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Teacher Recruitment

8.10 p.m.

Lord Campbell-Savours rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what consideration is being given to economy, efficiency and effectiveness in teacher recruitment.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this debate is about the use of taxpayers' money. It is born of my experience as a member of the Public Accounts Committee between 1980 and 1990. Its objective is to ask three simple questions. First, is taxpayers' money being wasted in the process of teacher recruitment? Secondly, could the task be carried out more cheaply, and could schools and their budgets benefit from different arrangements for recruitment? Thirdly, would teachers seeking work find a more streamlined system more effective in locating teaching posts?

In the course of the past 10 years, the recruitment and retention of teaching staff has become one of the most significant challenges to face school managers. The growing gap between the number of vacancies and qualified applicants, combined with an increasingly mobile workforce, has led to an enormous rise in advertised vacancies. Although the underlying cause of that crisis is a shortage of trained staff, it has brought sharply into focus the process by which teachers are recruited. A disturbing picture is revealed. Many schools spend on vacancy advertising the equivalent of the amount required to fund an additional member of staff. Institutions spend ever increasing amounts on bigger, more noticeable advertisements to compete with each other and with wealthier private institutions. The Times Educational Supplement, an effective monopoly, which I understand carries some 70 per cent of the vacancies, takes millions of pounds per week from school budgets and cash-strapped institutions in deprived areas. It provides a rich source of income to the highly profitable News International.

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Furthermore, although the figure of 70 per cent of the market is undoubtedly impressive, 30 per cent of vacancies are not advertised in the TES. because of lack of funds. For those schools, often the most deprived, the chances of filling a place are greatly reduced, and it becomes almost impossible for applicants to find positions. A by-product of this harsh competition is the effect that it has on school managers. To be consistently siphoning money from an already tight budget to spend on often fruitless advertising must be demoralising to say the least.

There is no question that the path which led to the current position is entirely legitimate. Historically, the process of recruitment has relied on school managers advertising their vacancies in whatever they deemed to be the most effective and efficient publication. I understand that. As in many fields, the desire on all sides to create a mutually accepted publication for vacancies has led to the predominance of the TES.

Such a system was entirely sustainable where small sums were paid for single advertisements and was, indeed, desirable, as both advertisers and applicants have a much simpler task in reaching each other. There is, however, another factor that has recently altered the status quo and presented the Government with a real, viable alternative—the Internet.

The recruitment industry generally has long been recognised as an ideal application for the Internet, and agencies have been quick to move online. The processes of an employer placing an advert, a potential applicant registering an interest and the resulting match of the two can be done instantly online without any intermediary. The cost and speed implication is huge and has led to online recruitment services being some of the few successful online ventures.

In addition to the easily automated process, applicants from anywhere in the world can register their specific interest and post their CV online. They can then choose automatically to be advised by e-mail, post or telephone of every appropriate vacancy as it arises and even have their CV automatically sent to the appropriate institution.

Unlike the Government, a number of rival Internet-based companies have recognised this opportunity and entered the market, keen to exploit the present position and to entice schools away from the crippling costs of newspaper advertising. One notable early success has been, whose aggressive marketing and partnership with the Independent newspaper has gained it a 20 per cent stake of vacancies. In response, the TES has launched its own online service, but due to its dominant market position, this has tied it exclusively to its offline publication to maintain revenues.

For a glimpse of where we are heading, we must look to America. In the past 10 years, an uncontrolled surge in online teaching vacancy websites has led to a highly fragmented market that relies on hundreds of unconnected lists, and makes effective communication between recruiters and applicants almost impossible. This problem was recognised by President Clinton in 2000 when he tried to consolidate the structure by creating a top-level body called Recruiting Teachers. In

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reality, all he succeeded in doing was creating a central list of fragmented organisations. This is not what we want in the United Kingdom.

