Schools

Part of Statutory Instruments, &C. – in the House of Commons at 6:15 pm on 3rd July 1990.

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Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths , Bridgend 6:15 pm, 3rd July 1990

I had heard about that, although I had not seen the document until my hon. Friend produced it. It appears in any case to be another unthought of consequence of the Government's reforms that will cause great aggravation in the education system. They are already causing aggravation for teachers and that is why we have a growing crisis of teacher supply in the United Kingdom. The problem is particularly severe in inner London; indeed, in boroughs such as Southwark and Tower Hamlets it is a scandal. It is beyond belief that any Education Minister can stand at the Dispatch Box and not suggest positive solutions to the problem. It is a national scandal. The problem is steadily spreading its tentacles to other parts of the country.

At one time, we were principally concerned about maths and science, but we now find that there is a shortage of skilled and qualified teachers of modern languages, design and technology, and music—half the subjects in the national curriculum. Is it any wonder that there is a crisis in our schools today? On DES teacher training targets, we are 27 per cent. short in maths, 23 per cent. short in physics, 16 per cent. short in modern languages, 42 per cent. short in chemistry, and 22 per cent. short in technology. There has been a failure to meet DES targets, and the problem will get much worse before it gets better. That failure can be seen in Wales, fabled for its teachers, where teachers are provided as if they were on a conveyor belt. In Wales, local authorities are experiencing difficulties in recruiting secondary school teachers, qualified Welsh language teachers, and science, maths and modern language teachers. They are lucky if one or two people apply for such posts. The difficulties are to be found everywhere. Morale is low and the profession overburdened.

The praise that the Government heap on teachers is rather like the praise that the generals heaped on the soldiers in the trenches in the first world war. It came from people who were strategically inept, had a poorly paid soldiery and were poorly equipped. That is why, in the past six months, the so-called "escape committee" has increased the number of people wanting to join from the profession from 700 to 3,000. Teachers are disillusioned because they are being asked to do too much too soon and too quickly, when their pay is too little too late and too slow—staged payments of a cash-limited pay award. There is worse to come.

In my county, teachers will lose their jobs as about half of our primary and secondary schools have had savage reductions in their budgets because of formula funding and the LMS scheme, which the Welsh Office forced on my local authority of Mid Glamorgan. That has adversely affected our schools.

LMS is not about giving parents and governors the chance to run their own show; it is about exposing schools to formula funding, which means that they will be closed. There is no doubt that small schools will close in the near future.

On nursery education, poll tax-capped authorities will consider areas in which, at the moment, provision is non-statutory, so there will be cuts. It is salutary to think that poll tax-capped Labour authorities are among the best providers of nursery education. It is no coincidence that Tory education authorities are the worst providers of nursery education.

Throughout the education system, teachers are struggling to provide a high-quality service, when virtually everything that the Government are doing is counter-productive. We have a legacy of crumbling schools, crumbling teacher morale, teacher shortages, teachers not being taught, classes without teachers in front of them, and change for the sake of change. Parent governors are thoroughly disillusioned and say that their meetings are about finance and not about education. They can foresee the day when they will ask not who is the best but who is the cheapest when they appoint teachers. That is our education service—the cheapest.