HC Deb 04 April 1973 vol 854 cc568-86

9.43 p.m.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)

I am pleased to have the opportunity of initiating a second Adjournment debate tonight on a matter concerning a great many people, namely, the statistics of teacher supply and the turnover of teachers in our schools. I am grateful that the Under-Secretary has found time to remain after the earlier debate to answer this subject.

It will be agreed on all sides that during the last election, and subsequently, one of the things which had been the pride of this administration was the phrase "open Government". The Prime Minister at the time of the last election and subsequently said that the Government would provide all the facts and figures to the public when great issues were being debated. I feel at the moment that this is not the case with teacher supply, and that certain facts and figures relating to teacher turnover have not been provided. It is generally agreed, irrespective of party, that our educational system is one of the first calls on our national finances. I am sure that this is common ground between myself and the Under-secretary.

At the same time, nobody would suggest that educational funds be made available ad lib, otherwise no doubt the total Government expenditure could easily go on this one service alone. Governments of every political persuasion have to try to draw a balance between what is desirable from the educational point of view and what is possible from the point of view of national finance. But I think it is common ground again that in drawing this balance a quantitative measure of what money will buy has to be taken, and when it is being decided how much to make available the actual needs of education must be examined. The assessment of need must come before it is said that only so much can be allotted.

We all know that the salaries of teachers, whatever the level may be—and I hasten to add that I am not going to take up this matter tonight—are a major call on educational finance. To that extent the numbers of teachers in our schools or in service training has a more than proportionate effect on educational expenditure. Nevertheless, teachers are the vital element in any educational situation. The personal relationship between teachers and their pupils is vital in the educational process. That is why their numbers and the flexibility in teaching available to any head or any educational authority are so important.

Recently we had a White Paper entitled "Education: A Framework for Expansion" and the Government sought to say that in the next leap forward in education they were indeed expanding the service. There are doubts about how far there is going to be an expansion of education, but that, again, I will not deal with tonight.

There is, however, some argument between teachers' organisations and the Department of Education and Science, the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State, and her hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State as to how far they are making wise or adequate provision for the numbers of teachers required in the schools— and that now includes nursery schools— in the next 10 years or more. I am not going into the figures, because I shall ask the hon. Gentleman whether he will give various estimate later on, but there is an argument between the National Union of Teachers and his Department as to whether they are providing correctly. One side suggests that there will be a shortfall in the numbers which are being planned but the Department says that there will not be.

We all know that forecasting in this field is fraught with difficulty. First, the number of pupils in schools after the next five years can only be assessed because no one can say exactly how many people will be born next year. But within five years it is not too difficult to make a reasonable estimate of the total population in terms of children, therefore forecasting 10 years ahead in terms of pupils is not all that difficult.

What is more difficult is to know the number of teachers who will be in the profession at any one time because although we can forecast reasonably the numbers who will retire it is not so easy to forecast the numbers who will leave the profession after some time for some other job, or after a very short time to get married. On top of that there are the married women returners to take into account. That is another difficulty. Therefore, it is rather difficult to say that the teachers will be there in specific numbers. But I think it will be universally agreed that the numbers are likely to be fewer rather than greater, because, alas, the wastage over the past few years has run rather high in terms of both young teachers leaving the profession in toto and those getting married and having children.

On top of all this uncertainly there is the James Report on teacher education, which was interesting because unlike many other Government reports— departmental or otherwise—it contained no appendices of statistics. It was then that certain hon. Members on this side of the House, and myself in particular, became extremely worried.

To make the suggestions made by Lord James about the withdrawal of teachers from schools and the recasting of the whole educational training system without producing the statistics or the range of possibility involved was fraught with difficulty. It is suggested that there shall be a closure of certain colleges of education and a cut-back in the number of teachers under training. It may be right for certain colleges of education to be closed or amalgamated with other institutions, but there has been no quantitative analysis of the need for teachers or of the way in which the supply could be maintained.

