HC Deb 06 December 1972 vol 847 cc1364-426

6.37 p.m.

Mr. William Hamling (Woolwich, West)

May I say what a pleasure it is to have the new Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), to reply to the debate and may I add my personal congratulations to him on his elevation? It is not often that we get the opportunity to debate London's affairs. I do not know why that is, but we have Scottish debates and Welsh debates and yet London, which has a larger population than either of those two places put together, is not discussed very often. In a week or so we may be able to discuss unemployment and planning in London but tonight we have the opportunity to examine London education.

The standards of primary and secondary school and further education are, in general, higher in London than anywhere else in the country. I see my hon. Friend, the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) raising his eyebrows at that comment. I have taught in the provinces and also in London and I have studied education in Liverpool, where I started teaching about 40 years ago, and I can confirm that education in London is certainly of a much higher standard.

That does not mean that the people of London necessarily appreciate it or that they are content with it. They expect these high standards to be not only maintained but improved upon. Perhaps education in London is patchy and there may be areas where standards are much higher than in other parts and areas where there are deep-seated and intractable education problems. I hope that these will be mentioned in the debate.

It is fortunate that there has been published today the White Paper "Education: A Framework for Expansion". To herald it, as do the two London evening papers, as a 10-year blueprint for education is to claim a great deal. We particularly welcome the aspects of the report which relate to nursery education. No doubt the House will be afforded the opportunity of debating the White Paper, particularly as it relates to nursery schools, and, I hope, the views of the Government on the James Report on the future of further education and higher education. It is not my intention to say much about the White Paper, except in so far as it bears on some aspects of London education and the paragraphs dealing with increased expenditure in 1975–76 and 1976–77 on secondary education. The amount of the increase is totally inadequate, bearing in mind London's needs and what the White Paper says about them.

The White Paper takes a curious view of the nature of the developments in secondary education in the last 20 or 30 years. Paragraph 36, having mentioned the substantial capital resources which have been devoted to secondary education, goes on to say: This process began with the reorganisation of all-age schools, first in rural and then in urban areas, in the 1950s and early 1960 …". It is surprising that there should be no reference to the tremendous reorganisation of secondary school education on comprehensive lines. The paragraph continues: The number of new permanent secondary school places provided since 1945 is now equivalent to about 75 per cent. of the secondary school population, only about 5 per cent. of which is housed in 19th century buildings. Why was the nineteenth century chosen, bearing in mind that so many of the buildings in which I and other hon. Members have taught in London date from 1905 or 1906? The secondary schools — and primary schools — in London are predominantly in buildings of that vintage, not nineteenth century. I went to school in a nineteenth century building, but that is so long ago that I have almost forgotten it.

In talking about 1975–76, the White Paper says in paragraph 39: These resources will enable progress to be resumed on the replacement or remodelling of the hardcore of old secondary school buildings …". How many new schools can be built for £10 million and how many will be in London, particularly as the White Paper says that these old schools are to be found in all parts of the country but particularly, outside Greater London, in declining industrial areas in the Midlands, the North and Wales? Far be it from those of us who represent London con- stituencies to deny opportunities for children in the older industrial areas in the North, South Wales and elsewhere, but a great many children in London go to old schools.

The White Paper contains no word on secondary reorganisation. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Guy Barnett), if he is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, will deal with Charlton secondary school which I mentioned in a debate in November, 1971. There is no doubt that the Government have deliberately prevented the Inner London Education Authority from proceeding with the rebuilding of some older schools and the reorganisation of some secondary schools. A great deal has been said about Thomas Calton school in Southwark. Strong things have been said by people in Southwark about the conditions of that school and the refusal of the Minister to permit the ILEA to proceed with the reorganisation of it.

The year 1975–76 is mentioned in the White Paper. The Government came to power over two years ago, yet the children who go to these old schools in our constituencies will probably have to put up with the existing intolerable conditions for another seven years. That means that two generations of children will have gone through those schools before the necessary work has been done. I hope that the Government will not congratulate themselves on that singularly bad state of affairs.

We are entitled to ask the Under-Secretary of State, on behalf of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, whether she believes in secondary reorganisation on comprehensive lines and what effect she thinks that will have on building and staffing. How does she envisage the extension of comprehensive schools? There is no word in the White Paper about this matter, which is so important to those who live in London where the ILEA has proceeded far with reorganisation on comprehensive lines. The right hon. Lady recently told the House that she had no view on selection at 11-plus. It is extremely odd that the Secretary of State for Education and Science should have no view on the philosophy of the separation of children at the age of 11 and their subjection to this ridiculous examination. Has she any views at all on the philosophy of education? If she has, she will surely have some view on that aspect. She will surely have a view on what will be the pattern of secondary education under her tutelage. Apparently she has none. In that case, I do not know what she is doing in Curzon Street.

Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)

The Department has moved; it is at the Elephant.

Mr. Hamling

I wish that the right hon. Lady had moved into the London College of Printing at the Elephant, where I used to teach and where she might see some real education at work.

What estimate has the Secretary of State made of the number of children she expects in future years to stay on at school beyond 16? What estimate has she of the future secondary school population and its effect on school building and staffing? The White Paper, which is alleged to be a blueprint for education for the next 10 years, offers no clue of what is in her mind.

Another matter which is of great concern to Londoners is the question of parental choice. In May each year parents express dissatisfaction about the school to which their children will be going when they are 11. Parents say "I will not send my child to that school". It might be the Charlton school or the Thomas Calton school in Southwark. In my constituency parents used not to want to send their children to a comprehensive school, be it Eltham Green or Kidbrooke, but that attitude has changed. Parents now come demanding to know why they cannot send their children to Kidbrooke, Eltham Green or Crown Woods, our comprehensive schools.

There are grave inequalities in staffing, and particularly in buildings and equipment, between some of our secondary schools. The buildings of some of our comprehensive schools are inadequate. No Opposition Member will disagree with that statement. It is the fault not of the ILEA but of the Government, who have deliberately prevented it from proceeding with some of its building programmes. The Evening Standard has been running articles on schools where there are special difficulties, where there is a deficiency of children of the higher ability ranges. Who goes to those schools if the parents of able children, who are the articulate ones, refuse to send them there? It is a problem of parental choice, of balance, in the secondary schools. I hope that the Department has a view on that, even if it has no view on other matters of great importance in education.

Some of the comprehensive schools are labouring under great difficulties, yet the academic records of some of them are good. Some of the schools with great problems, schools which are limited in their ranges of ability, have academic records that compare very favourably with those of some of the smaller grammar schools in London, though I am sure that the Minister does not consider that the criterion of excellence is only the academic record. I am sure he will agree with me that there are other criteria of excellence than good academic records or the number of children going on to university.

Having taught for many years children with educational difficulties, perhaps with disturbed backgrounds, educational, emotional or domestic, I believe that one of the criteria of excellence is a school's ability to cope with such children, to find the best in all our children and not simply to look after the high-flyers. I hope that the Department has a view about the value—that respect of a school which has a wide range of ability.

It seems to me that it is possible to cope with children with special difficulties in a school where there is a wide range of ability, where perhaps some help can be given by one child to another. There are special difficulties in London, as in other big urban areas where there is a great deal of physical and social dereliction. Is there a responsibility on the authorities to do what they can to compensate the staff of schools for their special difficulties? What is the special responsibility of the Secretary of State in the matter? I believe that it is to come to the assistance of the staffs in those schools, to take special measures to assist the schools in the areas where the problems are.

Mr. Ronald Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)

There are schools in the inner London area where teachers are still having to stand in the corridors and teach the children there, and the Secretary of State is doing nothing about it.

Mr. Hamling

I am sure that my hon. Friend, with his wide experience in east London, just north of the Thames, can expand on those matters if he is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. I do not want to take all his thunder.

When we started to teach, some of us did not teach in classes of 18 or 25. When I started I was teaching an average of 55 children in the class, and sometimes we approached 60. We have not seen that problem in London, at least for 60 or 70 years, but there are particular problems in particular schools of which some of my hon. Friends are aware. The Secretary of State is not aware of them. If she is, she does nothing about them and ignores them.

I want now to speak more particularly about some of the problems in London and to put one or two facts before the House. The White Paper talked complacently about the difficulties. One of the Secretary of State's priorities is the replacement of pre-1903 primary schools. But in London 138 out of 209 secondary schools are housed wholly or partly in buildings of pre-1903 vintage. That is not the 5 per cent. that the White Paper talks about. Well over half the secondary schools in use are 70 or more years old. I wonder what the Secretary of State has to say about that.

Mr. Ronald Brown


Mr. Hamling

The sum of £10 million a year in 1975–76 will not begin to deal with that sort of problem. We can make no progress in London without a radical change of policy on replacing our prewar and Victorian secondary school buildings. In London major capital works of that kind have been barred.

The minor works programme is in great difficulties. Next year's work has been largely brought into this year's to help the employment position. There is virtually nothing left in the kitty for next year. The allocation in London for 1972–73 was £1,170,000, a reduction of 25.6 per cent. on the previous year—and that against a background of tremendously increasing costs in the building industry. For 1973–74 the allocation is £690,000, and for 1974–75 it is £500,000. That is absurd.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)

That is only half.

Mr. Hamling

It is less than half in real terms because of the inflation over which the Government are presiding. House-building costs have doubled in five years, so what is the real value of that kind of programme?

It has become necessary to review the whole minor works commitment in London against that background. A number of projects already programmed have had to be abandoned. I wonder what the Secretary of State will say about that, bearing in mind what the White Paper says.

I should now like to talk about staffing. One of our great problems in London has been a loss of staff. I have taught in several educational establishments in London—secondary, further and higher—and there is no doubt that it is difficult to recruit staff to work in some of our more difficult schools. This is partly a reflection on the physical conditions in those schools. I say "partly" because questions such as salary, London allowance and so on are also involved

Great educational difficulties are encountered in some of these schools. For some time I taught in a school in Deptford, and I remember the headmaster saying "This is missionary work". Teachers are paid not as missionaries but as teachers. If the people concerned want missionaries, they should perhaps go to the religious authorities—I am not sure—but certainly we should not expect our teachers to be missionaries. Certainly we should not subject our teachers to the sort of conditions which mean that they are in great difficulties, with many of them being unable to cope with the classes they have to teach.

I now turn to the question of staffing in London. The ILEA has published certain figures about this, and I intend to refer to them, but they do not tell the whole story. They do not cover the people appointed on a temporary basis, and there is a high proportion of temporary teachers in London—people on supply, and even on permanent supply. For some time I was a supply teacher in London, and frequently it was the supply teachers who covered the more difficult classes, which I regard as a bad thing.

I presume that the ILEA has made representations to the Government about the staffing situation particularly bearing on the question of the London allowance. The authority says that in its view the present basis of calculation of an appropriate rate for the London allowance is unsatisfactory and produces a figure which leads to severe difficulties in recruitment and in the retention of suitably experienced teaching staff.

All of us who represent London constituencies can report stories of the loss of staff periodically. A large comprehensive school near where I live lost more than one-third of its staff last summer. Nobody can run a school on a satisfactory basis if the children are never sure which teacher they will have as it were from one day to another. I once taught in a secondary modern school in London at which it was my job to go round every morning checking that every class had a teacher. Quite frequently classes did not and I had to leave my class to look after another class, and sometimes two other classes. That is the kind of thing that goes on in London. It is unsatisfactory. One reason for it is the inadequacy of the London allowance and the intractability of the Department when considering the situation.

An adequate teaching force, reasonably stable and composed of an appropriate number of both new teachers and more mature teachers, is essential if we are to have a reasonable educational system. We are thinking here of the children of London. That is what we are concerned with in this House, and I hope that is what we are concerned with in this debate. In inner London particularly the composition of the teaching force is becoming increasingly unsatisfactory from this point of view. There are more probationers in London than the national average. There are more young teachers and fewer mature teachers, and it seems unsatisfactory that young teachers from colleges of education and from the training departments of universities should come into the London service, stay for three or four years and then find that when they want to marry and settle down they cannot afford a home in London.

