowledge of the circumstances of this case, but I place great reliance on the accuracy of the statements made by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson). If the facts are as he has given them to the House this evening—and I have no reason to believe that they are not—there has been a grave miscarriage of justice to the teaching service in that area.

There is only one point about which I am not clear. I did not wish to interrupt the hon. Member, but I believe that he stated specifically that there was another teacher in the area who had the infants' mistress endorsement, and that he then made some qualification about a probationary period. I was not clear about that. Can he tell us what he meant by the probationary period?

Sir D. Robertson

This person is still at Miller Academy. She is fully qualified, with the Scottish three-year qualification, and she has been teaching for 20 years. The probation issue arose when she applied to the director of education for the job on 30th May, when he visited Miller Academy and spoke to the teachers. He was the man who said that it would not be fair to the headmaster, whom they had not yet engaged, to allow her to go there and take over as assistant mistress, and that she would need to undergo a probationary period of about a year.

Sir M. Galpern

The main point is that this lady had the infants' mistress endorsement, and the question was whether she should go to this school and serve first for a probationary period in order to see whether she would prove satisfactory to a headmaster who was still to be appointed. It seems strange that in the case of a teacher so qualified a headmaster still be to appointed had to be brought into the area first and had to vet the teacher. Surely the education authority itself was abundantly qualified to judge whether an individual was qualified—in terms of the academic requirements of the Act and the capabilities of the teacher—without reference to a headmaster still to be appointed, asking him whether he would like Miss So-and-So to be the infants' mistress.

Now that this case has been brought to the House of Commons it will receive widespread publicity. It does not redound to the credit of the teaching profession or of the administration at St. Andrews House. Not long ago there were two similar cases in Glasgow, where teachers banded together and sent a protest to the Scottish Education Department referring to the proposed appointment of people whom they regarded as being not suitably qualified for certain posts because there were better qualified people, with longer periods of service, who had been passed over. On the occasion, the Scottish Office decided to hold up the appointments.

It seems a strange course of action that in the one case in Glasgow the Department decided to investigate the circumstances, and find whether there was a better qualified person for a particular promoted post than the one nominated by the education authority, yet in Caithness, where it would be more important to get a properly qualified teacher when one was so available, the Department took an entirely different action despite the protest of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland.

It is not long ago, as hon. Members will recollect, that we were discussing how to attract more people to the teaching profession. Many speeches were made then about promotion. We spent a considerable time on that and we incorporated in the Bill permission to local authorities to meet the wishes of the teaching profession by allowing the profession to nominate to education authorities and to have a greater say in promotion and be properly treated. Here we have a glaring case of a deliberate attack. I cannot characterise the action as anything less than one to destroy the faith which the Department is anxious to build up in the profession.

This matter will cause repercussions throughout Scotland and through the entire profession. It will give rise to the feeling that one cannot get to the top unless one knows the right people; as the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland said, unless one knows the people who can fix things. That is regrettable. I do not know what could be adduced against a teacher who has been callously passed over and who has the requisite qualifications, but has to submit herself to this iniquitous treatment and serve under a teacher who has not the requisite qualifications.

The very least that can be done to restore the faith of the people in the Caithness area and throughout Scotland generally in the belief that they will get a square deal by the Scottish Office is to ask this lady forthwith to resign her position and to restore the one who has the qualifications to this post. Too often in the past these promises have proved to be empty assertions on the part of teachers and once they have been put into posts under exceptional circumstances they usually have found some reason or other why they should not fulfil the promise they gave to acquire the higher qualification.

My experience in Glasgow has been that before the Scottish Education Department would allow us to appoint a teacher without the requisite qualifications it insisted that we should go through the motions of advertising the post. In this case, the Department seems to have dispensed with that, despite the fact that a serious attempt was made to do justice. I hope that unless the Under-Secretary can say something against the character of the person concerned, and can show that it is not possible for her to be in the charge of an infants' department, she will say that the Department will instal the teacher who was passed over and ask the other one to retire.

