HC Deb 11 May 1972 vol 836 cc1525-8
2. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what recent changes there have been in the numbers of teachers employed by local education authorities.

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

At the end of January, 1972, over 20,600 more teachers were employed by local education authorities in England and Wales than on 1st February, 1971.

Mrs. Ren ée Short

Has the right hon. Lady had information since January, 1972, that some local authorities are proposing to, or have, cut down the number of teachers to prevent increases in the rates? Does she not think this is a deplorable practice, and will she advise local education authorities which are doing this that it is against her policies?

Mrs. Thatcher

So far as I am aware, local education authorities have not cut down the number of teachers so much as announced that they will not increase them or replace teachers who are retiring.

Mrs. Ren ée Short


Mrs. Thatcher

May I continue? The information I have from one authority refers to a case which is already substantially over quota. I agree with the hon. Lady that I do not wish any cutting-down of teaching staff to take place because I regard the provision of adequate teaching staff as one of the most important aspects of education.

Mr. Edward Short

As there is to be an increase of 18,000 or 19,000 in the total number of teachers in September, does not the Minister agree that it is essential for local authorities to take up their full quota? If the right hon. Lady hears of such cases, as she may well do in the next few weeks, will she take vigorous action to see that local education authorities employ their full quota?

Mrs. Thatcher

The increase may be even more than 18,000 because, as the right hon. Gentleman will have heard, last year the increase was of some 20,000 teachers. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the quota is adjusted to take into account the number of teachers expected to come out of teacher training colleges. A large number of authorities are over quota, only three are precisely on quota and some are below. One purpose of the quota is to see that all trained teachers are employed by local education authorities.

8. Mr. Marks

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many local authorities have applied for additional teachers for slow-learning children since her speech on the subject at Easter, 1971; and how many additional posts have been approved.

Mrs. Thatcher

The quotas of 13 authorities have been increased by a total of 577 teachers.

Mr. Marks

I am grateful for that reply, which I welcome. Is the right hon. Lady aware that there is a danger that slow-learning children and even average children in schools are not getting a fair share of the staff and that staff are being concentrated in the sixth forms? Have Her Majesty's inspectors reported on this danger?

Mrs. Thatcher

The answer to the specific question is "No ". I note that the hon. Gentleman is grateful for the answer, but I myself do not think the answer is good enough and it is somewhat disappointing. I hope we shall have more applications for more teachers. The hon. Gentleman heard the answer to a previous Question and will know that more teachers are available this year compared with last year. The increase is more than we expected.

19. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when, and in what form, she expects to publish statistics concerning the future supply of teachers.

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot yet add to the reply given to the hon. Gentleman's Questions on 28th March. The number of teachers in service is at present increasing by about 18,000–20,000 a year. —[Vol. 834, c. 63.]

Mr. Spearing

Does not the right hon. Lady understand that that is a disappointing reply? Does she not recall that as long ago as last March the Under-Secretary of State said that these figures were available and that he was considering in what form to publish them? On 13th April the right hon. Lady herself said that she hoped to publish them soon. Is not the continued suppression of these figures incompatible with our democratic institutions and practices?

Mrs. Thatcher

No figures are being suppressed. If the hon. Gentleman cares to look at my reply he can calculate for himself the future supply of teachers on present policies. The only factor none of us knows about is the wastage factor, which we find is slightly less from the teaching profession than it was, and this could have a significant effect on the figures.

Sir G. Nabarro

Would my right hon. Friend apply herself to one point? Is teacher supply today adequate to ensure that within a measurable length of time from now we can reduce the size of primary school classes to below 30?

Mrs. Thatcher

Class sizes, particularly in primary schools, are a less and less significant gauge of the number of teachers available. We usually go by pupil-teacher ratio, because fewer and fewer children in primary schools are taught, in the strict sense of the word, in class. As my hon. Friend can see from my reply, the supply of teachers will go up over a period of five years by about 100,000. This is already making a significant improvement in teacher-pupil ratios in schools, including primary schools.

Mr. Moyle

Does not the right hon. Lady agree that she undertook to the House to begin consultations on the James Report by Easter? Will she confirm that she has begun them? If that is the case, the answer to my hon. Friend's question is that she has begun the consultations without a lot of the essential information being available. Does she think that that is the right way to carry on consultations about a matter which has grave implications for the training of teachers and the future of the education system?

Mrs. Thatcher

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. He has the figures of future teacher supply on the basis of existing policies. We have not yet decided any changes in policies. If changes are decided upon we shall have to recalculate certain figures. To answer the earlier part of his question—apart from the innuendos—I promised to start consultations just after Easter. Consultations are now taking place.