We set out proposals for a general teachers' council.
But a crisis requires crisis measures. First, the city technology colleges programme must be halted and the millions of pounds of public money--
Mr. Straw : I have given way enough ; I will not give way. The city technology colleges programme must be halted and the millions of pounds of public money earmarked for CTCs must be directed to the immediate needs of state schools.
Secondly, an emergency programme to recruit and retain teachers must be introduced. That must mean an improved and nationally funded system of housing allowances for teachers in high-cost areas. It must also mean proper allowances for child care throughout the country to enable women-- and some men--to go back to teaching when they have young children.
We need an interim pay increase across the country for all teachers, which I understand the Council of Local Educational Authorities is to consider tomorrow and for
Column 238which Conservative-controlled Essex county council has already called. Thirdly, free collective bargaining should be restored as soon as possible.
Mr. Straw : No, I will not. I am coming to the end of my speech. Meanwhile, fourthly, there should be an absolute guarantee by the Secretary of State and the Treasury that no preconditions will be imposed--no cash limit--on the recommendations of the interim advisory committee.
Some of us know the anxiety caused to parents and children by the shortage of teachers, when parents cannot be told, just four days before term ends, who is to teach their child next term or even whether that child will have full-time schooling. The Secretary of State seeks to deny that there is a crisis. If there is no crisis, will the Secretary of State guarantee that, next term, no child will be without adequate, properly qualified, permanent teaching? There will be crisis enough in those children's lives if he cannot make that guarantee.
According to the newspapers, every Cabinet Minister is now looking to his future, but for this Secretary of State we should look to his past. The man who invented the poll tax and who suggested water privatisation is now hoping to clear off--cut and run--once again, to leave another Minister to sort out his mess, while Britain's children suffer from it.
Three years ago, in August 1986, just shortly after his appointment, the Secretary of State told Woman's Own magazine :
"of course, I can make it better--if I can't, I might as well throw in the towel and resign".
It has not got better ; it has got much worse. As one head teacher put it to me earlier this week, "It's far worse than when the strikes were on ; there is now a real sense of hopelessness." Only for one group has it got better--the private schools. The Secretary of State has made himself the recruiting sergeant for the private schools. What makes his smug insufferable complacency all the worse is that he is ready to see the schooling of other people's children disrupted and put at risk in a way that he would never accept for his children.
In many schools, in many areas, the situation is now desperate. Britain's parents do not want to hear soft soap from the Secretary of State ; they want action--an emergency programme of the kind that I have described. Britain's children deserve no less.
"congratulates Her Majesty's Government for its coherent and energetic programme to tackle teacher shortages, notably licensed teachers and articled teachers ; welcomes the increase in the number of initial teacher training places ; notes the substantial improvement in teachers' pay in the lifetime of this Government which contrasts with the modest increase under the last Labour Government ; and urges local education authorities to use the flexibility available to them to recruit and retain a sufficient and well-qualified number of teachers."
This is yet another debate on the important matter of teacher supply. The House is now used to exchanges across the Dispatch Boxes between the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and myself. I must say that I shall miss him when he is moved to other responsibilities on the
Column 239Labour Front Bench. It is about time that the Labour Front Bench was reshuffled so that it could have an education spokesman with original and constructive ideas.
This is the second time in recent weeks that we have debated this matter. It is one that merits further debate and it also requires proper action. In our previous debate I set out the action that the Government were taking and which I propose to take. Obviously, Opposition Members have ears, but they hear not--they did not hear what I said on 2 May. Obviously, Opposition Members have eyes, but they see not--they did not read in Hansard what I said on 2 May. However, over the weekend I took the trouble to read the speech of the hon. Member for Blackburn in the 2 May debate. I spent 20 minutes reading it, and it was a completely wasted 20 minutes. The speech was negative. There were no new proposals in it, as there have been no real new proposals this afternoon.
Let me make it clear that teacher supply is a serious issue. We must get the teachers we need for our schools. We need good teachers, well qualified with the teaching skills to engage, excite and stimulate their pupils. I do not employ teachers.
