HC Deb 16 December 1975 vol 902 cc1139-40
1. Sir A. Meyer

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether, in view of unemployment among schoolteachers, he will make provision for optional early retirement on a reduced pension.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Frederick Mulley)

I am considering what measures may be possible.

Sir A. Meyer

Will the right hon. Gentleman import some sense of urgency into his considerations? Is he aware of the demoralisation among potential schoolteachers who train for this exacting job and who now find themselves without any possibility of employment? Would not such provision open up some possibilities of recruitment of new entrants to the profession?

Mr. Mulley

The Working Party on Teachers' Superannuation is about to consider some proposals put forward by teachers. It may be better to deal with this matter by way of compensation regulations. The hon. Gentleman should not put the teacher employment position out of perspective. Naturally, we do not want anyone to be unemployed, least of all teachers, but less than ¾ per cent. of the teaching profession is unemployed. The increase this year as against last year, when there were chronic shortages, is less than ¼ per cent. We should not get the matter out of perspective.

Sir G. Sinclair

As the right hon. Gentleman is considering superannuation schemes and compensation, will he carefully consider the position of heads of schools who, through no fault of their own, may have run out of steam and who need to seek other employment? The maintained sector should part honourably and generously with them to allow a more dynamic leadership to take over.

Mr. Mulley

I am sure that great interest will be taken in the hon. Gentleman's question. Whether the heads concerned would agree with him is a matter for argument. This is essentially a matter for the local authorities, because they employ the teachers. I shall put the point to them. Any arrangements have to be tripartite, among the teachers' organisations, the local authorities and myself.

Mr. Freud

As the Secretary of State has said that teacher unemployment might rise to 10,000 in the next year, what discussions has he had with local education authorities to dissuade them from taking the easy way out and not fulfilling their teacher quotas, which would be an immensely damaging and short-term solution?

Mr. Mulley

I have not given any figure for the expectations of teacher unemployment, because, with all the uncertainties about wastage and so on, I do not know whether anyone can give a precise figure at this stage. I spoke last summer to the local education authoritie—I did not wait until now—and asked them to fulfil their quotas. I told them that they should give priority to young teachers leaving college as opposed to those who had formerly been teachers and who had left the profession and who now, because conditions had improved, wanted to re-enter it. It is for the local education authorities to determine whom they employ, not me.