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House of Lords

Tuesday, 12th November 1996.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Lichfield.

Lord Paul

Swraj Paul, Esquire, having been created Baron Paul, of Marylebone in the City of Westminster, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Haskel and the Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

Miss Meta Ramsay, having been created Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale, of Langside in the City of Glasgow, for life--Was, in her robes, introduced between the Baroness Lockwood and the Lord Haskel.

Modern Language Teachers: Recruitment

2.58 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to increase the number of modern language teachers.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley): My Lords, we established the Teacher Training Agency to bring together work on teacher recruitment with other functions designed to improve the quality of teaching. Last week the agency published a strategy paper on teacher recruitment. The paper contains specific proposals to increase the recruitment of modern language teachers alongside more general measures to increase teacher recruitment.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, as the Government have been trying for some three years without success to increase the number of trainee teachers in modern foreign languages and have even failed to meet their own targets by 14 per cent., is it not time to introduce new incentives? I was glad to hear the Minister say that modern foreign languages are included in the recently announced scheme. Do the Government believe that the scrapping of the bursaries which were available to trainees in subjects where there are shortages has had any effect?

Lord Henley: My Lords, obviously, that is a matter that we should examine; but I do not believe that we have in any way reached crisis point. We are moving towards a future shortage but I understand that throughout the entire country at present there are a mere

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72 vacancies in modern language teaching. We should like to do more, and that is why last week we announced the publication of the teacher training consultation document. I shall ensure that a copy is sent to the noble Lord because he might wish to make a number of comments on it.

We replaced the bursary scheme with almost £8 million-worth of support for locally focused recruitment activity through the priority subject recruitment scheme. We shall have to examine that scheme to see how well it works. However, I welcome any suggestions from the noble Lord, and I shall send him a copy of the consultation document.

Baroness Brigstocke: My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that the affiliation to the Technical Colleges Trust of 30 language colleges will help to boost the number of modern language teachers? These new language colleges have special responsibilities for developing good modern language teaching practice which can be followed by other schools.

Lord Henley: My Lords, my noble friend is right to draw the attention of the House to the success of the language college initiative. It will not immediately increase the number of modern language teachers but I hope that over the years it will increase the number of those emerging from the schools with skills in modern languages. One hopes that in due course that will lead to an increase in the number of teachers. I hope that those who are interested will take the opportunity to visit a language college near them in order to see how well it is doing in delivering the national curriculum with an extra focus on modern language teaching.

Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, what is being done to encourage more part-time assistants from our European partners? Is the noble Lord aware that it is much better for a foreign language to be taught by a national of the country concerned?

Lord Henley: My Lords, that is true. The Teacher Training Agency will examine the possibility of recruiting native speakers within this country to teach foreign languages and overseas-trained teachers who could be trained on the job. It is a matter which the Teacher Training Agency can and will address.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris: My Lords, it is a fact (is it not?) that the DfEE's target initial training intake--which is an ugly term with an even worse acronym--for modern languages for 1996-97 is 2,250. Can the Minister tell the House how many of those places have been taken up; and if the figure is under 2,250, why is that and what is being done about it?

Lord Henley: My Lords, as I and I believe the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, made clear, we are not meeting our recruitment targets, but we have not yet reached a crisis point. I can assure the noble Lord that last year applications for post-graduate training courses in modern languages rose by some 7 per cent. As there is

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a possibility of future shortages, the Teacher Training Agency made its recent announcement, and as I promised to send a copy of the consultation document to the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, I shall send exactly the same document to the noble Lord, Lord Morris.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris: My Lords, what I asked about and what I should like to know is the exact number that have been recruited so far against that target. If the Minister would care to write to me with a reply, I should be very much obliged.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I shall be delighted to write to the noble Lord on that particular point.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, the Minister has twice mentioned the word "crisis". Perhaps he will tell the House what he would describe as a crisis as regards the shortage of modern language teachers. I hope that the Minister and the Government will agree that French, German and Russian are of supreme importance in the present world. In January of this year, the number of vacancies was 82, if I remember rightly, or 86; and, if I understood what the Minister said correctly, that has increased by two. If it is not yet a crisis, it must be getting close to it.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I should not wish to follow the noble Lord as regards his suggestions of what are the priority languages. The reason that I said there is not a crisis is that nationwide, we have 72 vacancies. That is a fairly small number. It is 0.5 per cent. However, I have announced a number of measures which the Teacher Training Agency is taking. I hope that in time those measures will yield results. But I do not believe that one can describe a shortage of 0.5 per cent. as a crisis situation.

The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, will my noble friend tell the House whether modern languages include the languages of Asia?

Lord Henley: My Lords, all modern languages include all languages which are spoken at the moment. Earlier, my noble friend Lady Brigstocke mentioned the language colleges. I believe that the Dartmouth Grammar School, which is a language school, teaches not only the European languages but three or four different Asiatic languages: Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, one language from the Indian sub-continent and I believe one other.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the second most widely spoken international language in the world is Spanish, and that there is no shortage of people with an ability to teach that language in this country?

Lord Henley: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend for bringing his expertise in Spanish, and particularly in South American matters, to the attention of the House.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that for every Spanish teacher in

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this country, we have 12 people teaching French? Could we not cancel a lot of those speakers and get down to speaking Russian, Chinese, Japanese and even Spanish?

Lord Henley: My Lords, different arguments have been put forward for a number of different languages. Traditionally in this country we have focused more on the teaching of French, but I understand my noble friend's concern about the teaching of Spanish and a whole array of different languages. However, I suspect that I could waste the time of the House in arguing about the merits of all the different modern languages which it may be advisable to teach in our schools.

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, is the Minister aware that it used to be said that the language of optimists was Russian, but if you were a pessimist, you should learn Chinese?

Lord Henley: My Lords, I am not sure that I would necessarily follow what the noble Lord says about those two particular languages. However, perhaps the noble Lord remembers the comments of Emperor Charles V about the different languages he used in speaking to women, men, his lovers and his horses.

Birmingham Northern Relief Road and Western Orbital Route

3.7 p.m.

The Earl of Bradford asked Her Majesty's Government, further to their answers of 1st March 1995 (H.L. Deb., WA 99) what progress has been made in the construction of the Birmingham northern relief road and the western orbital route.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): My Lords, the public inquiry into the proposals for the Birmingham northern relief road ended in October last year. The Secretaries of State for the Environment and Transport are awaiting the inspector's report. The western orbital route was transferred to the longer-term programme in November 1995 and work on it was stopped at that time.

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