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Column 105watching the television and wondering what to do with his life and he happens to see NUT representatives' behaviour at their conference, he may not be automatically attracted into the profession by that rather dissolute image. Teachers could do a lot to help themselves regarding status. Teachers must also look at their own teaching methods. I do not believe that parents or children will respect teachers if
"the schoolmaster timidly flatters his pupils and the pupils make light of their masters as well as their attendants. Generally speaking the young copy their elders, argue with them and will not do as they are told ; while the old, anxious not to be thought disagreeable tyrants, imitate the young and condescend to enter into their jokes and amusements."
That is not the view of some reactionary frump--it is not even my view ; it comes from Plato. The problem has been with us for some time, but the image that teachers project to parents and to children will not improve the status of the profession if it is still based on the old-fashioned ideas of the 1960s. However, as I have just illustrated, the problem has been with us for many years. The third part of the answer given in the academic study related to children. We must be imaginative when considering this aspect of the problem. We are living in a country with the highest divorce rate in Europe. I listened with interest and with respect to the points made by the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore). I do not represent a constituency with social and economic problems that are remotely like those faced by the right hon. Gentleman's constituency, but problems exist.
When I visit schools in my area I ask how the reading is coming along. That is a pointed question because in some of my schools there is a tendency to talk about damp patches on the wall. I am more interested in the quality of education. When I ask that question, some teachers say to me with a laugh, "Reading, Mr. Walden? Some of our children cannot even talk properly." They tell me that their first problem as teachers is not what to teach that day, but whether to comfort the mother who is crying around the corner because the marriage has just broken up or the partner has gone away for the nth time, or the child who has come into the classroom crying because his father or mother has disappeared for the nth time.
The social problems faced in this country that occur to a greater degree here than elsewhere in Europe--remember our divorce rate--are immediately impacting on the teacher and making teaching a less attractive profession. I am not known for being particularly soft-hearted to teachers, but when such problems arise in my socially privileged constituency, it does not take much imagination to consider what is happening in others, mainly Labour-held, although I accept that a few of my hon. Friends also face similar problems. My final point--I raise it with perhaps tedious predictability from the point of view of my right hon. Friend--is that teachers also face children who come to school in the morning, often, although not exclusively, from broken homes having stayed up late at night. They have spent the night not doing directly educational things, but a thing that tends to de-educate and cretinise children--watching four or five hours of television. What are the Government going to do about that? They have a curious strategy. On the one hand, my right hon. Friend is trying to fill the heads of children with something worthwhile, but on the other my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary seems to want to fill them with cretinising rubbish from
Column 106Mr. Murdoch. One could present this as a rational division of labour--a sort of Champs de Mars by which one digs a hole and another fills it up. But it seems not a particularly intelligent approach to what is a fundamental problem.
I was struck the other day to note that the Secretary of State, with impressive educational idealism, was teaching "A Tale of Two Cities." I do not think I am being too hard on the children of today when I suggest that few children in this country have read or will ever read "A Tale of Two Cities" because it is full of long words and they are not taught to read difficult books. So if what the Home Secretary plans in his broadcasting White Paper goes ahead, not only will children not read Dickens ; they will be lucky if they can get their minds round Adrian Mole.
All of this has a direct impact on the problem that we are discussing because, with about a third of British marriages breaking up, teachers face all the problems that arise from such a large incidence of broken families. They also face the dismal prospect of being confronted by the telly-tired child in the morning. If the Home Secretary has his way, that child will be cretinised even more. These are serious matters. They may sound tangential, but they are central to the whole problem of boosting the profession, qualitatively and quantitatively, because we do not want to get into the situation in which we found ourselves in the 1960s--which everyone, including Opposition Members, must recall--when we had to take whoever we could get to teach. Many people would not touch the profession with a barge pole today.