On 28th March 1972 I asked the right hon. Lady to provide projections of teacher supply under the then system and under Lord James's proposal. She said that she was considering publishing projections, but no figures were published. On 13th April I asked another Question, to which the right hon. Lady replied that figures would soon be available. On 11th May, in reply to an Oral Question, I was told that no figures were available but that the number of teachers would increase at the present rate of between 18,000 and 20,000 a year. The right hon. Lady also said that no figures were being suppressed.

I put the matter to the test in a Written Question on 22nd May to the then Undersecretary of State. I asked for a projection of both forms of teacher training until 1983, but the reply contained figures only up to 1976. The hon. Gentleman said: I cannot usefully make longer term projections until major issues which my right hon. Friend is now reviewing concerning the rate and direction of development of the educational system have been resolved."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 22nd May 1972; Vol 837, c. 290.] He was saying, in other words, that he could not project the figures of teacher supply because his right hon. Friend was preparing a White Paper on educational expansion. Surely the demands for teachers and schools will be the same, irrespective of White Papers. It was clear on 22nd May that these figures would not be available because of the forthcoming White Paper.

The hon. Gentleman went further on 15th June, when he said that projections would not be meaningful because they were projections after the 1976 projections of national expenditure. It appears that the teacher supply position is tied not only to the White Paper but to national expenditure, instead of to the needs of the system.

Matters were left there, although the right hon. Lady remarked that I had paid some attention to the matter. It was not until 30th March that I had my last answer. Another phase has been reached, because the right hon. Lady, probably correctly, has decided to rejuvenate the old committee on teacher supply. I have no direct knowledge of what has been going on, but I understand that there have been negotiations between the teaching organisations and the right hon. Lady about participation in this new committee.

I asked the right hon. Lady: What recent requests she has received from teachers' organisations for statistics related to teacher supply; what is the nature or categories of figures, known to her, that she has not chosen to supply; and what reasons she has given for not so doing. I understand that the teachers' organisations—particularly the National Union of Teachers—were not satisfied that they would necessarily participate in this exercise until they were certain that the new committee could have access to all the relevant figures. One would have expected the hon. Lady to say, in reply, that of course, she would supply all the figures available to her. The educational system is a public one, and one would imagine that figures relating to the requirements of the need for teachers would be public in every degree There is no question of national security at stake— or perhaps there is; perhaps it is national security in its deeper sense. No reason is given why everybody professionally involved should not know what the projections are. Of course they cannot be definite, but at least they can be maximum and minimum, even over a very wide range. We have maximum and minimum projections for London Airport. Why cannot we have them for teachers and pupils?

The reply which the right hon. Lady gave was very unsatisfactory. She said: The National Union of Teachers asked at the end of January about projections in the White Paper"— she does not say what they asked but admits that they asked In my reply I said that the latest population figures were under study and that my proposed advisory committee would no doubt have the opportunity to consider the assumptions underlying the projections."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March, 1973, Vol. 853, c. 414.] In other words, the right hon. Lady was saying that she had some figures of population—I presume school population, or perhaps total population, or birthrate trends—and that the new committee would have the opportunity to consider the assumptions underlying the projections. She did not state specifically that they would unreservedly have access to all the figures available. In other words, I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that his right hon. Friend was being less than frank in that answer.

The hon. Gentleman will know that on Monday last there was a meeting—I believe in the Department—between representatives of one teacher organisation and his right hon. Friend. I hasten to say I do not know what happened at that meeting. I would probably be wrong if I guessed, but certainly I do not know. All I know is that as an ex-teacher with a concern for the proper supply of teachers I have been asking the proper authorities in this House over the last year to "come clean" over teachers, and I believe I have already sufficiently shown that consistently the right hon. Lady and the hon. Gentleman's predecessor—not he himself; I hope he will "come clean" at the end of this debate—have failed to do so.

