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Teacher Shortages

7.19 pm

Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn) : I beg to move,

That this House, noting the widespread evidence from Her Majesty's Inspectorate, local education authorities, and many others, of severe and ever growing teacher shortages in many parts of the country, and in many subjects, and a low teacher morale across the country, condemns Her Majesty's Government for its complacency and its failure to take effective measures to reduce teacher shortages, or to raise the morale of the teaching profession, without which the delivery of the national curriculum educational standards and the provision of greater opportunities for children may be put at grave risk. The quality of education that children receive can only be as good as the teachers who provide it. That has been true at all times, but the need for teachers to be of the highest quality has never been greater than it is today.

After 10 years of the present Government standards of education have faltered, as last year's Select Committee report showed. We are losing out internationally : Britain now spends a lower proportion of its national wealth on education than it did a decade ago. Capital spending dropped by 27 per cent. between 1981 and 1988. Central Government current investment in education has been cut by 18 per cent. in real terms, leaving local authorities and ratepayers to make up the difference. There is a £3 billion backlog of repairs. Half our children are educated in sub-standard accommodation, a quarter in classrooms so bad that the physical conditions are affecting their education. Fewer than one in three of our 16-year-olds stay on in full-time education, compared with two in three in France, Japan and the United States.

After 10 years of neglect by the Government there is an overwhelming need to raise standards of education and achievement, especially for the 80 per cent. of pupils who do not follow the A-level route to university or to a first degree. That is challenge enough for our teaching force, but on top of that challenge--and the challenge that teachers have already had to meet with GCSE--come the new demands for even greater skill and dedication : the demands requiring teachers to cope with the local management of schools, which will alter fundamentally the way in which schools are administered, and the demands on them to cope with the national curriculum and the associated systems of assessment and testing. That is the challenge ; what is the reality? The reality today is a teacher supply crisis. In many areas and many subjects, there are not enough properly qualified teachers in post. In some areas there are not even enough teachers, and children are having to be sent home. With the present policies, the crisis will become worse as the demographic time bomb explodes. The age group from which new young teachers are recruited will decline by 25 per cent. between now and 1995. On some estimates, the percentage of new graduates needed in teaching would have to rise from 11 per cent. today to 30 per cent. in five years' time just to meet the demand for new teachers. While the available pool of new teachers shrinks, the school population will rise.

No one, I believe, disagrees with the claim that teacher supply is in crisis. Wastage is so high that, as the interim advisory committee on teachers' pay has commented, 3,000 newly qualified teachers do not go into teaching at

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all ; and, on the Minister of State's own figures, 28 per cent. of those who do--nearly three in 10--leave within five years and stay out of teaching altogether.

Evidence of the teacher supply crisis comes--yes--from the Government's opponents. It comes from the teaching unions, from Labour local authorities and from the parliamentary Labour party, which conducted its own survey of teacher shortages. But it also comes from those whose job is to advise the Government--from the interim advisory committee on teachers' pay, under the chairmanship of Lord Chilver, from Her Majesty's inspectorate and from Conservative local education authorities. It also comes from those who represent a group that the Government claim to be

empowering--parents--and from the daily experience of any of us who visit state schools and talk to those in them who are responsible for delivering the curriculum.

The evidence is overwhelming. The interim advisory committee report said that recruitment was

"worryingly below the Secretary of State's own target for secondary courses in mathematics, science, technology and (to a lesser extent) modern languages We recognise that there are currently a range of initiatives underway to tackle these difficulties, but the task remains enormous We continue to be impressed by teachers' commitment and their high professional standards ; but morale appears to be as low as we judged it to be last year."

Then there is the evidence of Her Majesty's inspectorate in the report "Standards in Education". The report says :

"primary education is critically short of teachers with expertise in science, technology and mathematics."

On secondary schools, the report says :

"In areas where the cost of living is highest, such as the inner and outer London Boroughs and the home counties, recruiting teachers is an ever- growing problem and some schools are becoming more and more dependent on probationary and temporary teachers. Specialist teacher shortages are most severe in mathematics, science and craft, design and technology (CDT)."