The Secretary of State knows my views on pay ; we must pay as much as possible to good teachers simply to obtain them. I earnestly appeal to him to take an even closer hand than I am sure he has been taking already in the question of the broadcasting White Paper. I repeat that British children spend as much time watching TV as they spend in the classroom.
To solve the problem of teacher shortage, two things are necessary. One is the need for imagination, and my right hon. Friend has a lot of that. The other is cash. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will see the force in the arguments that are being adduced, not only by me--mine may sound rather predictable--but by my hon. Friends and by some Opposition Members. Their remarks cannot all be dismissed as party political boosterism. Consider, for example, the speech, to which I referred, of the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney.
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough) : The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) made a thoughtful contribution, and my hon. Friends and I could agree with a good deal of it. He quoted Plato. I remind him that Plato never had to contend with the present Prime Minister and her Secretary of State for Education and Science. The hon. Gentleman will accept that Plato lived in a vastly different world. However, the hon. Gentleman came to the fundamental point in the end, which is that we are discussing teacher shortages and not, for example, what is happening in broadcasting. We live in a get-rich-quick society in which children are taught things that we thought they should never learn.
It must be remembered that this debate was initiated by the Opposition. Had that not been the case, the debate would not be taking place. A characteristic of the speeches of Conservative Members has been their attempt to
Column 107defend, as though it had never occurred, a crime over which they have presided. The nation's education system has been forced to the point where the Government are having to take steps which we thought, indeed hoped, would never be needed again. I refer to the problem which faced Britain after the second world war.
At that time we had to consider allowing people who had never taught to stand before our children and teach them. We refused to allow that to happen. Instead, we created an emergency scheme by which we put people through college and taught them how to teach. Although the hon. Member for Buckingham was reasonable in the statements that he made, he knows only too well that it is unfair to attack the teachers when the real problem is the shortage of teachers. That shortage has been brought about by the actions of the Government. Conservative Members cannot escape the responsibility they share in those actions.
I will not go into the question of licensed teachers. The vast majority of the teaching profession is totally against that concept. We got rid of licensed teachers years ago. The idea of licensed teachers is not a revolutionary one. Indeed, it is
counter-revolutionary. We never want them again, and the fact that the Government will foist them on us shows how desperate they are to push people in front of our children--not their children--when such people have never taught before. That will not be tolerated, especially when there are available people who are properly qualified to teach.
Teacher training colleges have been closed all over the country. The Government know that they have created the problem that we face, and they are not prepared to admit it or even talk about it. In 1979, the discussion was about how to educate our children. There was no crisis over a shortage of teachers. As I say, not since the end of the war has such a crisis existed.
Conservative Members refuse to admit what has been done in their name. They have no humility about it. Indeed, they adopt an appalling arrogance, talking and laughing about a problem that is causing great difficulty. Some Conservative Back Benchers are happy to talk and giggle. Indeed, one of them, the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), accused me earlier of not listening, yet he is not even in his place to listen to my remarks.
To my knowledge, when the hon. Gentleman has been in the Chamber he has never said a naughty word against the leadership of his party, even though he knows how wrong they have been on this issue. After all, was he not a teacher? He is in line to be chief groveller to the Prime Minister and to the Secretary of State, who is running the state system of education. The right hon. Gentleman also sits there smiling in his usual way, despite all that he has done.
The members of the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts became profoundly conscious of the fact that we were facing a crisis in education and particularly in the shortage of teachers. As I look at the Conservative Benches, I wonder whether any of the Members sitting there have been, please put up their hands? It is clear that they are not here, but I am here to explain why we on the the Select Committee are studying this issue.
Column 108We are well aware of the crisis in education, and I must report that only one person who appeared before the Select Committee--I refer not to the Secretary of State but to his chief functionary in the Department, Mr. Clive Savine--asked us what crisis we were talking about. He had not noticed any crisis, he told us. Nor had he noticed that morale in the teaching profession was low.
