HC Deb 12 July 1966 vol 731 cc1418-28

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

12.46 a.m.

Mr. Ernest Armstrong (Durham, North-West)

I welcome, even at this late hour, the opportunity of raising the question of the training of teachers, which is so vital to the education service. Indeed, unless we can ensure an adequate supply of well-qualified, properly-trained teachers, all the various plans which we may have for improving educational opportunities, whether in the primary, secondary or further and higher fields, cannot be achieved.

The size of the problem that we are discussing in this brief Adjournment debate is indicated in the National Plan. Of the increase in the numbers expected to enter full-time education during the period covered by the Plan, no less than two in every five must become teachers if we are to meet our education targets.

Obviously, we dare not neglect any potential source of supply. I was, therefore, delighted when I heard my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in his Douglas speech at the Isle of Man, say that teacher training was to be introduced into technical colleges. Later, he announced the names of the five colleges where the experiment would be initiated My delight has turned rather sour since then because of the subsequent developments. My pleasure has gone, and that is the cause of tonight's debate.

The Secretary of State has talked about the legitimate and strong interests of the A.T.C.D.E. and others and, obviously, very strong representations have been made. Therefore, in his wisdom, he asked the colleges to make up their minds as to the validation of the course and how they would organise it.

As I see it, there are two main advantages in the proposals to have teacher training in the technical colleges. The first is that it offers a unique opportunity for teachers to be trained alongside students entering other occupations and professions. Secondly—and this is vital—it creates a wider field for recruitment to this important service.

The House would, I think, agree that in the past far too many teachers have been trained in semi-isolation. The technical college, which caters for students pursuing full-time and part-time courses, with close and day-to-day contact with business and industry, presents a remarkable opportunity for a fresh approach to be made to the job of training teachers. I had hoped that the selective colleges, one of which happens to be in the Borough of Sunderland, where I was chairman of the Education Committee, would have chosen to be associated with the Council for National Academic Awards and would have left the institutes of education and the colleges associated with them to pursue the more traditional paths.

The Department of Education and Science has some responsibility in this matter. Teacher training is undoubtedly something that the Secretary of State cannot leave completely to the local authorities. All five colleges have played safe and chosen the Institutes of Education as their mentors and this indicates a need for the Department to become more directly involved. I am very anxious that the education departments in technical colleges must be more than replicas of colleges of education and I have been alarmed at some of the statements that I have seen about the aims and objectives of the authorities who are to run the new courses.

If it is the aim of the departments in the technical colleges merely to imitate what is happening in the colleges of education, then the Secretary of State would not be justified in allocating the very scarce resources of manpower and money that are available. I want to see the five colleges acting as pace-setters, and they would be freer to do so and more likely to achieve this by using the C.N.A.A. than by clinging to the known and traditional paths. Let me make it clear that I take second place to no one in my admiration for colleges and departments of education.

I have a great personal debt to what was once a teacher training college and what is now one of the leading colleges of education in the country—the City of Leeds Training College. It has made a tremendous contribution to solving the problem of the supply of teachers. It has responded to the call for expansion and it has coped with the spectacular increase in numbers, despite all of the difficulties of over-crowding and the like. I know that not only have standards been maintained, but have been improved.

One of the happiest associations that I have had with the local authorities has been the interviewing, year by year, of students about to take up their first teaching post. This year, the standard of those entering the profession is very high indeed and it is a great pleasure to see this. I am anxious about training in technical colleges, not because I think that they will do a better job, but because I know that they will do the job differently. In the teacher shortage crisis which we face, it is essential to try every method.

The technical colleges can be a powerful source of recruitment. This is the second reason why I raise this matter tonight. Many students come into technical colleges from various walks of life. They have had practical experience in the world of industry, business, administration and the social services. I hope that many who go to technical colleges will be attracted, because of their rubbing shoulders with those undertaking the teacher training course, and will opt for teacher training themselves.

One of the developments that I have noticed with great pleasure has been in the secondary schools, with which I am associated. I have seen boys and girls, who, in the normal course of events, would have left school at the earliest opportunity, at the statutory leaving age, finding a new enthusiasm for school because they have had a course with a strong vocational content. School has, remarkably, become relevant and vital to their lives. The teachers who have done their professional training after practical experience in the outside world have something vital to give these children. Some of them now find their way into colleges of education and I believe that many more would be attracted to the profession through the technical colleges.

That leads me to another criticism to which I hope the Minister of State will give careful consideration. I believe that the Secretary of State was wrong to insist that technical colleges should concentrate for the most part on training primary school teachers. The technical college has a distinct contribution to make to our comprehensive schools by training men and women who themselves are well aware of the value of the vocational element in education and who can stimulate the very response needed to enable the Newsom child to profit from the extra year at school.

There is no doubt that, with the help of the Schools Council and the very valuable suggestions in the pamphlet relating to the raising of the school-leaving age, we have to look at the traditional methods that we have used in the past. We ought not to be judging our secondary schools solely on the preparation which they give to pupils for the O and A level examinations in G.C.E. Certainly, the technical colleges, by the subjects that are taken and by their experience of and close contact with the workaday world, have a particular contribution in this respect which must be exploited to the full.