The Elton report made a similar point about the problems of low motivation and shortages.

And so it goes on. I understand that no one has told the Select Committee in its recent inquiry that teacher shortages are not causing a problem : no one, that is, except the Government. The response of the Minister of State to all that evidence and more has been to describe it as a myth. Speaking to the Secondary Heads Association conference two weeks ago, the Minister said : "We really do need to nail this myth that teaching has difficulty in securing recruits and in retaining them when it does secure them."

Let me ask the Minister a few questions about that myth. Did Her Majesty's inspectorate and the interim advisory committee invent their conclusions? Why--as a withering editorial in last week's Times Educational Supplement asked--are there 20 per cent. more job advertisements in the TES than there were at this time last year? As the paper commented :

"If there is no shortage, there is certainly a remarkably energetic hunt for teachers to make good the shortage which doesn't exist." What about the evidence from the Prime Minister's London borough of Barnet? A report from the chief education officer shows a near trebling of resignations in the past seven years. In secondary education the number of teachers resigning has risen from 7 per cent. six years ago to 18 per cent. last year, and in primary education it has risen from 5 per cent. six years ago to 14 per cent. last year.

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Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth) : If the position is as the hon. Gentleman describes, will he come out firmly in favour of licensed teachers in his speech?

Mr. Straw : No. I shall explain to the hon. Gentleman exactly why I do not believe that lowering standards for teachers will solve the problems.

The report from the Prime Minister's own Conservative authority spells out just what great strains the shortages are imposing on teachers in the borough, and how they are reflected in shortages in other Conservative boroughs such as Harrow, Havering and Redbridge--shortages that in many instances are as bad as, or worse than, those in Labour authorities.

What about the figures that show consistently that the Government have failed to hit the targets that they have set for recruitment to training in shortage subjects? According to the interim advisory committee, the number of applicants for mathematics courses last year was down to 27 per cent. below the target. For physics the figure was 23 per cent., for CDT 21 per cent., for modern languages 13 per cent. and for chemistry 42 per cent. Yet the Minister of State tells us that the shortages are all a myth.

Let me quote the latest figures from the graduate teacher training registry comparing this year's applicants with last year's. They show a 2 per cent. decline in applicants for biology, a 17 per cent. decline for mathematics and a 24 per cent. decline for physics.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher) : Does the hon. Gentlemen agree that the shortages to which he has referred are essentially a regional problem, as is shown by the written answer reported in column 326 of Hansard on 20 January 1989? As they are a regional problem, does the hon. Gentleman agree with regional pay bargaining?

Mr. Straw : No, I do not. If Conservative Members read the IAC reports for this year and last year, they will see that the committee, under the chairmanship of the Conservative Lord Chilver, considered that question and came down against regional pay for reasons which they set out.

If there is no problem--if it is all a myth--why are private schools now facing teacher shortages for the first time? Why is the Secretary of State agreeing that city technology colleges should pay their teachers 5 per cent. more than national pay scales, simply to recruit teachers?

The Minister of State says that it is all a myth. However, the Secretary of State is not that crude ; his line has been different. He says that there has been a slight problem. However, in another orgy of self-congratulation, he claims to be tackling the problem with vigorous and effective measures. As ever, these measures are principally cosmetic. Of course, we should expect no more than cosmetics from a man who once worked as a consultant to Avon Cosmetics Limited. The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) looks embarrassed, but it is a fact that the Secretary of State once worked for Avon Cosmetics. That occupation fits the man, because most of the measures that he has brought forward are cosmetic and will not solve the problem.

