HC Deb 09 June 1976 vol 912 cc1405-10
1. Mr. Galbraith

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many students will be leaving teacher training colleges in the summer of 1976; and how many are unlikely to be offered teaching jobs in the autumn.

5. Mr. Monro

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give an estimate of how many teaching posts will not be filled next session by education authorities on account of financial restraint by local authorities.

12. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a further statement on teacher supply.

17. Mr. Reid

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a statement on the job prospects of students currently enrolled at Callendar Park College of Education, Falkirk.

23. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the unemployment situation in the teaching profession.

24. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what percentage of student teachers leaving Scottish colleges of education at the end of this session are expected to be offered employment in Scottish schools.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Millan)

As I indicated in my reply of 26th May to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. White), it is not possible to make precise estimates at this stage. I am pursuing the various courses of action to which I then referred.

Mr. Galbraith

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that was a most unsatisfactory answer? He gave no indication whether student teachers will find themselves joining dole queues. If Socialism is the language of priorities, surely he can work out whether he has spent so much money on trying to nationalise the shipbuilding industry that there is not enough money left. Is there enough money available to give jobs to these teachers, so that our children may obtain the education that they deserve and that this country requires to get itself out of the present mess?

Mr. Millan

I am glad to see the hon. Gentleman as excited about Scottish education as he seems to be today. I do not recall seeing him similarly excited before.

Mr. Galbraith

I was once the Minister in charge.

Mr. Millan

That is what I meant. The hon. Gentleman must not speak in generalities. If he refers to my main answer he will see that I said that, despite anything we are able to do this year—and I indicated in my answer a number of avenues that I am pursuing—there are a substantial number of student teachers —I cannot at the moment put a figure on it—who will not be able to obtain jobs. I regret that situation very much, but it is not possible to make provision in that way in the preesnt financial situation, either by providing more in rate support grant or by asking education authorities to employ more teachers at their own expense. At the meeting I had with education authorities last Friday they accepted that situation.

Mr. Canavan

In view of the justifiable anger and resentment caused by the Prime Minister's recent statement that student teachers should look elsewhere for jobs, will the Secretary of State elaborate on the proposals to use some of the job creation programme money to provide employment for student teachers? Will he give an assurance that any jobs created for these students will be jobs in teaching rather than outside? Would it not be economic and educational madness to spend £14 million of public money in training 2,000 teachers and then expect them to take jobs outside teaching, when thousands of parents are demanding a better standard of education for their children?

Mr. Millan

It is unwise of my hon. Friend to disparage projects that have already been put up and accepted under the job creation programme. Those projects are relevant to the qualifications and experience of student teachers. My hon. Friend will also know that I am looking into the question whether the rules unler which job creation money is deployed can be extended in the way indicated.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that he has lost a golden opportunity to improve teaching standards in Scotland with the available teachers? Does he accept that we have a moral obligation to the teachers concerned in view of the vast sums spent in educating them? Is he willing to look carefully at the many practical suggestions made by us in a recent late-night debate in the House as to how public expenditure can be cut in other areas—for example, by abandoning certain nationalisation programmes—so that these teachers may be employed to the benefit of Scottish education?

Mr. Millan

The fact is that the Conservative Opposition, apart from cutting public expenditure in other ways, are committed to cut public expenditure at local level also. That will affect education, and it is about time the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) came clean on where he and his colleagues stand.

Mr. Sillars

Will the Secretary of State confirm that people who join the special recruitment scheme have to sign a form to the effect that they intend to teach in Scottish education, and that a number of these people, when reaching graduate status, did not take a job in industry because of their obligation to the Government? Does this not mean that the Government have a moral or legal obligation to give these people employment?

Mr. Millan

We do not have a legal obligation, but I accept that we certainly have a moral obligation on the questtion of the special recruitment scheme. This is one of the matters that I discussed with local authorities last Friday. They said that they already gave preference, wherever it was possible, to people who were coming out from the special recruitment scheme and they promised me that they would continue to do so. This is extremely important.

Mr. Monro

Why, last year, did the Secretary of State permit 300 more applicants to go to colleges of education for secondary school qualifications when he knew that the writing was on the wall and that those people would not get jobs this summer?

Mr. Millan

There are still considerable subject shortages in the secondary schools, and that will still be the case even at the start of next session. The increased numbers of students last year were directed largely at meeting the difficulties we have in particular subjects. As for the numbers for next year, I made it clear to colleges of education that within the reduced totals for secondary training they should give emphasis to those subjects where we still have shortages and less emphasis to those subjects where there are likely to be sufficient teachers available.

Mr. Dempsey

Does my right hon. Friend recall that the teachers about whom we are rightly concerned entered universities and colleges of education in 1972 and 1973, when there was a Conservative Government in power? May we have an investigation into the question of who is responsible for this blunder of producing excessive numbers of trained teachers, and may we know what action my right hon. Friend proposes to take to avoid a repetition of such an event?

Mr. Millan

It is true that the students who are training to become primary education teachers, and with whom we are now dealing, went into the colleges in 1973. Looking at this matter in retrospect, it is clear that the numbers entering colleges then were too great. That is also true of 1974 and 1975. As for the future, I have said that in the current year there will be a substantial reduction in the number of entrants, particularly for primary teacher training.

Mr. Reid

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that there is both a moral and a financial obligation here? Is he aware that there is a moral obligation, in the sense that the students entered the colleges with a firm understanding that work would be available for them? Should not the Government honour that pledge? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a financial obligation, in the sense that it has taken over £6,000 to train each student and that it will cost a lot more public money if they have to be retrained or go on the dole?

Mr. Millan

There was not, and there cannot be, any guarantee for anyone entering teacher training that he or she will automatically be employed as a teacher at the end of that training. I have made that clear, and I make it absolutely clear again. Unfortunately, unemployment among any section of the community represents a considerable waste of education and training. Deplorable though it may be, the situation of the student teachers is no different, in principle, from that of many other sections of the community at present. We must, first, get general unemployment down and, secondly, achieve an economic situation in which we can afford the expansion in social services to which we have been accustomed in previous years.

Mr. Buchanan

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many of us do not agree that a blunder was made, and that we believe that more teachers are required in our schools? Is he aware that the job is there to be done and it is our duty to these people, to whom we made a commitment and who are now coming out of colleges, to find them a place in the schools? The money is there. It can be found. If children are suffering will my right hon. Friend do as much as possible to get the money, so that these teachers are placed where they should be—in the classrooms?

Mr. Millan

It is no use my hon. Friend saying that the money is there; the money is not there. I have made that clear. I should also say that pupil-teacher ratios in our schools next session will be the best ever, and we shall be in a position to eliminate part-time education, which has been a disastrous and distressing feature of the school situation, particularly in the west of Scotland, for as far back as I can remember.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Why does not the right hon. Gentleman come clean on this matter and admit that the real crisis in education has arisen because the Government's economic policies are in ruins? Why is he so stubborn that he will not admit that there should be a reassessment of priorities on expenditure in the way that we have repeatedly advocated, so that money is spent on essential things, as his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan) has argued? Why was he not able to give the House an answer to the central question, which is, how many of these people will be unemployed? If the right hon. Gentleman cannot tell us now, how soon will he be in possession of the facts?

Mr. Millan

I shall give figures relating to the second point of the hon. Gentleman's question as soon as I can. I shall make a forecast on the first point raised by the hon. Gentleman: it is that the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon will call for massive and immediate cuts in public expenditure.

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