At any time this would be wrong but in the light of what the Prime Minister said in the election and subsequently about open, frank and honest Government I can conceive no valid reason why these figures should not be made available, and why the right hon. Lady should not say unreservedly that all the figures in her possession will be made available to proper professional organisations, if not the public as a whole. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will give us projections under the present arrangements for at least 10 years for both teachers and pupils, and that projections under the proposal in the White Paper and the James Committee, even if arranged, together with issues of fact and material relating to teacher supply and pupil estimates, will be available to the proper organisations if not to the public as a whole. In terms of parliamentary democracy and the responsibility of the executive, he will surely give us these undertakings.

The second matter that I want to raise under teacher statistics is not unrelated to the first, namely, the matter of the turnover of teachers in schools. It may not be known that one of the difficulties faced by teachers at every level is setting up administrative machinery—whether it be that of the school, headmaster, district office or local education authority, and still more so the Department of Education and Science—to provide resources which meet the needs of the teacher in the classroom and, therefore, the real educational needs of pupils. It is my belief that the real priorities in education are often not those of political life, of the Times Educational Supplement, of all kinds of erudite journals, or the pundits who seem to abound in education these days. The real needs are in the classroom or the school, and are between the teachers and pupils concerned. This learning relationship depends on confidence, on trust and on consistency between the two parties concerned. This is particularly true in primary school, but it is also true, though in a different way, in secondary school.

If a school is faced with a fast-changing staff its task becomes very difficult, and it is generally acknowledged that in many parts—

It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of House lapsed without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Goodhew.]

Mr. Spearing

It is acknowledged that in some parts of the country the turnover is larger than in others. What is not generally known is that in particular areas of teacher recruitment difficulties —which are not altogether unrelated to areas of educational deprivation—the turnover in some schools is very high. In other words, the number of teachers which a secondary school class will have, which may be high enough in the normal course of events, is further increased by the turnover in teachers.

Statistics can be misleading unless one knows how they are gathered, because it is not just a matter of the turnover of the assigned staff. If there were a census in this matter—I do not believe that one has been taken—I think that one would get a lower figure than reality, because there would be a census possibly of assigned staff. But there are other staff on temporary assignment, or who are sent as supply teachers, perhaps for a day or even for half a day. The number of teachers confronting particular classes is rising disastrously in certain places.

Whilst in administrative terms a school has a full complement of staff, in practical terms education may only be vestigial. Before I entered the House and, indeed, for a short time after I did so, I was responsible for staffing in a certain school. Teachers would come for two or three weeks and then leave. Some would come for only two or three days. One teacher who came for an interview one day, came to the school the next day. At lunch time when I asked a colleague of mine where she was, he replied that she had gone. She arrived at the school at 8.45 a.m. and resigned at 10.30 a.m.

That is not uncommon. I know of several primary schools in London at which a particular class has had half a dozen teachers assigned to it since September of this year. I believe that in general education authorities do not like to discover these unpalatable facts because, from the point of view of the Department of Education and Science, it may appear to reflect badly on that education authority. I do not believe that heads like to admit it to the education authority because it might reflect badly on them, and possibly on the teachers themselves—and still more upon the children.

At some stage this matter must be faced fairly and squarely, because it means that where this is happening— or where there is a high proportion of young teachers who stay for a year or two years—the pressure and strain on the core and cadre of experienced staff becomes unbelievable. Anybody who knows anything about schools knows that many classes are carried by a third or a quarter of the staff who are experienced and can give support to those who are less experienced. Where the turnover becomes increasingly high, the pressure on the experienced staff is unbelievable. Their interest in the school falls, and they are more likely to leave, with the result that the difficulty becomes far worse.

Since September I have asked one or two Questions about this. On 15th February I asked the right hon. Lady if she will now initiate an inquiry to establish the highest rates of turnover of teachers … and to determine in what areas and under what conditions these rates are highest."— [OFFICIAL REPORT. 15th February 1973; Vol. 850, c. 415–16.] The right hon. Lady replied that she would consider that.

