Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Written Statement launching Education White Paper (A Framework for Expansion)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: DES, Elizabeth House, York Road, London SE1
Source: Thatcher Archive: DES press release
Editorial comments: Exact time of release uncertain.
Importance ranking: Key
Word count: 3579
Themes: Education, Primary education, Secondary education, Higher & further education, Public spending & borrowing


A 10-year programme for educational advance is published today (6 December) in a White Paper “Education: A Framework for Expansion” , by the Secretary of State for Education and Science, Mrs Margaret Thatcher. It involves substantially increased expenditure in five directions: a new nursery programme; a larger building programme for the renewal of secondary and special, as well as primary, schools; a larger teaching force further to improve staffing standards in schools; a new initiative to improve the pre-service and in-service training of teachers following the James Report; and the development in higher education of a wider range of opportunities, including the introduction of a Diploma of Higher Education, for both students and institutions.

In order to achieve a balanced programme of advance in these five areas the White Paper, designed as a framework for further action, lays down under each head the objectives at which the Government are aiming, the lines on which they intend each programme should develop, and the resources they are planning to devote to their attainment. The Government and their several partners in the education service will work out in consultation how the programme can best be carried through. [end p1]

In view of the uncertainties of longer term forecasting the Government must be free to vary the pace of development of the programmes covered in their review. Total annual expenditure on the programmes under review could rise by some £960m over the decade 1971–72 to 1981–82 from £2,162m to some £3,120m. The increase in expenditure on schools (including the cost of in-service training) would correspond to an annual growth rate of some 3 per cent, compared with 2½ per cent for the decade 1961–62 to 1971–72. For higher education (including the initial training of teachers), where the very rapid expansion of the 1960's involved an annual growth rate of some 6½ per cent, the corresponding growth rate for the new decade would be some 5 per cent.

Education in Scotland, which, apart from that in universities, is the responsibility of the Gordon CampbellSecretary of State for Scotland, is the subject of a separate White Paper.

The White Paper provides a full and authoritative statement of the Government's policies and intentions. Following is a summary of its main proposals.


Within the next 10 years nursery education should become available without charge to those children of three and four whose parents wish them to benefit from it. If demand reaches the estimates in the Plowden Report, some 700,000 full-time equivalent places may be needed by 1981–82. Some 300,000 are already available, half of them for children of rising five. As the extent of demand and its future growth are uncertain it will be necessary to watch the development of demand carefully in the early years. As a first step the Government propose to authorise earmarked building programmes of £15m each in 1974–75 and 1975–76. Total current expenditure on the under fives is expected to rise from nearly £42m in 1971–72 to nearly £65m in 1976–77.

Circular 8/60 will be withdrawn.

Local education authorities in rural and urban areas with substantial areas of social deprivation will be given some priority in the allocation of capital resources in 1974–76. It is hoped that all local education authorities will in their turn follow the same aim in deciding which part of their own areas should be given priority and also how far their admissions policy should give priority to children with special needs.

Besides helping families in deprived areas—both urban and rural—in bringing up young children, the extension of nursery education will also provide an opportunity for the earlier identification of children with social, psychological or medical difficulties which if neglected may inhibit the child's educational progress. [end p2]

The provision of nursery education will be generally on a half-time basis but allowance has been made for about 15 per cent—as recommended in the Plowden and Gittins Reports—of three and four year olds to attend full-time for educational and social reasons. It is hoped that most of the extra nursery places will form part of primary schools to avoid a change of school when the child becomes five.

The Government are not laying down a uniform detailed pattern of expansion as they hope that local plans will reflect local needs and resources. Local authorities will need to take account of other facilities for under fives, existing or planned, so as to prepare schemes in which nursery classes and schools, voluntary playgroups, day nurseries and other forms of day-care all play their part. The Government will welcome diversity in provision so long as it is efficient and there is no sacrifice of standards in the education and care of children.

