Teacher Recruitment

Prayers – in the House of Commons at 10:47 am on 18 February 1998.

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[Relevant documents: First Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1997–98, on Teacher Recruitment: What can be Done? (HC 262–1), and the Government's Response contained in the Committee's Third Special Report (HC519).]

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Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Chair, Education & Employment Committee, Chair, Education Sub-committee, Chair, Education & Employment Committee

This vital debate will have a big impact on standards in our schools. School improvement is at the heart of the Government's agenda. Since May, there have been numerous important and imaginative initiatives to raise standards in our schools. Each Government initiative ultimately depends on those who work at the chalkface in the classrooms. Bluntly, all the hard work will come to naught unless there are sufficient high-quality teachers in our schools.

We all know and applaud the many gifted, committed and talented men and women who teach our children, but there are not enough of them. It is not enough to pass new laws in the House of Commons, to issue new circulars from Sanctuary Buildings, or to produce headlines on inspections. We need excellent teachers if we are to achieve excellence for all.

Last autumn, the Select Committee on Education and Employment produced its first report, "Teacher Recruitment: What can be done?" We found disturbing evidence of a growing shortage of quality entrants. The legacy left by the Conservative party is a teaching profession that cannot attract either enough people or the best graduates. The profession lacks self-esteem, and struggles to meet the needs of the children and the demands of the policy makers.

The complacency shown by the previous Government about the problem of teacher supply is outrageous. They created a crisis in teacher recruitment. Our message to this Government must be to set aside that complacency, and to take some urgent, radical steps that will start to turn things around, so that we have a realistic hope of reaching the ambitious targets for school standards.

Let us look at the evidence. Last week's figures published by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service on applications for teacher training confirm yet again the Select Committee's findings. We found that 11 per cent, fewer undergraduates are studying teaching this year. UCAS said that there is a further 15 per cent, drop in applications so far for next year. The Select Committee found that one in four of those who complete their training never work in a classroom. In mathematics, the position is dire. Applications for maths teaching courses have fallen by more than a third since 1993–94, and last year one in three places were unfilled. It makes us wonder who is teaching our children maths.

The problem is not confined to mathematics. Science, modern languages, design and technology, religious education and music have all been designated as shortage subjects by the Teacher Training Agency. This year, there has also been concern about the number of English and geography trainees.

It is not just the number of people going into teaching that is causing concern: the quality of entrants is also worrying. The average A-level grades for all undergraduates is three Cs, but for those who go on undergraduate teacher training courses it is two Ds and a C. I was shocked to discover that nine out of 10–90 per cent.—of the undergraduates in one teacher training institution had nothing better than two Ds and an E. It says a lot about British attitudes to the teaching profession that students need straight As at A-level to become a vet and to look after the well-being of animals, but two Ds and a C will do if they want to become a teacher and look after the well-being of children.

Photo of David Drew David Drew Labour/Co-operative, Stroud

I welcome the Select Committee's report. Does my hon. Friend agree that emphasis is placed on the postgraduate certificate of education, which is not the only route into teaching? The two-year BEd top-up course enables people to take higher national certificate and higher national diploma courses. Access courses can lead to a four-year BEd course. The £10 million for postgraduate courses is welcome, but does she agree that we need to consider alternative routes, because they often involve people who have a wide experience of the world and make very good teachers?

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Chair, Education & Employment Committee, Chair, Education Sub-committee, Chair, Education & Employment Committee

I completely concur with my hon. Friend's view.

The Select Committee report states that what is happening in teacher training today tells us what will be happening in our schools tomorrow. The evidence is already emerging. The crisis may not show up in the vacancy rates that the Department produces, because every head teacher tries to ensure that there are the proverbial bums on seats in every class. A recent study by the Centre for Education and Employment Research found that one in five primary posts and one in five secondary posts were difficult to fill. When quality was taken into account, almost two out of three primary posts and one out of two secondary posts were difficult to fill.

The growing crisis has been exacerbated by early retirement and by disillusioned teachers quitting the classroom. I hope that the Government's recent work to highlight excellent teachers and to find ways to cut bureaucracy will help, but the problem will not disappear. The number of school-age children is expected to rise steadily over the next five years. The Government have made a welcome commitment to cut class sizes, which means more teachers. An increasing number of pupils are identified as having special needs, and will require more individual attention. The demand for teachers is likely to rise rather than fall.

I recognise and applaud the energy and commitment of Ministers in tackling the difficult task of raising standards. However, they have not yet done enough to tackle the teacher recruitment crisis. The Tories may have caused the problem, but Labour must solve it. An advertising campaign will be ineffective unless it is part of a wider strategy. Targets set by the Teacher Training Agency are worthless if it has no teeth and no clear means of achieving them.

The Government must respond more enthusiastically than they have done so far to the more radical proposals in the report. We must think more boldly if we are to buck the trend and change direction. There is stiff competition from other employers for our top graduates, so we must and can do more.

The easy answer from many is more money and higher pay. The Committee believes that that is too simplistic. We examined international comparisons, and found that Britain is fourth in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development league on teachers' pay. Taking that and the limited public finances into account, we felt that it would be wrong at this stage to recommend higher pay for all teachers.

The much more difficult challenge is to raise the status of the profession. Minimum A-level standards for those starting in teaching would show that the Government were serious about making teaching a top profession. A short-term focus on numbers at the expense of quality is just wrong. The experience of accountancy in the 1980s suggests that minimum A-level standards may attract more applicants as well as safeguarding quality.

Photo of Mr Colin Pickthall Mr Colin Pickthall Labour, West Lancashire

Does my hon. Friend seriously believe that there is a direct correlation between A-level attainment and the quality of a teacher? Is not her presentation of those figures a little simplistic?

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Chair, Education & Employment Committee, Chair, Education Sub-committee, Chair, Education & Employment Committee

We are not claiming that there is always a correlation, but we would submit that there is a strong correlation. We want to attract more higher-skilled, higher-achieving people into teaching. Our contention may not always be valid, but it is often correct. Applications for accountancy courses actually rose when universities asked for higher grades. Too many of us know young people like the daughter of one of my friends, who rejected the idea of teaching because she thought that her good A-level grades would be wasted.

We believe that a fast-track entry scheme could attract talented graduates to teaching. The best graduates want an opportunity to progress quickly in their careers. Accelerated promotion to headship, or advanced-skills teacher status, would attract high fliers who might not otherwise consider a career in teaching. I should like there to be more than one advanced-skills teacher grade, so that progress could be based on ability and performance rather than length of service, and good teachers could be rewarded for staying in the classroom. Money invested in salaries is worth while in that context. Such a system could form part of a wider renegotiation of teachers' contracts.

