Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1973 Jun 20 We
Margaret Thatcher

HC Select Committee [Race Relations and Immigration]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons Committee
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration (Education, vol. 3) [Parliamentary Papers 1972-73, vol.31, pp636-48.]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: -
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 8612
Themes: Education, Primary education, Family, Race, immigration, nationality, Social security & welfare

WEDNESDAY, 20th JUNE, 1973

Members present:

Mr. Deedes, in the Chair

Mr. Guy Barnett.

Mr. Sydney Bidwell.

Mr. Sydney Chapman.

Mr. Norman Fowler.

Sir George Sinclair.

Mr. Tom Torney.

Mr. John Wilkinson.

Mr. William Wilson.

STATISTICS OF PUPILS OF OVERSEAS PARENTAGE

Memorandum by the Department of Education and Science

1. In their First Special Report for the Session 1971–72 the Committee expressed concern that accurate statistics of pupils of overseas parentage should be collected in order to ensure, as far as possible, that immigrant children received an education to fit them to become full members of the community, and that factors working against them when they left school could be monitored and reduced. In March, 1972, the Department met representatives of the Community Relations Commission and local authority and teacher associations to discuss ways of achieving these objectives.

2. These representatives were united in their dislike of the existing definition and the inaccuracy of the statistics based upon it. There was no agreement as to how the definition should be revised. The Committee expressed disappointment when the Department reported this inability to reach agreement and the Department undertook to report any further developments before the end of the session (Evidence, 23rd November, 1972, Questions 59–61.)

3. In their evidence to the Committee on 20th January, 1972, the Department set out in detail the difficulties of the present definition. The alternatives would also give rise to difficulties. To alter the period of time after which immigrant pupils are assumed to be no longer in need of special help would not dispose of the inadequacies of the existing ten year rule. To broaden the definition by including for instance, all children born to parents whose countries of origin are abroad would produce an inaccurate picture of the number of pupils requiring special help. To substitute criteria of educational disadvantage for criteria of place of origin is at first sight attractive. But it would be extremely difficult to devise criteria of educational disadvantage that would be recognised as objective and applicable equally throughout the country.

4. The Government has, therefore, considered two possible courses. The present definition could be retained on the grounds that there is no agreement on something better to put in its place. This would be an admission of failure and would do nothing to meet the criticisms of the local authorities and teachers concerned with the collection of these statistics. Alternatively, the collection of these statistics could be abandoned altogether, on the grounds that the definition is widely recognised to be unsatisfactory, that since 1970 there has been no significant change in the number and distribution of immigrant pupils, and that more accurate information derived from the Census might be of equal value in the allocation of resources under the Local Government Act and under the urban programme, and in assessing the numbers of young immigrants likely to be seeking employment. While this would probably be welcomed by local authorities and the teachers, those most opposed to immigration and integration might criticise it as an attempt to conceal the real number of immigrant children.

5. The Government's view is that there are serious objections to both these alternatives, and that, before further discussions are held with the parties concerned the Committee should be consulted. The Secretary of State has accordingly authorised the Department to ask the Committee for their views on the ways in which their criticisms of the present definition should be met in order that the objectives set out in their first Special Report might be achieved. [end p1]

The Rt. Hon. Margaret Thatcher, Secretary of State, Department of Education and Science and a Member of this House, examined.

Mr. J. R. Jameson, Under-Secretary and Mr. J. H. Mundy, Staff Inspector D.E.S., called in and examined.

Chairman.

Deedes

1224. Secretary of State, could I say how grateful we are to you for being willing to come and help us today, not least because we know at some point you also travelled to some continent earlier this year and may have, in common with us, certain reflections arising from that. As you know, we visited the Caribbean in the course of a particular inquiry into education. Perhaps I ought to start with this obsessive problem of a formula by which the Department of Education and Science arrive, or hope to arrive, at the numbers of immigrant children in the schools. The first question I would like to ask you, Secretary of State, is this: do you in fact use this formula? Does it form any basis for what in fact is done with local authorities which have a large immigrant child problem?—

(Mrs. Thatcher:) We collect these statistics on the basis which you know. My Department makes no use of them whatsoever except to publish them. They do not form the basis of any grant from my department.

