4. Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): What advice he is taking following his Department's errors over this year's school achievement awards and the Minister of State's letter to schools of 29 March. 
The Minister for School Standards (Ms Estelle Morris): We have fully investigated the reasons for the error, which should not have happened. As soon as I was aware that there was a problem, I acted quickly to put things right. That included informing schools, individual hon. Members and the House.
Mr. Hawkins: This appalling error was set out in a written answer delivered this week to my hon. Friend the Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin). Page after page of schools throughout the country were misinformed that they had won school achievement awards or told that they should have received them when they had not done so, as a result of the complete incompetence of the Minister's Department. After her recent answers to my hon. Friend, in which she preened herself about her Government's supposed triumphs, will she now accept that she should be taking advice from the chairman of governors and the head teacher of Blackdown school in my constituency? They say that their staff are demotivated and describe her letter about this appalling mistake as insulting and incompetent. Will she apologise to the 293 schools throughout the country that were misinformed, stop wasting taxpayers' money on advertising and start doing her job?
Ms Morris: Yes, I apologise to the 300 schools that received inaccurate information. I apologised to them in my letter and to hon. Members in a parliamentary answer. The hon. Gentleman could have spoken for longer, and turned over the pages listing the 7,000 schools that received awards that were a true recognition of their great achievements. It is a tragedy that he uses his time in the House to name publicly the school that was wrongly given the award--something that I have not done in the Chamber. It is a shame that he did not take the chance to list all the schools in his constituency and local education authority area that won awards and deserve to be recognised.
I apologise to the 300 schools, but for the very first time, this Government have spent £60 million on giving a cash bonus to teams of teachers and classroom assistants, and to all those who work in schools, to celebrate their success. I have received a great number of letters from special, nursery, infant and secondary schools, which tell me that this is the first time that they have ever been recognised and rewarded in such a
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield): My right hon. Friend will know that this was not a major tragedy, but an unfortunate glitch. I hope that she will continue with the school achievement awards and all the other innovative programmes and policies that are, within the comprehensive ideal, bringing together the ambition to achieve diversity and choice. Will she remember that such diversity and choice need not only a lot of good ideas, but the continuing resources that the Government have pledged to provide? As we approach a general election, will she pledge to the House that we will continue with that commitment of resources?
Ms Morris: My hon. Friend is right: those ideas need to be well resourced, and they will continue to be so. The school achievement award scheme was part of our strategy for reforming teachers' pay. I assure him that, just as we are the first Government to put in place a system that rewards good teachers for teaching well, we will continue to reward teams of teachers, as we have done through the school achievement award.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Jacqui Smith): The funding allocated between 1997-98 and 2000-01 to schools in the Chatham and Aylesford constituency from the new deal for schools programme was £10.6 million. That included allocations made to Kent and Medway local education authorities for total packages that include schools in the constituency. For the next three years, Kent has so far been allocated £56.6 million and Medway £10.6 million under the new deal for schools programme.
Mr. Shaw: If my hon. Friend believes that that reply warrants gratitude and thanks from me, she is right. However, that is not the complete picture. The capital grant to which she referred is £1.5 million for St. Mark's school in Eccles, which has waited years for a new school. The money came from the new deal; the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrat party voted against it. On Monday, I attended a ground-breaking ceremony for Chatham South school, which has waited 20 years for a new school hall. However, it will get not only a new school hall, but six classrooms, a studio and--
Jacqui Smith: I do not ask for gratitude, but for the money to continue to contribute to raising school standards. Departmental research clearly shows that the money that we are putting in to schools has an impact not only through repairing roofs, building new schools and
The Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mr. David Blunkett): The new arrangements for performance-related pay for teachers are now in place. More than 80 per cent. of the assessments have been undertaken and we envisage that more than 70 per cent. of those eligible for the award will receive it. Those who receive it, together with the pay increase from 1 April, will gain an increase of £3,000 and access to a new pay scale of £4,000, which will take teachers in London who do not accept management and administrative responsibility to a salary of £31,000 or £34,000 a year.
Mr. Cunningham: I am grateful for that reply. How many teachers in Coventry have qualified for performance-related pay? What is my right hon. Friend doing to lift morale and to reduce the amount of paperwork that teachers have to endure?
Mr. Blunkett: I have always accepted that pay on its own is insufficient. Working conditions and investment in the staff room as well as the classroom are crucial. Just under 1,600 teachers have currently applied for performance-related pay in Coventry. I do not have the final figure for the number who have qualified, but I hope that it is equivalent to the national figure that I gave.