The truth is that a very substantial amount of time and money is spent every year by institutions that are forced by the lack of an alternative to choose between very expensive or low-penetration media. The current increase in competition will fragment the market. So what can we do about it?

Recently, I tracked down a proposal recently made to the DfES for a not-for-profit, centrally managed website that would list 100 per cent of the public sector teaching vacancies and be free for both schools and applicants. The proposal came from a firm called Cognita. I asked it for further details, as its proposals had clear implications for the public purse. I should make it clear that I have no connection whatever, financial or otherwise, with the company, apart from the fact that a principal of the company, whom I have met once, is the relative of someone known to me professionally.

Apart from the dramatic cost savings, the system proposed could provide a wealth of functions that would help applicants and institutions to find each other. All that would be required to implement the scheme would be for the Government to oblige institutions to list their vacancies with the website.

To assess the feasibility of this service, the promoters, I understand, consulted a number of industry professionals. The reaction to the concept was almost uniformly positive. The only reservations that were expressed about the proposed system were possible difficulties in implementation and overlap, and the added burden of informing a central register. In fact, it would place little added burden on the institutions that already inform the LEA of vacancies. Indeed, a centralised system could automatically inform the relevant LEA, thus ultimately reducing the overall workload. Although such a system would initially have to operate in parallel with the current marketing mix, I estimate that it could largely replace newspaper-based advertising within eight months to a year.

I am confident that the implementation of the proposed service offers an excellent opportunity to remove a very wasteful and unnecessary drain on school budgets—a drain estimated at equivalent to almost 5,000 extra teachers per year or 60 million in expenditure a year. In addition, the comprehensive and targetable nature of the service would facilitate a smoother, more accurate and faster process, vital to improving recruitment rates.

I raise the subject because I represent the taxpayer, and the figures stand out for themselves. We have an estimate of 60 million under known current arrangements. I am told that the cost of an alternative Internet service such as I proposed could be between 1 million and 3 million: a substantial saving to the public purse. I think it is a bargain. Why cannot we, in government, sponsor and set up such a service, and save the taxpayer a fortune?

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8.22 p.m.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, for the opportunity to debate this important issue. I hope that he will forgive me if I come at his topic sideways. I wish to argue that to recruit more teachers, we must recognise the stress that current teachers face, and seek to minimise this stress to avoid the cost of recruitment. Teachers are facing children whose needs are increasingly complex. We must reduce the numbers of such children by early intervention before they arrive at school.

I have sat in a class in a comprehensive not far from the House, and seen one unmanageable child reduce the classroom to chaos and the nerves of the teachers to tatters. I have worked with children in an intermediate treatment centre, and have never experienced more stress, before or since. After every session with these children, my ears burned for several minutes, I think due to increased blood pressure. We now rightly demand higher standards of our teachers. Increasingly, they face children who have experienced family breakdown, grown up in poverty, or experienced the trauma of their parents separating, and boys who have grown up without a father in the picture. Also, a recent report cited two to three per cent of parents as problem drug-users.

Inevitably, these experiences impact indirectly on teachers. The Minister is taking many steps to improve teachers' experience, and to help them better enjoy their work. I simply express my concern that teachers should have a thorough grounding in child development as part of their teacher training. It is important that teachers can put the behaviour of children into context. If they comprehend the reasons for children's behaviour, they will find it less intimidating, and they will be better equipped to manage it effectively, firmly and confidently.

As regards early intervention, it is encouraging to read more and more research that demonstrates that high-quality day care improves education and other outcomes for children, particularly for disadvantaged children. The Government's Sure Start programme has been a resounding success. I pay tribute to the Minister for her part in promoting and developing the programme.

