HC Deb 13 November 1969 vol 791 cc598-600
17. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals he has for improving the quality of teacher training.

49. Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will set up an inquiry into colleges of education and publish the report and recommendations.

51. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals he has for improving the quality of teacher training.

Mr. Edward Short

In recent years colleges of education have nearly trebled their output, extended the two-year course to three years and introduced a four-year course, leading to B.Ed. degree. These are substantial achievements. I regard many recent criticisms of the courses they offer as misconceived and based on inadequate evidence. The college themselves with the co-operation and advice of H.M. Inspectorate are constantly adapting and modifying their courses to make them more relevant to the changing methods and patterns of organisation in schools. I am considering how best they can be assisted in this task. A general inquiry is among the possibilities but I am doubtful whether this would be the best course.

Mr. Lane

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the very real concern about this matter inside and outside the teaching profession, and keep in mind the desirability, as a first step, of a short but searching inquiry in which his Department might be able to take part?

Mr. Short

It is one of the in things in education now to demand an inquiry into teacher training. There may be a case for looking at the relevance of the training to the changing methods and changing organisation in the schools. What I am very anxious to do is not to go back to the sort of situation we had 50 years ago, when teachers were turned out as craftsmen, but badly educated. Colleges have today both to train teachers and to educate them.

Mr. Godman Irvine

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this matter is being increasingly put forward by those who do not wish to take a militant stand about it?

Mr. Short

It is put forward by a great many people. I examine all the evidence, and there is not all that much evidence about. I think that the young teachers coming out are probably better than they have ever been.

Mr. Price

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the distinction which exists now between the 20 per cent. or so of students in colleges who are going on to a four-year course and a B.Ed. and those only doing a three-year course is a divisive and unsatisfactory element in the college? If he will not have an inquiry, what proposals has he for increasing the number of B.Ed. students within the colleges until it is 100 per cent.?

Mr. Short

I did not say that I would not have an inquiry. I said very carefully that this was one of the things I was looking at. It would be wrong to impose on the colleges, after all they have achieved in the past five years, and the considerable upset they have had, an enormous inquiry which would take three or four years and be out of date by the time it was published. That is all I said about that.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Might not at least a contribution to the discussion be made if the Select Committee were encouraged to go on with its proposals, as it has reported to the House, for an inquiry into part of this subject? Will the right hon. Gentleman use his considerable influence to ensure that the Committee is set up again speedily?

Mr. Short

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will read what the hon. Gentleman has said. If he does not, I will make sure that it is called to his attention.