HL Deb 29 January 1969 vol 298 cc1161-3

My Lords I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what effect their decision to restrict local authority expenditure has had on the employment of teachers; and, in particular, on the employment of married women recently returned to teaching.]


My Lords, the latest figures are for October, 1968, when, in terms of full-time teachers, there were 12,585 more qualified teachers in service than a year earlier. There were sufficient posts available to absorb all teachers newly qualifying last summer, and looking for full-time posts. The rate of return of married women to full-time teaching has been maintained. Between February and September, 1968, 2,718 married women re-entered full-time teaching, compared with 2,736 in the same period in the previous year. In the same period 2,520 married women returned to part-time teaching, compared with 3,171 in 1967. It is impossible to say how far this fall was due to restraint on local education authorities' expenditure and how far to employers' preference for full-time teachers where these are available.


My Lords, I am grateful for that reassuring Answer, but is the noble Baroness aware that, according to Press reports, the situation is not quite as happy as that? For example, is she aware that in South Shields at the end of last term 25 part-time teachers were dismissed at three weeks' notice? Is she aware that a number of bodies have expressed great concern, particularly about married women, who hitherto, and quite rightly, have been encouraged to come back to teaching, but who are now finding that there are no places for them?


My Lords, as the noble Lord will be aware, I take a great personal interest in this matter and I have watched it very carefully. I am happy to say that so far the effect on the numbers of married women teachers is negligible. The noble Lord will appreciate that the attitude of an employer to a part-time member of staff, as opposed to a full-time one, is something over which the Department has no control. I understand that the situation in South Shields was that the local authority preferred to have full-timers rather than part-timers.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that South Shields is my native town? Is she aware that the dismissal of these part-time teachers was due entirely to the fact that the estimate had been exceeded and the local authority found it was necessary to have full-time teachers in the main rather than part-time teachers?


My Lords, I have, of course, the greatest respect for the noble Lord and for the town from which he comes, having had some connection with the North myself. I appreciate the point he has made, that most local authorities have absorbed the figure which the noble Lord, I think, quoted originally in a Question last year. But in this particular case the authority obviously had to deal with the matter in a different way.


My Lords, is it not rather early to assess the altitude of authorities in respect of expenditure? I assume that next year we may be in a better position to look at the matter. There is a greater allocation of teachers this year, which means, in effect, that there will have to be an adjustment regarding married women returners and the employment of those coming directly from college. That may affect the position next year more clearly than this year.


My Lords, I take the point made by the noble Lord, and particularly so in view of his great experience and knowledge of this subject. I should not like to enter into the merits of the married woman full-time teacher who is a returner and those coming direct from college, but I agree that next year the situation will be seen more clearly. I think it is very hopeful that authorities have indicated that they hope to employ 13,000 more teachers and are allowing for a decline in unqualified teachers, which was of course part of the policy.


My Lords, would my noble friend agree that a large number of married women who had not previously been teaching have been encouraged recently to undergo teacher training; and can she say whether there will be adequate openings for them?


My Lords, the indications are that there will be. There will, however, always be a slight difficulty about the teacher who is not mobile.

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