The Minister of State has claimed that there is no crisis and that it is all a myth. Even the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth--with a great private school such as Rugby in his constituency--has not noticed that a crisis exists. Indeed, if an elephant walked through the Chamber and the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State told him not to see it, he would say there was no elephant.
[Interruption.] Conservative Members grin like Cheshire cats, despite the crimes that they have committed against our children. I have with me the embarrassing last report of the HMI--embarrassing for the Government--which spoke of
"that most important component of an effective education service, namely ensuring a sufficient supply of suitably qualified teachers Without that, the rest falls."
If the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth, who accused me of not listening, will listen to me, I advise him to read that paragraph. Nearly all the teachers say that there is a crisis in education. The general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, usually a great friend of the Government, used the word "catastrophe", as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) did in his great speech. He was attacked for using an emotive word. We have made it plain that there is an approaching catastrophe. At the same time the Government say that it does not exist. Teacher training establishments, both colleges and universities, say that there is a problem. They also say that morale in the staff room is putting young people off teaching. The Secretary of State should not boast about how many say that they are going into teaching. A massive number of young people who have said that do not take it up. The right hon. Gentleman has said that they all come back, but that is not true. The Government are underplaying a serious problem.
Why is there a shortage and a developing crisis? It is because of the failure of the Government to realise the extent of the problem. I sat through the three months of the Committee stage of the Education Reform Act 1988. Ministers never agreed that there was a teacher shortage, created by the Government. They attack teachers and talk about the lowering of teacher morale. Anyone who is honourable in the Chamber knows that, previously, if any hon. Member mentioned teachers or the teachers' unions, there was a howl of abuse from the Conservative Benches, led by the Secretary of State, his predecessor and the Prime Minister. Now there is a slight change. The Secretary of State began his speech by praising teachers ; that is new. Some Tory Members asked for more cash for teachers ; that is new. The hon. Member for Buckingham asked for a wage that was not just satisfactory but much bigger ; he has not said that before.
Even the mention of teachers used to cause trouble, but now hon. Members on the Government Benches are beginning to praise teachers. Let us have the praise translated into cash to encourage people into the profession which the Government have belittled for so
Column 109long. They know that they must be realistic about the profession now if they are to get more teachers in. We want teachers who are trained, not licensed teachers.
Mr. John Bowis (Battersea) rose--
Mr. Bowis : Perhaps we can make it a third time. As the son and nephew of a teacher, may I invite the hon. Gentleman to question in his mind whether teachers had their morale raised all that much by the Labour Government who cut their pay in real terms by 12 per cent.?
Mr. Flannery : At that time I was one of the hon. Members who, from those Benches, attacked my Government in a way that none of the Conservative Back Benchers will ever attack this Government. I was struggling for education. No Labour Government ever did to education what this Government are doing to it. Because of their arrogance, they do not even admit it.
I should like to say much more but time is getting on. If the Government want to recruit teachers, they cannot do so without putting a large amount of money into teachers' pockets. They must also give them back their negotiating rights. The Government were condemned by the International Labour Organisation, part of the United Nations, for taking away the negotiating power of teachers. Time will show what will happen if it is all blah that we are told about the recruitment of teachers. I am worried that chaos will result from the Education Reform Act, so-called.
Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury) : Listening to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) reminded me of a recent speech by the president of the National Union of Teachers, Mrs. June Fisher. I thought that with suitable amendments to her speech one could adapt it to the Opposition. She said :
"Teachers should stop moaning and take pride in making a success of the Government's education reforms."
We should ask the Opposition to stop moaning and take a pride in the success of the Government's education reforms, and to brush up their professional image or risk losing the support of parents. The president of the NUT said :
"The whingeing teachers are not in the business of caring for children."
I do not think that the Opposition are either, because they constantly live in a world of trying to make a crisis of every situation in education.