Why can we not do something to help during the fourth and final year of training? Students could be paid part of their first year's salary during their final year of training. That would not cost the taxpayer a penny, and it would fit in nicely with the Government's welcome introduction of an induction year. Why can we not say that we should contribute to a teacher's student loan repayment for each year that that teacher spent in the classroom? The payment could be linked to performance, or could be targeted at shortage areas.

Why can we not introduce taster teacher courses as a module for students studying national curriculum subjects at degree level? Why can we not have sabbaticals, rewarding excellent teachers by allowing them to refresh skills in industry or at a local college? Why can we not introduce more flexibility, with part-time working and job sharing to allow more women to combine teaching with their caring responsibilities?

I believe that the Select Committee has advanced some radical but practical ideas to head off the growing crisis in teacher supply. I was disappointed by the Government's lukewarm response to our report, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will look at our ideas again. Without sufficient high-quality teachers, any crusade to raise standards is bound to falter. That would be a disaster for the Government, and, more important, for our children.

Photo of Mr Nick St Aubyn Mr Nick St Aubyn Conservative, Guildford 11:11, 18 February 1998

I well understand why the hon. Member for Barking (Ms Hodge) tried to hide her disappointment at the Government's response to our report—which I share—with an attack on the last Government's record. May I place a personal perspective on the experience of those who entered teacher training during the time of that Government? My wife first applied to a teacher training college in 1980, and was depressed and disappointed by the attitude of many who took the course with her. They lacked motivation, and appeared to be taking the course as a last resort. Many did not seem to have any heart for the profession to which she, at least, felt that she had been called.

Owing to an interruption in her course, my wife did not complete it then, but she returned to do so 15 years later, and found that the atmosphere and attitude had transformed since 1980. Here were people who were motivated and committed. Indeed, the very fact that someone could return to the course after 15 years and enter the teaching profession said much for the last Government's efforts to encourage late entrants. Under that Government, attitudes in the profession and in our schools changed completely, and this Government must surely admit that they are benefiting from the change. They are now endorsing and building on many of the policies that they opposed time and again when we introduced them in the 1980s—for instance, in their School Standards and Framework Bill.

Of course all Governments have problems. If Labour Members do not like the problem of government, there is a simple solution to their difficulty. We faced many problems when we were in government, but it must be said that the current problem is of very recent making. We know from the data collected by the Select Committee, which are published in the second volume of its report, that, as recently as 1996–97, a survey of schools throughout the country showed that 86 per cent, felt that their recruitment problems were no worse than they had been in the previous year—or, indeed, not as bad. In 1997–98, 30 per cent, reported that their recruitment problems were worse than they had been in the previous year. I accept that the data also show a fall in the number applying for courses in key subjects such as mathematics over the past three years or so, but it is only in the last 12 months that evidence of a problem has become compelling.

As I have said, no Government are without their problems. The real test of a good Government is not the extent to which they complain, but the action that they take to deal with those problems. The National Association of Head Teachers has told us that the problem of teacher recruitment can be found all along the scale. A recent press release states: Almost 2,500 schools looked for a head in 1997. Nine per cent, of all state schools advertised for a headteacher. These were totals last seen at the end of the 1980s. There is clearly a correlation between the shortage of good teachers and the strength of the economy. As graduates leave university, if job offers are plentiful and the number of opportunities—particularly in the private sector—is growing, the relative advantages or attractions of teaching unfortunately tend to shrink. If the Government now have a problem that they inherited, it results from the strength of our economy, which is causing students who might otherwise have taken education courses to take jobs of a different kind. [Interruption.] Labour Members laugh in embarrassment, but the fact is that we have established a strong economy. The public sector borrowing requirement is falling to virtually nothing. The Government, however, are finding no resources with which to tackle what will become a deep-seated problem—the problem of not having enough teachers in the supply chain to satisfy the needs of our schools.

Photo of Mr Derek Foster Mr Derek Foster Chair, Employment Sub-committee

Is not the hon. Gentleman glossing over the fact that teachers are stampeding out of the profession because of the incompetent way in which the pensions issue was handled? Is that not the greater part of the problem?

Photo of Mr Nick St Aubyn Mr Nick St Aubyn Conservative, Guildford

There was undoubtedly a problem with teachers' pension provision, and we tackled it. Now there is a problem with teacher supply, and it is up to the Minister to tell us how she will tackle that.

The pressure on the economy, and the attractions of alternative employment, have been greatest in the most prosperous areas. We know from surveys published in our report that schools experiencing recruitment difficulties account for 21 per cent, of those surveyed in shire counties, and only 12 per cent, of those surveyed in cities and metropolitan areas, excluding inner London. In such circumstances, one would expect the Government to take cognisance of the particular difficulties of schools in shire counties; yet, in the coming year's revenue support grant settlement, more than £100 million is being switched from the shire counties to the metropolitan areas. The Government are not paying attention to where the problems persist, especially in relation to teacher recruitment.

Another part of the evidence heard by the Select Committee related to the wider role that schools can play. Apart from pay, there is the conditions aspect. I do not think that our report gave enough emphasis to the importance of giving schools more scope to provide better conditions for teachers within their local management budgets.

I put a similar question to the Minister a few days ago and I should like her to consider it today. Will she not allow more scope for schools to set their own terms and conditions for teachers so to allow some flexibility and enable them to attract the teachers that they need? That would help in the recruitment of head teachers, especially for schools that are potentially failing and to which it may be difficult to attract precisely the type of head teachers that they require to turn them round. If the Government do not give schools the flexibility to offer a package that will attract the head teachers that they need, they will make the problem far worse.

The hon. Member for Barking spoke about quality. Our Committee recommended, as an incentive for students to embark on teacher training courses, the phasing out of the student loan. The Government are compounding the problem of teacher supply by enormously increasing the cost of student education before students get to teacher training courses. That will create a much bigger future problem of teacher supply.

We propose the phasing out of student loans when new teachers have completed a sufficient number of years of service. Those who are not much above the student loan threshold will effectively pay a higher rate of tax for years or even tens of years after they leave university. That will deter those who might otherwise consider entering teaching because, although the starting salary in the private sector may be similar to that in teaching, it offers better salary prospects.

Our report could have put more emphasis on the changing workplace, on how people no longer embrace the idea of a single career for life. We should do more to encourage late entrants from, for example, banking. That sector contains many people with numeracy skills. [Interruption.] There are some people in banking with numeracy skills—perhaps more accurate than some bank computers. Banking has many more numeracy skills than are displayed occasionally by the Department for Education and Employment. Late entrants—people in their 30s or late 30s—should be encouraged.

