HC Deb 26 June 1973 vol 858 cc1301-2
10. Mr. Barnes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what further representations she has received following the recommendations of the Pooling Committee on staff/student ratios in colleges of art.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

A further 55 letters have been received, more than half through hon. Members, since the reply to the hon. Member on 13th March. This was also a topic raised with my right hon. Friend by a deputation brought by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond).

Mr. Barnes

With reference to the question asked earlier by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) about the position of practising artists teaching part-time in art colleges, is the Minister aware that some of the assumptions on which the recommendations of the Pooling Committee are based are not valid for the art colleges because of the much longer hours of contact between students and teachers in them than in other subjects? Does not the Minister think that he should advise local education authorities to treat those recommendations of the Pooling Committee with some caution?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I should like to stress to the hon. Gentleman, who I know takes a keen interest in the subject, that the implementation of the Pooling Committee's recommendations on student/staff ratios rests with the local education authorities. The recommendations are purely advisory. The report said that in no case should teachers be made redundant. It is certainly my view that the employment of practising artists as part-time teachers is a great gain to art education.

Mr. Grimond

But does not the Minister agree, when he recommends that no teacher should be made redundant, that, if the local authorities have to come down to anything near the ratio, it of course means that they will retain their whole-time teachers, most of whom are on long-term contract, and get rid of their part-time practising artists?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It is not my recommendation; it is the recommendation of the committee. [Interruption.] That is an important distinction. With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's prognostications, there are other means of getting to the recommended ratios—by normal wastage and retirement, for example.

Mr. Moyle

Would the Minister care to give an undertaking that he will use the offices of his Department to ensure that, before even any part-time art teachers are declared redundant, there will be consultation between the local education authority and the appropriate associations representing the art teachers? Will he bear in mind that the artist has always required a patron? If one form of patronage is to go, will he take the initiative and make sure that another form to replace it is under consideration?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I cannot give undertakings on behalf of local education authorities, but I think I have made it quite clear that I regard the use of artists in a part-time capacity as very valuable, and I am sure that local education authorities will take note of those remarks.