Future of the Teaching Profession

Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:51 pm on 16 May 2000.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for Education 7:18, 16 May 2000

I beg to move, That this House notes the failure of the Government to meet its target for recruitment into initial teacher training and the failure of Government schemes to encourage maths and science graduates into the teaching profession; views with concern the recent poll which showed that over half the profession expects to leave in the next decade and the fact that more teachers are leaving the profession than joining: deplores the Government's failure to deal with the bureaucratic workload faced by teachers, despite teachers' concerns and evidence that this is one of the key factors causing teachers to leave; recognises that this leads to children suffering in the quality of their education; and calls upon the Government to take urgent action to reduce the bureaucratic workload on teachers, to trust the professionals and to let teachers teach. I am pleased to open this debate on the important question of the future of the teaching profession. I should like immediately to put on the record our recognition of, and thanks to, the dedicated and committed teachers in our schools who work hard to provide a good quality of education for their pupils. The quality of education that any child receives depends fundamentally on the quality of the teachers. Standards in schools depend on teaching standards, which is why the future of the teaching profession is so important.

The profession stands at a crossroads. The number of recruits is falling and many teachers are leaving the profession. Teachers are stressed, demoralised and overburdened by bureaucracy. They are imposed on by Government and uncertain about performance-related pay. That picture will not encourage people into the profession. However, if we are to ensure that all children receive a high-quality education that is right for them and which aspires to achieve their full potential, we must re-establish teaching as a valued profession of choice.

It has been said that education is this Government's top priority. The teaching profession is critical to— their— mission. First-rate teachers and head teachers are indispensable to giving all…children the best possible start in life. Those are the Prime Minister's words, and they ring hollow with teachers who, as a newly qualified female primary school teacher said, feel "deflated and disheartened". A male primary school teacher with nine years experience said: Every teacher in our school feels demoralised, undervalued and overworked. Three of the younger teachers in my school are actively seeking alternatives to teaching including myself. I agree with the Secretary of State that Our schools depend, above all, on the skill, commitment and dedication of our heads, teachers and support staff. Despite that, we have not had a main debate in the House on the future of the teaching profession for three years. I wonder why. Could it be that, despite the Secretary of State's protestation that Teacher recruitment is a top priority the number of people recruited to initial teacher training courses has fallen steadily under this Government? Could it be because this year the Government failed again to meet their target for recruitment to initial teacher training by 10 per cent.—more than 3,000 recruits—and by 17 per cent. for secondary teachers?

Could it be because, in the last year for which figures are available, almost 2,000 more teachers left the profession than joined it? Could the Government's reluctance to discuss the teaching profession be because, by mid-March, just over 9,000 applicants for secondary teacher training had been received—more than 1,000 fewer than the same time last year and 20 per cent. less than the same time two years ago? That figure of 9,000 compares with a total of more than 14,000 available places, although the number of available places itself is down on last year, despite the fact that the Government failed to meet their target. We need more trainees, not fewer.

The impact of the failure in teacher recruitment is felt in schools. Almost one in 20 teachers uses a temporary or supply teacher, which has an impact on children and on the education that they receive. That is especially so in schools where there is a high turnover of supply teachers or many supply teachers, such as the inner-London school about which I heard recently, which has as many as 20 supply teachers.

As the Office for Standards in Education annual report said, the quality of teaching by supply teachers is weaker than for all other groups of teachers including newly qualified and trainee teachers. The Select Committee on Education and Employment stated: The quality of supply teachers is a matter of serious concern. There are many good teachers who provide supply cover, including many from Australia and New Zealand, for example, who come to this country to provide long-term supply cover, but the issue of the quality of supply teaching cannot be ignored, as schools constantly face problems in recruiting teachers and must fill vacancies with supply teachers.

The head teacher of a 1,500-pupil comprehensive school in west London recently told us of the school's problems recruiting in certain subjects. It advertised for an information and communication technology teacher, both with an allowance and without, but received no suitable applicant. ICT is a popular subject and the school wanted to offer another group in it, but it has advertised several times and no one suitable has applied.

The school advertised twice for a science teacher, received four applications, felt that it was worth interviewing only one of the applicants and decided to re-advertise. The school advertised for a curriculum manager, who would be paid at plus four points on the pay spine, but after 17 inquiries received only four applications. When advertising for a head of science recently, the school had to advertise three times before filling the post. Sadly, that experience is not unique; it is faced by schools throughout the country. It reveals a demoralised profession, in which experienced teachers are leaving in droves, which sadly has implications for the quality of education that pupils receive.

Faced with such a situation, what have the Government done? They introduced golden hellos for maths and science graduates, which are being extended to other subjects, such as languages. However, fewer maths and science graduates apply for teacher training today than before the Government introduced their incentive scheme. The Teacher Training Agency launched MS600 18 months ago, which was designed to appeal to well-qualified mature applicants, who would train while working in school. The target was to attract 600, but the scheme was abandoned after placing only 100 trainees in 11 months—one sixth of the target. Those are yet more examples of the Government's failure to deliver.

The Government may talk of their advertising campaign and the number of expressions of interest in teacher training, but the figures show that an expression of interest is one thing and getting somebody signed up to a teacher training course is another. Indeed, even when people have trained, ensuring that they stay in the profession is another problem still. A significant number of trained teachers do not go on to practise.

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Labour, Leeds Central

What advice would the hon. Lady give to young people who are thinking about teaching as a profession? Would she encourage them to go into today's profession? It would help the debate if she made her view clear.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for Education

I am perfectly happy to answer the hon. Gentleman's question. I would certainly advise young people to go into the teaching profession because I could happily tell them that the next Conservative Government would cut bureaucracy, which is one key issue that stops people applying for teaching.

Sadly, not only is it difficult to get people into training and then into the profession, a significant number of trained teachers are leaving the profession. It was sad to read a poll in The Guardian a few weeks ago showing that more than half the teaching profession is set to quit within a decade, with more than a third of teachers aged under 34 expected to quit in those 10 years. The biggest issues for teachers quitting the profession were heavy work load, followed by bureaucracy and stress.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Chair, Education Sub-committee

May I assist the hon. Lady? Has she seen the article in The Times Educational Supplement of 26 March on the problem of teacher recruitment across the industrial world, particularly in Europe? There is not just a problem in this country. Will she put her comments into the context of an international crisis in teacher recruitment?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for Education

The hon. Gentleman is suggesting that it is perfectly all right to say to a class of pupils, "Don't worry about having a supply teacher or about the quality of your education. It is happening elsewhere, so it's not a problem." The hon. Gentleman should face up to his Government's responsibility for doing something about the problem of teacher recruitment in our schools.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce Conservative, South Dorset

I do not know whether my hon. Friend has met sixth formers, as I have. Young people, often from poor backgrounds, altruistically would like to teach, but the prospect of a four-year teacher training course and possibly having to pay back £16,000 in loans on a teacher's salary makes doing so impossible.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett Secretary of State for Education and Employment

Sixteen thousand? Where did the hon. Gentleman get that figure from?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for Education

My hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce) is right. It is interesting that the Secretary of State calls into question his figure. One problem is the extra financial burdens on young people entering higher education and teaching that this Government imposed by introducing tuition fees and abolishing the maintenance grant.

Those wishing to train for a bachelor of education do not receive the training salary available to those studying for a postgraduate certificate of education. The bachelor of education training course is used mostly by primary school teachers. The recent fall in recruitment in primary as well as secondary schools is sad.

I referred to the issues of stress, work load and bureaucracy. Comments of primary school teachers in a recent National Union of Teachers survey included the following: Too much to do with not enough time or help. The end result leads to the children suffering in the quality of their education. That was from a classroom teacher of 20 years experience. Another comment, also from a teacher with 20 years experience, was: Get off our backs and allow our professional judgment and expertise to get the best from our children—that is if there are any of us left who believe in ourselves. There is little future in a profession in which people feel that they are technicians, doing what others say. Not only will that not encourage young people to enter the profession, it will not serve children well. If we are to encourage young people and others into teaching, we must make the profession appealing to them. That means leaving them free to get on with the job of teaching and to exercise professional judgment in the classroom. We must cut the chains of red tape and trust teachers again.

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Labour, Don Valley

What would the hon. Lady say to the fact that, under the previous Tory Administration, 40 per cent. of 11-year-olds could not read to the standard expected for their age and, under this Government, the latest chief inspector's report shows that standards are rising and that children are benefiting? Is she saying that the choice to be made is between children benefiting from rising standards—a success that teachers should celebrate—or going back to the old system under the Conservative Government, when 40 per cent. of 11-year-olds realised neither their ambition nor their potential?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for Education

The hon. Lady should have listened to the quote I gave from the primary school teacher with 20 years experience. It is strange that Labour Members now wish to quote the chief inspector. Having opposed the introduction of Ofsted and attacked the chief inspector time and again, they now pray him in aid when they want to oppose the views expressed by teachers. The primary school teacher I quoted said that the end result of the bureaucracy was that the quality of children's education suffered.

The Government have failed to tackle bureaucracy, despite giving numerous promises to do so during the past three years. They have promised to cut red tape, to give red tape a caning, to cut through red tape, to take action to cut bureaucracy, and to tackle red tape. They claim to have taken steps to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy—but what have they done? They are working to provide an alternative to paper communication by providing "more on the Net." Do not Ministers realise that whether information is on paper or in electronic form, it still has to be read? The plans required by the Department for Education and Employment still have to be produced, and the time that that takes cannot be reduced simply by providing the plans in electronic form, rather than on paper. It is clear that the Government do not understand the problem of paperwork.

In addition, the Government appear to have a warped sense of humour. That can be seen in their amendment to the motion, in which they claim that one of the ways in which they are improving teaching and the rewards for teaching is through the Better Regulation Task Force Report on 'Red Tape Affecting Headteachers'. That report was a damning indictment of the Government's failure to reduce bureaucracy. It described the situation under the current Government as follows: over-elaborate processes are being used to achieve straightforward objectives, leading to unnecessary duplication and confusing excessive lines of accountability yet the Government claim that the quality of teaching is being improved by such processes.

Photo of Mr Jon Owen Jones Mr Jon Owen Jones Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff Central

I speak as one who has direct experience of that sort of bureaucracy. When I was a teacher, I was in charge of delivering the science element of the national curriculum that the Conservative Government introduced. I recall also being in charge of three filing cabinets that were filled with material designed to justify the amount of paperwork that that Government had imposed on schools. The national curriculum was overly bureaucratic and probably remains so, but it is now far less bureaucratic than it was when the Conservatives introduced it.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for Education

The problem with the Labour Government is that they are making things worse. I have some advice for the hon. Gentleman: at the next general election, people will be asking him not what the last Conservative Government did, but what his Government have done—and what they have done is introduce over-elaborate processes…to achieve straightforward objectives…unnecessary duplication and confusing excessive lines of accountability. The Government have increased the bureaucratic burdens on teachers and then told them that, if they want to lighten their load, they should stop doing things such as collating pupil reports, classroom display, administering cover and administering examinations. That misses the point entirely: the Government are creating too much paperwork and they should put their own back yard in order before telling teachers to sort out theirs.

It is time that Ministers put their money where their mouth is and cut their own bureaucracy. How did sending out 23 press releases last week help to raise standards in education? It did not. New initiatives are being introduced at a time when teachers are coping with standard assessment tests, GCSEs and A-levels, and with all the work needed to go through the threshold of the new performance-related pay scheme. Perhaps the Government should listen to the warning given by the head of St. Clement's high school in King's Lynn: when called to Downing street to receive an award for consistent improvement, he said that he would tell the Prime Minister to allow schools to concentrate on the real business in hand. In addition to the bureaucracy facing them, teachers also have to cope with disruptive pupils in schools. Not only are such pupils a threat to the education of other pupils, but they are often a threat to the teachers themselves. Last September, it was reported that Unison directly blamed the Government's policy of reducing the number of exclusions for the fact that assaults on school support staff in Southampton had doubled in a year. The union said that the Government's emphasis on keeping disruptive children within schools, rather than excluding them, had resulted in staff being exposed to the threat of violent pupils. The Government should abolish their targets for reducing the number of exclusions and let teachers get on with the job of exercising the discipline that is needed in their classrooms.

Another cry I frequently hear from teachers is, "Trust us again". There is too much interference in what teachers do; it is time to let them get on with the job of teaching. The Government cannot even trust teachers to decide which computer to buy under the subsidy scheme. Teachers were told that they would be given £500 toward the cost of a computer, but they then learned that the money would be taxed. They were told that they had to show that they had been trained before they could get the money, but then that they needed to show only that they would be trained. I understand that only 15,000 teachers applied. I assume that they were worried about receiving an on-screen message from the Prime Minister saying "I love you". I do not know which they found more frightening—knowing that the message was a virus, or thinking that it might be true. The list is now closed, but the Government do not even trust teachers to go out and buy the machine they want. They have been given a list of acceptable manufacturers that happens to exclude the UK market leader in retail computer sales. What message does it send when teachers cannot even be trusted to make such a decision for themselves?

On top of all that, the Government are pushing through an overly bureaucratic, cumbersome and administratively expensive performance-related pay scheme, against the wishes of many teachers.

Photo of Mr Richard Allan Mr Richard Allan Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Education and Employment)

On a point of information, will the hon. Lady tell us the name of the market-leading company that has been excluded from the list?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for Education

If the hon. Gentleman chose to look at the market share listings, he would know the answer to his question: Packard Bell.