However, I am concerned at the impact of the rapid increase in the use of day care for very young children. I am concerned, first, that there is an insufficient work force to deliver the quality of provision required. Secondly, I am concerned at the increase in the use of this type of provision for children under 12 months. The Minister will be aware of the work of J Belsky in this area. Belsky is one of the academics charged with evaluating the success of the Sure Start programme and has published a paper entitled Developmental Risks (Still) Associated with Early Child Care. He argues that the available evidence suggests that early—in the first year of life—extensive and continuous non-maternal care is associated with elevated levels of aggression and non-compliance. The Minister has kindly agreed to meet me about my concerns. I certainly do not question the thrust of the Government's programme but rather the detail.

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I do not intend to speak at great length. My intention is simply to underline the need to support teachers and ensure that pupils are, as far as possible, a pleasure to teach. Such support is necessary if we are to recruit and retain sufficient numbers of teachers in future.

I recently met a group of care leavers preparing to go to university. One of them was taught by a teacher at an RPS Rayner project in south London which I had visited a few months earlier. The director of the care leaver project had been especially proud of her teacher, a young Afro-Caribbean woman. The care leaver well remembered the teacher's encouragement and enthusiasm. The teacher had made such a difference to the care leaver's life chances by enabling her to go to university. May God bless her and all our teachers.

8.27 p.m.

Lord Tope: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, for initiating this debate and for the very pertinent points that he made when he spoke. It is, I think, a little over three years since I spoke from our Front Bench in an education debate. I am therefore also very grateful to my successor as our education spokesman, my noble friend Lady Sharp of Guildford, for giving me this opportunity so that she could attend the parliamentary choir this evening. It is also a pleasure to find myself once again back alongside—geographically speaking at least—the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch.

As I always used to, I have still to declare two personal interests. First, I am still a member of a local education authority and have been now for very nearly 30 years. Secondly, with a little more pleasure, I am married still to a primary school teacher, and have been for rather more than 30 years. So the subject of this debate is of particular personal interest to me. I am pleased to have a chance to make a brief contribution, although I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Sharp for her considerable help in ensuring that I am at least reasonably up-to-date in my remarks.

From these Benches our concerns centre on two issues, the first of which is the process of recruitment per se and whether it is efficient and effective. In particular we are concerned at the drop-out rates, both from initial teacher training and from among those who, having trained, either do not pursue the teaching profession or do so for only a few years. Secondly, we are concerned about the efficiency and effectiveness of the job market for teachers, including the ways in which vacancies are advertised and made known to potential recruits. If I may, I shall deal first with the issue of recruitment and retention.

The teaching profession now boasts more than 400,000 full-time-equivalent members, up from 380,000 when the Government first came to power. Demographics have boosted school rolls, but—and here I will pay tribute to government achievements, for perhaps the only time this evening—the decrease in pupil-teacher ratios in key stage 1 classes and the fast expansion of nursery classes has meant that we need, and have recruited, more teachers. There has been little

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problem with recruiting for primary school teachers. Over the past few years, the 15,000-plus training places in this sector have been filled by early June with little difficulty. It has been the secondary sector that has posed problems and it is where shortfalls, especially in maths, science and modern languages, still remain.

The good news is that this year—for the first time since the Government came to power—it looks as if the Government will be close to meeting their targets on secondary school recruitment. Their target is to recruit 17,000 people and by the beginning of June, applications had reached 21,000. More applications will still come and, allowing for those graduates who change their mind and drop out—often without letting the colleges know—it appears that the Government are reasonably well up to target, even in areas such as maths and science.

Therefore, it is ironic that in a year when the Government have good news on the recruitment front, the Government's own policies should have resulted in a crisis this summer in which more than 500 teachers are likely to be losing their jobs because of cash shortages. In addition, many more are in danger of not having their contracts renewed or perhaps having their hours of work cut. Others are being forced out because of falling rolls.

It seems that the Government have abandoned any notion of using these teachers' skills to reduce class sizes at key stage 2. I would welcome the Minister's comments on that. It appears that the Government would rather classroom teachers were sacked and replaced with less well trained, or even untrained, classroom assistants. That is hardly an environment which will encourage young people, or teaching assistants who seek to upgrade their own qualifications, to see the teaching profession as a long-term stable career.