The National Board for Prices and Incomes in its report No. 44 dealt with the whole question of London weighting. It seemed to me that one of its general conclusions was inadequate. This was to reject the idea of labour supply difficulties and, by extension, comparison with other employers as a basis for determining London weighting. How can anyone reject labour supply difficulties and introduce a figure that is reasonable? How can anyone ignore the special difficulties of teaching in London, and especially in some parts of it? How can anyone ignore all the points that have been made?

But even the considerations that have been used for determining this figure—the cost of living statistics—are inaccurate. They take inadequate notice of the costs of housing in London. I heard of a semi-detached house in Finchley going for £27,000—an ordinary sort of house with three bedrooms. I do not know what is special about Finchley[Laughter.] Perhaps it has a Member of Parliament who has costly ideas, but in another direction, and not in education. In my constituency a reasonable house in an area that is unaffected by the planning blight resulting from the motorways will cost about £16,000 to £17,000. In some cases such houses cost no more than £800 to £900 to build. The situation is ridiculous. That sort of house can be bought in the provinces for less than half that figure.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

Not in the South-East.

Mr. Hamling

I am talking about the provinces, and I do not count the South-East in that category. I do not count Chelmsford as part of the broad expanse of Lincolnshire, Yorkshire or the Midlands. Chelmsford is affected by similar problems to those experienced in London from a housing point of view, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman, with his experience of Chelmsford, will tell his right hon. Friend that she does not know much about living costs in London. I hope that that intervention will have proved salutary from that point of view.

What are the actual costs? The housing costs index that is used does not appear to cover mortgages directly. Mortgage payments are held to be capital payments and as such are not covered by the retail price index, of which the index of rent and other housing costs forms part. The rents element of housing costs is weighted to take account of the consumption of housing by owner-occupiers but this is a poor reflection of the real state of affairs and the actual costs in terms of mortgage payments to a householder, especially where a house is being acquired for the first time. As the purchase price of comparable housing is much higher in London than elsewhere, and the amount of capital and interest payments on a first mortage is correspondingly much greater, the actual costs of living in London for those who have recently acquired houses are seriously under-estimated in all the official statistics.

The absolute facts of a percentage price increase do not seem to be taken properly into account. For example, if one takes an increase of 50 per cent. on the price of housing and applies it to two properties formerly costing £4,000 and £6,000, a gap of £2,000, one gets an increased value of £6,000 and £9,000, a gap of £3,000. Young couples in London are constantly fighting to bridge this unbridgeable gap. We are not talking now of £9,000 houses. One cannot buy a house of any sort in south-east London which most teachers would be willing to accept for less than £10,000, which would be a very poor sort of house in my part of the world. Yet young teachers are expected to do this on their present salaries.

I hope that we will have more from the Secretary of State than the insulting and ridiculous offer which was suggested to teachers for the London allowance. I know many teachers elsewhere might argue that they have special problems, but we are elected to represent London parents, who expect us to do something for their children. That is what we are sent here for and we should be failing in our duty if we did not say, strongly and directly, that the Secretary of State's performance in this field has been insulting to the intelligence of the people of London.

7.12 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) I, too, spent many years in the London teaching service—13 to be exact—so I do not intend to mince my words tonight.

It is significant that during this debate only two supporters of the Government have so far made an appearance, and none from inner London or outer London is in the House—except one who is just arriving, perhaps to redeem the Government's side. The party opposite do not seem to have much confidence on this matter.

It should be axiomatic for everyone that educational needs are a first call on the community purse—that is true in almost any society—and that one fulfils the educational needs of schools and the young as a first call on community taxation and resources. I do not believe that that is the case at the moment.

The other night the Under-Secretary said that he wished to do more, but that getting money out of the Treasury was like getting blood from a stone. I do not believe that to be true. The Treasury does not take that attitude towards the Concorde project, as we will know on Monday, when we debate it. In fact, the Treasury did not even know how much it would cost.

As a teacher concerned with the welfare of young people and serving the parents of London as I try to do, I deplore the fact that Government's of whatever complexion fail to make education a first call on the community. It is no good the Under-Secretary saying that it is not so, when Concorde and similar projects come up time and again.

The needs of London are peculiar to London. There is a declining population, both absolutely and in terms of pupils, and in inner London this means, as my hon. Friend has said, that there is very little flexibility in new building and insufficient scope for the authority to manoeuvre. It is in inner London that the social problems are most difficult.

Where there are social problems, teachers are not concerned just with the scholastic; in my view, any teacher who is concerned only with that is not a teacher at all. Teachers have more and more to be concerned with providing a social environment in which young people who are already under stress can grow naturally and be educated in the fullest sense of the word. Thus, in inner London the problems are very great. The resources that are required are space, equipment and people—people, of course, being by far the most important.

Outer London also has its problems. The London Borough of Ealing, part of which I represent, has a large overseas population which can grow unexpectedly, particularly in terms of children. I should have thought that with such a problem there would be ample opportunity for an educational authority to build ahead of a projected need, yet there is an intense argument going between my education authority and the Department on the extent to which space in schools can be built and allocated ahead of a projected need. This is deplorable, because everyone knows that that borough has particular problems, and any argument about them is deplorable.

My hon. Friend has dealt with the premises in inner London, which has 138 secondary school buildings which were built in the last century. Of course, it is a question not merely of the age of the building but of the facilities offered. My hon. Friend said that the minor works programme has been cut. What he did not mention was that the main school building programme is very low indeed. In 1972–73, the ILEA building programme, concerned mostly with primary schools—only one secondary school is included, at Thamesmead—involves the sum of £3.4 million. In 1974–75, it will be £3 million. If my arithmetic is correct, that is about one-twentieth each year of the cost of the West Cross motorway, which is about £60 million. In other words, in terms of expenditure 200 yards of urban motorway is roughly equivalent to the new school building programme in inner London for one year. That highlights my remarks about our priorities in social need.

A further difficulty arises about premises in Ealing. The borough wished to change to a comprehensive system of education—a very difficult problem, because many schools in that area are very small. Accordingly, it produced a scheme for making the change over a 10-year period, in a phased way. I understand that the Department said, "We cannot do that. A 10-year programme, committing school building 10 years ahead, will not be accepted by the Treasury". Because of that, as I understand it—I am subject to correction—the borough had to withdraw the plan, which had the support of not only the teachers but the parents, and substitute another highly contentious, scheme.

No community can afford to do things like that. If an educational plan is agreed and the only sticking point is the projection of school building 10 years ahead, some administrative fiat comes in. Some adviser at the Treasury says, "We cannot make a commitment 10 years ahead, not even for education". If we have reached that stage in central Government it is time that the public knew that we are not being served very well. I challenge the Minister to deny that we can and should make education a first charge on the public purse.

My hon. Friend mentioned the standard of building, and I said that it was a question not just of age but of space. In my constituency the Acton Wells primary school, built in 1904, is surrounded on four sides by industry, the reason being that it was built before the projected houses were built, and in fact the housing estate was never developed. That school has 450 children, fifteen normal-sized classes and three smaller classes. Each class has a base room, and there are five additional rooms for art, music, and visual aids, a library and remedial reading. Any teacher reading what I have to say will know that that is very reasonable provision. That is about what is required. Anything less than that would inevitably mean that the quality of education for the pupils would be reduced because of the inherent inflexibility or increasing inflexibility of the situation.

That school, by Department regulations, can accommodate 640 pupils; indeed, in plans which the Minister has passed it will in due course house 640 pupils. In correspondence with the Under-Secretary's noble Friend in another place, the hon. Gentleman has said that it is all right because it is within the regulations; but I believe that those regulations are wrong. In the last two years I have had correspondence with the Department on this matter, and at no time has the Department told me the educational basis of the school building regulations. I once attended a conference at which I asked a question about this matter. It was quite clear that the school building regulations are related to what the Department thinks it can get from the Treasury and not to what teachers require in schools.

The problem is great in primary schools and even greater in secondary schools, because unless we provide a reasonable atmosphere, with reasonable flexibility in the timetable and a room for each teacher, we are immediately in trouble. I have had 13 years of that, and I am fed up with it. This is because the Whitehall bureaucracy does not understand teachers' needs. If a professional person such as a doctor says that in an operation room he needs this, that or the other sort of equipment, it is provided straight away; but that does not happen for teachers. These regulations are a case in point.

I come now to the most important part of educational provision, in terms of meeting children's needs, namely, teachers. We know that buildings are to base from which one starts and that after that the teacher meets the needs of individual children. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West was quite right in saying that the educational quality of a school is related not to its scholastic attainment but to the degree to which teachers are able successfully to meet the needs of each child and enable that child to develop and grow in the fullest sense.

Mr. Hamling

I hope that my hon. Friend will quote me correctly. I did not say that schools should not be concerned with scholastic standards; I said that they are only one criterion. I am a great believer in scholastic attainments, but there are other things, too.

Mr. Spearing

I agree. I, too, am concerned with scholastic standards. The point is, however, that the overall assessment of the school cannot be based on scholastic standards alone. I hope that my hon. Friend will agree with that.

The difficulty is that in meeting these needs teachers are constantly brought up against administrative strait-jackets. I have mentioned the question of space. Any teacher is up against the difficulties inherent in the department of which he is a part in a secondary school. The head of a department—I speak from experience—is up against restrictions on space and the difficulties of the school. The head of the school is up against administrative difficulties with the authority. The authority is up against administrative difficulties with the Department of Education and Science.

In many cases I do not blame educational administrators. Sometimes they know no better. The Inner London Education Authority administrators are hard at work trying at least to obtain the required resources, and teachers sometimes blame them for difficulties which are not, perhaps, the fault of the administrators, who spend much time merely maintaining the existing situation. The problem is that when up against these difficulties, let alone the difficulties of the children, one is trying to move against a tide which should not exist. In other words, stresses are produced in teachers, and among them, which need never occur. The teachers know that they need never occur. It is one thing to be up against difficulties which are inevitable; it is another to be up against them when one knows that they can be removed but are not removed because people do not understand them.

In meeting stresses in inner London today the teachers are not merely providing professional expertise. Anyone who teaches will know that one is giving of oneself, being drained emotionally and spiritually in a way which cannot be compared with what is involved in many other jobs. Certainly the work in the House is a haven of peace compared to the work in many London schools. On top of stress, London teachers have their own social, family stresses, connected with family housing and travel. Therefore, they do not have the steam left to give to the children what is required. It is no wonder that we read in the Press of difficulties of teachers who are doing their best but facing this stress on every front.

My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West said that the number of young teachers in London was relatively high. In the Inner London Education Authority, 50 per cent. of the lady teachers are under the age of 30. I dare say that a high proportion of that number are under 25. The national proportion is 38 per cent. In primary schools in inner London 20 per cent. of the teachers are men. The national figure is 25 per cent.

As anyone knows, it is very important to have a number of experienced male teachers in every primary school. If we do not have them, things are very difficult. Indeed, the National Union of Teachers claims that in many London primary schools any child passing through them is taught almost continuously by teachers in their first year of teaching. I can well believe that. I know of one primary school in which one class has had up to five different teachers since September. That is the state of some schools today.

The schools with the worst problems are very often those where there is the greatest turnover of staff and the lowest proportion of experienced teachers. The experienced teacher in a school with a high proportion of less experienced teachers is subject to even greater strains and stresses. I do not claim that the problem is confined to London, but the stresses are far greater in London and the problems which affect the nation as a whole will probably show first within the London area.

That brings me to my final point, the London allowance. The problems which London teachers face and try to meet mean that they are more aware of actions taken by the Government regarding education in London, particularly those affecting their pay and remuneration. My hon. Friend mentioned Report No. 44 of the National Board for Prices and Incomes and the fact that the criteria on which the Secretary of State has made the offer does not take into account housing costs.

