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Secondary Schoolchildren

Volume 886: debated on Wednesday 12 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many secondary schoolchildren were receiving only part-time education at the most recent date for which figures are available; and what were the comparable figures in each of the three previous years, respectively.

Returns from education authorities show that 35,521 secondary pupils were receiving part-time education on 3rd February. The comparable figure for February 1974 was 11,784. Figures are not available for February 1972 or 1973.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that even if we discount the effect of disruption in the schools the figures he has given of part-time education are alarming? Although there has been an increase in the number of teachers in Scotland, the number of children receiving part-time education in certain areas, particularly Glasgow and Lanarkshire, has risen dramatically. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the result is that we have no real equality of opportunity in education? As existing methods have failed, has the Minister any proposals to put forward to ensure equality of opportunity throughout the system?

We cannot discount as easily as did the hon. Gentleman the disruptive effects of working to rule, which in 15 schools affects 11,627 pupils. Nearly one-third of the total figure is the result of working to rule, and cannot be discounted. I am glad to note that the hon. Gentleman has suddenly discovered that there is not equal opportunity in Scottish schools. There never has been equal opportunity in the history of education. That is what we are working towards in the comprehensive system. We certainly want to increase the numbers of teachers in these schools, and I believe that the significant salary increases, as a result of the Houghton Report, and the much improved career structure, will make Scottish schools a more attractive place to work in. If the hon. Gentleman would spend less time egging teachers on instead of putting forward the advantages of working in Scottish schools and the improvements that have been made we might get a few more teachers in the schools.

If the Minister is so proud of the Scottish schools as a result of action taken by the Labour Government, why is there so much part-time education? Is that all he can point to in favour of the comprehensive system?

The hon. Gentleman should know that the reason for part-time education is the rise in the school leaving age and the fact that we have not had the expected number of teachers expected coming into education. The Conservative Government had four years in office during which to take some action. We are trying to clear up the mess which they left us.