HL Deb 16 February 1949 vol 160 cc925-35

6.44 p.m.

LORD STRABOLGI rose to call attention to the pay and conditions of teachers in the technical colleges; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am sorry to bring this last subject on at so late an hour, but I have no alternative. Our Order Paper is becoming extremely congested, and the last two subjects raised so much interest that it took a long time to dispose of them. I must take this opportunity of raising the matter because it is extremely urgent, and I would not disappoint my noble friend Lord Walkden, who I know has a reply which he believes is adequate, and which I hope is so. I rarely speak on educational matters. The reason why my attention was drawn to this one is that my wife is a governor of one of the larger technical colleges and she has told me about this difficulty and led me to investigate it. Here we have a good instance of the better kind of petticoat Government!

I maintain that this is a matter of great importance to the nation, from both the long-term and the short-term point of view. In this matter I am supported by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee and by everyone, so far as I know, who is familiar with this question. I am sure that my right honourable friend the Minister of Education must be satisfied, by now, from the figures which must have reached him, that the situation is so serious that technical education is suffering, and that the time has come when he should be able to take action. There has been a great charge in technical colleges in the last fourteen years. When my noble friend knew them, they were very different from what they are now. They turned out a good foreman of a factory, but now the scientific training is of a much higher order, and the colleges are turning out highly skilled technicians with academic degrees—Doctors of Philosophy, Masters of Science, Bachelors of Science, and so on. There is an emphasis in some colleges on engineering; in others it is on art and medicines—but all have a great variety of students. All the occupations for which this training is given are a vital part of our national life.

Before I come to the few statistics with which I must trouble your Lordships, I want to pay tribute to the existing teachers and headmasters at technical colleges. They are not only teachers, but also the friends, advisers and guides of the students. They look after them and help them in every way, in amateur dramatic societies and all kinds of wider cultural specialities, and they encourage them in sport. I know that my noble friend will support me from his own knowledge when I say that students in our technical colleges are no longer the rowdy irresponsible type which he and I knew in our young days. They are now serious young men and women, trying to specialise in some active occupation and taking their studies very seriously indeed. The days of wild "rags" and riotous behaviour, that my noble friend and I used to know and even possibly indulged in, are dying away.

What is the situation? The pay and conditions in the technical colleges, and particularly the pay, is such that it is almost impossible to get a sufficiency of qualified and suitable teachers. These figures are given to me by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee. During the session 1946–47, out of 452 vacancies in the technical colleges, 191 were not filled; and out of the 261 appointments which were made, 90 were not of a satisfactory standard—they were stop-gaps. These were appointed in order that classes could be held. For the 452 vacancies there were 617 advertisements issued, some of the vacancies being advertised as many as three and four times. It is impossible in the face of the higher emoluments paid by industry to the best-trained scientists to obtain suitable technical teachers in sufficient numbers for the technical colleges. That is a most serious state of affairs, and I need not press it upon my noble friend, who I am sure agrees with me.

In the Barlow Committee's Report on scientific man-power it was estimated that doubling the present number of scientists and technologists is a matter of the utmost urgency if this country is to regain its industrial position. So not only have we a shortage in the existing staffs, but in the Barlow Committee's Report—I have this all documented, and my noble friend will not dispute it—it is estimated that we need to double the present number. If we turn to the Percy Committee's Report, we find that it recommended that, in order that this man-power should be made available in industry, the selection of a strictly limited number of technical colleges in which there should be developed technological courses on a standard comparable with that of university degree courses, is necessary. It was estimated that there exist twenty-seven major technical colleges, of which ten are in the Greater London area, providing full-time technological courses of the required standard for a substantial number of students. Several of these major technical colleges also undertake a considerable bulk of training in pure science for the degrees of the University of London, and so act as an overflow for the colleges and schools of the University. This state of affairs existed before the war, and seems likely to continue for at least ten more years.

