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Teacher Training Colleges (Scotland)

Volume 927: debated on Tuesday 1 March 1977

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

9.59 p.m.

I raise this matter on the Adjournment to elicit answers to the questions put in the Scottish Grand Committee on 15th February about Craiglockhart, Dunfermline and Callendar Park Colleges and other colleges by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) and myself. The questions are there seriatim. The Minister has about 28 minutes to give a considered answer. I shall content myself with two assertions.

First of all, some of us challenge the costing and alleged savings on which the decisions are based and challenge the political, economic and educational judgment of Scottish Office Ministers on all of the training colleges. Secondly, I am not the only one here who came into politics from school teaching—chiefly out of a deep-seated belief that only by political action could education be improved.

Craigie, Callendar Park, Craiglockhart and Dunfermline College all have good records and play a substantial rôle in Scottish education. By voice and by vote I shall resist their closure or merger unless some convincing hard facts are given tonight or later.

I have added two questions, of which I have given notice to the Scottish Office, about Callendar Park.

It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

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

The first question is in relation to the costs of closing down Callendar Park and the alternative use, and the second question is whether it is sensible to do this for a college that exists in one of Scotland's major growth areas.

I have here in my hands over 500 letters. They weigh together over four pounds. Many of my colleagues have exactly the same number of letters. This is evidence of why we should have a full reply from the Minister in 29 minutes tonight.

10.1 p.m.

Looking at the clock, I see that the time is fractionally after 10 p.m. I find myself in the unique position of having a full half hour, if that is the understanding of the Chair, in which to reply to the debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). It is most unusual to have almost 30 minutes in which to reply. I shall make good use of the time, but making good use of it means that I cannot give way to Opposition Members. Hon. Members cannot have it both ways if they are here to listen to the economic arguments put forward or suggested. I hope that they will accept that my right hon. Friend's consultative document is based on educational arguments.

Therefore, I start, as is customary, by thanking my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian for initiating the debate and for his courtesy in supplying a number of questions to me in order that I may attempt to answer them. I hope that in setting the scene for this debate on the consultative document my hon. Friend will accept that I shall be answering his questions some time later in the debate.

First, however, if hon. Members will permit me, I should like to take a little time to remind them of the nature of the exercise in which we are engaged. The points that I wish to stress have already been made in the consultative paper and were reiterated by my right hon. Friend and myself when this matter was debated during two mornings in the Scottish Grand Committee, time being given by the Government. The contributions of hon. Members on that occasion have not convinced me that they fully understand my right hon. Friend's arguments. Therefore, I make no apology for trying to restate them this evening.

The consultative paper that we issued on 17th January was intended to initiate a genuine process of consultation about a problem which everyone accepts it would be irresponsible of us as a Government to ignore. The latest projections of pupils set out in the paper have not been seriously challenged. I think that that is one point that no one present would challenge. They clearly indicate general changes in the pattern of demand for teachers in the years ahead which make it essential for us to review our teacher training system as a whole.

At present, as most hon. Members know from the debate and from questions put to me and to my right hon. Friend, we have 10 colleges of education in Scotland, which we estimate to be capable of taking a total of about 14,500 students. Just over 10,500 of these places are occupied this session. Even allowing—as we have—for the possible improvement of school staffing standards, the expansion of the colleges' contribution to in-service training for teachers and the range of work other than teacher training that they are likely to undertake, there will still be a substantial decline in the need for places over the next few years. Indeed, in 1979–80, for example, the number of places needed is likely to be not much more than 8,000.

In such a situation, therefore, there are two main courses of action open to us. Either we can retain all the colleges and reduce the student populations in all of them or we can reduce the number of colleges through closures or mergers. Clearly there are advantages and disadvantages in each of these possibilities, and there are many factors which must be considered before deciding what, in all the circumstances, is the best course of action.

The pattern of closures and mergers which has been suggested in the consultative paper is the one which we consider, on the information available to us, to be most worthy of examination by all the interests concerned. The whole purpose of the consultations on which we have embarked is to elicit views which will enable my right hon. Friend to make final decisions. Meantime, I assure hon. Members—I should like to make this a strong assurance—that no final decisions have been taken about the future of any college.

