HC Deb 13 April 1972 vol 834 cc1403-6
1. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she will now make a progress report on her consultations on the James Report on Teacher Training.

24. Mr. John E. B. Hill

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will list the bodies with whom she is having consultations about the James Report.

30. Mr. Willey

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she will make a statement on the arrangements she has made regarding the consultations on the James Report; and when she expects these consultations to be concluded.

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

Comments have been submitted by about 20 bodies and some 30 others have been invited to let me have their views by the end of May. I expect discussions with some of the principal bodies to start next month but I cannot yet say how soon they will be completed. With permission, I will circulate lists of the bodies concerned in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Spearing

Does the right hon. Lady not agree that effective consultations can take place only when substantial facts are known? Is she not aware that her hon. Friend the Under-Secretary told me in answer to a Question before the Recess that he is considering publishing figures concerning the future of teacher supply? Will she ask him to publish those figures so that the facts on which the James proposals stand or fall may be made known?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish information, given under the promise that it would be confidential, to be revealed later. Statistics are being prepared and I hope that they will soon be available.

Mr. Hill

Can my right hon. Friend say to what extent she is now able to give an estimate of the cost of implementing the report and, secondly, how far in the proposed consultations there will be an attempt to discover to what extent professions other than teaching might use the proposed two-year diploma in higher education?

Mrs. Thatcher

Estimates are being prepared on a number of different assumptions. On the second point raised by my hon. Friend, I hope that those in industry and commerce will make it known whether they would wish to use people who have completed the two-year diploma course. It would help us to adjudge whether such a course would be more widely used.

Mr. Willey

In view of the formidable and authoritative criticism that has been made of some of the James recommendations, will the right hon. Lady consider publishing, as soon as she feels able, her own tentative views so that they may be further discussed and there may be consultations about them? At the same time, does she realise that the James Committee Report does not have the appendices we might have expected in such a report and that if she presents her views she might also supply the factual information upon which they are based?

Mrs. Thatcher

If I were to publish any tentative views before consultation I should come under very severe criticism indeed. I prefer to carry out the consultations. I am sure that that is the right way to proceed. I expect them to be both extensive and interesting because the subject and the entire report are so important.

Sir Gilbert Longden

Should it become clear that there is general agreement about the proposals for the third cycle which provides for in-service training, would my right hon. Friend take an opportunity soon thereafter to ask L.E.A.s to include a clause in the contracts of service of teachers entitling them to such training?

Mrs. Thatcher

I appreciate the importance of that point. Before we did that it would be important to see that the proper facilities were available and also to bear in mind that in some subjects it is difficult for some local authorities to arrange secondment. That third cycle has been generally welcomed, but it will nevertheless require a lot of further working out before it could be put into effect.

Mr. Dormand

Whatever the Secretary of State decides to do about the James recommendations, will she ensure that close attention is paid to the probationary period? Would she not agree that the present arrangements are totally unsatisfactory and that positive action must be taken over this most important period in a teacher's life?

Mrs. Thatcher

I agree that positive action must be taken on this as on the third cycle. There were proposals, welcome to a number of people, about the probationary period in the first part of the report. Whether or not we accept them, I agree that some improvements should be made in the probationary part of a teacher's service.

Mr. Moyle

Does the right hon. Lady agree that the decision to try to reform teacher training on the basis of a report founded on confidential evidence was wrong, as it has undermined the credibility of the report with all sections of educational opinion, including even the vice-chancellors? Will she therefore make available to the public the evidence given by her departmental officials?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. At the beginning of its report, the James Committee pointed out that a great deal of information which had been published was already available to it and had been before the Select Committee, and that were it not for those reports and publications it would not have been able to proceed as fast as it did.

Following is the information: