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Estelle Morris: I shall not go over the figures again, but they show not only that there are more teachers but that more are in training and more have applied to train. It is common sense that continuity of teaching helps children to learn most effectively. Even short-term contracts are not as effective as a teacher being in a school for a longer period. Of course I accept that.

We also have to accept, however, that every school will need supply teachers at some stage, either to cover for teacher absence, because someone has to teach the class, or to cover for teachers who are engaged in professional development. One of our dilemmas is that the increase in demand for supply teachers is partly due to the fact that we are providing more opportunities for professional development. We have reflected on that and know that we need to do something about it. That is why we have taken action. Unlike other Governments, we are ensuring that training opportunities are also available for supply teachers so that they can be trained in literacy and numeracy. It is not fair to them or the children to put them in schools without the training that they need.

Many people, especially women, would sooner work as a supply teacher than have a permanent contract because it gives them flexibility. My opinion is not significantly different from the hon. Gentleman's on that. I do not want to demean or downgrade the work that supply teachers choose to do, but I would never claim that a supply

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teacher is preferable to a permanent teacher if that is the head's first choice, because a permanent teacher offers the child continuous teaching. That is why we have put so much effort and resource into improving recruitment and retention even further.

Helen Jones (Warrington, North): My right hon. Friend rightly drew attention to the report's comments on the variation in progress between schools and the need to raise standards at key stage 3. Will she look at improving the links between primary schools that have achieved beacon status for English and maths and the early years of secondary school, because there is much that they can teach other schools about the best way to make progress in those subjects?

Will my right hon. Friend also consider suggesting to Ofsted that it examine the way in which schools use new technology to improve their teaching, because some schools are far better at utilising that than others? While she is considering the need to provide extra training for those who are teaching maths but are not qualified to do so, will she not forget the large number of teachers who have for many years been teaching English in secondary schools when their first qualification is in another subject? Will she ensure that they receive extra training as well?

Estelle Morris: The answer to all those questions is yes. My hon. Friend made an important point about primary school literacy and numeracy teachers teaching in secondary schools. I must tell secondary teachers that they have been rather slow in waking up to progress in primary schools. The more they go to primary schools to see what is happening, and the more primary schools work with them, the greater is the progress. The only change for a child between years 6 and 7 is the six-week summer holiday. However, we have changed the whole system—the school, the timetable, the routine, the hours, the teachers, the expectations, the lot—and we have not managed that transition as well as we should have done.

My hon. Friend made an excellent suggestion. We have made available £10,500 for all secondary schools from this April, and they can spend some of that on exactly that sort of teacher exchange. I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend's other suggestions, including making sure that teachers without an English qualification who are teaching English get extra support; all of those issues are being addressed by the Government.

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell): May I start by endorsing the comments of hon. Members about our teaching profession, whose members deserve great credit for many aspects of their work that are highlighted in the report? The Secretary of State makes disparaging comments about the previous Government. Given that she came to the House a few months ago to praise our educational system after the publication of the report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which highlighted the excellent performance of our 15-year-olds, she would do well to remember that those 15-year-olds spent nine of their 11 years of education under the Conservative Government.

When heads in my constituency tell me that they are losing young teachers because they "want to get a life", should I believe them? When they tell me that they are

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deluged by bureaucracy and that their jobs, as well as those of their teaching staff and their governing body, are becoming more difficult all the time because of Government initiatives, should I believe them? When they tell me that they are increasingly frustrated that they are not getting support from the Government on discipline in the classroom, should I believe them? And when the chief inspector of schools starts to highlight the future impact of those issues on future examination performance, should we believe him?

Estelle Morris: The hon. Gentleman raised a number of issues. I have acknowledged again today that we ask more of our teachers now than we have ever done before. Teaching is such an important job; the truth is that we would not have achieved the highest standards in primary education without asking more of teachers. The Government have launched a lot of initiatives. Should I believe the teachers who tell me that our initiatives have raised standards? The initiatives are not bad, but teachers find it difficult to manage them along with everything else that they are asked to do.

It is not just a case of too much paper and too many initiatives; the problem is more complicated than that. I do not want teachers to stop pupil-level target setting, or stop monitoring achievement and sending information to parents. I do not want them to stop looking at best evidence or what other schools do well. However, each of those demanding tasks asks more of teachers. The challenge is more sophisticated than we may think; it involves looking at things that teachers do not need to do, and providing support from people with other skills wherever possible. I outlined my ideas on that in a speech to the Social Market Foundation last year, and it is the core of what is being considered by the School Teachers Review Body.

I tend to think that the hon. Gentleman should not believe teachers who say that the Government are not offering extra support to deal with bad discipline. There are 3,000 learning mentors in schools; Ofsted said today that they are making a difference. There are 1,000 learning support units in schools, which were not in existence in 1997; Ofsted and teachers say that they are making a difference. However, that does not detract from the fact that, doubtless, there are heads in the hon. Gentleman's constituency who find it tough. They must be aware that we are aware of that; parents need to do what they can. However, the problem is not caused by lack of support; it is the nature of the challenge which many teachers face today from the children who attend school.

Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North): I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, which is a tribute to her work and that of her predecessor, both of whom presided over one of the most rapid periods of improvement in achievement in British education that the country has ever witnessed. On the OECD report on the programme for international student assessment, while I welcome the enormous achievement of the United Kingdom, is it not the case that those countries that systematically performed better than the UK—I am thinking of Canada, Finland and South Korea in particular—had adopted universal comprehensive secondary education? Does my right hon. Friend draw any conclusions from that? Does it not remain a feature of our system that the impact of the

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individual school on the pupils' achievement is greater than in almost any other OECD country? Is my right hon. Friend convinced that the move to greater diversity will deal with the problems of differential achievement by individual schools?

Finally, my right hon. Friend mentioned the Ofsted research on the excellence in cities programme and the rate of improvement in excellence in cities schools. Is there in the report any similar evidence on faith schools and their levels of achievement or rate of improvement? If not, has Ofsted produced any relevant information since the 2000-01 report was published?

Estelle Morris: My hon. Friend raises a number of points. With regard to the PISA report, there may have been one country—I will not cite it, as I cannot recall exactly—that was better than us in all the aspects that were tested. Although in each of the areas there were between two and four countries that performed at a higher level than we did, it was not always the same countries. There was no pattern of our always being outperformed by five or six countries.

As far as I know, the PISA report made no correlation with the way in which schools were organised. However, it stated, and it is right, that the impact of the individual school was greater in the UK than in other countries, as was the link with poverty and social class, which was a greater determinant of educational success in this country than in any of our competitor nations. That, as my hon. Friend knows, concerns me a great deal and we need to examine it.

My hon. Friend would no doubt agree that that matches up with the view of Mike Tomlinson that there is still too great a difference between the performance of different schools in similar circumstances. We are a data-rich education system. Because we have those data, we must learn from the best. The good news is that for each of the categories in which there is underperformance, we can see that there are schools in similar circumstances that are performing well.

With respect to faith schools, I am not aware of anything in the Ofsted report that particularly highlights the performance of faith schools. I have never made the argument that faith schools are by nature higher performers than schools that are not faith schools, and I will not make that argument when I speak later on the amendment to the Education Bill dealing with that subject. The argument is a different one. I have always said that I think that faith schools are confident in their value base, and there is often a natural link between school and home that stands them in good stead. Equally, I have always said that schools which do not have a faith base often have a strong value base and similar links between home and school. Later, perhaps we can explore more thoroughly than we should now some of the issues raised by my hon. Friend.

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