9.59 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lady Tweedsmuir)

We have had a forceful and characteristic speech by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) ably supported by the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern). The words of the hon. Member from the far north did not accurately describe the circumstances of this case. Therefore, as he has been lucky enough to initiate this Adjournment debate with longer time available than is usually the case, I should like to recapitulate, for the benefit of the House, the circumstances of this case.

I must take exception to the way in which the hon. Member attacked the education authority by using, once again, the word "jobbery" and even other words which I took down, such as that the members of the authority were "fixers" undertaking a ruse. The main point of this Adjournment is to draw attention to what my hon. Friend called a breach of the Schools (Scotland) Code. In my view, neither the suggestion of a breach is sound as he put it forward nor do I think, personally, that his attack on the authority is justified.

It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed. That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. G. Campbell.]

Lady Tweedsmuir

I should like to start with the rather narrow legal point of the terms of the Schools (Scotland) Code. The relevant sections are Regulations 4 and 5. Regulation 4 imposes certain requirements on authorities in making appointments to teaching posts. Briefly, these are that an education authority shall employ or arrange for the services of an adequate staff of certificated teachers holding the qualifications prescribed by the code for the posts in which they are employed.

The post in question in this case was that of an infant mistress. Regulation 5 prescribes that the appropriate qualification for an infant mistress is the Teacher's General Certificate with an endorsement to act as infant mistress.

If, however, we turn back to Regulation 4 we see that in certain circumstances—and this was brought out by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North—an authority may, at its discretion, appoint a teacher who is not qualified in terms of the code. The point at issue between the hon. Member and myself is whether the circumstances in this case were such that the authority was justified in appointing a teacher who, although certificated, did not hold the additional qualification appropriate for appointment as an infant mistress.

The hon. Gentleman described the circumstances, and I should like to go into a little more detail for the benefit of those hon. Members who have shown interest in the matter tonight. A new school, Pennyland Primary School, was opened at the beginning of the session 1962–63. The pupils entering the school were transferred from Miller Academy, which had become seriously overcrowded. In May, 1962, the director of education called a meeting of all primary teachers in Thurso and asked for volunteers to help staff the school. He explained to them that appointments to promoted posts within the school would be made, if possible, from among the staff recruited to the school and on the advice of the headmaster, once the headmaster had had time to see the staff in action. The hon. Member suggested that this probationary period, as he called it, would amount to at least a year. It was intended to amount to one term or, at the very most, two, but probably one term.

I should like shortly to go into greater detail over the circumstances of Miss Grant. It seems to me that in both these particulars—the taking of the local teachers into its confidence and the deferring of a final decision on promoted posts until the headmaster had had a chance to assess the quality of his staff—the authority went out of its way to follow the type of practice which teachers and hon. Members on both sides of the House have been advocating for many years—in other words, good, sound personal relationships.

The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North may recall the report of the Working Party on Relations between Education Authorities and Teachers which was set up by my right hon. Friend's predecessor and which included representatives of teachers' associations. The working party considered the two methods normally adopted in the promotion of teachers—first, inviting applications by public advertisement from all teachers with appropriate qualifications, and secondly, giving preference to teachers already in the authority's service.

While the working party felt unable to express an opinion on the relative merits of these two methods, beyond saying that it would be undesirable for either to be followed too rigidly, it pointed out that the second which is designed to give teachers reasonable prospects of promotion within a more restricted area, has obvious advantages for the teachers in areas where it is practised.

Miss Herbison

I have no objection at all to the part which the noble Lady has read from the Report. Indeed, that was what I based my case on. I said the whole education authority area, whereas this was confining any promoted post to one school in the area. What the hon. Lady quoted to us in no way supports her case. It supports my case.

Lady Tweedsmuir

Before returning to that point, I should like to continue by saying this. On the first method—advertisement—it is possible to say now, looking back on all these circumstances, that perhaps the authority would have been wiser to have advertised the post, as the hon. Lady said, perhaps throughout Scotland as well as in Caithness.

But it is very important to keep a proper sense of proportion and to bear in mind the following factors. First, it has been the authority's practice for many years to promote as far as possible teachers who are already in service with the authority and hold posts in the schools concerned. Secondly, this practice has been warmly endorsed by the local teachers. Indeed, this appointment is no exception. I understand that it is very popular in Pennyland School. I understand that it is in the few cases where the authority has felt impelled to advertise that it has met with opposition from teachers in its service.

