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Education

Volume 415: debated on Thursday 8 November 1945

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Students (Demobilisation)

1.

asked the Minister of Education whether in view of the shortage of schoolmasters, she will take steps to secure the release from the Forces of men whose university or college education was interrupted by military service, so that they can resume their studies immediately instead of waiting for the next academic year, thereby speeding by 12 months the influx of trained schoolmasters into the schools.

:Arrangements can usually be made for men released from the Forces to resume their studies immediately, without waiting for the next academic year. Now it has been agreed that in view of the shortage of teachers, special arrangements shall be made for the early release of a number of men whose courses at university training departments or training colleges were interrupted by military service, and I shall be announcing details shortly to the Departments and colleges concerned.

:Will the statement include a reference to those officer-teachers who are in the B.A.O.R. and whose release groups have been deferred?

That Question should be addressed to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Conscientious Objectors

2.

asked the Minister of Education what progress is being made in the scheme to facilitate the return of teachers, who are conscientious objectors, to the teaching profession.

:A Bill has been introduced dealing with the release of conscientious objectors from work which they may have undertaken as a condition of their registration. Teachers are not specifically mentioned in the Bill, but they are covered by the general proposals.

Will the right hon. Lady say if these teachers havebeen released to take the place of clergymen who are not allowed to teach?

The question shows a complete misapprehension of the situation as regards clergymen.

Vj Holidays

3.

asked the Minister of Education why a letter sent by a head master on 30th August, inquiring whether two additional days should be added to normal boarding school holidays on account of VJ celebrations was not answered by her department until 4th October, on account of which 300 boys were deprived of their VJ holidays; whether she is aware that letters addressed to her Department by headmasters rarely receive a reply under three or four weeks and that replies when received, are habitually couched in that circumlocutory style and doubtful grammar which other departments have abandoned; and if she will remedy this

:The inquiry to which my hon. Friend refers came from an independent school, and the question of additional holidays on account of VJ celebrations was a matter for determination by the Governors in the light of the Prime Minister's announcement. As the hon. Member is the headmaster concerned, he could have arranged his own holidays without sending a letter to an already overworked and understaffed Department.

While thanking the Minister for that reply, and for the advice for which a new Member is always grateful, may I ask whether she thinks five weeks is a reasonable time in which to reply to a letter, and whether, also, it is not due to the fact that the Ministry of Education has been something of a Cinderella under her predecessors, when personnel were taken away by other Departments? May I also say how confident we are on this side of the House that the right hon. Lady will improve these matters?

Teachers (Emergency Training)

asked the Minister of Education if she will give particulars of the measures taken to speed up emergency training of teachers in order to secure the additional teachers necessary to implement the Education Act of 1944.

Five emergency training colleges for teachers are now open which, with two small groups in permanent colleges, provide for some 830 students. A sixth college for 200 women students will open next week. Premises have now been secured for a further 14 colleges to be opened early next year, bringing the total up to the 20 which were promised by the end of January. I am making every effort to secure that further colleges shall be opened as rapidly as possible thereafter.

May I ask the right hon. Lady if she is aware that it will require at least 30,000 additional teachers in three years'time in order to raise the school-leaving age and reduce the size of classes, and whether she will have the 150 emergency training colleges, with an average of 200 students each, ready by the end of the year?

:I think my hon. Friend, with the best will in the world, has got his figures wrong. I have never suggested that 30,000 teachers should go through the emergency training colleges. There are at least 20,000 teachers to come back from the Forces, and it was never intended, nor have I made any promise, that more than 13,000 should be trained by the emergency training colleges.

Is the right hon. Lady satisfied that the arrangements made will provide sufficient teachers to enable the school-leaving age to be raised this time next year?

7.

asked the Minister of Education what is the main factor militating against the opening of emergency training colleges for teachers.

:The chief difficulty is the supply of buildings. New building is out of the question, and most of the existing suitable buildings are already in Government occupation of one kind or another. In determining whether they can give up such buildings, the Government Departments concerned have to bear in mind the demand for surrendering other premises which they are occupying such as dwelling houses and hotels.

May I say that, as this matter is being raised tomorrow, I will not pursue it now?

10.

asked the Minister of Education, in view of the shortage of teachers, if she will take steps to acquire requisitioning powers for the purpose of acquiring suitable properties for use as emergency training colleges

:I already have requisitioning powers and the possibility of using such powers for this purpose in suitable cases is not being overlooked.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether those powers will be used in the acquisition of The Mansion, Gunnersbury Park, W.3 as an emergency day training college for Teachers, to which proposal a small number of residents in the immediate locality have raised objection?

I am afraid that this is a very complicated question, because it involves a lot of legal difficulties. We are taking the matter fully into consideration, but we are not quite sure how far our powers extend in that matter.

11.

asked the Minister of Education the number of students enrolled for training under the Teachers'Emergency Training Scheme who are waiting to begin their training.

:On 6th November, 1945, the number of candidates who had been notified of acceptance and who were known to be available for training but had not yet been placed in a college, was 2,584. Of these some 200 will begin training next week.

:Is the right hon. Lady aware that considerable inconvenience is being caused to many persons who have been accepted for training under the scheme but who are given no indication as to when it is likely to commence?

:I am sorry for the inconvenience, which I recognise, but every candidate is told at the time of acceptance that it is not possible to say when he will enter any particular college, as that depends on the colleges being made available as quickly as we can possibly get them.

