HL Deb 18 May 1965 vol 266 cc373-86

3.13 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, in speaking to this Bill I should like first of all to pay tribute to the work of Lord Wheatley and his Committee in preparing the comprehensive Report upon which the Bill is largely based. As Lord Wheatley said, the Committee was in some respects an unusual one in that, apart from the three independent members, the membership was made up of representatives of the interests most closely involved. The Committee as a body was therefore able to consider the matters before it in the light of a very wide collective experience and also of direct knowledge of the viewpoint of the educational bodies concerned. In some ways even more remarkable was the substantial degree of unanimity which emerged.

We are concerned in this Bill with a major change which I believe will mean a great deal for the future of education in Scotland. Before dealing with the provisions of the Bill itself, however, I propose to say something about the context in which the Wheatley Committee was appointed and about the role of the teaching profession in helping to shape educational policy. Some of your Lordships may recall the situation of disquiet and discontent in which teachers found themselves in the early months of 1961. Underlying this was a widespread feeling that the views of teachers as a body did not get the degree of attention which they deserved, that teaching was not everywhere regarded as a worthwhile profession and that something must be done to secure for it the recognition that it merits in our society.

It was in this situation that the Secretary of State of the day, now the noble Viscount, Lord Muirshiel, said that he was prepared to have a review of those matters which were causing the teachers such concern. A series of working parties were subsequently appointed to look into particular aspects, but the central feature of the review was the appointment of the Wheatley Committee which was asked to examine, in the light of the practice in other professions, the existing arrangements for awarding teachers' certificates. On the face of things, this may have seemed a somewhat narrow and technical remit but what the Wheatley Committee was essentially being asked to do was to consider the whole problem of control of entry to teaching and the extent to which the profession itself could properly be given specific responsibilities in that regard.

As I have already acknowledged, the Wheatley Committee did a remarkable job. They also did a very thorough job since, as their Report shows, they devoted a great deal of thought to the balance between what may broadly be called the professional interest and the public interest. This assessment of legitimate professional interests and of the responsibilities of the education authorities and of the Secretary of State for the education service underlies the carefully calculated balance in the composition of the Teaching Council which the Committee recommended. In the Government's view, the Committee's Report, resting as it does on an informed and balanced view of the realities of the situation, offers a sound and practicable basis on which to build a new system for control of entry into teaching. The Wheatley Committee said: We think that the time has now come when a further advance should be made in the process which has been taking place in recent years of giving the teaching profession an increased measure of responsibility in matters which are of prime concern to it. We believe this to be right, and this is why we are proceeding to set up a Teaching Council.

As is indicated in the brief quotation which I have just given from the Wheatley Report, there has in recent times been in train a process of gradual change under which the teachers as a body have come to play a greater part than they once did in the shaping of educational policy and in its administration. The teachers have, for example, taken a valuable part in the work of the Advisory Council and in more recent times in a great many committees and working parties dealing with specific problems. Teachers have been more widely brought into consultation, not only on educational policy but in the administration of education, and the large majority of education authorities have in the past year agreed to bring representatives of their teachers on to education committees. In addition, teachers directly elected by their colleagues to the governing bodies of colleges of education play an important part in teacher training.

I am confident that when the Teaching Council is set up the policy of cooperation will bear good fruit. With the new Council in being, the teachers in Scotland will have what can fairly be called a unique measure of self-government. This, as the profession itself acknowledges, involves new responsibilities, as well as new status and privileges. There may be those who will say that the setting up of the Teaching Council is merely a device to try to give the teachers status, but in my opinion such a view is utterly misplaced. I believe that Scottish teachers will welcome the new responsibilities which will come their way, and that they will act responsibly and with a full realisation of the needs of the education service and of our country.

I should like now to say one or two things about the Bill itself. An important task of the Council will be to establish a register of teachers to take the place of the existing arrangements under which teachers are certificated by the Secretary of State. Even more important, in some ways, will be the Council's functions in relation to entry to teaching. It will be seen that Clause 2 imposes on the Council the duty of keeping under review the standards of education, training and fitness to teach of persons entering the teaching profession. They are also given the duty of making recommendations to the Secretary of State about the provisions to be included in regulations under Clause 7 for the education and training of teachers, and about such other matters in this field as they think fit or as may be referred to them. Clause 3 gives the Council a duty of making recommendations on the supply of teachers.

