HC Deb 26 May 1976 vol 912 cc248-52W
Mr. James White

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he is taking to deal with the prospect of teaches unemployment; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Millan

The potential output of newly qualified teachers this summer from colleges of education in Scotland is about 5,500. Past experience suggests that not all of these will be seeking immediate employment in Scottish schools. In 1974, the last year for which I have figures, about 25 per cent. of those qualified for secondary teaching and 12 per cent. of those qualified for primary teaching did not immediately enter schools in the local authority sector. The total number of vacancies likely to arise in these schools next term will not be clear for some weeks yet. While it is not possible, therefore, to put a precise figure on the number of newly qualified teachers who are unlikely to find teaching employment with education authorities within the next few months, I regret to say that it is clear that the number will be substantial.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, last week met representatives of the National Union of Students, and I intend to have meetings next week with representatives of education authorities and the teacher associations to discuss the situation and possible courses of action. My Department has already been in close touch with the authorities. I understand that most authorities are reducing the number of part-time teaching posts, thus increasing the number of full-time vacancies. I am also assured that in filling vacancies generally they will be giving priority to newly qualified teachers and I hope that particular priority will be given to teachers who have qualified under the Special Recruitment Scheme.

The authorities are working to standards of staffing which they agreed with me. These standards give us better overall pupil /teacher ratios than at any time before the present session. The improved supply of teachers should also mean that part-time education, which has been a feature of the educational scene in parts of Scotland for many years, should be eliminated next session. The standards to which the authorities are working are those on which the present rate support grant is based and within which authorities are implementing a new teachers' contract which they negotiated with the teacher associations.

I must make it clear that in the present financial circumstances I cannot increase the level of rate support grant, nor would it be right for me to ask authorities, who are under severe pressure in many fields, to employ more teachers if the effect would be to increase local authority expenditure beyond the figures on which rate support grant was based. Within these constraints, however, I shall be exploring with the authorities how far the improved supply of teachers would make it possible for them to give increased emphasis to remedial education and improvement in areas of social need.

The number of vacancies arising next session is determined in part by the number of retirals. The present legislation provides that, while all teachers qualify for a pension at age 60, non-promoted teachers may, if they wish, stay in employment until age 70. In these cases there is no provision for compulsory retirement after age 65 at the discretion of the authorities. I doubt whether this position is any longer justified in the new teacher supply situation and I shall be considering with the authorities and the teacher associations whether it ought to be changed. Meanwhile I would expect authorities to examine carefully the justification for retaining in non-promoted posts after the age of 65 teachers who, up to that age, had held promoted posts. The prospect generally for newly-qualified teachers will be improved by the extent to which teachers of pensionable age decide to retire.

I hope that through the job creation programme it will be possible to help an appreciable number of those teachers who cannot find employment in the ordinary way. Contacts I have already had with those responsible for the programme indicate that, under the criteria for assistance, support can be given to some types of project employing teachers on teaching or other work for which they are suited. The job creation programme cannot, however, be used as a subvention of a normal local authority service. Various detailed possibilities are now being pursued.

Looking to the longer term, I have already made it clear that intake to colleges of education must be reduced if there is not to be sustained teacher unemployment in the years ahead. Apart from any other factors, I must take account of the fact that the number of pupils in our schools is forecast to reduce from 1,012,000 in 1976–77 to 845,000 in 1984–85, a reduction of 167,000. Over 40 bodies commented on the proposals that I circulated recently for intake next session. Most questioned the need for the reductions proposed. None the less, after study all the comments I remain convinced that it would be imprudent and unfair to the students concerned to admit to colleges next session any more students than I had suggested. Accordingly, colleges of education and all of the other interests are being informed that the primary intake should be limited to 1,200 diploma students and 250 postgraduate students, and the secondary intake to 2,700. These figures compare with 2,500 primary and 3,300 secondary in 1975.

There are likely to be problems of employment for those coming out of the colleges in the next year or two, although I am anxious to diminish these problems as far as I possibly can. It is clear, however, that intakes for the later years will have to be looked at very carefully and that there will be further reductions. As soon as the situation on teacher employment in the current year has become clearer, I shall consult the interested parties about this, and the effect that it will have on the colleges of education.

Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is satisfied with the present level of teacher recruitment in Scotland; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McElhone

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given today to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok.

Mr. Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the number of extra teachers that would be required if the recommendations contained in Circular 819 were applied universally in Scottish schools.

Mr. McElhone

At September 1975, the latest date for which figures are available, there were 1,096 more primary school teachers than were required nationally to meet the staffing standards recommended in Circular No. 819.

Mr. Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will review the recommendations contained in Circular 819 and the 1973 Report "Secondary School Staffing", in view of the fact that these were made during a period of teacher shortage in the west of Scotland.

Mr. McElhone


Mr. Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland, in view of the increasing number of educationally deprived children, if he will take steps to deal with the problem of reducing class sizes and recruiting more teachers.

Mr. McElhone

Provision has been made in the rate support grant settlement for 1976–77 and in the White Paper on Public Expenditure to 1979–80 (Cmnd. 6393) for the recruitment of sufficient teachers to enable short-staffed schools to reach the staffing standards to which authorities have agreed to work.

Mr. Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will have discussions with appropriate organisations regarding the possibility of having a job creation programme for newly qualified teachers who have been unable to secure employment as teachers through the normal avenues of recruitment and engagement.

Mr. McElhone

Discussions are already taking place on possible openings under the Job Creation Programme.