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Education (Science Teachers)

Volume 523: debated on Monday 1 February 1954

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. Studholme.]

10.11 p.m.

I entered this item in the Adjournment Book in the early part of December, before the Christmas Recess, and, since then, this matter of the shortage of teachers in schools has had tremendous publicity in the Press. This shortage of teachers can undermine our very existence as a nation unless something is done to solve the problem. If we have not got the teachers in the schools, we cannot have the pupils; if we have not got the pupils, we cannot have the students; if we have not got the students, we cannot have the graduates, and without the graduates we cannot have the scientists.

Since the end of the First World War, our industry has developed largely on a basis of the introduction of scientists into industry to assist in industrial expansion. We were far behind both Germany and the United States in the scientific development of industry. Indeed, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was founded in 1860, less than 100 years after America had achieved her independence. In Germany, the Charlottenburg High School of Technology, which is known as the Charlottenburg Physikalisch Technische Reichsanstalt, was founded in 1880, less than 10 years after Germany had come together as a nation. In fact, Germany spent over 10 million marks, and, in those days of 1880, marks were 20 to the £ on a gold basis, so that both Germany and America understood the problem of the intervention of science into industry much better than we did in this country. Since the First World War, our industry has developed very rapidly on a basis of scientific development.

But unless we continue the flow of scientists, industry cannot go ahead and compete with the other scientifically developed industries in the world. This is much more important for us than for any other nation, because we are more vulnerable in this respect than any other people on earth. We have more than 51 million inhabitants in these islands, and no natural exportable resources. True, we have coal, but if we are to expand our industry sufficiently for us to live, we shall not have any coal to export. We have to import nearly half the food we require and nearly all the resources we need for our industry. For all this, we depend upon the export of manufactures to bring in the food and the raw products. Without all this, we cannot exist or even survive. If we are to export our manufactured products in competition with the most highly developed nations in the world, we must have the scientists. Unless we have teachers in the schools, we cannot have scientists in industry.

Not only will our industries be threatened by this shortage of science teachers, but our shipping. If we have not the exports, we cannot maintain our shipping; with our shipping goes marine insurance, and with all that goes the City of London. We depend upon a very small band of people for our livelihood, reminding us of those desperate days of 1940 when we depended upon another small band of people for our life. The struggle is in the hands of that very small band. Unless we solve this problem, our very survival as a nation is threatened.

The difficulty is being increased by industry itself, which can and does offer a much higher level of remuneration, better conditions and easier existence to the scientists than they get by teaching in schools. The attraction for the young man faced with teaching in schools or going into industry often sways in favour of industry. As industry expands, it absorbs more scientists, and unless something is done to level out the distribution of scientists, industry itself will have killed the goose that lays the golden eggs. It is this very balance between industry and education which is being threatened to the point of extinction by the prosperity of industry brought about by the knowledge and work of the scientists in the development of industry.

The Federation of British Industries is so alarmed about this position and about the future outlook that, on 15th January last, it called a mixed conference of educationists of high standing and representatives of British industry to see what could be done to get a better distribution. I read very carefully the report of that conference, but there was nothing in them, as far as I could see, of any great event that could solve the problem.

A little later in my speech I am going to make some very revolutionary proposals, because one has to be revolutionary in dealing with a position which, although not serious at the moment, will in the next 10 or 15 years become more than serious. As I have related, the cause of the trouble is the higher remuneration offered by industry to young people who have to earn their living. It might be said, why not pay them a rate of remuneration that could compete with industry and offer them promotion that could compete with industry.

I have had a lengthy correspondence with the chairmen of four of our giant industries. I.C.I., de Havillands, Unilever and Shell. The chairmen of these four great branches of industry put their experts at my disposal in order to furnish me with as much information as possible. From the educational side, I have taken four people from outstanding establishments of education, the director of Nottingham University, the headmaster of Uppingham, the president of Lough-borough College, and the headmaster of Loughborough Grammar School. They have all helped me in bringing forward the proposals I have to make in this debate tonight. In their letters to me, each one of them recognises that this is not a problem, but a danger. It is a danger which we shall have to overcome, because, unless we do, it will be very difficult for us to maintain anything like the level of livelihood that we enjoy today.

In mentioning these distinguished people, I must also tender my thanks to the American Embassy, because its representatives have given me all possible information about how the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is being run and the benefit it represents to American industry. Some of our great firms, such as Shell, have pressed our universities to adopt courses and to promote departments in their establishments for the development of scientific industrial expansion. Shell gave about £500,000 to Cambridge University to found a chair of chemical engineering and also promoted the teaching of geophysics in our universities. Other firms have also given large sums of money to our teaching establishments to help us in this difficult problem, and such matters will be part of what I shall recommend presently.

I find that no headmaster agrees with the payment of a differential rate.

:We have in the hon. Member an authority, belonging to the National Union of Teachers, which does not agree with it either.

Nevertheless they all have to employ expedients to get science teachers, and here I will quote from letters from the headmasters of Uppingham School and of Loughborough Grammar School. I have told them that I might be using some of their correspondence in my speech. The headmaster of Loughborough Grammar School, Mr. Pullinger, says:
"I, myself, although I have been very fortunate in retaining my science masters, experienced the difficulty in mathematics three or four years ago. when, in spite of repeated advertisements, I found it impossible to secure a man qualified to teach mathematics to Sixth Form level."
I have just been speaking to the hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) who says that in Stafford they had great difficulty in obtaining science teachers and that the difficulty is so acute that some schools have had to close down their science departments. If we are to close our departments of science for want of teachers we cannot possibly have either the students or the graduates who would turn into scientists, and the supply will therefore dry up.