I have always said that it is right to reward good teachers and that there should be open and recognisable appraisal systems in all schools. I also believe that, whatever teachers think of the performance-related pay system, strike action is wrong because the greatest impact is suffered by children.

The Government are pushing the scheme through without proper training. Most head teachers to whom I have spoken tell me that their training was of little value because trainers did not have the answers to more than half their questions. Apparently, in one case trainers said that they did not know the answer, but if the heads wanted to write their question on a piece of yellow sticky paper and stick it on the wall, they would take the bits of paper down after the session and try to find the answers. Those head teachers were given only one day of training.

Teachers are rushing to get their applications in in time, and schools are worried about the funding implications of the scheme. As one governor of a small primary school in north Yorkshire told me this afternoon, the school has three good teachers, but it faces difficulty because it does not know whether it will get the funds to support future pay increases. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ridiculous."] I suggest that Labour Members talk to governors about the problems that they are facing, and listen to what they say.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett Secretary of State for Education and Employment

What answer did the hon. Lady give to that individual? Did she say to her, "I don't know the answer, but I shall make sure I find out and write to you"? Did she say, "No, the money will not be available"? Or did she say, "Yes, the Secretary of State has made an absolutely clear pledge that the money—new money—will be made available to pay the award, that it will be consistently paid, and that it will be ring-fenced to ensure that the school does not lose out"?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for Education

Had I said to that lady and other governors and teachers who have raised the issue with me that the Secretary of State had made an absolutely clear pledge, they would probably have said that it was like the Labour manifesto pledge to raise the proportion of national income spent on education— a pledge that the Government have failed dismally to keep.

Just as schools think seriously about whether they will be able to support teachers through the threshold, they discover that the Government have spent £4 million on a contract—one that did not even go out to tender—with Hay McBer to tell the Government what makes a good teacher, as though teachers could not have told them and as though there is only a single model of a good teacher. That simply adds insult to injury.

It is not just bureaucracy that is demoralising teachers. I hear complaints, as do others, about the increasing interference in what goes on in the classroom, and the heavy degree of prescription from the centre that is sapping the job of its scope for innovation and spontaneity. As a result, Government interference and centralisation are sapping teachers of the means and energy to inspire pupils to aspire to reach their highest potential. That is why the issue is so important.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for Education

No, I have given way several times. I shall make progress.

The issue is the quality of education that our children are receiving, as a means of enabling all young people to reach their full potential. The Government are leveling down in education and taking away the spontaneity that made the job appealing. That is why the Government are failing not just teachers, but pupils and parents.

Teachers are snowed under with bureaucratic burdens. My experience is that teachers work with whatever system they are given, but try as they might, the work load and centralisation are having an effect on what teachers can achieve in the classroom. The profession is facing a crisis, and that will not be solved by yet more initiatives, by an over-bureaucratic form of performance-related pay, or by setting up a General Teaching Council with large numbers of Government appointees.

It is difficult to recruit young people into teaching, but to ensure the future of the profession and to encourage them to enter the profession we need to show them not only the value of teachers, but that they will be treated as professionals and will be given the freedom and flexibility that they need to get on with the job, without constantly being subjected to interference from the bureaucrats in Whitehall.

I shall end with a quote from a recent survey of members of the National Union of Teachers. [Interruption.] We usually hear sniggers from the Government Benches when the NUT is mentioned. That is sad, but I hope that hon. Members will not snigger at a direct quote from a primary school teacher with 11 years experience, who said that teachers were like suns shining in the classroom for their children. She said: Oh, let us be "suns" again, not weary, insistent personalities. Trust in us and let us shine once more. With the burdens of bureaucracy, constant initiatives being introduced without time to get any of them properly established, performance-related pay being pushed through without proper training, and disruptive pupils being kept in school, it is hardly surprising that teachers feel let down by the Government and are leaving the profession. The Government need to cut the bureaucracy, trust the professionals again, and let the teachers teach.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett Secretary of State for Education and Employment 7:42, 16 May 2000

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: welcomes the substantial steps taken by the Government to improve teaching and the rewards for teaching, which include the introduction of a General Teaching Council, the development of better pay for good teaching, the introduction of training salaries to improve teacher recruitment, new measures to improve the training of headteachers, the Better Regulation Task Force Report on 'Red Tape Affecting Headteachers', administrative support for schools, more classroom assistants, lower infant and junior class sizes. reform of induction and teacher training, and significant improvements in funding for school budgets and school modernisation; and notes that these measures have already reversed a legacy of budget cuts, rising class sizes and inadequate training inherited from the previous administration. I shall make one promise to the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May). I promise faithfully never to send her an e-mail saying "I love you."

The hon. Lady is right about one thing, of which all of us on the Government side are mindful. At the next general election, we will be judged on our record, the improvement in children's education and the standards in our schools. The electorate probably will forget what it was like under a Conservative Government. Regrettably, people will forget the low standards, the indifference to schools in the most deprived areas, the divisions, the conflict, the break-up of co-operation between schools in their efforts to raise standards for all children, not just for a few, and the elitism in the provision of extra resources for some and the reduction in resources for the many.

Photo of Chris Ruane Chris Ruane Labour, Vale of Clwyd

As a primary school teacher who had 15 years' experience of teaching, all under the Conservatives, may I remind my right hon. Friend of some of the other measures that they introduced? They increased the bureaucratic burden on teachers and were responsible for a drop in morale. At the National Union of Teachers conference in the early 1990s, a teacher brought on to the main stage a five-foot pile of paperwork. The national curriculum was introduced by the Conservatives without any consultation with the teaching profession. That was pure hypocrisy.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett Secretary of State for Education and Employment

I agree with my hon. Friend.

In their motion, the Opposition purport to encourage and support teachers, yet, throughout her speech, the hon. Member for Maidenhead denigrated what was going on, discouraging aspiring teachers from entering the profession. She said that the teaching profession was demoralised, that teachers were being oppressed with bureaucracy, that, contrary to reality, standards were falling, that we were not allowing teachers to teach, and that the little sunshine to which she referred at the end was not shining through. The implication of her speech was that it was no good entering the teaching profession because, over the past three years, the big bad Government had brought teachers to their knees.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for Education

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. I suggest that, in future, he listens a little more carefully to what I say. The quote that I gave about the "suns" was from a teacher. I know that the Secretary of State does not like listening to teachers, but all those comments came from teachers. The Government's impact on the teaching profession is causing the demoralisation. It is nothing to do with the teachers. The right hon. Gentleman's actions as Secretary of State are causing people to leave the profession.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett Secretary of State for Education and Employment

I hear those things from some of the 400,000 people employed in teaching. I ask them how many teachers they think left the profession on ill health or early retirement grounds over the past few years. They say that a great many more people are leaving now, because they are under stress and they have difficulty keeping up with the standards.

I examined the figures and discovered that in 1990, 4,000 teachers left the profession on ill-health grounds. In 1997—the last year for which the Tories can carry responsibility—the figure was 4,400. Last year, it was 2,100. With premature retirement, in 1990 the number leaving was 8,100. By 1997, it had risen to 14,100. Last year, it was 2,700. That shows the terrible legacy that we inherited, and the terrible burden on teachers now.

The proposals for early retirement for teachers were changed by the previous Government precisely because they were terrified at the number of teachers leaving the profession. Teachers could not get out of the profession fast enough because the bureaucratic burdens about which we have heard were piled on, starting with a national curriculum that was so over-burdened that the then Secretary of State was ordered by the then Prime Minister, Lady Thatcher, to slim it down.

With the introduction of the key stage tests and assessments—some of the terrible things to which the hon. Lady referred—there was industrial action and one union brought a court case which resulted in the then Government backing off, slimming down the tests and putting in place resources to ensure that the tests were marked externally. That is what we inherited, and illustrates the difference between what was and what is.

There is a problem of teacher recruitment. Targets for primary school teaching have been met by the previous Government and the present Government consistently since 1993. However, targets for secondary school teacher recruitment have not been met by either Government for any of that period. That is why we decided to take decisive action. We introduced the training salary for training schools—the £13,000 for the year, with extra money to enable schools to supervise and train, to bring in mature students. It is why we provided for the £6,000 for graduate teachers so that they can work through the last year of training with the assurance that they will receive £150 a week over the nine months. It is also why postgraduate teacher trainees do not pay the tuition fee. I therefore intervened on the hon. Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce) to correct him about the £16,000 debt hanging over teachers' heads.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett Secretary of State for Education and Employment

I shall give way, but let me correct the hon. Gentleman before he asks another question. Students who, after three years of a degree course, are taking a postgraduate certificate of education, which is a one-year course—I know something about that because I took such a course—do not pay fees in their fourth year. Such students will be paid £150 a week—£6,000 over nine months—for the training. That is hardly a fourth-year bill.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce Conservative, South Dorset

The right hon. Gentleman may be Secretary of State but I am the father of a daughter who is leaving teacher training college after a four-year teaching degree. Surely the Secretary of State knows that the majority of teachers qualify through that route. Four years multiplied by £4,000—I believe that it is now more—is £16,000 at today's prices. That is why sixth formers do not want to go to teacher training college.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett Secretary of State for Education and Employment

I was not referring to the BEd qualification. My remarks were specific; I referred to postgraduate certificate of education. A BEd course is a sub-degree, undergraduate course. To put the record straight, the majority of teachers do not qualify through that route. Secondary school teachers take PGCEs; the majority do not take BEd degrees. [Interruption.] No, they do not.

There is no shortage of primary school teachers. We have met the targets that I described earlier. The hon. Member for Maidenhead was wrong to say that the maths golden hello failed; it did not. The recruitment of maths graduates increased by 17 per cent. as a result of the golden hello.

However, there is a recruitment problem. There is a problem in recruiting teachers in the industrialised world. The problem also exists in the university sector. There is a similar age profile problem in terms of people who leave universities to that of schools. That has nothing to do with the bureaucratic burden on schools. It has nothing to do with the imposition of standards, key stage tests or the morale of primary school teachers who talk to the hon. Member for Maidenhead. We are considering universities, where the same pattern exists. We must do something about that. We must ensure that people feel and know that the teaching profession is worth entering, and that they will receive support and be valued when they are in it. It is important to convey the message that we value good teachers and that is why we intend to pay them well.

Photo of Phil Willis Phil Willis Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

It is unfair of the Secretary of State to deal only with postgraduate routes into teaching and ignore many people who become teachers, especially primary school teachers, through studying a BEd. Those people will not receive training salaries and the fees for their final year will not be paid. We will have a two-tier system: those who go through the traditional BEd route will be treated differently from those who go through a postgraduate route. Is that the way in which we value teachers?

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett Secretary of State for Education and Employment

First, two thirds of teachers go through the PGCE route. Secondly, I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman said whether he agreed with the package we have devised for teacher recruitment: the £13,000 trainee salary in training schools and the £6,000 that we are providing for PGCE students. That is primarily, but not exclusively, aimed at secondary school teaching, for which it is most difficult to recruit.

Photo of Phil Willis Phil Willis Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I am happy to say that our policy at the last general election was to give trainee teachers a 50 per cent. salary in their final year. We are delighted that the Government have adopted our policy. However, we do not believe that it is right for the policy to apply only to a specific group of students. It should be available for all students who are entering the teaching profession.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett Secretary of State for Education and Employment

If we had put only the equivalent of 1p on the amount we spend on education, we could not afford the package. If we consider the measures that I described together with performance-related promotion, the uplift of £2,000 to the majority of teachers, and access to, dare I say it, the new incremental scales—the sketch writers will be enjoying a good dinner, so I will not be ribbed for using jargon, but there is no other term for incremental scales—teachers will receive substantial pay for doing a good job.

I want to pose the Opposition a simple question: when did the hon. Member for Maidenhead change her mind about performance-related pay? After the Select Committee's deliberations, when she signed up to performance-related pay, when did she decide that she no longer believed in it? Like so much Opposition policy, did she decide it when she read or heard that it would be popular for one moment in one hour in one day to say the opposite of what she had said before? Did she hope that she would mislead some people somewhere into believing that she was on their side?

On whose side is the hon. Lady? Is paying teachers well for doing a good job being on their side? Is opposing that being on their side? When asked about one's approach, whether there will be continuity and additional money and whether a school will therefore be able to pay, is it right simply to keep silent or is it better to be honest and say, "I don't agree with the Government's actions, but money will be available because I don't want you to be under any illusions and thus fail to adhere to the targets and the threshold regulations."? Some honesty is required. I am prepared to admit that there is a recruitment problem. I am even prepared to admit that we have not cracked the problem of low morale in teaching. I expect a little honesty in return.

For example, I expect some honesty about bureaucratic burdens. Yes, there is more to be done, and we shall do more. Not only the Government, but the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, Ofsted and education authorities need to do more. Education authorities often duplicate what other agencies send out and add to it a note of the education authority's view of the issue.

I shall tell the House how many bureaucratic burdens have been imposed since the beginning of January. Forty-nine documents have been sent to primary schools. They include one on consultation, one on data collection, 13 on guidance and 34 for information only. The latter consist of two pages or less and simply provide information back-up on relevant matters. Secondary schools have been sent only 46 documents: one on consultation, two on data collection, 12 on guidance, 31 for information, again on topics of immediate interest. I agree that even 46 is too many, and we shall do better. However, deciding which document we do not send out is always a moot point.

