HC Deb 04 July 1979 vol 969 cc1356-7
8. Mr. Maxton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he intends to announce his plans for the introduction of a four-year primary education degree for all students undertaking training as primary school teachers in Scottish colleges of education.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

My right hon. Friend is considering proposals by the General Teaching Council for Scotland for replacing the primary diploma with a four-year degree and will make a statement in due course.

Mr. Maxton

I am glad to hear that the Scottish Office is at least considering the issue, but is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the GTC put forward these proposals several years ago, colleges have already drawn up their proposals and all the teacher unions in Scotland are urging this measure on the Government? Further, is the hon. Gentleman aware that in England and Wales such proposals are well advanced, and if these proposals are not introduced in the near future the Scottish teacher training system, which has been in advance of that in England and Wales throughout this century, will fall behind? Finally, will the hon. Gentleman take it that there will be some disappointment in Scottish education circles about the delay which seems to be indicated by his answer?

Mr. Fletcher

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the degree course in England and Wales is for three years, as compared with the recommendation for four years in Scotland, and that adoption of the Scottish proposal would mean a considerable increase in public expenditure. My right hon. Friend will make a statement as soon as posible, but I cannot at this point say just when that will be.

Mr. John Mackay

Will my hon. Friend remember that the present three-year course at the colleges of education provides excellent teachers for the primary schools of Scotland, and will he guard against adding on an extra year which may increase the theory content of these courses to the detriment of the practical ability of the teachers coming from the colleges?

Mr. Fletcher

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that valid point. We must continue to look at this matter not only on financial grounds but on educational grounds and make sure that it is necessary in the first place for this step to be made.

Mr. Dempsey

Before making up his mind, will the Minister consider also the strong representations and convincing arguments on this very subject adduced by the Presbytery, which I have communicated to his Department, and will he bear in mind that, irrespective of the number of years which may be involved, if a degree course can be introduced in England and Wales it ought surely to be introduced in Scotland?

Mr. Fletcher

I shall take those representations into account, and I note again the points that the hon. Gentleman makes.

Forward to