HC Deb 12 February 1979 vol 962 cc856-63

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mrs. Ann Taylor.]

6.27 p.m.

Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)

I am sorry that the Minister concerned is not on the Treasury Bench, although I have only just arrived here myself.

I am glad to have the chance of airing this matter, because it has been going on for some time. Indeed, the art teachers in Scotland are considerably angry that nothing has been done about it. The background is that in August 1977 the Scottish Teachers Salaries Committee, the STSC, decided to recognise all first-class and second-class honours degrees from England, Wales and Northern Ireland approved by the Council for National Academic Awards as being equivalent to an honours degree of a Scottish university for salary purposes.

This decision has since been described by The Times Educational Supplement in Scotland as one of "stupendous folly and shortsightedness". Such a description could not be more apt when one considers the effect it has had on the Scottish art education scene, for what the STSC did with its decision was to recognise 83 per cent. of the total student output of English art schools as being eligible for honours salaries in Scotland. The 83 per cent. figure comes from the annual report of the CNAA.

At a stroke, the STSC has declared Scottish art teachers to be second-class teachers of their subject and so devalued Scottish art education that it is no longer in the interests of young Scots to study this subject in their own country. For that reason, quite a number of art teachers have been advising their students to go south of the border, to secure their qualifications there and then to come back to Scotland to enjoy the higher degree status.

The irony of the position is that the English qualification, the CNAA honours degree, is inferior to the Scottish Diploma of Art, as it has much lower entry qualifications—five O-levels as opposed to the Scottish three higher and two O-grades. Or, given equivalent entrance qualifications, it can entail a year's shorter study —three years as opposed to the Scottish diploma's four years. Both require an additional one year's teacher training.

The minimum qualifications for the English course are five O-levels, and for the Scottish course three higher and two O-grades, or two A-levels and three O-levels. The English course consists of a one-year foundation course and a three-year degree course. The Scottish course consists of a four-year diploma course. Teacher training lasts for one year in each case. The final qualification for the English course is an honours degree, and 99.5 per cent. of those graduating from English art schools do so with an honours degree. That is shown in the CNAA annual report. The end result of the Scottish course is the diploma.

The Minister said the other day that the responsibility lay with the STSC, and there is some substance in that. But its decision affects Scottish art teachers and makes them second-class teachers of the subject—that is, second class to those with five O-levels who complete a course which is shorter by one year. This greatly impairs the diplomate's promotion prospects. What education authority would even consider an apparently lowly diplomate when it could secure an honours graduate?

A young Scot at this moment can study in Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, or in any English art school. But a student who studied at Glasgow after June 1975 for an honours degree would have had only a 25 per cent. chance of success. The reason is that the Scottish Education Department has demanded that there should be a Scottish dimension to CNAA degrees awarded in Scotland. The figures for Scottish universities for other subjects are 25 per cent. honours and 75 per cent. ordinary degrees. The conclusion from that is that the STSC has, with this decision, devalued Scottish art education.

The Minister must accept some responsibility for the fact that the Scottish Education Department and the EIS have compromised. My impression is that the institute does not want to hear anything about the matter. The STSC has been involved from the beginning, and, as the Minister said, it has some responsibility in the matter.

A petition has been presented to the Minister, signed by 1,543 Scottish art teachers. There are 1,969 art teachers in Scotland, according to the Scottish Education Department's most up-to-date figures, and that means that 78 per cent. of art teachers in Scotland are highly dissatisfied with the present situation. It is grossly unjust that English students and Scottish students who study south of the border should have this advantage. I can quote a case from my own constituency of a young girl who was advised to go south of the border and who is now going on to one of the highest art schools in the country. She would not have got anywhere had she remained in Scotland.

Scottish art teachers are pressing only for elementary justice. The EIS may well continue to stall on the matter. Perhaps because of its involvement the STSC will continue to wash its hands of the matter. I maintain that the Minister is responsible for seeing that this injustice, which is creating great ill feeling among art teachers in Scotland, is remedied as quickly as possible.