I have heard the hon. Member for Hillsborough make exactly the same speech on education every year for the six years that I have been in the House. Every time he makes the same speech about the Government denigrating teachers. If the hon. Gentleman can find for me any quotes where the Secretary of State for Education has denigrated teachers I will give £10 to a charity of his choice for each one. I say that in the knowledge that I will not be a penny worse off because I do not believe that he will find any such quotations. It suits him to maintain that myth.
Column 110The only people who can send the teaching profession into a deeper depression are teachers themselves, as my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) said. As Mrs. Fisher commented :
"If somebody goes on long enough about everything being doom and gloom, then that becomes the reality. Teachers have to project a much more positive image."
I entirely agree.
It will do all of us well to get the debate into perspective. Yes, there are difficulties with teacher recruitment-- [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Ms. Armstrong) wishes to intervene, I shall gladly give way, rather than have subliminal chatter. There are difficulties but we have to get them into perspective.
The other day The Oxford Times had a headline :
"Cash plea as education crisis looms".
I had a meeting of all the secondary teachers in my patch ; I asked what teacher shortages there were. They told me that they were short of one half of a physics teacher and one half of a physical education teacher. Because it has become an accepted norm that there is a crisis in teacher recruitment, that is projected by all the newspapers and the media, but it is not real. When there are real difficulties, because the Treasury and everyone else has heard people crying "wolf" for so long, it is an accepted part of the political scene and no one responds in the proper way.
In 1988, 1.5 per cent. of all primary posts and 1 per cent. of all secondary posts were unfilled. That is a problem but it is not the sort of problem that the Opposition have sought to make it out to be. Indeed, the Government have reversed the declining trend in applications to initial teacher training. Between 1987 and 1988 vacant posts in shortage subjects in secondary schools fell significantly ; they fell by 33 per cent. in mathematics, by 39 per cent. in craft design and technology and by 48 per cent. in physics. There are regional variations. Obviously it will be more difficult to recruit teachers in inner city areas and in some of the prosperous home counties. That is the same for any occupation or profession. The greatest concern of employers in my constituency is skill shortages and recruitment. It is the same across the board, whether in teaching or in other spheres. That is not unique to teaching.
As opportunities for graduates substantially increase, so too will competition for graduates. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham that we must look at the situation that will confront Britain. With the changing demography, school-leavers and those going to university will become fewer and recruiting sufficient numbers into the teaching profession will obviously become more difficult. Not only must we ensure that good teachers are well paid but we must start to consider the possibility of regional pay differentials for teachers so that those areas that need to recruit teachers more can pay premium rates to do so.
We must also recognise that some 400,000 qualified teachers are not teaching at present. My young son goes to a state school not two miles away from the House. A short while ago a teacher vacancy arose at that school. I happened to be talking to other parents in the school playground and I was staggered by the number of parents with teaching qualifications who would like the opportunity to return to the profession.
It is also a myth to maintain that all inner London schools have difficulty recruiting teachers. When my son's school advertised for a deputy head teacher it had five
Column 111good applicants. There are large numbers of qualified teachers who should be able, and should be encouraged, to return to the profession.
That is a matter for local education authorities. It is not good enough for the Opposition to come to debates such as this every time with the two words "more money". If that is all they intend to say we could have a much shorter debate. Local education authorities must use some imagination in exploring the possibilities of job sharing, more part-time work for teachers and maintaining more contact with former teachers.
Teachers often complain that they are worried about returning to the profession because they may be rusty and need to brush up their professional skills. Local education authorities may find it worthwhile to pay teachers an honorarium each year on condition that they attend a one or two-week refresher course each year while they are out of the profession, having children or whatever, so that when they return to teaching they do not feel that they have lost touch with it.
Local authorities could also do more by way of flexible starting salaries and incentive allowances to encourage teachers to take difficult posts. Thanks to the various pay awards made over the past two or three years, an increasing number of incentive allowances are available to local education authorities to reward teachers. There are a host of initiatives for local education authorities to take. I suspect that some boroughs and local education authorities are having difficulty in recruiting teachers because of the image that they have projected for far too long.