The Nationwide Building Society has said that from the fourth quarter of 1970 to the second quarter of 1972 the price of old houses rose by 57 per cent. and that of modern houses rose by 67 per cent. As I understand it, the formula upon which the last offer to teachers was based does not take into account those increases. The cost of meeting mortgages is far more than those percentages indicate because of the extra interest involved. This reflects something of the disease in our society, and not just the educational problem.

If one is forced to travel a long distance into London, or to areas outside London, what chance is there of taking part in out-of-school activities? What chance is there for a teacher who is keen on sport to come in on a Saturday morning? All the weighting is the other way. What chance is there to know something of the children's background or even the slightest details of the areas from which they are drawn? There is less and less chance, so the ability of the teachers to meet the needs of the children grows less and less the longer and further they have to travel.

All of us know the difficulties of travel in London today, of late arrivals and so on. These have much greater repercussions when they occur in human situations than when people are concerned with machines, or with an office where the paper work is perhaps a sort of production line. London teachers have been more and more aware of the difficulties. Last April they had an adjudication award for the whole country in terms of pay.

The unions had asked that the London allowance of £112 should be reviewed as from last April but the adjudicator, for reasons best known to himself, put it off until November. The conversations took place and on 20th October the local authorities were about to make an offer. I emphasise a point which has not so far been understood. The offer was from the whole of the employers' panel of the Burnham Committee. It was not just an offer from the inner and outer London Education authorities. In other words, the latter had to persuade all their colleagues from outside London that this was an offer that should be made. This is an important point.

If London is to get the teachers it needs, in terms of either age structure or absolute numbers, it is in direct competition with other authorities outside London. Thus, in order to make any offer at all the London education authorities had to persuade the majority of their, as it were, competitors that this was the right offer to make. Under the formula which has been agreed in relation to the report of the Prices and Incomes Board. I understand that supply is not taken into account. In other words, the market for teachers, which on a national basis is highly fluid, is not taken into account. All that is taken into account is the price indices which do not include housing. That is a ridiculous situation. If I am wrong about this, I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will correct me.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It would probably be better for me not to intervene now but to answer the points at the end of the debate.

Mr. Spearing

I hope the hon. Gentleman at least agrees that what I have just said is correct. If it is, the whole situation is a nonsense. If it is true, all these fundamental points of getting teachers into London and the other administrative matters I have mentioned, bad as they are, pale into insignificance.

Mr. Hamling

Will my hon. Friend also bear in mind the long distances travelled by teachers in London and the cost of transport?

Mr. Spearing

Many teachers are forced, on the mortgage-season ticket balance, to go out a very long way, perhaps even as far as Chelmsford—who knows? That is the situation of an increasing number of teachers. It is not because they want to live at such long distances but because the mortgage-season ticket balance makes it inevitable.

Because the offer of 20th October was expected, if not to cover all these costs, at least to be realistic, the authorities were looking forward to making it. But then the Secretary of State said "No". That was why we were so angry. That was why about 10,000 London teachers went on half-day strike. The right hon. Lady said that the Government were holding talks with the TUC and would have to stop the offer. Yet on 26th September the Government had suggested pay increases of £2 a week to the TUC in their talks. In other words, on that basis the teachers could have gone up to £104 a year. The situation is inexplicable. If we are to believe the Press reports of an extra £82, that is less than the £104. Apart from that, 1st November being the date from which it was implemented as a result of the adjudication in the previous April, part of the 1972 award is not going forward in 1973.

It is no wonder that the teachers, frustrated in so many respects and under very great stress, said "It is the end ". I fear that the morale of the London teachers became so bad about those whom they regard as administrators and boffins in Whitehall—I am sure that their language is less polite than that—that they went on strike. That is the situation in education and it should never have happened.

Someone has said that we congratulate ourselves on how well we negotiate crisis after crisis, but of course these crises should never occur. If we do not put the needs of education and young people as a first charge upon our resources, financial, emotional, and spiritual, we shall be in a bad way. The Government pay lip service to education but do not back it up in practice. I hope I have been able to show why they should support it in practice.

7.36 p.m.

Mr. William Shelton (Clapham)

I want to follow some of the points made by the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) but I must apologise to him because I had to leave the Chamber while he was talking.

Sooner or later some Government will find themselves rich enough or humane enough—or perhaps intelligent enough—to change the pecking order in which teachers find themselves in the salary structure. Most of us agree that, for historical or other reasons, teachers almost certainly do not get the sort of salary that is commensurate with their responsibilities. I have always been in favour of a structured salary scale for them, and I believe that there should be a considerable differential between the scale at which the teacher starts and that which he can achieve when he reaches more responsibility. I should like to see the whole salary scale moved up several notches.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the vexed question of the London weighting. I do not suppose that there are any London Members who have not received numerous deputations of teachers. I certainly have. In many cases there seemed to me to be a genuine lack of understanding—an incomprehension—of just what the London weighting is and what its purpose is. Like other hon. Members, in the last few weeks I have spoken to many teachers on this matter. As far as I could ascertain, their opinion was that the London weighting was an allowance for the cost of living in London. In other words, because London was so expensive the London weighting should be so much, and because the cost of living had gone up by so much in London, therefore the London weighting should go up by an equivalent sum. They were wrong. That is not the purpose of the London weighting.

The purpose is to balance the difference between the cost of living in London and the cost of living outside London. One can envisage the unhappy circumstance, for a London teacher, of the cost of living outside London rising at a faster rate since the last award for the cost of living in London, and the London weighting being therefore reduced. That is theoretically possible, though unlikely, because costs in a capital city usually rise faster than outside it.

I told as many of my constituent teachers as I could—I do not know whether they believed me—that the London weighting is to make up for the difference in the increase or decrease in the cost of living between the capital and outside. If, in these circumstances, the £15 was based on the difference in the cost of living increases inside London and outside it, I hope that my hon. Friend will reassure me on the point. I ask him whether this is a result of a statistical process calculated on the formula recommended by the Prices and Incomes Board in 1967.

When I explained this point to teachers many of them combated it by saying, "You may be right, but nevertheless the cost of living has risen by far more than £15-worth in London than outside it." Common sense tells me that they are right. In the circumstances, we must question the formula applied, as the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) did. I would welcome an assurance that the formula will be looked at to see whether it is still genuine in terms of what has been happening to prices in London. I find it difficult to believe that the difference between the increases in London and outside is only £15 worth over two or three years.

The hon. Member for Acton also spoke about the supply of teachers. All hon. Members must be gratified to know that the ratio of teachers to children in London is probably better than any- where else in the country. I am told that the ratio is very good. What is bad is the turnover. I do not know whether an answer can be given without exhaustive research, but does the high turnover arise because pay is bad for living in London—or is the turnover as bad as, or comparable with, other large urban areas?

I fear that we must accept that teaching in a school in certain parts of our great cities—not only in this but other countries—is not as pleasant as teaching in more pastoral surroundings. Do Manchester, Leeds or Glasgow, for example, suffer the same problem of high turnover? If they do, might it be the consequence not so much of pay but of conditions? I go along with some of the points made about conditions.

I come now to the vexed question of a differential in the weighting between inner and outer London. Several branches of Government service have the same sort of formula applied to London weighting as do teachers and there is a differential between outer London and inner London. There is considerable variation—it may be almost as much as 2 to 1—between the inner London and outer London weighting. Teachers to whom I have spoken about this say that costs in outer London are just as high in inner London. It is true that a house in Richmond will probably cost more than a house in Clapham. Nevertheless, there must surely be a statistical definition. If there is, and it were shown to teachers, it might seem reasonable to them, and fairer to certain of their number, that there should be a variation between inner and outer London.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The teachers do not want that differential.

Mr. Shelton

I appreciate that. I understand from them that they do not want it. At least one to whom I have talked said that he did not want it because he thought that there was no difference in costs. If it were shown to teachers that there was a difference in costs they might change their minds. If there is any difference in costs, and if—to introduce another element—it is more unpleasant to teach in central London than in outer London it would seem fairer to have such a differential. But that is something that must be left to the teachers.

We are all concerned about these problems. I have seen Press reports that there may be further industrial action—that unpleasant phrase—next year. That is of even greater concern to all of us, and to parents and children. I shall listen with great interest to what my hon. Friend has to say in reply.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

There is great concern about the problem of education in London, as is evidenced by the number of hon. Members who have asked for it to be debated on this Bill. The attitude of the Secretary of State to the question of education in London—the Under-Secretary of State has been in the game for too short a time to enable us to make judgments about him—is mean, short-sighted and ignorant. Those are strong words but I think they are justified. I shall let pass some of the errors which the right hon. Lady has made, like cutting out free school milk and closing museums and galleries to children in London, both of which were mean acts. Let me dwell on present matters.

There are three issues: first, the Secretary of State's policy on new school buildings; secondly, her policy on school improvements—the minor works programme; and thirdly, her policy towards the teachers. Meanness and parsimony are a consistent theme in all three subjects.

I deal first with the question of major building. For secondary schools the Secretary of State bases her policy on need. For that reason, only one new secondary school is projected in inner London, Thamesmead, where virtually a new town is growing up. That is the lot for the secondary education building programme in London. Even if the Inner London Education Authority wants to use its own resources and does not want a penny of the Treasury's money it cannot use them. It wanted to rebuild Thomas Calton school as an experimental school from its own resources, but the parsimony was so great that it was not allowed to spend its own money.

In view of her policy, I wonder whether the Secretary of State knows about the problems in any detail. The mere fact that she has published a White Paper which does not mention comprehensive education is a fair indication of her level of thinking. Has she never heard of the expression "sink school" in London? Does she not realise the effect of an outdated secondary school which is unpopular with parents and with teachers and which is perilously close to becoming a second-class school for second-class citizens? Is she not aware of the vicious circle created by an old school in an area with problems which is unpopular with parents because the parents do not send top-class ability children there and the school's reputation becomes worse? Teaching in the school is even less rewarding, therefore less talented teachers go to it.

Somebody must break that vicious circle. That is why from time to time we need to rebuild schools which have problems. Not every old school is a bad school, provided it is given the right facilities, the right intake and the right staff. But in London we have old schools which are bad schools. They may be filled by children from areas which already have more than their fair share of deprivation in the form of poor housing, poverty and unemployment among young people and their parents. Statistics for the whole of London conceal these problems.

I could reel off the names of the schools but I prefer not to do so—except in the case of the Thomas Calton School, which is a well-know example—because it can sometimes add to their problems. My constituency is very lucky. Practically every secondary school in my constituency is new. The one exception is the Strand grammar school, and it would be interesting to have an indication of the Secretary of State's thinking on it. That is the school which the Inner London Education Authority wanted to amalgamate with the Dick Sheppard Girls' School. The Secretary of State decided, without being asked, that the school should be closed, so ILEA set about closing it. There were High Court proceedings but apparently the right notices had not been given. Therefore, a fresh application was made to the Secretary of State to make a decision consistent with her first decision. Will the second decision, for which she has been asked, be consistent with the first decision, for which she was not asked? Will my constituency at long last be able to move to a fully comprehensive system?

There are 138 Victorian and pre-First World War schools in London. They must be rebuilt. It is disgraceful that we should have to continue with them without any addition. There are over 300 primary schools. At the present rate of progress they will not be replaced until 1990, assuming that there are no financial crises, no freezes and no cutbacks in public expenditure, which have become a common feature of Governments of both parties. The major school building programme in London is going down as costs are going up. If we cannot have new schools, we can improve the old ones. The former Minister for Housing and Construction said, "We should be rid of the 2 million slums in 10 years. We will not demolish them; we will improve them." If we cannot get rid of slum schools, let us improve them.

