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Volume 640: debated on Thursday 11 May 1961

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Scottish Education Department (Seconded Staff)


asked the Minister of Education what staff is seconded to his Department from the Scottish Education Department to assist in dealing with international relationships in the field of education.

None, Sir. My Department maintains close contact with the Scottish Education Department in these matters.

Is the Minister satisfied with the adequacy of these arrangements? Is he aware that in his Department, which is singularly lacking in an adequate supply of information, inquiries from abroad are sometimes met with the answer "No information on this subject is available", when information is available in respect of the Scottish education system? Would it not be much better either to allow the Secretary of State to have his own direct relations with overseas agencies or to have adequate liaison at London?

I am not aware of such difficulties. In the international sphere we work very closely together, and we very much appreciate the help which we get from Scotland and from the Scottish Members who come on our delegations.

Youth Organisations And Teaching Profession


asked the Minister of Education whether he will take steps to encourage women over 60 years of age to remain in the service of youth organisations and the teaching profession if they should so volunteer.

This is a matter primarily for employing authorities. In my Circular 15/60, issued last December, I asked local education authorities to invite teachers who were able and willing to do so to postpone their retirement in order to meet the urgent staffing needs of the schools. If an authority wished to retain a women over 60 in the Youth Service, I hope that it would do so.

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask how many people have been taken on? Has there been an increase? In many cases this is a very fruitful source. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to publicise the arrangements?

Women Teachers


asked the Minister of Education what the response has been to his Come Back to Teaching campaign for married women teachers; and if he will make a statement.

Reports from authorities show that over 1,300 married women answered my appeal in the two months between the launching of the campaign and 31st March. Of these, 840 have already been appointed and the applications of another 500 are being considered. It is to early yet to say what the full response to the campaign will be, since many authorities have only recently begun their own local publicity campaigns to follow up the national campaign.

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask him how long he envisages carrying on this campaign? Has he in view any target figure which he would like to achieve?

The campaign will be a permanent feature of recruiting married women to the teachers' force I have no target figure.

Did not the right hon. Gentleman say at one point that he had a target figure? Did he not say that there were 50,000 married women teachers at an age at which they might still be able to teach in this country and that he hoped to obtain at least 5,000 of these for his service?

It would be a very good thing if we could get 5,000 over a period, but I have no time limit for such a task.

Would not my right hon. Friend get many more of these married women back into teaching if he could induce the Chancellor to allow their earnings to be separately assessed, for tax purposes, from those of their husbands? Would not that be a price worth paying, from the educational point of view?

My right hon. Friend has gone some way to meet the case of those married women whose incomes, taken together with those of their husbands, bring them into the Surtax class.

School Discipline (Corporal Punishment)


asked the Minister of Education whether he will now take steps to ensure that all school authorities are allowed to use the cane to maintain discipline in schools under his Department's control.

Local education authorities make their own regulations about the use of corporal punishment in schools and I consider this to be a matter properly within their discretion. But I hope that authorities in their turn give discretion, within limits, to head teachers.

Can my right hon. Friend say why his Department cannot issue general guidance throughout schools and not leave this matter entirely to local authorities? Surely this is one thing that we want to bring about, in view of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary's remarks not so long ago.

We have always left this question of the organisation of discipline in the schools very much in the hands of those who employ the teachers. I have no reason to think that it is not working well.

Is not the use of the cane recognised by the Home Secretary and many other authorities on this subject as one of the means of averting serious delinquency later on in life? In those circumstances, why are Socialist-controlled London County Council school managers allowed to obstruct Government policy?

I consider that the use of the cane, although it may be necessary, is an admission of failure on the part of the teacher. It is certain that the use of the cane could have a good effect only if the teacher himself believed in using it.

Are we to judge the results of the use of the cane by the products of public schools sitting opposite?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that public and educational opinion all over the United States and the U.S.S.R.—and, in fact, in every civilised country—is appalled at the recrudescence of this barbaric idea that the use of the cane is good for discipline?

We do what we think is right here. We do not need to take lessons in civilisation from other countries.

Public Schools


asked the Minister of Education whether he will set up a working party to consider methods of entry and selection to public schools and to consider whether this entry should be more broadly based.

No, Sir. My policy is to raise the standards in the maintained day-schools. If there is some special reason for a boarding education, and the parents cannot afford it, local education authorities have power to help.

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to a speech made recently by the headmaster of Eton, at Manchester? Is it not time that more positive steps were taken to encourage local authorities to make grants for boys to go to public schools? Would not this do much to encourage these great institutions to expand and, perhaps, new ones to be set up?

I do not think that public schools are in any need of candidates at the moment. They have nearly all got waiting lists. I read a report of the speech of the headmaster of Eton. It raises large issues, which cannot be answered at Question Time.

Adult Education


asked the Minister of Education what expansion of adult education he will encourage during 1961–62 by increasing the grants to the responsible bodies.

My Department's Vote includes£740,000 for adult education grants for the current year. This is an increase of£28,000 over last year. Most of the increase will be absorbed by unavoidable additional costs, but there will be some margin for new developments proposed by responsible bodies.

