HC Deb 15 March 1977 vol 928 cc202-4
10. Mr. Hal Miller

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps she intends to take to see that there is adequate in-service training for teachers.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

The Government's expenditure plans include provision for the gradual expansion of in-service training from 1977–78. The proposals for the future of the teacher training system that I announced on 24th January envisage that about 10,000 of the 45,000 places proposed for 1981 will be devoted to in-service education and training.

Mr. Miller

I thank the right hon. Lady for that reply. In view of the cuts imposed on local education authorities, does she agree that there is a need to give greater attention to weekend and evening forms of in-service training rather than sending teachers away for whole terms, or years? In particular, will she bear in mind the value of the work done by the North Worcestershire College in that respect?

Mrs. Williams

We are looking closely at school-based training and in-service training based at teacher centres, for example. It is by no means the case that all in-service teacher training takes place in the colleges, although some of it does. It will be a matter for the local education authority to decide whether to continue in-service training at the North Worcestershire College, but we would welcome that course being taken.

Mr. William Shelton

How many deputations has the right hon. Lady received from hon. Members of this place or Members of another place regarding closures of teacher training colleges? Has she received a letter from me about the proposed closure of the Philippa Fawcett College, in my constituency?

Mrs. Williams

My hon. Friend the Minister of State has seen a good many delegations. I could not give the precise number without notice, but it must be more than 20. My hon. Friend has so far accepted a deputation from a local authority that wants to see him, whether or not accompanied by its Member of Parliament.

Mr. Flannery

Will my right hon. Friend assure us that the cuts in education, sad as they are, are much smaller than those that the Conservative Party would engage in if in power? Does my right hon. Friend agree, however, that they will have an adverse effect on the many teacher centres used for in-service training throughout the country? Will she keep an eye on these matters and ensure that Draconian cuts are not made that mean the abolition of in-service training in these schools?

Mrs. Williams

My hon. Friend will know that in the rate support grant settlement for next year we went to great trouble to set aside £7 million to make a start on in-service training. I have to say that, sadly, not all local education authorities are following our advice, although most teacher centres are being continued. That is why I have suggested that this might be an appropriate area for some degree of specific grant to ensure that in-service training, upon which I and the teacher organisations place the greatest possible priority, shall be guaranteed over the next few years.

Mr. Crouch

As part of her special initiative to improve education, does the right hon. Lady not consider that she should take an initiative with the universities and seek their advice on in-service training? Is she aware that many universities want to give advice on in-service training, especially in mathematics, as it is their great concern that the teaching of that subject in primary and secondary schools is below the standard now required? Does the right hon. Lady agree that this matter should not be left to the local authorities, and that she should take the initiative and talk to the universities?

Mrs. Williams

I have already discussed in-service training with the Advisory Committee on the Supply and Training of Teachers, which contains representatives from the universities. I am bound to say that one important element in in-service training is the basic professional understanding of how to deal with a class, how to teach reading, and how to get across basic skills in mathematics. In some ways the university input is not in that sphere.