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Column 922all levels were subjected to abuse by Government Ministers. That is why we have such problems in our education system.
We are spending less of our gross domestic product on education, although the challenges of the 1990s in Europe and further afield will require a far more highly educated and trained work force. Had we been able to maintain the spending level that was much denigrated in 1979, we would be spending a further £3 billion on education. There has been a drop of 27 per cent. in real terms. We must tell the electorate, "Forget the flannel about the Government's wonderful spending record." Without exception, the real increases in education have been due to spending by local authorities that have cared about their education responsibilities. For example, in the past decade there was an increase in university spending of about about 1 per cent., with the Government responsible for virtually all funding. Where local authorities have made a substantial contribution to polytechnics, the number of students has increased by more than 50 per cent. Commitment has come from Labour local authorities, not from Tory central Government.
Throughout the 1980s, teachers' pay fell behind that of other non-manual workers. It is almost £1,000 less than it would have been had the marker that was set down in 1979 continued. Failures are to be found everywhere.
Because of changes in the rate support grant, Welsh local authorities have lost almost £1 billion of central Government funds to finance local government services, of which education takes the lion's share. When Her Majesty's inspectors examined the state of schools in Wales, they found that, as in England, there was a massive backlog of repairs. In my county of Mid Glamorgan, an estimated £25 million was needed to bring schools up to standard. In the neighbouring county of West Glamorgan the figure was £28 million, in Gwent it was £14.5 million, and in the rural county of Powys the figure was £5 million. The results of Government underfunding stare us in the face in dingy schools.
The Secretary of State for Wales had the wonderful idea of the valleys initiative. When the proposal was first aired, Mid Glamorgan county council said, "What a wonderful idea. We badly need six new schools in our valleys." The valleys initiative was published, and it stated that there would be six schools for the county of Mid Glamorgan. However, the initiative failed to state that two schools were due to be opened in a month and that the other four were already planned. Not an extra penny was put into the valleys initiative to build new schools or to improve existing ones, but there was plenty of money to give pubs a new coat of paint. The Government could find money for pubs but not for schools. That is indicative of their thinking.
When we moved from the old Burnham system of remuneration to the new interim advisory committee system, and when it finally put the first award into practice and examined the money that was provided by central Government to fund it, my county of Mid Glamorgan found that it was more than £300,000 short of what was needed. The county had no part in the negotiations for the
Column 923pay award. The Government gave a sum of money to the interim advisory committee that determined the award, but the ratepayers of Mid Glamorgan had to find £325,000 to finance it.
A similar problem can be found in the implementation of the national curriculum. It is all very well for the Secretary of State for Education and Science to say what wonderful things will happen as a result of the national curriculum, but, once again, his Department and the Secretary of State for Wales are failing sufficiently to fund the changes.
There is, for example, the question of the proper teaching of science subjects in primary schools. In Mid Glamorgan, about half of all primary schools were built before the first world war, and they have neither the water supplies nor the power points needed for science to be taught properly in their classrooms. The Government gave Mid Glamorgan £200,000 to start a programme of upgrading those old schools, but the county council has been obliged to find a further £480,000 to implement what it still describes as a modest programme for ensuring that proper facilities are available for teaching the national curriculum.
I asked parliamentary questions of the Secretary of State for Education and Science and of the Secretary of State for Wales about extra funding for implementing the national curriculum in respect of children with special needs, but both replied that no special money would be provided for that purpose. As to the modest primary school programme, Mid Glamorgan county council will have to ask each poll tax payer for £1.25 extra to fund it, when at the same time the Government are putting pressure on local authorities to keep down the level of poll tax.
The theme for the first two years of this decade, as for the 1980s, will be underfunding of our education service. The Secretary of State referred to the importance of teachers, but it seems that their wages will continue not to reflect their importance to the community. When the Minister replies to the debate, perhaps he will explain how the education service is to respond to the excessive inflation that is a consequence of the Government's economic policies.
