Education, Glasgow

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th March 1959.

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. E'. Wakefield.]

11.21 p.m.

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Govan

Education in the City of Glasgow is now in crisis, and it is to that calamity that I desire to direct the attention of the House tonight. The situation is unique. There is nothing to compare with it in the whole of the United Kingdom, and unless remedial action is taken immediately by the Secretary of State for Scotland the education system in Glasgow may well be broken down by the end of this year. For that catastrophe the Secretary of State will be wholly and solely responsible.

I should like to look at one recent effect of teacher shortage. On Tuesday of this week the Joint Under-Secretary of State announced the deferment of the introduction of the new four-year certificate from 1961 to 1962, and the reason was obvious. The working party recommendations could not be implemented without a large recruitment to the present supply of teachers. Teacher shortage is the main reason for the delay in carrying out the recommendations of the working party, despite the fact that in the opinion of the working party, as stated on page 61 of the Report, The introduction of the new arrangements is educationally so desirable that there must be no question of postponement. That is exactly what the Under-Secretary intimated on Tuesday that the Government proposed to do.

Additional staff is likely to be required—and here I quote the Report again— because of (a) an increase in the number of pupils; (b) the provision of the four-year certificate courses in certain schools; (c) the demands of a more flexible organisation of courses; and (d) the development of certain branches of subjects. What a contradiction. While our planners are trying to build for the future our practitioners on the Government Front Bench are seeking to undermine it. I trust that the suggestion in the current Report of the Advisory Council on Education of a reduction in the qualifications of teachers entering Scottish schools is not one of the methods proposed by the Government to overcome the staffing shortage.

Let me now return specifically to my own city and present to the House the cold, hard facts of the situation as we see it in Glasgow today. The existing shortage of teachers is 900, including 500 now required in the secondary departments of our school service. By 1961, that shortage will have grown to 1,300. At this moment, there are 500 classes in Glasgow which are over-size. There are children in Glasgow who have had to attend oversize classes throughout their primary school life. There are children in Glasgow primary schools who between January of this year and today have had no fewer than six different teachers. No wonder those children present us with many problems when they leave school.

At the beginning of the 1961 session the secondary school roll in Glasgow will increase by 8,000 pupils. Although 92 retired teachers of over 70 years of age and 1,300 married ladies are giving invaluable help in easing the difficulty of staffing shortage, part-time education for many Glasgow children is a certainty for years to come.

That prospect is entirely due to the quiescence of the Secretary of State for Scotland, who has completely failed to rise to his responsibilities. Had his inaction not been partially offset by the action of those who have voluntarily returned to serve in Glasgow schools, the education system in our city would almost have been in a state of chaos.

Yet, despite this known crisis in the educational life of Glasgow, many teachers are still engaged on National Service. Teachers are still being withdrawn from the classrooms for National Service and, because of the shortage, there can be no replacement for those conscripted.

The Knox Committee, which was appointed to inquire into this problem of the shortage of teachers, among other matters, strongly recommended two measures as being likely to bring substantial early relief to the schools. The first was: …one of the most effective ways of getting more teachers quickly would be to grant indefinite deferment forthwith to teachers. That Report was presented to the Secretary of State for Scotland in July, 1957. The operative word was "forthwith", but that recommendation has not yet been implemented.

Proof is found in the case of Mr. R. L. Moyes, a teacher of French in Knightswood secondary school, who started his career in January this year, who had fitted himself competently into the school organisation and who has since been plucked out to perform his National Service, notwithstanding every appeal that he should remain. The proposal for deferment is now inadequate and deferment alone cannot meet the case. In my view and in the view of many people in Glasgow, the Secretary of State must demand that all teachers in the Forces should be permitted, if they so desire, immediately to return to teaching.