Deedes

1225. Could I ask what the point is of continuing with this rather contentious formula then?—

MT

I was almost about to ask myself that point when I learned of this! When we started to collect these statistics in 1966 they were the only ones in government service that were being collected and they were used for a number of purposes. Now there are other statistics being collected and we do not use these in any way except to publish them. There is now the tenyearly census, and four years ago the Registrar of Births and Deaths began to classify the births according to the country of origin of the father. None of our grant formulae are on the basis of immigrants, but for urban deprivation or educational priority area schools, they are on the basis of things like bad housing, or income, the proportion taking free school meals, this kind of thing. It is quite true that in areas of high immigration there will probably be bad housing, quite a number of children on free school meals, and other problems; but this information does not come from immigration statistics. You asked me what was the point of collecting them; what has bothered us is the psychological point of ceasing to collect them, the allegation being we were trying to conceal something that had previously been revealed. But I may say it is very unpopular with local authorities and the teachers who have to continue to collect them.

Deedes

1226. We are rather sad because we have spent a great deal of time investigating this. You may recall that after some exchanges with your Department we endeavoured to get a working party to revise the formula. One now perceives these earnest endeavours were really rather futile! How do you ascertain the real need in areas of high immigration, accepting that environment, housing, and the rest of it, are important? Have you any way of discovering, for example, what is the need for teaching the second language, what the deficiency may be among children really speaking no language but their own? Is there any way in which the D.E.S. can catch up with language teaching problems?—

MT

That would be dealt with by the local education authorities which would be the first to realise it because they have the children in front of them, unable properly to speak the language, and they would have to decide whether to set up a language teaching centre, as some local authorities have done, and have children going to that centre, or whether to do what other local authorities have done and send special teachers into the schools. The authority would be in the front line. The problem would come to us not so much by way of language teaching as by way of the presence of quite a considerable number of extra children, probably quite suddenly, part-way through the term for whom the authority had to find schooling and accommodation. The authority would come to us and say, “We have got a sudden extra basic need, can we have an extra school building allocation?” That would, in fact, probably arise from immigrants, but it would come to us as, “We need more places because we have more children” .

Sir George Sinclair.

Sinclair

1227. Secretary of State, when a local authority finds it has a rather large number of children in school who have special language difficulties, in fact based on different cultures, and they want to thicken up on the number of teachers in their classes while that difficulty persists, what statistical basis do they give you for supporting requests for extra money and extra staff? I am not thinking of a language centre, and I do not mean sudden influxes, I mean simply that a great number of children are being severely handicapped by lack of communication in English, and the solution is to thicken up on staff?—

MT

I do not think they would need specially to come to me for that, quite the contrary. In a speech I made about two years ago I did urge all local authorities to take on more teachers where they had slow learners. Slow learners were not classified as being anything to do with immigrants or non-immigrants because they occur in all parts of the population. We had quite a large number of teachers available at that time and a number of local authorities took up more teachers because they had slow learners. The number of teachers would automatically be allowed for in the rate support grant.

Mr. Fowler.

Fowler

1228. Secretary of State, could I just go back to the Chairman's original question, have these statistics ever been used to aid policy making or have they always been, in a sense, a sort of academic exercise?—

MT

In early days they showed us where the immigrants were going and where we were likely to have problems arising. To some extent you might say those children must be in the schools, but if suddenly we had an area which had not had immigrants in schools and you found quite a number of children going there, it might be an indication that there would be an increasing need for school building the following year for that. We also get the census. Of course, the census will become outdated, but it does serve a purpose initially. We now find the actual distribution of children has not varied very much for a few years.

Jameson

The Secretary of State said earlier that her Department did not use these figures for any operational purpose, and that is true. When they were first introduced in 1966 they were used for one really rather small purpose by the Government, not by the Department. That was for determining eligibility for grant of certain local authorities under Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966, under which local authorities may get grants for extra teachers and other staff employed on account of the presence of large numbers of Commonwealth immigrants, and that continues. That grant is paid by the Home Office, not by the D.E.S., and it is a very small element in the total contribution made by central government to local authority finance.

MT

You said an extra number of teachers, is it not extra numbers of other staff? [Jameson] Teachers or other staff.

Fowler

1229. It might be difficult to evaluate this, but if proper statistics were kept in the way that the Committee has suggested, or in some other way, would it be possible that extra resources would be diverted into areas where they are not being diverted at the moment? Clearly if this were the case it would go a long way to meet the opposition of bodies like the Community Relations Commission?—

MT

I do not think so because we do it on other bases. We do it on the universal basis of housing, income, the number of children with free school meals. Those are the bases on which we are operating in allocating resources to deprived areas.

Fowler

1230. If the statistics were better would it make any difference to the allocation of resources?—

MT

As far as my Department is concerned, no. I have just made a preliminary inquiry about the use of section 11 of the Local Government Act. Apparently the grant does not amount to more than of the order of £4 million or £5 million a year, which is very little compared with the enormous rate support grant. As far as I am concerned, it would make no difference to the allocation of grant for the education service.

Mr. Bidwell.

