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Professional Association Of Teachers (Burnham Committee)

Volume 982: debated on Tuesday 1 April 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will arrange to have the Professional Association of Teachers officially represented on the Burnham committee.

I have instituted a review of the composition of the Burnham committee with the aim of making any necessary changes by the start of the next school year.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the PAT is the fastest growing teachers' body, showing an increase of over 100 per cent. in the past 12 months? It now numbers nearly 20,000 members. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the Burnham committee would be far more representative if the PAT was included on it?

My hon. Friend would not expect me to prejudge the outcome of the review that I have instituted. Part of that review is to try to get a correct account of the membership of the various unions involved in the teaching profession.

Will the Secretary of State bear in mind that that association represents less than 5 per cent. of teachers eligible to be members of it? Will he accept that, with the threat to education from the Government's policies, there has never been a greater need for the teaching profession to speak with one voice, and that any fragmentation or distortion of teacher representation will be a great disservice to education generally?

The right hon. Gentleman, of all people, will know that the one thing that the teaching profession has never done is to speak with one voice. I repeat what I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). As the basis of my review of the composition of Burnham, a proper count will be carried out of the number of primary and secondary teachers who belong to the unions involved.

When my right hon. and learned Friend comes to the conclusion of his review, will he set a percentage that a union will need to meet to get representation, so that unions such as the Professional Association of Teachers do not have to chase a moving target?

I shall consider what my hon. Friend has said, but I must point out that the last review of Burnham was implemented only at the beginning of 1979. I thought it right to review its composition again at the beginning of the new school year, as I promised the Professional Association of Teachers I would.