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Column 248he not aware that morale is low because he has demeaned the profession? Students, some of whom may want to become teachers, read in the press of his constant demeaning of the profession. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that, following such attacks, those students will want to enter the profession?
Several Hon. Members rose--
Mr. Flannery : The Secretary of State gave way many times, and on two occasions to the same person. The hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) has fled the Chamber now that she has intervened twice. There is only a short time available and many hon. Members wish to speak-- [Interruption.] Where has the hon. Lady gone? I do not know. She seems able to intervene on the Secretary of State, but I am not so successful.
All the interested organisations agree that there is a crisis. We visited Warwick university, whose education department said that there was a major and developing crisis--a view endorsed by the university's students. The education department of Manchester polytechnic, all the teachers' unions-- even the Professional Association of Teachers, which is tame enough--said that. The general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said that the problem of teacher shortages was a developing catastrophe. He was pulled up for saying such a naughty thing, but he repeated it anyway. Such statements from all the leading organisations make it clear that there will be a serious problem of teacher shortage next September. In the primary sector, any number of teachers who have taught for many years are miserable and terrified by the number of documents and the bureaucracy. Under the new Education Reform Act 1988, which is an educational disaster for this country, our teachers are being made to teach subjects which they have not taught for a long time. They receive glossy documents from their local education authority which is made to send them out by the Secretary of State, who takes the authorities to task for not taking certain action. However, he knows that the Government have rate-capped the local authorities so that they do not have enough money to carry out the work.
The teaching profession is grossly overworked, under-paid and undervalued. The attack which is being launched against teachers to ensure that they are not paid properly and to deny them negotiating rights stems from the top of the Government. Meanwhile, the Baker city technology colleges, which were to be paid for privately, are not being funded in that way : 80 per cent. of the money for them comes from the public purse.
Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin) : Is my hon. Friend aware that Ministers are totally out of touch with their own Conservative councillors? When a quite stunning and outrageous proposal for a city technology college in Telford was recently made, to the amazement of everyone in the town who knew nothing about it, the reaction of the all-party county council was reported in the Shropshire Star. The report stated :
"County Councillors of all political colours today united to denounce the way plans for a city technology college at Telford were sprung on the county."
An all-party resolution was passed, stating :
"no decision be made before the potential serious implications for education in Shropshire have been fully considered."
Column 249Does my hon. Friend agree that, even if the Government do not agree with us, it is time they started to listen to their own councillors?
Mr. Flannery : I agree with my hon. Friend. There has been an all- round attack on comprehensive schools, which have brought more and better results in education than ever before in the history of this country. The Government hate that fact and have introduced the technology colleges which siphon off money from the state system and channel it to selected pupils. As was mentioned, the assisted places scheme takes about £70 million a year, and that amount is rising massively. That money is being taken from the state sector. The Government intend to build up the private sector which their children use and take money from our children. They are good at doing that. As has been said, the Secretary of State has about 400 new powers which he uses as a diktat and lays down to the profession. Members of the teaching profession act as any reasonable professionals would after years of sustained attack, by voting with their feet and leaving the profession. The Secretary of State will find not teachers in Australia or Barbados, but from among the 400,000 teachers in the so-called pool of inactive teachers, which he has created in the profession.
It is utter nonsense for the Government to say that the teacher-pupil relationship is wonderful. No one believes that for a moment. The Government could make the position worse by sacking more teachers, but instead they tyrannise and demean them. The Education Reform Act is being severely questioned because of the lack of teachers, which is not admitted.
When a problem exists, the high road to its resolution is the recognition that it exists. The Government and the Secretary of State act as if there is no problem. If they do not act to set it right, they will have the educational state system round their necks. They will be on the fringes of a grave problem with which we shall be grappling long after the Secretary of State and the Government have gone. The Secretary of State should be sacked for what he has done to state education ; and when he goes, he should take the Government with him.
