HC Deb 20 July 1982 vol 28 cc195-7
4. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what estimate he has made of the numbers of teachers likely to be employed by local education authorities in September 1982; and how many teachers are at present unemployed.

7. Mr. Dubs

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what information he has as to the extent to which local education authorities intend to reduce numbers of teachers.

17. Mr. Cryer

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what assessment he has made of the number of teachers likely to be employed by local education authorities in September 1982; and how many teachers are at present unemployed.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Sir Keith Joseph)

If the local authority employers continue to reduce school teacher numbers at a rate similar to that of the last two years, the number of teachers employed in England for the next academic year will be around 410,000. Last month, 15,000 people were registered with the Department of Employment in England as unemployed and seeking work as teachers in schools.

Mr. Skinner

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on a day when the unemployment figures have shot up to an all-time high, it is sheer economic lunacy continually to throw people out of work? Does he not recognise that teachers ought to be used to ensure that some of our 16 to 19-year-olds are given a school maintenance grant of, say, £20 a week so that they can stay on at school and provide more jobs, and that teachers should be used to increase the number of nursery schools? Surely that is the way forward, rather than throwing teachers on the scrap-heap. The Government seem to be obsessed with the idea that—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have had the question.

Sir Keith Joseph

Of course it is right that a proper number of school teachers should be employed, but the hon. Gentleman should recognise that there is a choice at the moment between unemployment in the public sector and unemployment in the trading sector, which pays for the public sector. The more we employ in the public sector, the fewer jobs there will be in the trading sector, which supports it.

Mr. Dubs

Will the Secretary of State confirm that he has no power to compel the Inner London Education Authority to reduce the number of teachers that it employs?

Sir Keith Joseph

I confirm that I have no powers to force any local education authority to dismiss teachers or to reduce the number of teachers. Such decisions rest with the authorities.

Mr. Cryer

Is it not true that the cost of training a teacher is many thousands of pounds and that wasting that public investment and throwing people on the scrap-heap is anti-social misery, which the Government are forcing on the education system? Is it not true also that one of our most precious national assets is our people and that we should increase training and education opportunities by providing a better pupil-teacher ratio and more opportunities for teachers to work instead of putting them on the dole, which is what the Government are doing?

Sir Keith Joseph

Most of the teachers who have left the profession have done so voluntarily, for one reason or another. What the hon. Gentleman says is true to some extent, but it must be applied with economic understanding, as I tried to say to his hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner).

Mr. Haselhurst

In so far as my right hon. Friend influences the optimum number of teachers in posts from time to time, will he bear in mind in particular the plight of country schools, because an insufficient number of teachers may lead to the closure of many small village schools?

Sir Keith Joseph

My hon. Friends and I take very great care when considering proposals to close a country school or, indeed, any school.

Mrs. Faith

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if education authorities concentrated spending on matters directly related to education, such as teachers and textbooks, instead of on matters not directly related to education, such as school meals, they would be able to employ more teachers and achieve an even better pupil-teacher ratio?

Sir Keith Joseph

I agree with my hon. Friend that some education authorities have made economies in school meals, which other education authorities refuse to copy.

Mr. Kinnock

If, as the right hon. Gentleman tells us, there is a smooth machinery for transferring assets and resources between the public and private sectors, why have the £1,400 million of cuts that the Government have made in education while they have been in office not found their way into growth in the private sector?

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how having 59,000 fewer teachers by 1985, a worse pupil-teacher ratio and a loss of expenditure on books and essential materials will assist in securing employment for the 63 per cent. of this week's school leavers who will be unemployed, or for those of future generations who, on unchanged policies, will face the same fate?

Sir Keith Joseph

If the Government had not made some economies somewhere, the economy and unemployment would be worse. We have cut the amount devoted to education in real terms by less than the fall in the number of pupils.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. This matter comes up again later.