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Volume 884: debated on Wednesday 22 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what official representations he has had from the Scottish teachers since the rising of Parliament before the Christmas Recess; and whether he will make a statement on the present state of education in Scottish schools.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "None, Sir".

So far as the second part is concerned, hon. Members will be aware that an agreement was reached in the Scottish Teachers Salaries Committee on 30th December on a revision of salaries for school teachers within the total cost recommended by the Houghton Committee. The teachers' side agreed to recommend to its constituent organisations that industrial action in support of pay increases should cease.

Work to rule unrelated to pay continues in some schools, and I intend shortly to discuss this with employing authorities and teachers' representatives.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that owing to a dramatic doubling of fees for those who send children to grant-aided schools in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland, there may be a mass exodus from those schools? Is he also aware that many parents are extremely concerned and have reason to fear that if they have to send their children elsewhere, the other schools in Edinburgh will not be able to accommodate their children? Will he take into consideration the interests of the thousands of children involved and seriously consider making an immediate increase in the grants to grant-aided schools?

The hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is unrelated to the Question on the Order Paper. [Interruption.] He will be aware that there is another Question on the Order Paper that deals with this subject.

Will the Secretary of State stop trying to hide behind the wording of a Question later on the Order Paper—a Question he knows will probably not be reached? Does he not agree that the policy on grant-aided schools is not a policy at all, but a mean and spiteful vendetta that could cause chaos throughout the whole of Scotland and is causing damage to children's education? Will he not abandon this mean and spiteful policy and adopt, in its place, a sensible policy? There may well have to be a change in future, but the right hon. Gentleman's present policy will create chaos in Edinburgh and will cause enormous hardship, for no good educational reason.

I can well understand why the hon. Gentleman does not wish to face the Question which relates to official representations I have had

"from the Scottish teachers since the rising of Parliament before the Christmas Recess; and whether he will make a statement on the present state of education in Scottish schools"
not grant-aided schools. Having fallen flat on his face over his attitude to the troubles before Christmas, he is now proceeding to fall flat on his face over grant-aided schools.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the inordinate number of fee-paying places, whether independent or grant-aided, has bedevilled education in Edinburgh for everybody for too long? It has been harmful to pupils in schools in the State sector, and it is time that it was diminished. Will he say whether any professional educationist or teaching body has made a protest about the proposals on grant-aided schools?

What my hon. Friend says may be true, but it is not related particularly to this Question.

In view of the totally unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's answer, I beg to give notice that I shall ask leave to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.