Mr. Andrew MacKay (Berkshire, East) : That was a sadly confused speech. If the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) believes that teachers are grossly underpaid now, what position were they in when the Labour Government, of which he was a prominent and senior Back Bencher, were in power? Teachers' pay increased in real terms by only 6 per cent. under the last Labour Government. We are all well aware that it has increased by nearly 30 per cent. in real terms this time round. That is an indictment of the bad economic policy of the Government which he continually supported when he went through the Lobby night after night.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) rose--
Mr. MacKay : I shall not give way because one matter on which I agree with the hon. Member for Hillsborough, is that many people want to speak. We have had many interventions and I wish to get on with my speech so that as many Members as possible may make contributions.
Column 250This has been a disappointing debate, mainly because of the silly motion in the name of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and others. It has not answered any of the questions and is grossly overstated. The hon. Member for Blackburn has missed a good oportunity this afternoon to get to the heart of the problem which is worrying many of his constituents : teacher shortages and potential teacher shortages in areas in which house prices are very high. I fundamentally disagree with Opposition Members who say that teachers' pay is low in this country, per se. That is not so ; teachers' pay is fair and reasonable in most parts of the country. It is low where it is quite impossible for teachers to purchase a house. It is a regional problem. I shall illustrate the problems which we have in Thames valley, where a small, modest, family house fetches more than £100,000 and a single, one-bedroomed flat fetches be tween £75,000 and £80,000. One clearly needs to be on a high salary, and to have saved a considerable sum, to be able to purchase such a property and service the mortgage on it. There is no incentive for any man or woman in the teaching profession to move from other regions of the country to the south-east because they cannot afford to buy a house there.
The problem is exactly the same for nurses, postmen, medical secretaries and ancillary workers. Teachers and nurses receive the same job satisfaction no matter which school they teach in or hospital they nurse in. Therefore, if they have a choice of teaching or nursing in the north of England where, on their salary, they can own a home and also afford a holiday and one or two other luxuries, they will do that. With the high cost of housing in the south-east, they can ill afford a house or flat in the first place and, certainly, can ill afford any luxuries such as holidays. The problem is particularly bad in primary schools in my constituency. In the primary schools in my constituency which I regularly visit, I find no male teachers. The schools are almost entirely staffed by ex-housewives returning to work after their children have grown up. Their husbands are on a considerable salary so their joint salary enables the couple to take out a mortgage to buy a house. I pay tribute to those ladies, who are excellent teachers, but I think that the House would agree that it would be much healthier for a school to have both male and female teachers in its common room and a good mix of ages as well as sexes. That would be in the schools' interests, but we should be concerned about a shortage of male teachers particularly in primary, but also in secondary, schools. There are many multinational companies in my constituency and many companies that have units, offices and plants throughout the country. A director, salesman or secretary is paid differently in the Thames valley than in Carrickfergus or Hartlepool because of the different level of house prices. We have to grasp this problem and solve it, but how do we do that? I was interested to hear the
suggestion--repeated by the hon. Member for Blackburn, so it appears now to be Labour party policy--that if we ever had the misfortune to have a Labour Government again, they would introduce a nationally funded housing allowance for teachers. If housing allowance means supplying teachers with rented accommodation or council housing, that would be unsatisfactory because teachers, like nurses and everybody else, have a considerable desire
Column 251to be part of the property-owning democracy. We shall not attract teachers to the south-east if they own a house in the north and are offered only a council house in the south.
Mr. MacKay : If the hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) is assuring us, as a Front Bench spokesman, that the hon. Member for Blackburn did not say that, we must assume that this nationally funded housing allowance will be a mortgage subsidy to help to pay for the cost of the house.
This is an interesting policy. I represent a relatively prosperous constituency in the south-east, and I would not sleep easy if I knew that the constituents of the hon. Members for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter) and for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) were subsidising, through their taxes, education in my constituency. This is the one difficulty about regional pay in the public sector. Is it right and proper, where there is a need for higher salaries and mortgage subsidies in the public sector in the more prosperous areas, for these to be paid out of national taxation? If so, it means that people in the poorer parts of the country on lower salaries will fund my prosperous constituents. I hope that Labour Members would also not sleep easy if they thought that that way forward was to be taken. Another way forward is to say that people should pay higher rates or a higher community charge in these areas. This has slightly more appeal. In areas with high house prices, it is reasonable to pay a higher rate or community charge so that teachers, nurses, postmen and other such people can get higher rates of pay. If we do not do that, we shall have second-rate schools in the south-east, compared with the regions. We already have inferior hospitals because wards are being closed and expensive equipment is not being used because we cannot get the nurses in the south-east for the same reason--they find it more agreeable to be nurses in hospitals in the regions, where they can buy their own homes.
