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Teachers (Pay)

Volume 20: debated on Tuesday 16 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he has any plans to reorganise the pay structure of the teaching profession so that pay reflects to a greater degree than at present the supply of, and demand in, particular teaching skills.

The power to change teachers' salary structures lies not with me but with the Burnham committee. A working party of that committee is studying the whole area of salary structure, but there is no indication at present of general support for the concept of differential pay for teachers of certain subjects.

Despite that disappointing answer, does my right hon. Friend agree that in almost every activity in Britain pay tends to reflect the supply of the skill demanded? Therefore, would it not be right to move to a system whereby mathematics and physics teachers, who are in short supply, would be paid more than teachers in other subjects who are in over-supply? Is it not necessary to do that to secure the right teachers' skills, which are essential to our national future?

I am sympathetic to the general propositions postulated by my hon. Friend. The Cockcroft committee on mathematics teachers recommended a differential in their favour, while recognising that the Government already operate one. I am studying those recommendations at the moment.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the concern and anger that he has already caused in the teaching profession, let alone the concern that might be caused by anything new? Why will he not allow the present teachers' pay dispute to go to arbitration?

In considering the future pay structure, should not the Burnham committee consider whether teachers have had in-service training or attended a retraining course and act accordingly?

That is another good idea that I am sure should be taken into account. My representative on the Burnham committee is already associated with the proposals for revised salary structures put forward by the management side of the working party, but there are important questions still to be settled such as, for example, how the competence of teachers can best be assessed.

Will the Secretary of State tell us whether, when his representatives on the Burnham committee meet on Thursday as a management panel, they will be free to support a reference to arbitration of the teachers' pay dispute?

I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman really expects me to answer that question.