There are accounts in today's newspapers about the pressures on teachers, who feel that they are of little worth--partly because of the low wages that they are paid--and are leaving the profession. They cannot stand the pressures imposed by an underfunded system and look for easier jobs elsewhere. Although the Secretary of State might deny that there are shortages and say that more people are entering teacher training this year than for a long time, the number for crucial subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, and craft, design and technology is below the target set by the Department. The shortages can only get worse.
Wales has never been known for having a lack of teachers, but Mid Glamorgan is reporting difficulties in recruiting teachers of modern languages, Welsh, technical subjects and science. That is the legacy of a decade of Conservative rule. I hope that the House will support the motion fully as that is a way of showing the public that
Column 924there are people in positions of power committed to improving the country's education service. We shall prove that by voting for the motion.
The hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) spoke of the legacy of a decade of Conservative government. Anyone who has been involved in education for a number of years will acknowledge that educational legacies take a long time to accrue. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State spoke of the Government's efforts over the past decade, which led to gradual change and implementation of the Education Reform Act 1988.
Anyone involved in education at national level in the 1970s will remember the problems that the service suffered then. I make no apology for reiterating the remarks of my right hon. Friend in respect of the 1976 public expenditure White Paper, which recommended the most draconian cuts in all social services after many promises--some of which have been repeated today--were made. The remarks of Opposition Members today prompt the question, "Haven't we heard it all before?"
The Education Reform Act 1988 will bring massive and welcome changes, but I draw some specific matters to the attention of my right hon. Friend. He spoke of the need to introduce assessment and testing, and said that schemes for that purpose will come on stream in the near future. He spoke also of the need to maintain the impetus of change, with which we would all agree. However, other aspects of the implementation of change should be borne in mind. Records of achievement, for example, can add immeasureably to the value of primary school education. They are welcomed by parents and teachers and are extremely popular with the pupils themselves. I trust that there will be no lessening of my right hon. Friend's commitment to ensuring that records of achievement will be kept.
As to teacher costs following the implementation of local management schemes, it is no coincidence that local authority after local authority, whether Conservative or Labour-controlled, has expressed grave concern about the effects that those costs will have on school budgets. I have the honour to be chairman of a large, group 8 primary school, of which there are not many. It has £12,000 worth of incremental drift per year. The table of winners and losers shows it to be a winner on day one, but it rapidly becomes a loser. The governing body faces severe problems in contemplating what teacher costs will mean for that school. I urge my right hon. Friend to re-examine that aspect. He has received representations about it, and I know that it is a matter of concern to him.
I feel sure that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House unite in the desire to see delivered the Government's education reforms. By and large, they will be delivered by the commitment of teaching staff in our schools.
It is true to say that problems are emerging in many schools. I do not disagree one jot with what my right hon. Friend said about teachers' commitment. I do not disagree one jot with what he said about improved standards for teacher training, which we would all welcome. I urge him to reflect upon what has been said in many quarters--that
Column 925the speed of the change, and the extra workload being imposed, is causing strain. That must be recognised and dealt with. It can be done in several ways.
The problems of the interim advisory committee and the question of the restoration of teachers' negotiating rights are causing difficulties in the teaching service, but I think that those problems can and will be solved in the not-too-distant future.
We have certainly not resolved the problem of delivery. I believe that people who are interested in and concerned with education expect the Government's reforms to bring about a considerable improvement in standard and quality throughout the education system. We cannot afford to see the reforms fail because we do not have adequate staff to deliver them. Therefore, we must study the problem carefully. We have heard a great deal about the way in which we should deal with teachers' salaries. My hon. Friend the Minister of State will remember the time that we spent together on the Association of Metropolitan Authorities' education committee and on the Burnham committee, studying the problems created by the enormous pay hike in the 1974 Houghton award. The Clegg award caused similar problems, with another enormous hike in salaries in 1979. There is universal agreement that that must not be allowed to happen again.
