HC Deb 18 February 1970 vol 796 cc403-5
23. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the current shortage of teachers in January, 1970 in Scottish schools; and what was the comparable shortage in the same month of 1964 and 1960, respectively.

Mr. Millan

On the staffing standards of 28.9:1 in primary schools and 14.5:1 in secondary schools, the national supply of primary teachers would be just about adequate in 1969–70 but there would be a shortage of about 1,300 secondary teachers. The application of the same staffing standards to previous sessions brings out total shortages of 2,600 in 1963–64 and 3,600 in 1959–60.

Mr. Taylor

In view of this welcome improvement—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] —does the Minister still think that it will be feasible and practical to increase the school leaving age on the proposed date? In view of the increased number of children who stay on voluntarily at school, might it not be wiser to make provision for them rather than increase the school leaving age while there is still this substantial shortage?

Mr. Millan

No, Sir. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government's commitment to raising the school leaving age is absolutely firm. I have never disguised from the House that there will be particular problems of teacher supply, not throughout Scotland generally but in certain areas, but I have also made it clear to the House that I believe that the problem is manageable, and that it would be absolutely disastrous to Scottish education to defer the raising of the school leaving age.

Mr. Dempsey

Will not a great deal of the success of raising the school leaving age depend on the Minister's ability to steer teachers into areas where they are at the present moment in serious short supply? Does he not agree that unless that is done there is grave danger that an educational crisis could occur, and that in particular areas the service could break down?

Mr. Millan

I agree with what my hon. Friend said in the first part of his supplementary question, and I know that he has a Question on this subject on the Order Paper. I can assure him that we are very much concerned about getting a more equitable distribution of teachers, and are actively working on that problem at the moment.

Mr. MacArthur

The hon. Gentleman says that there is no national shortage of primary school teachers, but he must be aware that 5,000 children in Scottish primary schools are receiving part-time education because of a shortage of primary teachers in certain areas. Will he not recognise the need for very urgent action to overcome this shortage, which is also affecting secondary schools?

Mr. Millan

I have already said that in the primary school field we are dealing with the problem which is one more of distribution than of total supply, though I would not for one minute say that there were not problems in the general primary field at all because I think that classes are still too large and we would like to see them reduced.