HC Deb 10 June 1971 vol 818 cc1225-6
30. Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress she has made with her circular on help for slow learners in secondary schools; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Thatcher

I hope to be ready by the end of June to consult the local authority and teacher associations on a draft of the circular.

Mr. Ashley

Is the right hon. Lady aware that her recent proposals for helping the 350,000 slow learners will be warmly welcomed? Can she spell out what steps are being taken to provide the extra teachers who will be required even to dent the problem?

Mrs. Thatcher

Extra teachers are coming into the schools, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, through the expansion in the colleges of education carried out under previous Governments, and the fact that these extra teachers are now available is one reason why we are able to consider making extra or different arrangements for the slow learners.

Sir R. Thompson

Has my right hon. Friend read the recent disturbing reports of the continuing virtual illiteracy of a measurable percentage of school leavers from secondary schools in London? If these are correct, would not she agree that a simple extension of a year's education would not necessarily cure it? Has she in mind any particular measure to cope with this obvious deficiency in our teaching methods?

Mrs. Thatcher

This is part of the general problem of slow learners. We would expect attention to be given to that part of the problem, because it is obviously greatly to the disadvantage of the pupil.

Mr. Rankin

How many of the extra teachers are coming into the schools with university degrees?

Mrs. Thatcher

I could not say offhand, but there is an increase in the num- bers of graduates who are taking diplomas of education.