HC Deb 22 February 1967 vol 741 cc1621-4

10.5 a.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I wish to make a statement about the registration of teachers by the General Teaching Council and the draft Teachers (Education, Training and Registration) (Scotland) Regulations, published on 28th December last.

These draft Regulations, to be made under Section 7 of the Teaching Council (Scotland) Act, 1965, prescribe the conditions governing the registration of teachers by the General Teaching Council; they repeat, without change of substance, the provisions which have hitherto applied to the certification of teachers, subject to modification, to enable men to be admitted, on the same footing as women, to the three-year college of education diploma course for primary school teachers.

As I announced on 23rd November last, I accepted the Council's view, based on a recommendation in the Report of the Wheatley Committee on the Teaching Profession in Scotland, that, both for existing certificated teachers and for new entrants, registration should be made a necessary condition of entitlement to permanent appointment by education authorities and to salary in accordance with prescribed scales. The draft Regulations, accordingly, also provide for the amendment of the Schools Code and the Salaries Regulations in this sense. The Council has made the necessary preparations to commence registration of teachers from 1st April.

I have received various representations on the draft Regulations from teachers' associations and individuals; and the Educational Institute of Scotland has in- formed me that it cannot let me have its views on the draft Regulations until its local associations have considered the matter. In the circumstances, I have decided not to proceed meantime with the making of final Regulations.

I shall, therefore, have to continue to certificate teachers under the existing Regulations, the Teachers (Education, Training and Certification) (Scotland) Regulations, 1965. But I propose shortly to amend these Regulations to provide for the admission of men to the college of education diploma course and to make certain other adjustments in consequence of the winding up of the Scottish Council for the Training of Teachers on 31st March—adjustments rendered necessary by the decision not to proceed with the Registration Regulations meantime. In the circumstances of urgency I propose to make the amending Regulations as provisional Regulations, as provided by the Education (Scotland) Act, 1962.

I regret very much that this situation has arisen and that the General Teaching Council will not be able to proceed with registration from 1st April as it had envisaged. I should like to make it plain that the Council's other important activities will not be affected.

Mr. Noble

I thank the Secretary of State for making this announcement and I assure him that we on this side regret, probably as much as he, the lack of immediate support for the proposals of the Teaching Council. We agree that, in practice, at the moment, the course which he is taking is the only possible one. What is his idea of the present timetable? In his view, will there be any effect, due to these troubled moments which we hope will soon be over, on the number of teachers likely to come forward?

Mr. Ross

On the second point, I do not think that this will in any way affect the numbers of teachers coming forward. In relation to the timetable, the provisional Regulations can be introduced as a matter of urgency and are not subject to the usual delays of final Regulations.

Sir M. Galpern

What are the underlying reasons for the need which my hon. Friend has announced to delay the registration? Are uncertificated teachers causing some of the difficulties which have led to the need for postponement?

Mr. Ross

I do not think that it is that at all. One of the good things about the Teaching Council is that it has got down to this issue; it has a working party on the problem of uncertificated teachers and it is making some progress. This has already been approved by the main body of teachers as a step forward. Therefore, I do not think that that is a difficulty. The Educational Institute of Scotland has asked for further time to consider the proposals for registration. We gave it further time, but it then decided that it would be better to make sure and consult its members, probably at the annual general meeting.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I associate myself with the view of the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble), that he is right to postpone these Regulations until he has received representations? On the question of admission of men to the college of education diploma course, what difference does he think this will make to the supply of teachers in Scotland? In particular, has he fully considered the many objections to this course?

Mr. Ross

There were not as many objections as the hon. Gentleman might imagine. In any case, that is not really related to this matter, on which I made a statement earlier and on which we had a debate. The Government decided that, in the circumstances, this was the right thing to do. As a matter of fact, this was supported by a considerable body of teachers, including two of the associations, and there has been little or no trouble about this since we made the announcement.

Mr. Dalyell

What will be the position in relation to the diploma this autumn? Can my right hon. Friend clarify the position?

Mr. Ross

It should make no difference at all.

Mr. Brewis

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a certain amount of anxiety in the teaching profession lest registration acts unfairly in some respects; that the existing rights of certificated teachers may be affected, perhaps financially to the extent of the registration fee? Can the right hon. Gentleman reassure us on this matter?

Mr. Ross

It will not detrimentally affect teachers from the point of view of the amount they receive. This really arises out of the implications of the unanimous Report of the Wheatley Committee that we should proceed to registration. We could not have two systems running together, registration and certification. The fee, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is a nominal £1 a year, which compares very favourably with the registration fees charged by other professions.

Mr. Rankin

Has my right hon. Friend visualised the possibility of the teachers rejecting the final Regulations? Has he considered what course he might pursue in that event?

Mr. Ross

I have thought about all the courses that might be pursued. My hon. Friend will appreciate that one of the reasons we have taken this step is to safeguard the position—but I would not be so rash or gloomy as to predict that we are doing anything other than merely holding the present Regulations in suspense.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis), is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many teachers already in service and accepted as qualified would regard as unreasonable any alteration in their terms of service? Will he bear this in mind and move carefully in respect of registration in future so that the confidence of these teachers is properly retained?

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that we debated this and similar matters fully when we considered the Measure. He will also appreciate that if we wish to proceed from a basis of direct rule by the Secretary of State to control by the Teaching Council, on which the profession has a considerable say in respect of qualifications, discipline and so on—matters which are vital to the profession and in which they want to participate—we must proceed on the basis of registration.

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