Bidwell

1231. Secretary of State, are you aware that when this gets out it will cause a lot of eyebrows to be raised, notably among teachers who are already very sceptical about it, and it would lead to increasing demands to drop it. In the document you present to us we find very strange words for a Department to be engaged in. While dropping the system of the ten year rule dating back to 1966 would probably be welcomed by local authorities and teachers, it would apparently be done to please those most opposed to immigration and integration. Since you say that the census gives effective statistics, can it not also be argued that those who object most to the statistics can turn to this source of supply for information? Technically and strictly speaking there is no such thing as an immigrant child, it is just a form of words, it is just jargon, and for the Department to continue with this nonsense to please racialists in this country renders it nonsensical?—

MT

I am being asked whether we are prepared to drop the collection of these statistics. The answer is yes; such an action would be welcomed both by our teachers and by the local education authorities. It is not immigrant statistics we collect, it is statistics we collect on a basis, which does not give an accurate reflection of immigration. May I just add one thing? Other people make use of the statistics. For example, I do not think we would know about the proportion of immigrant children in special schools but for those statistics. That is something which arises from their publication and their availability for other people to use.

Chairman.

Deedes

1232. I am very anxious not to lose sight of the wood for the trees. I think I ought now to interpose a question in this form and my colleagues will probably support the way I am going to put it: we are impressed, as a result of visiting a great many schools in London and in the provinces, with the fact that there is now a terrific language problem, and it is not getting any less. Many of us have a deep fear that we are not keeping up with it and that we are going to put a lot of children through this system who will not be capable of absorbing that standard of education which their indigenous competitors will have. That is certainly my impression, and I think my colleagues would endorse it. Are you satisfied, with the other criteria which you have mentioned to us, that you are in fact at least apprised of this terrific disadvantage?—

MT

I do not think the other criteria would necessarily help with that. What happens here is exactly what you and your colleagues have seen, it is seen in the schools by the teachers and the local education authorities, and they act not on criteria but on the basis of evidence before them of what the children need. If they find they have large numbers who need language training, then their educational adviser will report that and I hope see that provision is made for it. Mr. Mundy is more familiar with this than I am.

Mundy

The collection of statistics in itself will not solve the question of language teaching in the school situation. Although there may be some complacency about the severity of the problem, by and large the people engaged in education for these children are apprised of the seriousness of the problem. It is an extremely difficult problem. My own personal opinion is we very often underrate the enormous difficulties that face non-English speaking children in trying to realise their potentiality in a foreign language, even under very good conditions. I am not underrating the problem, I am not suggesting we do not need to worry about it, it is an extremely difficult problem for many of them. A large percentage, of course, have an intuitive ability to acquire a second language in a second language situation, but the degree to which they are able to do this varies tremendously. Also, as is characteristic of our system, the extent to which this particular problem is tackled does vary. Some areas do it better than others. We have to do what we can to ensure that the successful experiences of one area can be taken up in other areas. We employ a variety of fairly well-established techniques for doing this through the intervention and work of the H.M.I.s, the employment of H.M. inspectors to look at good practices and report on them and the holding of courses at which we tackle these problems and encourage L.E.A.s to study specific ways to deal with them. We do not lay down the pattern. Some L.E.A.s have specific language centres, some L.E.A.s use peripatetic teachers, [end p2] some have increased the number of teachers experienced in this field. It is a serious problem, and I would say nothing to underrate the problem of large numbers of children who arrive in this country with a severe linguistic difficulty.

Deedes

1233. And those born in this country?—

Mundy

Particularly Asians, because they are not operating in a second language situation. It is extremely difficult for the educational system to put right some of the conditions which arise from other courses.

Deedes

1234. Has the D.E.S. weighed the very serious consequences, notwithstanding all the difficulties, of letting these children of this second generation go through inadequately equipped, and thereafter, in an advanced society, at a marked competitive disadvantage to their indigenous contemporaries?—

MT

We do everything possible not to have that situation arising. It is a situation that particularly affects children who have to speak in a second language in school, perhaps a different language from the language which they use at home. That is why a good deal of stress is laid on language teaching, we realise the consequences of poverty of language for all children. As you know, we have an inquiry upon it at the moment. Even having realised the problem it is not always easy to see that everyone gets up to standard. There are some language centres which will take the parents of the children as well so that the children may learn to speak their second language at home as well as in schools. But we are very well aware of the problem and try to do everything we can to alleviate the harm which can flow from poverty of language, whether it is the written or the spoken word.

Mr. Barnett.