Fifteen documents for action and guidance have been about teaching able children. Should we have sent them out? Further guidance has consisted of an update on literacy and numeracy. I have never managed to persuade the hon. Member for Maidenhead to say whether she supports the literacy and numeracy programme, which she constantly describes as a bureaucratic burden. Tonight, she described it as interfering with teachers' teaching. Teachers are teaching, and teaching better. They are doing well for their students. Teachers and pupils say that the literacy and numeracy programmes are working and that they enjoy them.

Voluntary schemes for key stage 1 save teachers having to duplicate work by re-inventing the wheel and they can also be drawn down from the Department's Standards website—something that never existed under the previous Government. Should we have not sent out guidance on employing disabled teachers and on performance management? The guidance is about helping people to do their job. There is more to do, but we are doing a great deal to ensure that what arrives—fewer than two and a half documents a week over 20 weeks—enables people to read and to learn if they want to. They can be in the same world as the rest of us in terms of paperwork, deciding priorities and doing the job.

What have we done? We have done terrible things to the teaching profession such as paying teachers more; providing better support; introducing the General Teaching Council; providing better pay for good teachers and the training salary of £6,000; improving head teacher training; providing administrative support for small schools, which never existed previously; providing more classroom assistants—20,000 by the end of next year; achieving lower infant and junior class sizes for the first time in 10 years; and reforming the induction and the teacher training programme, which the hon. Member for Maidenhead did not mention.

For the first time, there is a teacher training curriculum and proper induction with reduced contact time. For those watching the Parliamentary channel, contact time is time spent in contact with pupils in the classroom, which we deliberately reduced in the first year to enable the introduction of the induction programme. Funding improvements have been made for schools across the board and 17,000 benefit from the new deal for schools capital—£4.5 billion of extra money is going in this year. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) is having a good laugh, but the head teachers and teachers who will receive the extra money from the Budget are the ones who are really having a good laugh. They know that secondary schools will receive between £30,000 and £50,000 and that primaries will receive up to £9,000, which they certainly would not have got were the Opposition in government. That £4.5 billion is an 8 per cent. real-terms increase, which represents the real-terms spending power for schools during the whole of the previous Parliament.

We have modernised the teaching profession and we make no apology for driving up standards. We make no apology for demanding the best from teachers or for paying the best well to do the job. We make no apology for driving hard to achieve the best way in which to teach in the classroom, but we deny entirely that we have failed to allow teachers to teach or to enable them to do so in decent conditions with decent pay and prospects. Teachers will teach, and teach well. They will ensure that all children—not only some—have the opportunity to learn and the life chances that they deserve.

Photo of Phil Willis Phil Willis Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 8:03, 16 May 2000

I have agreed to speak with my usual brevity in the hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley) may catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and make her maiden speech.

On behalf of Liberal Democrat Members, I welcome the opportunity to debate the future of the teaching profession. Sadly, I agree with much of what the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) said. I am sad because I, too, remember the 18 years under the previous Administration, when I was a head teacher. The Conservative party invented bureaucracy in our schools, but she has repented of the evil doings of former Secretaries of State—I remember Mr. Patten very well—and for every sinner who repents we rejoice.

Teachers have to meet the challenge of change—no Member of the House would disagree with that—and we support the efforts of the Government, the teacher unions and the profession to do so. Sir Claus Moser recently commented that uniquely, education alone is both the cause and the consequence of national prosperity … Few would disagree, and, if that is so, surely we must also recognise that the teaching profession is fundamental to realising that vision. As Lord Puttnam, the new chairman of the General Teaching Council, so aptly said: Teachers are the agents for change in society—they have the ability not just to alter this country for the better, but to actually secure its future. No other sector of the population can do that … At last year's National Association of Head Teachers conference, those comments were echoed by the Prime Minister. He said: I know that the success of what we are trying to do will succeed or fail on the efforts of individual teachers in every classroom in the country … That is strong stuff.

Whatever criticisms the Secretary of State may make of me or of my party's policies, I hope that he will not criticise my commitment to the teaching profession or my admiration for much of the work that goes on in so many schools throughout the country. However, where is the evidence that the Prime Minister's proud words and aspirations are being put into action? Whether the Secretary of State likes it or not, the profession feels betrayed by a Government who promised to rescue it from the draconian clutches of the previous Administration, but who have succeeded only in further emasculation. They ooze good intention, but simply will not listen to the profession. Teachers are regarded as part of the problem rather than most of the solution, and the same applies to others in respect of many of their public service policies.

A three-year delay in tackling the challenges that the Government faced on taking office, and there were many, will cost the nation dear. Since 1997, my party has warned the Department for Education and Employment that there would be a crisis in our classrooms unless recruitment and retention became a top priority. That crisis has become a reality. There is a record number of vacancies for our schools this September, and last week, for the first time in its history, The Times Educational Supplement ran to 500 pages, 440 of which were filled with job vacancies.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett Secretary of State for Education and Employment

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the vacancies represent 0.8 per cent. of the total number of teaching posts?

Photo of Phil Willis Phil Willis Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

Whether the vacancies represent 0.8, 1 or 1.5 per cent. of the number of posts, a significant number of schools are desperately trying to recruit teachers for next September. Most of those 440 pages advertised vacancies for maths, science and modern language secondary school teachers. Maths vacancies counted for 20 per cent. of all advertised vacancies.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for Education

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the official vacancy figures to which the Secretary of State referred underestimate the situation in our schools? They show about 2,600 vacancies, but the figure of 16,600 for supply teachers represents a more accurate picture.

Photo of Phil Willis Phil Willis Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for those comments. The Secretary of State referred to the January 1999 figures, which are the latest available. According to the House of Commons Library, the number of secondary school vacancies has increased by 25 per cent. since 1997. Between 1988 and 1997—the so-called bad years of the Tory Administration—there was a 60 per cent. fall. However, perhaps more disturbingly, the number of unqualified teachers working in our schools has risen by a staggering 19 per cent. That alludes to the hon. Lady's point. Most of the vacancies are in London, because many London schools, especially schools in inner-London boroughs, cannot recruit anyone to put before children. That really is an indictment.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett Secretary of State for Education and Employment

I am keen that no one out there should be misled. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will give us his definition of "unqualified teachers".

Photo of Phil Willis Phil Willis Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I am happy to give the Secretary of State that definition. An unqualified teacher is a teacher who does not have qualified-teacher status—and I regard a teacher with qualified-teacher status as a qualified teacher. If the Secretary of State is saying that the Government intend to deal with the teacher crisis by allowing anyone to teach our children—actually to appear before a class of youngsters—he ought to confirm that now.

Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett Secretary of State for Education and Employment

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to speak.

I am prepared to accept equivalent qualified-teacher status from countries that we recognise, with the same quality of training, in order to provide the access that we expect from them for those who receive qualified-teacher status here. What has just been said is an insult to New Zealand and Australian teachers who come to our country and do a good job.

Photo of Phil Willis Phil Willis Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I do not recall mentioning New Zealand and Australian teachers, and I think Hansard will record that I did not. I did, however, mention a definition of unqualified teachers. I have given the Secretary of State a clear definition of what I would term an unqualified teacher. It is rather sad that he now says that if we are to staff London schools—40 per cent. of teacher vacancies throughout the country are in London primary schools, and 30 per cent. are in London secondary schools—we should bring teachers in from the Commonwealth. If that is the Government's policy, my goodness, we have reached a sorry state of affairs.

A recent ICM poll declared that a third of teachers under 35 wanted to leave the profession within 10 years, and 50 per cent. within 15 years. We need not look far for the reasons. Teaching is fast becoming a "technician" activity under the present Government: teachers are told what to teach, when to teach, how to teach, how to assess and how to record, and somehow that is regarded as being part of the profession. Teachers are bombarded by bureaucracy and form-filling to an extent that beggars belief.

The Secretary of State referred to the number of documents that had been released since January. During three months of probing, his Department refused time and again to respond to my requests. By March 2000, it had sent each school 366 pieces of paperwork since May 1997: 73 consultation papers, 220 guidance documents, 58 data collection documents, and 15 separate letters from Ministers. Under the present Government, schools have received 18 documents a month, rather than the 2.5 per week that have been referred to over the past few months. If we add the 1,291 separate pieces of paperwork sent to local education authorities, many of which compound the bureaucracy that already exists in schools, we can see why teachers want to get out.

There is no end in sight, however. It seems that nowadays Ministers cannot make a comment without issuing a new target. At present, teachers are coping with the 4,585 targets set by the Government, the 129,330 targets set by LEAs and the 306,430,710 targets set for individual children—I thought the Secretary of State would like that! Teachers must report on all those targets. In the words of Lord Puttnam, teachers need to be in charge of their lives and their jobs. But they are not.

When the distressing figures about staff illness came out last week, showing that last year 60 per cent. of full-time teachers took some sick leave and that more than 2.5 million days were lost, what was the Government's response? It was not to look for reasons, or to offer sympathy; it was to set a target for schools to reduce the incidence of sickness, because it was affecting children's education. Well, of course it is. Stress does not just affect our children's education; it permanently disables some good teachers, drives others out of the classroom, and—although the Secretary of State rather sadly laughs at this—sends others to early graves.

There is real evidence that teachers are under huge stress. According to their review body, they are working an average of 60 hours a week. The review body's recommendation to the Government was clear: Action should be taken to ensure that the hours worked by all teachers are kept within reasonable bounds and that they have reasonable rest periods and breaks. The Government's better regulation taskforce, chaired by Lord Haskins—it was mentioned earlier—has criticised the bureaucratic burden placed on the teaching profession. In the 5 April edition of The Guardian, Lord Haskins said that the Department for Education and Employment was the most Stalinist department I have ever come across. The Secretary of State applauds that. My goodness!

In-depth surveys by the National Association of Head Teachers, the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers and the National Union of Teachers have indicated that, in terms of stress, work load and added value, the biggest problem facing schools is bureaucracy. Is this the climate in which we hope to recruit our brightest and best young graduates to the teaching profession? "Everyone remembers a good teacher", says the advertisement, but soon we will be asked, "Will anyone good want to become a teacher?"

The challenge for the Government is not how to reward 30 per cent. of teachers by demanding that they jump through yet more bureaucratic hoops, but how teachers are to be liberated in schools. No one will be attracted to, and few will stay in, a profession that does not value the professional ethics. Ministers must understand that creative teachers cannot be bred in captivity. We echo the call for our teachers to be allowed to teach and our children to be allowed to learn: then, and only then, will our teachers realise their potential, and the potential of their profession.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Chair, Education Sub-committee 8:17, 16 May 2000

Because of the ten-minute rule, I must make a short speech. I shall base it not only on my role as Chairman of the Select Committee, but on the fact that that role has given me the privilege over the past few months of visiting many schools around the country that I would not have visited otherwise, in Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire and, last week, the Bristol area. Members of the Select Committee have been getting out and about, talking to teachers about how they view their jobs and the profession in general.

I was stunned by the two Opposition speeches that I heard. They bore no relation to what was said by the teachers whom I met, and whom the rest of the Select Committee met. I met a group of people who, on the whole, were optimistic and proud of their profession. They were professionals, they took great joy in their jobs, and they were getting on with their jobs. I had to draw out any negative views and criticisms. By and large, the people whom I met said, "We are very pleased with the extra resources that we are receiving."

Early-years teachers are profoundly grateful. They have never had anything as wonderful as the early-years partnerships and the money that allows young children to go to school, if that is appropriate, at the age of three, four or five. This is a marvellous time to be a pre-school teacher.

Unlike the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), I shall not quote anecdotal evidence. Most of it is not attributable to any particular person, so we must trust the hon. Lady: if she is indeed honourable, she will not have made it up on the train. The fact is, however, that we all have experience of visiting schools in our constituencies.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Secretary of State for Education

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to read the NUT survey report, which includes a number of quotations, a number of which I quoted, which do not give names. I did identify them as classroom teachers of various years experience. I suggest that he listens to the speech from the Opposition Front Bench, rather than giving a speech in response to the speech that he thought would be given.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Chair, Education Sub-committee

I reiterate that, in her speech, the hon. Lady did not attribute most of the comments to a particular person. That is easy. We can all do that, but the fact is that, as I go around the country, I do not find the picture that she or the Liberal Democrat spokesman have described.

In what profession would people not be saying, "We have a range of criticisms. We want some things to be changed. Not everything is perfect"? Let us go through them. I do not want these debates. I believe that they should not be allowed because they become the usual slanging match between Opposition and Government. The remarks that are made in these debates put more people off teaching than anything else I can think of.

Anyone who listened to the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) would have had a large question mark about entering what is a very interesting profession at this very exciting time. I want to try to get a balanced view. We have a teaching profession that is excellent. I agree with every word that Lord Puttnam said—I shall not quote those well-known remarks again. The profession is at a very exciting stage.

After all, we rely on teachers to turn out our children. We give them our children and we end up with a wonderful body of kids coming out of school who are educated, trained and employable. They have good moral standards and values. I am talking about the kids of our country and the success of the teachers who teach them.

That is the truth. Not enough people in this place say that. We are always reading about the problems, about certain incidents and about the tiny minority of children who perhaps misbehave. On the whole, as we know, our teachers produce excellently educated and trained children and good citizens. That is the truth, so let us start with the basic truth.