That should be noted because comments have been made to me privately which give indications other than that. I hope I have made that clear. No final decisions have been made by my right hon. Friend about the future of any of the 10 colleges.

However, let me deal with the specific questions which my hon. Friend asked about the possible merger of Dunfermline College with Dundee. My hon. Friend will remember that in the Scottish Grand Committee debate he described these as" "nuts and bolts" questions. I hope my hon. Friend will accept hi the nicest possible sense that at the moment we are not talking of nuts and bolts. We are trying to design a system of teacher training which will cope with known and expected demands between now and 1990.

My right hon. Friend's proposals were based on knowledge of the facilities at the colleges concerned and appeared to him to be reasonable propositions for further consultation and discussions. If my right hon. Friend decides to proceed with the proposals set out in his consultative paper, there will be need for further consideration of detailed logistical questions. I hope that will at least take care of the nuts and bolts point.

As I was saying, my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian advanced certain points in his speech on the first day of the two-day debate in the Scottish Grand Committee. The first pertinent question he asked was what consultation had taken place prior to 17th January when the document was first sent out to the various organisations. I should tell my hon. Friend, as he has been told before, that no consultations as such took place between my right hon. Friend and Craiglockhart. But my hon. Friend will be aware that this is a genuine consultative document.

I have seen the principal and some of the staff and students of Craiglockhart. Along with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) I saw the staff and some of the students from Dunfermline College. I also met an all-party delegation of hon. Members led by the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) which included hon. Members from other parties, apart from the United Ulster Unionists, who do not seem to have any particular interest in this problem.

I have myself met the ETS, the STUC, and ALCES, as well as many hon. Members including my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie), on the particular problem of Craigie.

I shall not give way. A number of eager young hon. Members on the Opposition Benches wish to make pertinent political points tonight, but the debate has been initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian and it would be most unfair to him if I were not to explain the points that he has put to me.

I appreciate the large attendance for the debate. I do not wish to name all those hon. Members who are present but if it is their desire to be on the record I am prepared to do so. [Interruption.] Hon. Members must not be intemperate. It is only nine minutes past 10 and there is a considerable time left in the debate. Opposition Members should not expect me to sit down after a brief period in order that they can engage in a political debate this evening. Hon. Members are here to listen to debates. If they content themselves with doing that on this occasion, they will learn a great deal. In saying that, I am sorry if I appear to be being rude to my hon. Friends as well as to Opposition Members. I do so in the interests of getting on the record a very clear exposition on the topic of this debate. If hon. Members will listen in silence, they will learn a great deal.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian asked what consultations took place about Craiglockhart. Without restating all the organisations which I mentioned just now, he will know that in addition I have discussed the matter with members of the hierarchy. I am very much aware of the feelings which have been expressed by the hierarchy and by the principal, staff and students of Craiglockhart. These have been conveyed to my right hon. Friend, and they will be considered seriously when he comes to make his decision.

I want to refer to one part of the document which has caused a great deal of controversy recently in the Press. Archbishop Winning expressed concern about it in The Scotsman of 25th February. It concerns the B.Ed. degree for secondary education in the colleges of Notre Dame and Craiglockhart.

In that article it was reported that the Archbishop had written to all the priests and teachers in his diocese expressing alarm about the proposal to discontinue the B.Ed. degree for secondary teaching. He pointed out that it was the only degree available at Notre Dame College of Education in Glasgow and that, as Craiglockhart College in Edinburgh had no B.Ed. course, the proposal would mean that no Roman Catholic college would be able to offer a degree to Catholic students, which would inflict considerable damage on Roman Catholic secondary education.

It is only fair that I explain this point because of the fairly substantial number of hon. Members who have expressed support for the Craiglockhart position. It has come from all parties in the House, and I understand that there was a large meeting recently in Edinburgh at which this proposal was referred to with some concern.