Miss Herbison

If the hon. Lady has a case, she is ruining it. I have tried to explain that I accept that most local authorities for a position of infant mistress do the advertising through the schools but covering the whole area over which they have control. We have no objection to that. That is what we say should have been done in this area.

Sir M. Galpern

Does not the Scottish Education Department, before allowing the code to be broken by the appointment of a teacher not qualified for a specific post, insist upon advertising? Only when the authority can show that it was unable to attract any applicants for the post should the Department give power to appoint somebody who is not qualified.

Lady Tweedsmuir

The answer is "No, Sir", because, as I have already explained, the School (Scotland) Code allows these two methods, one of which does not involve the advertisement to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I must conclude the description of this case, because unless it is seen as a whole, these interruptions rather impede the flow of the argument. It must be remembered that Caithness, as the hon. Member who represents it knows very well, is an exceptionally sparsely populated county. So it is possible for the education authority to know the disposition and quality of the staff whom it can draw in a way which would be quite impossible in a more populous area.

I return to the point raised by the hon. Lady about the teachers who were or were not available in the area.

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

If the authority knew the qualifications of these teachers so well, why the year's probation?

Lady Tweedsmuir

I fear that the hon. Gentleman, who usually listens with such attention to what is said in the House, did not hear me say that it was not a year's probation, but one term or, at the most, two.

One of the teachers to whom the post was made known at this stage held the infants' mistress endorsement. This was the Miss Grant to whom reference has been made. She volunteered to transfer to the new school and the expectation was that she would have been appointed to the post of infant mistress in due course. Unfortunately, however, shortly after the meeting at which the director of education made known his plans for the staffing of the school, she withdrew her application on the ground that she was a sufficiently experienced teacher to be given the job straight away without the headmaster assessing her work in the new school.

It is probably quite clear that had she continued with her original application—this is almost certainly so—she would have been appointed infants' mistress at the end of the second term. It was made clear to her that her pay would probably have been backdated to the beginning of her appointment there. However, she withdrew and, as a result, the other lady—who has not been named tonight; she is a Mrs. pearson, a certificated teacher who does not hold the appropriate endorsement—carried out the duties of infants' mistress acting in an unpaid capacity.

She proved in the eyes of the headmaster and our District Inspector of Schools to be an excellent teacher for the job. Accordingly, in April, 1963, the headmaster recommended that she should be formally appointed to the post. Because the teacher did not hold the additional qualification prescribed by the code, the authority could not appoint her to a permanent post without the approval of the Secretary of State. However, the authority was within its rights to appoint her, as it did, on a temporary basis without reference to my right hon. Friend.

Sir D. Robertson

Would my hon. Friend quote the words from the code which cover that point?

Lady Tweedsmuir

Certainly, I had intended to come to that. There appear to be a large number of interventions from the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland tonight.

The hon. Member for Shettleston asked how anyone could be assured that Mrs. Pearson's wish to take the course which would entitle her to the infants' mistress endorsement was not merely hopeful aspirations. Would that not mean that she would remain indefinitely in a kind of temporary post without getting the endorsement he asked. It was unfortunate that she did not start the course then, due to domestic and personal reasons. Because she has to go to a College of Education, she will have to take the course for two periods, in 1964 and 1965. It is perfectly clear, however, that if she cannot get these qualifications something else will have to be done.

As the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland strenuously pointed out, where teachers who do not hold the appropriate qualifications for a particular post are appointed temporarily to it, the authority is enjoined, in terms of the code, to continue to "take all reasonable steps" to recruit teachers with these qualifications. I fully accept that it is a natural and reasonable interpretation of this section of the code that an authority should advertise the post or circularise it among its own staff, depending on the policy it follows in this matter.

But in the circumstances of this case the Authority took the view that, first, this would be pointless, since from its knowledge of the disposition of the staff in its area it was sure that it would not get any suitable applicants; and, secondly, that this would be undesirable, since in its consultations with the local primary school teachers it had given an undertaking that promoted posts in the school would be filled by teachers recruited to it.

