HL Deb 11 March 1983 vol 440 cc423-4
Lord Gainford

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 steps they have taken to improve the quality of training provided for potential teachers.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, this Government have shown considerable concern about the quality of training provided for potential teachers. In England and Wales they have received advice from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of schools and from the Advisory Committee on the Supply and Education of Teachers on ways in which such training might be improved, and a consultative document has also been issued on the question of qualified teacher status. The current reorganisation of the training system in England and Wales is being implemented in such a way as to provide a sound institutional base for the system. The Government are now considering what changes, if any, might be proposed which would affect the selection and assessment of potential teachers, and the content of the courses provided for them. In Northern Ireland, similar initiatives have been undertaken. For Scotland, an announcement was made recently about major changes in primary teacher training.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that very full Answer. Has he any information as to how potential teachers are advised to deal with violent hooliganism in schools?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, in recent years there has been a welcome increase in the time given to the practical aspects of teaching during initial teacher training courses. Additionally, it is the Government's intention that experienced practising teachers should be encouraged to take a more active part in training students, and that more of the students' training should be classroom-based. I believe that these developments will help with the problems which my noble friend has mentioned. However, I am sure that my noble friend will agree that in these matters, as in many others, there is no substitute for experience.

The Lord Bishop of Norwich

My Lords, is the noble Earl the Minister aware of the great satisfaction which has been felt throughout the Church through the saving of Bishop Grosse Teste College of Education in Lincoln which covers a wide area of East Anglia, and does this not speak well for the continuing happy relationships of Church and State in education?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I was not in fact aware of the feelings that the right reverend Prelate has just enunciated and I am very grateful to him for his remarks.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, I should like to ask whether my noble friend the Minister has the figures for the number of student teachers from the ethnic minorities who are in training at present?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, the answer to that question is, no, he has not, but he will certainly write to his noble friend with them.

Viscount St. Davids

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Earl can comment on the fact that there appears to be some need for better dress and tidiness among teachers? When one sees the number of strange creatures who appear on teacher demonstrations at times, one wonders why any of their pupils bother to obey them at all.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I do not think that there are any courses dealing with that matter that are run in any institutions that I know. I have also noticed in your Lordships' House that there are some strange forms of dress which creep in from time to time, but they do not seem to lower the standard of debate.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, has the noble Earl any figures concerning the population of training colleges? Is it the Government's policy to reduce the number of teacher trainees in view of the fact, I believe, that there are 38,000 unemployed teachers in the country at present? Or is it the Government's policy to decrease the teacher/student ratio?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I do not have any figures available on that, but in May 1982 advice from the Advisory Committee on the Supply and Education of Teachers pointed to a considerable reduction in the overall need for newly trained teachers following a sharp fall in the school population. The primary and secondary intakes now proposed for England and Wales for the years 1983 and 1985 will produce a total number of places in 1985 which will be about 20 per cent. less than was intended when the present system was designed. It is not acceptable that the reductions should be absorbed by leaving the same number of institutions to provide the same number of courses but with smaller groups of students. Even in 1981 there were several course options followed by only one or two students and that cannot make educational or economic sense. We believe that it was right to create larger teaching groups in some institutions even though that meant that others would lose courses or cease to provide initial training altogether. So the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, is quite right; it is the Government's intention to cut down as, indeed, the school population falls.

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