All the Scottish colleges of education except Craiglockhart and Callendar Park offer B.Ed. courses leading to a teaching qualification—secondary education—in conjunction with a university or with CNAA. These courses provide higher education in an "academic" subject or subjects concurrently with professional training, and have all been introduced since the mid–1960s to cater for school leavers who are committed to a career in teaching and who wish to be involved with professional studies throughout their degree course rather than taking a university degree followed by one year of teacher training. In three colleges—Aberdeen, Jordanhill and Moray House—students embark on the B.Ed. course from the outset. In the others students enrol initially for the primary diploma course and transfer to the B.Ed. course at the end of their second year.

The numbers on the B.Ed. courses increased steadily until 1972–73, but have since declined. Intake to the "direct entry" courses in 1972–73 was 384, but in succeeding years has been 352, 272, 262 and 138, respectively. The output from these courses has, therefore, made a comparatively minor contribution to the secondary teaching force, and the majority of B.Ed. students specialise in subjects in which there is no shortage of teachers. Intake to these courses is bound, therefore, to diminish even further as intake to secondary courses of training generally is reduced and priority is given to applications in the shortage subjects. In consequence, teaching groups in some subjects, particularly in the smaller colleges, will become increasingly unviable and absorb a disproportionate amount of college resources. In these circumstances there is good reason to consider whether these courses should continue, and for this reason interested bodies have been asked for views on their future as part of the consultations on teacher training from 1977 onwards.

If the secondary B.Ed. course were discontinued, the only route into the teaching of academic subjects in secondary schools would be through a university degree and a one-year course of training at a college of education. All the colleges which offer a secondary B.Ed. also offer the one-year course, except Craigie. Most of the major bodies which have so far submitted comments have opposed the discontinuation of the secondary B.Ed. The GTC has stated that it would be happy to examine whether more could be done to produce, through the B.Ed. course, teachers for these sectors of secondary education whose supply is at present inadequate. These views will be taken into account by my right hon. Friend in deciding what the future of these secondary courses will be.

We have abolished part-time education, including in the West of Scotland, for the first time in 25 years. There are serious subject shortages in parts of Strathclyde, but not so much in other areas. There are, indeed, surpluses in some areas, such as the Grampians and Tayside, but there is in Strathclyde a shortage of teachers of mathematics. The fact is that teachers in the northern areas will not move down to teach in Strathclyde. We have been giving a great deal of time and thought to seeing how we can overcome the difficulty of subject shortages which remain on the maths side and in technical subjects, although we are, in addition, suffering from a shortage, albeit a minor one, in arts and music.

At the end of the day, we have to recognise that, even so, we have the best pupil-teacher ratio that we have ever had in the history of education in Scotland. I do not wish to get annoyed by the faces that the hon. Member for Ayr is making. He should accept that I have been prepared to spend some time quoting his own White Paper, the only policy document that the Conservatives have put out on the subject of education in the last five or six years—indeed, the only one this century.

I am annoyed. Specific and precise questions were asked. For example, what are the savings in costs that my right hon. Friend hopes to make in his proposed drastic reorganisation of Craiglockhart? On Thursday, the request was for specific answers to specific questions. Can we stick seriatim to that.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian has always been patient and understanding.

We still have 12 minutes left, and many a long story has been told in this House in 12 minutes. I have plenty of time. I shall try to answer as many of my hon. Friend's questions as possible. I cannot answer all of them now, for very good reasons. Because of the unique way in which this debate started, I have plenty of time and I promise to answer as many as I can. At the same time, my hon. Friend will accept that I have a duty to place the facts on record because of the many points that have been raised by the Opposition. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) has on more than one occasion put the argument that the only document of educational sense is the Tory document "Education in Scotland—a Statement of Policy".

Let me be absolutely fair to my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian. I will guarantee, and I have already given an assurance, that I shall answer his questions.

I have the right to take my own time and to make my own argument. It is no use Conservative Members making sedentary noises—

The hon. Gentleman looks even less attractive in that position. It is no use Conservative Members making all sorts of noises and accusations against my right hon. Friend and acting as if they had the panacea for this problem when they were in office. Their own document condemns them.

I am sorry that I cannot give way. The only person to whom I shall give way is my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian who initiated the debate.