Another way is better still--to ensure that there is not this great divide in house prices between the south-east and the rest of the country. I have been gratified, since I spoke on this subject some 18 months ago, to see the difference reduced, although it has gone nowhere near far enough. You will be aware, Madam Deputy Speaker, that in Sandwell in West Bromwich, one can still buy a house much more cheaply than in Bracknell, Ascot or Sunningdale. However, the move is in the right direction. While I feel deeply for those of my constituents who bought their houses when prices were at the top, before they started to fall, and who now have to service a high mortgage, I know that others of my constituents are breathing a sigh of relief because at last there is a possibility that their children will be able to own their own homes. Therefore, I welcome the fact that in my constituency prices have fallen by 20 per cent. in the past six months. That is one of the best pieces of news that we have had for a long time.
However, more private sector firms must be persuaded to move out of the south-east and into the regions, where houses are less expensive, there is a plentiful supply of labour, more skills in the labour force and cheaper office and factory spaces.
I was laughed at by my hon. Friends when, two and a half years ago, I said that in my constituency I was
Column 252encouraging companies to get out. There were gasps about that, but I wanted it because our economy is overheated, we have negative unemployment, skill shortages, congestion on the roads, problems in the hospitals and the potential problems in the schools that I have just mentioned. For these companies to be at their most prosperous and efficient, they should not necessarily be operating out of the south-east, because there their unit labour costs are high and they are not competing properly in the world markets. I am delighted to say that a number of them- -British Aerospace, Racal, Ferranti, BMW and others--are moving out of the constituency.
Far from unemployment being created as a result of this move, plenty of people are waiting to offer jobs to those who are made redundant. If there were a better balance between private sector industries in the north and south, house prices in the south-east would come more into line with those in the rest of the country. There would then be less of a problem with regional pay differences in the public sector.
This is a problem that my hon. Friend the Minister and her colleagues in the Departments of Health, Social Security and Trade and Industry will have to tackle. There are no easy solutions in the way suggested by the hon. Member for Blackburn. It is offensive to put the burden of increasing regional pay on those in the worst-off regions, so that they have to subsidise the pay increases of people in the best-off regions. I am loth to go down the road that I half suggested, of an increase in the community charge, but there must be some acknowledgement that it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract teachers to our part of the world. If that is not acknowledged and dealt with, I fear that the children of my constituents will get a worse education than the equivalent children in Wales, the midlands, the north, Northern Ireland, Scotland and elsewhere. As a Member representing the Thames valley, I could not stand by and let that happen. 5.28 pm
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) : If one had had no other evidence, listening to the Secretary of State, one would have been persuaded that there was no problem. He said that the problem was not alarming, but was "containable". He was extraordinarily selective about statistics. The pupil-teacher ratio has come down, that is true, but is it acceptable that it should go up if teachers are deployed elsewhere? He said that 27,000 teachers had entered the profession, but was silent about how many had left. He gave no estimate of the shortage of vacancies now, despite having promised them, although at last he gave us the figures of vacancies in January--5,400. With the pupil-teacher ratio of 17:1, that means that 100,000 pupils had no teacher last January. It is probable that today the numbers are more.
Mr. Hughes : That is not rubbish. It is true that these figures relate to ILEA, which is one of the worst authorities, but the probability is that in September, not on resignations but on vacancies, 7,000 children will not be taught. If that is not a crisis, and if after three years in office the Secretary of State is not willing to admit that it is, we have indeed heard a complacent speech.
Column 253So complacent is the Secretary of State that The Independent was driven to put the education editor's viewpoint column on the front page yesterday. He said :
"Morale among teachers is so low that, according to one opinion poll, one in three is considering leaving the profession." Dealing with a point made by the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay), he said :
"Teachers' pay, which has fallen far behind comparable professional groups during the past 14 years and has clearly not risen in line with market demands, is the key to the problem."
Pay has gone up, but pay in the private sector has gone up much more. The reality is that people who might return to teaching or stay in teaching do not do so because they can do far better for themselves and for their families elsewhere.
