Teachers (Supply and Recruitment)

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 8:14 pm on 25th October 2000.

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Photo of Phil Willis Phil Willis Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 8:14 pm, 25th October 2000

I congratulate the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) on choosing to raise such an important subject on a Supply day. I think that the whole House would whole-heartedly agree that without a supply of well qualified, well motivated, committed and well paid teachers we cannot expect standards to rise, social exclusion to diminish, underachievement to be tackled or society to have confidence in the education product.

There is a teacher shortage—a teacher crisis—in our schools, despite the protestations to the contrary by the Secretary of State this evening and by Baroness Blackstone in the other place last week. However, it is to the eternal credit of the teaching profession—and in particular, of the ingenuity of head teachers—that it has not made a drama out of a crisis.

The recent research by Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson of the university of Liverpool, entitled "Coping with Teacher Shortages" and "Talking Heads", gives us a graphic insight into the coping strategies of many schools. Those reports should be compulsory reading for all MPs, and certainly for the Secretary of State. The research helps to explain the paradox between what the Department for Education and Employment reports about teacher shortage and the actuality of what head teachers and governors find in their schools.

The hon. Member for Maidenhead read out a number of lines from the report "Talking Heads". They make amusing reading and make a cheap byline in such a debate, but they send out a stark warning that there is a limit to what can be done in our schools to paper over the real problems of teacher recruitment and retention.