Is not this quite inadequate in regard to the right hon. Gentleman's responsibilities under the 1944 Education Act? Is not he aware that the number of staff and the amount of money involved would be quite small to make a considerable increase in the amount of adult education undertaken by responsible bodies? Will he look seriously into this matter?

There are many parts of the education service to which I should like to see more money going, but we have to have priorities, and at the moment I cannot see my way to increasing these grants.

Is it not time that the expansion referred to in the Question was tackled in quite a different way, by greatly improving the status, emoluments and conditions of service of teachers generally, so that British children could compete with foreign children in the educational field?

Youth Clubs


asked the Minister of Education what increase in membership of youth clubs has taken place since his Department accepted the recommendations of the Albemarle Report.

It is too early to assess the increase in club membership, but there has been a marked growth of enthusiasm, activity, and expenditure among both local education authorities and voluntary organisations.

Would it not be very helpful if the matter were debated here, so that all these facts could be brought to light? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in County Durham there is considerable alarm because the recommendations of the Albemarle Report have not been carried out? What is his reaction to that?

I believe that there is to be a Motion on Friday on this subject. I should be glad if the Youth Service expanded in County Durham. My information is that it is going quite well.

Teachers' Salaries


asked the Minister of Education, in view of the increasing unrest among teachers, what further action he intends to take to deal with their demand for an improved scale of salaries.

The Burnham Committee is now engaged in negotiating revised scales for teachers' salaries.

I am aware of that. In view of the possibility of the Burnham Committee recommending an adequate increase in salaries, does the Minister propose to take action?

Is the Minister aware of the report that he has already intimated to the Burnham Committee that he would not approve any settlement which it might reach which would involve more than a 10 per cent. increase in expenditure on teachers' salaries? Would he care to say whether that report is correct?

Unless the Minister is responsible for the report he cannot be asked about it. I do not know to what the hon. Member is referring.

Youth Service Development Council (Report)


asked the Minister of Education when the Youth Service Development Council is to issue a report.

An account of progress in the youth service, including the work of the Youth Service Development Council, will be published in my Department's Annual Report for 1960.

Useful as that may be, does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that it might be very helpful if a special report were made by this Council, of which I understand he is chairman? As my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) has pointed out, there is a good deal of anxiety about what is happening about the development of the Youth Service, and this might be a way of spreading information about what is being done.

I will consider that, but I hope that the hon. Lady sees our monthly bulletin called "Youth Service", which has a circulation of 22,000 copies and was started expressly for the purpose of reporting progress.

It is a monthly publication, but it does not give the picture over the country as a whole, although it gives some very interesting information about certain experiments.

Statistics (Review)


asked the Minister of Education when he expects to announce the results of the review of the statistics provided to his Department.

The current review of the various parts of my Department's statistics is proceeding steadily, but will take some time to complete. As decisions are taken they are being implemented and will be evident in the statistical information published from now on.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that in answer to a recent Parliamentary Question that I put to him he confessed that he could give no useful estimate at all of the number of children taking mathematics and science and the number of hours of tuition in these subjects, although his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland provided useful and exact information on these matters? How does he expect to plan education in this scientific age without that basic information? Will he ensure that the result of his review is at least to bring his statistical services up to the level of the Scottish Education Department?

School Building


asked the Minister of Education what inquiries he makes about the particular needs of each area before approving the school-building programme; and what criteria he applies to the proposals put forward by local authorities.

I ask local authorities to supply supporting information with their major building proposals, and I also have the advice of Her Majesty's Inspectors. The relative urgency of each authority's proposals is then considered within the scope of current educational building policy and the national allocation for the year.

Is the Minister aware that his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, on 23rd March in this House, spoke of local authorities putting in grossly inflated programmes for school building? Does the Minister agree with this assertion of the Parliamentary Secretary? If so, what is his evidence for saying that local authorities are putting in grossly inflated proposals?

I do not have the Parliamentary Secretary's words exactly in mind, but it is true that the proposals of some local authorities are inflated in relation to what could actually be done by the building industry in time.

Is it not clear that local authorities are putting in programmes to bring the educational standards in their localities up to the minimum requirements laid down by his Department and that, in that sense, they cannot be called inflated programmes? They are minimum programmes.

I quite agree, but it is necessary to be practical in the matter of building programmes.

School Meals


asked the Minister of Education what steps he proposes to take to include fresh apples in school meals in order to promote dental health.

My right hon. Friend gives general guidance to local education authorities on nutritional standards for the meals service and has suggested that fresh fruit may be used.

Education For Industry And Commerce (Report)


asked the Minister of Education when it is intended to publish the report of the National Advisory Council on Education for Industry and Commerce on the various matters mentioned as having been referred to it in Better Opportunities in Technical Education, Command Paper No. 1254.

I will publish this report as soon as I have received and considered the comments of the associations of local education authorities and technical teachers.

I appreciate that it is essential to have these opinions. Will the Minister do what he can to expedite matters? Is he aware that many people are much concerned about the whole programme of technical education and that we want decisions on matters such as block release?