Perhaps the most commonly held view of all, repeated in the article, is :
"Mr. Baker's handling of teacher supply is not an aberration. It is symptomatic of his wider approach. Mr. Baker is strong on conception, weak on execution. He has a good eye for short-term publicity advantage, a poor one for underlying problems."
It says something about the working of the Department of Education and Science that the first time that it thought about discovering the up-to- date position was in May 1989. It was not until there were abundant signs of a crisis, not just in inner-city Labour-controlled authorities but in Tory-controlled authorities as well, that it bothered to ring round to find out just how severe the problem is. We have heard many statistics and I do not propose to adduce many more, but the reality is that many primary and secondary schools lose teachers not just to jobs outside teaching but to higher-paid jobs in other authorities. Some authorities are desperately pinching teachers, leaving others short of people at the last minute when they cannot recruit replacements.
Mr. David Evennett (Erith and Crayford) : I and my hon. Friends have listened with great interest to the picture that the hon. Gentleman has painted with the help of The Independent, but how would he deal with the problem that he has outlined?
Mr. Hughes : I shall deal with that, but first I should say that, if the Government have no ideas, they should not be the Government. The only new idea from the Secretary of State today, which I welcome and which the Minister of State will confirm that I was speaking with her about only this morning, was in relation to teachers from Australia and New Zealand and qualified teacher status. That was the only new idea, other than saying that the Department would help local authorities to recruit teachers. If it has not been doing that for the past 10 years, there is something wrong with it.
The consequences of the problem are practical, severe and immediate. The hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) intervened earlier. Many parents in boroughs such as ours in Southwark view with great alarm the prospect of what will happen to them and their children when the new term begins.
Those parents know that existing staff will come under additional pressure as they have to take on additional responsibilities. Some of them may receive a merit award,
Column 254but many of them will not. Putting more stress on the teachers who are there, many of whom already cover to prevent classes from being sent home, means that they have the problems of looking after the classes of other teachers at the same time as the Secretary of State is requiring them to take on further responsibilities under the national curriculum by way of assessment and so on. I predict today that the number of teacher vacancies in primary and secondary schools will be greater at the end of this year than it is now.
Many authorities are desperately turning to new graduates to fill empty places. Many schools are now believed to be taking a far greater number of teachers in their probationary year than before. That is short-sighted, because a new teaching recruit will not benefit from the good supervision that will make him or her a committed teacher, able to remain in the profession. As the Minister will know, I was critical of that issue last year. If probationary teachers do not remain in the profession, we lose the very people whom we should be encouraging to remain. They should be given the support that they need and the pressure on them should be reduced. A war is being waged against supply teachers who have traditionally filled the gaps in the teacher service. If local authorities continue to pay supply teachers only for the hours that they work rather than by the day, their supply will dry up and matters will be far worse. My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey) wants to point out that in Wales- -I realise that this is not wholly the Secretary of State's responsibility- -the problem is predictably acute. The Labour party is not blameless. More than 1,000 supply teachers in West Glamorgan have had their salaries cut by 36 per cent. in the past year, a reduction of £5,000 per annum, from point 11 to point 4 on the scale, and that has given rise to protests. Of those supply teachers, 92 per cent. are women. The problem is compounded because not only are they on low pay but they are being discriminated against. I hope that the Labour party will not say that everything in their garden is rosy.
Many schools have relied on temporary staff and, over many years, many of those in London have come from Australia and New Zealand. They come here to gain overseas experience. The Minister will confirm that a New Zealand teacher who attended a debate upstairs confirmed that she was leaving teaching because the salary of £105 per week was not sufficient to support her. It is welcome news that such teachers will at last be paid more, but the Secretary of State should have thought of that many months ago.
Perhaps what is most resented by many teachers is the suggestion that they are now enjoying a number of special offers and attractions. In reality, most of them are not. It is all very well having new incentives by way of one-off payments or help with the house to catch new recruits or having incentives to bring back into teaching those who had left to do something else, but the biggest group of teachers are those who have stayed. They are the ones whom we need to hang on to, and many of them resent the special tricks to attract others. We need to spend money on upgrading the status and pay of all teachers in order to recruit and retain those whom we need in our schools.