However, the story of minor improvements in London is incredible. If the figures were given in a news sheet issued by a body other than the Inner London Education Authority nobody would believe them. For 1971–72 the allocation is about £1½ million. In 1972–73 it will go down to £1,170,000, a reduction of 25 per cent., assuming constant costs; the real reduction will be even greater. In 1973–74 it will go down to £690,000, a reduction on the previous year's figure of 56 per cent. For 1974–75 it will go down to £500,000 for 1,250 schools in the Inner London Education Authority. Discounting increases in the cost of building, that is a reduction of 68 per cent. We have been told by ILEA that many essential projects have had to be abandoned.

The present allocation for 1,250 schools in inner London is roughly £1,200 per school. The allocation for 1974–75 will be £400 per school, taking no account of inflation. This is a savage attack. It is not a cut; it is close on liquidation. It even applies to areas with an identifiable need. Educational priority area schools which have an identifiable need for extra resources will suffer a cut. That is consistent with the policy of the Conservatives in 1932 when they dispensed with school prizes in London as an economy measure.

Let me give some examples from my constituency. I have a primary school in my constituency—Hill Mead, in Sussex Road, Brixton—which is in an educational priority area, so it has been accorded the right status for resources. It was not purpose built. It was converted from the Brixton School of Building. The premises were made into a primary school addition because of the increase in population in Lambeth. It is an old school. The Inner London Education Authority proposed—and this was in its programme, ready for approval—to spend £45,000 on the school for adaptations and improvements, to provide a nurture room, resource areas, an extention of the library, a parents' utility room, stock rooms, staff dining accommodation, internal toilets and a remodelling of staircases and entrances. That kind of thing is needed to adapt the school for the purpose for which it has been brought back into use, but the plans have been cut completely as a result of the imposition of limits on the minor works programme.

In another school—and here I must declare an interest because two of my children go to it; the other child goes to a comprehensive school elsewhere—we wanted sanitary improvements to be made and indoor toilets to be provided. At present there is one indoor toilet for 400 children. The children must walk 111 metres in order to use an unheated, outdated outside toilet. This situation must be rectified.

Let me give the scale of the problem in the divisional area of Lambeth. As a result of the Government's proposals, the amount of money available for minor improvements in Lambeth is the "massive" sum of £5,300 to be spread among 100 schools in a year. That is an average of £53 per school. It would not even keep the Under-Secretary of State's predecessor in ice cream for a fortnight. Hon. Members will recall that he confessed to eating over 100 ice creams in a day. It is not enough money to pay for a weekend trip to Rome for the present Under-Secretary of State. Yet it is supposed to be enough to provide for the improvement of each school in Lambeth.

Lambeth has its problems. It is an area of high immigration and a great lack of housing. It has high unemployment, especially among the unskilled trades. I am chairman of the Tulse Hill comprehensive school. It is a modern school, but it needs more robust staircases, through corridors and more staff roosms. None of those things can be provided for £53. That would not even buy a couple of posts for a football match.

In London, which has social turmoil and appalling housing conditions, and where there is already disenchantment among young people and a good deal of homelessness, the Government are applying not a freeze but an ice age, which every geologist knows brings about erosion. We face an erosion of standards as a result of the curtailment of the minor works programme. Why are massive improvement grants given to property speculators in the West End when each school in Lambeth is to receive an improvement grant of £53 for 1974?

I come to the question of the teachers. I wish to deal with this matter from the point of view of the children's interests, because the teachers' case has been argued. Children want two things from their teachers—stability and quality. The brilliant teacher who goes from school to school, doing a school year or term, is no use to the children. I would rather see a dull teacher in a school for a long time than a brilliant teacher who goes there for a term. We talk about gipsy children who go to one school for three months and then move on to another school for three months. In London it is not the children but the teachers who are nomads.

Because of the high turnover, teachers cannot get to know the children. They cannot get to know the parents, which is equally important, because we must build a link between school and home. They cannot get to know the community. In London they cannot afford to live in the community. House prices in my constituency have doubled in the last year. Reasonable houses which formerly were priced at about £9,000 or £10,000 have gone up in price to about £20,000. The increase in mortgage repayments would absorb the whole of a teacher's salary.

Therefore, an increase must be made in the London allowance to try to keep teachers linked with the community and with the schools. The Department of Education should use its imagination and perhaps encourage housing associations for teachers so that the accommodation might be kept out of the inflationary spiral. But in view of the distance which teachers must travel, the enormous turn over among teachers and the larger number of first-year teachers in London schools, the message is clear: there must be better provision made in the London allowance for the sake not simply of the teachers but of the children.

I said at the beginning of my speech that I thought the attitude of the Secretary of State was mean, shortsighted and ignorant. The figures which my hon. Friends and I have given bear that out. In many part of London which face social turmoil, children are very much at the cross-roads. Given the right kind of priorities and given stability they can achieve great things. But given a lack of stability and an absence of the right kind of priorities they can become a lost generation infected by disenchantment. The cost of that will be much greater than any of the false economies which the Government now seek to make.

8.1 p.m.

Mr. Guy Barnett (Greenwich)

I echo the words that were spoken by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) in welcoming the Under-Secretary of State on taking up his position and also expressing the hope that it will be something of a hot seat. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has already discovered that. I know that he used to show a considerable interest in education before he took up his present post, and I hope he will continue to show that interest. I hope he will welcome the pressure that will be put on him from all parts of the country and, I suspect, principally from London.

Before I pass on, I wish to refer to the remarks which came at the end of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. John Fraser), I will quote the speech by Sir Alec Clegg which appeared in The Times Educational Supplement. His speech was referred to in an article which says: 'Guerrilla tactics from rejected groups will shortly disrupt Britain's developing meritocracy unless schools compensate for the social inequalities of our children.' This warning is given today by Sir Alec Clegg, director of education for the West Riding of Yorkshire. Sir Alec Clegg is one of the greatest educationists we have produced and he is one of the most forward-looking. In his speech in The Times Educational Supplement he sums up many of the complaints that the Opposition have been making about the Government's attitude towards education in London.

The remark has already been made that apparently the Secretary of State has no view at all about the future development and shape of secondary education. That is profoundly disturbing for all kinds of reasons. Reference has already been made to the development of sink schools. No reference has yet been made to the great difficulties that the Inner London Education Authority experienced this year with secondary transfer. It tried to institute a system which as far as possible would not result in some schools taking an undue share of children with cultural, linguistic or behavioural difficulties. We all know the consequences which arose from that. They arose because there are some schools which, for good or bad reasons, are regarded by parents as being inadequate for their children.

There is a school in my constituency, which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West—Charlton secondary boys'—that suffered a most unjust fate because of the Secretary of State's refusal, just over a year ago, that it should be rebuilt. It is a fine school which I know well. I have been there on several occasions. I was present at its speech day this year. I can say with full authority that it is highly successful in its own way. It has a new and capable headmaster and a highly competent and devoted staff. What is more, it is fortunate in that it has a relatively stable staff.

As a result, the school can be thoroughly proud of its achievements, both academic and in other respects. Yet it is housed in two disgusting Victorian buildings on the Woolwich Road which are separated by about half a mile. Consequently it is inevitably regarded by many people in the borough as an undesirable school. Earlier this year, when the secondary transfer season arrived, the school suffered a great deal of unjust publicity, which has made it very sensitive to comments that are made about it.

In spite of that bad publicity, I can speak from first-hand knowledge of the school and of the extremely good work which is being done there. If the school is continually refused the opportunity of rebuilding, which was confidently expected just over a year ago, we can only expect a fall in the morale of the staff of the school, with the inevitable consequences to which my hon. Friends have referred.

No doubt the Under-Secretary of State, as part of his early duties, has been studying the Halsey Report on educational priority areas. The hon. Gentleman will have noted, if he has done so, that Professor Halsey lays special emphasis on the importance of the morale of the teaching profession in educational priority areas. That morale depends upon the kind of attitude which is shown in the salary awards that are made. It is also dependent on the surroundings in which teachers work and their facilities.

On both grounds the Government have fallen down. It is not just the fact that teachers find themselves very short of money in London. The fact is that they refer to the behaviour of the Secretary of State over the London allowance as insulting. It was insulting in the sense that to them it appeared to be a reflection of their value in the work they were doing. Some of them, as has been mentioned already, are working under extraordinarily difficult conditions and under great strain. Many of them travel considerable distances to reach their places of work; and for the Secretary of State to make that decision, on top of everything else, has been disastrous. It is disastrous on account of the Government's failure to provide buildings that are needed for secondary education. In addition, the Government's decision about the London allowance is to be strongly criticised, as is the way in which they behaved towards the teaching profession.

I mentioned earlier the sort of difficulties which some of our teachers in London are undergoing, particularly in the inner London area. All of us have looked with interest at the White Paper "Education: A Framework for Expansion." We welcome the apparent conversion of the Secretary of State in recognising the importance of nursery education and the provision of nursery education. We are delighted that a step appears to have been taken in that direction.

Although I am not competent at the moment to assess the value of the White Paper, one of the points which need to be forcefully made, because it is conceivable that the Under-Secretary of State is not aware of its importance, is the enormous importance of making proper provision for the training of teachers for work in the nursery schools that we very much hope we will have in future. That is vitally important. There is a tendency, particularly among people who have not worked in education, to assume that nursery school teaching is easy. In fact, it is the most difficult and skilled form of teaching that can be undertaken.

In addition I very much hope that when the nursery provision is made we will ensure that it is available to every child in the inner London area before we extend further afield. It is in these areas that it is most seriously required. I also hope that when we are talking about the training of nursery school teachers we recognise that the first teachers who go into the schools in these areas will need to be highly skilled, not only in dealing with very young children but also in teaching children whose cultural and linguistic backgrounds will be different from those of white children because of the large numbers of children of immigrant parents who are likely to be attending those schools.

The Under-Secretary is no doubt already aware of the deep concern which exists in the inner London area over the very high proportion of children of West Indians who, for some reason which we find difficult to assess, find their way into schools for the educationally subnormal. This is a highly disturbing situation which I believe was first brought to our attention well over a year ago by Bernard Coard who wrote a pamphlet on this very subject. More concern was expressed by Mr. Townsend who was doing research on behalf of the National Foundation for Educational Research. Yet I was informed, as a result of evidence recently given by the Department of Education and Science to the Select Committee on Race Relations, that no systematic appraisal of the reasons for this has yet been attempted. I should like an assurance from the Under-Secretary that a systematic appraisal of this very serious and worrying problem will be undertaken very shortly to assist teachers in general to find solutions to this problem.

I would mention incidentally an article which appeared this month in "Race Today", entitled "ESN Children: What the Teachers Say", by Valerie Fethney. I should like to read one sentence from that article: In one London school for the educationally sub-normal two-thirds of the pupils should have been in ordinary schools, according to people who should know—the teachers themselves. I believe there is an increasing amount of evidence of this fact, borne out by research, which is referred to in this same article, which shows that the longer a child of West Indian parents has been in this country and the longer he has experience of our educational system, the more easily he begins to cope with the learning situation. Certainly the article indicates that for many young West Indian children there is a very considerable period of adaptation to our educational system and adaptation to the new environment in which they find themselves. This is probably an unrecognised factor with which they have had to cope, resulting in the fact that many of them have found themselves in schools for the educationally subnormal.

I warn the Under-Secretary of the consequences of the present neglect to the educational system of London. I have referred to Sir Alec Clegg's remarks. I know that many of the Under-Secretary's hon. Friends are worried about "mugging" and about dangerous and antisocial behaviour amongst young people. I believe that the consequences are likely to arise increasingly as a result of failure to make proper provision and also as a result of a divisiveness in education. If we label children failures, if we separate them from their fellows in allowing a percentage of children from an area to go to a middle-class school and get a middle-class type of education, we reject them. We treat them as if they are rejected by the community at large, and we can only expect the kind of behaviour of which we have seen too much evidence in our cities.

I hope the Under-Secretary will give consideration to the necessity for developing the idea of comprehensive education, and not merely comprehensive education but the kind of experiment which was implicit in the Thomas Calton school—a school which is directly relevant to the needs and problems of the community which surrounds it and which it serves.