The Government have substantially increased their financial support for the playgroups movement. They hope that the development of playgroups will continue, and that local authorities will consider how the best use can be made of them alongside the expansion of nursery education. Local authorities will need to consider how to make the most of the opportunities nursery education offers in stimulating parental interest in their children's education and establishing links between home and the school, says the White Paper.

It will be necessary to seek new and imaginative ways of widening the recruitment of nursery assistants, and there will need to be expanded provision for courses leading to the certificate of the National Nursery Examination Board. [end p3]

Many more qualified teachers will be needed and by 1981–82 the number teaching the under fives may need to be increased from the present 10,000 to upwards of 25,000. The aim would be to employ a similar number of nursery assistants to give in all a ratio of one adult to 13 children.


An extra £10m is to be added to the school building programmes in both 1975–76 and 1976–77 to replace or improve the worst secondary school buildings, comprising the first stage of a rising secondary school improvement programme for England and Wales.

There should be a more systematic long-term approach to the renewal of school buildings, to prevent the accumulation of backlogs of obsolete buildings. But such a policy needs to be very flexible, not only between primary and secondary schools, but also to take account from year to year of variations in the level of basic needs and other factors.


A rapid acceleration is proposed for the special schools building programme in England and Wales from £11m in 1972–73 to £19m in 1976–77 so that the old and inadequate buildings can be improved or replaced and more special school places provided for certain handicaps.


School staffing standards should continue to improve progressively. The Government believe that local education authorities will welcome a broad policy objective of securing by 1981 a teaching force 10 per cent above the number needed to maintain 1971 standards. After allowing for the increase in school population and the increased proportion of older pupils, this will require about 110,000 extra teachers, bringing the total to about 465,000 qualified teachers for pupils aged 5 and over. With about 25,000 teachers needed to staff the expanded nursery programme, and another 20,000 to meet the needs of the Government's policy for in-service training and the induction of new teachers, there would be some 510,000 (full-time equivalent) qualified teachers employed in maintained schools by 1981. The Government propose that this figure should be adopted as a basis for planning. This would represent an overall pupil/teacher ratio of about 18½:1 by that date compared with about 22½:1 in 1971.


The main objectives at which the James Committee aimed are fully accepted by the Government. The Secretary of State's subsequent consultations have made it possible to establish a large measure of common agreement on the best way of achieving them. [end p4]


The Government propose to give effect to the James Committee's recommendation that teachers should be released for in-service training for periods equivalent to one term in every 7 years of service. It is their aim that a substantial expansion of such training should begin in the school year 1974–75 and should continue progressively so that by 1981 3 per cent of teachers could be released on secondment at any one time. This involves a four-fold increase in present opportunity.


The Government shared the view of the James Committee that a teacher on first employment needs, and should be released part-time to profit from, a systematic programme of professional initiation, guided experience, and further study. The existing period of probation (normally one year) will remain unchanged but in future teachers who have successfully completed probation will be described as “registered teachers” .

During probation teachers should receive the kind of help and support needed to make the induction process both more effective and less daunting than it has been in the past. Also they should be released for not less than one-fifth of their time for in-service training. For the remainder of their time probationer teachers would be serving in schools, but with a somewhat lightened timetable, so that altogether they might be expected to undertake three-quarters of a full teaching load.

The raising of the school leaving age and local government reorganisation will preclude for two or three years a general start on plans for improved induction. But the Government are proposing to the local authority associations that the planning of pilot schemes should be started in 1972–73 in four areas not heavily affected by local government reorganisation, to study the practical problems. It is hoped that in the pilot areas the training of professional tutors can start during the school year 1973–74 and the aim is to introduce a national scheme in the school year 1975–76.


The Government propose to work towards the achievement of a graduate teaching profession. They strongly support the development of new three-year courses incorporating educational studies which are so designed that they will lead both to the award of a B.Ed. degree, and to qualify status; the possibility of continuing for a fourth year to take an Honours B.Ed. degree; and the inclusion in the three-year course of supervised practical experience lasting at least 15 weeks. They think that it is important that this new degree should be subject to validation by the existing awarding bodies and welcome the declaration of the Council for [end p5] National Academic Awards (CNAA) of its willingness to participate in such validation. They hope that universities will be receptive to any request to do so put to them by a college of education.