Clause 5 deals with the relationship between the Council and the colleges of education. As the Wheatley Committee pointed out, it would not be right to empower the Council to lay down anything like a compulsory curriculum for the colleges of education: the colleges are rightly jealous of the substantial measure of independence in academic matters with which they have been entrusted in recent years, and they must be free to develop. It is for this reason that, although the Council will have a concern with the general content and arrangement of courses in the colleges, we shall all look to them to use judgment and good sense in exercising their power of visitation and of making recommendations to the colleges.

Hitherto, the Scottish Council for the Training of Teachers has carried out coordinating duties on matters of common interest to the various colleges of education and their governing bodies. The Wheatley Committee recommended that, with the setting up of the new Council, the present Scottish Council should go out of existence since there would scarcely be room for it as well as for the Teaching Council. The intention is that the advisory and co-ordinating functions now exercised by the Scottish Council should be reallocated; those functions of an educational kind would go to the new Council, while those of a "business" nature would be assigned either to the Secretary of State or to the proposed Joint Committee of the colleges, according to what may be most appropriate. It may be thought that the disciplinary provisions in Clauses 9 to 11 bulk largely in the Bill as a whole. This is not because they are going to be invoked at all frequently, but because disciplinary control is one of the hallmarks of professional self-government.

To all intents and purposes, the Bill gives effect to the recommendations of the Wheatley Committee. Thus the composition of the Council for which the Bill provides is largely that recommended by the Committee—not a Council wholly composed of teachers, or, indeed, with a majority of practising teachers, but one that is more broadly based. The teachers themselves will, rightly, have a substantial number of places, but the Council will also be representative of the various education interests, including the education authorities, the universities, the central institutions, the colleges of education, and, although this was not specifically recommended by the Committee, the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church.

The Wheatley Committee recognised that, at the end of the day, the Secretary of State must, subject to Parliament, retain final control over such matters as standards of entry to the teaching profession. At the same time, they were clearly anxious to see that the Council should be a body of standing whose views would not lightly be set aside. This, I think, the Bill secures, not least by the provisions in Clause 7 under which, should there ever be any disagreement between the Secretary of State and the Council, a clear statement will be published of the Council's recommendations and the Government's reasons for not acting upon them.

The Committee made a number of specific recommendations on the Parliamentary procedure that should be followed in the event of disagreement between the Secretary of State and the Council. They suggested that, in such an event, the Affirmative Resolution procedure should be applied to regulations made by the Secretary of State—and, indeed, that in some circumstances the matter at issue should be dealt with in fresh legislation. This is all very much a matter for Parliament itself, but we have thought it better not to give effect in the Bill to these particular procedural recommendations, but instead to proceed by way of Clause 7, as I have said.

It may be that there will be points on the Bill on which noble Lords will wish to have clarification, and I shall endeavour to deal with these in replying to the debate. I hope that I have said enough to indicate the context in which we have come forward with this Bill and to commend it to your Lordships. The Government certainly do not regard the establishment of the Council as a panacea for all the difficulties which education in Scotland faces to-day: in particular, for the central issue presented by the shortage of teachers. The problem of recruiting adequate numbers of teachers and of ensuring that they get the right sort of training for the immense educational tasks that confront us will be a continuing one. It is a problem that will be solved only by collaboration between the teachers, the education authorities and the Government. I am convinced, however, that with the establishment of the General Teaching Council an important step forward will have been taken in securing not only the collaboration but also the good will of the teaching profession. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Hughes.)

3.24 p.m.


My Lords, first of all, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for his usual clear explanation of this Bill. As he told your Lordships, it is really the culmination of a process that began in earnest with the setting up of Lord Wheatley's Committee, and I should like to add my tribute to that of the noble Lord to the work of that Committee. The late Government accepted most of the recommendations contained in their Report and began to draw up the broad lines for legislation. It has now fallen to the present Government to introduce this Bill. I have no hesitation in commending it to your Lordships for Second Reading.