There are major shortages of teachers in many parts of the country and in many subjects, and the position will get worse. On the best assumptions of the Secretary of State's own Department there will be a shortfall of 1,000 maths teachers, 1,500 physics teachers, 2,000 chemistry teachers, 2,000 music teachers, 2,500 modern language teachers, and

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6,000 teachers of craft, design and technology. Since those shortages will not be evenly spread, but will be concentrated, in some respects randomly, in particular schools and particular areas, the figures from the Secretary of State's own Department mean that in some schools there will not be sufficient teachers to deliver key subjects of the national curriculum.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford) : The hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) intervened about shortages. Does the experience of my hon. Friend confirm my own, which is that inevitably, in inner city areas, even outside the south-east--and we accept that there is a particular shortage problem in the south-east--because teaching is more difficult and demoralising, shortages are beginning to appear at a high level in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and so on?

Mr. Straw : I accept what my hon. Friend says, but I also make the point that shortages, as the Labour party's survey showed, are spreading across subjects and across the country. The figures I have quoted from the Department's evidence to the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts are almost certainly an underestimate of the likely shortages by 1995, based, as they are, on unsupportable assumptions, such as a 20 per cent. increase in target levels in training for physics, maths, technology, and modern languages, when the existing targets of 20 per cent. below that have never been reached except in one subject in one year in the past three years. To all these problems, the Secretary of State has no effective policy response for his proposal for licensed teachers. That proposal raises the greatest suspicion that the Government will solve the problem of teacher shortages by bringing in sub-standard teachers on the cheap. I have made it clear that we favour a number of methods of entry to teacher training. None of us believes that the present structure of B Eds and postgraduate certificates of education should last for ever. If it is accepted that a high quality profession is needed to meet the challenges of the 1990s, it is madness to depress the standards and level of qualification below the graduate standard which has so painstakingly been reached for entry into the profession.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) : Is the hon. Gentleman aware that for many years local education authorities have employed instructors who have not had the same academic qualifications as qualified teachers? They have employed instructors in CDT, home economics and other spheres who have been excellent teachers. As a result of using these people, we have been able to staff many departments. Will the hon. Gentleman not insult these people?

Mr. Straw : Of course, I am aware that the local authorities have had instructors, but no one has pretended, least of all the instructors, that they are qualified graduate teachers. What is now proposed is that people who are instructors, as it were, should become qualified graduate teachers without training. We have not had from this Government proposals for licensed doctors or nurses, but apparently the education--not of the children of the Secretary of State or of Cabinet members--of our children is to be left to people who are underqualified or unqualified.

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I ask the Secretary of State whether the licensed teacher system will produce teachers of graduate status and standard. If so, will the teachers get a degree, and who will validate it? How will the system operate? This afternoon, I asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, "Since the Secretary of State has said that all that is needed to go on to this licensed teacher scheme is a two-year experience of higher education, does that not mean that someone who has been in college for two years, following a Bachelor of Education or a PGCE but has failed his teaching practice, may be admitted to a licensed teacher scheme?" The Minister could not answer the question this afternoon, but perhaps the Secretary of State can answer it this evening.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North) : Does my hon. Friend agree that, instead of looking at this licensing system, perhaps the Secretary of State might look at a suggestion made by one of my constituents who is a teacher-trainer and who suggests that, instead of having one intake on PGCE courses in a year, there should be two intakes, one in the summer and one midway through the year, so that the supply of trained teachers could be increased considerably within any given year?

Mr. Straw : That is the kind of suggestion which the Government should examine to introduce greater flexibility, with different entry routes into teaching but the same graduate exit route. Reference has been made to licensed teacher status. I will quote the favourite teacher trade union of the Secretary of State--not the National Union of Teachers, the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers or the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association, but the Professional Association of Teachers whose general secretary, Mr. Peter Dawson, wrote to me about the licensed teacher scheme and authorised me to quote from his letter. He wrote :

"My comment concerns the introduction of licensed teachers. We think the proposals might very well help to overcome teacher shortages, if only we knew what they were. Time and time again, we have raised with Kenneth Baker the question of where the training is actually to come in on-the-job training arrangements. No kind of answer that makes any sense has yet been received. One is left with the impression that it is not so much on-the-job training that we are going to get but on-the-job sinking or swimming. Writing government policy on the back of a menu over dinner is all very well, but it does call for further thought next morning We are still waiting for Kenneth Baker to complete his licensed teacher proposals. Perhaps he has forgotten."