The truth is that many inner-city schools in Britain are as good as those elsewhere. For example, many of those in the borough of Lambeth are as good as many of those in Oxfordshire. Many children have reached the same standard. But the image that is constantly projected by boroughs such as Lambeth is not conducive to persuading teachers to go there to teach. If local education authorities had a more positive image of themselves and what can be achieved in their schools, they would probably find people more forthcoming. It is wrong to pretend that the Government are not responding to the real difficulties that exist. Teachers in surplus subjects are being retrained in shortage subjects. The teaching as a career unit has made enormous strides in attracting individuals to return to the profession. That unit has contacted thousands of people. There is the bursary scheme and the new courses for initial teacher training on shortage subjects. All those are worthwhile initiatives. The Government have come forward with a host of initiatives to tackle the problem.
The Opposition have not made one positive suggestion this evening. As Opposition Front Bench spokesmen go, they are fairly talented, but it is disappointing that they should spend half of a precious Opposition Supply day simply saying that there is a problem. The Government are addressing that problem and it is depressing that the Opposition do not acknowledge that. They do not recognise that, nor join with us in positively promoting teaching and winning people into the profession. Instead, there is constant unnecessary doom and gloom simply to score a few brownie points in the local government elections. Always seeking to make out that the situation in
Column 112our schools is worse than it is is unlikely to encourage people into teaching and to give parents confidence in what is happening in our state schools. All that does British education a grave disservice.
The Opposition and some of the teachers' unions are foolish to reject out of hand the concept of licensed teachers. I hope that they noted that when the London borough of Croydon recently had a shortage of science teachers it advertised for untrained science graduates, attracting more than 200 replies, from which it recruited 12 good honours graduates who are now making a considerable contribution to that borough.
The truth of the matter is that on the issue of ensuring that we have sufficient well-paid, well-motivated, good teachers in our schools, as in every other education initiative in Britain, it is the Conservative party, the Government and Conservative Members who are coming forward with the ideas and initiatives and demonstrating a commitment to Britain's state schools. All the Opposition can do is to shout for more money and simply seek to make out that everything is always far worse than it is. It is only by creating such a manic depressive state that they believe they can win any votes in education.
Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend) : My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) pointed out that during his speech no Conservative member of the Select Committee which investigated the shortage of teachers was present. Not only were they not present while he was speaking, but not one has been present throughout the debate. Given the expertise that they gathered during the Committee's many sessions, they may have been commanded to stay away in case the facts got in the way of the propaganda that we have been fed this evening. Despite the Government's initiatives, the problem of teacher shortages will be with us for as long as we can see, because those initiatives do not deal with the problem in any significant way.
The background to this debate must be the high quality of the teaching profession. Let me quote from one paragraph of the second report of the interim advisory committee :
"As last year the Committee has been impressed by the commitment and dedication of teachers in all types of schools visited. Despite some of the public criticism aimed at teachers over recent years--which, happily, Government spokesmen are now going some way"-- not all the way--
"to redress--we found a high degree of professionalism in support of the education of the nation's young people."
Paragraphs 3.39 and 3.19 give more detail on the quality that our teachers provide, despite the difficulties that they face. In his opening speech, the Secretary of State pointed to a number of his initiatives. We should look at one or two of them at least. He said that this year there would be 2,000 extra places in initial teacher training. Will all those places be filled? Will the majority of them be filled by graduates in those subjects with the greatest shortages? Even with those 2,000 extra places, and even if they were restricted to the subjects with teacher shortages, there would still be insufficient teachers to meet the shortages that will occur in the years ahead.
Only today, members of the Select Committee were provided with a memorandum from the Institute of Physics which says that, using the available figures,
Column 113"and making varied and realistic assumptions about both the demand for physics in schools and the supply of teachers to meet this demand in the next decade the alarming fact is that in constructing demand-supply graphs we did not find it possible to make the supply and the demand lines cross for any year in the decade."