It is important to make it clear to those entering teaching in their 20s that it need not be seen as a job for life. After they have been teaching for perhaps 10 to 15 years, there may be other openings. The Committee heard evidence about opportunities in banking and in personnel and training departments. Teachers' concerns about limited salary opportunities unless they follow the headship route can be offset by telling them, "If you are still concerned about that 10 or 15 years from now, we shall make it easy for you to enter another career because we value your input to teaching in your first 10 to 15 years." Who knows how many people who may be contemplating a short-term commission in teaching will enjoy it so much that, whatever the outside monetary advantages, they will decide to stay in that outstanding profession for the rest of their careers?

Photo of Mrs Valerie Davey Mrs Valerie Davey Labour, Bristol West 11:23, 18 February 1998

I should like to highlight two issues from the Select Committee report, both relating to job satisfaction. The first is under the heading of "Work load" and in that section the Committee states: Appropriate use of teaching and non-teaching staff can enhance the job satisfaction of both groups. The Committee called for imaginative ways of reducing the non-teaching work load to be explored. The Government responded positively, but perhaps not imaginatively, to that idea by referring to a working party on reducing the bureaucratic burden and simplifying administrative demands on teachers. I urge the Government to widen that working party's remit.

On a recent visit to a secondary school in my constituency, I learned that it had topped up the hours of the school nurse, who was available from the health authority, to make it a full-time post. In addition, the school had employed two part-time counsellors who were pupil self-referred only. The impact on the school generally and on the teachers' work load in particular was enormous. Other schools benefit from full-time technicians or site managers. Therefore, there is a much wider remit to be explored.

The second issue comes under the heading of "Career Development" and, on that, I concur with the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn). I am pleased to say that the Government have responded favourably to revisiting the local management of schools formula in relation to mature entrants, and are considering the protection of pensions for teachers who, later in their careers, wish to return to the classroom and shed administrative responsibilities.

The aspect of career development that was not picked up in the Government's commentary is that of recognising that a job for life, even in relation to teaching, is being eroded. There may be ways of attracting people who want to teach for 10 to 15 years and then use their skills and experience elsewhere. I am not surprised that the Government's conclusion reiterates the need to encourage those who qualify to stay in teaching. I began the inquiry with that objective: I have changed my mind. Just as we encourage those from other professions to enter teaching, we must recognise reality and positively use the movement of staff in and out of teaching to the benefit of schools and lifelong learning. There is a quiet revolution for lifelong learning and there must be a parallel one for lifelong teaching.

Last week, I visited a small Roman Catholic primary school in my constituency and found that the recently appointed head teacher had just spent 12 years in higher education. She brought to that school confidence, experience, and a wealth of researched knowledge. A member of her staff, who was formerly an engineer, said that teaching was the most rewarding job that he had ever had. There is a progression from teaching and possibly back again.

There are two positive points. The 1997 intake to the House has brought to it probably the largest-ever number of teachers. I trust that they have come here not to escape teaching but to contribute positively to the teaching profession. I wonder how many will return to teaching, taking with them the wealth of experience that they have gained in the House.

Secondly, I congratulate the Government on last week's positive contribution to staff morale and expectation. Their contribution of £22 million means that there will be more than an extra 1,000 teachers in the profession and they will all enter classes of 30 pupils or fewer. That is a positive boost to staff morale and a welcome contribution. I trust that the Government will look more radically at this report and make further radical contributions.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Liberal Democrat, Bath 11:28, 18 February 1998

I agree with much of what the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Valerie Davey) has said, and I certainly concur with the implicit views in the speeches by the hon. Members for Barking (Ms Hodge) and for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn).

The Government's response to the Select Committee report is long on rhetoric and short on reality. There seems to be uncertainty in the Government's mind about whether teacher recruitment and supply is a problem. One minute the Prime Minister appears in cinema commercials promoting teaching, and the next minute there is an uninspiring Government response to ways of tackling the problems.

Perhaps even worse than that, the Government seem to have failed to recognise that, unless they take more positive steps, even their own education plans could exacerbate the situation. We have already heard, for example, of the Government's welcome plans to reduce class sizes at key stage 1, but, on their own admission, they will need an additional 5,000 teachers. My view is that that is too few, but they have funded only 500 extra places for the Teacher Training Agency to allocate.

If we are to decide what and how urgently action should be taken, it is surely necessary that we agree the magnitude of the problem. The first step in solving a crisis is to recognise that there is a crisis; and crisis there certainly is, as the hon. Member for Barking has admitted. As others have pointed out, the figures are clear for all to see.

First, we are losing more and more highly skilled and experienced teachers through early retirement, as more and more feel bowed down by the growing stresses and strains of the job, by the constantly changing demands and, sadly, by the all too frequent denigration of their work. In the past 12 months, nearly 12,000 experienced teachers have quit the profession early.

Secondly, as was starkly demonstrated earlier this morning by the figures published by the National Association of Head Teachers, there is a recruitment crisis affecting head and deputy head posts. For example, governors failed to appoint 25 per cent, of the primary headships that were advertised. They could not create even a short list for 11 per cent, of the headship vacancies and 44 per cent, of advertisements attracted six or fewer applicants.

Thirdly, since our Select Committee's report was published, the number of people coming forward to train to enter the profession has declined further. Applications to almost all types of initial teacher training course are falling when compared with last year. Applications even for primary initial teacher training courses, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, are falling behind last year's figure: applications to primary BEd courses are 15.4 per cent. down. Overall, many courses are on a five-year low.

As the hon. Member for Barking rightly pointed out, even worse are the figures for applications to postgraduate secondary courses, not least in the crucial subjects of maths and science. Compared with last year, applications to postgraduate secondary courses for maths are 22 per cent., for biology 15 per cent, down, for physics 28 per cent, down and for chemistry 31 per cent. down. All those figures point inexorably to a crisis.

The House will perhaps be interested to know that, almost 10 years ago, the current Secretary of State for the Home Department was the Labour party's shadow spokesman on education. He issued a press release in which he referred to the alarming drop in the number of applicants for science and maths teacher training places for PGCE. His press release continued: Crisis is not too strong a word to describe the teacher shortages. If he thought that there was a crisis then, I wonder how he would describe the current position, when in every case the recruitment figures are significantly worse.

As the hon. Member for Barking fairly pointed out, it is not right to blame this Government for the crisis. Unlike the hon. Member for Guildford, I believe that the crisis is a legacy of the previous Government, not this Government's economic policies. The Conservative policies of underfunding education partially masked the true size of the crisis as teacher posts were cut and pupil-teacher ratios worsened. However, the crisis is definitely growing. My criticism of this Government is that they have failed to take the necessary urgent action.