Barnett

1235. This Committee has travelled to a number of L.E.A.s and has seen a great variety of practice in different local education authorities. Some of them are doing very well, some are doing badly, and some are doing little or nothing at all. What characterises those which are doing well is that they are devoting extra resources in terms of teachers and in terms of buildings. From the questioning so far I have not got clear in my own mind what assistance the Department of Education and Science is giving in financial terms to those authorities which are doing a good job, and how it is that that assistance is decided on, how the figure is assessed. I am particularly concerned with the language issue. I would be glad to have clearly stated how the Department of Education and Science assesses the amount it gives to each authority and how it does so in terms of running costs, that is the salaries of teachers, and in terms of capital costs, that is the cost of extra buildings that may be required?—

MT

That comes through the rate support grant. If they have need for extra schools because they have extra children, then they will automatically get the loan charges on that capital programme included in the rate support grant, and similarly teachers.

Barnett

1236. Of course, when extra children come into an L.E.A. that means extra teachers, but the impression is that where the language problem exists the staffing ratio be higher. This is the experience we get from every local educational authority?—

MT

Staffing ratios tend to be higher in all educational priority schools because they are schools which, by definition, are in difficult areas. What I was trying to say earlier was if the staffing ratio needs to be higher and they take on extra teachers, those will also be paid for in the usual proportions through the rate support grant. Those will vary according to the needs and resources of the area in well-established formulae. Some local authorities may get, for example, 75 per cent. or 80 per cent. of their actual expenditure met through the needs and resources elements of the rate support grant, whereas others may only get 48 per cent. or 49 per cent. met because their resources are greater and their needs are smaller.

Barnett

1237. Could you say, in the light of that, that there is no possibility, give and take a little bit, of a local education authority, or rather the ratepayers within it, having to shoulder an extra burden as a consequence of the arrival of a large number of children with special language difficulties?—

MT

If it were a very large number of children I would have thought that the needs of the area would go up and perhaps the average resources go down and then you get an automatic adjustment within the rate support grant formula within the period in which that can operate. Otherwise, apart from this very small grant which goes through the Home Office, we have no particular way of catering for this. The only other grant is through the urban programme. Our share of that has been not more than about £1½ million per phase of the programme. That is usually a 75 per cent. grant, and we have used ours particularly for nursery schools because we are specially aware of the poverty of language point and the dangers which arise from it. We have no special money for immigrants with language difficulties as such.

Sir George Sinclair.

Sinclair

1238. Secretary of State, I was glad to hear you speak of the long term importance of language and removing the language handicap in the interests of the individual and their economic, social and political life afterwards. We have found going round, and the authorities have been very helpful and open with us, very uneven performance in the way of these very difficult but very important long-term problems. Where a local authority seems to be lagging behind in its extra help for these particular schools what opportunity has your Ministry of bringing this to their attention and seeing that the problem which you recognise as being of great importance is dealt with on a scale comparable to the best practices in other local authority areas with similar problems?—

MT

We would operate mainly through H.M. Inspectorate. They would be the first to know of this problem and would let us know. Usually, however, we find that where a local authority is suddenly swamped with an increase they will come and ask for extra capital provision. They have to, because their normal facilities have been greatly exceeded. Where we have money for capital programmes, for the new nursery programme, a primary school or secondary school programme, we will allocate a proportion of that specifically to deprived areas. Undoubtedly among those deprived areas there are quite a number of immigrant areas. For example, one secondary school that we have agreed to replace, which was very high on our list to replace in the secondary school improvement programme, is in Leicester which has a high proportion of immigrant pupils and which the local authority had been asking us to replace for quite a time. But apart from capital programmes like that, our information comes from the 500 or so inspectors who advise us upon what is actually happening, either in areas or in special subjects. They will carry out surveys from time to time and publish them.

Sinclair

239. What action can you take when you find through your inspectors, as we have found from our visits, that it is not the capital expenditure which is lacking, but the ordinary reinforcement of teachers on the language front is lacking, and the authority is not doing what other local authorities with no greater resources but with similar problems have found it possible to do?—

MT

Again we could only bring that to the attention of the local education authority, pointing out the good practice elsewhere and the courses that were available run by the Inspectorate for these special programmes. There are two other factors: the Department does still operate a teaching quota on behalf of teachers and local education authorities and we do know how many teachers they take on. We also know from the figures we get in how many extra teachers they take above the quota. For example, married women who return as teachers are a complete bonus, they are not on the quota and the local education authority can take back as many as it wishes. But we do from time to time publish the numbers of teachers they have and the proportions, so it is persuasion the entire time. But if we were informed of local authorities which were performing less well than others, we could draw this to their attention. Obviously it would not be fair to name them here, but perhaps you would let us know.