6.34 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Frank McElhone)

I am surprised not only at the early hour of the Adjournment debate but, given the number of hon. Members who wrote to me about the subject, at the fact that there has been only one contribution. I apologise to the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) for having been half a minute late for the start of the debate, although I heard the substance of what he had to say on a subject that he has raised with me before, particularly during Question Time last week.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising the subject and giving me the opportunity to put on record the facts of this issue. There has been a good deal of misunderstanding about what has happened and where responsibility lies. I am glad, therefore, to be able to give a more detailed reply than was possible during questions on 7 February.

I deal first with salaries. The assessment of teaching qualifications for salary purposes is a matter for the Scottish Teachers Salaries Committee. The committee, which is established under the Remuneration of Teachers (Scotland) Act 1967, is composed of a management side representing education authorities and the Secretary of State and a staff side composed of nominees of bodies representing teachers. The committee can put forward to the Secretary of State only recommendations agreed by both sides. It is important to bear that in mind in considering the composition of the STSC. On receipt of recommendations, the Secretary of State has to prepare a memorandum setting out the provisions which have been recommended. After further consultation with the committee, he is then required to publish this memorandum as a Scottish teachers salaries memorandum with an order directing that the relevant remuneration of teachers shall be determined in accordance with it.

The staff side suggested in July 1977 that guidelines should be issued to education authorities describing in general terms the honours degrees taken outside Scottish universities which should be recognised for salary purposes. The management side agreed, and on 22 September 1977 a circular was issued which recorded the committee's agreement that the definition of an honours graduate would be extended to include those teachers who held a degree with first or second-class honours of a university in England, Wales or Northern Ireland or approved by the Council for National Academic Awards. A definition expressed in this way applied to honours degrees in art in the same manner as to other honours degrees. Since the two sides of the committee had agreed, the Secretary of State had no discretion to reject or modify their recommendation, and the Scottish teachers salaries memorandum 1978 issued in December contains the relevant provision in part B of appendix V.

Two questions arise at this stage. First, what was the effect of the decision on holders of such degrees? Its effect was that the holder of a first or second-class honours degree approved by the Council for National Academic Awards would be placed on point 4 of scale 1—the secondary school scale—and like honours graduates of Scottish universities could progress to point 13, the final point on the scale.

Secondly, what was the effect of the decision on Scottish students and Scottish teachers of art? The short answer is that it had no immediate effect, because to date there is no holder of a first or second-class honours degree in art awarded by the Council for National Academic Awards who has obtained that degree at a Scottish college. That position wil change very soon, as I shall explain when I come on to the question of provision of courses.

The holders of qualifications from the Scottish art colleges at present have either a diploma or an associateship. The diploma has for many years been regarded as broadly equivalent in status to an ordinary degree. The holder of a diploma on appointment to scale 1—the secondary school scale—is placed at scale point 3 and can progress as far as point 12. The holder of the associateship which was introduced in 1972 and is awarded only by the Glasgow school of art is treated in the same way as an honours graduate and on appointment is placed on scale point 4 and can progress to point 13 at the top of the scale.

It is important to establish that there are some Scottish art teachers who, because they took the associateship qualification, are already paid as honours graduates. This point was recently made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), and I told him that an opportunity was provided in 1972 for the three art colleges to involve themselves in associateship to give an honours degree. However, only the Glasgow college thought fit to take up that course. That is why some associates with honours degrees are covered in terms of salary at present.

I turn to the subject of training. The provision of courses is a matter for the Scottish central art institutions, subject to the approval of the Secretary of State. All four colleges have traditionally awarded a diploma. The associateship was introduced only by Glasgow school of art in 1972, although the colleges in Dundee and Aberdeen had approval, if they so wished, to introduce a course leading to that award.

The present position is that Glasgow already offers a course leading to a degree and an honours degree of CNAA in art and design; Dundee already provides courses which lead to a degree and an honours degree of CNAA in design and a college diploma in art; Aberdeen offers courses leading to a college diploma in art or design, but has submitted proposals to CNAA for validation of courses in both areas at degree and honours degree level; and Edinburgh offers courses leading to a diploma in art or design, but is negotiating with Heriot-Watt university for validation of these courses at degree and honours degree level. Thus, the pattern of course provision will eventually be the same, though the arrangements for validation will vary.

