We are committed to ensuring that children in every part of the country, regardless of their background or circumstances, benefit from an excellent education. High-quality teachers are central to that ambition. We have recently announced the establishment of the national teaching service, which will place some of our best teachers, including heads of department, in schools that need most support, particularly in areas of the country that find it hardest to retain and recruit good teachers.
I thank the Minister for that answer. Roxanne Vines, the outstanding headteacher of Mill Hill Primary School in my constituency, took up her post following support and guidance from the Future Leaders Trust. Will the Minister join me in congratulating Roxanne on her headship and confirm that the Government will continue to support charities that help great teachers become great headteachers?
I am delighted to congratulate Roxanne Vines on taking up her post as headteacher at Hill Mill Primary School and wish her all the very best. High-quality headteachers are vital if we are to achieve our ambition of excellence everywhere. We are currently funding a range of prestigious development and leadership programmes and qualifications for headteachers and senior teachers through the hugely effective and successful Teaching Leaders and Future Leaders organisations.
My local authority has declared its intention to close a number of schools in Brecon and Radnorshire, including Nantmel, Dolau and Llanbister Primary Schools and Gwernyfed and Brecon High Schools. Does my hon. Friend agree that the best way for pupils to have access to great and talented teachers is to keep excellent local schools open and not allow Powys County Council and the Labour-run Welsh Assembly to close the door on our children’s education?
My hon. Friend is of course right that high-quality teaching is the single most important influence on academic standards. In England, we have more and better qualified teachers than ever before, with the proportion of graduates entering the profession holding a first or a 2:1 rising from 63% to 74% since 2010. I am sure that parents in his constituency will come to their own view about whether Powys County Council’s decision to close schools is an effective or ineffective way of improving the education of their children.
I am very happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating Mrs Flannery, the headteacher of Eatock Primary School. In fact, I recently wrote to her to congratulate her and her staff on their exemplary key stage 2 results, as 100% of the pupils are making at least expected progress in reading, writing and maths.
May I bring the Minister down to earth? He trumpets the successes of this Government’s education policy, but the fact is that every time the chief inspector speaks he says that the Government are failing to deliver the best possible education for our children up and down the country?
I do not recognise the statements from Sir Michael Wilshaw that the hon. Gentleman is citing. As a former Chair of the Education Committee, he should know better. We are determined to see excellence in every part of the country. Where there are patches where schools are not performing, whether in rural or coastal areas, we are taking action swiftly, and certainly more swiftly than the Government he supported before 2010.
The Minister will know that there are schools in my constituency and elsewhere that want to improve rapidly but are struggling with the challenge of recruitment. One academy principal told me last week that he has spent over £60,000 just on the advertising costs. Is not it time that the Department set up a single pooled vacancies site so that we can have that money going to the frontline?
It is not necessary to spend that kind of money recruiting teachers, because there are many free websites for teacher recruitment. I have been to many schools that have very imaginative ways of recruiting—going into sixth forms, local employers and universities to recruit graduates for their School Direct scheme—and they find very high-quality graduates coming into teaching. The challenge we face in this country is that we have a very strong economy, which is something we would not have were the hon. Gentleman to become Chancellor in a future Labour Government.
Demand for teachers is growing. Are the Government, despite Ofsted’s warnings, still burying their head in the sand about the teacher recruitment and supply crisis on their watch? If they are not, what are they doing about it?
We are certainly not burying our head in the sand. We have the highest number of teachers—there are now 455,000, so 13,000 more today than there were in 2010. We are also taking action to deal with the challenge of having a strong economy. We have introduced bursaries—up to £30,000 for top physics graduates. We have introduced the “Your future their future” advertising campaign. We have removed the cap on physics and maths recruitment. We have expanded Teach First. We have incentives for returners; some 14,000 returners came back into teaching last year, which is a record number. We are improving behaviour in our schools to improve retention, and we are dealing with the workload, which is one of the reasons why teachers say they leave the profession.