I want to put this to the Under-Secretary as something which may be relevant to the future to the London system of education. Repeatedly my hon. Friends have referred to the problems that London teachers have of finding reasonable accommodation. I put this suggestion to the Under-Secretary because it must be considered. I refer to the possibility of providing housing for teachers in inner London areas in order to solve the appalling problem of the rapid change in staff. For all too short a time I taught in an inner London comprehensive school. I remember one of the more experienced teachers saying to me "You do not get through to these boys until you have been here two years". That is the problem. It is much more of a problem in the inner London areas where children need the trust and understanding of teachers, and the need to develop a loyalty to particular teachers. It is much more important in those areas than it may be in other parts of the country that we provide for a suitable teaching force. That is why this rapid turnover of teachers in London is such a disaster for our young people.

8.18 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)

I should like to follow briefly my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Guy Barnett) in his thoughts on the problem of turnover of staff. I do not think that it is worth arguing the case which has been advanced in the past that if the situation is the same all over the country there is apparently no problem. London has its specific problems, and I do not believe the Secretary of State is aware of these problems. Her attitude seems to suggest that she has not understood them clearly. I want to address myself to some of the relevant issues.

I regard my area as being educationally deprived. The problem of attracting teachers has a greater impact in my area. Once they have passed through school one has educationally deprived children aged 15 and 16 who are unable to take their place in society. I find that I then have to intervene on their behalf because they have run foul of the law. We then have to decide whether they ought to be sent to a borstal institution or to some other educational establishment in order to make them into better citizens, after having deliberately ensured that during their formal years of education they have been deprived of the basis of good citizenship. Therefore, the 30 per cent. change-over is a factor of great importance to us.

A stable teaching force is important. In my area almost every teacher is a London first appointment, because of the inability to attract mature teachers. They are all drafted into my area. They arrive towards the end of the educational year and the beginning of the new year, in September.

An important part of this exercise is the attraction of the middle range of teachers, deputy headmasters and Class IV teachers. One London borough advertised for a head teacher four times before receiving a sufficient number of applicants for consideration for the appointment. In addition, it had to advertise three times for a Scale 9/10 position. There were then 12 applicants for a deputy headship. There must be something wrong. It is no good the Secretary of State for Education and Science, or the Under Secretary, giving us platitudes this evening; these figures and this information have been known for a long time.

I was sad that today's White Paper showed no awareness of, and has not addressed itself to, the problem.

In my area we have had the absurd situation where, due to the departmental edict that there must be no fewer than 30 children in a class, proposals are being made to close schools and to shunt children to other schools, so as to be sure of having 30 children in every class, because the Department of Education and Science will not pay the Exchequer grant if there are less than 30 children in a class.

One has the situation where insufficient teachers are being attracted. Those teachers who are attracted are working on first appointments; they have no experience. One cannot attract the mature, experienced, middle-range, deputy-head or head teachers, and now the number of schools is to be reduced. We shall have a situation where the inexperienced teachers will work in a crowded classroom where they are teaching in the corridors and endeavouring to give the children living in my constituency the educational opportunities they should have. Little wonder that I cannot be as proud of the educational attainment sitting on the Government Front Bench of children from my area as hon. Members who have double first degrees at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard. The children living in my area do not get the chance. There are some very bright children there, but the cards are stacked against them. I hope the Under-Secretary understands that these children have the same rights as any other child. Therefore, we must ensure that they are able to avail themselves of those rights.

In my constituency there is the problem of accommodation. Male and female teachers working in the ILEA service teach together, find themselves attracted, and marry. They leave the ILEA service and go to some other teaching service in another part of the country, where they can find a house. There is no point in their living in London. They would have to stay with each other's parents. They could not live an ordinary married life.

The cost of housing in London is a scandal. In 1970, in the fourth quarter, in London a new house cost £6,500, a modern one cost £6,575, and an older one cost roughly £5,500. During the fourth quarter of 1972 a new house cost about £11,500, a modern house £11,060, and an old house about £9,000.

Why the Secretary of State, with the vast army she has behind her, cannot be made aware of it, is beyond my comprehension. How does she believe that teachers can live in London? If she does not believe they can live in London, where does she suggest they live? When she suggests where they live she might suggest how they can come to London. I have to travel 4½ miles to the House. It takes me almost an hour to get here. How does the Under-Secretary of State expect teachers to get to their schools in my constituency?

The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) laughs at these matters. But they are serious matters. I suspect that they are as serious in Aylesbury—if the hon. Member were interested—as they are in London. I hope that the hon. Member will understand that we are attempting to address ourselves to a real problem. Twelve thousand teachers came to the House to make Members of Parliament aware of their problems. The Secretary of State must understand that an answer should be given. Where does she expect the teachers to live? Young single teachers must pay £8 a week rent for a flat. If they double or treble up they must still pay £6 per week each for very unattractive flats. How does the Secretary of State suggest that these teachers are going to be able to live? Without that answer the Department is not addressing itself to the real problem.

Coming to the allowance, concerning which the 12,000 teachers came to this House, I saw the teachers from my own area. They are excellent people, trying to do a tremendous job. They are interested not only in money but in the health, welfare and development of the children in the area. They devote a vast amount of time, beyond the call of duty, to carrying out pastoral duties to help children to develop in the widest sense. I hope that no one in the House believes that because those teachers came here in force to ask for a London allowance, that is all they do. They fight hard for a wide range of activities for children. Therefore, the fact that they came here to draw our attention to the inequalities of this allowance shows that they were attempting to address themselves to a problem—trying to argue the case why their colleagues are leaving the teaching service in such numbers.

I support those who say that the Secretary of State's decision to offer £12 a year was so ludicrous as to be almost inconceivable. I am told—how true it is I do not know, but it is a talking point in my constituency—that the Secretary of State was taken out of a Cabinet meeting and then the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Lady had a conference outside the room and came to their big decision—the Father Christmas of all Father Christmases—that the country could afford to pay London teachers a further £3 on top of the £12, making £15 in all. That was the crunch decision.

If that is the way the country is now being run, heaven help us. No wonder it is in such a state, when the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Education and Science have to come out of the Cabinet room and jointly decide to make an increase from £12 to £15. I content myself with that observation at the moment, because I hope to see the right hon. Lady soon to discuss these matters in detail on behalf of my constituents. It is a silly situation, which shows up the Government for what they really are.

I turn now to the White Paper. We had it only today, but a quick reading of it reveals its approach to the problems which we have tried to identify. Our principal problem in inner London is teacher supply, yet this is what is glibly said in paragraph 50: … the Government think it right to be guided by the judgment of experienced teachers and educationists that a further reduction in the average size of classes would be justified on both educational and social grounds. That is marvellous, but it is not exactly new. What is more. I want to know how I am to take it. How will it affect the idea of closing the Edith Cavell school in my constituency because the Secretary of State insists that there be 30 children in a class, and, if the school is not closed, there will be 26 or 27 children per class? Do I take it that that can now be stopped, and the requirement regarding 30 children in a class no longer applies on the basis of paragraph 50 of the White Paper? Not only on educational grounds but on social grounds, especially in my constituency, smaller classes are essential. That is now conceded by the Minister.

Paragraph 51 refers to numbers of teachers. We cannot get enough teachers. When I visited one of my schools two weeks ago the headmistress tried hard to find a chance to speak to me, but, because she was already five teachers short, she was rushing round trying to find someone to look in and take care of a class.

The Secretary of State tells us that the aim is to increase the number in the teaching service by 155,000 by 1981. If teachers are offered the sort of standards and salaries that they are being offered in my constituency today, we shall not attract them. The 12,000 who came to see us recently were disenchanted with the teaching service—and they are the young people, who could be the experienced teachers of 1981. We shall not have them. How on earth the Department wrote that paragraph for the right hon. Lady is beyond me. I suggest that she looks at it and tries to find out what is meant. It does not make a great deal of sense.

I turn next to what is said in the White Paper about capital investment plans. There is a reference in paragraph 38 to the continued growth in secondary school numbers after the raising of the school leaving age", and the problems which that will create. For this purpose the Secretary of State will give an increase of £10 million for building programmes by 1975–76. But that means any work to be done will not be successful until 1979 or 1980. If the money is not provided until 1975–76, it will take those three years to spend it.

For the ILEA, paragraph 38 is very futuristic. The minor works programme has been cut to an absurdly low level, and now the authority has been given a special dispensation by the Department to aggregate its moneys into different years. Because the amount has been cut down in those three years to £2,360,000 it has now had to allocate it in another way. Because of the amount of work already in progress, the authority needs about £1,560,000 for 1972–73 just to finish it. Obviously, work cannot be stopped overnight. But even in this sense the Department is insensitive to needs. The ILEA had to beg the Minister to be allowed to reallocate its resources within the global sum.

By 1973–74 the authority will have £500,000 to spend on minor works. In 1974–75 it will have only £300,000 to spend on minor works, and this, as my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. John Fraser) pointed out, for 1,250 schools.

Paragraph 38, therefore, does not make a lot of sense when it is applied to the real issues on the ground. Presumably, it was put in as a sop to those who have no understanding of what the problems are. The Under-Secretary of State has come to the Department at a time when it seems that the Secretary of State is either tired of her job, or does not understand the needs. I commiserate with the Under-Secretary, for he must do his best to make the Secretary of State understand how important education is, particularly in London, and how essential it is that she gives attention to the special needs of teachers, children and parents.

Parents, too, are living in a strange society in London. There are no desirable residences in my area such as there may be in Aylesbury. We do not have nice four-bedroomed detached houses, with gardens back and front. What people have in my constituency is a flat 15, 20 or 25 storeys up. Neurosis is caused by this sort of living. There are no gardens. The Government will not give me the open space that we need. If anyone sees a tree in my constituency he had better photograph it, because it is the last he will see. The Government just will not allocate the necessary resources to give children in their home environment the sort of things that people take for granted elsewhere.

There are special circumstances both in my area and in inner London generally, and they should be given preferential treatment, as should our building programme. The whole social back-up in inner London should be given special treatment.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to say tonight that he understands what we London Members have been saying, and that his reply will enable us to go back to our constituencies and say that the debate was worth while.

8.35 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Cox (Wandsworth, Central)

I welcome the opportunity that the debate has given London Members to speak on this important issue. I regret that in spite of the size of the population the number of Members who represent the greater London area and the fact that it is the capital city, it is only on occasions such as this that we have an opportunity to discuss many of the key issues that affect us as London Members.

I wish to refer to the cutback in the inner London minor works programmes. The Secretary of State will certainly be familiar with this matter, especially in view of the number of Questions on the subject which have been put to her by inner London Members. Yet in spite of the problems we have brought to her attention, problems of old schools which, although sound structurally, lack modern amenities and which urgently need money spent upon them, the Secretary of State has been completely unmoved. She appears to take no notice of headmasters, staff, parents, managers, local authorities or the Inner London Education Authority. This year, in spite of all the criticisms of conditions in schools by those groups, the right hon. Lady has reduced the financial allocation for the minor works programmes from a little over £1,500,000 for each consecutive year until 1974–75 when it will stand at £500,000. She argues, in spite of the points made to her about the undesirability of cutting back minor works allocations, that the population is decreasing and therefore the need is not as great and the money is unnecessary.

I am at a complete loss to understand the logic of that argument because in inner London there are over 300 primary schools which were built about 70 years ago. In many of them it is clear that the facilities are totally inadequate for the needs of modern teaching. Only this week I asked the Secretary of State to list the schools she had visited in inner London. She would have first-hand knowledge of the problems in any school she visited. It does not matter whether the school roll is decreasing, although I question whether that is so in many parts of inner London.

During the last few days I received a letter from the Beatrix Potter school which tells me of a special parent/teacher meeting which is planned for tomorrow evening. The letter says: The parent/teacher committee has called this special meeting to discuss the concern expressed by staff and parents over the appalling lack of space at the school. That may be a particular problem at that school but virtually every primary and junior school in my constituency faces the same problem and I have no doubt that my hon. Friends from other London constituencies can say the same.

