HC Deb 23 February 1977 vol 926 cc1383-6
2. Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many representations he has received to date in connection with his recent proposals for reductions in teacher training facilities and colleges of education.

9. Mr. Younger

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many representations he has received to date regarding the future of Craigie College of Education, Ayr; and if he will make a statement.

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

I have received over 700 letters and petitions about my proposals, of which over 400 include references to Craigie College.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

In view of the fact that the majority of Scots Members on the Scottish Grand Committee have expressed no confidence in the consultative document, will the Secretary of State say whether any impartial authority in Scotland has suggested that the highly efficient, popular, fully subscribed and purpose-built college of physical education at Cramond should be transferred to the hopelessly inadequate facilities at Dundee at a cost of somewhere in the region of £1 million?

Mr. Milan

I wonder whether there is any impartial authority in Scotland on anything. As I said in Committee upstairs, I shall take account of all the representations made to me.

Mr. Younger

Is the Secretary of State aware that, following his rejection by the Scottish Grand Committee last week, the people in these colleges expect him to adopt a completely new approach to his plan as expressed in the consultative document? Would he be prepared to look at the representations already made and to receive representations from local authorities which may wish to see him on the subject?

Mr. Milan

My hon. Friend has had a number of meetings and I, too, shall have a number in the next couple of weeks. Obviously, we shall listen to all the representations made to us. All I would say is what I have said already on a number of occasions—that there must be a substantial contraction in the teacher training service in Scotland.

Mr. Canavan

Does not the Secretary of State realise that there is widespread opposition to the proposals in the consultative document among the staffs, students, boards of governors, trade unions and church leaders because of a lack of any educational case or even a financial case in that document? In view of the lack of confidence in the Scottish Education Department, would it not be better to set up an independent body to investigate the whole structure of tertiary education in Scotland instead of closing down colleges or merging them?

Mr. Milan

I cannot accept that criticism. Obviously, at the colleges affected by the closures there will be strong feelings against the proposals. There is nothing extraordinary about that. As I have said, however, there must be a substantial reduction in the teacher training system in Scotland—that is very much in the interests of the students—otherwise we will be simply taking on people to become qualified teachers when there are no jobs available for them at the end of the day.

Mrs. Bain

Does the Secretary of State accept that, while the people of Scotland are coming to expect more and more betrayals from this House, they will feel—and it is high time the Government recognised this—that the biggest betrayal of all is of educational services in Scotland? When can we expect the Secretary of State to give replies to the detailed points raised in Committee so that we can relay them back to the people concerned?

Mr. Millan

I reject the first criticism absolutely. We now have in Scotland the best pupil-teacher ratios that we have ever had. We have also eliminated part-time education for the first time for many years. Those factors should be taken into account.

Mr. Lambie

What representations has my right hon. Friend received on the consultative document from the General Teaching Council?

Mr. Millan

I am meeting representatives of the General Teaching Council on Monday 7th March, when no doubt they will let me know their views in detail. I gather that they have had a meeting and taken certain decisions, but I am not aware so far that I have actually read the representations which they have made to me.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

Does not the right hon. Gentleman understand that his totally inadequate consultative document fails to grasp the educational opportunities which the temporary fall in pupil numbers presents? When will he produce a proper consultative document with the financial facts and with details of opportunities for new educational advancement and a scheme to spread the fall in numbers over 10 colleges, particularly three big ones—Jordanhill, Moray House and Dundee?

Mr. Millan

First, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his debut on the Front Bench at Scottish Question Time. That was a very well-prepared question. I wish that it was worth answering.