Mr. Dunn : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I apologise profusely for not listening to the start of the hon. Gentleman's speech, but he has made some interesting points. Is he, like me, in favour of regional pay and local bargaining? I represent a constituency in the south- east and I fully understand the difficulty of attracting and retaining staff there, a problem which does not exist to the same extent north of Birmingham.
Mr. Hughes : I am not in favour of regional pay, because if the teaching profession is to be properly structured, teachers should be adequately remunerated not only when they enter it but in mid-career. Until people in public service are valued and adequately remunerated, we shall continue losing them to the private sector, whether or not there is regional pay. If more money is paid to teachers in the south-east, their salaries would still be below those paid in the private sector. Of course it depends on the market, but, region by region, those working in the public sector are paid substantially less than those in the private sector. The fundamental problem will not begin to be addressed until those in the public sector--above all, teachers--receive an adequate basic remuneration.
Today, on what might be the Secretary of State's last opportunity to prove that he has any ideas of substance, he must have come to the House aware that the Select Committee's report, which we already know is exceedingly critical, is waiting in the wings. It argues for a substantial increase in funding, asserts that the teacher shortage is likely to have been underestimated, and acknowledges that teachers deserve salary increases and mid-career incentives. The evidence given to the Select Committee is known to the Secretary of State ; it is irresponsible of him to deny its existence and not respond to it today. It places the education of many children at direct risk in September.
All that the Secretary of State does is meet with the unions.
Mr. Hughes : The right hon. Gentleman, as I heard him explain on the radio this morning, meets with the unions and puts off democratic negotiations being re-established for another year. Although the Secretary of State argues that only one union pressed for an interim settlement, it is not enough to say that there cannot be such an arrangement. There should be an interim settlement, and there could be. If the right hon. Gentleman carries sufficient authority with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he should be able to persuade his right hon. Friend to provide the necessary money.
It is crucial that, in areas of obvious and acute shortage, additional money should be made available in the form of special merit awards.
Mr. Hughes : No, I do not. It may be that there are shortages in central Birmingham, as in central London, or in other areas of the north- west and north-east, but there may be no shortages in adjacent areas, as the Secretary of State's figures tend to confirm. He cited the example of Liverpool, which does not have a shortage, although nearby areas obviously do.
Column 256The teachers' tune is an old one, but they sing it every day. It is that, unless they are properly remunerated from the start of their careers to the end of them, many will not be able to afford to stay in the profession. Unless we reward properly those whom we charge with the responsibility for our children's education at the most important time of their lives, we shall be failing in our responsibility as a nation. That is the failure of the Government after 10 years, and the failure of the Secretary of State after three years in office. They have only now begun to wake up to the problem, but still do not believe that it is anything other than containable or that it is anything to be alarmed about. That response is nothing but a disgrace.
Several Hon. Members rose --
Mr. Mark Wolfson (Sevenoaks) : I welcome the acceptance by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State early in his speech that teacher supply is a serious matter. Earlier this year, I did not receive a similar response from other Ministers, and I am glad that the position has changed. Teacher shortage is not a new problem but one that has existed for many years, especially in respect of science, mathematics, technology and, in recent years, modern languages. However, problems are there to be overcome- -and Ministers as well as the Government collectively are charged with that responsibility. In 1988, 1.5 per cent. of all primary posts and 1 per cent. of all secondary posts were unfilled. That was an improvement on 1987, but those figures for actual vacancies do not include hidden shortages, where subjects are taught by teachers who have inadequate qualifications or who work in a temporary or part-time capacity when the job should preferably be filled permanently by a teacher in a full-time post.
The latest available statistics are unsatisfactorily out of date. The figures that I obtained are for 1984, and suggest that 13 per cent. of mathematics and 18 per cent. of physics teaching posts were filled by teachers having no higher education qualifications in those subjects.