I hope that the Secretary of State will provide us with a bit more detail about how the licensed teacher scheme will operate and whether it will produce teachers of a graduate standard. If they are to be graduates, will they get degrees and how will they be validated? For about four months, I have been pressing the Secretary of State to publish the secondary schools staffing survey. After a number of parliamentary questions, he promised that it would be made available at the end of April. It was made available at 6.15 this evening. I am not surprised that the Secretary of State has done his best to sit on it, because the secondary staffing survey of 1988 shows that the situation, compared with 1974, is worsening. It shows that the proportion of teachers teaching their particular subjects who do not have a post A-level qualification in that subject has increased since 1984 from 51 to 53 per cent. In details about long-term absences, it shows that, in the survey week, 55 per cent. of schools were affected by long-term teacher absences, on top of 96 per

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cent. affected by short-term teacher absence. Of those absences the principal cause was not, as Conservative Members have pretended, that teachers were undertaking in-service training courses, which accounted for only 32 per cent. In fact, 70 per cent. were absent for other reasons. The other reasons are not given, and perhaps the Secretary of State has more details, but I suggest that the other reasons have to do with teacher shortages. The survey also shows that, in the survey week, 52 per cent. of schools were affected by vacancies.

The Government's record on teachers has been one of complacency, neglect and abuse. Pay is by no means everything but, as the interim advisory committee said, it is doubtful whether the pay level it recommended, constrained as it was by the Treasury, would "secure the requisite degree of motivation among the generality of teachers at this crucial time."

The dedication of teachers is high, but morale is low and has not been helped by the Secretary of State's refusal so far to restore collective bargaining rights to teacher unions.

There is, however, a central problem that goes beyond pay and conditions. It lies at the heart of the teacher shortage crisis. Teachers are not valued by the Government. Instead, teachers have been used as an easy butt. They have been used and abused by the Conservative Right as a convenient excuse for explaining away the Government's failure to invest in our children.

Take, for example, the now notorious letter to local education authorities from the Department of Education and Science, giving them advice on who should be invited to the Buckingham palace reception and garden party to celebrate 150 years of state education. The letter said :

"They must be people likely to behave properly and bring credit to their particular aspect of the education service."

When all this came out--but not before--the Secretary of State said that he had not written the letter but that he regretted it. He did not say that he was sorry ; he said that he regretted it.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett : Are they not the same thing?

Mr. Straw : No, they are not.

The Secretary of State is responsible for the generation of the climate in which, to quote the report of his own chief inspector : "too many teachers feel that their profession and its work are misjudged and seriously undervalued."

The Secretary of State says that teacher shortages are a myth and that his measures are effective.

Let me read finally from a letter that I received last week from a constituent. It says :

"Dear Mr. Straw,

I thought that you might be interested to learn that my husband and I will be taking up teaching posts"


"from 1st September 1989. We are both regarded as valuable and experienced members of staff in our respective schools, but have found the deteriorating conditions, the increasing workloads and paltry pay rises unacceptable. Between us we have almost thirty years experience, but can see no way forward We are not moving for the money"


"our conditions of service will be far superior and we think that our efforts will be better appreciated. At least we will not have to listen to Baker constantly telling us how incompetent and inadequate we are!"

Mr. Nicholas Bennett : Where are they going?

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Mr. Straw : They are going to teach in the Third world--in the Dominican Republic. They happen to believe that their conditions in the Dominican Republic will be better than they are in Bradford. There are serious teacher shortages. There is a crisis of recruitment, retention and morale of good quality teachers. That crisis can and will only get worse until we have a Government who are committed to our state education service and who are willing properly to invest in this nation's children--our future.