Furthermore, they thought that it was unnecessary because the certificated teacher appointed in a temporary capacity had undertaken to obtain the appropriate qualifications by courses of in-service training. It was quite clear in her mind and in the mind of the authority at the time of her appointment that she should take the appropriate training course. I should explain why this course will take so long. Teachers living near colleges of education can take the college classes on Saturday mornings, but those living outside travelling distance must take the classes in two successive summer courses of two weeks each.

As the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North pointed out, during school session both they and teachers attending Saturday morning classes receive practical supervision in the form of visits from college lecturers and there are of course visits from inspectors of schools.

Normally, new infants' mistress courses start at Moray House and Jordanhill each year, but at Dundee and Aberdeen, which are the nearest, only every second year because of the smaller number of applicants. In the summer of 1964, Aberdeen College will be doing the second part of the course only and it is expected that Mrs. Pearson will go to the Jordanhill courses. All this, the original meeting and the opening of Pennyland, took place in August, 1962, at which time the director of education informed the Educational Institute of Scotland of these matters. No objection whatsoever was raised by them until June, 1963. I think that in the circumstances of this case, realising that it is a temporary appointment and that these summer courses are going to be undertaken, the authority, which has latitude under the Schools (Scotland) Code, is acting in a reasonable way.

I would also say, particularly because of the pleas made by two hon. Members opposite who spoke of the shortage of teachers and the difficulty of getting them in all parts of Scotland, that I hope that the pressure of publicity which has resulted from the zeal of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland in alleging a breach of the regulations, does not have the one serious and important effect of forcing out of service a good teacher whom we can ill afford to lose. I understand that the teacher concerned, Mrs. Pearson—and I think that the House of Commons always recognises these personal problems of a particular teacher—in view of the publicity is under a great nervous strain. She is said to have asked for and to have received police protection from reporters and, in the words of the director of education: If this goes on much longer I will not have an infants' mistress.

Sir D. Robertson

Will the hon. Lady read to the House, and not slur over it as she did in her speech, the exact clause or subsections where she justifies the appointment of an unqualified person when there are qualified persons available? I have not found it, nor have the lawyers who have been looking into this case for the Institute in Caithness.

Lady Tweedsmuir

If the hon. Gentleman will look at the Schools (Scotland) Code, of which I sent him a copy and, therefore, I know that he has it, he will find on page 5 in Regulation 4(3,b) that it is laid down that the education authority may appoint temporarily to the said post a certificated teacher who does not hold the qualifications appropriate to the post or an uncertificated teacher, provided that they shall continue to take all reasonable steps to obtain applications for appointment to the post from certificated teachers holding qualifications appropriate to the post. Then, in Regulation 5(2), it is provided that one must have the necessary infant endorsement.

As I pointed out earlier, and as the Report of the Working Party on the Relations between Education Authorities and Teachers said, there are the two main methods of proceedings, either by advertisement or by promotion from among teachers in the employ of the local authority. Therefore, in the circumstances, in view of the assurance given that a very able teacher will get the extra endorsement, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will feel that this lady should be left in peace to carry on her excellent work.

10.21 p.m.

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

The Under-Secretary of State has given a most unsatisfactory answer to the debate. Nobody wishes to place the lady who is now the infants' mistress in an uncomfortable position, but, at the same time, one has to see that justice is done to the other lady. By far the greater part of the Under-Secretary of State's speech was devoted to a justification of this appointment. It seemed to me that she protested too much. This was not so much in question as the manner in which the other lady was treated.

As I understand them, the facts are quite simple. Here was a lady with 20 year's experience, fully qualified, with her endorsement, and, in the words of the noble Lady herself, working under an authority in which the education committee and the education officer would know her qualifications and record. She offers herself for the post. I am not quite sure what happened then, but, as I understand, she was told that she had to serve a probation period. In fact, the headmaster was not even appointed, so I do not know who said this.