The Knox Committee made a second recommendation: the regulation whereby pensions may be reduced cuts off a useful source of supply and appears to us to be not only unjust but unwise. Two years after that Report, made by some of the most distinguished men in business, in education and in University life in Scotland, the Government are still refusing to abandon that unwise and unjust course. What does this mean? It prevents those teachers who have retired from service and who are entitled to draw their superannuation payments from receiving full pension if they return to teaching. We have the extraordinary situation, to which I drew the attention of the House earlier this month, whereby retired teachers who have resumed teaching, largely from a high sense of social obligation, and who received an increase in their salary as teachers last Novem- ber, have suffered an equivalent reduction in their pension, thus keeping their total earnings at the pre-retiral level. That situation is so fantastic that one wonders whether there is a spring madness in the Government when they allow it to continue. To alter this "unwise" and "unjust" treatment, to quote the Knox Report, would not require legislation in Scotland but simply a change in the superannuation regulations, and it would apply solely to teachers who had retired.

It should be noted that only teachers who enter the public education service are penalised. One would think that the Government did not like this service, because if any of those teachers were to enter into employment in private schools they could draw their full salaries in such schools and also their full pensions. Equally, if they take any other job but teaching they can draw the salary for that job and the superannuation which they have earned.

There is a third recommendation made by the Knox Committee—that men who are training for teaching should be indefinitely deferred from military service. That is sensible, because we must not cut off supply. If these recommendations had been applied over the last two years there would have been a modification of the serious situation which is arising in Glasgow. If action were to be taken to implement these short-term measures in order that they could be operative before the beginning of this summer, hope for the future of education in the City of Glasgow would begin to revive.

I should like briefly to look at the long-term approach to this problem, because we must never forget that Glasgow is in a special position. In the City of Glasgow we have not been recruiting our fair share of the new entrants to the profession. If we compare 1939 with 1955 we find that the number of qualified teachers increased by 20 per cent., but Glasgow's share was only 8·8 per cent. We lose teachers for a variety of reasons, such as the slowness of promotion, lack of housing, the higher cost of living and the extremely poor quality of some of our older schools. This indicates that in Glasgow there is a case for a salary differential such as we have in London in order to offset the disadvantages of teaching in the City. Owing to the fact that many Glasgow teachers leave the service because of housing difficulties, the Knox Committee recommended that the Department should review the conditions under which houses can be provided for teachers. I ask the hon. Gentleman to say what has been done in that regard.

There is also the quota system, which operates successfully in England, by which local education authorities each agree to a quota and do not go beyond it in order to ensure that all get a fair share of those leaving the training colleges. It would seem that in view of Glasgow's position some thought might be given to whether it could be operated in Glasgow with equal success.

To the credit of Glasgow Education Committee and the Corporation, despite these difficulties, they have been proceeding with a large-scale building programme. Nine new schools and two major extensions have already been built and twelve others are building or are planned. Each of those schools will need a staffing complement of some fifty teachers. The energy and foresight of the education committee in this matter have complicated their staffing problem. The Government which helps them to proceed with the building of new schools is the same Government which takes away the teachers who are indispensable to the work of the schools. Again, the Secretary of State stands condemned in the eyes of his fellow Scots for his passivity in this matter.

The outlook for education in Glasgow is grim. As the so-called bulge passes into the secondary schools more teachers will be required, but the bulge is not our only problem. It has been assumed that as it leaves the primary school teachers would be able to help at the secondary stage, but this is unlikely for the primary school rolls will be maintained at their present level for as long as can be seen.

We are now on a new plateau in education, and we on this side of the House want to lift the Secretary of State on to it. If he will not come and fails to implement the recommendations I have put before him tonight, he will be denying to the great mass of children in the City of Glasgow the right to a full, sound and uninterrupted education. If he permits part-time education to become a feature in the life of our city he will have given a first-class boost to illiteracy and child delinquency. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, through the Joint Under-Secretary, to take immediate action on the lines I have indicated. Time and tide are both running against him. They wait for no man. Not even for the Secretary of State for Scotland.

11.38 p.m.