Teachers' morale has been mentioned on many occasions. Morale is affected not just by pay and status, but by an amalgam of factors that lead to an appreciation of what teachers represent and that they alone are able to achieve and to deliver the Government's stated aims. I hope that there will not be any falling-away of the commitment to see those aims achieved in as short a time as possible. However, haste must not be the single determinant, as it is more important to get it right.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will consider the points that I have raised when he studies how his Department will respond to those important matters in the next few months.
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) : I hope that the Secretary of State and the Minister of State will pay heed to the words of the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Thornton). His expressed words, and some of his implied words, will bear careful reading and reflection, and I am aware that he speaks with experience of the subject. He rightly warned of the need to combine urgency with solidity and consistency, and that it is important to deal with the fundamental issues and not superficial concerns.
The Secretary of State comes to the debate after six months in office. We are at the beginning of a new decade, and it is appropriate that we should look at the state of our schools. We should reflect on the past decade and the coming decade as a background to the motion tabled by the Opposition and the amendment tabled by the Government, and we should consider what has happened to the Government's public commitment to education--the public commitment as manifested by the amount of money that the nation commits to education.
Between 1978-79 and 1990-91 the proportion of public expenditure on education fell from 14.4 per cent. to 13.7 per cent., at the same time as other categories of public expenditure increased, most notably defence. I know that the partial answer to that dichotomy is that school rolls
Column 926have been falling. However, the Government seek to gain credit for the fact that there is a better teacher-pupil ratio. We should have been using the great decade of oil revenue to increase the percentage of our public expenditure on education. If the Government stand to be condemned, it is first by the statistics that show that we give less priority to education in our national expenditure now than we did 10 years ago.
I understand the time pressures today on the Secretary of State, but it is interesting that he did not give way when I sought to intervene when he kept on repeating the point made in the Government amendment, that there has been
"increased expenditure since 1979 of over 40 per cent. in real terms per pupil."
I accept that. But what is the ratio per pupil of expenditure in the ordinary state school, compared to the ratio of expenditure per pupil in a city technology college? The answer is that a disproportionate amount is being allocated, and there is massive expenditure per pupil for the elite little group at a CTC, compared with per pupil expenditure on those much less fortunate pupils who are in a state school. That is unacceptable and unjustifiable by any standard.
The Government are also indicted by other statistics. The Secretary of State does not have to take personal responsibility, but the Government must accept that one sign of how bad their policies have been during the past 10 years is the low take-up rate for post-school education or training of pupils in Britain, compared with our competitor countries. Consider the figures in Australia, Canada, France, West Germany and Japan, which are all countries that we must compete with in an increasingly competitive world. The staying-on rate for pupils after the official school-leaving age in Britain is less than half the rate in some of those countries, and the number is rising less quickly.
The educational attainment statistics and targets in Britain have been compared with those in other countries during past debates. For example, during the current Committee stage of the Education (Student Loans) Bill, information has been given that the number of people in higher education in Korea has already reached the figure that the Government have targeted for 10 years' hence. We are falling behind appallingly.
We are failing to achieve standards and targets that will give Britain the educated community that it needs. The Government have also now confirmed that they are not after all committed to doubling the number of students in higher education. The reality is that we are not attaining the prerequisite of higher education, as an insufficient number of students aged over 16 stay on at school. There have been new initiatives on employment training, which are welcome, and it is important that we continue to develop them. However, there is no real commitment or coherence in policy. It would now be appropriate for the Government to reconsider the idea of amalgamating the Department of Education and Science with the part of the Department of Employment that is responsible for training. I know that that has been considered by the Government, and those functions ought to go together. That is what happens in other countries, for example, Australia. If the education
Column 927and training system is integrated, we shall be able to deliver the appropriate curricula and training to produce an appropriately educated work force in the future.
