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Volume 958: debated on Tuesday 14 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if she is satisfied that the teaching force in England and Wales has increased by 1½ per cent. during the current year.

The number of teachers employed in England and Wales in January this year, 464,972, is the highest ever recorded, and is about 2,000 higher than the estimate made in the autumn of 1977. Information about the number of teachers employed at the beginning of the current school year should be available within a few weeks.

I am grateful for that information, and I am sure that Government supporters will welcome the improvement. Is is not the case that the improvement is very varied and that in some areas the position is quite unsatisfactory? Does my hon. Friend consider that it would be helpful and perhaps encouraging if the statistics were available rather more frequently than annually, based on the January position?

:I shall consider my hon. Friend's suggestion. However the difficulty is that there is a vast number of teachers involved, and the statistics take some time to compile.

Although the Opposition welcome the increase in numbers, is the Minister aware that we are also concerned about quality? With the easing of teacher numbers, can we hope that the quality of the intake of teachers will be improved and that, with fewer pupil teachers inside the schools, there will be more student-based training in schools so that we can get away from just theoretical training in the colleges?

I want to see a considerable improvement in induction and in-service training. But it is evident from a recent survey carried out by the Department that authorities are not finding it easy to provide increased opportunities for release for induction and in-service training on the scale envisaged. Nevertheless, in each of the past two years between 60 per cent. and 70 per cent. of the teaching force have engaged in in-service activity of some kind.

Can my hon. Friend assure the House that, where local education authorities such as Liverpool are carrying out a policy of school closures, the teachers will not be affected by such decisions—in other words, that we shall not have further unemployment amongst teachers and that the temporary surplus will be absorbed in general education schemes?

That is a matter for the individual local education authority. In the rate support grant settlement for this year, the Government included provision for the employment of 11,300 teachers over and above those who would have been needed to maintain the previous pupil-teacher ratios.