HC Deb 14 February 1978 vol 944 cc221-3
4. Mr. Spriggs

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations have been made to her by the General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers about the employment of unqualified teachers in special schools; what assurances she gave in reply; and if she will make a statement.

Miss Margaret Jackson

My right hon. Friend has received representations from the General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers about the continued employment of two unqualified teachers in special schools under Regulation 16A(2) of the Handicapped Pupils and Special Schools Regulations 1959. She has informed him that the local education authority concerned has now advertised for qualified teachers suitable to replace them and that she will be keeping a close watch on the matter. I am not aware of a comparable situation in any other locality.

Mr. Spriggs

Is my hon. Friend aware that the London borough of Bexley claims that it is empowered to employ unqualified teachers to teach in its special school under the 1959 regulations concerning special schools? Is she further aware that to dismiss them would encourage those who are dismissed to appeal to an industrial tribunal on the ground of wrongful dismissal? Will she make a statement about it?

Miss Jackson

I am aware that the London borough of Bexley has held this view in the past, but it has now discarded it and has reached the view that it is not so empowered to employ these teachers. It is taking steps to advertise the posts so that qualified people may take them up. This is a difficult situation. As I understand it, the problem has been that these teachers had open-ended contracts as opposed to the recommendation of my Department for fixed-term contracts. It is a complicated matter, but it is now about to be resolved.

Mr. Marten

Does the hon. Lady recognise that some unqualified teachers are perfectly adequate to teach? Will she look back to the debates in 1966, at which time the National Union of Teachers tried to get rid of all unqualified teachers in primary schools? At that time her predecessor, now Lord Glenamara, very wisely allowed them to stay on. Many of them are very good.

Miss Jackson

I accept that many such teachers have been very helpful to schools in the past. Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that although, at the time he mentioned, it was accepted that many such teachers were employed in schools and doing a good job, it was agreed that the arrangements for allowing them to stay should be comparatively short term, that they should, when possible, be replaced by qualified teachers, and that the teachers who found themselves in those circumstances should be encouraged to seek qualifications. That, I understand, has been the position in this case.