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Classes (Size)

Volume 650: debated on Thursday 30 November 1961

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12.

asked the Minister of Education, in view of the fact that more than 60 per cent. of senior pupils are still being taught in over-size classes, if he will carry out a special survey of all existing measures for the recruitment of teachers, the organisation of classes in the schools, and the distribution and use of teaching talent, with a view to adopting emergency proposals for reducing the size of classes.

I am reviewing the recruitment of teachers in consultation with the National Advisory Council on the Training and Supply of Teachers, and shall shortly be revising the quota scheme with the object of providing a stronger incentive to authorities to attract back into the schools qualified married women teachers. I agree that improved methods of school organisation and how to make the fullest use of available talent are important and that they should receive increasing attention.

Cannot the Ministry give itself a thorough shake up in this matter? Is it not terrible that 16 years after the war more than 60 per cent. of our secondary school pupils are still being taught in over-sized classes, and that there is this shocking position among the staff? Will the Minister regard this as an emergency operation to recruit all the teaching talent available in the nation?

I wish it were only an emergency. It is continuing all the time and has our attention the whole time.

In an effort to see that it does not continue as long as the right hon. Gentleman anticipates, will he regard this as an emergency measure? We all appreciate the advice given to him by the Council, but does not he think that in present circumstances we ought to take exceptional steps to promote the further recruitment of teachers?

We shall receive its report shortly, and I shall pay the greatest attention to it.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the fact that, whatever action he may take, the quality of the teachers recruited is as important as the quantity?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the modification he has made to the quota as regards married women has had a slightly beneficial effect? Will he consider excluding all specially recruited married women teachers from the quota system as a means of encouraging local authorities in their recruiting?

I expect to go some way towards that but the matter is still under review.