We should consider how the Government have responded. Take, for example, the issue of pay. The Association of Graduate Recruiters' 1997 survey, which was published last month, showed for the year 1996–97 salary increases for the least well-paid graduates of 7.7 per cent. Teachers are, sadly, among the least well-paid graduates, yet, at a time when we need to recruit more, they have had the indignity of a pay rise, already planned to be under 7.7 per cent., phased in, so that the effective increase is under the inflation rate.

It is interesting to reflect on how the Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Disability Rights must feel about that decision because, only two years ago, while in opposition, he issued a press release commenting on the previous Government's decision to phase in the teacher's pay award for that year. He said about the Conservative Government's plans: The staging of the teachers and other awards is a deception and an admission of economic failure by the government who are saying that…they cannot afford to pay at once increases which they accept are justified. I agreed with his comments then and, had he made them today, I would have agreed with them today.

One way to help to avert the recruitment and retention crisis would be to pay the teachers' award in full. Perhaps the Government simply do not understand how a market economy really works and think that a pay cut will have no effect on teacher recruitment. It would be interesting to hear the views of Alec Reed, who was brought in by the Government in November to help them with their teacher supply questions.

What about starting salaries? Over the past few years, more and more employers have been willing to pay graduate trainees a market-rate salary. Teaching has resisted the trend, requiring trainee teachers, except those on the employment-based route, to be treated like students. Apart from the shortage subjects, there are no further payments beyond the increased loan facility to cover the 36 or 38 weeks of a postgraduate certificate of education course, despite such students often being too busy to take part-time jobs to help to support themselves.

Of course I am pleased that the Government are not going to charge PGCE students tuition fees, but I am extremely disappointed that they have rejected the Select Committee's recommendation that same-fee remission should apply to the final year of an undergraduate course. If we are not careful, as with law and medicine, only students from wealthy backgrounds will be able to afford to train as teachers. At least those studying law and medicine can look forward to higher salaries once in the profession; that is certainly not true for teachers. Teaching should become an elite, not an elitist, profession.

The Select Committee considered starting salaries or debt repayment based on years of service. Sadly, both those ideas are ignored by the Government in their response. In short, on pay issues, the Government have made education a central plank of their policy, but have refused to pay the price.

What other solutions are the Government offering? We have a damp squib of a general teaching council, which will fall far short of what teachers want and deserve, rather than one that will liberate their professionalism. The Government propose to reduce red tape, but, sadly, confusion about the curriculum has increased. They hold out the hope that those who have left teaching will return, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Returners now account for 40 per cent, of those starting new jobs each September, compared with 60 per cent, in the 1980s.

Overall, the Government's response seems more concerned with reminding people about Government policy initiatives on the general teaching council, raising standards, education action zones, advanced skills and so on than facing up to today's teacher recruitment issues. None of their policies will work without sufficient high-quality teachers. The sad fact is that any shortfall in recruitment today will mean a shortage of middle managers in 10 years' time and problems with recruiting senior managers a decade later. That is the challenge we face, but, in their response to the Select Committee report, it is a challenge that the Government have ducked.

The Government should have listened to their good friend Mr. Chris Woodhead, who last autumn told the School Teachers Review Body: Ofsted evidence corroborates … the difficulties of recruitment in shortage subjects…and in some London and other LEAs. Thus Ofsted, the Teacher Training Agency, the Select Committee and most other commentators have warned the Government that there really is a crisis. However, it seems that Ministers would prefer to gamble with children's education for the sake of misguided, Conservative-inspired economic policies. It is as if the Government, too, ask: "Crisis? What crisis?"

Photo of Bob Blizzard Bob Blizzard Labour, Waveney 11:38, 18 February 1998

There is no doubt that teachers are the key to education. They always have been and are even more so now, with the Government's crusade to raise standards, which will require teachers of real quality. The policy of reducing class sizes will require a greater quantity of teachers, so teacher recruitment underpins the whole of the Government's policy.

Anyone in sales would say that the best advertisement is a satisfied customer. The best advertisement for the new recruitment of teachers should be satisfied teachers, but at the moment many teachers are not satisfied with their lot. I know, because I was one until 1 May last year.

Are those teachers just whingers? One or two teachers' representatives seem to moan about everything. With so many teachers moving from school to college or university and back to school, some can have a rosy view of the outside world in which they have not worked, and feel that teaching must be the worst job on earth. Such a detachment from the rest of the world should cause concern. Sometimes teachers forget that there is stress in all kinds of jobs.

Having said that, there is something, if not rotten, deeply wrong with the state of teaching. The question is why. I agree with most of the reasons in the Select Committee report. Pay is a factor, but it is not the only factor. If there were a huge pay increase for teachers tomorrow, there would still be problems in the profession—the same problems that are causing people to take a pay cut to leave teaching, sometimes as early as 50 if they can be released. The problems that are causing teachers to leave are the same problems that are deterring people from entering teaching.

When we talk about work load, we are talking not just about the amount but about the unnecessary work load resulting from years of constant, imposed change. When Kenneth Baker was Secretary of State we looked back to his predecessor, Sir Keith Joseph, and said that he was a butcher. We have the baker, so presumably the next one was the candlestick maker. It turned out to be the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke). Worst of all was John Patten. After his reign, we were left with hundreds of thousands of tick boxes, sheets of paper, which we all knew were nonsense, and tests that did not work, which did not help us to achieve our goal of raising standards and educating children. It is not surprising that, after those years of frenzy and despair, teachers are taking a long time to recover from the battering.

I always remember the letter that I received one day from Sir Ron Dearing saying that it had come to his notice that some teachers were under the impression that they have to spend a lot of time ticking boxes and keeping records, but that that was never the intention. I wish that someone had told the teachers that many years before.

Teachers today have heaps of bureaucratic paperwork and many low grade tasks to perform because they have so little secretarial backup. That, as the Select Committee report points out, is one of teachers' main complaints. Tasks always seem to be added, but few are taken away.

People are also deterred from becoming teachers by the fear of unruly children. Keeping order is a great skill and in the early years trying to keep order is particularly tough. The worst thing that happens is when a teacher has to cover for an absent colleague. Keeping order in such a situation can be tremendously stressful. It would help if first-year teachers were exempt from having to cover for absent colleagues.

People are also deterred by the lack of a real progression in teaching, not just through the structure but in what one has to do. At the beginning, everything is a challenge, but after a few years people like to take on new challenges and perhaps leave behind some of the challenges that have become mundane. But that does not seem to happen in teaching. After 25 years, I still spent one or two break times a week standing outside the toilets, and every day I had to make herringbone patterns in the register because information technology had not be introduced for registering attendance. I used to wonder whether I really needed a university degree and a postgraduate qualification to stand outside the toilets for up to half an hour each week.