Perhaps this is not the moment to go into the history of teaching in Scotland, but this Bill, I am sure, is something of a landmark in Scottish education, for from now on the teaching profession will have a dominant influence in matters such as the supply of teachers, the standards of entry into the teaching profession and courses of training. This goes a long way to putting the teachers on the same footing as most other professions. This is something which they have long sought and which, in my view, they have earned. I feel certain that they will carry out their new responsibilities with thoroughness and with skill.

Since the new Council will be faced at once with the problems attendant on raising the school leaving age in 1970, this is bound to produce some temptation to lower teaching standards in order to get the extra number of teachers required. I hope—indeed, I am sure—that the Council will resist this temptation, but it is not going to be an easy problem.

I am glad that the Council will be responsible for the registration of teachers and that a registration fee will be charged. I think that this should give enhanced status to the register and also make its administration easier. I understand that, by charging a fee, it is hoped that the Council will become more or less self-supporting financially. I believe that when the Wheatley Report came out, some three years ago. a suggestion was made that the fee should be initially in the region of 10s. 6d. I know that this is a matter for the Council to decide, but I wonder whether the noble Lord could give the House any indication at all whether the Government have any views as to what this fee should be.

I should also like to be made a little clearer on one point. Am I right to understand that, under Clause 6(2)(c), it will be possible now for a teacher with no Scottish qualifications to be registered as satisfactory to the Council? I must say that I hope this will be the case, because often one hears of English-trained teachers marrying Scots and for domestic or other reasons preferring to go North of the Border to teach and the same thing sometimes applies to teachers from the Commonwealth.

I think that it is right, as the noble Lord has said, that the Secretary of State should retain final power to act on the recommendations and make regulations, for he is responsible to Parliament for education in Scotland and also for the large sums of public money spent on it. In any case, it is obvious that he will have to work closely with the Council.

I was wondering a little, having regard to the principles of the Bill in this respect, whether Clause 4 was not superfluous. At any rate, it seems to me to be somewhat inconsistent with Clause 5(3), which deals with the procedures to be followed when differences upon the Council's course of instructions occur between the Council and the colleges of education. If these differences cannot be resolved, the Bill states, the Council may report the case to the Secretary of State. But what happens then? There is no indication in the Bill at the moment whether the Secretary of State has to pay any attention to the matter or what he has to do. Presumably he will, but I feel that this should have been made more explicit in the Bill.

May I now turn briefly to the disciplinary provisions in the Bill? I welcome the setting up of the Investigating Committee and of the Disciplinary Committee. I think it is quite right that the personnel of these two Committees should be quite different. For this reason, I am not altogether happy that even the chairman should be the exception to this, as is stated in the Bill. To my mind, it creates the danger that he might become something of a judge in his own case. I feel that this would be unfair, not only to him, but to all concerned in the matter. I hope that perhaps the noble Lord will reconsider this. I think, also, that it might be wise to give the Council some guidance as to the numerical membership of these two committees. I realize that one wants the Council to have as free a hand as possible in these matters, but committees have a tendency to become too big, and I should have thought that a statutory limit of five or six would have been desirable.

I have one other small point that I should like to raise with the noble Lord, and if he cannot answer it now I shall understand, because I have not warned him about it. It comes in Schedule 1, paragraph 2(1), at line 33, where it says: and the elected members … shall be elected by certificated teachers, being teachers employed in educational establishments and in approved schools …". There are quite a number of certificated teachers employed in what one might call educational administration; and I am thinking of such people as directors of education and some of their staffs. Are they to be disfranchised; or have I missed something in the Bill? I should be grateful if the noble Lord would look into this matter.

We in Scotland are proud that our educational system has always been held in high regard. I think that the setting up of this Teaching Council will add even more to its stature and reputation. There are bound to be teething troubles. The precise work to be carried out between the Secretary of State and the Council will be established only by trial and error over a period of time. But I am quite certain that it is going to be of great benefit to the teachers, and, equally important, to the children and the young people who are their pupils. I hope, therefore, that the Bill will make progress through this House and reach the Statute Book in a very short time.