I am delighted that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) has stayed for this Adjournment debate. I would willingly give him a few minutes in which to speak, if he cares to do so.

I would urge the Secretary of State to be bold and courageous so that this unique opportunity is not lost, and I urge three things upon him. First, the C.N.A.A. should make it abundantly clear now that it is ready to welcome technical colleges who seek validation of the teacher training course with the C.N.A.A., and that the necessary arrangements can be made by September, 1967. If that is done, even at this late hour, there may be colleges who would be willing to associate with the C.N.A.A.

Secondly, he should reconsider the instruction that the technical colleges should concentrate on training primary school teachers. I know the feelings of the A.T.C.D.E. I know its disappointment about the Robbins Report not being implemented as regards university integration, and so on. But I believe that this experiment would have a much better chance of success and make a bigger contribution if the stipulation about primary school teachers was not insisted upon. Let them use their vast industrial and commercial experience and contacts for the well-being of the schools.

Finally, let him use his authority and plead with the colleges to think again and seek to tread new ground, so that the initiative which he has taken, which I am sure that the House welcomes, may be exploited to the full, to the mutual benefit of everyone in this vital service.

12.59 a.m.

Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)

I am sure that the whole House is grateful to the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong) for raising this matter. 1 am glad to have the opportunity to say a word or two in the debate, because, as the hon. Gentleman may recall, I first raised the matter of teachers being trained in technical colleges in the debate which we had on higher education in March of last year, when I tried to cover the whole field.

I must say that I agree with a very large part of what the hon. Gentleman has said. Like him, I am second to none in my admiration for what the colleges of education have achieved since the McNair Report, not just in numbers but also in terms of quality. They have been advancing more rapidly than any other part of the higher education system, and the nation owes them not only a debt but much more recognition than they have received.

I also pay full tribute to the universities for the part that they have played in validating the training course. All of us recognise this. During my years as Minister, I had the happiest relationship with the A.T.C.D.E., who have been a thrust-ful and successful body in pushing the claims and aspirations of the colleges of education on the Ministry.

None the less, I still hold the view, which I have previously expressed, that I do not believe that we in this House should accept the assumption that all teachers should be trained, as it were, within the university orbit. I am for a broad based supply of teachers, and it is for this reason that I tend to sympathise with the view of the hon. Gentleman. I for one would welcome the example of a technical college which sought the validation of its training courses with C.N.A.A. I think that this would be an interesting and valuable development.

There is one other reason which I would mention in addition to those mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. He gave some important reasons, the need to increase the supply, the opportunity for teachers to be trained alongside students training for other occupations, and so on. I agree that those are important, but let us also remember—and I hope that the Minister will agree with me—the problems that are arising in some areas over the B.Ed degree.

We have the example of the difficulties that are arising at one of the ancient universities. For my part, I simply cannot see any reason, on educational grounds, why the prospect, which I believe has been mooted, of an external London degree for those at colleges of education in Cambridge should be thought a feasible and proper solution, while, at the same time, we ruled out the possibility of a first-class technical college within the orbit of the C.N.A.A. offering a course leading to a B.Ed. degree.

That would be absurd. I hope that it will go out from the House that without any prejudice to the admiration that we feel for what the colleges of education have achieved, for the work of these institutions, and for the part which the universities have played, none the less we would like to see the experience of at any rate one college seeking the validation of its training courses with C.N.A.A., and do not rule out the possibility of technical colleges within the orbit of the C.N.A.A. offering a course leading to a B.Ed. degree.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman mentioned the raising of the school-leaving age. This is a very strong argument for wanting as broad a based supply of teachers as possible, for thinking in terms of the whole range of teachers which can be of use to those staying on for the fifth year for the first time. I deplore the immense amount of defeatism that is going on about the raising of the school-leaving age. We all realise that there are problems, and this is why I announced a date two years later than the Newsom Committee suggested, in retrospect with the approval of Members in all parts of the House.

Instead of this defeatism about the raising of the school-leaving age, let us devote ourselves to the measures that need to be taken between now and the date when the raising of the age comes into force. I consider that one of the most relevant considerations is how we can get the broadest based supply of suitably trained teachers.

1.3 a.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Goronwy Roberts)

My hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong) paid a well-merited tribute to the colleges of education for the way in which they came to the aid of the country at a crucial time in expanding so as to provide the necessary number of teachers, and he was joined in this by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hands-worth (Sir E. Boyle). I should like to echo what they said. We owe the colleges of education a great debt of gratitude for the co-operation which they have accorded to us over the past few years, and which they continue to give.