Sinclair

1240. Have you any sanctions?—

MT

No. The only sanctions that I have are fairly extreme ones. They occur under Section 68 of the 1944 Education Act. That is where an authority has acted unreasonably in pursuit of a statutory duty. I hardly think that that would be likely to occur in a case of the kind you have in mind. [end p3]

Mr. Wilson.

Wilson

1241. Secretary of State, it is quite clear from the questions and answers that we have had in going round the country that the problem of language deprivation is going to be with us for another 30 or 40 years. Have you, in your Department, any long-term plan for meeting this situation? One would hope during that period social deprivation would become a thing of the past, but language deprivation is going to be with us for a long time to come. From my experience I would suggest it is not really a solution to say, leave it to the local authority. There has to be, not necessarily by sanctions, a lead from your Department in relation to this matter. Have you at the moment any long-term proposals for facing what everyone who understands this subject now recognises as a problem that is going to be with us for 30 or 40 years?—

MT

Two immediate proposals come to mind, quite apart from the steady improvement in the proportion of staff to pupils, which is important. The first is that last June I set up a committee under the auspices of Sir Alan Bullock, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, to look into the problems associated with command of language. That inquiry has been going on for a year. They have taken a good deal of evidence, and I hope they will be able to report within another year, because we think that although a good teacher can stimulate a child to give the very best which that child can give we ought to be able to distil out the best practice for the average teacher and to pass on the benefit of that to the children in the schools. So we are dealing with it in the best possible way, with a group of experts taking evidence and going round to see what advice we can distil from that. Secondly, one of the reasons for the nursery school programme which we are starting is because we are aware of the problems of language and other deprivations and the need to get on to these early. The earlier we do it the more chance the child has of a good school life later. In that nursery school programme we shall concentrate certainly the first two capital programmes in areas of deprivation. Add to that the increase in the proportion of staff to pupils, which can only be beneficial if they are properly used, the increasing supervision of the probation teacher, who is often thrown in at the deep end with a difficult class with very limited experience, only that gleaned from his student training, and also the in-service training of teachers. All of these will help. If I might just say finally, in education particularly in poverty of language and deprivation, there is never one simple solution to anything, or one simple cause. You have to try to operate on all fronts simultaneously, and that is what we are trying to do, but we are giving the local education authorities a lead all the time.

Mr. Barnett.

Barnett

1242. Clearly the Department is seized of the importance of multiple deprivation, language, social background, and the rest of it, and is putting quite a large measure of resources into the problems about which we are speaking this afternoon. I wonder whether you think the time has now come to evaluate the work that you are doing and the funds you are now spending to see how successful or otherwise it is in terms of the work that is being done or the money that is being spent by the Department to support this kind of work in the authorities? I am wondering to what degree it may be open to local education authorities to devote these extra resources over the whole of the area of the authority rather than to the schools that really need those resources. Have you, as Secretary of State, any control in a situation of that kind. Again you will make a lot of money available for nursery schools, everyone in this room will welcome it, but we all know there is a tendency for nursery schools to fill up with the children of middle class families from nearby and not to meet this specific need which we are concerned about, that is the kind of deprivation which exists amongst the youngsters in West Indian families. Could you give us some answers to those questions?—

MT

The urban programme went specifically to deprived areas, whatever the cause of the deprivation, and we used that for nursery schools, so all the money under that, by definition, had to go to areas of deprivation. In the bids for our new nursery programmes all the local authorities that have deprived areas have been very [end p4] anxious to co-operate with the Department to see that a goodly proportion of the early programmes goes to relieving that deprivation. In fact the local education authorities on the whole are every bit as anxious as we are to do this. When it comes to other things like staffing, for example the numbers they employ above quota, or indeed whether they take up the entire quota, although most of them do and quite a large number go beyond it, particularly with extra teachers and married women returners they do have a degree of freedom, and this is what local government means. If they did not have a degree of local freedom to deploy their resources as they think fit there would be no point in having any local government, we would just have local administrative agencies. Evaluation is by various research programmes and sometimes by surveys by the Inspectorate. A survey on immigrant children was published. The National Foundation of Education Research has done some work on it, and with the new nursery programme there will be a research project to monitor it right from the beginning so we see which things work best, though again I must stress in education there are very large numbers of variables. One has to be very careful about the conclusions one draws. The survey the Secretary of State referred to is one made some years ago which tried to give an indication of what was happening and of good practice. We felt the survey did not give sufficient details of good practice and this was one of the reasons why we asked the National Foundation to engage in a piece of research, which is just being completed. This gives a factual statement of the position and also some indication of good practice which we are very glad to see is being used as a platform for more on-going research on this occasion not financed by D.E.S. As far as language is concerned, may I indulge in a personal point of view? One of the problems my colleagues in the Inspectorate are meeting is the need for language to become the concern of all those involved in the teaching profession. There is a tendency to say, “There is a remedial teacher on the staff and that is his job” . The degree to which this attitude is adopted varies from area to area, but we are very anxious indeed to make come true a statement which was made when I taught, that every teacher is a teacher of English. That statement has never been more true than it is today, because what these children need is continual, systematic, informed exposure to language by all members of staff working together. We have expressed this in a variety of ways; it is a very difficult thing to get across. We have held courses on this and had publications on it, we have even made films on it. We were very glad indeed to find this lead was strongly underlined by the authors of the N.F.E.R. publication who are still active in teacher in-service training. We are looking for opportunities to increase in-service training so that every teacher can be made more familiar with the way his own language works. We are trying to put this across to colleges of education in the hope that this will be made an element of pre-service training. We want to encourage the curiosity of the teaching profession in the way their own language works and make them see that everyone has a share in moving these youngsters forward along the path of language development. This is a tremendously difficult thing to undertake. We have started the propaganda for it, we are doing what we can. But everything possible should be done to reinforce this idea that language development is the responsibility of all and not just that of the specialist teacher. He has a very important function to play, but he needs the collaboration of every member of staff who uses the English language as a tool every time he teaches.