It is also worth remembering that from the point of view of economy and efficiency, for every 10 people recruited into initial teacher training, two drop out during training and a further three fail to proceed—at least initially—into the teaching profession. In other words, for every 10 people recruited only five actually end up teaching. It is not quite as bad as it sounds since although only 65 per cent go immediately into teaching, something like 80 per cent end up teaching sometime during the following five years.

On top of the inefficiencies of teacher training, there is a continuing loss from the failure to retain teachers. If each teacher taught for a full 40-year span—a prospect which horrifies my wife whenever I mention it—and there is a workforce of 400,000, replacement recruitment would run at only 10,000 a year. The fact that we are looking at recruiting over 30,000 a year gives some indication of this loss. So not only do we have to bear the cost of drop-outs during the teacher training process, but also the continuing cost of leakage from the profession. How many of us know people who started life as teachers and have ended up in all kinds of other professions, contributing substantially to society but nevertheless not doing what they were initially trained to do?

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In addition to training costs, schools have to meet substantial costs advertising and interviewing for new staff. I now come to the points made quite rightly by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, when he introduced the debate. Ever since the introduction of local management of schools, the job market for schools has been operated almost entirely by the private sector. The only exception has been the continued use of pools by some LEAs to recruit newly-qualified primary school teachers. However, even that useful mechanism has been continued only where individual schools were prepared to buy into the local authority service. Indeed, with the determination by the Government to pursue even more passporting of funds to schools, many local authorities might not even be able to continue this useful service.

So how has the job market worked and is it efficient? Again, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, said earlier, for many years the Times Educational Supplement has been the main national vehicle for advertising teaching posts. Those that do not need to be advertised nationally often appear in local bulletins, if LEAs can still afford to produce them. Again, they are dependent upon schools buying into the service. A study of one LEA in the South West found that some secondary schools were not bothering to advertise locally, but were going straight to the TES, presumably because they received a better response rate. It is certainly better value. I am led to believe that the Times Educational Supplement has increased its advertising rates more slowly than many other publications have done over the past few years, but perhaps, as the noble Lord said, it has not needed to.

In addition, the TES does now offer a free online version, with the advert being placed without further charge on the Internet. Not only does this seem to provide schools with two types of advertising for the price of only one, but it also recognises the importance of the combination of Internet and print advertising in reaching the widest possible number of potential applicants.

There are two other examples in the education world that support the effectiveness of this linked approach. The first, eteach, started as an online job service, but soon linked with the Independent newspaper so that its jobs are listed in print each week. Similarly, in the higher education sector, although there is an effective job website, most universities still advertise the very same posts in the Guardian and the Times Higher Educational Supplement as well as on the web. That competition between providers has helped to keep prices down.

What has forced schools to spend much more money on job advertising over the past few years has been the shortage of teachers. When competing for a scare resource, schools have wanted to take more space to sell themselves in order to attract teachers. Where once classified adverts were the norm, schools now feel that they must take display adverts that sell not only the job but also the school. Indeed, for head teacher posts, some schools now take half a page of newsprint.

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However, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, may be pleased to know that relief is at hand. The number of adverts in the TES has been falling, although I have not noticed that from the weight of the TES, which I still receive every week. A virtuous circle has restarted thanks to the Government's funding crisis. Few teaching jobs mean fewer adverts, which do not need to be so large to attract attention. That will save schools money which in turn can be spent on more teachers.

I hope that the Minister will confirm that the Government are not thinking of intervening in that market. Their own record in teacher recruitment advertising is, to say the least, flawed. For instance, the fast-track scheme has wasted millions on advertising, but recruited only a few hundred teachers.