This seems to be an intolerable situation in which to put a lady with this record. Quite rightly, she asked, "Why should I have to serve this probation period?". The noble Lady has spoken for 20 minutes, but she has not told us why this particular infants' mistress had to serve a probation period. Why was she told? If she had not been told that, the whole business would not have arisen. Is this customary in the circumstances? These are the questions to which we should have answers, but we are still left asking ourselves why Miss Grant was not appointed.

Why was Miss Grant subjected to such treatment? Did the education officer or the education committee have information about her which would disqualify her or lead the committee to say, "True, you have served us very well for 20 years. You are very competent. You are highly qualified. But, in spite of all this, we are going to make you serve a probation period"?

It is an intolerable state of affairs. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) has an excellent case, and the noble Lady has not yet answered it. She has said nothing at all about the matters which I have raised, which seem to me, at least, to be at the kernel of the case.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

If I understood it correctly, the part of the code which the noble Lady read out assumed that the appointment of an unqualified or un-certificated person was that the authority had not yet found anyone else. I gather that when a temporary appointment is made, it is the business of the authority to get busy and find someone with the necessary qualifications. Although it is not said directly, the inference seems to be that it is only permissible to make this type of temporary appointment when there is no person with the requisite qualifications available. Can the noble Lady confirm that?

Lady Tweedsmuir

With the leave of the House, I should like to speak briefly again.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) asked me specifically why Miss Grant was asked to serve, as he calls it, a probationary period. It was because appointment to a promoted post, which is what is in question, is not a matter of right on the basis of qualifications. It is made on merit as well. It seemed reasonable that, in anew school with a new headmaster, he should have some say in the appointment and the final promotion of those who were going to serve in the school.

Mr. Willis

The noble Lady will recall that during her speech she told us that the very fact that this was a small authority meant that the education officer knew the qualifications of the people in it. Anyone who knows Caithness knows that this is not a large authority. The numbers involved are very small. As the noble Lady quite rightly said, the education officer knew what this woman was like. He had employed her for 20 years and knew all about her. Therefore, why was she required to undergo a probationary period?

Miss Herbison

Since the noble Lady is so keen to support the idea that the lady in question should have a probationary period under a headmaster who had not yet been appointed, may I ask under whom the headmaster should have served his probationary period to discover whether he was suitable? Does not the noble Lady think that it was a shocking indignity to put on the head of any woman to say that she had to be vetted by a headmaster who had not to serve a probationary period?

The Under-Secretary of State cannot put the onus on us for the trouble that the lady doing the job, and perhaps doing it very well, is suffering. That trouble stems from the injustice which has run right through this case.

Lady Tweedsmuir

I think that the matter which has really distressed the education authority and committee very much is the words used by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland accusing them of jobbery, and of being fixers and much worse things. I understand that they are very upset about that indeed.

The right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), if I can remember his question rightly, asked whether this should have been done only by public advertisement or whether there was any other method by which the appointment could be made?

Mr. Woodburn

The noble Lady read out a condition in the code. I gathered that the inference was that only if somebody with suitable qualifications could not be found should a temporary appointment be made and that thereafter, at the earliest possible moment, someone with the necessary qualifications should be found. Since that is said, is there not clearly an unwritten instruction that only qualified people should be appointed?

Lady Tweedsmuir

I thought that the right hon. Gentleman had not quite heard what I said. This lady is a certificated teacher, but she needs the extra endorsement. She is not an uncertificated teacher. The provision in the code which I read out says that the authority has discretion to appoint temporarily—this is a temporary appointment—a teacher and after that to take all reasonable steps to get a fully qualified teacher. The reasonable steps which it is taking are to ensure that this particular certificated teacher shall take, through summer courses, the infant mistress endorsement which will ensure that she is a fully qualified teacher.

Surely the real point behind this debate is whether, taking into account the discretion which is clearly given within this code to local authorities and which I have read out this evening, the authority has acted in a reasonable manner in a sparsely populated district in opening a new school and trying to make a success of it with teachers who have been in their employment for some time. I suggest to the House that when Miss Grant withdrew her application the authority acted in a reasonable manner to give—

The Question having been proposed at Ten o'clock and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. Deputy-Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned a half-past Ten o'clock.