7.42 pm

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Baker) : I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof :

notes the importance of recruiting sufficient well qualified teachers, in particular for the implementation of the national curriculum ; welcomes the vigorous measures which the Government has introduced to this end ; welcomes the clear indication of the success of these measures ; welcomes the measures the Government is taking to make teacher training more rigorous, more practical and more responsive to the needs of schools ; and commends the Government's intention to continue to take whatever action is needed to ensure a continuing supply of high quality teachers.'.

I welcome this debate. I am glad to have this opportunity to put on record what we have done, what we are doing and what we intend to do to counter the problem of teacher shortages.

First, I should like to pay tribute to the teaching profession and to the many good teachers that we have in our schools. Theirs is a responsible and challenging job. Teaching is not easy. Not everybody can do it. However, teaching is an attractive and rewarding career. That is why people are coming forward in increasing numbers to train as teachers. That is why we have many first-class teachers in our schools. I am confident that all hon. Members will want to join me in paying tribute to them.

I listened carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), but, as far as I am aware, he made no concrete suggestion for dealing with the shortage that he delineated. I shall therefore start with a few facts. There are more teachers relative to pupils than ever before. The overall pupil to teacher ratio, at 17 : 1, is at its lowest ever. The proportion of large classes has come down over the last 10 years. The proportion of pupils taught in classes of 31 or more has fallen by nearly 12 percentage points in primary schools and by nearly 9 percentage points in secondary schools. Some 25,000 teachers enter or re-enter the profession each year. Less than 1 per cent. of teachers leave the profession for other paid employment.

Recruitment to initial teacher training was a record in 1988--up by 5 per cent. over 1987. In primary, it was particularly good--12 per cent. up. The level of applications for initial training, starting in September of this year, is even higher. In primary it is up by 14 per cent. over the same time in 1988. In secondary, it is also up--by 1 per cent. Another indication of the popularity of teaching is that 10 per cent. of all graduates qualify as teachers.

The background--the overall picture--is encouraging. There is no shortage of people wanting to be teachers, yet there are teacher shortages in certain areas and in certain subjects, particularly maths and science. I must tell the House that there has never been a sufficient number of good, well-qualified teachers of maths and science. Even

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10 years ago, when there were some 9,000 unemployed teachers, there were not enough maths and science teachers.

The problem is not, however, confined to teaching. The engineering and electronics industries complain of shortages of people with maths and science qualifications. As fast as the education system can produce such people, they are snapped up. We need to increase the number of young people leaving school who are educated to advanced level in maths and science subjects. Anybody who has read Corelli Barnett's "The Audit of War" will know that that is a long-term and enduring problem that has affected our country for the better part of this century. It is something to which I know all hon. Members will wish to give the highest priority.

That is why the national curriculum is so important. In future, every youngster will have to take science--which will include physics and chemistry, not just biology--and technology up to the age of 16. Many more youngsters than now will have the opportunity to go on to A-levels and AS- levels, which makes it even more important to ensure that our schools get the teachers that they need.

I hope the House recognises from what I have said that the question of teacher supply is a complex one. It is also of fundamental importance.

Of course I realise that the overall figures that I have given--the global picture--are of little comfort when a particular school cannot find a particular teacher to teach a particular subject. I accept that. Three years ago, therefore, I set out my proposals for an action programme. The hon. Member for Blackburn asked me whether I am tackling the problem of teacher shortages. Clearly it does not suit his purpose to take yes for an answer. I remind the House that I have backed up the action programme that I set up over three years ago with expenditure, so far, of over £50 million.

Since I launched the action programme, the regional dimension of teacher shortages has changed. I think that hon. Members in all parts of the House now recognise that fact. It was recognised during the interventions in the speech of the hon. Member for Blackburn. There are particular problems in recruiting both secondary and primary teachers in London and the south- east. In my memorandum to the Select Committee, I showed how I was taking action to counter the problems as they developed.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough) : The right hon. Gentleman has just told us about an action programme that he set up three years ago. I am on the Select Committee to which he referred. Why is it that every group that gave evidence to the Select Committee here and every group that gave evidence to us when we made visits described the shortage as a looming crisis? Will he explain why there is such a crisis after putting in hand an action programme? In three years it ought surely to have borne some fruit.

