HC Deb 04 May 1976 vol 910 cc1052-5
14. Mr. Newton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many newly qualified teachers who left college in 1975 failed to obtain employment as teachers; and what estimate he has made of the shortfall of teaching opportunities for those qualifying in 1976 and 1977.

Mr. Mulley

Of some 41,000 teachers who qualified in 1975, 30,000—about three-quarters—had by January 1976 obtained full-time posts in maintained schools in England and Wales. This leaves a balance of about 11,000, compared with between 7.000 and 8,000 in recent years. These balances include those who obtain part-time posts in the maintained sector, and posts as teachers in independent schools or outside England and Wales. Uncertainty about trends in wastage from, and re-entry to, the profession makes it impossible to give reliable estimates for 1976 and 1977.

Mr. Newton

Will the Secretary of State confirm that that means that about a quarter of those mentioned in the Question have not yet obtained employment? Does he agree that that amply confirms the widespread concern among many young people about this situation? What does the right hon. Gentleman propose to do about it, not least to avoid the waste that will arise if we throw away this generation of young teachers and then find that the birth rate increases?

Mr. Mulley

I made clear that there were about 11,000 who have not obtained jobs in teaching. At the height of the teacher shortage about 8,000 teachers did not take up jobs in teaching, but they may well have taken up jobs in other sectors. I can assure the House that if we had accepted the Opposition's advice about slashing public expenditure generally, the position would be drastically worse than at present. I am opposed to unemployment, whether it involves teachers or anyone else, but we cannot insulate the teaching profession from the economic problems with which the whole economy is faced.

Mr. Flannery

Allowing for the hypocrisy of Opposition Members, does my right hon. Friend accept that at the recent conference of the National Union of Teachers educational lecturers revealed that there was a sharp drop in morale in colleges of education because of unemployment among teachers? Does he further accept that, although across-the-board cuts in education expenditure are in his mind, after teachers have been expensively trained they have a right to a job, and that the appointment of more teachers would reduce the size of classes? My son has been unemployed since his teacher training finished last year.

Mr. Mulley

I accept that everyone has a right to a job. I regard it as equally unfortunate if an architect, a chemist, an engineer, or anyone else, after expensive training is not immediately able to obtain the employment he wants. The number of unemployed teachers is less than 1 per cent. Although the figure may well go beyond that next September, in view of the general pressures on public expenditure I do not see how a special exemption can be made for teachers.

15. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science in view of the difficulties in finding jobs likely to be experienced by student teachers completing their education courses in summer 1976, if he will take steps both to maximise the job opportunities for such people and to ensure that all vacancies are matched with applicants.

Mr. Mulley

The Government's public expenditure plans for 1976–77 are intended to preserve staffing ratios at the levels current in the schools during 1975–76. Within that constraint I have urged local authorities to give priority in their recruitment plans to newly qualified teachers.

Mr. Bennett

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a major problem is that, although we have unemployed teachers, there are vacancies for certain specialist teachers? Will he consider taking on to the Government's pay roll some unemployed teachers for retraining in specialist subjects?

Mr. Mulley

We are anxious to have schemes that cater for shortages in particular categories. One problem that arises from the unemployment of newly-qualified teachers is that, because circumstances are better, many ex-teachers are seeking to come back into education, and when there are vacancies local authorities and schools often prefer to employ them rather than newly-qualified teachers. That adds to the problem.

Mr. Steen

As the Minister is against unemployment, does he support the enlightened view that young people who cannot find paid work after leaving school should be given the opportunity to create their own work, provided that it is for the benefit of the community and of social value, and earn their unemployment benefit?

Mr. Mulley

As a general proposition, what the hon. Gentleman say justifies examination, but I am too old a bird to be willing to accept general propositions as worked-out schemes. If the hon. Gentleman cares to write to me, I shall see that his proposals are studied.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Does my right hon. Friend accept that he cannot impose zero growth rate on the number of children? In areas like mine there are problems in education, and if the staffing rates are frozen when the number of children increases, great difficulties are caused for a great many people.

Mr. Mulley

I hope that no one thinks that Ministers propose reductions in public expenditure for the fun of it. We do so only because of the dire need, in the present economic climate, for reductions. The proposed reductions are difficult for the whole community.