Why should children be taught in buildings which are totally inadequate with substandard accommodation? Why are there in Wandsworth schools with no indoor toilets? We have only to consider the appalling weather of the last few days to realise the difficulties which arise when children have to go to outside toilets. A youngster may have to go 200 or 300 yards across a playground to old-fashioned and inadequate toilet facilities and back to the classroom. It is the teacher's responsibility to dry the child. That is one reason why we complain so bitterly about the cutback in the minor works programme. Money should have been allocated to alleviate these problems to which my hon. Friends have repeatedly referred. Even one or two indoor toilets would be a godsend to the teachers in the dreadful weather we are now experiencing.

Mr. Spearing

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the minor works programme is not financed by the Secretary of State but that she gives permission to the ILEA to spend its own money? The trifling sum involved is about half the cost of the car park in the forecourt of the Palace of Westminster which the House was inveigled and tricked into approving?

Mr. Cox

My hon. Friend has made a valid point. It is the prerogative of the ILEA to decide what money it wishes to spend on its minor works programme. The programme was deliberately cut back by the Secretary of State. Whom did she consult? It is questionable whether she consulted ILEA. If she did, she certainly did not get approval from ILEA to cut down the amount of money it wishes to spend on minor works, especially in primary and junior schools.

In many schools in my constituency which I have visited children are still being taught in corridors. I have been there sometimes in the morning when the school dinners are being prepared and there is great noise and confusion caused by people going backwards and forwards along the corridor. When we ask for money to overcome these problems, it is refused.

Mr. Ronald Brown

My hon. Friend will appreciate that the Secretary of State was so seized of the argument he is putting that she gave the grant-aided schools £40 million.

Mr. Cox

We know of old the right hon. Lady's priorities. When she was asked at Question Time what were her views on selection, the Secretary of State for Education and Science replied that she had absolutely no opinion on selec- tion, but we are in no doubt about the kind of selection she favours—the kind that we are opposed to and will continue to oppose.

We have been backed up in our efforts by the divisional education officer in Wandsworth, and he has been informed of the consultations between management and teachers. My hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Ernest G. Perry) and I are in constant touch with each other. He represents an adjoining constituency to mine. Many youngsters in each constituency go to schools in the adjoining constituency and we have, therefore, a right to be informed about the schools. When we have visited schools we have never been told by the head teachers "We tried to get improvements made here, but our divisional officer was opposed." To his credit he has never opposed them, nor has the ILEA. The argument has always been "Unfortunately, we are not granted the money to make these essential improvements to schools."

The London allowance has been mentioned. Later this week I am to initiate an Adjournment debate on that subject and I shall not now comment on it. After my conversations with teachers I do not doubt that one of the other principal reasons why teachers do not stay in inner London is the appalling conditions in which they have to teach and the knowledge that those conditions will continue for a long time because of the actions forced upon inner London by the Secretary of State. We are told that even though the ILEA wanted to allocate the money the Secretary of State refused to allow it. But we all know that one day the work must be done, and the problem then will be to decide which schools shall have priority.

Under the previous system, when work continued year after year a school with problems at least had the knowledge that possibly in a year or two it would be at the top of the list for the improvements that were needed. There was hope for such schools, but because of the savage cuts many of them have no idea when money will be allocated for them to have the necessary work done. When approval is eventually given, how much will the work then cost? Will it be double or treble the present figure?

Mr. Ronald Brown

Under the present Government, it will cost 10 times as much.

Mr. Cox

With increased costs, the sum needed in three, four or five years' time for the same amount of work will be substantial.

We have had double-talk from the Secretary of State about minor works. She says "I am not interested in the need. All I am interested in is saying that the population is declining."

I challenge the Under-Secretary to tell us exactly how many teachers, managers and headteachers in the inner London area have sent letters of congratulation to the Secretary of State saying "We applaud your action in cutting back on the minor works". I also challenge him to say how many letters of protest he has received from heads, teachers and managers in the London Borough of Wandsworth—I confine myself to my own borough. I give credit to Tory managers there, who are just as opposed as Labour managers to the savage cuts. They completely oppose the policies that the hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend has been following on minor works in inner London.

The right hon. Lady has been trading on the loyalty of teachers. Whenever public servants' conditions of service or salary are discussed in the House we hear the old arguments that they are too loyal. We have heard that nurses who opposed suggested salary increases would not dare leave their patients suffering. The argument has been advanced about teachers, but it is one that has had its day. I do not believe that teachers—and I am glad that parents are so ably backing them up in their protest—are prepared any longer to tolerate this kind of blind allegiance which the Minister expects which results in their not getting their just returns in terms of salary and improvements to their schools.

I propose to refer to two schools in my constituency in order to give examples of the utter stupidity of the Government's policy. At Furzedown junior school, because of the increased numbers a managers' meeting was held to consider what should be done. I am one of the managers. The headmistress said that there was an urgent need for classroom space. Our divisional officer, who attended the meeting, said that no money was available for that purpose but that if the parent/teacher association raised £300 he would see that an additional sum was added so that a mobile classroom could be provided. Parents already pay rates and income tax and to ask them to pay an additional £300 so that their children can be taught in a mobile classroom is an utter disgrace.

Members of the parent/teacher association at Wandle junior school give hours and hours of their leisure time each week in order to raise funds for nursery school provision in an area where there are very few leisure facilities. A nursery school would be good not only for the youngsters but for the teachers at the school to which they will go when they are a little older, but despite all the efforts of these teachers they have been told that no such provision can be made.

No thought appears to be given to the effect that that kind of action has on teachers and parents who give freely of their time and money to try to raise funds. The Minister treats them with callous indifference. She tells them that if they want this extra provision they must pay for it out of their own pockets, but that if the sum is so large that they cannot afford it they cannot have what they want.

I know that if the right hon. Lady were here she would put forward the usual old arguments that we hear from Government Ministers. She would no doubt say "I understand the problem, but it is a question of money". I do not believe that that argument thas any substance. What is the right hon. Lady's attitude when she sits in at Cabinet meetings and hears requests for extra money for Concorde? Does she oppose them? Does she oppose the 5 per cent. increase in defence expenditure that we are told is coming up? What did she say when the Chancellor said that he was going to reduce taxes?

I know what the average worker in my constituency thinks about the reduction in taxes. There will be a different story next April when those in the higher income brackets start to receive their tax returns. They will be better off at the end of the day than the rank-and-file workers whom I represent. Did the right hon. Lady ever oppose any of those increases when they were considered by the Cabinet? We are entitled to know.

If the right hon. Lady, who often comes here to answer Questions on education and to reply to education debates, pleads her loyalty to the youngsters, we are entitled to say that if she really means what she says she should tell us what her priorities are for spending the money allocated by the Government. Does she oppose the spending of extra money on Concorde and on giving tax concessions to the rich while opposing the expenditure of extra money on the matters that we have been debating today? We are entitled to know the right hon. Lady's priorities.

Mr. Raison

If the hon. Gentleman looks at the White Paper published today he will see that during the present decade expenditure on education is expected to rise from £2,162 million to £3,120 million, a rise of £960 million at current prices. What employment would the hon. Gentleman find for those who were thrown out of work if Concorde were scrapped?

Mr. Cox

It is a great pity that the hon. Member has not been here for the whole debate, because many comments have been made on this White Paper by my hon. Friends. One of this evening's London papers says that ILEA has already expressed the gravest doubts about what that White Paper will mean in inner London. If he is really interested in education—I know that he was a member of ILEA at one time—he should take part in these debates—

Mr. Raison


Mr. Cox

No, other hon. Members wish to speak—

Mr. Raison

The hon. Member has made a personal reference—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Order. If the hon. Member who has the Floor does not give way, the other hon. Member must sit down.

Mr. Cox

The events of the last few weeks can have left the Secretary of State in no doubt about the mood of London teachers and parents. I hope she will follow the example of the Prime Minister, who last week admitted at long last that he had made mistakes. I hope the right hon. Lady will say that she too has made mistakes which have been detrimental to the wellbeing of children in inner London and throughout the country.

Mr. Hamling

And then resign.

Mr. Cox

That would bring pleasure not only to Labour Members but to many people outside, but perhaps that is asking too much.

The right hon. Lady should say that she is aware of the feeling on this issue and is prepared in the next financial year to let ILEA restore the cuts she forced upon it in the minor works programme. That is one way in which a Minister in a Department which comes into contact with what might be called public service employees such as teachers can build up confidence, and confidence is what the right hon. Lady has continued to destroy during the two and a half years she has held office. If she has any love for education, she will show by actions, and not by the words that so often mean nothing, that she is aware of the problems and will do something about them.

8.58 p.m.

Mr. Eric Deakins (Walthamstow, West)

My hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. Thomas Cox) has spoken trenchantly about the effects of the present level of minor works expenditure on the educational system of his borough. His point could well be repeated by many of the greater London boroughs, but we consider him an expert on our side in this. His powerful comments speak for all of us, and we hope that the Minister will answer at least some of his questions.

As almost the last speaker on this side in this important debate, I want to concentrate briefly on the issue of the London allowance, a subject on which many of us were lobbied by teachers last week. The lack of an increase in that allowance will have and is having an adverse effect on the quality of education in London's schools.

I am aware that the Under-Secretary or the Secretary of State could claim that an offer was made. But everyone in his right mind would reject an offer of £15 for the derisory pittance it was obviously intended to be. If the original offer of £12 was an insult, to up it by £3, after interrupting a Cabinet meeting, was adding insult to insult and injury to injury.

The fact that the Secretary of State thought that after two years with no increase an increase of a mere £15 would suffice for London teachers shows how out of touch she is with educational conditions in the London area. I do not even exempt educational conditions in her London borough of Barnet, which is possibly a more salubrious area in which to live than others but nevertheless has the same sort of problems with the movement of teachers.

The main purpose of increasing London allowance is a very simple educational one, of which the Minister will be aware even if his Secretary of State is not; that is, the very high turnover of teachers in the London boroughs. I have no figures for London boroughs generally, or for the ILEA area, of annual turnover, but over the past three years my London borough of Waltham Forest has had an annual turnover, of all teachers, of about 21 per cent. That means that every year one-fifth of the teachers leave the borough to go elsewhere and a new set of teachers comes in. But the position is even worse than that, because averages such as that can be misleading.

In our schools many middle-aged teachers remain because they are heads of departments and have various allowances, and so on, which tie them to a school; it is also a big wrench to move, particularly if they have a house, and so on, and have lived in a district for some time. We have a great deal of stability among the older teachers, but the 21 per cent. average turnover in my London borough means that among the vitally important age group of younger teachers, in their first ten years, the turnover must be much higher than 21 per cent., and possibly 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. a year. These are the teachers who are most in contact with the younger children.

Waltham Forest is partly an educational priority area, as are many other parts of inner and outer London. In spite of that, the Government are doing nothing to assist us in reducing this very high turnover of teachers. The educational argument will be shared by everyone in the House, irrespective of party, that it must be bad for children—especially young children—to have a constant succession of teachers, being unable to get used to any one teacher. This means that we are depriving young children of the full educational opportunities they need, deserve and ought to be getting, under any Government who believe in the ideal of educational equality.

Furthermore, the fact that we have such a high turnover in Waltham Forest, and, I suspect, throughout Greater London, means a greater strain on the older teachers, who often have to carry their probationary colleagues who, once qualified, find that they have to go elsewhere to get a house and a better job. "Elsewhere" usually means outside Greater London and into the provinces, where house prices are much lower.

Why this situation? It is surely evident from this debate, if from no other, that the cost of living in Greater London—the cost of fares and housing, whether rented or purchased—is much higher than in the rest of the country. The Nationwide Building Society figures quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) show the rise in the purchase price of houses. Fares in London are very much higher than in any other urban area. The average level of rents in London is very much higher than it is elsewhere.