On 13th March I asked what are the results of her investigations into the feasibility of investigating the varying degrees of turnover of staff in schools. The right hon. Lady replied: The investigations continue. A survey might help to establish the facts. It would not be likely to tell us much about why people move."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th March 1973; Vol. 852, c 307.] I could tell the hon. Gentleman why people decide to move, but that is another matter.

Not until 3rd April, when I tabled another Question, did the right hon. Lady finally concede that she was proposing shortly to consult the parties concerned about the possibility of conducting a sample survey next term among schools in all areas. I emphasise that she is only "consulting" about the possibility of so doing. It is rather on the lines of the parliamentary use of the expression "tomorrow". "Considering" and "consulting" about a possibility is not a firm commitment.

I am firmly of the view that many local authorities do not know what is happening in their own schools and that many heads do not know the precise effect on the attainments of their pupils. I believe that we must face this task fairly and squarely, and it is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Education and Science to look into this matter.

In earlier answers the right hon. Lady said that this was a matter for local authorities, but understandably local authorities do not necessarily want to look into the matter. They will not take voluntary action. If the right hon. Lady argues that it is right for her to stop local authorities spending their ratepayers' money on school improvements and to put a ceiling on the amount that can be spent per school place, has she not a moral obligation to find out what is going on? Nobody likes to look under the carpet if he knows that what he will find there will be disturbing, but I submit that the Department and the right hon. Lady have a responsibility in this matter.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to tell me that action will be taken on both these matters. If the Government are to retain any form of respect in the provision of educational services they must come absolutely clean. in providing teaching statistics for the future. There must be no suspicion that the Treasury has said to them. "There is your amount of money. You must make it go as far as you can, because you cannot have any more".

It is the duty of the Secretary of State to ascertain the needs of the teaching service and to strike the right balance. Teachers are the life blood of our education system. It is also the right hon. Lady's responsibility to see that sufficient statistics are available to provide a reasonable background in studying the needs of pupils—who, after all, will be the adults of tomorrow.

The House will soon be discussing matters relating to law and order. If the hon. Gentleman studies the history of some of the people who, unfortunately, have not been law abiding and who have been involved in various crimes, he will no doubt see from their school careers some black spots in the educational system. In the present system we may well be laying up for ourselves great trouble and vast social services expenditure in the future, because we are not providing a good background for our pupils. A good background is given not only by providing buildings but by supplying the teachers to do the job. Therefore, let the right hon. Lady do her job—and I hope that tonight the hon. Gentleman will tell me that she will undertake that task.

10.8 p.m.

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

We are grateful to the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) for raising this subject tonight. I know from the number of Questions which he has tabled on this subject that he takes an intense interest in the important question of teacher supply. He made one or two astringent comments about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and myself, but I appreciate what was a remarkably moderate approach by the hon. Gentleman.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman was disappointed at the refusal of my right hon. Friend to accept the target for teacher supply in the future which has been adopted by some of the teacher interests, and in particular by the National Union of Teachers. They have always sought to persuade the Government to pin their flag to the mast of a supply of teachers which would make it possible for no class in any kind of school to exceed a maximum of 30 pupils. Although my right hon. Friend wants to see a considerable reduction in class sizes, and is planning to this end, she does not as of now accept a maximum size of 30 as a policy target. She believes that we are over the worst period of staffing shortage thanks to the efforts not only of successive Secretaries of State but of the local authorities and especially of the colleges of education. As teacher supply improves, and improve it will for at least a decade yet, the case for devoting resources to other needs grows stronger. What the White Paper does is set out a balanced policy of which the increase in teacher supply is an important element but only one element.

Let me look more closely at the problem of the statistics in the White Paper. The hon. Gentleman himself admitted the difficulty of forecasts in this matter when one is looking into the future. He said that my right hon. Friend had been less than frank. I do not accept that charge. The White Paper is rich in statistics.

