Select Committee on Education and Employment Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 17 - 19)




  17. Of course, Mike, you are very well aware of the rule that we use first names but we still ask pretty tough questions! Let us get started on the main part of the annual report and let us start at the sharp end and talk about teacher recruitment and retention. Could you give us a bit of an overview? This is much in the news. The last time we talked, to your predecessor, on an annual report, he said, "Thus, we have not experiencing the crisis in teacher supply that some commentators predicted". This contrasts certainly with your comments on recruitment and retention this year. Have we seen a rapid increase in the scale of the problem since last year?
  (Mr Tomlinson) I think so. Remember the annual report covered the academic year 1999-2000 and, I think, clearly, if you believe what is said in the press and elsewhere—and certainly a lot of headteachers to whom I have spoken—then the situation has worsened in recent months. What is clear from the data we have is that the issue of recruitment and retention was becoming one that was taxing schools and its effects were already beginning to be seen—as I drew attention to them in my report. For example, we were seeing many more supply teachers in schools and many of course being deployed in the early stages in secondary schools of Key Stage 3, between the ages of 11 and 14. We are also, for the first time, seeing an increase in the mismatch between the subject or subjects a teacher was teaching and their qualifications and experience. Again a symptom of the likely fact that headteachers are having to redeploy some staff and therefore ask people perhaps to do things which they are not as strong in teaching as they might be. So there were clearly signs of that emerging, and that was the worry that I expressed, that if that is not tackled, and tackled vigorously, then it might well put at risk all the important and substantial gains that have been made in recent times.

  18. To put it in "tabloidese" is it a problem that has got more serious or is it a crisis?
  (Mr Tomlinson) I think it is a problem that over recent months has got more serious for a number of schools. I hesitate to use the word "crisis" not because of any embargo on the use of the word but merely because I think that it is difficult to know what point would be reached when you could use that word. I have seen two of these cycles. Back in the 1980s a similar position was found. It always occurs at a similar point in the economic cycle of course. But I do think that this particular cycle is more difficult and more complex than the previous one, so I think it is an important and serious problem.

Mr Foster

  19. One of the ways in which the Government is looking to retain teaching staff and to aid in recruitment is through performance-based pay. Would you agree with the following statement that was made with regard to performance-based pay? "The teachers, good or bad or indifferent, had their rise. No-one really worried about the children who were being cheated of an excellent method of motivating and keeping good teachers."
  (Mr Tomlinson) I cannot imagine where that came from! I think that the concept of performance-related pay is an important one. I have no evidence at the moment, because it is early days in the work, that headteachers are not applying the systems that are in place conscientiously and effectively. We will have data, I suspect, in due course, from the threshold assessors to say whether or not this has all been applied sensibly. I do believe that performance-related pay has an important part to play in the structure of the general pay and conditions of teachers. But I do not think pay is the be-all and end-all. It is important but it is not the be-all and end-all for many teachers, when one talks to them; it is about other matters that they are concerned.

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