My hon. Friend raised a number of very important and interesting points relating to this new development in which we hope to see a number of technical colleges setting up their own departments of education in the near future. Perhaps I might invite the House to look briefly at the background to this, and in so doing I shall try to deal with some of the points raised by my hon. Friend and by the right hon. Gentleman.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced last year his aim to establish some departments of education in suitably located technical colleges which are doing mainly advanced work. Earlier this year we consulted five local education authorities in different parts of the country—Inner London, Barking, Manchester, Nottingham and Sunderland—with a view to colleges in those areas taking part in the new development. All these authorities have expressed a desire to participate, and they are now preparing detailed proposals. It is hoped that the new departments of education will take their first students in the academic year 1967–68.

This important new development may be seen as part of the Government's plans for building up powerful vocationally-directed institutions of higher education concerned with the provision of studies for a variety of professions. While the new departments of education will to some extent play a rôle similar to that of day colleges of education, there should be advantages to be won from training some teachers alongside other students studying other disciplines and preparing for other careers.

The departments may also be expected to attract to teacher training a certain number of technical college students who would not otherwise have thought of taking up teaching. I want to emphasise that these new departments will in every way provide courses comparable and of equal status with the best offered by the traditional college of education and the university departments of education.

It is intended that initially the new departments should cater essentially for students taking a three-year certificate course leading to qualified teacher status, but the departments will no doubt wish in due course to introduce also four-year courses leading both to degree and to professional teaching qualification, which is the point which the right hon. Gentleman raised towards the end of his speech.

There may be a case, later, for the introduction of post-graduate courses of professional training in these new departments—or at least in some of them—and here there may be a strong case for research by some of these departments into teaching method as related to boys and girls coming from an industrial background and intended for industry. The size of the departments is of great importance. If these departments are to stand comparably with the departments of colleges of education they must be of a viable size, and the estimate is that they must start with about 100 students, working up to a total student body of 250 to 300.

My hon. Friend, who is deeply interested in the nature of the professional training to be provided in these departments, made a plea for innovation and experiment. I have great sympathy with what he said on that point, but I have to say that the main teacher supply need at present is for primary teachers, and in the new departments, as in the colleges of education, the main emphasis will be, for some time yet, on the training of teachers for the primary schools. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman. representing as he does a Birmingham constituency, will appreciate that this need is a continuing one, and one which the departments must try to meet.

On the other hand, there will be some secondary training; indeed, a further proportion of students may follow a junior secondary course, covering the age range 7–13 years. A bigger proportion than that mentioned by my hon. Friend is likely to follow secondary courses in these new departments; and this matter can be reviewed in the light of the changing needs of various types of school. We should also remember that while the new education departments may be expected to draw some students from sources of recruitment not hitherto tapped they must be expected in the main to recruit from the same sources as do the colleges of education, and their students will, therefore, in general, have similar backgrounds.

We certainly believe—as my hon. Friend does—that the education departments of technical colleges will be able to make a very useful contribution to courses of initial training of teachers in secondary schools, including those who will teach the so-called "Newsom" pupils, and that they will be able to equip these teachers to give their teaching realistic application to the workaday world into which these children will go. But as the Newsom Report itself and, more recently, the Schools Council have said, realistic courses for the Newsom pupils will need to draw not only on a variety of occupational interests, but also on the humanities and modern social studies.

Both the colleges of education and the new departments in technical colleges clearly have a part to play in all this. The schools will need teachers whose training has been broadly based. It seems to us unwise to try to categorise too closely different types of teachers or of pupils. My hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman both know that the Schools Council is engaged now in radical rethinking of the whole secondary school curriculum and the outcome of its work will considerably influence the sort of training given to students in colleges of education and departments of technical colleges.

I come now to the validation of courses and qualifications. Technical colleges differ from colleges of education in that the usual degree avenue is provided by the C.N.A.A. Since the teacher training syllabuses at certificate level need to be tied in with those leading to a degree, it seemed that the technical colleges undertaking this work might prefer to look to the C.N.A.A. for the validation of both certificate and degree courses of their education departments rather than to seek membership of the local area training organisation.

The award of certificate at non-graduate level is certainly within the council's competence and the Secretary of State would be ready to receive from the council recommendations for the award of qualified teacher status. However, after much thought and full consultation with the various interests concerned, we concluded that it was right to leave it to the technical colleges concerned to choose whatever sort of validation best suited their circumstances.

It is clear that the education departments in technical colleges should establish contact with other teacher training establishments in the area, for example in arranging for teaching practice. But this can be done even though the C.N.A.A. might be the validating body. We are not disposed to dictate or to indicate over-persuasively to the five participating technical colleges where they should look for validation. We hope that they will weigh the advantages of both courses and decide for themselves.

This has been a difficult matter to decide. We have consulted everybody concerned, and my right hon. Friend's view is that the true solution is to leave it to the technical colleges to choose the validation which they believe suits their circumstances. Neither he nor I believes that either course will in any way prevent innovation or experimentation. It is possible for any of these new departments, whether it looks to an institute or to the C.N.A.A. for validation, to proceed with new thinking and new practice in arranging courses.

We will welcome such innovations, subject, of course, to the maintenance of proper standards. All who have spoken tonight welcome this promising new development in teacher training. I feel sure that those who will have the responsibilities of implementing these proposals will carefully consider all that has been said.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at quarter-past One o'clock.