The Government also share the James Committee's desire to cater not only for the committed student but also for the student who wishes to keep his options open or who embarks on teacher training but later changes his mind. The Government have been assured that it will be possible to devise three-year B.Ed. courses, where required, in such a way that the first two years of study could lead to a Diploma of Higher Education (Dip. HE)—see below. So long as the needs of the schools require it certificate courses should continue to be provided.

As competition for places in post-graduate courses increases, the training institutions could give preference to applicants who have followed a broad rather than a specialised undergraduate course. A number of universities have already introduced education options at the undergraduate stage, and the few offer four-year sandwich courses in which one year of professional teacher training is introduced within the period of study for a degree. The Government welcome such developments.


The Government accept that a much higher proportion of those teaching in further education should receive initial training—either before or after taking up appointment—and that they should have opportunities for further training later in their careers.

All new teachers need a systematic introduction to their role in the work of their colleges; for those entering without formal training or substantial teaching experience this should be accompanied by a carefully planned introduction to teaching both at the beginning of their service and spread over the first year. The Government propose to discuss with local education authorities how soon a training requirement along these lines could be introduced for teachers newly appointed to further education and to what extent opportunities for teachers in further education to have in-service training can be improved.


The Secretary of State proposes after further consultation to establish, in place of the existing university-based Area Training Organisations, new regional committees to co-ordinate the education and training of teachers. These will be composed in such a way as to reflect the interests of local education authorities, the training institutions and their staff and the teaching profession.

Academic validation should remain the responsibility of the existing academic bodies—the senates of universities, the academic boards of polytechnics and colleges of education and the CNAA. But the Government expect these bodies to continue and, indeed, develop the arrangements by which the teaching profession and [end p6] the local education authorities are associated closely with their work.

Following the Working Party's Report in 1970 on a “Teaching Council in England and Wales” the Secretary of State has it in mind to set up an Advisory Committee on the Supply and Training of Teachers broadly on the model recommended. Problems of professional recognition require further discussion.


The Government believe that there would be considerable support for the introduction of new two-year courses leading to a Diploma of Higher Education (Dip.HE) with the following characteristics: (1) the normal minimum entry qualification should be the same as for degrees or comparable courses; (2) courses should be offered by institutions in each of the main sectors of higher education; (3) the qualification offered after two years should be generally acceptable as a terminal qualification and in particular as a qualification needed for entry to appropriate forms of employment; (4) courses should also be seen as providing a foundation for further study and be designed, where appropriate, in such a way as to earn credit towards other qualifications, including degrees; (5) courses should be validated by existing degree awarding bodies; (6) it is the Government's intention that Diploma of Higher Education students should qualify for mandatory awards.


By 1981 the Government would expect to be providing for about 200,000 under 21 year old entrants a year from Britain to courses in higher education—about 22 per cent of those then aged 18 compared with 7 per cent in 1961 and 15 per cent in 1971. This would by that time bring the total of full-time and sandwich course places, allowing for older entrants and those coming from abroad, to about 750,000. They have adopted this figure as the basis for longer-term planning.

The fastest expansion should continue to be in the polytechnics and other non-university colleges, so that by 1981 there might be 375,000 places in each of the [end p7] university and non-university sectors in Britain. About 335,000 places would be in the non-university higher education institutions in England and Wales.

If this expansion is to take place over the next decade unit costs cannot be allowed to go on rising and scope must be found for economies, and it is proposed that there should be a continuing review in the course of future quinquennial and Rate Support Grant negotiations. The Government consider that the future financing of higher education should be based on a gradual transition in staffing ratios to an average level of about 10:1 by the end of the decade.

The continuing expansion of higher education will require substantial provision to be made for the residential accommodation as well as tuition of students and the Government are examining what steps might be taken to encourage many more students to base themselves at home while studying. It is thought to be unrealistic and unnecessary for such a high proportion of students to reside and study at a distance if equally acceptable courses are available within daily travelling distances of their homes.