In the past two terms, we have halved the amount of paperwork and Government missives. We are putting in place a £35 million electronic data collection and collation scheme, which will avoid the duplication of data and the necessity for a variety of agencies to request the same information. With the massive investment in each pupil and in buildings and technology, we are not only raising morale but, by doing so, ensuring that we raise standards for every child in every school in the country.
Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough): Liberal Democrats welcome any extra money that goes into teachers' pay packets, but how does the Secretary of State explain the £35 million that was spent on consultancy to introduce the scheme? How can he excuse the days of wasted time spent by teachers and head teachers in filling in a bureaucratic nightmare? Is not it high time to abandon performance-related pay, and look to Scotland, where the Liberal Democrats have brokered a deal for teachers that values them through the hours that they work and their conditions of service? That is what matters to teachers, not the bureaucracy that the Government have heaped upon them day after day.
Mr. Blunkett: My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) points out the impossibility of filling in a nightmare. The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) had a similar nightmare
The hon. Gentleman delivered an interesting tirade. Starters in England receive higher pay than in Scotland. That position will continue in August when the increase in Scotland takes effect. Teachers in Scotland may or may not have a 35-hour week by 2006. Any party that advocates a 35-hour week in a 39-week year needs to be able to tell the electorate what resources are being diverted to pay for that policy.
Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney): My right hon. Friend the Minister for School Standards said a few moments ago that the school achievement award scheme was part of performance-related pay for teachers. Will the Secretary of State consider revising the school achievement award scheme, basing it perhaps on Ofsted reports, to create a less crude measure than using only test results? Will he consider at least taking Ofsted reports into account? Now that our friend Mr. Woodhead has gone, schools might be able to take a more positive approach to Ofsted. I can say, as someone who has experienced an Ofsted report, that when one has got through it, one certainly feels in need of a reward.
Mr. Blunkett: That is precisely why performance- related pay is rewarding good teachers well for doing precisely that in the classroom, rather than having to rely on management or administrative promotion. Yes, the achievement awards are about progress, in terms of assessed improvement against benchmark three-year programmes, and about excellence. We are very open to refining and improving any reward system, so long as it is based on improved standards.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): This is an important question; I say that to the Secretary of State sincerely. The future of the Ryles Park high school in my constituency is in some doubt, primarily because it is the only secondary school in Macclesfield that provides for those with learning difficulties, and that has an inevitable impact on the league tables. Does he accept that, while performance-related pay is important, responsibility is also important, and that the skills that teachers need to deal with those with learning difficulties are critical to the success of education? Will he recognise the role of those teachers, which could lead to improvements in the number of those attending that school and remove the doubt that hangs over its future?
Mr. Blunkett: I confirm that I agree that those working with, supporting and encouraging the progress of those with learning difficulties should be rewarded, which is why the performance-related promotion is about rewarding and recognising those who take children from whatever their starting point to a point of improvement. In other words, it is as applicable to teachers working with special needs children--not only in integrated special needs but in special needs schools--and receiving the performance-related uplift, as well as those who have received the achievement and performance bonus, as to teachers elsewhere, and I commend those special needs teachers.
Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow): Does the Secretary of State recall that the criticism of the scheme from the Liberal Democrats and others when it was launched was that only a minority of teachers would benefit? Do not the figures that he outlined demonstrate that a clear majority of teachers can benefit, now and in future? Does not that fact show that the vast majority of teachers are good teachers, and that the Government value them?
Mr. Blunkett: Yes, I can confirm that. Although my hon. Friend was being heckled by the Liberal Democrat spokesman during that question, I must point out to the House that performance-related pay applies also at senior management team, deputy and head levels. More than 60 per cent. of head teachers and more than 50 per cent. of deputy heads have benefited from it. Putting in place the performance-related promotion for those not on administration and management grades is another leg in that process. So, yes, all teachers have the opportunity to benefit from this programme, which is why 200,000 of them applied.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy): Given that the performance-related pay scheme is divisive, how does it assist in recruitment or in increasing morale in the teaching profession? Is it not a gimmick, and a pointless one at that?
Mr. Blunkett: Of course, recruitment has gone up, as illustrated in the independent statistics, by more than 12,000 since January 1998, and there are 2,400 extra supply teachers, all of whom are available in the classroom. However, I cannot see for a moment how the scheme can any longer be described as divisive. People have their normal pay increase, and the entitlement to go up the normal incremental scale. They now also have the entitlement to seek promotion on to the new scales that I described earlier, and they get the £2,000 uplift to boot, simply for being a good teacher in the classroom.
The fact that 200,000 teachers have applied illustrates that, far from this being something for a minority, it is for the majority of teachers who, I repeat--despite the president of the National Union of Teachers telling me off for saying so--are good teachers. We value them for being good teachers and we thank them for it.