HC Deb 10 June 1971 vol 818 cc1207-8
1. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action her Department takes concerning the probationary year for newly-qualified teachers.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

The arrangements for the probation of qualified teachers are set out in Administrative Memorandum No. 10/68.

Mr. Dormand

Is the Secretary of State aware of the wide variation in the procedure adopted by local education authorities for looking after newly-qualified teachers? Is it not time that the Department of Education and Science adopted a more active rôle in this crucial period of a teacher's career? As a first step, would the right hon. Lady seek to convene a national conference, at which teachers' unions, L.E.A.s, the D.E.S., newly-qualified teachers and colleges and departments of education would be repre- sented, in order to discuss this very important problem?

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that on the whole this is a matter for the local education authorities, but at present it is also under consideration by Lord James' Committee, and any conference of the kind that the hon. Gentleman suggests would be premature.

Mr. Barry Jones

Would the right hon. Lady consider meeting a group of probationary teachers to hear at first hand from them the problems that they face in schools in the first year?

Mrs. Thatcher

If the hon. Gentleman wishes to bring a delegation to see me. I will see them if I possibly can.

Mr. Edward Short

Is not this a matter which the teachers themselves could take over if they had a joint teaching council? Would the right hon. Lady say what is happening to that proposal? This is one of the things that she could reasonably implement.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman should ask that. As he knows, one of the unions does not appear fully to be in agreement with such a council. We shall have to consider the future of such a council very carefully.