Clearly, these had to be based on information available while the White Paper was being prepared. But any projection of school population or of teacher supply more than a few years ahead must obviously be subject to a measure of uncertainty, not only because all projections into the future are by definition uncertain but because estimates of school population more than five years ahead are inevitably at the mercy of the birth rate. Therefore, the figures in the White Paper are grounded on the best information which was available last autumn.

Since then further figures of live births have become available, and these again obviously have to be taken into account along with other information as time passes. As it works out, they are all so far broadly neutral in their effect.

In the subsequent part of my remarks I shall use rounded figures based both on those in the White Paper and on the new information which has become available. The changes consequent on one year's births not surprisingly fall within the broad tolerances which must underlie any projections.

Subject to all these uncertainties, to which the hon. Gentleman himself drew attention, the teacher supply policy announced in the White Paper will mean a very big step forward. We are planning for a total supply in 1981 large enough not only to extend educational facilities to a high proportion of children under the age of five and to give new and serving teachers greatly increased opportunities for further education and training, but to achieve a substantial improvement in staffing standards for the school population aged five and over—10 per cent. more teachers for this age group than the number needed merely to leave staffing standards at their 1971 levels, the changes in the age distribution being taken into account. In other words, the fact that in 1981 there will be more older children who are taught in small groups does not affect this figure of 10 per cent., though it increases the number of teachers needed to secure any given standard of staffing.

The White Paper indicated that to achieve these objectives for the projected size and composition of the school population the qualified teaching force would need to grow to about 510,000 by 1981. On the latest figures the effect of a fall in the number of births has been offset by a tendency for the staying-on rate to rise so that the net effect of the changes is to leave the total projected population for 1981 very much where it was. It is now projected that the total maintained school population by the end of the decade will be some 9.45 million. I must emphasise yet again that these latest figures are still subject to a great deal of uncertainty, as were their predecessors, not least because at the present time inevitably they count some children who are not even born.

The application to the projected population figures of pupils aged five and over of the actual staffing standards of 1971 suggests a need for some 420,000 teachers of this age group in 1981 merely to stay where we are in terms of standards. With the addition of 10 per cent. to achieve the planned improvement of these standards, the total becomes about 465,000. To staff the projected nursery population on the standard proposed in the White Paper would need about 25,000 teachers, and the release of teachers from the whole teaching force for induction and in-service training on the scale proposed would require replacements totalling some 20,000. That is the breakdown of the target figure of 510,000. These broad components of the total have not substantially changed since publication of the White Paper.

Attainment of the target will require a net increase of about 146,000 teachers over the 10 years 1971 to 1981. But we have already seen some 40,000 of this increase in the first two years of the period. To go on increasing the teaching force at that rate would clearly mean the pre-emption of resources for the staffing of the schools which, in the view of the Government, would be better used in other ways. The target that we have set ourselves represents the highest which, in our judgment, it would be reasonable to aim for having regard to other claims on resources. That is the basis of our decision to reduce not the teaching force but the rate of increase in the teaching force.

We recruit most of our teachers from three main sources: three and four year courses of initial training, one year postgraduate courses, and the pool of qualified teachers—mainly married women— who are out of teaching but may wish to return. There are, of course, other relatively minor sources of recruitment into which I need not go, but we can expect to continue to get most of our teachers from the three main sources. In the event, the actual distribution of recruitment will depend in part, as the White Paper points out, on employers' preference as between these three sources, but in preparing the projections underlying the White Paper it was obviously necessary to make some assumptions purely for planning purposes.