In training, there are many things that we can do and I shall list a few. For example, we could promote more exchanges between staff in schools and colleges and people employed in local industry and commerce, by secondment. We could encourage more technology in schools. We could ensure that teachers have more knowledge of the needs of the local labour market, and we could enable the national curriculum to contain enough flexibility to allow young people to leave school much better equipped for the rapidly changing world of work.
Perhaps the most substantial indictment of the Government's schools policy is the continuing teacher crisis caused by inadequate pay and insufficient numbers, and leading to a tragic lack of morale. Hidden in the small print of last week's revenue support grant announcement was something rather interesting. Can the Minister confirm that the Government have, in effect, given teachers in the south-east a regional pay advantage? I do not deny that teachers in the south-east--like those elsewhere--need more pay ; indeed, my colleagues and I have said so many times in the House. The adjustment in the settlement, however, will not remedy the massive problem of teacher shortages--which is most acute in the south-east, where the cost of living is higher, and most particularly in the more deprived parts of that region.
By eliminating negotiating mechanisms, the Government have limited the amount available for teachers' pay next year. Teachers in other regions are therefore forfeiting part of their pay rise in order to generate scarcely more acceptable salaries for their colleagues in the south-east. I trust that the Minister will agree that that does not constitute an adequate response to the needs of teachers in the most stressed parts of the country.
As the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) said, we are still substantially short of teachers for several core subjects in the curriculum. As is clear from the Central Register and Clearing House survey of the autumn 1989 entry for teacher training, planned entry targets are not being reached in several subjects that the Government themselves consider vital--craft, design and technology, modern languages, mathematics, religious education and science--and that is at least as true today. The cause of the shortage is not just the difficulty of recruiting people with these qualifications across the sectors. Because the appeal of teaching in the state sector is becoming increasingly reduced, given the choice, those with the necessary qualifications tend to opt for a different profession entirely.
The national curriculum is, in part, a good thing : it is wise to ensure that young people are taught all appropriate subjects. It is, however, a major headache for those who are expected to implement it. Teachers are falling behind with their work. The hon. Member for Crosby mentioned the high incidence of stress, and a report produced only today makes clear the importance of this point. Teachers have next to no time to plan, and less and less non-contact time. They are under increasing pressure as they try to deliver all the new initiatives.
Mr. Greenway rose --
Mr. Hughes : I do know. I visit as many schools as the hon. Gentleman, if not more. I have been into the classrooms, out of the limelight, and have talked to ordinary teachers. I have sat in on whole afternoons of lessons, and have seen the obligations that the national curriculum imposes. Governors and teachers know that what I am saying is true, and if the hon. Gentleman, who is a former teacher, does not agree, that shows how far removed he now is from the profession of which he was once an eminent member. Teachers also have the mounting task of recording and assessing the performance of pupils--a task which, given the pressures imposed by the curriculum, they will increasingly be unable to carry out.
I gather that the Government may be likely to scrap the audit proposals. Apparently the Minister of State made that clear yesterday when she visited my constituency, and I hope that she will confirm it when she winds up the debate. If that happens, it will be a welcome change of plan, as teachers will have one less thing to do. The Secretary of State talked about local management of schools. The Government amendment commends the enthusiasm with which people are supposedly welcoming LMS, but that is certainly not true of all authorities, including even those that are Tory-controlled. Hereford and Worcester, for instance, considers it a very bad idea. I know that county well--where that friend of Ministers, Dr. Muffett, is chairman of the education committee. According to Hereford and Worcester, where
"all LMS schools should be funded according to average teaching costs in their local authority, but must meet the actual costs of their own teachers",
Hereford and Worcester does not intend to go ahead with the scheme, because its schools
"could lose more than £100,000 from their budgets."