Let me put on record the fact that the Conservative Party was talking about reducing pupil-teacher ratios down to 25 to one in 1975–76 in primary education. The Conservatives said that this would be wonderful and that, once they achieved that, educational training for teachers should not expand. We already have a ratio of 22·4 to one in primary education.

I want to make only one more point about the Conservative document. There is no point in the Opposition trying to deny their own document. Page 18 of the document says that by 1977–78 they hoped to reach a ratio of 15 to one in secondary education. We now have a ratio of 14·7 to one, yet the Conservatives talk about restriction.

I do not wish to be discourteous to the hon. Lady, but I shall not give way.

I now come to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian. He asked what the savings were and he asked other questions about consultations. On the question of savings I shall be perfectly honest. My right hon. Friend and I are convinced that there will be savings—

It is extremely difficult to quantify how much the savings will be in each college because at the end of the day we are guaranteeing the Crombie code of conditions for teachers who may be made redundant. It depends on the number of years of service that a lecturer has had and his age. That will determine the amount of redundancy payment under the Crombie code. The number of students in any particular college also affects the cost of that college. Therefore, it is impossible to quantify the costs of any particular college until my right hon. Friend has made positive decisions on the future of colleges as a whole.

I come now to the answers to the third and fourth questions that my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian asked in his speech in the Scottish Grand Committee. My hon. Friend posed some pertinent questions and mentioned the Roman Catholic philosophy of education and the 1918 Act. I have put the case for the 1918 Act at the Dispatch Box and in the Scottish Grand Committee more often than I would have expected during the last seven or eight months, but because letters are coming to me and, no doubt, also to my right hon. Friend in large numbers, and because doubts have been expressed, not least by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian, I repeat, as I pointed out when I met the Craiglockhart contingent, that there is no danger at all to the 1913 Act from this Government.

I say again, as I have said in the past, that Roman Catholic schools will continue in Scotland as long as the Roman Catholic population wish them to continue. I hope that I have conveyed that as clearly as possible and that it is on the record as clearly as I have tried to express it, so that people who read reports of the debate or Press comment on it will realise that my right hon. Friend and I are convinced that the principles of the 1918 Act stand and that the Catholic schools are there and will continue to be there for as long as the Catholic population of Scotland wish them to remain. I cannot be any clearer than that.

My hon. Friend went on at some length about the philosophy of Catholic education. It is not my duty tonight to try to expound that philosophy. There have been meetings with the hierarchy and with 2,000 people present. At those meetings all sorts of noises were made in support of that philosophy. Of course I entirely support the philosophy, and it is in no way in any danger from me or my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Paragraph 52 of the consultative document is quite explicit. It says that there will be a Roman Catholic teacher-training presence in the East of Scotland. I cannot any clearer than that. I am referring to the training presence and the philosophy, not necessarily to indvidual buildings. I am not here to put any specific comments about any building or any college. It is for my right hon. Friend to make decisions about the colleges, and he will make them in the light of all the submissions he receives from the colleges.

My right hon. Friend was asked for an extension from 28th February, and this he readily accepted in his speech on the first morning of the debate. Almost all the colleges have sent in their submissions. One is still outstanding, although it may have sent its submission in today. Late submissions, however, will be accepted.

My hon. Friend went on to put what he called two broad questions about Dunfermline. He asked about consultation. I can tell him that the inspectorate played a full part in all the consultation involving all the colleges. If there is one section of all those in the Department for which I have some responsibility and which commands high regard from every Member who has been associated with it, it is the inspectorate of the SED.

Is it or is it not true that the physical education inspectors were consulted about the proposal to move Dunfermline College from Cramond to Dundee?

It has never been the practice of Ministers to indicate to the House details of consultations with each departmental official. [Interruption.] The hon. Members for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) and Dumfries, know this to be a fact.

They know that we never give details of individual discussions with individual advisers. The inspectorate is widely recognised as a proficient body in Scottish education. My hon. Friend will be the first to recognise that it is—

The Question having been proposed at Ten o'clock and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at half-past Ten o'clock.