Independent Schools

5.

asked

the Minister of Education what steps she has taken to secure the registration and inspection of independent schools.

:Under Section 119 of the Education Act, 1944, Part III of the Act, which deals with this matter, will come into operation on a date to be appointed by Order in Council. In present circumstances, I am unable to give any indication of the probable date to be appointed.

asked the Minister of Education whether fully qualified teachers in independent schools have the same opportunities of early demobilisation as teachers employed in local authority schools; and, if not, whether she will take steps to secure such opportunities in view of the urgent need of these schools to make good their now undermanned teaching staffs.

Yes, Sir; all schools and institutions recognised by my Department as efficient have the same opportunities of benefiting by the block release of teachers in Class B of the Re-allocation of Manpower Scheme.

Is there any such facility for teachers in schools which do not happen to be on the Board of Education list but which have been very long established and subject to inspection by H.M. Inspectors?

:Any independent school which is recognised as efficient, which is of good standing and has, for some reason, been precluded from obtaining recognition, may make representa- tions to my Department to be put on the same footing as any of the other schools.

Scholarships (University Education)

8.

asked the Minister of Education what steps she has taken to equalise the accessibility of university education as between different local education authorities.

:The Regulations for Scholarships and Other Benefits, 1945, made under Section 81 of the Education Act, 1944, empower local education authorities to grant scholarships to pupils to enable them to obtain university education. In paragraphs 15 to 18 of Circular 26, which accompanied the draft Regulations, authorities are given guidance regarding the scope of their awards, and my Department endeavours to stimulate the less progressive authorities to make adequate provision.

:In view of the very encouraging statement made by the present Home Secretary, when Parliamentary Secretary, on this subject, will my right hon. Friend say whether she proposes toincrease the number of State scholarships or increase the grant to local education authorities, especially in order that prospective doctors, among others, can get assistance to go to the universities?

I doubt if my right hon. Friend ever said anything about doctors, but, as regards the others, these matters are under constant consideration.

Direct Grant Schools

9.

asked the Minister of Education if she will give the numbers of direct grant schools on 1st January, 1945, and at the present time; and how many applications for direct grant status have still to be determined.

:The number of direct grant grammar schools on 1st January, 1945, was 231. At present, 86 schools have been so recognised and 102 applications have still to be determined.

:In view of the very large sums of public money involved in these grants to schools, will the right hon. Lady say what measure of control her Ministry exercises over them?

:Would the right hon. Lady inform the House at the earliest opportunity of the terms of availability of the direct grant to these schools? As the Minister knows, the Opposition desire to raise this matter at the earliest possible moment.

:I shall be glad, on the occasion to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, to deal with it as extensively as I can.

Divisional Executives (Travelling Expenses)

12.

asked the Minister of Education if she is now able to state her intentions with respect to amending legislation to empower local education authorities to pay the travelling expenses of members of divisional executives incurred in attending divisional executive meetings in the area of the division and sub-committee meetings and approved deputations at the central office of the local education authority, respectively.

My hon. Friend's Question raises issues which affect other fields of local government than that for which Iam responsible. I am, however, aware of the difficulties of the position in so far as divisional executives are concerned and am in communication with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that long distances have to be travelled, and in the industrial county of Lancashire it is not uncommon for divisional executive members to have to travel distances of 10 to 15 miles to meetings?

I am aware of the fact, and I am very concerned about that, but I cannot deal with it departmentally.

School Kitchens (Norfolk)

13.

asked

the Minister of Education whether in approving plans for the construction of school kitchens in Nor folk, she will agree to a normal type of tiled roof in preference to the more costly and less satisfactory flat roofs such as were necessary when timber was not available.

:In the case of small kitchens and sculleries, to which I understand the Question refers, I am now prepared to approve tiled or slated roofs provided that all appropriate steps are taken to restrict the amount of timber used.

Special Responsibility Posts

14.

asked the Minister of Education whether she has yet approved any schemes of payment relating to posts of special responsibility under the Burn-ham scale; whether she is aware of the divergent awards being offered as between different authorities; and whether she will use her discretionary powers where mini mum awards are offered, in view of the increased cost of livingand the increased remuneration in comparable professions and in the identical profession in Scotland

:Twenty schemes of allowances under the Burnham scale for teachers in primary and secondary schools have so far been submitted to me by local education authorities. Of these one has been approved and the others are now under consideration in my Department. I am aware that there are divergencies between the proposals of different authorities. As the hon. Member will be aware, the determination and distribution of the value of these allowances is primarily a matter within the discretion of the local education authority, but I shall have regard to the point which he has raised as to disparity between different authorities in my consideration of these schemes.

Coleg Harlech, Merioneth

15.

asked the Minister of Education whether she is satisfied that the interests of the trades unions and the Workers Educational Association are sufficiently represented on the sub-committee appointed by the Governing Council of Coleg Harlech, Merioneth, to draw up a short list of applicants for the post of warden of the college.

:I understand that the Council of Coleg Harlech includes representatives of trade unions and of the North and South Wales Districts of the Workers Educational Association and I have no doubt that in appointing the subcommittee they had regard to those interests.

Will the Minister assure the House that she will use her best endeavours to see that the great work done by the W.E.A., which is a non-political body—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"]—it is a non-political body—does not become the subject of a political party squabble?

Will the right hon. Lady realise that this admirable institution is an autonomous body?

:The only thing with which the question is concerned is whether they are represented on the Council, and their honorary secretary is a member of the Council.