Mr. Torney.

Torney

1243. Secretary of State, would it be possible for you to look at the overall situation and see whether some changes in law may be required to enable your Department to deal with this situation? It does not seem correct to me that we should rely upon the local education authority when they may wait until the problems are there before saying, “We need more teachers because of this” . I would like to see some better overall planning. I am sure you know the position in the countries which these children come from. There is also the problem of children coming here to join their [end p5] parents at the age of ten or eleven. Not only do they have a language problem, but they also have a poor general education. It would seem to me in addition to language there ought to be some measure of planning here to allow for a fairly considerable influx of children that will come in the next year or two so we are able to absorb them and help them to catch up on their general education?—

MT

Mr. Torney asks about better overall planning. I think we have if I might use the political phrase, a very flexible response to this. I have had chairmen of local education authorities come to me with their chief education officer to say, “Every Monday morning we have so many extra children who appear just to have come and we must have more school accommodation” . We have given one authority an extra allocation for this. They are specialists in the use of industrialised building, they have had the school built between May and September, they have got extra staff and they have assessed the situation according to the age of the children and their educational development, and they are dealing with the situation. We could not know that there were going to be x more children in that area, whatever our planning. We need to be in a position where we can keep some reserve to respond to that situation when it arises so that we can give an allocation immediately, and we do find the areas which are accustomed to having high immigrant populations respond very quickly and get extra space and extra teachers. The problem of training teachers with regard to language is, of course, longer term. I have seen some of the methods which the Schools Council worked out used very successfully in language centres. So we have really been operating on all fronts, but we must be prepared to move where and when the children arrive.

Torney

1244. On teacher training, we have had quite a bit of evidence on this question. There seems to be a problem with regard to the teacher understanding the immigrant that he or she has to deal with, therefore it would seem that some changes are required in the methods in which we train our teachers. I understand there is a problem in that you cannot just change the curriculum of all teacher training colleges because only a proportion of their teachers may go into these areas, so it does come down to in-service training. It looks to me as if this wants to be more extensive and studied rather more carefully. But if a number of teachers are taken away to have in-service training, this must deplete the school. What kind of provisions are made, and should some improvement be made there to ensure when a number of teachers go for an in-service training course, it may be for a few days or a few weeks, the vacuum they leave behind in the school they come from is filled?—

MT

There usually will be a supply teacher during the period when the teacher is away on in-service training. The local authority will second the permanent teacher on in-service training and get in a supply teacher to fill that gap.

Torney

1245. Is this covering the position sufficiently?—

MT

I believe so, because we have now a much greater supply of teachers and they therefore are able to embark on much more in-service training for the first time. On your earlier point about teacher training, the young students likely to have most experience of this are those in teacher training colleges near the immigrant areas because they go out to do their student practice in the local schools. It is those colleges which will have much more knowledge and experience of how to deal with the immigrant child. Again the immigrant children are not just immigrant, they are children from many different backgrounds, and these are the colleges which will have the best knowledge and experience of how to cope with them. I do also agree that in-service training courses are very important.

Mr. Chapman.

