HC Deb 11 November 1970 vol 806 cc361-2
5. Mr. MacArthur

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is satisfied that adequate preparations have been made for the raising of the school-leaving age in 1972–73; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Edward Taylor

Good progress has been made generally with the provision of additional accommodation but some education authorities have made representations which my right hon. Friend is considering about the amount of their school building allocations. On present forecasts the overall pupil/teacher ratio in 1973–74 will be 18.1 to 1, compared with 17 to 1 at present. But there will be serious staffing difficulties in parts of the West of Scotland and my right hon. Friend intends to do all he can to ensure effective deployment of teaching resources.

Mr. MacArthur

Is my hon. Friend aware that the previous Administration made inadequate preparations for the raising of the school leaving age? Does he accept that there will be a shortage of 1,800 secondary school teachers even before that critical year and that the previous Government's complacent assurances about school building were ill-founded?

Mr. Taylor

I think that this is a matter. The problem of teacher shortage has been with us for many years. But I fully accept what my hon. Friend said about the serious shortage of teachers. On a straightforward projection we forecast that there will be a shortage of 3,100 teachers in 1973–74 when the full impact of raising the school leaving age will be felt. Therefore, my hon. Friend is absolutely right to emphasise the great seriousness of the situation in which we find ourselves.

Mr. Buchan

If the hon. Gentleman is right about the seriousness of the problem, and in view of the inequalities which exist, would not the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend be better occupied dealing with this kind of problem than bringing forward, as their first Bill, a class and privilege-ridden piece of legislation? Surely it would be better to drop today's proceedings and to discuss the real problems in Scotland.

Mr. Taylor

I suggest that if the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends would concentrate on the real problems of education, instead of being blinded by ideology, we might make more progress.