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Mr. Tom Levitt (High Peak): Neither the Government nor I would defend fraud, but would the hon. Gentleman care to estimate what proportion of people with ILAs receive fraudulent training? Is not that a tiny proportion of the 2.5 million people who receive ILA training?
Mr. Green: I hope that the proportion that receives fraudulent training is very small, but my point is that neither I nor the Government know. The Government have been shelling out tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money not knowing whether the training is genuine or fraudulent in any individual case. That is why I have referred the matter to the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. The hon. Gentleman raises the central issue: how much money is being spent on fraudulent training? Why did the Government not know that that was happening during the 13 months of the scheme? The House deserves to hear an answer to that question today.
Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry): As my hon. Friend has twice mentioned Mr. O'Brien's experience, he may be interested to know that Mr. O'Brien approached me last autumn, when I had some responsibility for such matters. Is it not entirely characteristic of the way in which the Government handle things that, last autumn and again this year, they have arbitrarily withdrawn a scheme at short notice? Last autumn, they reduced the entitlement and capped the scheme, without consulting the participants in the industry and with no attempt to remedy the alleged ills that caused them to take that entirely arbitrary action.
Mr. Green: My hon. Friend makes an extremely valid point. The charge is twofold; there has been wilful neglect over many months, followed by panica reaction that penalises the innocent along with the guiltyand the Government are equally culpable on both counts.
Another body that has been involved from the start is the Association of Computer Trainers. I repeat that all hon. Members know how important it is to develop computer skills in this country. Retraining adults, giving them computer skills, is often the best way to provide them with opportunities in life that they would not otherwise have had, so I hope that the Minister will take to heart the contents of the letter that I have received in the past two days from the ACT, which states:
I have described the most dramatic recent collapse of the Government's policies for education and skills, but there are far too many more examples. One of the crises in our schools is that in teacher morale. I have already observed that the Department's besetting sin is that it prefers to sort out the press coverage rather than the underlying problem.
For example, in a case study last week, the National Union of Teachers commissioned Professor Alan Smithers and Dr. Pamela Robinson of Liverpool university to examine why so many teachers were leaving the profession. I shall come to the reasons in a minute, but it is worth noting that the Department's immediate reaction was to rush out welcome figures about teacher recruitment in the hope of muddying the waters for 24 hoursas ever, spin first, substance second.
Of course, that exercise did not work. Frankly, there is little point recruiting more trainee teachers if they never get in front of a class of children. On that specific point, the NUT's findings are stark. Of every 100 final-year student teacher, 40 do not make it to the classroom and another 18 leave in their first three years of teaching. In total, 58 per cent. leave within the first three years. That meansit is worth the Secretary of State considering thisthat, for every final-year student teacher under the Labour Government, there is a better than even chance that they will not be teaching in three years' time. Is she proud of her Government's record on that?
Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge): I have been listening intently to the hon. Gentleman. Does he agree that teacher numbers have risen by 11,000 since 1997? Does that not show that the Government's policy is having success in keeping teachers in the classroom?
Mr. Green: It is not immediately obvious that the hon. Lady has been listening carefully, but I welcome her to the debate. If she wants to dispute the fact that teacher morale is low and that there is a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention, she will not have to dispute it with me. She will have to dispute it in every staff room in the country. She is a conscientious constituency Member and I am sure that she visits schools in her constituency. She will find that there is a crisis in morale.
I was asked whether the Secretary of State was proud of her predecessor's record. It is a shame that he is not here, because I discovered that the crisis in numbers is acute in Sheffield, his former bailiwick. Last week, The Star in Sheffield reported:
'It seems for many schools the vacancies reported in the summer have not been filled,' he said."
Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow): On the point about recruitment and retention, does the hon. Gentleman recall that Conservative Essex county councillors said at the beginning of the year that Essex schools were on the verge of a four-day week? Will he join me in welcoming the fact that that dire prediction has been proved to be completely without foundation? Although recognising the challenge that recruitment presents, is it not incumbent on all politicians not to exaggerate the situation for our own party-political ends? We should particularly bear in mind that there are 11,000 more teachers in schools today than there were four years ago.
Mr. Green: The hon. Gentleman has had his chance. If he talks to his colleagues in the county, he will find that Essex schools, like schools all over the country, are working extremely hard to solve the problem. That is why there was only a minor crisis in the summer. He will also find that teachers who are not qualified to teach a particular subject are increasingly being put in front of classes. That is how schools are trying to get around the crisis, and it is not ideal. The hon. Gentleman invites us to celebrate what is going on, but the NUT survey[Interruption.] I am especially delighted that members of the Government Front Bench are prepared to pour scorn on the teaching unions; I am sure that that will be noted outside the House.
According to the NUT survey, 60 per cent. of teachers say that the work load caused by unnecessary paperwork is one thing that makes them want to leave. One teacher in Surrey wrote to me saying that in the first nine days of the autumn term he received nine different documents from the Governmenta directive every day. As he says, no wonder there is no time for him to teach. Such nonsense discourages people from teaching.
Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central): I read the NUT report, and it is worrying. It refers to teacher retention and recruitment. On the age range of teachers, however, it states that they are predominantly over 40. Why is that? Why has it been difficult to recruit teachers who are now in their thirties? Is not it because the hon. Gentleman's Government did not recruit teachers? This is not a party political point.