Orders of the Day — Teachers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th July 1962.

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Photo of Mr Frederick Willey Mr Frederick Willey , Sunderland North 12:00 am, 30th July 1962

It is no good the hon. Member looking dissatisfied about that statement. We debated this issue a year ago and Sir David Eccles did not even deign to reply.

The other thing equally significant and important and encouraging is the "trend", which is the desire of more and more parents that their children should stay on at school after the statutory leaving age. But while more and more children are at school and are staying on, we need more teachers.

We should equally welcome another development. Teachers nowadays look forward to a happy married life. We no longer think of women entering the teaching profession and remaining spinsters. We now expect that most of them will marry.

We have known about all this for many years. However, because of the coincidence of these three things about which we ought to be extremely happy and rejoice, we are in fact in awful difficulties. We have not got the teachers that we need because the Government have not faced their responsibilities and taken the necessary steps to provide them. This would be a difficult enough situation to face in any circumstances, but unfortunately for us we are about the only country in the world which has not taken steps in time in the face of such difficulties.

These phenomena are not peculiar to this country, but what is peculiar to this country is that we have done so little about them. We face a world in which the intense competition and the struggle for survival has, fortunately, been expressed largely in terms of education. It is those countries which spend adequate resources on their people which will be the best qualified and most powerful nations in the world. In this situation, I warn the right hon. Gentleman, because I know his tactical approach to this, that it is a waste of time to talk about spending more on education this year than we did last year. The question is, are we spending sufficient in the light of the world in which we live? If we are not, we are failing our people. We are not only failing the people of today, but those of the next generation. That is why I said that my hon. Friend had raised one of the most important issues which face the Government, and for which they are responsible.

I do not want to repeat the figures given by my hon. Friend, but the situation is particularly grave when we remember that during the next few years the schools will be facing a crisis of teacher supply against which the Government have taken no steps to safeguard them. We crossed the Rubicon before the right hon. Gentleman took up his present appointment. That was done with the Report of the National Advisory Council on the Demand and Supply of Teachers. Before that Report was published, although we deployed before the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor all the facts and figures, and although every distinguished educationalist did the same, the staff in Curzon Street remained immune to our arguments.

More than twelve months ago there was a debate in the House on the supply of teachers. We got no response from the Government. This year, however. we received the Report of the National Advisory Council and Mr. Fulton in his preface to the Report called the attention of the Government to "the grave shortage" of teachers. It is interesting to note that on the day of our debate on education—and this shows that Parliamentary debates serve some purpose —the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor wrote to Mr. Fulton agreeing that there is "a grave shortage of teachers."

We therefore have at last the position that the Government have recorded that we are facing a grave shortage of teachers. They admit that if we continue to do what we are doing now, that if we carry out no educational reforms between now and 1970, in that year there will be a shortage of 50,000 teachers. It is, I suppose, something that we now have a clear admission of the difficulties that we are facing, and this acute crisis caused by the shortage of teachers. We now want to know what the Government are going to do about it. That is what the right hon. Gentleman has to tell us tonight. He must assure us that steps are being taken to deal with the situation before the next academic year.

The National Advisory Council says that there must be "a massive expansion of the base of higher education from which many more teachers can be drawn." Now will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the speech that he made on the cuts in the grants to the University Grants Committee? Will he renounce his policy? Will he say that he was wrong? We now have information from all the universities that they cannot carry out even the Government's programme, but here is the National Advisory Council itself saying that there must be "a massive expansion" if this teacher crisis is to be overcome.

The right hon. Gentleman cannot provide for that massive expansion unless he drastically alters the present programme for university expansion. He can do nothing about the present training colleges because, to use his Ministry's own elegant phraseology, the training colleges are at the present time crowded up to one-third more than their normal accommodation. What is the right hon. Gentleman going to do? We now have a further report. The Ministry was not forthcoming about this when I questioned the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor. Everyone except the right hon. Gentleman knew what the Council had recommended. He was going to find out from the Chairman on the Wednesday following the weekend when he lost his office. But we knew what the Council had recommended. Why did not the Ministry publish it? Why did not we get it until last Thursday? We want immediate action.

The Council has said that we must provide 10,000 additional teacher training places. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to provide them? Has he started making provision for them? Again, we want some action before the next academic year. It is interesting to note what the Advisory Council says about this. It says that it is not for the moment reporting upon auxiliaries. After all the flapdoodle we heard from the Parliamentary Secretary in the last debate on education, the National Advisory Council says that we must immediately have 10,000 additional places in training colleges. It is upon this urgent and emergency recommendation that we want a statement from the right hon. Gentleman about Governmental action in the immediate future.

I want to deal with a few other points rather briefly. I agree with what my hon. Friends said about further education; in the various phases of further education we may well recruit people for teaching if we go about it properly. The right hon. Gentleman might look at the possibility. We ought also to look at the importance of keeping children at school in the sixth form, so as not to lose those of them who might well be attracted into teaching.

The right hon. Gentleman should therefore be seriously considering the complete revision of maintenance allowances for children in the sixth form staying on after school-leaving age. That is particularly important now, because we do not want to lose children who ought to stay an extra year in the sixth form because they have not had admission to universities and who might nevertheless make successful recruits to the teaching profession.

I lightened the heart of the Parliamentary Secretary's predecessor when we had the last debate on education, because I called for improvisation. But I did not call for it joyfully; I called for it because we are facing a situation in which we must improvise if we are to get more teachers. The right hon. Gentleman ought to do more about getting more day students at the training colleges. He ought to do more about temporary colleges for day students.

We never had any real response from the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor about the Trent Park-Southend scheme. That is the sort of thing that might set a precedent. In that sort of way we might garner more people into the teaching profession.

I should like the right hon. Gentleman to look at the possibility of sandwich courses at the teacher training colleges. Although this is not a particularly desirable project, it would result in greater use being made of the existing staffs and premises, and the provision of more teachers. I agree with what was said by my hon. Friend about part-time teachers. We know that there are 50,000 married women who are qualified to teach. I pay tribute to what has been done in the last twelve months to attract them back to the teaching profession, but I am not satisfied that sufficient has been done. A more individual appeal should be made. It has been suggested that it might be better if the husbands were approached rather Chan the wives. We cannot be satisfied that sufficient has been done to get enough teachers back into the schools to avoid a crisis in some parts of the country. A deficiency in the South and in Wales means that there is a serious shortage in parts of the Midlands and the North.

I am aware that a dilemma arises from the fact that there are more possible part-time teachers in the areas where there are a sufficient number of teachers already. We must try to persuade part-time teachers to go to schools in less desirable areas. The Minister must face the need for crash programmes at the universities. We must tell the university authorities that the money needed will be provided if they play their part. The authorities are not irresponsible people, they are not altogether enthusiastic about expansion. But the Government must ensure that there is no impediment. There is a desperate shortage of graduate teachers and especially teachers of science and mathematics.

We cannot wait for the Report of the Rabbins Committee. To use the words of the advisory committee, we know that it will recommend a massive expansion of higher education. But we have to take action now to meet the urgent problems which ace immediate. We cannot avoid the fact that this will cost a great deal of money. We must face the question of the status and pay of teachers. The fact remains that the greatest single obstacle to educational advance is the shortage of teachers, and that "log jamb" must be broken as quickly as possible. If the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to renounce the views he held while he was at the Treasury, the sooner he leaves the Ministry the better. But I hope that now he has returned to Education he will recognise his responsibilities to education and at last see that something is done.