HC Deb 14 February 1978 vol 944 cc230-2
14. Mr. Flannery

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many qualified teachers who left college in the past three years (a) are not employed in teaching and (b) are unemployed.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

I regret that this information is not available. However, in December 1977 10,513 people were registered with the Department of Employment as unemployed and seeking school teaching posts. This represents just under 2 per cent. of the teacher force in England and Wales.

Mr. Flannery

Does my right hon. Friend agree that our aim, and apparently the aim of the Conservative Party, is to make education much better? Some months ago, in answer to one of my hon. Friends, it was pointed out that we would require an extra 55,000 teachers in order to cater for classes if they were brought down to 30, which is a reasonably manageable size? Will my right hon. Friend endeavour to do something in this direction, because the number of teachers who are unemployed are ready to teach? That would inevitably improve the whole quality of education and—dare I say it?—stop some of the nonsensical criticisms that are coming from the Conservative Party.

Mrs. Williams

Not only would I be pleased to do that, but I have already taken steps in that direction. In the rate support grant settlement for 1978–79 we have provided for the employment of 1,000 additional teachers in deprived areas, 3,500 additional teachers to allow in-service and induction training to expand, 6,800 additional teachers to offset the effects of the falling schools rolls and, in addition, special courses in shortage subjects amounting to 1,000 places. That is a total of more than 12,000 additional posts for teachers. I do not think it is a bad start, and I hope that my hon. Friend will say so.

Mr. Forman

I acknowledge the personal disappointment of those who have been trained to teach and who find themselves without a job. None the less, does the Secretary of State agree that the important thing is to raise the quality of education and perhaps eventually move towards a graduate teaching profession? Is that not much more important than the sort of vague aspirations of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery)?

Mrs. Williams

That is our policy. In 1979 the entry to teaching will be all-graduate, with the exception of some mature teachers and some from ethnic minorities whom we believe have special contributions to make, especially in the inner cities. I am pleased to indicate to the hon. Gentleman that this year, for the first time in all our schools, there will be the beginning of regular structured induction courses for all professional teachers.

Mr. Ron Thomas

Can my right hon. Friend give any indication of how Tory education committees on local authorities have responded to the additional teaching posts that she has mentioned, because the Tory County Council of Avon has made it quite clear that with regard to further education it has no intention of making any further appointments?

Mrs. Williams

I take my hon. Friend's point. I have to say that we do not yet know for certain because, as he will know, education budgets are at present being drawn up. I should like to underline the point he makes that we have now made provision for more than 11,000 new teaching posts and that these have been agreed with the local authorities. We shall now hope to see, in practice on the ground, those additional teachers actually employed in the classrooms.

Mr. Beith

Does the Secretary of State agree that some of those who have not found jobs in teaching over the past two years are among the best products of colleges and that the profession will be the loser if two whole years of good teachers have been missed from its intake? Is she satisfied that she has done enough raiding of the funds of the Department of Employment for special schemes which could have helped in this?

Mrs. Williams

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. There is no doubt that some excellent young people are coming out of colleges of education with a very high motivation for teaching. Taking up the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, we are looking at the possibility of the continuation of these special crash courses in shortage subjects. I shall bear in mind what he said.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Although the Opposition welcome the Government's programme for in-service training in the context of this very serious teacher unemployment, which surely is nearer 30,000 than 10,000 since many married women do not register for unemployment benefit, may I ask whether the right hon. Lady is considering taking powers to ensure that allocations for in-service training at the local level are spent on that purpose?

Mrs. Williams

Taking up the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question. I think he will find it difficult to sustain the figure of 30,000. We have no evidence that that is right, unless we count everyone trained as a teacher who may be working in, say youth service, further education and so on. But that is not our evidence.

Dealing with the second part of the hon Gentleman's question, I could not sympathise and agree more with the implication behind what he said. However, local authorities are suspicious of specific grants. Therefore, we are trying to get an agreement with them based upon good will on both sides that the money will be spent on in-service training, which is vital to improve standards of education.