I have had an investigation made of the records of one of the major technical colleges, and these are the figures for the session 1947–48: university degrees in science, 63; university degrees in engineering, 78; total university degrees, 141; professional technological diplomas, 203; making a total of 344. Therefore, the contribution made by such a technical college to scientific and technological man-power is very considerable, and it is to be deplored that the salaries offered to the teachers are such that these major technical colleges are finding it impossible to recruit efficient lecturers in sufficient numbers.

What is the cause of this trouble? The Burnham Committee's report on teachers' salaries makes no distinction between a lecturer at a major technical college and any other type of teacher, so far as basic salary is concerned. This basic salary is £300, rising by annual increments of £15 to £555 a year, to which must be added various allowances according to the qualifications and training of the teacher. For a graduate with Second-Class Honours, who trained for three years at the university, the salary scale would be: Provinces, £345, rising to £600 per annum; and London £381, rising to £648 per annum. All these salaries refer to male teachers only; and there is a lower scale for women teachers. Since an inexperienced graduate in science can obtain employment in industry at a commencing salary of £450 per annum, it will be appreciated that the teaching profession offers little attraction. So far as the technical colleges are concerned, the situation is much worse, as it is essential that the staff should be experienced in industry or in research before being employed as lecturers. As each year of industrial experience ranks as the equivalent of teaching service, the salary scale of the Second-Class Honours graduate after four years' experience in industry would be: in the Provinces £405, rising to £600 per annum; and in London £441, rising to £648 per annum. Such a man, if he possessed any real ability, would be receiving at least £600 per annum in industry, and it is practically impossible to recruit him as a teacher.

The Burnham Report made some attempt to overcome this difficulty by arranging that colleges should have an establishment of senior assistants based on the number of students attending advanced courses. The salary scale of senior assistants is £700, rising by increments of £25 to £800 a year, with allowances for degrees, and is sufficient to attract and retain teachers of good standing and experience. Although possibly adequate for most technical colleges, the establishment of senior assistants is very inadequate so far as the major technical colleges are concerned. The Burnham Report also makes provision for a certain proportion of teachers to receive a special responsibility allowance as an addition to the basic scale. These allowances are usually to the value of £50, £75 or £100 per annum in special cases. These allowances of £50 or £75 per annum can have little effect on the recruitment of teachers. No less than 53 per cent. of the assistant teachers in a typical large technical college of which I have knowledge are paid on the basic scale, in spite of the fact that their duties are mainly concerned with advanced work. In order to overcome immediate staffing difficulties, men who possess only a pass degree, and who have no industrial experience, have been employed as teachers. Such men are unlikely to become capable of teaching advanced science and technology in a convincing and efficient manner.

This problem is one of extreme urgency, and the whole future of the major technical colleges is being prejudiced by this recruitment of a lower-grade assistant staff. The Percy Committee realised the dangers and difficulties of the situation and recommended that the salaries and conditions of service of comparable teaching staffs in the major technical colleges should be similar to those of university teachers. This recommendation was endorsed by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, which made certain suggestions regarding the possible rates of pay.

That is the situation. I suggest that there has already been too much delay, and it is time that we took some speedy action. It is absurd to have the same basic salary for a teacher of children aged 5 to 12 and for a teacher of advanced technology. The salary of the latter must be related more closely to what it would be in industry. I am quite sure the Ministry of Education must be aware of these facts, and I think the time has come when action should be taken on the grounds that technical education in the country is suffering, and the whole nation will be the loser. The normal machinery for the regulation of teachers' salaries is the Burnham Committee—I hope my noble friend is not going to ride off on that. It is unreasonable to expect the technical panel of this Committee to be actively interested in a special scale for the twenty-seven major technical colleges. Yet on these twenty-seven major technical colleges we as a nation have to rely for our fully qualified men to manage the industry of the future. Therefore, if anything is to be done, it will have to be done through Parliament quickly, on, I hope, the recommendation of the Minister of Education.

What would it cost to bring in the appropriate new salary scales? The estimate I have been given—which I believe is accurate—is that for another £100,000 a year we could have a scale of salaries which would attract the best scientists available for this vitally important work. What are the new Estimates we now have to meet for armaments alone? My noble friend Lord Walkden is as well aware of them as I am. Against the vast sums that we are to spend on preparing for the possible contingency of war, £100,000 a year is nothing. I hope, therefore, that the Treasury, or whoever has the last word, will be sympathetic. It is with a view to arousing interest in this matter, and bringing to bear the influence of your Lordships' House, that I venture to raise this matter. I look forward with confidence to my noble friend's reply. I beg to move for Papers.