The teaching profession is still in crisis, and we can find no consolation in the up-to-date national figures. The Secretaryof State did not proffer any ; the last accurate Government figures were given in a written answer a year ago. We do know, however, that 20,000 teachers left the classrooms last year. We know that, unprecedentedly, the six teachers' unions have united to tell the Government that there is a crisis, and not just in the capital. We know that in some subjects that crisis is worse than ever. We also know that there are now more than 1,000 teaching vacancies in inner London, and I know that there are more than 225 in my borough of Southwark. If that is not a crisis, I do not know what will ever constitute one. I have been to see the Minister of State with my proposals. I suggested that the Secretary of State should urgently call a meeting of London teachers and listen to their ideas, because they know what they are talking about. I also suggested ways of facilitating teachers from Australia, New Zealand and Ireland teaching here, a mechanism for reviewing incentive payments and a mechanism to ensure that many of the empty properties
Column 929that have recently been built at such great expense are made available to teachers in the south-east. So far those suggestions have been greeted with silence. The Government could have come up with some urgent and effective initiatives, but they have not done so.
What, then, is the position at the beginning of the new decade? We are spending a smaller proportion of our gross domestic product on education than many of our neighbours ; bizarrely and alarmingly, we are spending even less of our GDP on education than Third-world countries such as Swaziland, Zambia and Zaire. We are making defence spending a greater priority, while we are reducing education spending. The policy to recruit more teachers has clearly failed. LMS and its method of implementation are not acceptable, even to Tory local government. Many teachers fear the implementation of the national curriculum.
There is no vision for the future, just as there has been no successful policy in the past. The Secretary of State and the Minister of State must accept that the policies of the previous Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), have failed : they have not produced successful results. Change is needed urgently if British education is not to have an even bleaker future in the 1990s than it had in the 1980s.
Let me warn the Secretary of State that at the end of his first year he will receive his first annual report. All I can say is that he had better do much better than the previous pupil in his position in the class, and much better than he has done in the first six months of his term of office
Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth) : The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and I agree on at least one thing-- the need for better remuneration for teachers--but I disagree entirely with his remarks about my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), the benefit of whose reforms the hon. Gentleman will see in the not -too-distant future.
Last week the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) described my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister as "fizzing with fury". Let me tell the hon. Gentleman that his speech did not fizz with anything. It contained no inspiration, no excitement and no new ideas ; it was all too predictable-- dull, boring and far too long.
I suspect that the wording of today's motion would be rather more accurate if it referred to "the failure of the Opposition to produce any policies on schools". It is significant that the part of the hon. Gentleman's speech that referred to his policies lasted less than one minute, and I found his silence eloquent.
We get the same old, tired stuff from the Opposition that we have heard so many times. The Labour party's policies continue to be those of levelling down. Where excellence is seen, they seek to destroy it. They are completely negative and totally destructive. They will abolish grammar schools, grant-maintained schools and city technology colleges. They even seek to denigrate the independent sector. [ Hon. Members :-- "Hear, hear."] I am not surprised to hear Opposition Members confirm so unreservedly that they would like the independent sector to be abolished.
For Opposition Members, parental choice is meaningless. For them, freedom of choice in education, as in everything else, is meaningless. We seek to improve the
Column 930quality and the standard of state education, where the majority of our children are educated. We start with the improvement of educational provision for the under-fives. Almost 25 per cent. more children under five years of age attend nursery or primary schools when compared with the last year of the last--and I do mean the last--Labour Government.
Seventy five per cent. of all four-year-olds now go to local education authority maintained nursery or primary schools. During the last 10 years, the proportion of three and four-year-olds going to school has increased to almost 45 per cent., and nine out of 10 attend nursery classes, reception classes or playgroups.