That means that, throughout the 1990s, according to all the current information available, there will not be a sufficent supply of physics teachers.
The bursary scheme has played a small part in arresting the decline, but not in settling the problem of obtaining the extra teachers needed to match supply and demand. At least 25 per cent. of physics teachers have not entered teaching after completing their bursary period.
The Secretary of State mentioned with pride that an extra 5 per cent. of chemistry teachers were being recruited because of the bursary scheme. He omitted to mention that in 1988 there was a 42 per cent. shortage of chemistry teachers. Therefore, we have hardly begun to tackle the problem. Despite all the Government's initiatives, that remains the fundamental problem : they are nowhere near meeting the extra demands being placed on our schools and teachers by the national curriculum, the Elton report, the need for more INSET because of the need for more teachers in subjects in which teachers are in short supply, and the new forms of teacher training which will make demands on teachers in post and take them out of the classroom. I presume that teachers will receive such training in schools. Many more demands are being made on teachers' time, which means that many teachers will be unable to teach as much as they have in the past. The Secretary of State was proud to mention the retraining. However, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals has made it clear that
"It is not possible to obtain the needed high-quality specialist teachers of A-level mathematics, physics, chemistry and modern languages by hastily retraining surplus numbers of, for example, biology, home economics and physical education teachers."
I wish to raise a number of points relating to Wales. First, on secondary science, in a survey to which 80 per cent. of schools replied, 46 per cent. of those schools identified the need for extra science staff, and 46 of those schools specified that they would need 53 teachers. Extrapolating that information on a national scale, at a conservative estimate, a further 900 teachers would be needed immediately. I say a conservative estimate, because, in Wales, we are relatively well off compared to many other areas.
In Mid-Glamorgan, only 14 per cent. of pupils in the fourth and fifth years take GCSE Welsh as a second language and 15 per cent. take French. We can imagine the number of extra teachers that will be needed when everyone has to learn those two subjects. In that county, 1,931 teachers were surveyed on the question of teaching Welsh in primary schools. Of those, 362 were fluent Welsh speakers and 161 were Welsh learners, yet 1,144 were teaching Welsh and relying on their ability to read the language and follow basic language courses. A total of 493 were unable to teach Welsh at all, and more than 600 said that they would be prepared to go on beginners' learning courses.
The county council applied for £120,000, with a package of schemes to enable Welsh to be taught throughout the county. The Welsh Office provided £30,000. Lip service that is paid to the extension of the Welsh language is not being implemented, because the
Column 114money is not being provided. It is the same throughout the education system. We badly need more money, because without it our education system is doomed to failure.
Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central) : We have heard an important admission from the Secretary of State tonight. He made two comments that verified all our assertions that there are teacher shortages : he actually used that phrase, and he also said that there were serious problems in our schools. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Stamford and Spalding (Mr. Davies), in his Trappist role, has decided that he knows more about the subject than the Secretary of State. Perhaps he is not alone in that : it appears that the Minister of State also feels that she knows more about it than her boss. She denies the Secretary of State's admission, which provides verification of our assumptions. When she replies to the debate, the Minister will also be replying to her own contribution at the annual conference of the Secondary Heads Association, which caused so much disquiet not just immediately to SHA but much more generally. The Secretary of State was good enough to recognise the extent of the current shortages and the mounting evidence to support our assertions : for instance, the report of the interim advisory committee, the substantial work of Her Majesty's
inspectorate--pointing yet again to shortages in science, maths, CDT and modern languages--and the HMI's important point that those shortages now extend beyond secondary schools into the primary sector, and challenge the ability to teach science as part of the national curriculum in the primary sector.
