The bailie and the bishops go to war

7th January 2000 at 00:00
David Henderson recalls the issues that ministers tried to sweep under the carpet 30 years ago

GLASGOW'S education convener issued "an open declaration of war" against Roman Catholic schools as the city struggled to fill teacher posts in the late 1960s, public records released under the 30-year rule reveal.

Schools were short of 1,200 teachers and 3,800 primary and secondary pupils were in part-time education, defined as the loss of more than two hours a week. Denominational secondaries in the east end were hardest hit.

Compulsory registration with the General Teaching Council from August 1968 was said to be exacerbating the situation and nearly 300 "uncertificated" teachers were used to ease the crisis.

Bailie Alistair Wylie, however, sought to widen the argument into the existence of separate Catholic schools, as Andrew Chirnside, the district inspector, observed in briefing papers. Mr Chirnside was present at a meeting with the Catholic Hierarchy on February 12, 1969, when he proposed integration "now".

The inspector summarised the city's argument: "Politically, it was expedient before any 'collapse' of Roman Catholic education made it inevitable that assistance from the authority had to be diverted from schools already suffering other forms of deprivation. This was received with stony silence."

Bailie Wylie was given "short shrift" by Archbishop James Donald Scanlan for his view that the Church could not automatically expect the city to direct teachers to Catholic schools when its "own" schools were short.

Bruce Millan, Labour's education minister, was invited by the education convener to intervene but declined.

On a practical level, city, Government and Church sought to alleviate the difficulties with a number of reforms. Despite the hostilities, the Archbishop agreed to discuss with headteachers a proposal to integrate sixth year studies courses in neighbouring secondaries, ven across the religious divide. Twilight classes from 4pm-6pm were already in operation in some subjects.

Government advisers in autumn 1968 suggested further collaboration in subjects such as Latin, mathematics and homecraft. "The temperature of the water has not yet been tested, but they may venture in - unobtrusively," it was noted. "Glasgow EA officials now seem well disposed to the idea."

One in six teachers was on an additional allowance of pound;100 for working in a designated school, while travelling expenses were proposed where costs exceeded 76d a week. A further plan involved collecting teachers from "teacher producing" sections of the city and busing them to less favoured areas.

The city asked ministers if it could postpone teacher registration for a year to ease the shortage but was refused permission.

Glasgow was not alone. The district inspector in Lanarkshire commented in November 1969: "For the first time part-time education has had to be introduced officially in a number of secondary schools; and in many schools part-time education is being avoided only because the teaching staff have been prepared to take on very considerable additional burdens in the form of large classes, reduced non-teaching time, the teaching of subjects other than their own, and the teaching of certificate classes after school hours."

The Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association complained to Willie Ross, the Secretary of State, that 58 unqualified teachers were being used by Lanarkshire, a claim that brought the authority into conflict with ministers and Scottish Education Department officials. It was ordered to speed up its procedures on registration.

In reply Lanarkshire insisted that only an effective national recruitment scheme would ease the crisis. The SED estimated Scotland would be 2,800 teachers short by 1973-74, an underestimate, according to the Educational Institute of Scotland.

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