Chapman

1246. A few years ago the D.E.S. were encouraging the dispersal of children if the proportion of immigrant children reached more than a third of a class or the school. Now they seem to have reversed this view. I can see advantages and disadvantages on both sides. I do not want to talk emotively about busing children to the other side of the city, I am not suggesting that at all. But is it the feeling now of the D.E.S. that it is perhaps a good thing to have a high proportion of immigrant children in certain schools in order to grapple with particular problems and use what after all must be limited resources of speech therapists and people like that to deal with the problem en masse?—

MT

Both the theory and the practice has changed on this. When I went to the Department the existing circular recommended dispersal where the proportion of immigrant children had reached about 30 per cent. Although that was the circular we found that the practice of local education authorities varied. About half operated dispersal and half did not, they were almost equally divided. Whichever system they operated they were convinced that theirs was the best system for that area. Faced with that and feeling, as I do, that it is not always a good thing to bus an immigrant child right away from its home to another school when the teachers and the parents may never meet, we withdraw that direction and left it to the local authorities to decide. I believe now that only three or four practise dispersal as a policy and a number of them would take the view that it is better to be able to concentrate specialist services in areas close to these children rather than to attempt to disperse them. During the period we have come more firmly to the conclusion that it is extremely important to have maximum co-operation between parents and teachers to get the best effect on the children, and you are less likely to get that if the children are bussed from home to school some distance away.

Chairman.

Deedes

1247. There is only one other main head I want to deal with, that is E.S.N. Very naturally there has been anxiety brought home to us about the disproportionate number of West Indian children in E.S.N. schools. This leads to criticism of the way in which selection is made and the way in which they are run. We have had the chance of looking at them. Our own judgment is suspended for the moment, but have the D.E.S. any ideas as to why in fact there should be, particularly in London, this disproportionate number of West Indian children in the educationally sub-normal schools?—

MT

We do not have one very ready explanation. The numbers may vary according to the number of places available for special education in that area. Of course, in London there is a falling population so there might be a higher proportion of special school education available than there would be in an area with a rising population. Again ideas may vary about the advisability of putting a child who appears to be slower or to need extra help into a special school. In a special school the staffing ratio is very much more favourable and a lot of children do get on much faster there than they might perhaps in another school. But we could not explain the different practice between authorities on any one formula. We have been looking at this and we are sending a circular letter to local education authorities on the educational assessment and placement of immigrant children who may need special help, putting particular emphasis on the fact that if the children go to special schools they should be regularly reassessed, because the point that rather bothers us is that once they get there there does not seem to be a very ready transfer back from the special school into an ordinary school. There would be some children who would be getting on very well in a special school for whom transfer back to an ordinary school could be quite a traumatic experience. One must take all these factors into account, but one cannot do so unless there is a frequent reassessment of the child and of the other schools available.

Deedes

1248. This would meet a lot of the criticism. You are calling them special schools, is that the term to be used? The words E.S.N. are still circulating among local authorities, and they would be the first to say, “Could we find a better term” ?—

MT

The special school programme includes physically handicapped, mentally handicapped, the mal-adjusted. I always call this the special school programme.

Mr. Barnett.

Barnett

1249. What thought is the Department giving not merely to the issues which you have dealt with of placement but of trying to eradicate this problem altogether? I am thinking, for instance, of the disadvantage which West Indian children often have during the first four or five years of their lives. I am wondering whether the mere provision of nursery schools is the answer to that, or [end p6] whether it is not something much more sophisticated in trying to assist the mother and the relationship with her baby and her young children. I am fearful that perhaps consideration of this problem might fall between your Department and the Department of Health and Social Security. That is one aspect of it, there is another. I am wondering to what degree you yourself foresee the need for action and research on this problem with a view to trying to eradicate it and prevent the kind of issues we have been discussing arising?—

MT

There was some action research in five areas. Sir Keith Joseph and I have been looking at this jointly, particularly over the last few months, and we have met a number of different groups of people, both social workers and people in the educational field, about it. We are particularly anxious that we should get increasing co-operation in the new local authorities between the social service departments which, are now developing, and the education departments, because we do recognise this difficulty of a gap between the time that the health visitor ceases regularly to visit the mother with her child and the time the child comes into nursery school. We are aware that we do need to get across this gap somehow and to make certain that information about a new child does come to us, and that we can in fact see that child gets into nursery school. I recognise that we do need to try to help the parents as well. In this respect the play group movement has been very farsighted and we have learned a lot from it, because there the mother has to come along to help with the play group and she sees how other mothers cope with the children and she gains confidence and ability by dealing with the child herself. At the moment we are very much aware of the problem and taking such steps as we can to tackle it. There will be a period when perhaps you might think not enough is being done until the new local authorities are fully in existence and the new social services committees and education committees are working more closely together than they have done in the past.

Mr. Bidwell.