Of course, all Governments do not get it absolutely right. The present Government have not. Some of their communication is not good enough. I personally believe that performance-related pay is good for the profession. I also believe that it has been poorly communicated. There is one thing that we do find when we go into a staff room and start a conversation over a cup of tea—teachers say that they are worried that performance-related pay will disturb the collegiate atmosphere in their school and be divisive.

There are good arguments that that need not necessarily be so; that, in fact, it will not be the case; and that it is a fine way of rewarding teachers in the way in which they should be rewarded, but I say to the Minister and to Ministers who are not present: we could do better in communicating what we are about from the beginning. I hope that Ministers will take that on board.

I do not want to go through the stress side too much, but that is an important area. Teaching is a lonely job. People teach in their classrooms on their own. There is a disturbing trend—many teachers have mentioned it. I think that it is to do not with the Government, but with the society in which we live. At the Easter conferences, we saw dramatic examples of teachers speaking at the rostrum who had been accused of abusing a child. There is one sector of the British justice system where people are guilty until they are proven innocent: where the allegation is of child abuse. I sometimes wonder whether one of the great deterrents to people going into teaching is the way in which our criminal justice system has changed for that one area.

I spent a lot of time dealing with the criminal justice system, speaking in the House on criminal justice matters. In terms of a number of professions, including social workers, probation workers, care home assistants and teachers, we are getting into a hysteria about children and child abuse and probably have the balance wrong. It cannot be right if prospective teachers who are thinking about coming into the teaching profession are deterred by the real fear that their lives and their families' lives could be destroyed. All of us have constituents to whom it has happened—constituents who have faced an allegation of abuse from one child. That can mean months, if not years, of suspension, torture and misery.

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Liberal Democrat, Oxford West and Abingdon

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there is widespread support among Members on both sides of the House for the points that he has just made? It underlines the importance of the Government really getting right, for example, the sex and relationships education guidance, which advises teachers on what they should and should not say to children, and some of the culture, as well as the criminal justice rules about schools, to avoid those false accusations.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Chair, Education Sub-committee

I thank my hon.—I should say the hon. Gentleman. He is a member of the Select Committee, so it is hard to remember. He made an important point.

What I am trying to draw out is that we can get into a situation where we say it is the Government's fault, it is always the Government's fault, or it was the Opposition's fault that we had 18 years of neglect. We all know that. Sometimes we should strip those arguments away and say, "Come on. There is a problem."

I intervened on the hon. Member for Maidenhead and said, "Look, it is an international problem." I was at a well-known college in Oxford last Thursday evening. I talked to the teaching staff there. They said that one of the sad things is that people do not want to go into teaching any more. They all want to go into the City and to be highly paid lawyers. Those teachers regretted that, but something in our society, which we are perhaps all responsible for, has demoted working in the public sector and in the public interest. Whether that is to do with Thatcherism or greed, or whether it is something that has happened in all countries, I would rather look at the matter with some balance and with some basis of research, rather than just blame others in the usual way, as in a Punch and Judy act, in the House.

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

I worked in teacher training for many years. We always had to accept that entrance into the teaching profession was inversely related to economic prosperity. It is a simple fact that it has always been more difficult to recruit people to teaching when we have done relatively well in terms of economic development. Would my hon. Friend care to comment on that?

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Chair, Education Sub-committee

I take my hon. Friend's point. He is right. In times of economic boom, recruitment to teaching is less good because there are many other alternatives, it is a demanding, tough job and it is not the best paid job in the world, although it is reasonably paid. However, a significant number of people are moving away from valuing teaching as a profession. It is the American pattern. I regret that.

I still remember the last speech that the late John Smith made the night before he died. It was about trying to get back into our society the value of public service, the value of doing a job that is about not just making as much money as possible, but getting a reasonable income for doing a job that is rewarding. There is nothing more rewarding than teaching young people.

There is the matter of the burden on teachers. We can look at it rationally. One person's bureaucratic burden is someone's helpful channel of communication; there was a bit of that in the exchanges across the Floor earlier. If teachers are left to teach with no helpful advice, no guidance and no communication, we would be in a sorry state. They would be alienated, thinking that no one cared about them. They would say, "They never communicate. We do not know what they want us to do." Interestingly, from talking to teachers, I perceive the problem to be that there are too many lines of communication. They are all blurred.

Teachers are responsible to head teachers—who are responsible to governors, the local education authority, the Government and various other bodies. There is a fuzzing and blurring of the lines and channels of communication. We should earnestly and seriously consider that issue, because there is a problem.

Lord Haskins—undoubtedly with his characteristic good humour—offered an interesting insight when he said that the Department was the most Stalinist that he had ever come across. I do not take the comment that seriously, but this morning, when the Select Committee was interviewing Sir Michael Bichard, the Department's permanent secretary, we quoted it. Although I suspect that we must take it with a pinch of salt, there is a grain of truth in it. Communication could be better and more sensitive.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Minister (Education)

It is obviously a matter of balance. However, does the hon. Gentleman honestly believe that every one of the extra 3,468 new regulations introduced last year was essential? Does he not acknowledge that the sea of regulation is now deeper and more hazardous than any other with which teachers have had to contend? What proportion of those circulars or regulations does the hon. Gentleman honestly think that the average head teacher has time fully to read?

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Chair, Education Sub-committee

I am sure that, in the past 20 or 30 years, there has been a gradual increase in communications between Departments and schools and between LEAs and schools. The truth is that all Governments have tried increasingly to control education and educational output. I therefore imagine that a graph would show exponential growth in such communication. I probably also understand the reasons for that growth.

I should like to finish on a very serious point. One of the Select Committee's roles is to interview the chief inspector of schools. I regret that, very often, bashing the chief inspector is considered to be popular sport—everyone likes to do it. Although there may be reasons for doing it, I shall not do it today. On the most recent occasion when the chief inspector gave evidence to the Committee, we had a very positive exchange with him. I should perhaps add that our report was issued this morning—in case anyone wants to rush out and get a copy direct from the printers.

Who would deny, however, the problem that is expressed when one goes into schools and talks about inspection to teachers? Of course we want to know about the standards in our schools, and of course we want not only to measure, but to raise standards. I am also a believer in the old business adage, "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it." However, although I believe that that adage is very important in terms of literacy and numeracy—in which the Government have done a very good job—I think that there is still a very real problem with inspection.

Although I am hesitant to refer to the tragedy of a suicide after an inspection recently, I was speaking to a group of teachers who said that the most stressful thing that they have had in their lives—not this month or this year, but in their lives—was the inspection. They were good teachers in an excellent school and they achieved a wonderful rating. We have to do something about how the inspectorate is viewed and how it performs its task. In a good society and good educational system, there should not be such a reaction to inspection.

In inspection, there should be such good co-operation that the school knows what to expect. We do not need a witch-finder general in education, to frighten people or to cause them stress. We have to get the balance better.

If we do not do that, I believe that something that is very good will be brought into disrepute. We need an inspection system that identifies weaknesses and problems, and then makes a positive partnership to get it right for the kids who are being taught in the schools and the teachers who teach them.

In my experience, one does not get very far by frightening and demoralising people and then walking away. Yes to inspection—but let us go back to the very best of the old Her Majesty's inspectorates, which built, worked at and improved a positive relationship. If one thing would help teacher morale and increase recruitment, it would be that.

Photo of Sandra Gidley Sandra Gidley Liberal Democrat, Romsey 8:35, 16 May 2000

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this debate, because education was one of our key campaigning themes in the by-election.

First, however, as is customary on these occasions, I pay tribute to my predecessor, the late Michael Colvin. It is impossible for me to pay tribute to Michael without also paying tribute to his wife, Nichola. They were very much two for the price of one, and a frequent and prominent sight in the constituency. I knew Michael for a number of years, and he was always very charming. My overwhelming memories, however, are of Nichola's warmth and generosity of spirit, and of Michael's charm and unerring knack of calming any troubled situation so that everyone came out of it feeling happy. I first heard the tragic news on my return from holiday in early March, and I still find it difficult to believe that they are no longer with us. On a personal level, they are missed by many people in the constituency.

Many hon. Members attended the moving memorial service in Romsey abbey, and then had a small taste of what Romsey has to offer. Romsey is regarded by many people as a rural constituency. Although I grant that the constituency includes a large, attractive rural area which includes the River Test and an expanse of rolling Hampshire countryside, to me, constituencies are more about the people who live in them. In Romsey, 80 per cent. of constituents live in urban and suburban areas.

The nature of the constituency is probably best reflected by looking at its senior schools. Test Valley school, which is in Stockbridge and serves the north of the constituency, has an excellent educational record that belies the fact that the headmistress often has to deal with real problems of rural deprivation.

Moving closer to Romsey, there is Embley Park school, which is in the private sector. It is particularly interesting because it was once the home of Florence Nightingale.

We also have Stanbridge Earls school, which is also in the private sector. It is, however, a different type of private school, with a strong record of helping children with dyslexia. Its examination results may not look good on paper, but they hide the fact that much good work is being done for pupils who have certain types of learning difficulty. We must not always look superficially at statistics.

In Romsey itself, we have the Mountbatten school—which has educated my two children very well—and the excellent Romsey school. Both schools have strong academic records. Of particular note, however, is the unique co-operation between the two schools. By working together, they have achieved joint specialist language status—a joint project partnership, involving the community, which will widen language learning opportunities in both the school and the community.

Moving to the Chandlers Ford area, Thornden school has an outstanding academic record, with 74 per cent. of children obtaining five or more A to C passes at GCSE. The school has also received specialist status for its music provision. Toynbee school also has a good record and a good recognition of its sports provision.

Moving towards the Southampton part of the constituency, the picture changes a little. The Atherley is a private school with an excellent reputation, but St. George's Catholic boys school presents a rather more interesting picture. The verdict of its last Ofsted inspection was that there were "serious weaknesses". Despite that, the school achieved a very creditable five or more GCSE pass rate of 59 per cent. The school has been through a difficult period, with four heads in three years. Unfortunately for the school, it is being Ofsteded this week. I hope for the sake of everybody there that it is going well.

Last, but by no means least, is Cantell school. Its GCSE pass rate of 39 per cent. does not sound quite so good, but its catchment area includes some of the most deprived parts of Southampton. We are all too quick to judge a school by a superficial glance at the figures, but that does not reveal that the school has a strong community base and copes well with the broad ethnic mix of its pupils.

Those are my local schools. Most are doing well at the moment, but we need to ensure that they continue to do well and that our education service continues to attract and retain teachers of the highest quality. I have come across many teachers in the past few weeks. I came across one lady who conforms to many of the averages. She had just left the teaching profession to start her own business, after teaching for just four years—the average life of a teacher entering the profession today. Her reasons for leaving were stress and bureaucratic overload.

I was told today that 40 per cent. of our teachers are over 50. A teaching crisis looms, even though officially there is not one at the moment. Is there any good reason any more for anyone to want to become a teacher? We have more graduates than ever, but fewer of them want to become teachers. Salaries are part of the problem, particularly in trying to attract teachers with science, maths or modern language skills, especially in the prosperous south. However, that is only part of the problem. No one is trying to address the other problems of the demanding pupil population and the stress of having to deal with badly behaved, disaffected children. We have high expectations of our teachers. The public and politicians are slow to praise and quick to criticise. That is why I wanted to celebrate our local successes today.

Then there is bureaucratic overload and central control, leading to a relentless pattern of long days, working over weekends and perpetual tiredness. One teacher told me that she works a 60-hour week and cannot physically or mentally work any harder, but she is now supposed to try to find the time to gather evidence towards performance-related pay. She simply cannot do it. She is one of many. All the evidence shows that performance-related pay is unsettling and highly divisive. It undermines staff morale and discourages team working.

The concern is that more pay will be given to teachers in high-performing schools, leaving schools in deprived areas at the end of the queue for good teachers.

A profession is attractive only if its members feel that they have some professional freedom and are rewarded with respect and suitable pay. Professionalism for teachers has been diminished. As they are ever more straitjacketed, they are rapidly losing motivation, because they are increasingly being forced to teach to a formula.

I have already noticed that there is a lot of inspiration and individuality in the way in which many Members of Parliament conduct themselves. Why do we not allow our teachers to show a little of the same?

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Labour, Halton 8:42, 16 May 2000

I congratulate the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley) on her thoughtful maiden speech. I did not agree with every word of it, but I know how nerve-racking a maiden speech can be, having made mine just a few years ago. I also express my sympathy to the family and friends of Michael Colvin on their tragic loss.

I shall consider the issue from a different perspective from the Opposition. I pay tribute to the excellent work of the vast majority of teachers in my constituency and around the country. They do a great job under great pressure. The job has not got any easier. Given some of the pressures in society, it has become much more demanding. Teachers often have to be social workers as well. The Government have recognised that it can be very difficult.

It would be remiss not to accept that there is a recruitment problem and we have not yet been able to do away with the morale problems, but that situation has not come about overnight. The problems have been entrenched for a while and dealing with them properly will take some time, but the Government have made a good start.

Our education reforms have placed the emphasis on good teaching, improvement, getting better performance out of teachers and paying good teachers for good performance. In areas such as mine, before 1997, up to 50 per cent. of 11-year-olds were not reaching the required standards in maths and English. That was unacceptable. I understand the argument that we should just let teachers teach and get on with it, but we sometimes lose sight of the fact that in some areas, the standard of education that a child received was often determined by the lottery of which school they went to. Similarly, the choice of teacher within a school could sometimes be a lottery. No child deserves that. It is unacceptable for which school or teacher a child gets to be a matter of luck, which clearly was the case in some areas, not least in parts of my constituency. That is something that the Government have tried to do something about.

