Orders of the Day — Remuneration of Teachers Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th April 1963.

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Photo of Mr Frederick Willey Mr Frederick Willey , Sunderland North 12:00 am, 25th April 1963

That again is a sixth form debating sort of reply. If the right hon. Gentleman is so dissatisfied with the Burnham machinery that he is prepared to take the step which he is taking by the introduction of this Bill, he should have very definite views about that machinery. He has shown us so far that all he can do is pose a few questions and that he has not conveyed any views at all to the Burnham Committee.

The right hon. Gentleman anticipated this. We know that it is not a matter only for the teachers. We know that this is a matter which affects all white-collared union members, all those in the public services, all those in local government and the professions. We know that the teachers are weak organisationally and also that the profession is large and difficult effectively to represent. This is an issue which is of concern not only to teachers. It is of concern to all those in the public service and in the professions. It is also a matter of vital concern to the local authorities.

Time after time Government spokesmen say that the block grant was introduced to give more freedom to the local authorities. That is quite untrue. The block grant was introduced for other reasons. But because it could afford more discretion to local authorities, the local authorities have been under constant attack. This is another occasion of a deliberate attack upon the independence of local authorities.

I know that the right hon. Gentleman is a new Minister, a junior Minister carrying out a very senior job. It is unfortunate that, as Minister of Education, he should have lent himself to this sort of use. Whatever ulterior purpose he may be serving, it is very much at the cost of education. Of course it will affect recruitment, if one takes a long-term view, because recruitment is affected primarily by the status and esteem acquired by the profession.

I am with the right hon. Gentleman in his interest in curriculum reform. I think there is great scope for that reform and that action is needed. I do not agree with Sir William Alexander. But the right hon. Gentleman has put himself in a difficult position. This is something which can be done only by the partnership upon which English education depends. I do not agree with Sir Ronald Gould. I do not agree with the teachers about a quota. I come from a part of the country which would suffer badly if we do not have some protection through the quota. But one cannot deal effectively with a situation caused by an absolute teacher shortage unless one has the good will and co-operation of the teachers and the local authorities. If that is upset it is extraordinary difficult to obtain the right response. With the present difficulties facing education, we have, unfortunately, to rely very largely on the good will and co-operation of the teachers. These are the things which the Minister of Education should have thought about before being so easily trapped into taking the action which he has taken.

It is still fashionable to quote the Crowther Report, although it is not fashionable to do very much about it. The Crowther Report concluded: Everything in education depends ultimately on the teacher and everything in educational progress depends on there being teachers with the right qualities and in the right numbers to carry it out. This is what the Minister has failed to appreciate. He could win a little battle and lose the war. His primary responsibility remains—as I have said in every debate—the provision of schools and the provision of teachers.

Recently we had a debate on schools, and we discovered that the right hon. Gentleman is such a weak Minister that he has enforced more severe and savage cuts on school building than Lord Eccles did at the height of an economic crisis. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman has not thought about it sufficiently, but in this way he is showing contempt for the teachers at the very moment when we depend on their co-operation more than we have ever done before. He has been a very short time in office. But he has earned the award of being the worst Minister of Education that we have had since the war—and that is a difficult distinction to attain.