Bidwell

1250. We have discerned particular difficulties with West Indian children and West Indian young people as opposed to the children of Asian origin. It is an unmistakable fact how very handicapped a black young person is if he or she emerges without a proper share of the educational opportunities particularly in our kind of prejudiced society. I would like to ask the Secretary of State if she accepts it is still basically a very prejudiced society so far as the black young person is concerned?—

MT

May I try to deal with the West Indian first? In the early days we assumed the West Indian children could speak our language. It was an assumption which did not turn out to be justified. They may have spoken a different version of it, but certainly they did not speak our language well enough to be taught other subjects in it. We discovered this from experience and research and it took time. We are now very much aware of it. One of the other problems with West Indian children—again there is no one answer—is they come from a society with a different family structure from ours, sometimes not a very good family structure at all, unlike, certainly in my experience, the Indian and Pakistani child who comes from a very traditional family structure and a tight family circle. A lot depends on the view you take about the importance of family to child development in education. I would say it is quite important, and it is that factor, with the sudden change from their society to ours, which the West Indian child, coupled with language difficulties, has found particularly difficult. At any rate, it is one of the differences from Indian and Pakistani children whom we know from the outset will have language difficulties, but they will have the benefit of a very well structured family behind them.

Mr. Torney.

Torney

1251. Many West Indian parents who have been in front of us have complained of the fact that their children are in E.S.N. schools and the parents feel they should not be there, particularly this is so in London. The percentage of West Indian children in E.S.N. schools in London is very high. I have understood an E.S.N. school to be a school where a child goes who is particularly backward, possibly a child with a mental deficiency of some kind. Do such a high proportion of West Indian children in London go to E.S.N. schools because they are very backward, or is it that they are suffering from the language problem and from the low education standard in the country they have come from? Would they be better dealt with in a unit within the school, an extension of remedial units? This would also overcome the problem of mixing with other children and it would make the situation easier for reassessment?—

MT

All of the factors you mentioned may contribute to the problem, and I doubt whether West Indian children are a homogenous group. I would think there are a number of factors operating within the West Indian group of children, as there are within any other groups of children. One of the factors which may have led to a higher proportion of these children in special schools is that we have probably not yet got the right method of assessing their abilities, bearing in mind the background from which they come.

Torney

1252. This is what the parents say?—

MT

We shall be dealing with that aspect in our circular, suggesting better methods of assessment and a systematic observation of the child over a period. Then you can get a good idea of a child's response to surroundings in which it is getting regularly some educational stimulus over a period. On the whole we do not fill up the special schools with children who do not want to be there, because there is quite a waiting list of people who do want to go there, and however many such schools we build the waiting list does not seem to get very much shorter.

Chairman.

Deedes

1253. One teacher said to me, pointing out two or three children, “I think these are probably cases of brain damage” . Would one expect to find brain damage in a special school?—

MT

You would find brain damage in a special school, yes. The child might have gone into the wrong special school, but you would find cases of brain damage in a special school, either a special school or a hospital school. But it just emphasises the fact there are very many causes of these problems, in West Indian children as there are in any other group.

Deedes

1254. There seems to be a great shortage of teachers trained for E.S.N. schools. Can anything be done to get more teachers?—

MT

The numbers of teachers are increasing. The diploma provisions were changed two or three years ago. They now have to do a three-year diploma. A number of them will do the three-year teacher training certificate, then a special year after that as well. We are training more.

Mr. Barnett.

Barnett

1255. Could you explain how the matters with which this Committee is concerned at the moment are dealt with administratively in your Department? Is there a separate department of race, or whatever you like to call it? Does it spread throughout the Department? Is it put together with other subjects? Could you give us a brief explanation?—

MT

This is dealt with in the Schools Branch. The Inspectorate is separate but all their reports are circulated and we have policy meetings with all the branches which are concerned.

Chairman.

Deedes

1256. You do not have a research unit on this particular subject?—

MT

We do not have a research unit ourselves. We have a small research budget which is put out to the people who are skilled in doing research. Educational research is done through the Social Science Research Council and through the National Foundation for Educational Research and others. So we ourselves do not do it, but we give grants to various bodies to do it for us.

Deedes

1257. So when it comes to overall strategy you are dependent on the information you get in the ordinary way from the Inspectorate and others as you would be with any other aspect of national education?—

MT

Yes, then that is put out, for example in the new circular which is coming. We deal with it in the Department, we consider what to do with it and prepare a draft circular with all the Branches and the Inspectorate. Then put out the draft circular to all interested bodies for their comments on it, because they have the experience. When it comes back in we take their [end p7] comments into account, and then it finally goes out as a circular to all local education authorities.

Deedes

Secretary of State, we are deeply grateful and we would like to thank you very warmly.