7.2 p.m.


My Lords, I fully agree with my noble friend as to the supreme importance of the great subject of technical education. It becomes more and more important as the years go on, but I hardly expect that at this late hour he will look to me to try to cover all the ground he has covered. I am not prepared to do that, but. I think I can give a reply which will be of great interest to everybody concerned in the service of technical education, and particularly to those engaged in it as teachers. It will go on record, and will undoubtedly be quoted in a number of journals which deal with the subject.


I hope my noble friend's answer does not mean that he is not going to give me a full reply. If he and I can wait here, surely he can give me that reply.


My noble friend did not furnish me with the detailed points he was going to raise, and that is why he cannot expect me to reply to every one. But I have a reply which I am sure will meet his case as adequately as one can in the circumstances now prevailing. The particular question we are considering to-day is the pay and conditions of teachers in the technical colleges. As noble Lords are aware, the salaries of teachers in technical colleges, as in other types of maintained institutions, are, and have been for many years, settled by the Burnham Committee. This Committee was originally set up thirty years ago by Mr. Fisher, when he was President of the Board of Education, but since 1944 its functions have been defined by Section 89 of the Education Act of that year. Perhaps I may remind my noble friend of the wording of that section, because it is very binding on the Ministry: The Minister shall secure that for the purpose of considering the remuneration of teachers there shall be one or more committees. It shall be the duty of any such committee to submit to the Minister, whenever they think fit or whenever they may be required by him so to do, such scales of remuneration for teachers as they consider suitable. And, whenever a scale of remuneration so submitted is approved by the Minister he may by order make such provision as appears to him to be desirable for the purpose of securing that the remuneration paid by local education authorities to teachers is in accordance therewith. That marks a great step forward in the question of remunerating teachers of all kinds, because it makes it imperative, by order of the Ministry, that the findings of the Burnham Committee shall be put into operation, whereas years ago some backward authorities objected to putting them into operation, and in some cases refused to do so. Therefore, the teachers are in a better position now.

It is important to realise what this section of the Act implies. All questions of salaries are clearly, in the first instance, a matter for the Burnham Committee. The Minister can approve or reject their recommendations, but there is no power conferred on him to alter them. Once the scales have been approved by order, they remain in force for the period fixed, unless the local authorities or the teachers give notice to terminate them. I can, therefore, give the House no encouragement for expecting that the Minister of Education is likely to initiate a revision of the salary scales; nor do I think it likely that the Burnham Committee will reopen the matter so soon after the present scales were settled.

The general structure of the present salary scales was framed in 1945, in consequence of the changes brought about by the Education Act, 1944. At that time the Burnham Committees were reconstituted, and their first task was to undertake a complete revision of salaries in all types of schools and educational establishments. So far as technical teachers were concerned, there were two main principles governing the revision of the scales. The first was that there should be a basic scale for all assistant teachers similar in its amount and conditions to that laid down for primary and secondary school teachers. That is basic, and everything else is built upon that. The second principle was that a special grade of assistant teacher, with an appropriate scale of salaries, should be provided to perform work comparable in character and standard to the work done by university teachers. Accordingly, in the Burnham Report of 1945, we find two grades of teacher—the assistant and the senior assistant. Above these, there are, of course, the heads of departments and principals. The position was not materially altered in 1948, when a survey was made of the then Burnham arrangements, but the scales of salary were revised and improved.

It may be convenient to noble Lords and the public if I quote the present scales now in force. These are the authentic official figures. A man assistant begins at £300 a year and rises to £555, with additions for training and university degrees or other special qualifications. A senior assistant begins at £700 and rises to £800, plus additions similar to those applicable in the case of assistants. In fact, a man assistant can rise to £660 a year, and a senior assistant to £905 a year, if he possesses the requisite qualifications. Heads of departments can rise to £1,355 a year. But there are exceptional cases in very important technical colleges where additional pay may be given to beads of departments, and there is no stipulated maximum for those payments. The only condition is that they must be approved by the Minister. If they are approved by the Minister, then they go into operation, and that gives a fair margin of improvement.