Mr. Baker : If I could just get further launched into my speech, I shall be glad to give way to my hon. Friend, because he intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for Blackburn to make the point that that speech lacked originality and ideas.
Local education authorities and schools have responsibility for employing teachers. The Secretary of State's role is to ensure that sufficient numbers of qualified teachers come forward for recruitment by the LEAs and schools.
On 2 May I spelled out all the measures that the Government have taken in the past three or four years. They amount to a formidable list. If we had not taken the action that we took three years ago, the position would be infinitely worse today. For example, we have introduced bursaries. The hon. Member for Blackburn used to sneer about this, but he is not sneering now. The bursaries for maths, physics, chemistry and technology teachers have arrested the decline in applications for those posts. When I extended the bursaries to chemistry teachers earlier this year, the decline was arrested and applications to become chemistry teachers are up 13 per cent. compared with the same period last year. Of course, that is not sufficient and there will still be a shortage of chemistry teachers, but the bursaries have none the less arrested the decline. In addition, I have increased the number of initial teacher training places by 2,000. I made that announcement only a fortnight or so ago. I have also announced an education support grant of £4 million over two years to make teacher recruitment packages attractive-- Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West) rose--
[Interruption.] Yes, I shall give way because I enjoy debate. The question of teacher supply is vital. It is crucial. It is not helped by defeatism and talk of crisis. All that the hon. Member for Blackburn does is to seek to spread gloom and doom. He talks up the issue. If he is not careful he will turn a difficult situation into a crisis and I am sure
Column 240that that is not what he wants. I do not believe for a moment that he objects to the various measures that I have announced or to the other measures that we have taken in the past three years. The hon. Gentleman owes the House a more effective way of putting forward his own ideas for dealing with the problem of teacher supply.
Ms. Harriet Harman (Peckham) rose--
Mr. Morgan : I am grateful to the Secretary of State for allowing me to comment on one of the claims that he has just made. He says that he has increased by 2,000 the number of teaching places available. If that is so, will he explain why, winging its way to University college, Cardiff today, as I understand it, is a letter rejecting its bid to be allowed to preserve initial teacher training there in spite of the fact that it is consistently over-subscribed and that this year it had to close its application list at Christmas because of the number of students wishing to join even though it had a death sentence hanging over it?
What guidance has the Secretary of State given to the Universities Funding Council about which institutions are to be given the 2,000 extra places? Can he explain how a place as popular as University college, Cardiff, which could make a major contribution to solving the teacher supply crisis, has been cut off and will be stone dead in a year's time?
Mr. Baker : I have increased the number of teacher training places by a net figure of 2,000. Within that 2,000 are some adjustments as regards teacher subjects. Some subjects are being expanded, such as those in the technology and science area, and others have to be reduced. I will check the exact figures and the position of University college, Cardiff, and perhaps return to that matter later.
Mr. Baker : Some courses are reduced, but overall there has been an increase of 2,000 teacher training places. We have to make adjustments because there is a surplus of teachers for some subjects and school courses and it would be absurd to continue to train people if there are surplus teachers in those subjects. We must be concerned about the areas in which there are shortages.
I shall now report to the House about where we stand today and give the overall position. I turn first to the pupil-teacher ratio, which the hon. Member for Blackburn mentioned and which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister also referred to at Question Time today when she scored yet another bull's-eye against the Leader of the Opposition. There are more teachers relative to pupils now than ever before. The overall pupil-teacher ratio is at its lowest ever, at 17 : 1. When we came into office--when the last Labour Government finished their period of office--the ratio was 19 : 1. This is having its effect on provision in schools. I remind the House that resources per pupil have increased in real terms by 37 per cent. since we took responsibility for education in 1979 when we came into office. That is good news and I am sure that hon. Members of all parties will welcome it.
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) rose
From the way in which the matter is presented by the hon. Member for Blackburn--and, I am sad to say, by some union leaders--one would think that nobody wanted to become a teacher. The plain fact is that about 27,000 people become teachers each year. That number of people find it a satisfying and rewarding profession.