Mr. Baker : May I ask the hon. Gentleman to wait for a few moments? I shall answer his question when I deal with the action programmes that I have put in hand and with the ones that I intend to put in hand.

This is a serious issue. I am sometimes accused of being complacent, of doing nothing. That is an uncharacteristic

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accusation to level against me. I am not known for doing nothing. I brought the issue on to the public agenda, I am taking action, and I shall continue to take action.

May I deal with the five specific areas where I have taken action, or where I shall be taking action? The first relates to the number of new places for initial teacher training. Last Friday, I announced that the intake numbers to initial teacher training courses for 1990-91 in England and Wales would be increased. There will be an extra 2,000 places in 1990 over and above 1989.

As regards the spread of those increases, there is an overall increase of 9 per cent. above the 1989 target, 34 per cent. in modern languages, 15 per cent. in science, 10 per cent. in craft, design and technology and 11 per cent. in maths. This means the teacher training institutions will have the money to recruit and train more students in these subjects. We have also set aside 450 places for new ideas for types of courses in modern languages, music and chemistry. We did this in 1987 and 1988 for new courses in science and maths, which has led to some new good ideas for courses aimed at new target groups of students.

The first need, as I think is recognised, is to attract new young people into the teaching profession. Apart from increasing the number of teaching places in 1990, to reinforce the attractions of teaching in the shortage subjects I introduced the bursary scheme. The bursary is tax-free, non- means-tested and is now worth £1,300. It is available for those students who wish to take a postgraduate certificate of education course-- that is, one year extra at college--after they have graduated. The scheme was originally for trainees in maths, physics and CDT, and it has been successful in reversing the declining trend of recruitment to these declining subjects.

In 1985, there was a clear decline in CDT, and there were just 452 people coming forward for PGCE. That is now up to 764. The total in these three subjects--maths, physics and CDT--was about 1,685 ; it is now 2,400 a year. This shows that these bursaries are attractive, as one would expect.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) : Does the Secretary of State not accept, however, that the bursary scheme has been of minimal impact, not least because in some of the areas where it was intended to act as a remedy--for example, physics--it has fallen far below its target of achievement, as the Secretary of State and his Ministers have accepted across the Dispatch Box in this House?

Mr. Baker : It arrested a decline. There was a rapid decline in these three subjects. Taking physics, the figure in 1985 was 273 ; in 1988, it was 456. I am not satisfied with that figure. We need more teachers in these areas, so earlier this year I extended the scheme to chemistry. When I made my announcement on 27 January applications for chemistry were 27 per cent. down over the same time last year. The House, I know, will welcome the news that applications are now 5 per cent. up over this time last year. This is a considerable improvement. It shows that my bursary scheme is working, and there is little doubt that without it there would be far fewer students in shortage areas.

I turn now to mismatch, which I know is recognised by members of the Select Committee. By that I mean teachers trained in one subject teaching another- -teachers of biology, for example, teaching physics or perhaps teachers

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of maths taking computer studies. Some examples of mismatch are more serious than others. However, there is no doubt that there are too many teachers of some subjects and not enough of others. This is brought out well in the staffing survey which I published this evening, from which the hon. Member for Blackburn quoted, and he is quite right that mismatch has increased slightly between 1984 and 1988.

However, the survey indicates that the increase was not due to an aggregate shortfall in teacher supply, or to a fall in teachers with qualifications in shortage subjects ; figures for physics, chemistry and CDT all increased, and percentages in maths have barely changed. Rather, the mismatch has arisen probably because of difficulties of deployment, which are greater during a period of falling rolls. Shortage subjects were not particularly affected ; indeed, mismatch was unchanged in maths and down in CDT.