Teachers are demoralised by the attacks of so many years. They often have to work in poor quality buildings. I voluntarily ended my career teaching in a portakabin. Looking out on to the other portakabins was like a stalag scenario. We were working in buildings which were freezing cold in winter and boiling hot in summer.

Bearing such matters in mind, one must ask whether teaching is a profession like that of doctors, lawyers, accountants and so on. I think not. The problem starts with the strange way in which teachers are trained. For example, the bulk of a teacher's postgraduate year is spent teaching in schools while existing on a grant or a loan. One is still somehsow a student while undergoing professional training. There must be something better than that. It is not surprising that when, coming out of recession, people can find something better to do, they often do not think of teaching. We have to make teaching more attractive.

Photo of Charlotte Atkins Charlotte Atkins Labour, Staffordshire Moorlands

Does my hon. Friend agree that a key problem, certainly in primary education, is the lack of male teachers? We are concerned about the gender imbalance in terms of achievement which, as the Select Committee identified, starts as early as seven or eight. There seems to be a complete lack of positive male role models in the primary sector.

When my husband goes into my daughter's school to help to run the chess club, many pupils call him "Miss". As he is 6 ft 4 in with a beard, that is rather strange, but it shows how few men there are who can be appointed. As the chair of governors at that school, I have found it impossible to appoint male teachers because acceptable candidates do not come forward. Can we be surprised—

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. Interventions must be brief, not mini-speeches.

Photo of Bob Blizzard Bob Blizzard Labour, Waveney

My hon. Friend is right. When I started out as a teacher I was told that if I wanted to get on quickly I should go into the primary sector, where I would be a head teacher within a few years because there were so few other men in that sector. It is all to do with image and perception. My hon. Friend makes the point well.

It is important to recognise that to prepare, mark and deliver a full timetable of lessons is demanding. If we want to raise standards, we should concentrate on that. We need a new deal for teachers. The ideas in the Select Committee report deserve attention. In particular, we need more non-teaching staff in schools to carry out those low-grade tasks which do not require graduates. I was particularly taken with the idea of sabbaticals for industrial experience and voluntary service overseas. They refresh teachers. I was fortunate enough to teach in Canada for a year on an exchange and I returned refreshed, with plenty of ideas.

The Government have plenty of ideas which will help. The introduction of the advanced skills teacher will be helpful. I should like those best teachers to be given the opportunity to join some of the Government's task forces on which we shall rely if we are to drive up standards, whether they are called hit squads or something else. We also need the best teachers in teacher training who, after a few years, can come back into the classroom. It is sad when such teachers lose touch with the classroom. We need an interplay between the two. The idea of training and a qualification for head teachers is excellent. The general teaching council will help to establish teaching as a real profession. The £1.3 billion to repair crumbling classrooms will do a lot to help teachers' morale.

The Government have made it clear that they will provide more resources for education each year. If they are used in a thoughtful way, we shall be able to overcome the problems that we have been debating this morning and, once again, teachers will be able to recommend their profession to others.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Conservative, Maidenhead 11:48, 18 February 1998

I pay tribute to the many excellent and dedicated teachers in our schools. When I visit schools in my constituency, I am struck by the genuine enthusiasm of teachers—despite all the bureaucracy referred to by the hon. Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard)—for imparting knowledge and skills to the children in their care. I am struck also by their commitment constantly to look at ways of improving standards. They are getting on with the job, while we merely talk about it.

I echo the comments made by a number of hon. Members about the disappointing response from the Government to the Select Committee report. We asked the Government to look imaginatively, innovatively and flexibly at the issues we raised. Sadly, they have failed to do so. As the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) said, the Government have been more interested in pointing out various areas of their current policy, rather than responding positively to the Select Committee's specific proposals.

It is a sad comment on the teaching profession that problems with teacher recruitment seem to follow success in the economy. However, it is not just a problem of recruitment, but of retention—as has been said during the debate. I visited a school in my constituency where two teachers had come in from other jobs because they actively wanted to come into teaching. One was finding it difficult to stay in teaching because of family circumstances and the amount of time that she was having to give at evenings and weekends—over and above school hours—for preparation and so forth. Having actively wanted to come into teaching, she felt that there was great pressure on her to leave the profession.

I was talking recently to a director of company which trains people in information technology skills. The company recently launched an advertising campaign to encourage people to train in IT to deal with the problems of the year 2000. Sadly, he said, a significant number of people responding to the advertisements were teachers; teachers in their mid-30s, not those towards the end of their careers.

I want to concentrate on two issues from the Select Committee report. The first is the image and status of teachers. In evidence to the Select Committee, it was pointed out that one never sees a good teacher in a television programme, and that sitcoms about schools portray teachers negatively. That is part of the problem. The hon. Member for Waveney asked whether teaching was a profession, and came to the conclusion—given the way in which teachers are trained—that it was not. However, it should be, and therein lies the heart of the problem. The teachers' trade unions need to look at the way in which they have portrayed teachers in the past, because an image of militancy does not go well with an image of professionalism.

Some say that the general teaching council will answer the problem of professionalism in teaching, but that remains to be seen and it will depend very much on how the council is set up. From what we have seen so far, the GTC cannot be seen as the answer to the problem of increasing the status of teachers. It is a sad comment on the Government's reaction that the response is, as the hon. Member for Bath has said, a cinema advertisement on the value of teachers—although given that the sub-committee of the standards task force looking at the image issue is chaired by Lord Puttnam, perhaps that is not surprising.

The other important issue is career development, career structure and terms and conditions. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn), I think that there is most scope for flexibility and innovation from the Government on this issue. Sadly, their reaction has been most disappointing. I would very much like to see schools freed up to decide the terms and conditions on which they employ teachers. I have believed that ever since I sat on an education committee, and it is a key matter. It would deal with the problem of certain regions which are failing to attract people into teaching jobs.

Such a measure would enable schools to look imaginatively at their own needs and to put together packages which reflect those needs. When I was involved in an education authority in outer London some years ago, we had to find ways of improving recruitment and retention. We looked at various ideas, one of which was reflected in the Select Committee report—the concept of providing housing for teachers to enable young people to enter the profession.

I wanted to provide cars for head teachers as part of their remuneration package. That was not about offering a more attractive package, but about equating head teachers with senior officers of the local education authority, who had cars. Unfortunately, an election got in the way of that proposal and the Labour party, which took power, chose not to pursue the idea.

Imaginative ideas to offer teachers a different package to reflect local requirements are imperative. The Government referred to the possibility that their proposed education action zones could assist by directing encouragement, financial or otherwise, to attract the best teachers. That was not the right response. I want more flexibility. In itself, the Government's response has a problem because—as we have discovered debating the School Standards and Framework Bill—the concept of education action zones offering different terms and conditions to teachers is only limited. The teachers will still be employed by the LEAs, and the extra money or contract will be just that—it will be extra, on top of the standard, and will not completely free up the schools in that zone.

