Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Teacher Vacancies

8. Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire): If she will make a statement on the number of teacher vacancies. [64403]

The Minister for School Standards (Mr. David Miliband): Information on the number of teacher vacancies in local education authorities is collected once a year in January as part of the annual census of teachers and vacancies. The provisional figures for 2002 were released in April. In addition to 9,000 more teachers entering the system in the past year, the figures show that the vacancy rate in maintained schools in England decreased from 1.4 per cent. to 1.2 per cent. In Wales, the figure is 0.4 per cent., which is a matter for the Welsh Assembly.

Mr. Williams: I thank the Minister for that reply, but I do not think that it will satisfy the combined lobby that we received yesterday from all the Welsh teachers' unions, which are demanding that action be taken by September 2002 to reduce the burdens of administration and reporting so that they can concentrate on delivering a world-class education to our young people. As a result of those burdens, the vacancy rate problem in Wales continues and it is difficult to attract quality young people and to retain existing professionals, especially to teach those subjects, such as science and Welsh—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he should ask a supplementary question. Perhaps the Minister can try to reply to what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Miliband: I will not intrude too far into the Welsh situation, but the hon. Gentleman should recognise that, in the past five years, we have got over 20,000 more teachers in the education system and over 80,000 more support staff. The Government are now considering how to negotiate a partnership with teachers so that they have

4 Jul 2002 : Column 385

time to focus on teaching, so that they get leadership in relation to the curriculum and the timetable and so that we ensure that they get support from other adults and information technology to help them do their jobs better.

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley): Schools, unions and governing bodies in Burnley are all aware of the considerable difficulty in recruiting teachers, especially in certain subjects. Does my hon. Friend recognise that that is a serious problem, and will he meet me at some stage to discuss the problem and the way forward?

Mr. Miliband: I am always happy to meet my hon. Friend, and I shall take the matter up with him. No one on the Government Benches would pretend that the situation is perfect, but I am sure that he will be pleased to hear that the latest figures show that teacher recruitment is up 14 per cent. in a year. In certain subjects in which we have had difficulty—notably, technology—it has risen by 41 per cent. I hope that that goes some way to address some of the issues that he has raised. I look forward to meeting him.

Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough): In 1998, the former Minister for School Standards, who is now the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, wrote in a Department for Education and Employment publication, "Teacher Supply and Demand Modelling: A Technical Description":

Is the Minister not therefore embarrassed that, when he replied to a written question from me last week about how many teachers were teaching at key stages 3 and 4 without the necessary qualifications, he had to rely on data from 1996? Is it not time that a curriculum and staffing survey was conducted so that we can have accurate data on planning for teacher recruitment and retention in all subjects?

Mr. Miliband: One must be careful before plunging into the bureaucratic chase that the hon. Gentleman might be suggesting. My understanding is that the Department has significant figures—more data than have ever been published previously—on the situation around the country. We are absolutely clear on the following questions. Are there more recruits? We know that there are. Are there more teachers in the classroom? We know that there are. Is there higher pay for teachers? We know that there is. Some of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues may want to denigrate what teachers are doing and question how many teachers there are in the interests of "Focus" newsletters, but that would not be appropriate for him.

Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon): May I raise with my hon. Friend a concern expressed by head teachers in my constituency that the figures do not reveal the true picture? For example, they do not include posts that are filled temporarily or reflect the problem of overseas teachers who are filling a large number of the teaching positions in my constituency on a relatively short-term basis. Head teachers in my constituency are very concerned about the difficulties that they experience in recruiting teachers to fill positions permanently, especially

4 Jul 2002 : Column 386

in shortage subjects. Will my hon. Friend say what is being done to ease problems of recruitment and retention of teachers in London?

Mr. Miliband: My hon. Friend will be most pleased to hear that the vacancy rate in London over the last year has fallen from 3.5 per cent. to 2.6 per cent. Of course, there is still some way to go, and we recognise that there are problems in particular subjects and in particular parts of the country. The most important thing that we can do, however, is make sure that head teachers have money in their hands to spend on the recruitment and retention of teachers. That is why the average spend per pupil in every school in the country has gone up by £560 since the Government took office. There are a range of issues to be addressed, including housing, especially in London and the south-east. That is the purpose of the review of local government expenditure that we are currently undertaking. I hope that the review will be able to address some of the issues that my hon. Friend has raised.

Mr. Richard Bacon (South Norfolk): Has the Minister had the chance, since taking up his responsibilities, to consider the case of my constituent, Christopher Read, who used to design electronic control systems for Trident nuclear submarines—I raised the case with the Minister's predecessor—but who cannot yet be given a secure employment contract? Does he agree that there is a case for relaxing the rules to allow schools to give secure employment contracts to people without fully qualified teacher status? The purpose is not to exempt people from having to obtain qualified teacher status but to allow them to have secure employment in the interim. That will provide help for many schools in accordance with paragraph 5.17 of the Government's White Paper, which says that good schools should be given more autonomy over their decisions.

Mr. Miliband: I am afraid that I have not seen the individual case that the hon. Gentleman raises. I will ask the Department to dig it out, and I will look at it. We are always interested in finding as many ways as possible of getting skilled people into classrooms as teachers and as support staff, both through the fast track scheme for graduates and through other mechanisms.

Medical Students

9. Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon): What assessment she has made of the impact of redundancies of medical academics in London medical schools on the training of medical students. [64404]

The Minister for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education (Margaret Hodge): The additional costs of training new medical students were fully taken into account at the last spending review. Staffing levels at medical schools in London and elsewhere are for each institution to determine in the light of its operational needs and circumstances.

Dr. Harris: At a time when we are seeking to increase the number of medical students being trained, does the Minister understand the concern about the fact that hundreds of medical academics responsible for carrying out the training are losing their jobs? It seems to people

4 Jul 2002 : Column 387

on the ground that, when there is good news to announce, the Government cover themselves in glory and centralise praise, but when it comes to redundancies in institutions that are almost 100 per cent. funded by the Minister's Department and the Government, she says "It is nothing to do with us, guv." Is that not too much delegation of blame? How will we look after the interests of the medical students and consultants of the future?

Margaret Hodge: The hon. Gentleman is a member of a party that believes in the delegation of responsibility and devolution, so I am absolutely amazed by his view that there should be central control over the number of staff in each institution. He should be very careful not to muddle certain facts. Mergers, especially between London hospitals, have led to changes in staffing structures. Those changes have been made by local decision makers and local managers. Changes have also been made to the amount of money that hospitals and universities have received out of the research assessment exercise to cover the cost of training medical students—some have gained, and some have lost. For example, St George's hospital in London had a 48 per cent. increase—

Mr. Speaker: Order. Perhaps the Minister could write to the hon. Gentleman about St George's hospital.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield): Does my hon. Friend agree that there is serious concern in teaching hospitals throughout the country following the generous increase in pay to consultants in the health sector? Many people in the teaching profession would be very pleased to receive such an increase, with very little reform to the delivery of service. However, there is an important knock-on effect, because many leading people in our medical schools say that they will not be able to recruit senior staff as a result of the pay increase for consultants.

Margaret Hodge: I am discussing this issue with my colleagues in the Department of Health. Under the new consultants' contract, we must ensure that staff will be available to deal with patients, and that staff will be available to train the new consultants whom we require to expand services in the national health service.

Next Section

IndexHome Page