HC Deb 13 November 1973 vol 864 cc236-8
19. Mr. John Fraser

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps she is taking to arrest the shortage of teachers in London.

Mrs. Thatcher

Staffing standards in inner London schools have been consistently among the very best in the country. Last January, for example, the pupil/teacher ratio in secondary schools was 15.4:1 compared with a national average of 17.2:1. In September inner London was just over 1 per cent. below quota. This is common enough over the country as a whole, and I think we shall find that even this year London's schools are probably better staffed overall than most.

Mr. Fraser

That was a ridiculously complacent reply to a parent whose children are coming back from a State school after part-time schooling. May we have an immediate increase in the London allowance? If the Pay Board takes until June next year, this will not only kill the recruitment of teachers in the present academic year but will sabotage recruitment in the next academic year. This is a much more serious problem that the right hon. Lady seems to understand.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman was present when I answered a similar Question earlier. The fact is that London has a higher proportion of teachers to pupils than almost any other authority. It is one of the biggest authorities and, therefore, should be one of the most efficient. But it is a fact that the authority which has the worst performance on part-time education has a better staff/pupil ratio than any other authority.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

The Minister may have been speaking only about inner London, but she is probably aware that I have written to her about the problems of Newham, which have been aggravated by her Government and her Department. The right hon. Lady knows that children there have been waiting for months for places in schools. She knows that there is a grave shortage of teachers. Will she give some assurance that she will do something to help Newham?

Mrs. Thatcher

Officials from Newham were in the Department the day after the reports appeared in the Press. They agreed with the Department that there was no shortage of accommodation in the schools for the pupils. My information is that almost all the pupils have been allocated to schools. I am not quite sure of Newham's teacher/pupil ratio. If the hon. Gentleman tables a Question about that I shall do my best to answer it.

Mr. Armstrong

Is the right hon. Lady aware that all the statistics in the world about pupil/teacher ratios are no comfort to parents whose children are having part-time education? Does she not feel any responsibility for children who, in the main, are in the greatest need and are being denied full-time education in 1973?

Mrs. Thatcher

I find it very remarkable that a local education authority, the duties of which are to see that children have schooling and which has the largest proportion of teachers in the country, is unable to provide all of them with full-time education.

Captain W. Elliot

Is my right hon. Friend aware that part of the trouble is the gross misrepresentation of this business by the ILEA? In all the circumstances, is it not time to look at this authority as a whole to see whether it is efficiently carrying out its job and, if possible, to get rid of it?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am aware that a number of my hon. Friends hold that view, but I cannot hold out any hope of looking at the question immediately.

Mr. Hattersley

I think that three of the right hon. Lady's answers have contained innuendoes about the Inner London Education Authority. I wonder whether she should steel herself to give the answer which I suppose she was implying. If there are enough teachers in London, why are there 12,000 pupils at present on part-time education?

Mrs. Thatcher

That is the very question which the Inner London Education Authority, with the teachers in its employ, should ask itself. The hon. Gentleman appears to be asking me to take power to direct it. What the hon. Gentleman does not like and cannot stand is the facts.

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