There is no doubt, as I said, that there are too many teachers of some subjects and not enough of others. The situation can be improved considerably by means of in-service training. I have devoted £35.5 million over two years to support in-service training in shortage subjects. That is a substantial sum of money. I have placed in the Library today the key results of the secondary staffing survey. These show that mismatch continues to be a problem. I urge authorities and schools to continue to make use of in-service training support to counter mismatch.

An interesting finding of the staffing survey shows that the implementation of the national curriculum for a reasonable time in September in secondary schools from years one to three will not greatly change the pattern of curriculum provision in those schools. That is, of course, only to be expected, as the national curriculum builds on existing best practice.

Mr. Straw : The Secretary of State spoke about the relatively limited impact of the national curriculum in years one to three. What about years four and five?

Mr. Baker : The hon. Gentleman picked up the cue from his hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett). I heard it myself. The position on years four and five is certainly more complex, because we will then require more young people to take science, modern languages and CDT up to the age of 16. This is a problem we are trying to address.

I find it staggering that Opposition Front Bench Members have no ideas whatsoever. As the ventriloquist was cued by the hon. Member who will wind up, I hope we will have a stunning list of proposals and ideas as to how teacher supply can be increased.

I next deal with the other important source of recruitment to the teaching profession, which is re-entrants--former teachers seeking to come back into the profession. I emphasise the importance of former teachers already returning to teaching in considerable numbers : over half of new teaching appointments are taken by returning teachers. We must try to maintain and, if we can, increase this important source of recruits to teaching. There are some excellent and effective examples of measures aimed at returners : the "keep in touch" schemes, which help teachers out of service to keep abreast of changes in schools ; career break schemes, which guarantee a post when a teacher returns ; refresher training courses,

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for which a grant is available under the training grants scheme ; part-time work and job sharing ; and the provision of creche and nursery places. The solution lies in the hands of the local education authority and school employers, but much more can be done than at present, and I intend to do much to publicise the best practice so other authorities can follow it.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton) rose --

Mr. Baker : If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I know that many Members want to speak in what is a short debate.

Teaching is an attractive career for many mature entrants, both those looking for a career change and those seeking to re-enter the employment market. Four thousand five hundred mature entrants enter teaching each year for the first time. It is an important source of recruitment to the teaching profession. This is in addition to those who have re-entered teaching after a career break. With their experience and expertise, they have a great deal to offer schools and pupils.

I have offered assistance to this group. I have initiated the development of new courses in the shortage subjects : a shortened, two-year B Ed course and a part-time PGCE course. I have also funded a programme of 11 short taster courses. These give the mature entrants a feel for teaching and individual counselling and advice before they make the decision to become a teacher. I am also trying to encourage more mature people to enter teaching from the ethnic minorities. Across the country, 11 new initial courses aimed at the ethnic minorities have been set up with my support, providing some 200 training places. I am also supporting, at a cost of £30,000, a pilot project in Newham, which is helping men and women from these communities to enter teaching. Please wake up the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and tell him that.

I turn to licensed teachers, a policy also aimed at mature entrants. This scheme is designed to replace the range of existing routes by which teachers can be awarded qualified status without completing a standard course of initial training. It will be more rigorous than the existing system because it will ensure, as the existing system does not, that unqualified teachers receive the training they need and demonstrate their competence in the classroom before being granted qualified teacher status. It should also make it easier for mature people to enter teaching. I make no apology for that ; I have already explained the importance of mature entrants. But let me repeat : licensed teachers will be trained. They must be over 26. They must have had two years or more in higher education. That hardly adds up to a soft touch or a second-rate route into teaching.

The hon. Member for Blackburn asked me about the two years in higher education. In the consultation document that I shall be putting out and consulting widely on, we envisage two years to cover graduates and those with HNCs and HNDs. The hon. Gentleman asked me whether someone who had been sacked from two courses would be eligible. We do not intend to include such persons, but there might be cases in which someone has taken two years of a course--not necessarily a B Ed but perhaps a graduate course--and perhaps for family

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