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National Union Of Teachers

Volume 972: debated on Tuesday 23 October 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to meet the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

Has the NUT withdrawn its objection to the Professional Association of Teachers being represented on the Burnham committee? Apart from the PAT's numerical claim, has not its no-strike policy much to be said for it, especially when compared with the alarmist statements and disruptive action of the NUT?

Obvously I welcome the statement by a union that it does not propose to take action to disrupt provision for children. The composition of the Burnham committee is a matter not for the NUT but for me. I have told the Professional Association of Teachers that I propose to review the position in September 1980.

When the right hon. and learned Gentleman meets the general secretary of the NUT, who yesterday described him as abysmally ignorant and frighteningly complacent, will he discuss the dossier which shows that already the draconian cuts are having terrible effects on the fabric of State education, including nursery and adult education, education for the disadvantaged, in-service training and school buildings?

Of course I shall be willing to discuss the document which was sent to me today by Mr. Jarvis and the NUT. The hon. Member said that Mr. Jarvis had described me as being abysmally ignorant. I understand his reason was that I challenged his claim that I was presiding over the dismantling of the education system. When I received the document this morning I asked for one figure to be checked. I asked what a 70 per cent. cut in supply teachers would mean in Barnsley. When my office inquired, the Barnsley education authority said that no such decision had been taken and that it had no knowledge of such a proposal.

Will the Secretary of State now answer the question which my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Evans) asked? Is he aware that there is a grave shortage of books in many schools? Is he aware that in my child's State school class one textbook has to be shared between four and that children cannot take home textbooks for homework? What is he going to do about that?

That is a fair question. There is a shortage of books. One of the troubles is that the price of textbooks has increased by far more than other items have in recent years. I am anxious to see that there is an adequate supply of textbooks in schools. For that reason, when examining reductions in Government expenditure generally, I have attempted to make education cuts in areas that do not affect what happens in the class room.