There is even more good news in primary and secondary schools. [ Hon. Members :-- "Where?"] The reforms introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley are beginning to bear fruit. The Education Reform Act 1988, which provided for the national curriculum, the introduction of local management of schools, open enrolment and grant- maintained schools, will be a landmark in British education. It is significant that the two great Acts of this century to reform education were introduced and piloted through the House by Conservative Secretaries of State. The only new education initiatives have come from Conservative Administrations. The city technology college programme still goes forward, despite the spiteful attitude of Opposition Members and their colleagues in certain education authorities. The politics of envy still exists. The impact of the national curriculum will be felt throughout the education system. It ensures that schools do not waste valuable time or resources on less important subjects. It concentrates on those that are recognised as of real value.
In addition, and confounding its critics, the GCSE examination is proving a substantial success. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Education and Science. In speech after speech, she has properly drawn attention to the success of the GCSE examination. It will improve the quality of our children's education. One of the best proofs of the improvement in quality is the increase in admissions to higher education. It is no accident that, during the last 10 years, 200,000 additional students have been admitted to universities, polytechnics and further education colleges.
Mr. Pawsey : That underlines, as perhaps nothing else does, the fact that the quality of education in our schools is improving and that it will continue to improve. There would be little point in seeking to improve access to higher education unless young people leaving school were properly qualified to take advantage of the additional places. That is a measure of the success of the Government's policies. It is one of the benchmarks against which our policies will be judged.
Opposition Members have referred to teachers. Certainly we require the full -hearted co-operation of the profession if our reforms are to bear fruit. Like the love of a good woman, a good teacher is beyond price. Sometimes I believe--to return to a point that was made by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey and by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Thornton)--that the torrent of paper now overwhelming our schools prevents head teachers and staff from getting on with their primary job, which is to teach. The pace and the extent of the
Column 931reforms have placed a great strain on teachers. If my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley goes down in history as the great initiator, my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Education and Science will be remembered as the great consolidator. He quite properly believes that there should be a period during which schools can digest the various reforms that we have introduced. I have made no secret of the fact that I believe that teachers' remuneration should adequately reflect the importance of the work they do. Most teachers in British schools are dedicated both to their profession and to the children who are in their charge. The interim advisory committee has been given £600 million this year to improve teachers' pay. That figure is 55 per cent. higher than last year and double that of the previous year.
It is amusing to reflect on Opposition criticism of teachers' pay. During their last period in office, teachers' pay increased by 6 per cent. That has to be compared with this Government's record : during the last 10 years, teachers' pay has increased in real terms by 30 per cent. That shows the people of this country who actually care about teachers and their level of pay.
A survey of teacher numbers was undertaken by the Department. It confirmed that almost 22,000 students went into teacher training in 1989. That was a substantial increase over 1988. But perhaps the best indicator of teacher numbers was quoted by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in his opening speech when he referred to the pupil-teacher ratio. I was delighted that, in response to a parliamentary question, the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth), told me :
"The overall pupil-teacher ratio in maintained nursery, primary and secondary schools in England in January 1989 was 17 and in January 1979"--
under a Labour Government--
"was 18.9".--[ Official Report, 16 January 1990 ; Vol. 165,c. 159 .]
That is a real and significant improvement.
As usual, the Opposition's arguments are long on rhetoric and on criticism but short on ideas. Does anybody, either inside or outside the House, really know what the Opposition's education policies are? Even more to the point, does anybody really care? Perhaps the greatest criticism of the hon. Member for Blackburn and his predecessor, the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice), is that nobody knows what they would do, were they to be elected to office. The electorate would be required to sign the usual blank Socialist cheque and take on trust whatever a Labour Government chose to give them.
In the Standing Committee that is considering the Education (Student Loans) Bill, the Opposition's favourite phrase is "as resources allow." That is the inevitable cop-out of Socialism. I do not doubt that the intentions of the hon. Member for Blackburn are good. However, the path of Socialism is always paved with promises--promises which will be honoured, but only when resources allow. The Opposition are as ever long on promises but short on delivery.
Column 9326.8 pm
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough) : The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) is very honest : he profoundly believes in the nonsense that he talks. I propose to deal with reality.