I have young children and I have stood at school gates and heard parents say, "I hope my child gets Mrs. So-and-so next year, not Mr. So-and-so." That should not happen. We will always have exceptional teachers, and we have many of them, but it is not acceptable that parents have to hope that their child does not get a certain teacher.

Teaching is a demanding, frustrating and stressful job at times, but many jobs are like that. Of course, teachers have an especial responsibility for our young people. Teachers have an influence on children's futures, both at school and in their careers and contributions to society. Probably no other profession has such a profound effect and the Government recognise that. That is why we cannot just let poor teachers carry on as they always have before.

We have seen continually rising standards since Labour came to power. Like most Members of Parliament, I have visited the schools in my constituency and seen the effect that the money from the Government has had. We want to see better pay for teachers, and the new system will achieve that. Substantial amounts of money are available, and the recruitment package that the Government have put together, better teacher training and the General Teaching Council are all attempts to try to improve the situation.

I do not claim that everything in the garden is rosy. Problems still exist, and it will take time for some of the initiatives to take effect. Certain schools still have recruitment problems, and it is often—but not always—the case that those schools have some of the most difficult problems and worst results. That is no coincidence and it also sends a clear message.

I know that some teachers worry about initiative overloads. I talked to a head teacher in my constituency and she said that she had a lot of work to do and was unable to do some of the things that she would like to do. I asked her about the literacy and numeracy hours, because they have been cited as part of the overload, but she said that the hours were having an effect and focusing classroom teaching on raising standards. A teacher told me last year that instead of trying to improve literacy individually and being interrupted by other children, she was able to help the whole class during the special hours.

The Government have said that they wish to reduce bureaucracy. However, the suggestion that bureaucracy is a new problem under Labour is garbage. The Tories were famous for their initiatives. One of the teachers' union conferences illustrated that with stacks and stacks of paper. Teachers are always willing to talk about the burdens of the national curriculum, and we have tried to make some changes to it. The fact remains that the biggest burden was placed on teachers by the Tories, and I am still waiting for them to apologise.

The literacy and numeracy hours are working. They are improving standards and giving more of our children a better chance. We have nothing to apologise for in that. Standards are rising, and that is what is important. Under the Tories, some 50 per cent. of children in my constituency were having great difficulty in reaching the standard. I have not forgotten that, and no one should.

The Tories have said that people do not talk about what the Tories did, but people do because there is a clear contrast between what the Tories did and what we are doing. Education has been made a priority under Labour and we are making a difference for all our people, not just a few. After all, the Tories' proposal to improve standards is to have a grammar school in every town and I remember a Tory Front Bencher asking at Question Time recently why private schools could not have the extra money for information technology.

Some schools have very outdated IT equipment and Labour is making a difference in that area. Schools are getting new equipment and having lines installed, and that will make a difference to children's IT skills. Our vision, together with improved teacher training in IT, is making a difference.

What is the Government's general education policy and how is it affecting teacher morale? I accept that there are pay issues and that teachers want to feel that they are valued. Indeed, I think that they are valued. Issues arise also about the environment in which they work and the resources that are made available to them. My constituency includes the towns of Widnes and Runcorn, and it provides an example of what the Government have been doing and how that will help the future of the teaching profession. There has been a 6 per cent. improvement in reading and writing standards over the past year, and a 10 per cent. increase in maths. Those are phenomenal and regular increases of which parents in Halton are aware.

The overall increase in expenditure is much better than it was under the Tory Government. Ditton primary school in Widnes in my constituency waited 11 years for a completely new school building. In terms of teacher morale and support for teachers, the buildings are appalling. They are not fit for children. There is a split site and insufficient space, resulting in cramped conditions. What happened? The Labour Government provided the full sum that was needed to replace the school, not merely support for rebuilding costs. If a one-off example of improving the teaching environment is required, it is provided by Ditton primary school. There are also five new classrooms that have been provided in Halton.

I talk to teachers who work in cramped classrooms with poor facilities. In many instances, office facilities are poor. However, there have been many improvements to schools that have struggled in some of the most deprived areas. The improvements have been badly needed and they have been made under a Labour Government.

The new deal for schools was introduced recently. Eight or nine schemes have been approved in my constituency at a cost of about £1.8 million. Perhaps the teaching environment has been forgotten during the debate, but there are new science buildings for some schools along with better office facilities. One school has not had a playing field for 100 years. At long last it is getting one—and who from? It is being provided under the Labour Government. That will make a real difference.

We have recently qualified for excellence in cities. Thousands of pounds have been made available this year and last year for new books in schools. Many secondary schools will receive an additional £50,000, while primary schools will receive an extra £9,000. I spoke to a head teacher, who said that she wants the money now. She cannot wait for it because there are so many things that she can do with it. The quicker that she receives the money, the better. These extra resources would never have been provided under the Tory Government.

It seems that the class-size initiative for five, six and seven-year-olds has been forgotten. We want to improve class sizes overall, and we have made a start. We have seen the difference in infant classes. Teachers are saying that it is good news for them. In Halton this year, there will be no classes of more than 30 children for five, six and seven-year-olds. That is a tremendous achievement under the Labour Government. Again, it will help to boost teacher morale.

There are various issues that surround exclusion, especially for certain schools. I am sure that the Government have listened to comments. There is talk about providing facilities for pupils who have been excluded. There can be difficulties that lead to a decline in morale. I understand and accept that some schools were excluding pupils too easily while others took a much better approach. In those schools, exclusion was a rarity. They did all that they could to support pupils who might have been subject to exclusion. The issue has been raised by a head teacher in my constituency.

We must give the reforms a proper chance. Teachers are delivering in a way that we have not seen for some time. They are doing so in a broad sense throughout schools and classrooms. A pupil's teacher or the school which he or she attends is becoming much less of a lottery, and that is a clear message. The Government have no apology to make to parents for raising standards. Indeed, the raising of them is something of which we can be proud, and something which parents want to see. We shall be judged on the issue when we come to the next general election, and that will be in our favour.

There is a need for support and partnership, but Governments have a responsibility to raise standards and improve education. We should never forget that teachers are a pivotal part of that process. It is incumbent upon us to form a partnership with teachers.

Finally, education is crucial in areas such as mine. For many years, some schools, teachers and pupils have under-performed. I said earlier that some 50 per cent. of pupils did not reach the appropriate standard at age 11, but that figure is improving. I make no apology for the fact that I come from a working-class, council-estate background, but I do not think that coming from a difficult or deprived background is an excuse for lower results.

The hon. Member for Romsey mentioned a school in her constituency that is in a deprived area. However, there is no excuse for such schools producing poor results. A lot of good-quality teaching goes on in such schools, and good results are being obtained. Social factors must be taken into account, but they should never be an excuse for poor performance.

All schools should attain average or above-average results. Schools in parts of my constituency are achieving better results: where they were attaining percentage scores in the late teens and low 20s, they are now achieving scores of between 42 and 44 per cent. One particular school has doubled its achievement levels in three or four years. Part of the community served by that school is among the most socially and economically deprived in the area, but that merely shows that the argument that such schools cannot improve is wrong.

Teachers have a pivotal role in such improvement. Most of them do a great and valuable job, but we cannot accept that any teacher should be able to get away with not delivering for our children. We must press ahead with the reforms, although I agree that we need to do more for teacher morale. We can do so, and I am sure that our policies will prove to be right.

Photo of Mr Bowen Wells Mr Bowen Wells Conservative, Hertford and Stortford 8:57, 16 May 2000

I hope that the House will find that the two things that I want to say are pleasant and complimentary. First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley) on her outstanding maiden speech, in which she outlined those parts of her constituency that are especially interesting from the point of view of education.

I also thank the hon. Lady for the very gracious, warm and lovely compliments that she paid to our late friend Mr. Colvin, and to his wife, Nichola. We treasure our memories of both of them and much regret their departure. I am sure that the House looks forward to hearing from the hon. Lady often in the future, and to benefiting from her presence.

Secondly, like the hon. Members for Halton (Mr. Twigg) and for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), I take great pleasure in paying a compliment to the teachers in my constituency. Over the past 20 years, under Conservative as well as Labour Governments, education has improved in this country. I am not interested in a party political scrap on the matter, but the teachers who have achieved that improvement deserve to be complimented.

Many teachers in my constituency are married women, and the job of teaching fits well with their duties in the household and as mothers. We are very fortunate to have many highly qualified teachers who have helped schools to improve their standards. Many hon. Members have described how hard teachers work, day in and day out. I was a teacher and I remember very well how drained and exhausted one felt, having given all one's mental capacity to the job.

We must pay enormous compliments to teachers, as their achievements are not confined to pushing up academic standards. Their work is evident in music and on school playing fields, for example, and in the many extracurricular activities from which pupils benefit hugely. All the schools in my constituency have improved over the past 20 years. Some difficulties remain, but I do not want my compliments to the teachers to be overshadowed by the problems that we still face.

However, one such problem is that many women will not enter the teaching profession in the future. The statistics show that in the next 10 to 15 years the teaching profession faces a huge exodus of experienced teachers whose children have grown up and who wish to retire. The problem, which is becoming a crisis, is how to recruit sufficient teachers to replace those who leave the profession. We need more men, as well as women. There are many more opportunities available to women than there were 20, 30 or 40 years ago. I rejoice in the fact that they are entering all kinds of professions and activities, but that means that they will not be available to teach in our schools. That will create a recruitment and retention crisis.

The hon. Member for Romsey talked about a lady who had taught for four years—the average length of time that someone teaches—and was going to start up her own business. That is typical of what happens and, while it is to be welcomed, it creates a problem that we must all face.

We must work hardest to tackle this problem in the inner-city areas. The inner cities are letting our children down because there is no stability in the teaching force. Schools in inner cities have the greatest concentration of supply teachers and unqualified teachers. This January, almost one teacher in 20 was a temporary supply teacher or an instructor. Before he gets over-excited, the Secretary of State should know that an instructor is an unqualified teacher. The number is going up—for the second year running there are 3,000 instructors. According to John Howson, visiting professor at Oxford Brookes university, instructors are supposed to be used by schools only as a last resort, as they usually lack formal training and teaching skills.

Unqualified and supply teachers provide the major teaching force in our inner-city schools. Who makes up inner-city populations? Very often, they are dominated by minorities—black, Asian and immigrant populations. We should be ashamed of having unqualified and supply teachers in schools that do not enable children to grow up with a capacity to compete with their peers. I have had to advise some parents to send their children back to the West Indies, where they will find a higher standard of teaching, a higher standard of school and a more stable teaching force compared with what is available in schools in London and other cities.

We should be concerned about that. We must find a way of attracting teachers into schools and then retaining them. In my view, we must pay them more, even if that means creating jealousy among teachers in my constituency who do not earn as much. Indeed, the Government have done this—they are attracting more teachers to the subjects in which there are is an insufficient teaching force, particularly maths and science.

There should be a differential in the pay scales. I welcome performance-related pay, but I do not think that the Government have got it right. I was talking to a friend who is a teacher and is, of course, tempted to apply for the £2,000 performance-related pay rise on offer from the Government. It is no good the Secretary of State saying that it is quite easy to do that and that the Government are not over-burdening teachers with bureaucracy. Let me tell the House what teachers have to do, on top of their teaching load, and on top of helping pupils revise for their A-levels. They have to submit evidence, giving concrete examples from the past few years, that they Have a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of their subjects.Consistently and effectively plan lessons to meet individual pupils' needs, use a range of appropriate strategies for teaching and classroom management, and use information about prior attainment to set their pupils appropriate targets.Take responsibility for their professional development and make an active contribution to the school's policies and aspirations.Challenge and support all pupils to do their best by inspiring trust and confidence, building team commitment, engaging and motivating pupils, thinking analytically and taking positive action to improve the quality of pupils' learning. They have to fill in a six-page application form proving that their pupils make good progress as a result of their teaching.

That is a burden on each teacher wishing to benefit from performance-related pay. It is over-burdensome and over-bureaucratic, and will not achieve the objectives. Teachers to whom I have spoken say that they do not have the time, that they are too exhausted and simply will not apply.

The Government must look at the matter and get it right. It is not right now, and I should like an undertaking from the Minister replying to the debate that the Government will look at the system, streamline it and make it easier, so that many more teachers can benefit from what has been put forward as an incentive for them to teach well. I do not think that it will work under the present system.

Much has been said about the extra money coming into schools. In fact, in my constituency less money is coming into schools. Many of them have been grant-maintained and have been cut back year after year after year. They are now having to cut back on the teaching force, and pupil numbers in my secondary schools are going up. There may be an increase overall. I am not a Minister and do not know the centralised facts and figures that they keep repeating on the radio to anybody who listens. In schools in my constituency pupil numbers per class are going up and the amount of money coming into the schools is going down.

Even with the recent announcements of additional money, that money will not come to my schools. Therefore, there is a high degree of stress in the schools in my constituency. It is no good crowing that "education, education, education" is being given to all people in this country—the money is simply not coming into many schools.

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Opposition Whip (Commons)

Would my hon. Friend also note that the cut in budgets for grant-maintained schools came in spite of a clear pledge from the Secretary of State that budgets for non-grant-maintained schools would be increased to the level of grant-maintained schools? What the Government have done is precisely the opposite: they have cut the budget for schools that were grant-maintained.