Mr. Harry Greenway rose --
Mr. Hind : My right hon. Friend will agree that what we have been offered by Opposition Members, in contrast to his own positive planning, are the banalities of a recruitment drive. Housing allowances are not a new idea. The concept of nursery allowances has been around for some time. As for no cash limits on teacher's pay, we have no idea how much the Opposition would spend or how they would target the money to produce recruits and better quality teachers.
Mr. Baker : That is true. The hon. Member for Blackburn has produced a vapid document containing his proposals for education policy, but he has not made the mistake of attempting to cost it because he knows that hidden in the document, along with various statements that have been made by his hon. Friends since it was published, are some extremely expensive commitments. Although the hon. Gentleman has not costed it, we are beginning to do so. Mr. Straw rose--
Ms. Harman rose--
There was a survey in The Financial Times last week of the attitudes of university and polytechnic students towards various professions. The most popular profession was the media, but after that came teaching, well before the law, medicine and financial services. So there is a great deal of interest and commitment among people wishing to go into teaching.
The figures for recruitment to initial teacher training courses were particularly good in 1988, with the recruitment of young people into initial teacher training up by 5 per cent. over the 1987 level. Nearly 20,200 students entered initial teacher training last year, 1, 000 more than in 1987.
In the primary sector, the figures for recruitment to initial teacher training have been notably good. Nearly 11,400 students were recruited to primary courses last year. That was 9 per cent. above the target that we had set. I am glad to tell the House that this year applications by young people to go into initial teacher training this September and October are 11 per cent. up on last year. That represents 5,500 more. On the secondary side, applications are up by just over 1 per cent., and on the primary side, they are up by 15 per cent. That is good news which will be welcomed by hon. Members in all parts of the House.
Mr. Straw : As things are so good, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to offer a guarantee to every parent that, come September, all children in Britain will have adequate and sufficient properly qualified teaching--yes or no?
Mr. Baker : My responsibility under education law is to ensure that there is a flow and good supply of well qualified teachers so that LEAs and governors can recruit and employ them. I am dischaging that responsibility under the legislation to ensure that the schools are staffed to supply the national curriculum. I have taken measures in respct of initial teacher training and in-service training to ensure that teacher training recruitment levels are higher than they have been for the last three years.
Ms. Harman rose --
Mr. Baker : The hon. Member for Blackburn said on radio this morning, and repeated at the Dispatch Box, that there was no absolute shortage of teachers. That is the beginning of wisdom for him. It is only the beginning, and we live in hope.
Ms. Harman rose --
Mr. Baker : I will give way to the hon. Lady in due course. At the moment I am dealing with the hon. Member for Blackburn, who was right to say that there was no shortage of teachers. Apart from making it attractive for young people to go into initial teacher training, we must also make it attractive for the many trained teachers--the 300, 000 to 400,000 who have been trained as teachers, and particularly married women re-entrants--to return to the profession. In the last three years there has been a steady increase each year. This year, about 15,500 former teachers will be returning to teaching. Mr. Straw rose --
Mr. Baker : I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for not giving way to him again immediately. I must allow a few hon. Members other than himself to intervene. Indeed, I probably owe it to the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) to allow her to intervene first.
Ms. Harman : Parents in Southwark will be shocked at the complacency with which the right hon. Gentleman appears to be treating the situation. Will he take this opportunity to guarantee to parents in Southwark that there will be sufficient teachers for all children intending to start school in September to have teachers in their classrooms, and that we shall not see next term what we have seen this term--junior school children being sent home for up to two days per week because there are not enough teachers? Will the right hon. Gentleman give that guarantee to parents in Southwark who are desperately concerned about this issue?
Mr. Baker : The hon. Lady should criticise ILEA for its complacency in inner London-- [Interruption.] --and I will explain why. ILEA has responsibility for the recruitment of teachers in Southwark, as in other parts of inner London. Only in the last three months has ILEA produced a teacher recruitment package. ILEA has been in existence for 25 years. Only now has it produced a package covering, for example, creches--to which the hon. Member for Blackburn referred--and making it easier for married women to return to teaching with better training.
