HC Deb 15 July 1975 vol 895 cc1251-4
8. Mr. Cryer

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the anticipated number of unemployed teachers in September 1975 and if he will make a statement.

9. Mr. Brittan

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement about employment prospects for newly-trained teachers.

21. Mr. Eyre

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many teachers qualifying this summer he estimates will be unemployed at the opening of the next school year.

Mr. Mulley

The rate support grant settlement for 1975–76 allowed for continuing improvement in pupil-teacher ratios and took account of this summer's output of trained teachers. While it is too early to have a clear indication, there are signs that some unemployment may arise.

Mr. Cryer

Does my right hon. Friend accept that that is a very serious reply? Does he appreciate that in spite of the generous rate support grant some local education authorities are cutting tack on education expenditure? Does he accept that some teachers are finding difficulty in obtaining jobs? Does he recognise that in areas with very old buildings, such as West Yorkshire, smaller classes are an important element in improving education? Does he not accept that the employment of teachers should have much higher priority than, for example, expenditure on defence and on roads?

Mr. Mulley

I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of expenditure on education. As he knows, we have done our best to draw to the attention of local authorities the vacancies that now exist for teachers and also to urge them, given that they have been provided with funds, to spend their funds on education. I have no direct plans to intervene either in the employment of teachers or in discussions about the organisation of comprehensive education within local authority areas.

Mr. Eyre

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is great concern about this matter in the heavily populated urban areas? Will he confirm that the effect of the cash limits to be imposed either before the House rises or after it has risen will be made clear at the earliest possible moment, so that local authorities with a heavy range of educational problems will know exactly where they stand?

Mr. Mulley

I shall bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said about cash limits, but the fact is that for the present year we have provided within the rate support grant sufficient funds, as we saw it after consultation with the local authorities, for the authorities between them to employ all the teachers likely to be available next September.

Mr. Wigley

In view of the problematic employment situation for teachers, and bearing in mind that Wales produces far more teachers per capita than other areas of the United Kingdom, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be a good idea to advise pupils in Welsh schools not to go into teaching but to go into other careers where there is a greater chance of obtaining employment in Wales and a greater chance of contributing to the Welsh economy?

Mr. Mulley

I shall get into trouble, not least with the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends, if I seek to give advice direct to Welsh schools, which are the responsibility of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales. However, I shall draw his attention to what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Roderick

Does my right hon. Friend agree that with class sizes at their present levels it is disastrous to have any teachers unemployed? Will he think again about continuing the policy of the previous administration as regards the training of teachers and reducing the number of college of education places? We desperately need more teachers, not least to bring class levels to the size that we require.

Mr. Mulley

At a time when there is a likelihood of some unemployment of teachers, it is not sensible to ignore the number of intending teachers and the number of teachers as of now. We have to consider the situation in September 1976. It was for that reason that I asked the advisory committee to consider again the proposed number of teachers for September 1976.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is not the right hon. Gentleman being extraordinarily complacent when he is faced with a teacher unemployment problem in the autumn that is likely to be the gravest since the war? Is he aware that the NUT estimates that there will be 5,000 unemployed teachers? Does he agree that part of the responsibility for this situation rests upon the local authorities which are not taking up their teacher quotas? I know of at least five which are not doing so. Will he tell the House how many local authorities are not taking up their quotas, and will he urge them and the other local authorities to take up their quotas in full? If they are to practise economies, will he urge the authorities to practise them on the kind of extravagances which we read about in this week's Sunday Telegraph?

Mr. Mulley

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for at least getting his figures right. This is the gravest teacher un- employment situation since the war because it is the first time that unemployment among teachers has arisen since the war. Normally we have experienced a period of constant shortage, so I repeat that at least the hon. Gentleman has his facts right. I am encouraged by his suggestion that we should make representations to the local authorities, but he must also understand that his request that I should intervene in these matters is inconsistent with his objection to my seeking to intervene in the reorganisation of schools.