Nor is that all. There are special allowances attached to posts of special responsibility, ranging from £50 to £150 in the case of men assistants. An assistant, therefore, who holds one of these posts of special responsibility, can rise to a salary of £810 per annum. A career which offers a possible annual salary of £390, rising to a possible figure of £810, with a chance of a further rise to £905 or even £1,355, is not unattractive, particularly when one remembers the possible openings as principals of colleges available to suitable persons. Much has been made of the difficulty of obtaining suitable candidates to fill posts in technical colleges, and there is little doubt that there is substance in these arguments. I think the main burden of my noble friend's pleadings was on that point.

When the Burnham Committee were considering their Report last year, a great amount of evidence was produced showing that in spite of the large number of applicants for vacancies the number of candidates of suitable calibre was often alarmingly small. This is a difficulty which is not confined to technical colleges; we have heard the same about teachers for advanced work in grammar schools. There are many factors which contribute towards it. With the expanding scope of industry since the war to which the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, referred, the demands from that quarter have been growing, and it would be idle to pretend that schools and colleges can hope to compete with the salaries paid for highly-qualified men in industry or commerce. But of course there are many valuable factors associated with employment under the State. There is the sureness of continuity of employment; there is the higher prestige attached to service of this character; and there are the superannuation provisions—which are not always present in the case of private industry and are not in any case so reliable as in the case of employment under a public authority. Then again, the growth of the universities has not yet had time to take effect, and we may hope that when this has had its full effect the position will be eased.

Meantime, it is a question whether the fullest possible use is being made of the latitude allowed by the Burnham Report. I wish to stress this. I want to show that the employing authorities have a great deal of latitude in which to improve salaries within the range of the Burnham Report. The Report provides that the number of posts of special responsibility shall be "not less than 20 per cent. nor more than 27½ per cent, of the number of teachers employed." That is a pretty good percentage. The amount of the allowance is to range between £50 and £150 for men. Similarly, the proportion of senior assistants is to be "not less than one for each group of fifty students nor more than one for each group of forty students" I think it will be seen from this that there is a fairly wide scope for more or less generous treatment by employing bodies.

I certainly do not wish to underestimate the difficulty to which our attention has been drawn to-day. His Majesty's Government are impressed with the paramount importance of good technical education as the only foundation of our industrial survival. For this good buildings and good teachers are essential, and they are both lacking as to numbers and accommodation. We shall therefore continue to watch the position carefully. All I would say at the moment is that there is not sufficient evidence to reach a final conclusion. These are abnormal times, and many of the factors operating in the supply of qualified teachers are still incalculable. Meantime, the future organisation of technical education is still incomplete.

I particularly wish to draw my noble friend's attention to what follows. The National Advisory Council on Education for Industry and Commerce has recently been set up to advise the Minister on national policy, particularly in regard to major colleges of further education. We do not know what the results of this review will be, but we can certainly say that technical education will throw up many problems in the near future. It may well be that the important question of the salaries and conditions of employment of teachers should be considered at the appropriate time against this background. In conclusion, I can assure the noble Lord that the whole subject and particularly this matter of recruitment and remuneration of teachers will continue to have the closest attention of His Majesty's Government.

7.18 p.m.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord for the full reply he has given. I am glad he did not dispute my figures—in fact he reinforced them—and I find myself, therefore, in agreement with a great deal of what he said. I believe I am right in saying that the Minister of Education can intervene if it can be shown that technical education is suffering. If that be the case, I hope the Report to which the noble Lord referred will cause that intervention. I do not want to press the matter, especially as there is no dispute as to figures of salary. What is important to know is whether the present salaries are attracting sufficient men of the right type, in view of the competition from industry. That is the problem we have to face. I am much obliged to the noble Lord, and in view of his remarks I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.