The number of full-time equivalent teachers in York local education authority has increased by 100 since January 1997 to 1,390. The number of teaching assistants has more than doubled by 260 to 400 over the same period.
I am very pleased that York schools have more teachers and, as a result, smaller class sizes. Does the Minister agree, however, that the quality of teaching is just as important as the number of teachers? Can he tell the House what help the Government are giving teachers to enable them to keep training throughout their professional careers, so that they continue to improve the quality of the lessons that they give children?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Ofsted has said that we have the best-ever generation of newly qualified teachers, which is clearly a cause for optimism. The House is currently considering the Education Bill, which will extend the remit of the Teacher Training Agency to oversee teachers' continuing professional development. That will be extremely important in ensuring that we continue to have the very best teachers.
When I visit schools in my constituency head teachers tell me that they are deeply concerned that the amount of core funding relating to the employment, recruitment and retention of teachers has gone down under the Government. There are more grants than core funding, which does not provide the security that head teachers would like. What is the Minister doing about that?
The hon. Lady is right that there are concerns about the number of ring-fenced grants for which schools must apply, which is why we are moving to a system of a single grant for schools. We are consulting with schools, teachers and local education authorities to give schools the simplicity and the certainty that the heads in her constituency would like.