The White Paper also announces the terms of the quinquennial settlement. Grants (at 1972 survey prices) to be made available to universities during the 1972–77 quinquennium, and which provide for 254,000 undergraduates by 1976–77 are as below:

Provision has been made for the number of postgraduate students to be increased in the new quinquennium by 7,000 to 52,000, representing 17 per cent of a total of [end p8] 306,000 full-time students as compared with 19 per cent in 1971–72. At the same time the grants will enable the universities to increase the number of part-time students to the full-time equivalent of 15,500 giving a total of 321,500.

The Government have told the University Grants Committee that they would think it reasonable to plan on the assumption that 47 per cent of the full-time students in 1976–77 will be arts-based and 53 per cent will be science-based, representing a small movement towards the arts.

In order to meet requirements for places £29 million has been allocated for the 1974–75 building programme. This includes provision for a further 11,000 residential places to be started in 1974–75, bringing the total in 1975–76 to about 130,000.

The Government are satisfied that the new 1976–77 target of student numbers can be achieved without adding to the number of universities.


By 1981 it is planned that in the non-university institutions in England and Wales there should be places for 335,000 full-time and sandwich students, with the greater part of the total in polytechnics. Other further education colleges and colleges of education will need to provide for about 155,000 compared with 138,000 now. Continuing the expansion already under way, polytechnic major building projects planned to start in the two years 1973–75 amount to £46 million; in addition for the same period £36 million has been allocated for major building projects for other further education colleges and £8 million for residential accommodation, mainly at polytechnics; provision will be made in later programmes for further expansion.

In planning the expansion of full-time and sandwich courses three points have to be taken into consideration: (1) the concentration of very large numbers of students which presents acute problems of residence and transport; (2) the need for an institution to reach a critical size to obtain full economies of scale, and (3) the need wherever possible to provide courses within reasonable reach of their homes for part-time students who wish to combine study with employment, and for a higher proportion of full-time students to be based at home.


The Government's plans will require some 510,000 qualified teachers in the schools by 1981. The present growth of the teaching force is 18–20,000 teachers a year, and there must soon be some reduction in the rate of recruitment. It is estimated that 75–85,000 training places (including 15,000 as their share of the provision for in-service training and induction) will be required in colleges of education (and polytechnic departments) by 1981 compared with 114,000 in 1971–72. [end p9] Some colleges either singly or jointly should develop over the period into major institutions of higher education concentrating on the arts and human sciences. Others will be encouraged to combine forces with neighbouring polytechnics or other colleges of further education to fill a somewhat similar role.

Many of the 160 colleges are comparatively small and inconveniently located for development into larger general purpose institutions. Some will continue to be needed exclusively for teacher education with increasing emphasis on in-service training, some may seek greater strength by reciprocal arrangements with the Open University, while others may find a place in the expansion of teachers' and professional centres. Some may have to be converted to new purposes; some may need to close.


The Secretary of State and the Local Authority Associations agreed in principle after helpful discussions last year that improved arrangements were needed for the co-ordination and provision of higher education in the non-university sector if the anticipated programme of expansion was to be planned to the best advantage. These discussions were temporarily adjourned because the Associations were heavily engaged with the reform of local government, and the recommendations of the James Committee were awaited.

The logic of the conclusions recorded in the White Paper is that the substantial broadening of function proposed for the great majority of the colleges of education will involve their much closer assimilation into the rest of the non-university sector of further and higher education. This could mean that a college which expands and diversifies—either alone or by joining forces with a sister college or a further education institution—would not be easily distinguishable by function from a polytechnic or other further education college. The Church of England Board of Education have expressed their general support for the Government's proposals; discussions with the Roman Catholic authorities are still at a preliminary stage.

The discussions with the Associations will now be resumed to consider further these questions of organisation and also to review the composition, functions and boundaries of the Regional Advisory Councils for Further Education. The problems posed by the concentration of colleges in the Greater London area and the South-East region will require separate discussion with the authorities concerned.