HC Deb 18 July 1978 vol 954 cc259-60
15. Mr. Ovenden

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is her latest estimate of the number of teachers who will be unemployed after the commencement of the autumn 1978 school term.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

In June 7,024 men and women registered as unemployed were seeking work as school teachers in England and Wales, a fall of 1,828 since March. As the determining factors are so uncertain, it is not possible to forecast teacher unemployment in 1978–79.

Mr. Ovenden

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the level of teacher unemployment could be substantially reduced if authorities with higher than average pupil-teacher ratios devoted their resources to employing teachers and improving their educational services rather than frittering their money away on irrelevancies such as voucher schemes? Is she aware, for instance, that Kent county council intends to spend about £600,000 on an experimental voucher system while at the same time imposing on the Hoo middle comprehensive school in my constituency a pupil-teacher ratio worse than the national average for primary schools?

Mrs. Williams

I am glad to say that the overall pupil-teacher ratios in England in both primary and secondary schools last year were the best ever attained, but there are still some authorities, like my hon. Friend's authority, which have not reached the average and which could certainly employ more teachers. We have provided in the rate support grant this year for 11,300 additional teaching posts. I hope that authorities which have not yet taken up their share will reconsider and do so as quickly as possible.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

When shall we see the next set of regulations to enable teachers to retire early with their bene- fits? Would not that be a way of providing occupation for newly qualified teachers?

Mrs. Williams

The hon. Gentleman will know that we have promulgated the first set of regulations with regard to the retirement of teachers. The more difficult second group, which involves superannuation enhancement, will, we hope, be laid before the recess.