In a powerful contribution, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) talked about what the shortages meant for children in his constituency, who, in being denied access to a teacher, were being denied education. There are those absolute shortages, but there are also the hidden, suppressed shortages that are part of schools up and down the land, and part of the nature of our education. Too often, subjects are taught by non-specialist teachers. We know from figures given earlier from the secondary schools staffing survey that the problem has increased between 1984 and 1987. The Secretary of State has called himself Action Man, but some of that period fell during his stewardship, and there was still an increase in non-specialist staff teaching specialist subjects. Another problem is the shift in curriculum that goes on in too many of our schools because they simply cannot staff themselves with the right sort of teachers for the curriculum that is necessary for the children. It is interesting to note that when, only two weeks ago, we debated the Education (National Curriculum) (Attainment Targets and Programmes of Study in Science) Order 1989, the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), to justify 12.5 per cent. rather than 20 per cent. of the curriculum being devoted to science, said that the Government had to cut their cloth according to the acute shortage of teachers in science subjects.
All that is substantial evidence, and leads to a reduction in opportunities for our children and to a reduction of standards. All of those matters have been noticed by virtually everyone with any experience or knowledge of the education system. The only person who has missed out on this truth is the Minister of State. According to the Times
Column 115Educational Supplement editorial of 21 April, the Minister of State came up with comforting knowledge for all those schools suffering from teacher shortages. To the Minister of State it was simply a myth. The editorial stated that schools which had difficulty in recruiting good physicists, computing experts or modern linguists could now rest in peace. Their troubles were non-existent--just a myth, according to the Minister of State.
Of course, there were reactions to that statement. I do not know whether this is sanitised in the Department of Education and Science, but its press release at that conference from the Minister of State did not refer at all to the Minister's assertion that teacher shortages were simply a myth. [Interruption.] The Minister of State says that she did not say it. That is interesting, since the whole debate of the Secondary Heads Association centred on the use of her word "myth". The TES reporter also heard the word "myth". Since she has denied saying this, the Minister of State may want to have a word, for instance, with Mrs. Averil Burgess, who chairs the Girls Schools Association and is headmistress of South Hampstead high school for girls. She was at the conference and heard the Minister of State speak. Although I do not want to do Mrs. Burgess an injustice, I suspect that she is not a subscribed and paid-up member of the Labour party, but she said that to suggest there were no shortages flew in the face of the facts. As reported in yesterday's Times she went on to give evidence to the Minister of State that her school was advertising a religious education post. Mrs. Burgess said that a few years ago such a job would have attracted 10 or more applicants, but at the moment there was only one applicant.
According to the Minister of State, it is a myth to talk about teacher shortages, but according to virtually everyone else with some knowledge of education and of the problems confronting teachers it is not a myth.
The Secretary of State has said that he will bring forward a set of proposals and a series of actions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney said that this statement should be quantified by considering the number of additional teachers as a result of these measures. So far, those figures have not been given. Perhaps the Minister of State can give them at a later stage. However, we do know that, in its submission to the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts, the DES admitted that, in the middle of the 1990s, we will face an acute teacher shortage. The submission states that the teacher shortages will be in maths, physics, technology and modern languages, they will all be deep and they will all affect the ability to teach the national curriculum.
The figures given to the Select Committee were based on an increase of 20 per cent. recruitment into teaching. The Minister of State and the DES know that, in those specialised subjects, the Government has not been able to hit that target. Thus, the information given to the Select Committee was wrong, and will prove even more inaccurate as time goes on. We are facing an acute shortage of teachers and an acute shortage in certain subjects. The problem will grow and make it more difficult to deliver the national curriculum-- [Interruption.] I find the chorus from Conservative Members well orchestrated but, as usual, typically empty.
Column 116Earlier today, the Secretary of State said that this was a week of national celebration. Some of my hon. Friends and I wondered whether that was because the Secretary of State's rating in the opinion polls had increased from 2 per cent. to 4 per cent., or whether it was because this Government had been in power for 10 years. The crucial point is that the Government have had the stewardship of education in this country for the last 10 years and are responsible for the decline in teacher numbers and for the inability to deliver.