I now turn to the example of Kent, in which I obviously have a particular interest, and for which I have up-to-date figures. Kent education committee's trawl of vacancies at the end of June revealed that 150 primary posts and 250 secondary posts were unfilled. Interviews are continuing and appointments are still being made, but that state of affairs, which is similar to that of last year, is still serious. I do not call it a crisis, but it is serious. Of those vacancies, 34 are in mathematics, 39 in science, and 27 in modern languages. Such figures might be expected because there are shortages nationally of teachers in those subjects. More disturbing is that there are also 38 vacancies in English and 29 in physical education, which many people think are not shortage areas. The situation in Kent is not as bad as it is in Essex, and it is comparable to that of one year ago, but I emphasise that it is still serious. I hope that that point is fully appreciated. The situation in Kent bears exactly on the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire,
Column 257East (Mr. MacKay). House prices and other factors that bear on the cost of living create particular problems in the south-east and London.
The number of candidates interviewed for unfilled posts is markedly down. Sometimes they number only one or two for each vacancy at all levels--from the most junior to headships. It may be argued that this demonstrates that there are good career prospects for teachers, but it also reveals that education authorities have a limited choice of candidates for any particular vacancy.
Kent has taken several steps. It provides a range of mortgage packages and is flexible on removal allowances. It also provides creche facilities. Those initiatives are constructive and helpful but, against an overall shortage in certain subjects, such benefits represent only a short-term attraction, as surrounding education authorities rapidly offer the same incentives. My hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East made the point that salaries outside the profession, in commerce and industry, have a direct bearing on the shortage.
The recruitment of licensed or articled teachers would help. It is beyond belief that this practical step to attract people from outside the profession was vehemently opposed by the Opposition and by the trade unions. I am delighted that a different view now appears to prevail, --a practical view and one that can benefit our children. Licensed and articled teachers are not, however, a panacea ; they may deal with only 5 or 10 per cent. of the identified shortfall. Improved pay is necessary, and, at the right time, the restoration of the pay negotiating machinery--to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is committed--will be helpful. Above all, teachers need to regain the standing of their own profession, and to an extent that is in their own hands. I am not critical of most of the profession ; I hold teachers in high regard, considering that they perform a difficult and enormously worthwhile job, often in trying circumstances. Nevertheless, they have done appalling damage to their standing through strike action.
Perhaps most important is the need to give education authorities the opportunity to arrange for regional pay to reflect the different costs of living in various parts of the country. That is what the private sector does, and I think that the public sector must, increasingly, do the same.
Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham) : I could weep over what is happening to the teaching profession. I was a member of that profession for more than 20 years, and I only wish that the Government realised what they are doing to it, and have been doing to it for the past 10 years. Morale is at its lowest ebb ; teachers are disillusioned and dejected. No doubt they will feel even more depressed in the morning, when they read what has been said today by the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State and other Conservative Members.
Why are teachers in this state? They have been rubbished by the Government to such an extent that they feel they are no longer in a worthwhile profession. Their pay is extremely low compared with that of others in the private sector, and pay, of course, is an important aspect
Column 258of anyone's life. Dedication is all very well, but teachers who are not paid enough to eat and live properly cannot be expected to exist on dedication.
Moreover, teachers' work load has increased considerably over the past few years, and--especially in view of the enforcement of the Education Reform Act 1988--is still increasing daily. They are, however, receiving no further remuneration or other help. We constantly hear the claptrap uttered by the Secretary of State and his officials. They claim that morale is high and that the problems are being exaggerated, but they are the only people to do so. Whom have they been talking to? Do they ever go into schools and talk to the teachers? Whichever schools I visit and whichever teachers I consult, I always hear the same story of low morale, deep depression and extreme anger at what the Government are doing. The Secretary of State would have to be a contortionist to do some of the things that teachers have told me to tell him to do.
Teachers are indeed dedicated, but dedication must not be mistaken for high morale. Clearly the Secretary of State does not understand, or rather, he refuses to do so. More and more teachers are leaving the profession, and that bastion of Socialism The Daily Telegraph tells us that nearly a third of those in the profession want to get out. That, of course, makes the current shortage even more serious. Between 35 and 40 per cent. of those who begin training do not enter the profession, and it is entirely unacceptable that 20 to 25 per cent. of those working for a postgraduate certificate of education do not even begin teaching.
The introduction of the national curriculum, which has received few extra resources, has led to more shortages--which, incidentally, will jeopardise the Secretary of State's dream of its success. As well as the general teacher shortage, there are glaring specific shortages in subjects such as maths, science, foreign languages, English, business studies and information technology. There are also regional shortages, particularly in London. The lack of teachers has meant no education at all for some, and partial education for others.