Column 243It makes it easier for them by giving them greater credit for the number of years they have been away looking after their families. ILEA has got around to doing that only in the last three months, and as a result I have some good news for the hon. Member for Peckham about teacher shortages in London. I have been chided in the past by the hon. Member for Blackburn about vacancies and particularly about resignations. He has always claimed that the vacancy figures for teachers, which are published each January, do not give the latest position because the resignations relate to the end of May. The figures that we produce each January show that the number of vacancies in January this year in the primary sector for the country as a whole were just over 3,100 vacant posts nationwide. That is out of a total of 171,000 primary teachers, which means that the vacancy rate is under 2 per cent. It varies enormously. Even in London there were authorities with low numbers of vacant primary posts--for example, Bromley, Harrow, Kingston, Richmond and Sutton--whereas in London as a whole there were vacancies for 1,300 out of 24,600 teachers, and the problem is more grave in the east end of London.
In the secondary sector--I am dealing with January ; I will come to May shortly--the number of vacancies rose by 400 between 1988 and 1989 to 2,400, but that is out of a total of 192,000 posts, the vacancies representing 1.3 per cent. of total teaching posts. That is not an alarming proportion. Again, the problems were far greater in London than elsewhere.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : Is my right hon. Friend aware that Blackburn runs its affairs so badly that DHSS recipients and the unemployed come crowding into Morecambe, crowding out the schools there, so that my right hon. Friend's constituents and mine are deprived of the chance of going to the schools that their parents attended?
Mr. Baker : There is further evidence why Blackburn is so bad. I wish to deal with the question of vacancies, because the hon. Member for Blackburn has attacked me about vacancies and resignations, remembering that resignations come later in the year. Vacancies were not at alarming proportions in January, as I have pointed out. What has happened since?
The hon. Member for Blackburn made great play of the resignations position, and quoted from a reply that I gave showing that the Department's figures for resignations are two years out of date. That is correct, because the figures are provided by LEAs late in the day. The hon. Gentleman wrote asking if I would ask my officials to telephone the LEAs to discover the resignation position. Ever willing to be helpful to Jack, I asked my officials to telephone several LEAs, particularly in London. They found that several authorities were unable to say what the position on resignations was. They had not collated the figures but said that they would send the figures to us.
Mr. Baker : No, some were Labour authorities. The position was largely as expected in the other LEAs. In some the position was no worse than last year and in others it was worse. The picture was patchy.
Column 244We had figures from eight out of the 10 ILEA divisions. Last year there were 1,908 resignations and at the end of May this year there were 1,439. That was a reduction of nearly a quarter. A figure of about 1,400 resignations is unacceptably high, but I say to the hon. Member for Peckham that it is up to ILEA to put forward its package. The package that it has now put forward is beginning to attract more teachers to ILEA appointments.
Mr. Simon Hughes : A few moments ago the Secretary of State said that he accepted his responsibility under statute to ensure a good supply of teachers throughout his term of office. He has been in office for three years and the Government have been in office for 10 years. On his own admission, at the beginning of this year there were 5,400 vacancies. How is it that the Secretary of State has not been able to carry out his responsibilities?
Mr. Baker : In a teaching force of some 404,000, to have about 5, 500 vacancies on any particular day is not a problem out of all proportion. A proportion of vacancies of about 1.3 per cent. in any large administration is a containable problem. We have put in hand a range of proposals which are attracting a record number of young people into the profession.
Mr. Harry Greenway : Will my right hon. Friend put on the record-- this should be borne in mind, considering what the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) said--that whatever teachers could earn outside teaching, they are now better paid in real terms than ever and much better than when the Government came to office 10 years ago? Will he also correct the hon. Gentleman's persistent claim that the Government have cut spending on education as a percentage of GNP, when in reality it has risen from 11 per cent. to 12 per cent.? It is about time that the hon. Gentleman learned the truth.
Mr. Baker : The figures on teachers' pay speak for themselves. Since we have been in office teachers' real pay has increased by about 30 per cent. When Labour was in office it increased by 6 per cent. The Labour party cannot possibly claim to be the friend of teachers.