3.33 p.m.


My Lords, I rise only to say a few words in support of this Bill and to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, on the simple and straightforward manner in which he introduced it. I do so because I take an active part in the education committee in my county, and I was for some years chairman of that committee. I welcome this setting up of the Teaching Council for Scotland. I am sure it will be much appreciated by the teachers, and also by the authorities. I should like to stress the importance of the contribution which teachers make to education ad- ministration. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has drawn the attention of your Lordships to the fact that teachers are now being appointed to education committees. This is quite a new departure in Scotland, but it is working extremely well. On the education committee on which I sit, the new recruits from the teaching profession have been of enormous help and have added a great deal to the status of the education committee, certainly in the eyes of the people, as well as those to do with the authority.

I also welcome the clauses that stress the self-government which is being given to teachers in the Council. I think this is most useful and important. I hope that, among the many reasons for setting up the Council, those of standards and recruitment will be strongly stressed. I have in my hand the current Report, Education in Scotland, 1964, which has just been laid before Parliament. It contains some quite alarming figures of possible shortages of teachers in the future. Already in Scotland children are voluntarily staying at school in the secondary schools, and going on to further education classes, and the shortage of teachers is accumulating. Actually, we recruited 512 more teachers last year than in the year before. But, if the school leaving age is to be raised in 1970, according to this Report we shall need 4,000 more teachers. I hope that the Council will take a keen interest in, and do everything they can to help, the recruitment of teachers. I am sure that I do not need to stress to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that the worst and blackest spot at the moment is the City of Glasgow, where the shortage is so great that 2,000 pupils are receiving only part-time education. It is absolutely vital that we should recruit more teachers to the profession, and I hope that this Council will take this as one of the first things they ought to do.

This is an important Council, and it will have a most important job. I am glad it is going to be so representative, and that it will contain representatives from a wide section of the public in Scotland, as well as from the teaching profession. I hope, as my noble friend Lord Lothian said, that the recruitment will include other branches of the authority and of the profession, administrators as well as teachers, because I think this also makes for a good Council. I hope that we shall soon have this Bill, setting up this excellent Council, on the Statute Book. It cannot come too soon. I wish the noble Lord and the Council every possible good wish for the success of what I believe to be the extremely important venture that is now being undertaken.

3.36 p.m.


My Lords, I should like quite briefly to welcome this Bill and to join with my noble friends in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, on the way in which he introduced it. My noble friend Lord Lothian referred to this Bill as the culmination of a process which started with the setting up of the Wheatley Committee. In a sense, of course, that is true; but in reality this process started a long time ago. It started with the setting up of the Advisory Council on Education during the war. I remember—and this is one of my reasons for speaking to-day—that when I had to defend the 1958 Regulations in another place I said that the keynote of their Report might be in these words: There should be an all-round process of delegation of powers and duties. The 1959 Regulations were the last great step that was taken in the course of this process. That was six years ago, and it is remarkable, when one considers that it was nearly forty years prior to that that the previous great step had been taken in the training of teachers, that we are able to take this further step after just over six years.

The arrangements that were made at that time were made in order to change a system under which there was a National Committee for the Training of Teachers, elected entirely from education authorities. This is a very long step from the position to-day. The 1958 Regulations altered that position of 1920. It established a Council for the Training of Teachers to take the place of the old Committee and the Central Executive, the provincial committees and so on. It strengthened the independence of the governing bodies of the training colleges, and gave teachers more representation on the training authorities; that is to say, both on the Scottish Council for the Training of Teachers and on the govern- ing bodies of the training colleges. That was a long step forward and that, together with the other arrangements that were made at the time, has been referred to in the Wheatley Report in these words in paragraph 54: We do not think that the case for such a transfer of functions can be argued on the ground that the existing arrangements, including essentially the certification of teachers by the Secretary of State, are defective or inefficient. On the contrary we have received a considerable volume of evidence to the effect that these arrangments work well; and we are not in doubt about the quality of the teachers produced under the present system. But the Report goes on to say, in the next paragraph: … one of the characteristics of a profession—and we think that this would be generally acknowledged—is that it should have a reasonable degree of control over its own affairs. This is the long step forward that is being taken in this Bill. It is a step to reform the system in such a way as to be sensitive to the ever-changing needs and outlook of the nation and, at the same time, acceptable to what is rightly described in the Wheatley Report as … the largest single group of well-qualified, highly educated professional people in the country. The Bill seeks to endow the profession with a single body to represent the whole profession and control of its own membership, subject to the ultimate power of the Secretary of State to make regulations once the profession itself has considered the issues involved, and in particular the issues of admission to training and the admission for provisional registration and registration.