Photo of Mr Bowen Wells Mr Bowen Wells Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

The Government have indeed cut the amount of money going to grant-maintained schools, which are now called foundation schools. The result is that we are getting higher numbers in each class and the teachers find it much more difficult to achieve the standards that they want to achieve on behalf of their pupils. Far from there being less stress, there is far more in those circumstances. The Ministers in charge should take note of that. I hope that they will listen to what I have said and to what my hon. Friend has said and do something about it, because the situation cannot go on for long without something breaking.

Another matter that is very serious and needs attention is the secondary school transfer system, which the Government are severely changing, resulting in very serious stress for many parents and many pupils in my constituency. The Government have to find a way to make the secondary school transfer much less stressful both to pupils and parents. They should drop the ideological idea that they must create community schools, and should advance more along the line of finding schools for pupils—that is, have a variety of schools with different specialities to which people can go, wherever they come from, whether in my case from Essex, from Bishop's Stortford or from the villages.

Whether pupils want a technical education, an academic education or a musical education, or whether they want a school concentrating on sports, that choice should be available to them. They should not be forced into the nearest school, but nor should they have to travel across the town—as they are being forced to do in Bishop's Stortford—because there is no place for them at a nearby secondary school that they want to attend. The secondary school transfer system is not working; it needs to be rethought and thoroughly overhauled.

The real way to push up standards will be by concentrating on the courses for teachers at training colleges. The colleges must increase and improve the standards required for those entering the teaching profession. At present, primary teachers are not required to achieve sufficient A-level and GCSE passes—indeed, they do not always need A-levels to get into teacher training.

We need more highly qualified teachers. The foundations for numeracy and literacy are set in primary schools. The colleges need to raise standards for primary teachers, although that is not to say that we should neglect standards for secondary schools, but children spend those foundation years 1 to 5 in primary schools. We should then tell teachers to teach to the standards that they learned in college and that they will be inspected to ensure that they are doing so. We should reward those teachers adequately and differentially, so as to attract more people into the profession.

Teaching is a vocation. People do not go into teaching just for the money, but for the huge satisfaction of helping children—perhaps those who perform least well. They can help such children pull themselves up and become stars in their own right. We should be attracting people into the profession so that they can experience the joy of helping others to learn.

Photo of Colin Burgon Colin Burgon Labour, Elmet 9:13, 16 May 2000

I congratulate the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley) on her highly effective maiden speech. I look forward to hearing from her again—after the next general election as well.

Most of the speeches so far have been decidedly non-partisan. I hope that we can carry on in that vein. I bring to the debate my experience of some 16 years as a teacher. Most of that time was spent in the classroom, in a fairly tough school in east Leeds—I still bear the scars of one or two clashes with my pupils. Some of my friends and relations are also in teaching. As a Member of Parliament, I keep in touch with schools in my constituency and with teachers who live there.

Present-day teaching is a hard job; it gets harder as each year goes by. Anyone who thinks that Mr. Chips, Billy Bunter or Greyfriars are still around in our education system must be from another planet. To be blunt, teaching in many of our schools is a hard grind. It is not glamorous and is carried on in difficult circumstances.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) pointed out, teaching can be a lonely job. When that classroom door closes, the teacher is, in effect, alone. When the door used to close behind me, I often thought of the American humorist who said: For every person wishing to teach, there are 30 not wanting to be taught. I can assure hon. Members that I battled against that apathy.

The strain of teaching in difficult conditions should not be underestimated, especially when teachers face daily challenges to their authority, personality and ideas of self-worth. In a world that is increasingly assertive, litigious and consumer driven, the job of teaching is becoming harder and harder. I contend that the classroom teacher is the most vital element in the whole educational process. Our support—in all its forms—for that teacher should be of prime concern.

In that respect, I am delighted to highlight three facts from the Labour Government's record. First, under the Conservatives spending fell by £60 per pupil in their last three Budgets. Since we were elected, spending has risen by £300 per pupil in real terms. Secondly, education spending is forecast to increase by more than 16 per cent. in real terms in this Parliament compared with an 8 per cent. rise in the previous Parliament. Thirdly, we have invested to improve and modernise schools, with more than 11,000 of them already allocated funding through the new deal for schools. Several hon. Members have alluded to the improvements that have taken place in their constituencies and I echo their comments.

Specifically in relation to teachers, I wish to highlight about half a dozen moves that the Government have taken. In addition to the annual pay increase that all teachers receive, from September the majority should be eligible for a further £2,000 with the new performance threshold payments. What especially pleases me is that, for the first time, teachers have the prospect of significant pay progression within, and recognition of, the core job of classroom teaching.

In my days in classroom teaching, I often thought that two brands of teachers fled the classroom. The first were those who were very effective and wanted to progress in their careers. The only way that they could do that was to go more into administration in a school. Secondly and quite bluntly, the second group was made up of those who were incompetent in the classroom. They were kicked into higher-paid administration jobs, which did nothing for the morale of teachers in the classroom. I have always and consistently taken the view that the most undervalued section of the teaching force is the classroom teacher.

To support classroom teachers, I am pleased to read that, by April 2002, about 20,000 non-teaching assistants or learning support assistants will be in place. Initially, teachers reacted in a guarded way to the implementation of the programme, but they now welcome the assistants because they recognise that they give valuable assistance to, for example, pupils with statements. That particular Government initiative is to be praised.

I am glad that the Government have recognised that the burden of administration can be especially disproportionate in small schools, many of which are in my constituency.

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Labour, Don Valley

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government's initiative, which values and expands the role of the classroom assistant, lays the bedrock for classroom assistants possibly becoming the fully qualified teachers that we hope to have in a few years time?

Photo of Colin Burgon Colin Burgon Labour, Elmet

As always, my hon. Friend makes an excellent point and, as always, I agree with her.

I move quickly on to flag up the fact that £80 million of funding for small schools will allow them to employ extra administrative staff. The Government have consulted on, and agreed, an information management strategy for schools and local education authorities. It aims to help raise standards by cutting unnecessary data collection and promoting more effective use of information. About £700 million is being invested in the national grid for learning programme for schools up to 2002 and one of its key targets is that, by 2002, communications, including data collection, should cease to be largely paper based.

The final initiative that I particularly welcome is the excellence in cities initiative, which will bring nearly £20 million into my home city of Leeds. I have had a long chat with teachers in Leeds about that and they are especially pleased with the introduction of learning mentors. These non-teaching but skilled people identify under-achieving children and plan an effective programme to help them. Learning mentors can be employed for holiday periods or after school hours and that very flexibility adds to their effectiveness in helping teachers.

Excellence in cities also aims to identify the top 5 or 10 per cent. of gifted and talented pupils in what would not be classed as our most salubrious schools so that they can be given extra support. That allows teachers to put plans in place beyond the normal curriculum to expand the learning capacity and experience of, say, a pupil who is a gifted musician, a gifted rugby player or a gifted badminton player. Thankfully, Leeds does not need too many gifted footballers, because the place is already crammed with them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I thank Members for that support.

So much of what the Government are doing is praiseworthy and has been welcomed by teachers. However, if we are honest and listen to teachers, we have to be aware that they face problems that we should do our best to address. Most teachers to whom I speak actively support the individual initiatives undertaken by this Labour Government.

Literacy and numeracy hours, updating teachers in the use of information and communications technology and excellence in the cities are all welcomed by teachers. However, we must be honest and accept that they regard the number and frequency of the initiatives as a problem. The Government take the view that children get only one chance, and they make no apology for hurrying to raise standards. As a parent with a nine-year-old daughter in school, I have no problem with that.

One might argue that, in effect, the Government are pushing through a cultural revolution in education, which will ultimately benefit hundreds of thousands of children. As with all revolutions—which we have read about in books, even if we have not experienced one ourselves—we must carry the key groups with us as we strive to achieve our aims. Supporters of change must be largely self-motivated and enthused. In my opinion, the classroom teacher is the key agency in delivering the improvements that we want.

Of course, as with any revolution, people need a period of stability, or at least the prospect of stability. The Government have done a great deal, and I urge them to listen carefully to what teachers are saying about the number and frequency of initiatives and the need for a bedding-in process. I shall give some practical examples, based on my experience and contact with teachers, on which we could perhaps move forward together.

Could we not examine the period needed to review an application for threshold pay? Recently, a head teacher told me that it is estimated that it will take three hours or so to assess each individual case going through the process. For example, if 30 members of staff have applied for one of those payments, that will work out as 90 hours of extra work for the school head. Even I, who have not been through the numeracy hour, can work that out. Will Ministers examine how head teachers are meant to find that time?

The document "Teachers: Meeting the Challenge of Change" examines the idea of sabbaticals. The scheme is already in use in countries such as Austria and Israel. To avoid what is known as burn-out in teaching, we should introduce sabbaticals as soon as possible. I certainly wish that I could have had one. After, perhaps, 10 years' service, a teacher should be able to have a term or six months off to pursue work or outside interests. There may well be losses to the profession, but that may be a good thing if people are unhappy or unsettled. We would find that the vast majority of teachers would return to teaching committed, refreshed and reinvigorated.

The issue of summer holidays is also connected to burn-out. Some may think that hon. Members are vulnerable in discussing that but, of course, we all work tremendously hard during that period. I know how and why I looked forward to the summer break as a teacher. Those who have not been in teaching cannot understand the treadmill nature of the job. Day after day, the curriculum and timetable bear down on teachers, so they desperately need that break. I agree with the National Union of Teachers which, in its evidence to the commission on the organisation of the school year, said that the summer break is essential to allow teachers and pupils to recuperate from the stress and workload of the school year and to gear up for the next. I therefore urge the Government not to press ahead with ideas about shortening the summer holidays without the clear support of all teachers.

Discipline is another vital issue on which the Government need to support classroom teachers. The idea that most teachers are unreconstructed versions of Wackford Squeers is untenable. Many teachers facing classes in difficult schools have a daily battle on their hands. If we accept that we need order in classrooms as a necessary precondition for learning, we must adopt policies to achieve that objective. The excellence in cities initiative involves an inclusion policy and funding for learning support units, which will take pupils who prove to be too difficult to be taught in the normal classroom situation. The Government must monitor closely the effectiveness of those units and ensure that we listen to teachers involved in them.

In addition, the language that we use about teachers is sometimes a bit inconsiderate. As my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) said, Ofsted is trying to be increasingly school and teacher friendly. I welcome that much more open approach. It may well be that the teaching unions could club together and send Mr. Woodhead on a crash course in diplomacy. That might be welcomed by a majority of teachers.

I know that Ministers will listen to the points that I have raised, for they, like me and the teaching profession, are overwhelmingly united in a desire to improve standards in education and with that the life chances of our people. Teachers cannot stand alone. They cannot be expected to address every conceivable problem that finds its way into the classroom, but if they know that they have a Government who listen, care and are committed to shared goals, we will be able to achieve a tremendous amount in this most vital of all human activities—education.

Photo of Mr Tim Collins Mr Tim Collins Conservative, Westmorland and Lonsdale 9:25, 16 May 2000

Given the lateness of the hour and the shortness of time, I shall be brief.

I pay tribute to the first-class maiden speech of the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley). She did extraordinarily well. I know that those of us on the Conservative Benches particularly welcomed her comments on her predecessor; both Michael and Nichola Colvin will be much missed. However, it is clear that the hon. Lady will make some interesting contributions to our debates, which I look forward to hearing. I hope that she enjoys her time in the House.

I agreed with some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), the Chairman of the Education Sub-Committee, who is not now present, particularly the point that he—and the hon. Member for Elmet (Mr. Burgon)—made about the need for backing up teachers who are trying to enforce discipline. The hon. Member for Huddersfield said that we should consider how we might move away from circumstances in which teachers believe that they can be treated as guilty until proven innocent, simply on the word of one child who might have a reason for making up a rather unpleasant story about them.

I pay particular tribute to the teachers in my constituency. In the past couple of weeks or so, I have visited Crosscrake primary school near Kendal and Settlebeck secondary school in Sedbergh, where there is excellent and inspirational teaching. I should, on behalf of the teachers in my constituency, confirm the point made in the excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) that, for those of us who have a majority of former grant-maintained secondary schools in our constituencies, the first years of this Government were not a cornucopia of additional funding. It was quite the contrary; they were years of cuts and, in some cases, reductions in teaching staff, which were necessitated by the Government breaking their clear election pledges and lowering funding for those schools.

For a number of parents in the Kendal area particularly, the imposition of the Government's rigid target of 30 pupils for classes of five-year olds has meant in that growing town, in which the number of applicants for schools is also growing, the separation of siblings. Those who were able in some families to get into a school a few years ago are not able to do so now. That has caused distress and also appears to have been bought at the expense of growing class sizes for those aged eight and over.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield said one other thing, which I must pick up. He implied that, in her superb speech, the shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) made up some quotations from teachers. It should be on record that the quotations were provided by the National Union of Teachers. If the Chairman of the Select Committee is alleging that the NUT makes up quotations from its members, that is very serious and rather regrettable.

I could not help but notice that the Secretary of State claimed something fairly remarkable in his speech. He said that not only were teachers not particularly fussed by the amount of bureaucracy and paperwork imposed on them, they welcomed some additional paperwork that they could access by logging on to the Department for Education and Employment website.