The position in Tower Hamlets has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Blackburn and in many newspapers. I recognise that there is a problem and I want to do what I can to help. Recently I met a delegation fron ILEA led by the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), and my hon. Friend the Minister of State has held discussions with the London boroughs. I understand that 200 or 300 children are out of school because of a lack of teachers. Some dozen to 15 teachers are needed to teach 300 pupils. That is alongside the Tower Hamlets teaching force of about 1,500. The problem is not incapable of solution. ILEA can take measures to make good the deficit. It should have been taking such measures for some time, but it has been slow off the mark.
This is not a question of money. ILEA has the funds to pay for extra allowances for teachers and to put together attractive financial packages to attract more people to London. I am told that, according to the latest figures, ILEA is not likely to spend its entire budget this year. It is not short of funds.
In our talks with the new London borough education authorities, which are predominantly Labour-controlled, we have been impressed by their dynamic approach towards planning for education and teacher shortages. They have already developed their own schemes, which include attractive packages for teachers. Help with housing is particularly attractive. In the past, ILEA was distainful towards the London boroughs and was not prepared to talk to them about council housing and other such assistance for staff. Now the individual boroughs are putting together teacher recruitment packages involving council estates and housing support. That will be helpful. The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney is not in his place. I do not criticise him for that, because he takes a great interest in this. I wish to assure Tower Hamlets that I want to do what I can to help. The TASC unit in my Department deals with the promotion of teaching as a career and meets with ILEA to find solutions. Although it is late in the day, there is still time to tackle the problems of inner London. I shall do what I can to help. The Department will be willing, in partnership with Tower Hamlets or any other east end London boroughs, to support teacher recruitment campaigns and to advertise the new packages that have been devised. Another measure will be of help to teachers in London. The hon. Member for Blackburn has been disdainful and attacked the introduction of licensed teachers in September. That scheme aims to attract people from other careers to come into teaching. I hope that the original criticism of that scheme by the hon. Gentleman and by the unions has now abated. It has been widely accepted not only by Conservative but by Labour authorities as a way of attracting more people into teaching. It means that people who have experience of higher education can be trained on the job. In addition, the articled teachers scheme will be introduced next year. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would welcome those schemes.
In recent years about 1,000 teachers from overseas have come each year to take up posts in our schools, throughout the country but principally in London. Their skills and expertise are welcome. In September, we shall be the first country in Europe to implement an EC directive requiring member states to recognise each other's teaching qualifications. Teachers from overseas will be able to gain qualified teacher status here on application. Some authorities have already begun to recruit in other EC countries. I was surprised at the hon. Gentleman's attitude to recruitment in Europe. He talked about sending "scavengers across Europe" and made an unwarranted attack on German teachers. A month ago the Labour party posed as the European party, yet it attacks the quality of teaching in our partner countries. Its first test in moving closer to 1992 has resulted in a disgraceful, shallow attack.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) rose --
From September we shall accept overseas qualifications of teachers from the Common Market and they will be given qualified teacher status.
Column 246We have some overseas trained teachers from outside the EC. It is a characteristic of many Australian and New Zealand teachers that they come to teach in inner London. They complain that although they are qualified back home, they are not qualified here. There have been protracted debates about qualified teacher status for them and I have considered how we can improve their position. Our proposal for the new scheme was originally that, provided they were qualified, licensed teachers would receive qualified teacher status if they underwent training for a year. In the light of our responses to the draft proposals I am happy to announce today that I plan to go further and allow LEAs and schools exceptionally to recommend experienced overseas trained teachers to become qualified in this country after only one term. That will be especially attractive to young Australian and New Zealand teachers.
I welcome this opportunity to outline once again the actions that I am taking to tackle the problem of teacher shortages. I hope that the House recognises that there has been a substantial increase in the numbers of young people going into teacher training. No profession receives as much in -service training as the teaching profession--about £300 million per year.