All the colleges will in due course provide courses at degree and honours degree level, and no further diplomas will be awarded. It is not possible at this stage to say what proportion of students will receive honours degrees and what proportion ordinary or undifferentiated degrees. The proportion would be likely to vary from time to time depending on the abilities of particular groups of students, hut in general the proportion would be like that awarded in similar areas in the university sector.

In England and Wales, courses leading to the diploma in art design were at one time validated by the National Council for Diplomas in Art and Design. Traditionally, a high proportion of those taking the diploma did so with honours. When the CNAA took over the functions of the National Council in 1966, it accepted as equivalent to an honours degree those diplomas which had been taken with honours. Such decisions were quite properly for the Council for National Academic Awards to take. It is a matter for it, and I make no comment on the relative merits of the courses in Scotland compared with those in England and Wales.

At this stage I should like to deal with the petition from Scottish art teachers which has been received by many Members of the House. The petitioners say that they would like to upgrade their diplomas of art and convert them to English CNAA honours degrees. They then go on to compare the entrance qualifications to both types of courses and the length of the courses. There are a number of factual corrections which can be made to the petition. First, there are no English CNAA degrees; there are only CNAA degrees. Secondly, an entrant to the English course with five O-levels would be expected to undertake a year's foundation course before undertaking the three-year degree course, and, as I understand it, not all foundation year students are admitted to the degree course. Thirdly, such an entrant would then, of course, require four years in all before taking his degree.

On the main issue, that of the conversion course, I hope, however, that the petitioners will obtain some satisfaction. The colleges of art in Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen are at present considering the question of bridging courses to enable Scottish diploma holders to convert them into honours degrees. Any course proposals would first need the approval of the Secretary of State; thereafter the form and content would be subject to the approval of the Council for National Academic Awards. In addition, the Council for National Academic Awards has consulted the colleges about retrospective recognition as degrees of the diplomas and associateships as degrees and honours degrees. I am pleased to inform the House that a final decision may he reached towards the end of this month. I have no doubt that when further progress has been made in the discussions on bridging courses and on the question of retrospective recognition of diplomas and associateships, the Scottish Teachers Salaries Committee will wish to look at the matter of assessment of qualifications for salaries again. But such assessment will remain a matter for the Committee, not for the Government.

I have dealt with this problem in the many replies I have given on this matter on other occasions. It has been suggested that only an English person can obtain the salary that goes with an honours degree and that in this context he or she can do so relatively easily. However, I have already told the House that opportunities were presented as long ago as 1972 within the three art colleges and that only Glasgow undertook to accept such a course.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

Is the Minister saying that when the present negotiations are completed and approved by the Secretary of State, the main point of the petition will be met and the grievances removed?

Mr. McElhone

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is attempting to meet this point by encouraging agreement with the CNAA and the colleges to undertake bridging courses. The teachers already in posts in schools will be able to obtain such courses. The question of young people coming through the colleges is a different matter. I am referring to teachers who are now working in Scottish schools, and they will have the opportunity to take bridging courses leading to honours degrees.

In the meantime, the subject of salaries is essentially a matter for the Scottish Teachers Salaries Committee, which is an independent body.

Let me recall the history of the matter. It was the staff side which advocated this proposal—a proposal which largely emanated from the EIS representatives—and the management side then agreed. When such a matter goes before the Secretary of State he has no jurisdiction to change what has been agreed, and he must accept the decision.

I hope that the Scottish Teachers Salaries Committee will re-examine the matter of qualification for salary, because it is essentially a matter for that committee. This is a complex issue, but I have already told the right hon. Member for Western Isles that a decision will be reached before the end of the month.

The right hon. Gentleman has done a service to the House in raising this matter, and I hope that following my full and detailed reply the position will now be clear to art teachers. I hope that that reply will be satisfactory to the teachers and that the right hon. Gentleman will receive his just reward.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Mr. Speaker has asked me to tell the House that the remaining Adjournment debates will be called in the order in which notification of them was received in Mr. Speaker's office.