Teachers (Supply and Recruitment)

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 7:58 pm on 25th October 2000.

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Photo of David Blunkett David Blunkett Secretary of State for Education and Employment 7:58 pm, 25th October 2000

Yes, I accept that there is a problem with bureaucracy, paperwork and administration. That is why we have set up a panel of heads and teachers to monitor the commitment that we have made that, from this September, we will cut the number of documents issued by a third and the amount of paper by a half. We will send out material in batches, and we will use electronic communication when that is suitable for heads. We will take similar steps with other agencies, such as the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and Ofsted, and with local authorities, so that requests for information are not duplicated. Data collection can be simplified and we can lift unnecessary burdens from heads and teachers.

There is still a long way to go, but I take no lessons on this issue from the Conservatives. They made a complete backside—a complete mess—of the introduction of the national curriculum and the assessment tests, they introduced Ofsted, and they set up the system of data collection for the tables to which we are committed. Those four measures alone placed more administrative requirements on heads and teachers than any paperwork that I have introduced, trebled. The paperwork that I have required includes the literacy and numeracy framework, advice to teachers on the "terrible" forms they have to fill in to get a £2,000 uplift in their salary, and advice on safety that we sent out two years ago and which the Opposition consider a bureaucratic infringement. Some things have to be done; some things have to be sent; and some things are necessary for consultation. However, too much has been sent out; too much has been required; and too much has to be read by teachers and heads rather than appropriate extracts or information available on the web.

We will continue to take action to ensure that we lessen the burden. In the end, paying teachers well, increasing the number of teachers, creating buildings that are fit to teach in with equipment that is fit to use, ensuring smaller class sizes, ensuring that the money is available to pay teachers at an advanced level to retain as well as recruit them, ensuring that heads get backing through the new leadership centre, and the other measures that we have put in place will all make a difference.

We will work with the Teacher Training Agency and the General Teaching Council, and with heads and local authorities across the country, to ensure that vacancies are filled, and that children get teachers with the qualifications and experience to do the job. The problems cannot be resolved by glib answers in a debate. That can be done only by concrete action to recruit young and old alike, and to make it worth being in the teaching profession. We should sing about what is working and tell every young person we meet that the teaching profession is the best way of fulfilling themselves and of making the next generation fit to live in this country.