The shortage of teachers is a developing crisis. The general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers told the Select Committee--or it may have been the Standing Committee considering the Education Reform Bill- -that it was a developing catastrophe. Every group that we visited described it in those terms.
There is a shortage of full-time teachers ; if the Minister believes that the correct figure is 4,000, let him go on believing that. The crisis is on such a scale that it will come to hang around his neck before long and then he will have to look at the real figures.
There are shortages of part-time and supply teachers. The Secretary of State and Conservative Members never mention what happens when applications for teaching posts are invited. There used to be 10, 20 or 30 applications for each position ; now there are regularly only one or two. In order to put a body before a class, schools have to select one of those two because of the shortage and the way in which teachers have been treated by the Government.
Our schools are crumbling. Hon. Members do not need to listen to me--they have only to go and look at the state of our schools. All this endangers the national curriculum, which cannot be put in place without enough teachers.
There is a lack of teachers with qualifications appropriate to the subjects that they need to teach. In primary schools, teachers face endless meetings at lunchtime and after school ; they also face pressure to go on courses. Stress is endemic in the primary sector, in which teachers are beginning to lack confidence because of the abuse heaped on them by successive Tory Ministers.
Extremely able teachers are beginning to feel inadequate because of the pace of events and the pressures to implement the Education Reform Act 1988. Teachers have faced continual attacks and rudeness from the Government and Conservative Members--but that has suddenly changed because of the shortage of teachers and the crisis in the system. Conservative Members now talk nicely about teachers because they want to recruit them.
At the same time, we are witnessing the fruits of the Government's demeaning of the profession. The Education Reform Act had nothing to do with the private sector. Ministers in the Committee considering that Bill frankly admitted that. The Secretary of State said today that he was asking teachers in the private sector to consider the national curriculum. He did not ask teachers in the public sector ; he passed a law making them implement the curriculum.
Conservative Members call the private sector independent. It is not. It is not independent of the wealthy and the rich, on whom it depends. And it gives itself away by taking funds from the public sector of education to give to the city technology colleges and the assisted places scheme. Hundreds of millions of pounds are being poured into those colleges--money taken from the public sector. One such college in Nottingham is costing almost £8 million, yet only £2 million has been allocated for 400 schools in the rest of the area--and Conservative Members think that sensible. Other schools will suffer because of those colleges.
Column 933As for teachers' low wages, the Secretary of State knows that the Prime Minister has allowed him only £600 million, which makes little or no difference. Teachers' poor pay and lack of negotiating rights were condemned by the United Nations International Labour Organisation five years ago. The Government continue to mingle in the international fraternity without giving teachers the negotiating rights that all other nations have. That is what the Government have done to the teachers by diktat.
Now the Government are starting to praise teachers, but they have still given them no negotiating rights. Only increased salaries and better conditions will bring back the teachers whom we need. There are 400,000 teachers who are not teaching--the same number as are. They are ready to return to the profession if they are given decent conditions. At present we are raking over the leaves of Europe, bringing in teachers from Denmark, Holland and other
nations--countries in which teachers' wages are almost twice as high as here--many of whom cannot speak English. We have all the teachers we need here, and given proper circumstances and wages, they would return.
Teachers need a properly funded major salary increase to give them professional levels of pay. They need incentive allowances, proportionate to the needs of the professionals who have left the service. They need better conditions, better status and respect for the excellent job that they do.
Meanwhile a great deal of money has gone in the direction of the CTCs because the Government want to privatise our education system. The CTCs must be withdrawn ; the Government must understand that we shall withdraw them.
If the Government do not take note of what I have honourably and quickly outlined, our children will suffer, parents will suffer, the system will suffer and all this will amount to a recipe for educational disaster. Conservative Members may smile, but they should wait and see what happens when the Education Reform Act and other Government proposals are imposed on our children. The children of Conservative Members do not even enter the same system ; similarly, Conservative Members do not use the Health Service that they are destroying.