Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1973 Apr 3 Tu
Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Education Conference

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Lady Spencer-Churchill College, Oxford
Source: Thatcher Archive: DES press release
Editorial comments: 1730. MT was speaking to a joint conference of the Association of Teachers in Colleges and Departments of Education and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 829
Themes: Education, Higher & further education

Teacher Training and Supply—the Future

Planning for the future development of colleges of education, polytechnics and advanced further education was firmly in the hands of local education authorities and the most important criteria relate to the size of these institutions, said the Education Secretary, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, in a speech at Oxford today (3 April 1973).

Further concentrations of students, she said, on a scale which would present acute problems of residence or transport should be avoided and there should be provision for more home-based students. “Experience so far suggests that a reasonable range of advanced courses in the arts and social sciences can be offered in institutions with 1,000–2,000 full-time and sandwich students. Some colleges of education, either singly or through merger with other colleges will thus be able to develop into major institutions concentrating on courses in these areas of study and on their application to teaching and other professions. Others will be able to make a similar contribution by combining forces with polytechnics or other centres of further education. Given this modification of previous policy of concentrating higher education, other than teacher education, in universities and polytechnics, it will be possible over a period to achieve a better distribution of higher education, including teacher education, throughout the country. There will be greater opportunities for home-based study either full-time or part-time. The wider social and cultural benefits of higher education institutions will be available more generally. In the longer run every conurbation or catchment area of about a quarter of a million inhabitants should be able to support an institution providing a wide range of courses at advanced level.” [end p1]

“There is much concern,” continued Mrs Thatcher, “in individual colleges about their likely future, and members of staff are naturally anxious to know what their own position will be as quickly as they can. I have great sympathy with them and should like to be able to promise early decisions, but there are two reasons why it will not be possible to proceed quite as rapidly as we might wish. First, local government itself is now in the process of reorganisation, and the future of higher education is one of many urgent matters which must be considered in the coming year. Secondly, this is not a question of a minor adjustment to the system. We are not planning for five or even ten years but are laying the foundations upon which the development of higher education will be built over the next 20 years and more, and we must ensure that hasty decisions do not lead to mistakes that we should later regret. Many college staffs have very real and personal anxieties about their future careers and I assure you this is of deep concern to the Government and local authority associations. Steps have already been taken to open discussions about provisions to safeguard the salaries of those who have to change their jobs; about opportunities for early retirement on favourable terms for others; and about the changes in staff-student ratios which may be necessary to ensure adequate provision for staff re-education and training and to provide for the staff-time which the development of new curricula and courses will demand. The local authority associations are already considering these issues with us, and although there are difficult and complicated problems to resolve I am sure that the goodwill exists which will enable solutions to be found in negotiation that will be regarded as fair and I hope generous.”

“The next few years” , said Mrs Thatcher, “are certain to be a period of rapid and far-reaching changes in the colleges as a whole and we must not lose sight of the fact that a major reason for these changes is that there should be better arrangements for the education and training of teachers. In this area perhaps [end p2] the most important development is the change in emphasis from initial to in-service training. The colleges will have new opportunities to develop links with the schools whose supply needs they serve and with the teachers in them at all stages of their careers. Contacts between colleges and schools will be greatly reinforced by their joint concern with the induction of newly appointed teachers and by the expansion of in-service training to meet the immense variety of needs of those in mid-career. For too long many have criticised the gap between the colleges and the profession for whose education and training they are responsible. Now at last we have the opportunity and the resources to close it.”

“With regard to initial education and training,” said Mrs Thatcher, “the improved teacher supply position will enable us to raise the entry standards of students and improve the quality of courses. This is an opportunity which we must not let slip. I am sure that the colleges are fully determined to ensure that the new B.Ed. courses will stretch the students intellectually and equip them practically for their work in schools. And I hope that the unhelpful dichotomy between academic and professional or between education and training of which we have heard so much in recent years will be heard of no more.”