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Mathematics Teachers

Volume 934: debated on Tuesday 28 June 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is satisfied with the recruitment and training of mathematics teachers.

The shortage of specialist teachers of mathematics goes back many years. Details were announced last month of a new scheme financed by the Exchequer for training additional mathematics teachers in the coming academic year, and recruitment under this scheme is now proceeding. There has been a good response to an earlier request by the Government for an increase in the number of one-year courses available for retraining teachers in the subject.

I am pleased to hear that, because parents in Birmingham are very concerned about the annual report of the management committee of the structured mathematics scheme which suggested that over 400 mathematics teachers in Birmingham were not, in fact, qualified. Is this correct? If so, what action do the Government intend to take in Birmingham to get qualified mathematics teachers?

I cannot offhand give the exact position in Birmingham, but the latest figures that we have show that there was a shortage in 1976 of 1,859 graduate mathematics teachers. This has been a long-standing problem for many years which has eluded both Conservative and Labour Governments. We are trying to resolve the situation by introducing the scheme which was announced last month.

Does the Minister agree that if any subject lends itself to simplification of syllabus, it is mathematics? Does he agree that diversification is absurd, and will he exert pressure to try to secure harmonisation?

That is not a matter for the Department. I would not entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that things are as simple as he makes out. That, however, is a matter for the Schools Council and for examination boards.

After the call in February for special scholarships to draw the brightest pupils in appropriate courses to industry, the Minister promised a decision on Jubilee scholarships, as he called them, at about Easter. What has happened to them? Will they be in the limited system of mechanical engineering courses or will they be incorporated in mathematics, which is fundamental to industry?

Certainly it will include mathematics because it is the foundation of most technological subjects. I am sorry about the delay. The matter is proceeding and we hope to make an announcement on it before the recess.