This Bill is based on unanimous recommendations of what was one of the most distinguished Committees ever to consider educational matters in Scotland, under the outstanding chairmanship of Lord Wheatley. As the noble Lord has said, it was a very great achievement on the part of Lord Wheatley that he was able to bring such a broadly based (to use his own words) Committee to a unanimous conclusion on extremely thorny issues. The Committee was set up by my noble friend Lord Muirshiel. It reported to my right honourable friend, Mr. Michael Noble, and its recommendations have been substantially incorporated in this Bill by the present Secretary of State, and introduced into this House by the noble Lord. We all rejoice at this happy issue, and hope that it will strengthen the profession and help it to overcome the very difficult problems that it will have to face in the next few years, not least the raising of the school age and the recruitment of the requisite numbers of staff with the right qualifications for the new task. We wish this Bill well, and we also wish the new Council well when it comes to be formed.

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, and the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, for the very friendly way in which they have welcomed this Bill this afternoon. I think it is completely appropriate that this should be so, because we know that in recent years there has been an almost alarming increase in the number of Siamese twins to be born. But if ever there was such a psychological freak as "Siamese Bills", then we would all figure in that category; because, as the noble Marquess has said, the Bill was in course of preparation when events changed the Secretary of State.

The measure, I think, can speedily pass through your Lordships' House. The points which have been raised by the noble Marquess are all perfectly legitimate points seeking information, and one of the advantages of having unannounced speakers, such as the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, is that it gives my colleagues time to pass me all the answers. On the subject of registration fees, the figure of 10s. 6d. mentioned by the Wheatley Committee was illustrative only, and was not intended to be a final suggestion of what the fee would in fact be. The noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, indicated that he expected the answer to be that it would be a matter for the Council itself to fix the fees, and that, in fact, is the position.

The second point was whether the qualifications of a teacher who did not have the necessary Scottish qualifications could be registered. I am happy to say that the answer is, Yes. In terms of Clause 8, the Council will prepare and publish a statement of principles to which they will have regard in considering whether, for the purpose of Clause 6(2)(c) a person's education, training and fitness to teach warrant his registration. That, I think, is a decided step forward.

Under Clause 5, the point raised by the noble Lord was canvassed fully in another place. It was not thought necessary to deal with default provisions in the Bill, simply because they are filly set out in a measure for which the previous Government was responsible, the Education (Scotland) Act, 1962, and this Act continues to apply. The fourth point which the noble Marquess raised was whether teachers who are in educational administration are covered. Yes, my Lords, they are. The reference to the Association of Directors of Education on page 11, line 15, covers the sort of person to whom the noble Marquess referred.

In conclusion, I should like to refer to what the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said about the progress of events. He took us back to the period during the last war, when the Advisory Council was set up. I think it is correct to say that each of these was a necessary step on the way. What was done in 1959 would not have been possible but for what happened earlier on in the 1940's, and what we are proposing in 1965 could not have been accomplished in 1959. But each step has led quite happily, and in this stage has been emphasised, to the almost miraculous degree of unanimity which makes the Bill possible. In this context, therefore, it is quite appropriate that the degree of unanimity which was reached by the Wheatley Committee should have been echoed in your Lordships' House by the welcome which has been given to the Bill from the Benches opposite, and on behalf of Her Majesty's Government I am most grateful.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.