We have a Secretary of State who appears to live in a world where teachers, having given their best in the classroom, having gone home to complete course work, marking and reports and having flogged their way through the forms of the day and all the rest of it, are so desperately anxious that they might have run out of things to do that they log on to the internet and go to the DFEE website where, yippee, they find more work. We need a Secretary of State who lives in the real world.

Photo of James Clappison James Clappison Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury) 9:29, 16 May 2000

This has been a very good debate, adorned by the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley), who made a model maiden speech. I am sure that her remarks about Michael and Nichola Colvin were appreciated throughout the House and struck a chord with all who knew them. Her warm words were much appreciated. She also made some interesting points about her constituency, and those hon. Members on both sides who said that they looked forward to hearing her speak again were speaking for the whole House.

The debate began with a powerful speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May). She made it clear at the outset that we did not set out to denigrate teachers, and it does not do justice to her case to suggest that we did. Those who listened to her speech will have heard her pay a warm tribute to teachers and place on record our appreciation of the hard work that they do.

That appreciation was echoed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), who gave teachers full credit for their work to raise standards, and by my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Collins), who put on the record his appreciation of teachers in his constituency. Both were right to draw attention to the problems of grant-maintained schools. I can confirm from my own experience that the pupil-teacher ratio in grant-maintained schools has deteriorated since the general election, and that such schools have suffered financial problems as a result of the Government's failure to honour their commitment to level up. Grant-maintained schools have found their budgets, in effect, frozen and they have been forced to make difficult economies and to appeal for funds from certain quarters.

From the other side of the House, we heard speeches from the hon. Members for Halton (Mr. Twigg), for Elmet (Mr. Burgon) and for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), the last of whom I congratulate on his appointment as Chairman of the Select Committee on Education and Employment. Like him, I am interested in issues of criminal justice; the comments he made about teachers who face allegations of abuse were thoughtful and interesting, and I am sure that we shall return to the subject in future debates.

We also heard from the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis). He said that, sadly, he was forced to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead. I shall return the sentiment by saying that, sadly, I am forced to agree with him, especially his remark that there is a gap between the fine words of the Prime Minister and the actions of the Government. That gap is obvious to everyone. There is a gap between what teachers were promised in 1997 and what the Government have delivered.

In case that had escaped Labour Members' attention, we told them about the experiences of teachers. Teachers are not exactly jumping for joy about what has been done since 1997; still less are they dancing with glee at the prospect of the Government's bureaucratic plan for performance-related pay. We have heard about teacher after teacher facing stress and problems arising from increased bureaucracy, but I make no apologies for adding one or two more examples to the long list that we have heard already.

Angie Rutter, a teacher of special needs children, spoke for many when she told the Daily Mail last week I went into the profession because I enjoy working with children. I get a buzz out of seeing children learn… But in those days most of us didn't realise that all this paperwork was coming. There's a limit to how much you can take on board. Those sentiments were echoed by a head teacher in my constituency, Mr. Nick Nelson, who was so disgusted by the volume of documents that landed on his desk one morning that he took the step of writing to the Secretary of State to protest. It should be acknowledged that not all of the 10 documents came from the Department for Education and Employment, but six of them did. When one hears, as we have this evening, that the Department has issued 366 separate documents since 1997, it is not surprising that teachers such as Mr. Nelson have been driven to despair.

If the Government will not heed those examples, perhaps they will listen to the views revealed by the National Association of Head Teachers. Some Labour Members have said that what we have told the House does not accord with what they have been told by teachers and head teachers, but perhaps they will listen to the NAHT, which conducted a survey of 3,200 head teachers. The headline conclusion of the survey is that there is an urgent need to reduce workloads and stress amongst heads and to reduce the number of tasks which are of little value to the education of pupils or to the effective running of schools. If the Government will not take the NAHT's word for it, perhaps they will take that of Lord Haskins, of the better regulation taskforce. Generally, he is far from being a friend of the Opposition, but the headline conclusion of his report states that there is a widespread and deeply held view that increased red tape is acting as a distraction from the drive to raise standards. When asked about that at the launch of his taskforce report, he admitted that the outlook for a business with similar handicaps would be "virtually zero".

It is time the Government began to listen to the volume of evidence about the work load that is being placed on teachers and, in particular, on head teachers. Perhaps they will listen to a head teacher who responded to the NAHT survey. When asked how he had managed to cope, he said: To cope, I drink alcohol and employ staff with a sense of humour. I am not suggesting that teachers have been driven to drink by the Government, and I do not condone excessive drinking, but a good sense of humour would come in handy in dealing with a Government who issue toolkits for cutting bureaucracy—a two-volume handbook on good practice in cutting bureaucracy; who produce such a volume of plans that they need a plan of plans co-ordinating all the other plans; and who refer teachers to the Department for Education and Employment website on cutting burdens on teachers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale referred to that. I can tell him that if teachers had consulted that website at the end of a busy working day, I am not sure how much use they would have found it. They would, however, have been given access to EASEA, which is described as a means to keep up to date on policy developments with your own customised electronic intray of DfEE publications for schools. The tip of the day for teachers from the Department for Education and Employment website today is: The school office collects money for school trips. I am sure that teachers would never have thought of that.

Against that background of helpful tips from the Government, we are concerned about the effect on recruitment to teacher training. We understand from the Secretary of State that that is a world problem. That may be so, but it has got markedly worse in this country since the Government came to office.

The number of applicants for secondary training courses in particular has gone down significantly. In recruitment to initial teacher training courses, applications are down by 9 per cent. for mathematics, 15 per cent. for science and almost 13 per cent. for technology since the Government took office.

On the Government's statistics, for technology teaching the number of applications has gone down every year since the Government took office, and it is still going down. It is down markedly on the numbers applying under the previous Government, and the Government fell 41 per cent. short of their target for technology teachers. Although the Government make great play of technology, teachers are not coming into the profession to teach the subject.

The Secretary of State referred to the golden hellos and all the other schemes that the Government have introduced. On the basis of figures in May 2000 for teachers starting in September 2000, it seems that the problem is getting worse. Mathematics applications are down by 15 per cent., science applications are down by 12 per cent. and technology applications are down by 17 per cent. That is after the introduction of the Government's much-vaunted golden hellos.

In the words of the old song, it seems that the Government are saying hello, but the applicants are saying goodbye. They are not applying for those courses. To confirm the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce), they are also not applying for BEd courses; applications for those courses are down as well. The Secretary of State mentioned that in his opening speech this evening.

The problem with the debate about class sizes, which is of interest to teachers and parents, is that the Government tend to be selective in their statements about the subject. We hear much about class sizes at key stage 1, on which the Government made a pledge. However, we hear less about class sizes for other age groups. Key stage 2 classes are larger today than when the Government took office.

The Secretary of State referred to smaller junior class sizes as an achievement on the Government's part. However, they have managed only a reduction in the higher figure, which they created after taking office. The figure remains higher than when the Government took office. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Ms Squire) may shake her head, but the Government provided the statistics.

Matters are even worse in secondary schools, where class sizes have increased every year since the Government took office. More pupils than ever are in classes of more than 30. The classes that have increased most are those for children under 14, yet the Government claim that they need particular attention.

The problem is reflected in pupil-teacher ratios, about which we hear from the Prime Minister from time to time. He is somewhat selective about the subject. There is some excuse for that: the Prime Minister may be selective about facts because he receives an inadequate briefing from specific quarters. Perhaps I can assist hon. Members by providing the full picture on pupil-teacher ratios.

In 1997, the overall figure for pupil-teacher ratios for all schools—I am not selecting some and leaving out others—was 18.6; in 1998, it increased to 18.9; in 1999, it decreased slightly to 18.8. The prediction for 2000 is that the figure will decrease to 18.6. What a wonderful achievement by new Labour. The Government have managed to return to the position that they inherited in 1997 and about which they complained. The figures increased in the subsequent three years. The Government have delivered nothing on pupil-teacher ratios. [Interruption.] If the Secretary of State disputes the figures, they came from the Department and were placed in the Library.

I shall give the Secretary of State another statistic on an achievement by the Department. According to a written answer he gave me recently, he has managed to double the Department's advertising budget in the past three years on top of all the press releases and extra regulation.

I am tempted to say that the Government's performance on teaching is all mouth and no delivery. However, when considering red tape, a better description would be all mouth and too much delivery. The teaching profession is being suffocated by the volume of red tape and burdensome regulations. Ministers refuse to listen or accept that. Ministers in the Department for Education and Science are the biggest culprits. They talk about cutting bureaucracy, but they continue to churn it out, to the frustration of teachers. That leads to teachers leaving the profession and possibly deters others from joining it. The Department's actions do not assist teachers' cause.

We pay tribute to teachers, who deserve credit. We are worried about the burdens that the Government are placing on them. The voice of teachers has been heard from all parties in the debate.

Photo of James Clappison James Clappison Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

I shall not give way at this stage because hon. Members have had an opportunity to speak. When Labour Members return to their constituencies, they must face the fact that they have failed to deliver their promises. They have delivered far too many burdens and regulations, failed to help children and not stood the teaching profession in good stead.

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Employment 9:45, 16 May 2000

I thank hon. Members for their contributions and, in particular, congratulate the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley) on making a well-informed maiden speech in which she clearly showed an understanding of and concern for the schools in her constituency. She also paid a generous tribute to her predecessor and his wife. As hon. Members have said, we look forward to hearing many more speeches from her.

The views expressed in this interesting debate reflect the importance of highly skilled, highly motivated teachers to our national well-being. I should like to thank teachers, as have many other hon. Members, for their commitment and hard work, which is producing results for our children. The successful introduction of the literacy and numeracy strategies, higher key stage 2 results, better results for our 16-year-olds in GCSEs and GNVQs and the fact that schools come out of special measures within 18 months rather than 25 all show that teachers have responded to the challenge and are delivering for our children.

We know that we have set a challenging pace of change and recognise the challenges and pressures that that puts on schools and teachers, but we are not interested in change for its own sake. We are interested in outcomes—what we can achieve to raise standards for our children and ensuring that opportunities for higher standards are open to all our children, whatever their background. We are passionate about continuous improvement and helping teachers to do what they do best—teach and raise standards.

The culture that we want in our schools is one not of permanent revolution, but of permanent improvement because that is what our children deserve. It is no good simply telling schools to improve. That call must be backed up with the resources needed to make improvement possible and the support that schools and individual teachers need to find out how they can improve.

The Government are providing that support—an extra £300 million is going to schools as a result of the Budget. As part of that, secondary head teachers will receive between £30,000 and £50,000 each to spend as they choose. I assure the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells) that the schools in his constituency will receive that money, which they can use as they wish.

Schools could use that money to buy 3,500 extra teachers£enough to ensure yet another substantial cut in class sizes and, consequently, in teacher work load.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons)

The Minister has made an important point: she says that that money could be used to employ teachers. Will she guarantee now that money would be available for those teachers in future years?

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Employment

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we have shown our commitment to putting more money into schools; we have delivered on it and will continue to do so.

We have made £5.9 billion available to improve school premises. My hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Mr. Twigg) rightly highlighted the effect that the school environment has on raising standards. The Government have delivered on that and are providing up to £1 billion this year and next for the improvements proposed in the teaching Green Paper, including better teachers' pay.

My hon. Friends the Members for Halton and for Elmet (Mr. Burgon) made thoughtful speeches and referred to the challenges faced by those who teach disruptive pupils. The Government recognise the pressures and challenges that teachers face. That is why we have already made more money available to support schools and teachers in dealing with those children and why my right hon. Friend recently announced further support for schools and teachers such as learning mentors and learning support units.

Hon. Members will be aware of the descriptions given in the media—and, I regret, on the Floor of the House—of demoralised, disenchanted teachers waiting only for the first chance to leave the profession. That is not the teaching profession that I recognise nor that which my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) eloquently described. Thousands of dedicated people are working to help the children in their charge to reach upwards, whatever their background. Their success is shown time and again—not only when exam results are published.

As class sizes are falling, the number of teachers is increasing. There are now nearly 3,000 more teachers in permanent posts than there were last year, and the percentage of unfilled posts in schools is less than half of what it was 10 years ago. For every secondary-school vacancy there is an average of 12 applicants, and for every primary-school vacancy there are 16. That is not evidence of a profession that is in decline, but evidence of one that is at last beginning to be properly resourced in terms of money, support, training and leadership.

I was concerned by some of what was said by the hon. Members for Hertford and Stortford and for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) about supply teaching. We need to make it clear that supply teachers are qualified: they have qualified-teacher status.

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Employment

No, because Opposition Members did not.

Quality, however, needs to be approved. We are consulting on measures to introduce a quality mark. to provide a distance-learning package and to give more support to teachers in schools.

Hon. Members:

Give way!

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Employment

No, I will not.

It is because we recognised the need to ensure that good-quality people come into teaching and that "shortage" subjects were covered that we announced, on 30 March, a package of measures to boost teacher training recruitment, involving a training salary of £6,000, £150 a week for all secondary postgraduates during their training, and a further £4,000 for those who find posts as newly qualified maths, modern foreign languages, science and technology teachers. Since that announcement, applications for postgraduate teacher training courses are 22 per cent. up on those in the same period last year, and 500 more people have applied than did so during the corresponding six weeks in 1999.

Photo of Phil Willis Phil Willis Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I thank her for her courtesy.

My point was not about supply teachers. I accept that most supply teachers are fully qualified. I was talking about people who are teaching in our schools, but do not have formal teaching qualifications.