The Secretary of State referred to the amount of money that he had spent on promoting teaching as a profession. It would have been extremely useful if the Government and Conservative Back Benchers had thought about the damage that they have inflicted on teacher morale and teacher professionalism. During the early life of this Government, all their actions were systemically designed to undermine teacher professionalism. There was an attack on teacher professionalism on every possible occasion at Question Time. The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) got it right tonight when he referred to the stresses and the problems faced by members of the teaching profession. I hope that he will educate a few of his fellow Back Benchers, although I realise that there are difficulties in doing so.
It is typical of the way the Government have treated teachers that at all times they have refused to take teachers into their confidence and to plan with teachers the delivery of the Education Reform Act and the national curriculum. They have adopted at all times a stand-off relationship with teachers. At all times, they have undermined the professionalism of teachers. The facts demonstrate that this country is suffering from a teacher shortage. The facts suggest, moreover, that we are damaging educational opportunities and standards.
In its editorial of 21 April the Times Educational Supplement said :
"It is hardly odd in the circumstances that, in their polite way, the secondary heads gave Mrs. Rumbold the bird."
The House is too polite to give the Minister of State the bird. However, on this occasion, as on every other, her response will be inadequate and will not address the problems and challenges that face the country. We want to hear the Minister say that she recognises the problems and will act. We do not want to hear her congratulating herself and pretending that teacher shortages are a myth. The evidence clearly supports the opposite view.
The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold) : It has been an interesting and, at times, a thoughtful debate. Teacher supply is an important issue to which we must all accord the highest priority. More than that, it is an issue which the Department is handling in the most constructive and vigorous fashion.
We start from the foundation of what teaching is and what it is seen to be- -a demanding, creative, professional and rewarding occupation. It is already a popular career option. There can be no doubt about that. The myth that teaching is not attractive is given the lie by the fact that
Column 11725,000 people enter or re-enter the teaching profession each year. There is a substantially lower wastage rate in the teaching profession than in any other profession.
I listened with great interest to what the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) had to say. I waited for his suggestions for meeting teacher shortages. Not a sausage, not an idea came from the hon. Gentleman. He is as barren of ideas on this subject as he is on many subjects. Since he put so much credibility on the Times Educational Supplement, perhaps he read the article this week, which described how a mature man, who had been an engineer and had been made redundant, spent six years training as a maths teacher with computer studies. He has sought work with a local authority which ring fences its applications for jobs. His local authority will not employ him. It has strange ways of employing teachers. He has tried to get employment up and down the country but he has had no success. He has been offered only voluntary work. This is a man trained to teach maths. We have acknowledged shortages in teachers of maths, amongst other subjects, in this country. What do the hon. Gentlemen say about that?
I say thank you to my right hon. and hon. Friends for their contributions. My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) mentioned the report by the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers on the quality of teachers for the future and I was glad of that, because it is important, of course, that it has some encouraging messages. As one might have expected following particularly good recruitment in 1987, the output of
university-trained teachers increased over 1987, with an above average increase in the science shortage subjects and maths. Increases have not been at the expense of student quality, which continues to improve, and that is very good news indeed.
I also noted with approbation my hon. Friend's emphasis on the importance of changing what happens in initial teacher training so that the colleges match the training needed by people gaining experience in the classroom as well as outside, besides having good subject qualifications.
My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) talked of quality, and he will, I am sure, be glad to see the proposals for the initial teacher training for new young entrants which my right hon. Friend has just published. He is right to emphasise the importance of people who not only know their subject but have an ability to transmit that knowledge to children in the classroom. I noted also that he talked of teachers' pay, saying that teachers should be well paid. This is not something which the Government disagree with, especially as teachers over the past three years have had a 40 per cent. increase in pay. He makes a good point also in saying status is important.