I wish now to quote what the headmaster of Uppingham School has to say:
"In common with, I think, most headmasters, I am strongly opposed to upsetting the harmony and balance of a school staff by paying science masters more than those who are teaching other subjects. Despite this view, one is forced to expedients such as granting one or two extra increments to scientists in order to get them in the first place."
In almost every case, therefore, some extraordinary treatment has to be given in order to get science or mathematics masters in schools, and, if that be the case, why not face the matter bravely and, instead of these expedients, and this going round the corner business, make a differential? We shall have to do it sooner or later. We shall have to make a differential in order to attract science and mathematics teachers back to the schools.

It may be said that this would not be fair to the arts teacher who goes through the same studies and the same long university training to reach his position. But there is a great difference. I am sorry for the arts teacher, but when we want to obtain a scarce commodity in the market we have to pay more for it.

:Is my hon. Friend aware that women teachers are harder to obtain than men at present, and therefore, on the basis of that argument, would he be in favour of paying women teachers more than men teachers?

I am coming to women teachers, do not worry. I was saying that the arts teacher has little other outlet for his experience and training, whereas the science teacher has not only industry but the scientific Civil Service. What is more, the science teacher is vital to our existence. We could go a year or two without Latin or Greek or history or geography and still survive, but we shall not be able to survive unless we overcome the difficulty of getting science teachers in our schools.

I refrained purposely from calling this Adjourment debate "Shortage of Science Masters" and instead called it "Shortage of Science Teachers. "That was because according to the report of the Advisory Council, the shortage of women teachers is even more acute than the shortage of men teachers; in fact, the report mentions this shortage of women teachers six times.

:I am talking about science teachers—the subject of this debate. Therefore I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, under these conditions of such a shortage of women teachers, if it was wise of the Burnham Committee to make a sex differential in their salary-increases? Why not have given them all the same increments? I appeal to the hon. Gentleman to ask the Minister that there shall be no sex differential in the case of special responsibility allowances. It is hard enough to get the teachers now, but if we make the sex differential continuous, it will be impossible in the future.

At the beginning of the century there was little outlet for women's labour. A woman could be a shop assistant, she could become a domestic servant, she could have a junior post in the Civil Service, or she could be a teacher. Now, however, there are as many outlets for women's labour as there are for that of men. So I ask the hon. Gentleman to appeal to the Minister not to approve any special responsibility allowances where there is a sex differential. The L.C.C. have abolished them. Why make a woman an inferior being when she is doing a job which a man is paid more to do?

As time is running on I must bring forward the revolutionary proposals about which I was speaking. I have explained how M.I.T. and the Charlottenburg High School of Technology were founded for helping the scientific expansion of industry. Industry supports M.I.T. whole-heartedly in the United States. Eastman, the Kodak man, left 20 million dollars to M.I.T. The last figures I have are for 1951, when eight million dollars were given to M.I.T. by American industry.

Now, what am I going to propose as my first revolutionary suggestion? It is that Loughborough College be taken over and become an ancillary of British industry; that British industry goes in, to a large extent, to finance Loughborough College and also gives guidance to that college in the kind of sciences, physics, or mathematics which British industry desires for its expansion and development. The one person whom I should have thought would have objected to this idea is the president of the college. But no; on the contrary, he comes out whole-heartedly in favour of it. Much to my surprise he has written to me in favour of the plan, and I will read what he has written:
"Your suggestion does mark a break from our traditional method of providing technical education, and I think that there is a need for breaking from this tradition. The national colleges set up in about six branches inside technical colleges have done a little in the way you talk of going, but progress is very slow indeed. I feel that our method at Loughborough, of gaining the confidence and thence the collaboration of industry, will produce results, but only slowly, and I constantly wonder whether the country can afford this slow development. I am, therefore, in favour of your suggestion, though I realise that a great deal of effort and determination will be necessary to put it into effect."
That is my first revolutionary proposal and in it I have the backing of the president of Loughborough College. What would be the result of this? The result would be that Loughborough College would be there as an ancillary of British industry, producing the scientists, the physicists and the mathematicians which British industry requires, leaving the universities and training colleges to provide the teachers in schools and colleges. Therefore, one would get a flow from the schools to the universities on the one hand, and the flow from Loughborough College to industry on the other. Hon. Members may ask why I specify Loughborough College. I do so, not because I have the honour to represent Loughborough, tout because this college is recognised as the principal engineering and technological college in the Commonwealth. Under my proposal, one line would go to industry and one towards the educational services.

I have much to say, and my second proposal is one which has already been discussed; that is the aspect of National Service and attracting teachers if they were exempt from it. I have not received any whole-hearted—

I think that the hon. Member is now proposing something which would require legislation.

I am only making suggestions for consideration.

In Germany, before the First World War, they had a system, Das Einjährige system, under which a student served only one year for National Service. He did his National Service and continued his studies at the same time. He wore his uniform during this year, but there was no alteration in his status. He did not live in barracks, but continued at home or wherever he normally resided. He continued his studies and his National Service at one and the same time. If we could have some similar service to that German system of pre-1914 days, it might appeal to people and they might like to do it, saying, "Well, we are serving our country in two ways, in that we are training to become teachers and we are doing our National Service at the same time."

:The hon. Gentleman is not only making a speech, but he is preventing me from making one.

These are two considerations of a revolutionary character, but, as I have pointed out, of a totally acceptable—

The Question having been proposed after Ten o'Clock, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Nineteen Minutes to Eleven o'Clock.