HC Deb 18 January 1977 vol 924 cc59-61
6. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what further cuts in the teacher training programme are envisaged; and if she will list colleges concerned in the Official Report.

12. Mr. John Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when she expects to announce the list of colleges of education which are to be closed.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Gordon Oakes)

My right hon. Friend hopes to announce next week her decision about the size of the teacher training system which should be retained and her proposals for further mergers, closures and other steps to provide the most effective system.

Mr. Roberts

Does my hon. Friend accept the concern felt about this matter not only by teachers but by parents generally? Can he at least give some sort of undertaking to the House that, irrespective of the birth-rate, when these cuts have been completed there will be some stability in teacher training? Will he also bear in mind the special difficulties of girls who have been oriented to teaching in the past and consider providing new opportunities for them in view of these cuts?

Mr. Oakes

As for the timing, I am aware of the rumours and the concern within the colleges and the education world generally. That is why we have kept to the timetable. The announcement will be made next week.

As for what my hon. Friend says about the position of girls, who represent a considerable intake to teacher training at the moment, we are aware of this and we are looking at other ways in which this valuable source of ability can be better used, possibly for the country's industrial regeneration, than it has been in the past. The horizons of girls in the past have not been wide enough to see what industry can offer.

Mr. Evans

Does my hon. Friend accept that publication in the past of lists of colleges threatened with closure has had a damaging effect on the morale of all concerned in the colleges, including manual workers, who have tended to be overlooked in this argument? Will my hon. Friend ensure that the discussions are concluded as soon as possible so that all those connected with the colleges may know what their future is? Will he also do his utmost to ensure that some of these very valuable organisations and buildings are retained in the education system?

Mr. Oakes

I can assure my hon. Friend that I have taken note of all his points. He refers to the concern felt by all those connected with colleges. I repeat what I have said before from this Dispatch Box. I deplore wild statements such as those which appeared in one national newspaper in which lists of proposed closures were given before the matter had been considered by my Department.

As for the use of premises, I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate that, basically, in the case of maintained buildings, this is a matter for the local education authority concerned. But primarily we shall look to future education use where this is possible.

Mr. Hal Miller

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the statement will cover the position of teacher training associated with colleges of further education, as in the North Worcestershire College of Higher Education, and will he tell us what will happen to those college of further education places, which apparently would be jeopardised if there were to be teacher training cuts?

Mr. Oakes

The statement will cover colleges of further education where there are teacher training courses.

Mr. Wigley

In view of the amount of evidence submitted to the Department and the statements made already by the Department, may we have an assurance that there will be no further cuts in relation to Bangor Normal College? Can the hon. Gentleman also give an assurance about the possible redundancy position of lecturers in those colleges if these cuts take place?

Mr. Oakes

I ask the hon. Gentleman to be patient for a week.