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Volume 958: debated on Wednesday 15 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the current number of registered unemployed qualified teachers in (a)the primary and (b)the secondary school sector.

On 14th September 1978, the latest available date, 1,132 qualified primary teachers and 522 qualified secondary teachers were registered as unemployed in Scotland.

Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that the chairman of the Scottish teachers' salary committee has indicated that it would require only £3 million to eradicate composite classes within the primary sector in the Strathclyde region, where this problem is most acute? In view of the fact that 1,132 primary teachers are unemployed, would it not make sense to divert funds into this particular sector in order to end composite class education?

Will the Under-Secretary of State also bear in mind that Strathclyde region has been accused of rank hypocrisy in saying that there is no part-time education within Strathclyde? That accusation has been made by the teachers in the profession who know the realities.

Scotland. Iwant to help if I possibly can.

Following are the details:

The hon. Lady has asked several questions. I think she is aware that a tripartite working group, consisting of the teachers, the local authority management side and ourselves, is looking seriously at the whole question of composite classes and at circular 819, which judges the standards of pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools. We hope to make a comment on that very soon.

We hear stories about part-time education, particularly in the Strathclyde region. I think that the hon. Lady and most other people will recognise that there are subject shortages. We have unemployed teachers in history, geography and home economics, but the problem is that we arc short of teachers of mathematics, physics and technical education. There are two or three answers to this. We know that there are some unemployed teachers in these shortage subjects in the Grampian area, for example. Is the hon. Lady suggesting that I should direct labour to Strathclyde? Of course, she is not. I have discussed this with Strathclyde and with teachers and trade union leaders.

It is the intention of Strathclyde to have a publicity campaign to indicate particularly to youngsters that there is a future in teaching, especially in the shortage subjects. Any potential student who comes forward for mathematics, physics or technical education will not be barred on the question of numbers. But it is a real problem to persuade youngsters. It is a matter of guidance and careers officers encouraging young people to see their future as teachers of mathematics, physics and technical subjects.

Will the Minister confirm that in the rate support grant formula there was provision for staffing above the basic standards in all the education authorities in Scotland? Will he, therefore, have discussions with those who have refused to staff above the standards, which seems highly regrettable at a time when there are so many teachers unemployed and so many composite classes which are unacceptable to people?

What is coming out in Question Time is the whole matter of the autonomy of local authorities. Local government reorganisation was intended to give some autonomy to local authorities. The hon. Gentleman will recognise that through the efforts of my right hon. Friend we gave money, under the urban aid procedure, for 84 extra teachers for Strathclyde. There is a proposal before my hon. Friend the Minister who deals with urban aid for an extra 77 teachers. We gave money for 500 extra teachers for deprived areas, and money for another 100 teachers, to allow teachers in special education to be seconded for higher qualifications. I echo the point that most local authorities, through their rate support grant, are staffing above their agreed standards. I hope that when the working party's report appears it will indicate some improvement concerning the problem of composite classes in the schools.

What plans does my hon. Friend have for the special retraining of qualified teachers to improve their qualifications in the shortage subjects to which he has referred'?

There is a difficulty in trying to switch an unemployed geography teacher or history teacher into teaching mathematics, physics or technical subjects. There is a very real problem here. We are looking at the whole question of student grants in order that persons who have qualifications which can easily be switched to teaching, especially in shortage subjects, may be enabled to do so. We are reviewing it at the present time and I hope to make a statement about it to the House very shortly.