One of the points from the evidence from the trade unions concerned career development and structure, where more innovation and flexible thinking is needed. One of the problems is seeing a clear structure and path when one enters teaching. A number of hon. Members have commented on people going in and out of teaching, and that is valuable, but we must provide a career structure which rewards good teachers and does not simply mean that good teachers have to take on extra responsibility. That is one of the problems. Often, people see that the only way to progress is to take on an extra responsibility, and that they are not rewarded for their excellence in the classroom.

I am concerned that the advanced skills teachers will not solve the problem, because they will be expected to impart their knowledge to other teachers. That is not the answer. We must find a way to provide a better career structure for teachers to ensure that good teaching is properly rewarded. In that respect, we need to look at the appraisal of teachers to ensure that we identify the skills that we want to reward and encourage in our schools.

We must address not just the problem of recruiting to the teaching profession, but of retaining those who are within the profession to ensure that it becomes, once again, a proper profession and that it has the status it deserves. Teachers perform the important task of preparing children for adult life and ensuring that they have the educational quality and standard necessary for them as individuals and, ultimately, for us as a country.

Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones Labour, Warrington North 11:59, 18 February 1998

I am not sure whether I ought to declare an interest because, like my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard), I speak in this debate as a member of what is rather unkindly called the PIT—the pool of inactive teachers.

In that capacity, I congratulate the Select Committee on its report, but must say that it ought to give us all sleepless nights. The quality of education offered to our children determines not just our present but our future. Improving that quality absolutely depends on a supply of well-qualified, skilled and enthusiastic teachers. If we fail to attract the right people into the profession, we shall fail to succeed in many of our intentions as we shape our society for the 21st century.

The outlook, as it stands, is bleak. As hon. Members have said, not enough teachers are entering the profession, and we are failing to keep those who do. Indeed, by some estimates, we are losing 30 per cent, of all trained teachers after five years. The result is clearly a crisis in our schools. Targets for entrants to secondary education training between 1983 and 1996 have been met only in three years: 1983, 1991 and 1992—all years of economic recession and high graduate unemployment. It is no wonder that researchers from Brunei university who gave evidence to the Select Committee said that teaching is a profession that people choose when other more glamorous alternatives dry up. Last year, applications for postgraduate teacher training were down in all subjects except physical education. That gives us serious concerns about the quality of the profession in future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms Hodge) mentioned the obvious teacher shortages in some subjects such as maths and science, but I draw the House's attention to what I call the hidden shortages: a body may well be standing in front of the class, but children are not necessarily being taught by the most appropriate person. To give just one example of that, I was told in a written answer on 29 January 1998 that there are 14,600 people teaching English in secondary schools who have no first or higher degree in that subject. What other advanced industrialised country would leave the teaching of vital communication and language skills to people who have no in-depth knowledge of the subject and are expected to pick it up as they go along?

A crisis in teacher morale has been caused by 18 years of constant denigration and change with which the profession has had to cope. It is not helpful when the Chief Inspector of Schools says that there are 15,000 incompetent teachers, but in evidence to the Select Committee then says that the figure is based on inspections of small schools, not all schools. Such comments do nothing to raise teacher morale or encourage people into the profession. It is a piece of sloppy work which no academic supervisor of a first year postgraduate student would tolerate.

Hon. Members need to take care that, in laudable attempts to raise standards, we do not appear to blame teachers for every social ill. Such thinking percolates through to parents, and eventually to children. It makes classroom management much more difficult and underestimates the real problems that teachers face in many of our schools.

I visit schools in my constituency regularly, and when I hear, as I do in some schools, stories about parents fighting at the school entrance, children who are victims of domestic violence or even of a child who has overdosed on a patent medicine, I am acutely conscious of the problems that many teachers must overcome even before they can teach. To say that does not excuse poor performance. We ought to be celebrating the success of teachers in such circumstances, and ensuring that they have the necessary resources to overcome such problems.

Teaching is a very stressful profession. Professor Cooper of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology says that it is one of the most stressful occupations in the country. In my experience— and I have done several jobs—that is certainly so. We must recognise that and realise that it is precisely because many teachers feel undervalued that they do not advocate entering the profession to others. We are left with undergraduates admiring teachers but having no intention of joining them.

If we are to turn that around, we must ensure that teaching is the first choice of profession for our best students, and not the last. We must do that by looking, in the first instance, at the salary structure. Although starting salaries are comparable with most other professions, the career progression in teaching is just not there. We must negotiate a salary structure which pays for qualifications, experience and competence, and keeps good career teachers in the classroom rather than encouraging them to move to administration.

As other hon. Members have said, the problem is not just about salaries. Many teachers are demoralised by their working conditions. They have had to put up with constant change. Our schools and teachers need most of all a period of stability in which they can adapt to the change. They also need the opportunity to use their professional judgment, while remaining accountable for what they do—nobody doubts that. That is why most of the teachers to whom I have spoken welcome the changes in the primary curriculum, for instance, because they give them much more flexibility in organising their time in school.

We must be more imaginative too. My hon. Friend the Member for Waveney mentioned many of the tasks that teachers have to undertake. There is far too much routine paperwork and form-filling.

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Labour, Don Valley

I welcome my hon. Friend's comments on the fact that, when we received evidence from representatives of the independent sector, they too acknowledged that not only small class sizes help teachers, out-of-classroom support with bureaucracy and technician work helps as well. Is not that something that we should try to provide in our state schools?

Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones Labour, Warrington North

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is wasteful and inefficient to use graduate teachers for such routine tasks. They are not in schools to act as filing clerks. She is also correct to say that the policy of reducing class sizes must be followed if we want to make the profession more attractive. Given all the evidence, not only will the policy lead to more effective teaching strategies: it will lead to greater job satisfaction. Along with that, it is vital that we proceed with the introduction of a general teaching council to raise the status of the profession. We must also proceed with mandatory qualifications for headships, to ensure that our schools and the staff in them are properly managed and well motivated.

We must be a little more imaginative, too, in considering career development. As someone who used to look after probationary teachers, I welcome the introduction of the new induction year. Although that is very important, training must run throughout people's careers, not just so that they acquire new skills but so that they have the opportunity to go on refresher courses in their own subjects. Most teachers enter the profession because they love their subjects, and they need an opportunity to develop that.

All the things that I have mentioned are not cheap; they are not quick fixes. They are long-term solutions to the problem. Unless the Government take up some of those proposals, there will be a false economy in the long run. As the old slogan goes, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."