The hon. Member for Blackburn suggested that the Government had not put forward new ideas, whereas in fact during the past two or three years we have put forward a whole range of proposals. It is the hon. Gentleman who has failed to put forward any new ideas, and he has certainly given us none today. He merely asked for an interim pay award, but even that was not his idea--it was suggested by the National Union of Teachers. Like the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), the hon. Member for Blackburn has become a spokesman for the NUT. By the hon. Gentleman's own definition, an interim pay award would not help the problem of teacher shortages. Any analysis of the problem clearly shows that it varies from one part of the country to another.
The hon. Gentleman did not quote the article in The Times Educational Supplement which said that there were no teacher shortages in areas such as North Yorkshire, Hereford and Worcester, the city of Liverpool and Walsall, which in particular has no shortage of maths teachers. We all recognise that there are shortages in the home counties and in London, but the hon. Gentleman did not put forward any ideas to deal with that.
The hon. Gentleman's response to our proposals has been simply to attack them. He attacked the plans for licensed teachers and articled teachers and wanted us to abandon them.
Mr. Baker : I am glad that the hon. Member for Blackburn has, at last, accepted the idea of licensed teachers-- [Interruption.] His silence, I hope, conveys consent. As least the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) supports our proposals.
Over the years, the hon. Member for Blackburn has adopted a policy of plagiarism of Government policies. He has followed a policy of destruction. Does he believe that that will improve the morale of the teaching profession? What are his proposals to improve the morale of the teaching profession, which he claims so concerns him? He wants to abolish the remaining grammar schools, grant-maintained schools and city technology colleges and
Column 247to weaken the national curriculum. How will that improve teachers' morale? The hon. Gentleman has come up with a series of gimmicks--that is his stock in trade--the purpose of which is the exploitation of anxiety. Only the Government's proposals can deal with the problem. 5.2 pm
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough) : Having listened to the Secretary of State many times, I know that the outstanding quality that he brings to our debates is his belief that no matter what is wrong, nothing is wrong. He speaks as though everything is wonderful in the best of all worlds. He pretends to have a grip of his subject and says that everything is all right. In fact, a large section of the press--not just the National Union of Teachers or the Opposition Front Bench--profoundly disagrees with him. Today's editorial in The Guardian said :
"Our crippling, intensifying teacher shortage takes centre stage in the Commons today."
The right hon. Gentleman claims that there is no such shortage, yet he failed to answer the question of what will happen in September. He has given no guarantee that sufficient teachers will stand in front of the classes. The Guardian continued :
"These problems are exacerbated by the increased competition from industry for graduates, the erosion of teachers' pay compared to other graduates, and the manifest decline in the morale of the profession."
The Minister of State is on record as saying that there is no low morale. Only a fortnight ago the Secretary of State, under questioning, also said that. Surely he is aware that, with one exception, every group that appeared before the Select Committee referred to the reasons for low morale in the profession and treated it as a fundamental problem. Only the group from the Department of Education and Science said that there is no low morale. The DES leading figure said that he had not noticed any low morale, and that view was endorsed by the Secretary of State.
Although endless warnings have been given to the Government, they have taken not the slightest notice. They are whistling in the dark and trying to bolster their courage by pretending that there is no problem. At the behest of the Opposition, the Select Committee decided to carry out research into the reason for teacher shortages. We had hoped to publish the report by the end of the Session but, unfortunately, that is not possible. Certain people do not want the report published that quickly. The Opposition want it published because it will confirm the serious problem of teacher shortages. Every member of the Select Committee is well aware of the problem. Every time that the Secretary of State or his Ministers say that nothing is wrong, they get a great clap on the back from their young Turks--many of whom will be missing after the next election--because they are grovellers. Indeed, I see that three of them are sitting behind the Minister today. They never say a critical word to the Secretary of State, so nobody takes any notice of them anyway. All they do is grovel.
Many questions must be answered. Who created the teacher shortage? It is the fault of the Government, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State before him. For years they have been launching vicious attacks on the teaching profession. They have demeaned it and said that all sorts of things are wrong with it. The many quotes over the years are on the record. The Secretary of State refuses to admit that anything is wrong and that morale is low. Is