Mr. Ronald Brown

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that both those elements are a direct result of a Tory GLC which has specifically insisted upon high rents, high fares, and a high cost of living in London?

Mr. Deakins

I do not think that we need blame only the Conservative GLC, although I take the point. It is a matter of Government philosophy generally that in both inner and outer London there is a free market in land and property, but there is no doubt that the high cost of living in greater London, although partly the responsibility of the present Government, is nevertheless something which would have occurred in any case—and any Government would be forced to take action to deal with it. Our complaint is that the fact that the London teachers' allowance is not being raised this year, after two years at the same level, has greatly exacerbated the situation for teachers in London.

The teachers have a justifiable claim for a substantial increase in the London allowance now to take account of the higher cost of living in London and—more important when younger teachers are looking for houses—of the much higher mortgage repayments which have to be met for houses old and new in London.

Anyone who knows the position in some London boroughs appreciates that local education authorities who are concerned about the quality of education are likely to give a dusty response to the treatment meted out to their teachers by the Secretary of State. My local education authority of Waltham Forest is on record as supporting the teachers' case and regretting the untoward and unprecedented intervention of the Secretary of State in the Burnham negotiations on the London allowance. She has done a great deal of harm.

If the problem is serious now it will become even more so as time goes by, particularly in the next six months. That is why we had the massive lobby of teachers last week, and why teachers are still up in arms because there has been no worthwhile increase. My local teachers—and I am sure that this feeling is shared throughout the London area—want an undertaking that the Secretary of State will not, at the end of Phase One of the prices and incomes policy—the total freeze—interfere again in the Burnham negotiations, whatever that they may hold for prices and incomes, and that there will be fair and free negotiations between management and teachers on the issue of increasing the London allowance. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can give that assurance. If not, we shall press the Secretary of State much more over the next few months.

The only way to ensure proper consideration of this matter and of the quality of education in London schools—and, above all, that we retain young teachers for longer than their probationary period in London schools generally—and to give us the advantage over the rest of the country which is justified by the higher cost of living in London, is substantially to increase the London allowance as quickly as possible. If it is not now possible under the freeze, it must be possible—since it is essential—as soon as the freeze is over. We are not insisting on this merely for the sake of the teachers. We are concerned above all for the interests of the children, and that depends on the Government's looking after the interests of the younger teachers. That is what the debate is about.

9.10 p.m.

Mr. Harry Lamborn (Southwark)

I apologise for not being here for the whole of the debate, but I have been at a governors' meeting in the inner London education area. I want to intervene to pose a particular problem. The Secretary of State has cut the minor works programme. In justification, she says that there has been a movement of population from the older urban areas. That is true.

What is not appreciated is that in these inner areas there has been a vital need to use the minor works programme to improve the inadequate standards in some of the old schools. Because of the rule of need in building new schools, in inner London the minor works programme has been heavily relied upon to raise standards. Now, because of the vicious cut in the minor works programme, the ILEA is being prevented from getting on with essential jobs needed to bring schools at least to an acceptable standard.

In the inner London education area, there are still schools with unheated outside toilets. Some of them are in the programme for the coming year but others have now had to be cut out of it because of the reduction in the minor works programme. The movement of population out of older urban areas surely cannot justify a cut in the money which is primarily used to make it possible to continue to teach children at a decent standard in these old buildings, which, because of the overall policy, the ILEA and many other authorities in older urban areas are stuck with whether they want them or not.

I urge the Secretary of State to look again at the minor works programme in relation to the older urban areas. If we are to refurbish these schools even to a minimum standard it is essential at least to get the grant we were getting prior to the 1971–72 allowance.

I join my hon. Friends in making the strongest possible protest at the treatment of London teachers. They have been treated shamefully. As a member of the Inner London Education Authority, I know the great difficulty in retaining teachers. Young people may serve as teachers for a couple of years, but when they marry they consider the astronomical rents charged in London and the astronomical prices of property and they find that it is not possible for them to continue to teach in London. London is losing teachers to the outer areas where housing is perhaps cheaper.

The London allowance, which is supposed to balance the additional cost of teaching in London, does not measure up to current property prices. In view of the derisory offer of £15 over two years, it is not surprising that the teachers are protesting in the strongest possible manner. What is more tragic for London education is that many of them are not potesting. Many of them think that there are easier ways of earning a living. Many of them believe that they can be more properly recompensed for their abilities in other outlets.

It is generally known that the Inner London Education Authority is alarmed at the drift of teachers from London. The Secretary of State would have no objection from ILEA if a substantial increase were made in the London allowance. That is the only way by which we shall be able to continue to man the schools in London and by which a satisfactory and reasonable standard of education can be achieved for the children.

9.16 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

First, may I look back to the irenic moments which seem so far away when I received the congratulations of the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) on my appointment to the Department. I appreciated them not only because of the ties of friendship which bind us together but because of the hon. Gentleman's contribution to education. [Interruption.] We have been friends for a long time and I do not intend that my minor appointment shall come between us.

Secondly, I thank the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Guy Barnett) for his good wishes. I reciprocate them because I particularly welcomed his return as a Member of the House some time ago after a period of unavoidable absence due to the activities of the electorate.

This has been a major debate. It has concentrated on London, but it has also ranged across the whole field of education. To do justice to the points which have been made I should have to make a speech of two or three hours. I hasten to add that that is not my intention. But I hope to answer as many as possible of the points which have been raised. Everyone who has spoken has been very well informed about education.

The hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. Thomas Cox), referring to the minor work programme, asked how many letters of congratulation had been received in the Department. Letters of congratulation are few and far between in politics. Though I am sure that the officials in the Department will be happy to carry out the necessary researches, I should not put too high an expectation on the figure which will eventually emerge.

I am replying to the debate in the context of the publication today of the White Paper on education, which supplies an answer to the rather carping criticisms which have been made in the debate of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. John Fraser) called my right hon. Friend) mean. That was the least charitable of the adjectives which he used. It is extraordinary that that adjective should have been used on the day when, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) pointed out, she has secured a 10-year programme for education which will raise the education budget to more than £3,000 million—the highest ever achieved in this country. This is at a time when the White Paper which has influenced our discussion today, is setting out in depth and with literacy the educational aims of the next decade in a way which we have not seen before.

I believe that when some of the criticisms that have been made in this debate have long been forgotten, the White Paper will be a major vindication of my right hon. Friend's claim to be one of the outstanding Secretaries of State for Education in postwar years. The White Paper must affect our discussions, but we are not discussing it as such. We are discussing the particular problems which are being faced in London.

Before I deal with the detailed discussion, I should like to make one point to the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown), who rightly feels very strongly about deprivation in education. The hon. Gentleman accredited me with many more academic honours than those to which I am entitled. I had counted, by the time he had finished with me, six firsts.

I am very concerned about wastage of talent in Britain. I fully accept as part of my educational philosophy the very high priority that the Robbins Report gave to mobilising talent in this country. I should be happy, however small that contribution may be, to make some contribution towards helping those with talent to have the opportunity to use it.

I do not mean that I believe that everyone should go to a university or some form of higher education. I mean that we should provide an ever-increasing range of choice, and that we should pay particular attention to those who are living in deprived areas. They are the people who most need help.

We have had seven major subjects raised in the debate, the first being improvements to secondary schools, which was stressed by the hon. Members for Shoreditch and Finsbury and Woolwich, West. The White Paper says that the Government will devote extra resources to the replacement or improvement of the worst secondary schools buildings in the country. To help with that programme there will be an extra £10 million allocated in the building programme for 1975–76 and 1976–77. That is in addition to the existing programme of over £50 million a year for the replacement of old primary schools. That comprises the first stage of a rising secondary school improvement programme for England and Wales.

One cannot do everything at once. However, I think that the priorities of the Government are right. We are concentrating, and we have concentrated in the past, on primary education. We have moved to extend Government help and aid to nursery education, but we are not neglecting the secondary schools. My right hon. Friend has issued a circular letter today to all local authorities in England inviting proposals for secondary school improvements in 1975–77. For that purpose £18 million will be made available. Priority will be given to schools whose premises include a large proportion which was built before 1902 or a large proportion of temporary accommodation, of which we have had examples mentioned today.

There are many secondary schools in those categories, particularly the first, in the London area, so London will get a good share of the available resources.

In the circular letter my right hon. Friend has laid down two criteria. Here are the actual words of the letter: With the aim of eliminating the worst deficiencies in existing provision, the resources now available will be concentrated on projects which satisfy either of the following criteria and where there is long term need for the accommodation:

  1. (i) the majority of the teaching accommodation dates from before 1903 and the school is deficient in specialist facilities and ancillary accommodation or amenities;
  2. (ii) at least a third of the teaching accommodation is in temporary construction."
That spells out those two conditions which I have mentioned. My right hon. Friend has also asked the authorities to limit their bid to the one project which they regard as outstandingly urgent.

Mr. Ronald Brown


Mr. St. John-Stevas

Yes, one project. That is the request in the letter. The Thomas Calton School in Southwark, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Woolwich, West, would presumably be a candidate for the bid. It would, indeed, be a very expensive candidate—it was also mentioned by the hon. Member for Greenwich—because it would cost £1½ million to replace. There are more than 1,000 children involved in that school.

Mr. Guy Barnett

Would the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I hope that I shall not be interrupted on too many occasions, because I have a great many points to answer.

Mr. Barnett

I merely wish to ask whether the Department will take account of the fact that one project in the London area is a different matter as compared with one project for a smaller area such as the West Riding. We have a large number of projects because we have a large authority.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Yes, my right hon. Friend and I recognise the very much more complicated situation which exists in London and that it is not strictly comparable to the position in the West Riding. [Laughter.] There is the other school which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Greenwich; I believe it was Charlton. There again, that is a school which would require a large amount of money to be spent on it—about £800,000. [Laughter.] So one project is not as derisory as some hon. Members seem to think.

I turn to the question of re-organisation of education. Hon. Members have totally misrepresented the views of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on secondary reorganisation, by taking things that she has said out of context. They know very well that when she said that she did not have a view on this question of reorganisation, she was clearly indicating in the context of her remarks that her view is that she will not impose a particular view on the local authorities from the centre. She made her position quite clear in circular 10/70 when she expressed her wish to restore to local education authorities their freedom to decide whether or not to submit reorganisation proposals. She has considered well over 2,300 proposals affecting secondary schools and she has rejected 101. That, I think, puts this question into some kind of perspective.

My right hon. Friend has emphasised that she will not impose a national pattern, but the figures I have given show beyond all doubt that she has no hostility to comprehensive development of schools as such. The statistics simply do not bear out that distortion of her views. What she certainly accepts is that while comprehensive education is the system of education that will develop fastest in the future, she quite rightly refuses to make an idol of comprehension and to pretend that it is a solution to all our educational difficulties irrespective of local conditions.

She has particularly set her mind, and quite rightly, against botched-up schemes which are comprehensive only in name and do not provide the advantages of comprehension which a new school with new buildings would do. We believe that the responsibility for proposing changes in a local pattern of organisation rests with the local authority. It is not for us to lay down a diktat from Whitehall. We do not believe that the man in Whitehall necessarily always knows best. [HON. MEMBERS: "Except on rents."] That was a statement containing a nuance. I said "necessarily", thus saving myself, I hope, from complications later.

The other point in relation to reorganisation which must be remembered is the very large capital resources which are being made available to meet basic needs and which forward the reorganisation plans of local authorities. An authority with approved reorganisation proposals would in virtually every case be building new schools which would be comprehensive. It is important to grasp that fact in the context.

Let us look at the facts. Let us not be deceived by mythologies that try to represent either Government policy or the Secretary of State as being opposed to comprehensive education. That is not so. Her attitude is one based not on a doctrinaire approach but on a sensible appraisal of the situation. The ILEA is pursuing its review of secondary school provision. It has its views and plans which it has submitted. Those plans are submitted against a background of substantially reduced demand for secondary school places by 1980. One must see that as the essential context in which its plans are being put forward. Two green papers have been published and further papers will follow. The series of green papers will provide a basis for a wide discussion. After that, final decisions will have to be reached. Such decisions would be premature at the present time.