Photo of David Willetts David Willetts Conservative, Havant 12:08, 18 February 1998

I congratulate the Select Committee on its report. It is a useful document. I congratulate the hon. Member for Barking (Ms Hodge) on the way in which she put it before the House this morning. The report makes it clear that there is a problem of teacher recruitment. There is no point in playing the game of whether the crisis began on 1 May 1997. I do not claim that it suddenly appeared on the day on which the Labour Government came to office. However, the report accepts that the situation has deteriorated and that the Government must act to prevent serious shortages worsening. I hope that we shall hear from the Minister a rather more serious intention to act than is suggested by the rather feeble response to the report that the Government have so far published. They do not seem to grasp the seriousness of the situation, and their response does not take on board some of the more imaginative proposals that the Select Committee made. I hope that we shall hear rather more from the Minister when she replies to the debate.

There are six particular issues to which I should like to refer. The first is the impact of the Government's rushed proposals for student finance on recruitment of students into teaching. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service statistic showing a 15 per cent, drop in applications from students who want to take up teaching as a career is worrying. Although the Government have announced in one of their many rushed, botched announcements on student finance that there is to be a £10 million package to help students in their fourth year, the Committee was right to put delicately the following matter. It says: We look forward to seeing more details of exactly how this undertaking is to be implemented". We know very little about how that £10 million budget is supposed to deal with the problem. We do not even know whether the scheme will continue in future years. We do not know about the implications for students on BEd courses as opposed to those who take the postgraduate certificate of education route. I hope that we shall hear a little more from the Minister today about student finance.

The second issue is the work load of teachers and their authority in the classroom, which several hon. Members have raised. I agree with the comments in the report about the perceived decline in the professional autonomy of the teacher. As the hon. Member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones) said, there is great pressure on teachers, given the behavioural problems of many of the pupils they have to teach. The enormous stress on a child, perhaps as a result of changes in the home environment, does not suddenly stop when that boy or girl walks through the door into the school. Teachers have to confront the behaviour that results from such stress. Therefore, work load and authority in the classroom are a major problem with which teachers have to wrestle.

What have the Government done since 1 May? Instead of an attempt to enhance the professional autonomy of teachers, we have had even more prescriptive and detailed explanations about what should go on in the classroom. Hours have even been broken down into 10-minute intervals, which does not suggest respect for the autonomy of teachers.

An objective has been set—I understand the thought behind it—to reduce the number of statemented children educated outside mainstream schools. That has caused considerable anxiety in the teaching profession. Teachers are concerned about how they are supposed to manage the problems of teaching such children in mainstream classes. How do the Government intend to reinstate professional autonomy in the classroom?

The third issue is the general teaching council. I was surprised at the stress that was put on the general teaching council in the Government's response to the report. Perhaps that was because the Government had so little to say about any other aspect of the Committee's proposals. What we know from the debates in another place is that the general teaching council proposed by the Government will simply not live up to the expectations that the advocates of such a council have for it. It will not be the sort of body that the people who believed in a general teaching council expected it to be.

Despite the claims that have been made by Ministers about the possibility of the general teaching council developing and enhancing its role, all the evidence is that because the legislation is restricted, it will be impossible within the legal framework in the Teaching and Higher Education Bill, which is currently before another place, for the GTC to take on a more ambitious range of powers. The Select Committee is right in its report when it says: The GTC should have a role in ensuring that teachers who fall seriously short of the professional standards expected of them are swiftly removed from teaching. We have had little indication from the Government so far that they envisage giving that sort of power to the GTC. If we are to raise the professional standards of teachers, and if the GTC is an opportunity to raise them, it is a great disappointment that as yet the Government have said nothing on the scope of the GTC that suggests that they envisage using it in that way.

The fourth issue is education action zones, which receive a great deal of attention in the Government's response. They are one of the classic examples of the way in which the Government's rhetoric runs way ahead of the reality. The reality is that the so-called half a million pounds that will go into education action zones is £250,000 of public money with, the Government hope, £250,000 of private sponsorship. We have heard little about how the first six zones or even the eventual 25 are to appear. We have heard little about how the teachers are to enjoy the high degree of autonomy referred to in the Government's response to the report.

It came out in the Standing Committee that is considering the School Standards and Framework Bill that teachers in education action zones would continue to be employed by local education authorities. With such a modest amount of public money, with so few zones and with so little extra freedom compared with the freedom that schools under traditional LEA control have, will education action zones tackle the significant problem that the report identifies? I am afraid that I do not believe that they will.

Fifthly, we heard from the hon. Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard) about sabbaticals, which are not mentioned in the Government's response to the report. The report touches on them briefly. Some of us will remember before the election the then shadow Secretary of State for Education and Employment going to the National Union of Teachers conference and promising sabbaticals to teachers. That was one of the measures that a new Labour Government would introduce to rebuild teacher morale and enable teachers to develop their skills in the course of their careers. That has rather disappeared from view. When shall we have the sabbaticals promised by the then shadow Secretary of State before the election? I look forward to hearing the Minister's response to that point.

The sixth item on my list is the question that has been raised by the Minister for School Standards about men as role models in schools. That is another typical example of new Labour at work. We had a bold announcement that there was a serious problem, and the Minister accepted that we needed to have more men as role models for pupils, especially in primary schools. We have heard again today about the importance of gender balance in schools. But it is okay just saying it. It is easy to say it. The question is what the Government intend to do about it. Having got the headlines that he wanted by expressing his concern, the Minister has not referred to anything that is to be done in practice.

Now, as we near the end of their first year, the Labour Government can no longer expect to get by with such general statements of good intent and by simply drawing attention to problems that they say cause concern. We need to know what the Government intend to do.

I should like to hear from the Under-Secretary in her response to the debate on this useful report how student finance measures will be adjusted so that they do not have the possibly catastrophic effect on student teaching that looks possible; exactly what the Government intend to do to rebuild professional autonomy in the classroom and to cease interfering in the details of the practical workings of a respected profession; exactly how the GTC will live up to the expectations of its advocates; exactly how education action zones will be used to rebuild the confidence of the profession; when we shall have the sabbaticals that were promised before the election; and how the Government intend to encourage more men into teaching. If the Minister can offer practical and credible responses to those questions, the whole House will welcome them. If she fails to do so, it will be yet another missed opportunity.

Photo of Ms Estelle Morris Ms Estelle Morris Parliamentary Under-Secretary (School Standards), Department for Education and Employment, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Employment) 12:19, 18 February 1998

I thank the Select Committee for carrying out its inquiry into this important subject. I welcome the opportunity provided by that report and by today's debate.