Photo of Sir John George Sir John George , Glasgow Pollok

No one on this side of the House who represents Glasgow denies the urgency, extent or danger of this very important subject and no one in this House has a deeper interest in or wider knowledge of the subject than the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin). It is necessary to be brief, but this is an important and urgent subject. One thing that the hon. Member mentioned about the extent of the shortage should, perhaps, be further explained.

It is true that the shortage today appears to be 900, but that is due to a change in the method of calculation. I quote from "Education in Scotland", 1957, which says, on page 54, that the increase in the shortage would not have been nearly so severe except for two changes. One is that of the 92 certificated teachers, whom the hon. Member said were in Glasgow, over 70 in employment are now regarded as requiring replacement. That is the general change. The particular change, responsible for the major part of the increase the hon. Member mentioned, stems from the fact that Glasgow has adopted a more exacting basis and calculated its requirements on classes of under 40 instead of classes of 45, as in previous years. That means that the 1957 figure of 851 would have been 240 but for the changed basis of calculation.

That, of course, does not deny the serious shortage, and the Glasgow Corporation is well aware of it. It has asked the committee of management to see where part-time education can be applied. In addition, the top departments of four of Glasgow's senior secondary schools have been or are being closed. One of them is in my constituency, and the closure is causing great resentment. Such acts as these merely postpone the crisis and will, in fact, only make it worse in the long run.

In the broader aspect, the nation needs more educated manpower, and, therefore, fewer people are going into teaching, and of those who are Glasgow is getting a smaller proportion. Teaching in Glasgow has become unpopular for many reasons. The hon. Gentleman has mentioned some of them, but perhaps I may be allowed to enumerate some that occur to me. First, almost every class in Glasgow is a large one. Secondly, some councils offer houses to teachers, but Glasgow is unable to do this. That should be reviewed and, perhaps, Government assistance given.

Thirdly, the new schools in the new housing areas aggravate the cost in time and money of travelling to school. Fourthly, rates and rents are high. Fifthly, large staffs are needed in schools of the size of Shawlands, in my constituency, or Whitehill. Sixthly, in Glasgow, the teacher's status is small, whereas in the small town or village it is high. In these days, status is of great value. It is such things as this that keep Glasgow from getting its fair share of the manpower available.

I should like now to make a few suggestions. First, we should consider reinstituting the Glasgow allowance, which used to be £50, and should not, perhaps, confine its payment merely to within the city's boundaries. Secondly, the creation of new promoted posts in large schools—extra second masters, house masters assisting the headmaster in one section of the school, or senior assistant assisting a principal teacher of a large department. Another thing that is very dear to the hearts of teachers is co-option to the education committees. They would probably be disillusioned if they did get on them, but they are very keen on it and it should be considered very seriously.

I underline the plea of the hon. Member for Govan for the abolition of the call-up of men teachers, and I join with him in seeking their recall from the Services. We should do everything we can to get their exemption from call-up and to encourage the recall of those already serving. People of pensionable age who go back into teaching should be paid both their teachers' pension and their wages. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to give consideration to some of these points.

11.47 p.m.

Photo of Mr Jack Browne Mr Jack Browne , Glasgow Craigton

My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) regrets that he is unable to answer this important debate, which I have to answer in seven or seven and a half minutes. It is, of course, quite undeniable that the schools are going through a period of very great difficulty because of the shortage of teachers, and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) has helped the House by ventilating the question of education in Glasgow. We all share his concern over classes of excessive size and over the frequent changes of teachers as a result of staffing difficulties. These staffing difficulties arise, as he himself pointed out, in part at least from the great educational advances that have been and are being made, and the high standards that are now, rightly, being set.

Glasgow's difficulties are, of course, a reflection of the national shortage of teachers. Perhaps I would be wise to mention, first, the national picture as the two are closely linked. The number of teachers in service in Scottish schools has been steadily growing. In round figures, it has gone from 29,000 in 1945 to 35,000 in 1958. Recruitment is very high and now exceeds 2,000 a year. It was only 1,500 a year before the war, and last year it was the highest ever. During the period the proportion of graduates in the profession has also risen.

