HC Deb 13 June 1961 vol 642 cc40-2W
Mr. Costain

asked the Minister of Education if he will publish a White Paper setting out the Government's proposals to deal with the training and supply of the mathematicians in general and of mathematics teachers in particular, in view of recent widespread anxiety on this subject.

Sir D. Eccles

The Government have already taken action in a number of ways to help meet the shortage of mathematics teachers in the schools. As a result of my Department's request to the training colleges to give greater prominence to mathematics in their work, the annual number of students studying mathematics as a main subject has more than doubled in the last five years from 770 in 1955–56 to 1,650 in 1960–61. The three-year course will greatly help to raise academic standards. Colleges should thus be sending forward to the primary and secondary schools more and better mathematics teachers I expect their numbers to rise even more with the expansion of the training colleges. At the same time the colleges are providing one-year courses for substantial numbers of serving teachers to enable them to improve their qualifications. Various other shorter courses are also available for serving teachers and for members of mathematics staffs in the training colleges. Advanced courses in the technical colleges leading to a degree or diploma in technology are also being expanded. This not only increases the total stock of mathematicians but also provides people who would make very useful additions to a school staff.

The main problem, however, is a shortage of mathematics graduates, particularly those able and willing to teach. Mathematicians in schools and universities have been actively discussing this question and canvassing possible solutions. The university side of the problem is most important and I have made sure that the gravity of the shortage of teachers and the need for action are known to the university authorities. To this end my Department has been working for some months with the Teachers Advisory Council, and the universities have been approached through the Vice-Chancellors' Committee; it is proposed that a conference should be held at an early date under university auspices to examine the evidence which has been collected and consider what action should be taken. I will bear in mind my hon. Friend's suggestion of a White Paper.