Neither the Government nor anyone who has spoken today disagree with the statement that we need sufficient teachers of good quality and that we need both to retain them and to retrain them throughout their teaching career. Nor would the Government differ from the view expressed by hon. Members that, if we fail to do that, we shall not be able to raise standards in our schools. Teachers are fundamental to everything that we want to achieve in our education system. As my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms Hodge) rightly said, if we do not get that right, we stand far less chance of getting anything else right. I do not want my speech in any way to detract from the comments with which my hon. Friend opened the debate.

I agree with the statement made by the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) that we need to reprofessionalise the profession, which is a phrase that I have often used myself. My hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard) also mentioned that point. We must give back to teachers, not only their self-belief and self-esteem, but the esteem of the community at large. Many of the proposals that I shall mention could come under the heading of fulfilling that desire to make teaching a proper profession once again and to ensure that teaching take its place alongside other honourable professions in our society.

The figures have to be addressed. I accept that the application figures for initial teacher training places in 1998–99 are not as good as we want them to be; I do not hide from that, nor do the Government pretend otherwise. However, I should point out that the recruitment phase is not complete and will not be complete for several months. Last year, the eventual intake to postgraduate secondary courses was 43 per cent, above the number of applications at this stage in the cycle; and the previous year, the figure increased by only 18 per cent, over the same period. Those statistics not only show that it is difficult to make predictions based on December and January figures, but might suggest a trend toward applications coming later in the recruitment cycle.

We are confident that entrants for primary recruitment this year will exceed targets, but we acknowledge that recruitment for secondary will again fall short of the targets that the Government set for the Teacher Training Agency. We know that specific difficulties are being encountered in recruiting students for maths, technology, foreign languages and, to a lesser extent, science subjects. Those statistics are cause for concern and we do not pretend otherwise. However, they did not appear overnight: the under-recruitment of students for secondary initial teacher training has been going on for years, as has the problem with recruitment in certain subjects.

If one takes his opening comments at face value, the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn) appears to have committed two crimes in belonging to a party that not only did nothing to solve the problem, but did not even know that a problem existed. We inherited a particularly difficult situation that the previous Government clearly failed to address. However, that is an argument of the past and it does nothing for our children or our schools. Where the previous Government failed to take action, this Government will take action.

A major point made by the Select Committee and one that has pervaded the debate is what witnesses described as the poor public image of teachers and of teaching. There is truth in that and, as a member of the pool of inactive teachers, I know from experience that teachers are not as respected in the community as we want them to be. However, that is changing, and my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education and Employment have made it clear that teaching is one of the most valued professions. The work and challenges that fall to teachers are some of the most important in the whole of society. Their work with our young children can help to shape this country in the next millennium.

In the months since the election, the Government have been able to match the words of opposition with the action of government. The subject of our first White Paper was education, our first Bill was an education Bill and an extra £2.3 billion has been pumped into the education service. The new year honours list contained the first knighthoods for education, and a few weeks ago many hon. Members were present when, here in the Palace of Westminster, we recognised the achievements of the schools that have recently come off special measures.

We have begun already to build up a network of out-of-school learning opportunities and support that will engage all groups in society—parents, industry and communities—in the business of education. The message from the Government over the past nine months has been clear: education is important and teachers are important, and we shall take the action necessary to make that clear to everyone who chooses to listen.

Photo of Mr Nick St Aubyn Mr Nick St Aubyn Conservative, Guildford

Will the Minister make that even clearer, by spelling out how much money her Department will commit in the coming year to the problem of teacher supply?

Photo of Ms Estelle Morris Ms Estelle Morris Parliamentary Under-Secretary (School Standards), Department for Education and Employment, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Employment)

I shall outline some of the initiatives and the money that we have put into them later in my speech, so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be patient.

In response to the comments made by my hon. Friends, let me say that our desire to make it clear that education and teachers are important cannot and must not prevent us from tackling poor performance by teachers. Parents expect no less of us, but that criticism will be matched by praise where praise is deserved and by an increasing recognition of successful teachers. As a witness to the Select Committee rightly said, the Secretary of State must lead the education service. The Government have such a Secretary of State and that is what is beginning to happen.

The Select Committee raised the important matter of financial support for trainees. I am not sure why the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) does not think that the details are clear, but I shall go over them briefly. In next year's education budget, £10 million has been provided to support our announcement that trainee teachers on postgraduate certificate of education courses will not have to pay the means-tested contribution toward tuition fees. We chose that course of action because we regard the PGCE as a priority, as that is the route followed by most trainees into secondary teaching, which is where the shortages are most pronounced.

In addition, the TTA is currently administering a new secondary subject shortage scheme and £9 million is being spent to allow initial teacher training providers to give financial support to students wishing to train in secondary shortage subjects. We have recently introduced two new employment-based routes into teaching. We strongly endorse the case for students to be given an opportunity to take taster courses and, with our encouragement, the TTA has run 73 taster courses this year to allow potential recruits for shortage subjects to see what teaching is like and so help recruitment. The response to those courses has been positive, and we expect them to continue.

Since May, the TTA has been active in working to increase recruitment to the profession. It is all very well to laugh at the cinema advertising campaign, but, since that campaign began, it has resulted in 1,000 new inquiries each week to the TTA. There will be an announcement in March of a campaign targeting members of ethnic minorities and a recent "Teaching in London" event attracted 1,500 people who were advised about teaching as a profession.

As the Select Committee said, it is not only the quantity, but the quality, of new entrants that matters. In that respect, more than in any other, the Government have already taken swift action and are making progress. I am pleased by the Committee's welcome for the Government's plans for advanced skills teachers, which will lead to the recognition of the skills of our best teachers. I am also pleased by the Committee's welcome for our plan to introduce a mandatory headship qualification for all those going into headship.

Together, those two schemes begin to provide the structure for a career in teaching for which so many have asked for so long. A sum of £8 million has been made available for next year for those who want to acquire the mandatory headship qualification, and I hope that it will give teachers the confidence to apply for headships, because there is a worrying trend in the number of headship vacancies.

The Committee also recommended an open, robust and transparent model for planning teacher numbers. The Government have made it clear that we accept that. Not only have we said how next year's targets were set, but we shall make the model available later this year, and we shall welcome comments on it.

The Committee raised the issue of pension protection for teachers who have moved from management positions and want to return to the classroom. Again, the Government have already taken action.

I spent 18 years in teaching; it is a worthwhile job. The pressures are tremendous, but so are the rewards. The problem of teacher recruitment will not be solved overnight. I think that the Select Committee will accept that, in nine months, the Government have acted. We have begun to put in place measures that will ensure that there is a career structure in a properly rewarded and recognised profession.

I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Barking that the other points in the Select Committee's report will continue to inform the continuing debate both within the Department and with our partners in the wider education service.