The prospective output of newly-trained teachers is already largely determined up to 1976, because reduction in the non-graduate entry into training, which has hitherto been the largest single element, cannot now start for practical reasons before 1974 and so can affect output only from 1977 onwards.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to put this point to him. He talks about resources. The resources we are talking about are people qualified to become teachers. If these people are not to be recruited to become teachers, may I ask what they are to become? These are the resources about which we are concerned. When projecting the future I think that the hon. Gentleman ought to tell the House what these people will become who qualify at school to take examinations which in turn qualify them to become teachers if they do not become teachers. This is a question of resources. We are not concerned with bricklayers building new schools, and so on; we are concerned with people capable of doing this work doing other work.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It is important that the growth in teacher supply should match the educational opportunity that is available. I might ask the right hon. Gentleman what would become of those who were trained to be teachers if we increased the supply of teachers when there were not the employment opportunities for them to fill.

Mr. Willey


Mr. St. John-Stevas

I have more figures to give.

Mr. Willey

I think that we have time to deal with this point. Obviously, the provision of more teachers is of high priority. We can decide that there are greater priorities because there are other professional demands upon people who might otherwise qualify to become teachers. It is useless to talk about resources at large if we are to use them for this, that, or the other. We are talking about people who take higher education and whether they become teachers or something else. There is obviously a demand for teachers. The hon. Gentleman says that we are to use the resources in other directions. It is for him to tell the House in what other directions he will use those resources.

I raise the matter specifically because we have the the Robbins Report on the expansion of higher education. There is no question but that we have matched the demand for technological and scientific needs. I think that there is a patently obvious social demand for a greater number of teachers. If the hon. Gentleman says that we can meet it with other resources, then I suggest that he is under an obligation to tell the House what those other resources are. In other words, what are the two A-level people going to do if they are not to teach?

Mr. Speaker

That was a long intervention.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I hesitated to give way to it. Although it was long, it added nothing new to the right hon. Gentleman's original point. This is a question of balancing educational needs, balancing the need for an increased number of teachers against other needs in the education service. I cannot go into a debate about the whole general employment and provision of jobs policy of the Government in the few minutes left to me.

To return to my point about matching the supply of teachers with the opportunities for employing them, the output from training of newly-trained teachers is projected to fall from about 45,000 in 1975–76 to about 42,000 in 1976–77 and thereafter to about 34,000 in 1980–81. The output of trained graduates has been assumed to increase to about 18,000 in 1980–81, by which time the output of non-graduates and new style three-year B.Eds, is expected to fall to about 12,000. The output of four-year B.Eds, is assumed to level off at about 4,500 by the end of the decade. The point that is still for discussion is what exact proportions these categories will have. The views of employers must carry great weight here.

The remaining substantial element in recruitment is the re-entry of former teachers, mainly married women. The rate of re-entry is projected to increase, on the basis of present trends, from about 14,000 in 1973 to about 18,000 by the end of the decade. These teachers, who bring with them maturity and, in many cases, experience of bringing up their own children, are of great value to the schools and widely esteemed by employers. They may perhaps be of special help in staffing the expansion of nursery education.

These projections point to a total recruitment by the end of the decade of about 50,000 teachers a year. Precisely what annual recruitment will be needed by then will be determined in part by the wastage from the teaching force, another major area of uncertainty. There are seen to be different wastage rates for different categories of teacher. Within each category, there are different rates for different age groups. It is impossible to predict with certainty whether the elements in this complex pattern will change, and, if so, in what way.

Even if one assumed that the intrinsic rates would remain the same, the overall rate would be affected by changes in the age composition of the teaching force and in the mix of different kinds of teachers. We have to make the best possible estimates of future wastage on the basis of the information that we now have, and then we must be prepared to revise them as later information becomes available.

Allied to the problem of wastage is that of teacher turnover, to which the hon. Gentleman devoted some attention—

Mr. Spearing


Mr. St. John-Stevas

No, I cannot give way.

Mr. Spearing

Answer the points.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I will endeavour to do so.