Mr. Ronald Brown

Is the Under-Secretary saying that under paragraph 50 the ILEA will be able to have smaller numbers of children in classes than the figure of 30 he stands by at the moment?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

There is no rule affecting particular numbers of pupils in classrooms. But I shall deal with that point, though I would prefer to deal with it when it comes more logically later in association with one of the other subjects.

I should like to touch on the position in Ealing, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing). He exaggerated the dispute existing between the Department of Education and Science and the local authority. Ealing's proposals for full reorganisation were published between February and April, 1972. The majority, including those concerned with high schools, were approved in August, 1972. Approximately 130 schools are involved, including all the borough schools and the Church of England and Roman Catholic schools. The implementation of the scheme has been deferred by one year but the proposals have been approved. I know of the difficulty faced by the Borough of Ealing. It has a large proportion of immigrant children for whom special provision has to be made. I hope what I have said puts that matter into context.

I come to the question of the minor works programmes. The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. John Fraser) referred to several individual schools. He named one of them, the Strand school, and mentioned three others though not by name. I know that he has a Question down to my right hon. Friend on the subject. Hon. Members will realise that I cannot be expected to comment in detail on individual schools in a debate of this kind. I can only say that, if the hon. Gentleman wishes to write to me about individual schools and draw attention to particular problems, I shall investigate the matter on his behalf. That goes for both the school which he identified and those which he did not.

I say the same to the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central, who expressed dissatisfaction with the provision at two schools in his constituency. There have been other references to individual schools. We shall look into them—and look into them sympathetically. I thought that the hon. Member for Acton was most unfair to the officials in the Department when he accused them of being unsympathetic and unfeeling. They are not. In fact, they are extremely scrupulous to take account of every local variation and all the needs of a local situation, though, in the nature of things, they cannot always satisfy the demands put upon them, any more than I can myself.

Mr. Spearing

I was expressing an often-expressed view in most staff rooms, and I referred in particular to the school space regulations, which, I believe, are unrealistic. If the hon. Gentleman reads my speech in HANSARD, he will find that that is so.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Whether it comes from school staff rooms or conies from the hon. Gentleman, my point is valid, that the accusation is entirely unfair, unwarranted and is based on no facts or evidence.

The hon. Member for Woolwich, West gave the figures of the minor works programme, and they tally with the figures which we have in the Department, so I conclude that they must be correct. It is true that the minor works figures are going down in relation to greater London, but one must not consider them in isolation. One must see the minor works allocation as an integral part of the resources which are available to meet basic needs.

Mr. Thomas Cox


Mr. St. John-Stevas

I fear that the wrath of the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central will once more break upon me. It broke previously upon my right hon. Friend, and now I am going to get it as well.

The school population of England and Wales is increasing whereas the inner London school population is expected to fall, from just over 400,000 to about 380,000. It is in fact going down.

Mr. Cox


Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to get on? I know how strongly he feels about it, but we shall not agree on this subject.

Mr. Spearing

What has all this to do with need?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It has to do with need because the minor works programme is associated with the basic needs programme. [HON. MEMBERS: "Poppycock."] No, it is not.

My right hon. Friend has done two things, for which she should be given credit, which will be of help to inner London. She has agreed that managers and governors of schools in inner London should be free in 1972–73 and. subject to certain detailed arrangements still to be worked out, in subsequent years, to carry out minor projects costing less than £1,000 each outside the authority's minor works allocation within its own allocation of revenue expenditure under their "alternative use of resources" scheme. She has also allowed the ILEA to treat its minor works allocations for the three years 1972 to 1975 as one and she has left it to ILEA to decide, in pursuance of her principle of giving as much autonomy as possible, to spread the work over this period.

The hon. Member for Acton raised the issue of staffing and the same subject was also touched upon by my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. William Shelton). In general, school staffing standards in greater London are better than in the country as a whole, which is an essential fact which must be remembered when considering the problem. The ratio is good but the picture is not so good when it comes to wastage and turnover.

Mr. Spearing

That is the point.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

This is not the only point. There are two sides to the question—staffing, and wastage and turnover. The picture is good in one and not so good in the other. We do not have detailed information from the local authorities on this point but there is certainly reason to believe that the ILEA and probably some of the outer London boroughs suffer more from wastage and turnover than do authorities generally. That would seem to indicate a higher than average turnover of teaching staff, but this occurs in other places as well as London.

The turnover in Leeds is 15 per cent. and the turnover in other parts of the country is on occasions higher than the turnover in London. Fourteen per cent. of the teachers in the service of the ILEA are probationers compared with the national average of 10.3 per cent. But in Manchester it is 12.2 per cent., in Liverpool 9.7 per cent. and in Birmingham 14.9 per cent. I would have thought that the age structure of the teaching profession in London would have something to do with the wastage there. It is also likely that a number of young teachers who intend to stay in teaching may take advantage of the mobility which they enjoy before they are tied down by family responsibilities and decide to move out to areas where housing is cheaper and where they can set up their homes—[Interruption.] I do not seek to deny that there is a severe problem of housing accommodation in London, but that problem affects everyone who lives in London and not only teachers. I have sympathy with the suggestion by the hon. Member for Greenwich that the Department should make special housing accommodation available for teachers, but that is not a practical possibility. This is clearly a problem which will have to be looked at because I fully accept that it presents difficulties for teachers.

Nursery education was referred to. Here I turn to the White Paper because the section on the expansion of nursery education is one of the most positive and constructive parts of it. I believe that opinion would meet with general agreement.

The Department has today sent to the local authorities, the teachers associations, ILEA and the churches the draft circular which was promised in the White Paper. We want to have plans for nursery education by Easter and to be able to allocate resources to nursery education for 1974–76 during the summer of next year.

I remind those who are always accusing my right hon. Friend of elitism that she has had a particular concern for nursery education. By helping children at that stage we are making a major contribution to a more egalitarian society. It is precisely the children in deprived homes who suffer more from lack of parental support than children who come from more secure and more affluent homes. My right hon. Friend should be given full credit for that, and I am glad to see that on that point we are in agreement.

The sixth major subject raised in the debate is immigrant children, particularly educationally subnormal children. The hon. Member for Greenwich who raised this is an acknowledged expert on the subject. I need not go into the figures because they are all present in the minutes of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the high proportion of immigrant children, particularly West Indian children who are in educationally subnormal schools.

I regard that not as something to be alarmed about but as something to be glad about. In the London area we have especially good provision for educationally subnormal children and so are able to help those children who are desperately in need of help. The question arises why this should be so, and there are several explanations which could be advanced. Perhaps the language question impinges here. West Indian children can speak some English whereas other immigrant children cannot and, therefore, perhaps a higher proportion of educationally subnormal children are detected amongst the West Indian group than amongst other groups of immigrants.

Mr. John Fraser

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us in which Caribbean island English is not spoken?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I did not say that; I made the opposite point. I said that all West Indians could speak some English whereas other immigrants may speak no English at all. Because of this, educational subnormality, which may exist in other groups, is detected earlier in the West Indian group.

Important issues are involved here. Whilst a full-scale inquiry is neither necessary nor planned, we are considering within the Department what further guidance can be given about the assessment of the educational needs of handicapped children, including the immigrant children. I hope that after we have had consultations with a number of the professions involved we shall be able to give further guidance on this subject.

I turn finally to the last, and perhaps the most contentious, subject, that of London teachers' allowances. I say to the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury that critics of the Secretary of State cannot have it both ways. They cannot, on the one hand, criticise her for not caring and not feeling and on the other hand criticise her because she takes the trouble to consult the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister on the subject. [Laughter.] She might be criticised for one attitude or the other, but if she is criticised on both grounds grave doubts are raised of the bona fides of the criticism and whether means are being sought to criticise her regardless of the grounds.

It is clear that the purpose of the London allowance is to compensate for the higher cost of living in London as compared with the rest of the country. It is not, and never was, intended to be a means of recruiting teachers for difficult schools. Other provisions are made for schools of exceptional difficulty. A whole list of criteria applies there, such as the social and economic status of the parents, the absence of amenities in the home, the proportion of the children in school receiving free meals, and so on. That is an entirely different problem, and should not be confused with the present problem. Nor is the allowance a cost of living allowance as such, which would go up and down with an index—[HON. MEMBERS: "Not down."] Wait and see.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Hon. Members must not provoke the Minister. He has already been speaking for 35 minutes.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but this has been a major education debate, with points raised by experts on the subject, and I am doing my best to reply to those points. However, I shall cut short my remarks on the London teachers' allowance because I understand that it will be raised a little later in the week.

I agree that the allowance is a fairly blunt instrument, because it is an average that cannot deal with individual cases. We must take the case of teachers whose circumstances may be very different. Within the average some may well benefit more than others. But I want to make it plain that the London allowance is based not on any arbitrary figure but on indices which deal with rents, housing costs and fares in the greater London area. They take into account not only those living in rented accommodation but those living in owner-occupied accommodation.

In deference to Mr. Speaker, I shall not go into details of the indices, but it is not true that housing is not taken into account.

The amount of the allowance has altered over the years. It started at £70 and went up to £85 in 1967 and to £118 in 1970. It has been altered in accordance with the set indices. Therefore, it is completely inaccurate to say that my right hon. Friend has in some way intervened arbitrarily with the working of the indices. The indices may be criticised, but my right hon. Friend has been tied by them, just as the Burnham Committee has been tied by them.

I should like to deal with the development of events, because there has been misrepresentation and misunderstanding over the 1972 arbitration. When the arbitration body made its recommendations on the allowance in 1972, it made no recommendation as to the amount. The first recommendation was purely as to the date; it said that the allowance should remain at £118 until 31st October this year and that whatever amount was recommended by the Burnham Committee, the body responsible, revision should take effect from 1st November this year.

That point has been obscured.

On 20th September—and this is the operative date—a claim was put in for £300 on the part of the teachers. They had upped their original claim on that date by £80, but they submitted no new evidence. That was considered, and the employers promised that an offer would be made on 20th October. Meanwhile the tripartite talks had got under way, and all parties in the negotiations were asked to do nothing which might be inconsistent with the proposals under discussions. The body concerned, being a responsible body, paid heed to that. It was bound to do so. It could not go against the wishes of the Government in this respect. It was the duty of that body to listen to the advice of the Government on this matter.

The employers offered £130 after—

Mr. Spearing

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not think that I should.

Mr. Spearing

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If, during the debate, one hon. Member asks another to confirm something and is told by that hon. Member that he wishes to deal with it when summing up, is it not in order to repeat the question at that stage?

Mr. Speaker

Certainly not.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

That seems to have been disposed of.

The tripartite talks broke down—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must point out that there are about 15 other topics for debate.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I agree, Mr. Speaker, and I am trying to be as brief as possible with a complicated subject that is of great importance to the hon. Members who are present.

The tripartite talks broke down on 2nd November, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State who had arranged to see the teachers and employers on 3rd November told them that she would not seek to prevent the employers from making an offer but she could not guarantee that that offer would be met unless it was reached that day, since it was common knowledge that some kind of freeze was contemplated.

It was on that day that the employers offered £130. It was later raised to £133. It was a genuine, substantive offer that was then turned down by the teachers, except the colleges of education lecturers. The Secretary of State went out of her way to see that that offer was made available to teachers. Far from being a derisory and arbitrary sum, it was a sum of money based on the indices, and it was a perfectly reasonable sum in the light of past negotiations and past increases.

Summing up the last point—and this concludes my speech—my right hon. Friend has throughout behaved correctly and fairly towards teachers. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] She has. No case has been made against her, and those who attempt to misrepresent her position deserve sharp censure. I exempt hon. Gentlemen opposite because I am sure that they have innocently been deceived by the campaign and propaganda directed against her.