It is clear from these advances, in which Glasgow has shared, that our schools are doing more for an increasing number of pupils than ever before. Complaints that education is in a decline are not justified. On the contrary, Scottish education has developed vigorously since the war, and I think this should be more widely recognised. But we are short of about 3,000 teachers in Scotland, and we measure this number not by the standards of the past but by the standards which we are now seeking to attain; and that figure is likely to get worse. It will be 4,000 by 1960–61. There is no single solution. The problems and possibilities lie in many fields. We must be diligent in examining them all in our search for remedial action.

The hon. Member gave us figures with regard to the Glasgow shortage. In 1958 the authority estimated that it needed 926 teachers to fill vacancies, to reduce oversized classes and to replace certificated teachers over 70 and all uncertificated teachers. This represents a shortage of 12 per cent. of posts, as compared with the general Scottish shortage of 8 per cent. Of the shortage, about 730 related to posts in primary schools, and so the shortage in the secondary schools, which are now beginning to cope with the bulge, is about 200. My right hon. Friend is well aware of the acute difficulties under which the schools are working. Indeed, as the hon. Member for Govan will know, my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary met representatives of Glasgow education authority in January and discussed the position with them.

The hon. Member went on to make some practical suggestions, and I will try to deal with as many of them as I can. First, he referred to National Service. The facts are as follows: Since deferment was first granted to teachers in 1956—when it was restricted to graduates with first or second class honours degrees in mathematics or science—it has been extended each year to include other groups of teachers. The Government have been faced with the difficult task of allotting available manpower to the best advantage among the conflicting claims of the Armed Forces, education and of industry and research.

The House may be assured that my right hon. Friend in regard to Scotland, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education in regard to England, have not been backward in pressing the needs of the schools. The present situation is that in 1959 no trained teachers will be called up in Scotland, except, on the one hand, a very small group of non-graduates—not more than two or three in all—who have certain qualifications in science or technology, and, on the other hand, any teachers who completed their training before 1959, at a time when, under the arrangements then existing, they were not eligible for deferment.

The teacher in Knightswood falls into the latter group. He completed training in June, 1958, at a time when third class honours graduates in arts—as he is—were not eligible for deferment; his call-up was delayed until March of this year. In the opinion of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service it would have been unfair to the man's contemporaries who are already in the Forces if he had been granted deferment exceptionally.

I hope that I have made it clear that teachers as a group are virtually exempt from the call-up. We estimate that about 380 teachers will receive deferment in 1959, and of these at least 180 would not have been eligible by the rules existing last year. Some of these teachers will be available from the end of this month, when their training courses finish, and the others from the beginning of the new school session. A number of these will no doubt enter the service of the Glasgow education authority. This year and next year there will also be between 20 and 30 teachers returning to Glasgow from National Service.

The hon. Member mentioned the question of early release from the Forces. A group of Glasgow parents who met on Monday have sent a resolution on this matter to my right hon. Friend. A similar view was expressed today. As hon. Members will realise, this is a difficult and complex United Kingdom question which is within the province of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service and which involves more than one Ministry. I recognise its importance, and I cannot say more about it tonight.

On the question of retired teachers, the Advisory Council has now made the same suggestion as it made before, which was then turned down. The proposal and modifications to it are now being re-examined. Concerning housing, the Department told Glasgow in 1956 that it would consider sympathetically proposals for construction, adaptation or purchase by the education authority of houses to let to teachers at economic rents. We shall consider again the quota system, although last time we rejected it, and we are looking at the whole question of the report on salaries. This has gone to the National Joint Council, which already has put in hand the next triennial review.

Great advances have, therefore, been made. We shall go on making every possible improvement as circumstances permit and I do not in any way agree that my right hon. Friend has been inactive or complacent.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at nine minutes to Twelve o'clock.