The shortage is having a knock-on effect on the recruitment of educational psychologists, who must be recruited solely from the teaching profession. If the implementation of the Education Act 1981 is to continue successfully, and if the 1988 Act is to function to the benefit of those with special educational needs, we must attract suitably qualified teachers into the psychology service. Recruitment is already low, for exactly the same reasons as the low recruitment in the teaching profession--poor pay and an increased work load. The Government do not wish to accept that there is a major problem, because they know that if they did they would have to provide increased resources. The Secretary of State is being deliberately complacent, claiming that the problems of low morale and shortages have been exaggerated. If he really believes that, he should quit, because he obviously cannot see beyond the nose on his face. But the Secretary of State is not daft : we all know that. He knows the position as well as anyone. If he admits the truth, he will have to spend more money--and we all know what the Prime Minister would think of that, and the likely effect on the right hon. Gentleman's future career.
As a member of the Select Committee on Education, which has been considering teacher shortages, I regret the
Column 259recent leaks in the press. I hope, however, that certain Conservative Members will not use them as an excuse to ensure that a report is not published very soon. Such a report, giving the facts about the shortage, would be politically sensitive and damning to the Government, but if that excuse is used it will be a disgrace--and the country will know very well why it has happened.
If the Government deny that low morale and staff shortages are causing major problems in the education system, they are alone in doing so. Their views are being rejected, not only by the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Head Masters/Union of Women Teachers, but by organisations that support them, such as the Secondary Heads Association, the National Union of Head Teachers and even the HMIs.
Virtually every local education authority is facing teacher shortages. The problem is getting worse. Why is that so? More pupils are entering schools but the number of graduates who are leaving universities and polytechnics is declining. [Hon. Members :-- "Rubbish."] Oh, yes, they are. The market for graduates is highly competitive. We should be tempting them into the teaching profession, but their salaries are far too low and their salary increases are well below the rate of inflation. How, therefore, can we expect graduates to enter the teaching profession? It cannot hope to compete. We cannot wait until there is a Labour Government. Action must be taken now.
What action ought we to take? A national monitoring body should be established, consisting of Government representatives and also of representatives of local authorities, teachers' organisations, parents, business interests and the community. Its task would be to advise on teacher supply and demand and also on initial and in-service training, taking into account developments in education--for example, the national curriculum. Action must be taken now to tackle the immediate shortages. The only readily available supply of teachers is the pool of inactive teachers. They should be encouraged to return to the profession. Many of them left it because of family commitments.
Local education authorities should be asked to provide creche, nursery and extended day-care facilities. Up-to-date refresher courses ought to be provided. Flexible hours should be introduced, which might involve job sharing. The only difficulty is that local authorities have not been provided with the resources to introduce these facilities. That is a central Government responsibility. They must provide the resources.
Conservative Members have referred to the introduction of regional pay awards. We reject that suggestion. The introduction of regional pay differentials would only lead to the shortages being shifted around. The flexibility to deal with teacher shortages already exists. They can be overcome by means of incentive allowances. Initial teacher training will continue to be the main route into teaching. The first priority is to make a career in teaching sufficiently attractive to recruit a large number of graduates. That must involve a significant increase in teachers' pay and improvements in their career prospects, perhaps by means of changes to the incentive allowance structure. However, the local education authorities have not been provided with the money to bring about those changes. Central Government must provide the resources. New routes into the profession must be opened up. We must provide for mid-career changes. However, we reject the Secretary of State's proposal for licensed teachers.
Column 260That would lead to a dilution of the profession. I accept that more graduates could be recruited locally. Family ties and other responsibilities mean that they are unlikely to be able to uproot themselves for a year in order to go to university, having been provided with a grant.
However, their practical teaching experience could be gained in a local school, which could be combined with regular release to a local college for professional training. They could be paid an unqualified teacher's salary. Their professional training would lead to a qualification that was equivalent to the postgraduate certificate of education. Their in-school practical experience could be supervised by a teacher in the classroom who would be with them all the time. They would be in addition to, not an alternative to, the school's normal complement of teachers.
