HC Deb 19 July 1978 vol 954 cc510-1
2. Mr. Lambie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland, in view of the Educational Institute of Scotland conference decision to limit composite class sizes to 25 in primary schools, if he will provide the necessary finance to enable education authorities to employ more teachers in primary schools.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Millan)

The Government's expenditure plans include provision for the employment of teachers in excess of the standards which have been allowed for over the last few years, and this was reflected in the rate support grant settlement for 1978–79. It is, however, for education authorities to determine how the available resources should be used.

Mr. Lambie

Is my right hon. Friend aware that no one on the Labour Benches can justify a confrontation with the teachers at the end of August on this issue? Will he give an assurance that negotiations will continue between the EIS, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish Education Department during the summer months in order to resolve this issue, and that he will provide the small amount of necessary finance to resolve this problem and provide the extra teachers?

Mr. Millan

I think that my hon. Friend knows that these matters are in the first instance for discussion between the management side and the teachers' side of the Scottish teachers' service and conditions committee. No doubt these matters are being pursued there, or will be pursued there.

As my original answer made clear, we are already providing finance very substantially over the standards laid down.

Mrs. Bain

Will the Secretary of State admit that the complacency shown in his answer to his hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) is totally unacceptable to the teaching profession throughout Scotland? Is he aware that the rigid application of circular 819, which his Government have consistently refused to negotiate, has meant a levelling down of standards in many educational establishments in Scotland, and that young children have suffered as a result of it?

Mr. Millan

The fact is that circular 819 and the Red Book are not being rigidly applied, and the number of teachers in Scottish schools at the present time is substantially beyond the figures laid down in the circular. At the present time there are. I think, about 1,300 teachers more than would be required to meet the standards in our Scottish schools.

As for the dispute mentioned by the hon. Lady, the present teachers' contract was, of course, negotiated in the committee by the management and the teachers' side, and that is where any dispute about it ought to be resolved.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

Does the Minister appreciate the dangers of serious disruption in the education of primary schoolchildren which may arise as a result of this unilateral action by the EIS, a body which usually acts responsibly in these matters? Will he say what steps he will take immediately to try to put at rest the fears of parents whose children may well be affected within the next few weeks by this decision?

Mr. Millan

I can only repeat that these are matters for negotiation between the management and the teachers' side. That is what the management side—the local authorities—wants to happen. It wants negotiation to take place, and no doubt it will.