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Employment

I think my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State responded to that point earlier.

Let me make a point about the hon. Gentleman's commitment to getting more people into the teaching profession, which I do not doubt. Tonight he has taken a statesmanlike and, dare I say, headmasterly approach to the debate—not an approach that he took in his speech to the National Union of Teachers, which he commended for its militancy. He said: Well it is just like old times! Government ministers being heckled! Conference in militant mood! Delegates walking out! Well conference it is about time teachers displayed their anger at the way they are being treated! I do not think that that is the sort of example we would want to set the people whom we are trying to encourage into the profession.

Many have commented on the burdens being placed on teachers, especially paperwork. Let us be honest about what is being distributed to schools. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, the vast majority of communications sent to them this year have concerned the literacy and numeracy strategy, teaching reform and pay. Only two documents sent to primary schools, and three sent to secondary schools, required responses from head teachers.

Is it being suggested that we should not have supported teachers in their delivery of higher standards in reading, writing and maths? Should we not be telling schools about the support and training that are available to implement teacher reforms and higher pay? I accept the points made by my hon. Friends the Members for Huddersfield and for Elmet about the need to communicate, about the threshold, and about the importance of supporting head teachers. That is why we must communicate with schools, which is what we are doing.

The Conservatives, of course, oppose the literacy and numeracy strategy. They are not clear about performance-related pay: that is why they oppose our communications with schools. However, I am keen for us to free up teachers to teach.

As has been mentioned, the Haskins report identified the steps that we have already taken and that are planned. It said, for example: We found that the Government's radical agenda for raising standards in schools is widely respected and already seen to be delivering results. Additional regulation is inevitable in implementing such an agenda. However, I am concerned that we ensure that we do everything that we can to free up teachers to teach. That is why we introduced rigorous—

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Employment

No. The hon. Gentleman did not.

That is why we introduced rigorous controls over what is sent to schools and are increasingly making publications and information available on the internet—an innovation mocked by the Opposition. As they are keen to quote teachers, may I quote two comments about our EASEA website? One person said: I find access to the material straightforward and it is helpful that my own office does not become cluttered with paper. Another person said: The In-tray has shown itself to be very useful in accessing relevant documents; can it now be developed as suggested by another respondent to include information from other agencies? There is support for our activities from those people who are using the system.

We are working vigorously to reduce unnecessary requests for information from the centre and to improve management systems at all levels in the education service. We estimate that, since August, our changes to what is collected and to how it is collected have saved about 10,000 hours of work for schools and local education authorities.

As was recognised by my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet, we are aware of the pressures that fall on small schools. That is why we have gone even further in providing support for them. This year and next, £80 million will be available, so that small schools can employ extra administration staff and invest in information and communication technology to help with administration.

We are funding the recruitment of 20,000 teaching assistants to help teachers in the classroom. My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield made an important point about Ofsted. We have already acted to reduce the lead-in time and developed light-touch inspections.

The Opposition have been quick to carp, but slow to tell us what they would not have done and not have issued. Do they want to scrap the literacy hour? It appears so. Do they want schools not to teach a daily maths lesson? Apparently. What would they do to help schools to deal with disruptive pupils? Let them get on with it. How would they encourage the best people to come into the teaching profession? Apparently, by talking down the profession in the way in which they have this evening.

Not only does the Conservative party not take any responsibility for developing policy now. It does not take responsibility even for what happened when they were in government. The hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) recently addressed the NUT. She was jeered by delegates—fair enough, that happens to the best of us. However, her response to the jeering was to say: I can hear your scepticism, but I was not here last time. That may be the case, but many of us were here during the Tory years as teachers and as parents. We know what it was like to have national curriculum folders dumped on us with no consultation, to have our youngest children starting their school career in large classes, to spend our time shifting buckets around to catch drips from ceilings that there was no money to mend, and to have four out of 10 primary children leaving school without the basic reading skills to progress. The induction year for new teachers had been scrapped and there was no support for head teacher training. The hon. Lady may wash her hands of those realities, but they are what the Government have started to address.

Our key themes are better pay, more training for leadership, more support for schools and teachers and a commitment to improve training for teachers throughout their career. We are already delivering on them.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 170, Noes 313.

Question accordingly negatived

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments):

The House divided: Ayes 309, Noes 158.

Division No. 197][10.13 pm
Ainger, NickDarling, Rt Hon Alistair
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Alexander, DouglasDavidson, Ian
Allen, GrahamDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Dean, Mrs Janet
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)Denham, John
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms HilaryDobbin, Jim
Ashton, JoeDobson, Rt Hon Frank
Austin, JohnDonohoe, Brian H
Barnes, HarryDoran, Frank
Barron, KevinDowd, Jim
Bayley, HughDrew, David
Bell, Martin (Tatton)Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Bennett, Andrew FEdwards, Huw
Benton, JoeEfford, Clive
Bermingham, GeraldEllman, Mrs Louise
Best, HaroldEnnis, Jeff
Betts, CliveEtherington, Bill
Blackman, LizField, Rt Hon Frank
Blears, Ms HazelFitzpatrick, Jim
Blizzard, BobFitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Blunkett, Rt Hon DavidFlint, Caroline
Boateng, Rt Hon PaulFlynn, Paul
Borrow, DavidFoster, Rt Hon Derek
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Foulkes, George
Brinton, Mrs HelenFyfe, Maria
Browne, DesmondGalloway, George
Burden, RichardGardiner, Barry
Burgon, ColinGeorge, Bruce (Walsall S)
Butler, Mrs ChristineGerrard, Neil
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Gibson, Dr Ian
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Campbell-Savours, DaleGodman, Dr Norman A
Cann, JamieGodsiff, Roger
Caplin, IvorGolding, Mrs Llin
Casale, RogerGordon, Mrs Eileen
Caton, MartinGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Cawsey, IanGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Grogan, John
Clapham, MichaelGunnell, John
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)Hain, Peter
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)Hanson, David
Clelland, DavidHarman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Coaker, VernonHeal, Mrs Sylvia
Coffey, Ms AnnHealey, John
Colman, TonyHenderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Connarty, MichaelHenderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Hepburn, Stephen
Cooper, YvetteHeppell, John
Corbett, RobinHesford, Stephen
Corbyn, JeremyHewitt, Ms Patricia
Corston, JeanHill, Keith
Cousins, JimHinchliffe, David
Cranston, RossHodge, Ms Margaret
Crausby, DavidHoey, Kate
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)Hope, Phil
Cummings, JohnHowarth, Alan (Newport E)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland)Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Hoyle, Lindsay
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs ClaireHughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Dalyell, TamHumble, Mrs Joan
Hutton, JohnMullin, Chris
Iddon, Dr BrianMurphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Illsley, EricNaysmith, Dr Doug
Ingram, Rt Hon AdamNorris, Dan
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Jamieson, DavidO'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Jenkins, BrianOlner, Bill
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)Palmer, Dr Nick
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)Pearson, Ian
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)Pendry, Tom
Pickthall, Colin
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Pike, Peter L
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)Plaskitt, James
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)Pollard, Kerry
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms TessaPond, Chris
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldPope, Greg
Keeble, Ms SallyPrentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Kemp, FraserPrescott, Rt Hon John
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)Primarolo, Dawn
Kidney, DavidProsser, Gwyn
Kilfoyle, PeterPurchase, Ken
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Kumar, Dr AshokQuinn, Lawrie
Ladyman, Dr StephenRadice, Rt Hon Giles
Lawrence, Mrs JackieRapson, Syd
Laxton, BobRaynsford, Nick
Lepper, DavidReed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Leslie, ChristopherRobinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)Rooney, Terry
Lock, DavidRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
McAvoy, ThomasRowlands, Ted
McCabe, SteveRoy, Frank
McCafferty, Ms ChrisRuane, Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McDonagh, SiobhainRyan, Ms Joan
Macdonald, CalumSarwar, Mohammad
McDonnell, JohnSavidge, Malcolm
McFall, JohnSawford, Phil
McGuire, Mrs AnneSedgemore, Brian
McIsaac, ShonaShaw, Jonathan
McKenna, Mrs RosemarySheerman, Barry
Mackinlay, AndrewShipley, Ms Debra
McNulty, TonyShort, Rt Hon Clare
Mactaggart, FionaSimpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McWalter, TonySingh, Marsha
McWilliam, JohnSkinner, Dennis
Mahon, Mrs AliceSmith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Mallaber, JudySmith, Angela (Basildon)
Mandelson, Rt Hon PeterSmith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Martlew, EricSmith, John (Glamorgan)
Maxton, JohnSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Meacher, Rt Hon MichaelSouthworth, Ms Helen
Meale, AlanSpellar, John
Michael, Rt Hon AlunSquire, Ms Rachel
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Milburn, Rt Hon AlanSteinberg, Gerry
Miller, AndrewStevenson, George
Mitchell, AustinStewart, David (Inverness E)
Moffatt, LauraStinchcombe, Paul
Moonie, Dr LewisStrang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)Stringer, Graham
Morley, ElliotStuart, Ms Gisela
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Morris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon)Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Mountford, KaliThomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Mudie, GeorgeTimms, Stephen
Todd, MarkWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Touhig, Don
Trickett, JonWilliams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Truswell, PaulWilliams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)Wills, Michael
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)Winnick, David
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)Wood, Mike
Twigg, Derek (Halton)Worthington, Tony
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)Wray, James
Vis, Dr RudiWright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Walley, Ms JoanWright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Ward, Ms ClaireWyatt, Derek
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, DavidTellers for the Ayes:
White, BrianMr. Mike Hall and
Whitehead, Dr AlanMr. Gerry Sutcliffe.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Allan, RichardDavis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Amess, DavidDuncan Smith, Iain
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon JamesEvans, Nigel
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyFaber, David
Baldry, TonyFabricant, Michael
Ballard, JackieFallon, Michael
Beggs, RoyFearn, Ronnie
Beith, Rt Hon A JFlight, Howard
Bercow, JohnForth, Rt Hon Eric
Beresford, Sir PaulFoster, Don (Bath)
Blunt, CrispinFraser, Christopher
Boswell, TimGarnier, Edward
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)George, Andrew (St Ives)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs VirginiaGibb, Nick
Brady, GrahamGidley, Ms Sandra
Brake, TomGill, Christopher
Brazier, JulianGillan, Mrs Cheryl
Breed, ColinGorman, Mrs Teresa
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterGreen, Damian
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Greenway, John
Burnett, JohnGrieve, Dominic
Burns, SimonGummer, Rt Hon John
Burstow, PaulHammond, Philip
Butterfill, JohnHancock, Mike
Cable, Dr VincentHarris, Dr Evan
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)Harvey, Nick
Hawkins, Nick
Cash, WilliamHayes, John
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Chope, ChristopherHogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Clappison, JamesHoward, Rt Hon Michael
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Keetch, Paul
Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyKey, Robert
Collins, TimKing, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Cormack, Sir PatrickKirkbride, Miss Julie
Cran, JamesKirkwood, Archy
Curry, Rt Hon DavidLaing, Mrs Eleanor
Davey, Edward (Kingston)Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, AndrewRobinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Leigh, EdwardRuffley, David
Letwin, OliverRussell, Bob (Colchester)
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterSt Aubyn, Nick
Livsey, RichardSanders, Adrian
Llwyd, ElfynSayeed, Jonathan
Loughton, TimShephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Luff, PeterShepherd, Richard
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir NicholasSimpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
McCartney, Robert (N Down)Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
MacGregor, Rt Hon JohnSmyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
McIntosh, Miss AnneSoames, Nicholas
MacKay, Rt Hon AndrewSpelman, Mrs Caroline
Maclean, Rt Hon DavidSpring, Richard
Maclennan, Rt Hon RobertSteen, Anthony
McLoughlin, PatrickStunell, Andrew
Maginnis, KenSwayne, Desmond
Major, Rt Hon JohnSyms, Robert
Malin, HumfreyTapsell, Sir Peter
Maples, JohnTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Mates, MichaelTaylor, Sir Teddy
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir BrianThomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
May, Mrs TheresaTownend, John
Moore, MichaelTredinnick, David
Moss, MalcolmTrend, Michael
Nicholls, PatrickTrimble, Rt Hon David
Norman, ArchieTyler, Paul
Oaten, MarkWalter, Robert
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)Waterson, Nigel
Öpik, LembitWebb, Steve
Ottaway, RichardWilkinson, John
Page, RichardWilletts, David
Paice, JamesWillis, Phil
Paisley, Rev IanWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Paterson, OwenWinterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Pickles, EricYeo, Tim
Randall, JohnYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Rendel, David
Robathan, AndrewTellers for the Noes:
Robertson, LaurenceMr. Peter Atkinson and
Mr. Stephen Day.

Question accordingly agreed to.

MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved,That this House welcomes the substantial steps taken by the Government to improve teaching and the rewards for teaching, which include the introduction of a General Teaching Council, the development of better pay for good teaching, the introduction of training salaries to improve teacher recruitment, new measures to improve the training of headteachers, the Better Regulation Task Force Report on 'Red Tape Affecting Headteachers', administrative support for schools, more classroom assistants, lower infant and junior class sizes, reform of induction and teacher training, and significant improvements in funding for school budgets and school modernisation; and notes that these measures have already reversed a legacy of budget cuts, rising class sizes and inadequate training inherited from the previous administration.