We have record numbers of teachers in our classrooms, and retention rates have remained broadly stable for the past 20 years. I recognise that recruitment has become more challenging for some schools, which is why our White Paper sets out clear plans to boost teacher recruitment, build on the success of measures we have already put in place, such as the £67 million package to improve recruitment of STEM teachers, and generous training bursaries and scholarships.
Excessive workload is the top reason for teachers leaving the profession. Figures released by the National Union of Teachers show that three quarters of teachers say their workload has increased since the Secretary of State launched the 2014 workload challenge, which was supposed to address the concerns about increasing and excessive work. Why has her workload challenge failed to reduce the workload crisis, and will she agree to meet me and my Labour colleagues in Oldham and Tameside about our local challenges?
I would be delighted to meet the hon. Lady in her constituency or in Parliament. On the workload challenge, there were 44,000 responses to that survey. The top three issues raised were marking, data management and lesson planning burdens. We set up three working parties, which have now reported with very concrete proposals about how we can reduce the burdens. These are very real proposals that will actually, once implemented, reduce the burdens and workload of teachers.
The National Audit Office reports that the number of teachers leaving the profession has increased by over 11% in the past three years, and for the past four consecutive years the Government have failed to hit their own recruitment targets. Does the Minister agree that the plan to force all schools to become academies will do nothing to help this situation and may, in many cases, cause teachers to become more demoralised and more likely to leave the teaching profession?
The professional autonomy that comes with academy status does the opposite—it encourages the profession in a way that has not happened in the past. We have the highest number of teachers of all time in our schools—455,000, which is 13,000 more than in 2010. The National Audit Office acknowledged that despite the very large increase in numbers of pupils, by 9% in the past few years, the number of teachers has kept pace. In terms of retention, 90% of teachers are still teaching one year after qualifying, 70% are still there after five years, and over half of all teachers are still in teaching 18 years after qualification. These figures are broadly in line with those in other professions.
One of the very best ideas that the previous Government had was the Troops to Teachers scheme. Given that personnel in Her Majesty’s armed force are among the very best that Britain has to offer, what success is the Minister achieving in getting personnel from the Royal Air Force, Navy and Army into our schools to teach our pupils?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. This is a two-year scheme that started only in 2014, and the current cohort is the first to qualify. Applications by eligible candidates are up, and over 140 former troops are now working in schools across England as part of the scheme.
It is clear that teachers are not being listened to with regard to the fiasco over the forthcoming SATs—standard assessment tests—as two excellent teachers communicated to me. They also said that the Department for Education is putting children off learning English and maths properly. When will the Minister listen to teachers, listen to children, and change this approach?
We do listen to teachers, and we consulted very widely on the new primary school curriculum that was published in final form in 2013 and came into force in 2014. It is on a par with the best maths curriculums for primary schools from around the world. We have very high expectations and we do not apologise for that. We need to make sure that pupils leaving our schools are able to compete in a modern world—able to survive and thrive in a modern economy such as Britain’s. That is our ambition, and I wish the Liberal party would share it too.
At Education questions on
There is undeniably a crisis in teacher recruitment in schools. I warn the Minister that it is not confined to schools but is starting to affect early years provision too, and hitting it hard because there is no coherent early years career pathway and no set pay scale, with some providers paying wages for only 35 weeks a year. How can the Government possibly hope to improve quality in early years when they are doing their level best to put people off joining the profession?
We are not putting people off joining the profession, and we are expanding the early years sector. We acknowledge that when we have a strong economy it is a challenge to recruit highly qualified and highly able people. That is the case in this country, and it is the same in other successful economies around the world. We are doing a huge amount to encourage more professionals to come into the profession. We have a very effective advertising campaign. We have very generous bursaries right across the system; we are spending £1.2 billion on those bursaries. This is working, because we recruited 94% of our target to teacher training last year and we have record numbers of people in teaching. What we do not do, as the hon. Lady and Labour Members are doing, is talk down the profession, because, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, teachers tell us that talk about a recruitment crisis helps to deter people from coming into the profession; it does not encourage them to do so.