Teachers' negotiating rights must be re-established in line with the International Labour Organisation's conventions, if a start is to be made on improving morale in the teaching profession. Teaching as a profession must be made more attractive by ensuring that adequate resources and equipment are available and also by ensuring that there is an attractive, high-quality environment. Only the Government can provide the money to pay for it. While the Government refuse to analyse the scale of the problem, they cannot hope to tackle it. Anything they do is likely to be inadequate.
Unless the Government listen to what is said in the debate and take notice, teacher shortages will remain and will increase. Teaching morale will grow even worse and state education will deteriorate. I hope that the Secretary of State does not want that to happen, but sometimes I wonder. I hope that the Secretary of State for Education and Science is moved from education in the reshuffle and that he will be given the chairmanship of the Tory party, where he will do to the Tory party what he has done to education.
Several Hon. Members rose --
Mr. Speaker : Order. Before I call the next speaker, it may be convenient if I were to say that the winding-up speeches will begin at 6.35. If hon. Members were to speak for 10 minutes each, I should be able to call three of them. If they spoke for less than 10 minutes, I might be able to call even more.
Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth) : I was disappointed by the speech of the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg). It lacked his usual constructive and positive approach. He seemed to talk down an honourable profession and to overstate his case. However, I agreed with him that most teachers are dedicated. That is entirely right.
The arguments of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) reminded me of a bra for a teenager--small, unformed and with very little point. The real reason for this second debate on teacher shortages is that the first time around the Opposition made no impact at all. They are now coming back for a second bite at the cherry, but I suspect that they will be no luckier than they were last time. Their choice of subject tells us more about their lack of imagination in choosing subjects for Supply days than anything else.
I found it particularly significant that the hon. Member for Blackburn refused to give way on the question of teachers' pay. I give him the opportunity now, if he wishes
Column 261to intervene, to tell the House precisely what are his party's intentions on teachers' pay. Would he increase teachers' pay by 10 per cent., 15 per cent. or 20 per cent.? As this is an Opposition Supply day, I feel that they have a duty to the House to answer that question. The teachers of this country are waiting to hear what the hon. Gentleman means when he talks about teachers' pay. If he wishes to intervene, I shall willingly give way.
Mr. Straw : I am glad to know that the hon. Gentleman expects there to be a Labour Government following the defeat of the present Government. [ Hon. Members-- : "Answer the question."] The answer is that the decisions that we make then will depend on the economic mess that has been left by the present Government. Support for the Conservative party by teachers has fallen to an all-time low of 14 per cent. On education, Labour has a 10 per cent. lead among teachers, parents and others. They know that Labour has a far better approach to education than the Conservatives.
Mr. Pawsey : I suspect that when the teachers of this country read that answer they will realise that the hon. Gentleman was unable to come up with a positive figure on teachers' pay. When invited to do so, he positively refused to give a specific figure. The teachers will draw their own conclusions.
There is a slight difference between the two debates. When we last discussed the subject we took into account only teachers' pay. The debate has been broadened today to take into account teachers' morale. There is some evidence of disquiet. When we debated the matter 11 weeks ago I remember saying that the overwhelming majority of teachers are committed to their profession and to the young people in their charge and that their remuneration should be commensurate with their responsibilities. I agree with the hon. Member for City of Durham about that.
I have been saying for some years that the teaching profession plays a substantial part in the education, moulding and development of our young people. Their role is second only to that of parents, but I do not believe that their importance is fully recognised by society. Responsibility for violence and indiscipline can often be traced back to the home and school. We are now reaping the benefit of the free expression and empathy teaching of the 1960s and 1970s. The strikes and disruption of two and more years ago seriously undermined the status of the teaching profession, a point that was well made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson). The standing of teachers has been much reduced, particularly when on television parents could see members of the profession shambling through the streets, carrying placards which, frankly, were illiterate, taking industrial action organised by the trade unions. Parents were not impressed by teachers leaving classes and taking time off which resulted in schools being closed and pupils sent home.
Understandably, the reputation of the profession suffered, the esteem in which teachers were held has fallen, and with it their morale. One hopes that that is in the past and, as I said earlier, the majority of teachers are committed to their profession and to the children in their