Of course there are staffing problems in schools and there are particular staffing problems in London. We are concerned about them. Present evidence suggests that authorities in London find it relatively easy to recruit staff, but this is coupled with a higher than average number of probationers and a high rate of turnover.

Mr. Spearing

Will the Minister please give me a categorical assurance that the Secretary of State will not keep back figures which should be made available to calculate projections, and that she will initiate a realistic investigation into teacher turnover in schools?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am very willing to give the assurance that my right hon. Friend will give any figures that she considers necessary—

Mr. Spearing


Mr. St. John-Stevas

—for intelligent and well-informed public debate on this subject to the House and, through the House, to the country. Of course she will. But what I cannot undertake is that she will give figures that might be misleading and which cannot be firmly based on fact. What is needed now is to establish some of the basic facts—what is the turnover in particular schools and areas—and, so far as is practicable, to establish true motives and the reasons that individual teachers decide to move, in London and elsewhere.

In educational terms, the most significant aspect of turnover is in relation to individual schools, and on this we have no information at present. My right hon. Friend is therefore proposing to consult the parties concerned within the next two weeks about the practicalities involved in conducting a sample survey of schools during this coming summer term to obtain information about the extent of the turnover during the current year. I hope that that will do something to reassure the hon. Gentleman that we are taking all the action that we can in this respect, and that this is much more than a hypothetical scheme, as he seemed to imply, but is also a practical proposition which will be pursued to its conclusion, subject to the consultations which are now taking place being successful.

I have indicated the broad outlines of the pattern which my right hon. Friend foresees for the development of teacher supply policy over the next few years. There is nothing sacrosanct about the details of this pattern. The target is determined, but there is a great variety of possible routes by which that target may be reached. The details of the itinerary may well need to be changed as the addition of later information progressively throws light on the uncertainties. But uncertainties in this field will always persist. Therefore, planning must be sufficiently flexible to accommodate them.

Finally, I return to what I think was the basis of the hon. Gentleman's charge, namely, that the Department is not providing adequate statistics upon important matters. I hope that I have shown by the statistics that I have given tonight that that charge is not true.

Furthermore, it was an integral part of the proposals which my right hon. Friend set out in the White Paper that she would establish a national forum in which she would obtain the advice of all the many interested parties on the discharge of her central responsibilities for teacher supply and training. She has already sent out details of the machinery which she proposes to the other partners in the education service and has invited them to make nominations for appointment to the new Advisory Committee on the Supply and Training of Teachers envisaged in paragraph 97 of the White Paper. Most of the interests concerned have expressed themselves as content with her proposals, but some of the teachers' associations have expressed doubts both about structure and about representation. My right hon. Friend hopes that, nevertheless, it will prove possible to set up the advisory committee in the fairly near future, and she is considering the representations which have been made to her. The relevance of this in the present context is that it has always been the intention that the Department would seek views of the advisory committee on the projections and assumptions which inevitably underlie the White Paper and, indeed, that this would be one of the first matters which would be laid before the committee.

It is still my hope that this can be done, as many of the assumptions cannot but involve judgments on which it is quite possible and legitimate for different people to hold different views. If, therefore, the hon. Gentleman and, per- haps, some of the teachers' associations, believe as I do that there is much to be gained by an element of participation in the planning of teacher supply over the next 10 years, I suggest that the best contribution which he can make, and the best next step that can be made, is to get the advisory committee established and working. That seems to me a much more fruitful way of proceeding, rather than making accusations of obscurantism to my right hon. Friend, who has been punctilious in giving figures to the House which are based on fact, not only in debate but in answering Questions which the hon. Gentleman has tabled.

Mr. Spearing

I had to ask those Questions.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Of course. The hon. Gentleman is a very good Member of Parliament and had to ask the Questions which he put down in the past. No doubt he will continue to table similar Questions in the future. However, I hope that in tonight's debate some of his fears, if not all of them, have been allayed.

The Question having been proposed at Ten o'clock and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at half-past Ten o'clock.