Much more effective have been strategy managers that local authorities have been allowed to recruit. Their knowledge of the local recruitment scene has proved exactly what we on these Benches have always said; namely, that local communities can provide local solutions for local problems. Teacher recruitment will always be at its most effective when that is the case. That is an area that Whitehall would do well not to enter. It is more important that the Government manage the teacher supply situation than that they try to act as a commercial organisation in a market that is already proving responsive to the demands of its clients.

What conclusions should be drawn from my observations? First, the problems of recruitment are multiplied by the failures of retention. From the point of view of efficiency and economy, it is vital that the profession keeps within its ranks as many as possible of those who complete the initial training. Are the Government confident that they are doing all in their power to retain such people? Is it not significant that in a recent survey of public sector management conducted by the Chartered Management Institute, the education sector recorded the greatest decrease in employee morale and satisfaction? Is it perhaps the case, as that survey suggested, that too much emphasis has been put on the "hard" targets of tests and league tables, and not enough on the "soft" targets of partnership, team building and leadership?

Secondly, has all the competition that has emerged in the recruitment market chased out of that market some of the more informal, locally based routes to recruitment which were infinitely cheaper and arguably more efficient than the formal, national market that has emerged?

I am grateful to the noble Lord for initiating this debate. I listened with great interest to the points that he made tonight and will listen with equal interest to the replies that the Minister gives to them.

8.40 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I too am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, for this debate. The answer to the core question of the noble Lord is yes. Clearly it can be more economic and certainly more effective. I hope that the eminently practical suggestions made by the noble Lord will be

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seriously considered by the department. I add the caveat made by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that the Government should not become involved in the scheme. They should find ways to promote the idea that entrepreneurs get an opportunity to relieve schools of the very costly business of using traditional advertising methods.

May I also welcome the noble Lord, Lord Tope. I have been reminiscing sitting here thinking how much I have missed the noble Lord over the past three years. It is good to see him back in his place.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, raised a very important issue which does impact on the recruitment and retention of teachers. I do not have time to go into all the complexities mentioned by the noble Earl. But the management of a classroom and the professional satisfaction for teachers coping with the normal numbers of children in a classroom are often invalidated by situations way beyond their control. Forced integration and inclusivity are a real problem. There are other ways of meeting the needs of disruptive pupils.

I shall concentrate on the issue of recruitment but retention is also an important feature. The Government are doing what they can to paper over the ever-widening cracks appearing in our school system. Difficulties in teacher recruitment are just one symptom of the deteriorating health of our schools. It will take more than the slapdash short-term solutions offered so far to turn the situation around. All the evidence is that there is an increase in the turnover for both part-time and full-time local authority teachers.

Worryingly, this trend is particularly apparent among the 25 to 29 year age group. A report published in February of last year warned that 12.8 per cent of teachers moved jobs in 2000, a rise of 25 per cent on the previous year and the highest turnover figure for a decade. In the South East the turnover figure was the highest on record with almost one in five teachers leaving their jobs.

Much has been made of the additional number of teachers since 1997. I would not argue that there are not more teachers. However, can the Minister tell the House the number of additional full-time equivalent teachers? There is a distinction between new teachers and equivalent full-time teachers. What is the pupil-teacher ratio for 1997 and 2002–3? What is the proportion of teachers registered with the General Teaching Council not actually teaching and therefore a loss to the profession? The department seems to think that recruitment targets are being met but they are not telling the full story. Of the 4,300 full time staff recruited last year, 3,000 were unqualified or overseas teachers, many of whom had qualifications not recognised in this country. In the meantime, schools are being forced to lay off experienced teachers as they can no longer afford to employ them.

Thanks to government policy, schools have to employ from an ever smaller pool of candidates which will over time affect the quality of teaching. The Government seem to be working very hard to ensure

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that teaching is no longer the attractive and well-respected profession it once was. Schools and teachers are stripped of their autonomy as the Government take the responsibility of decision making into their own hands and away from those who are best qualified to do the job. Professional satisfaction is a serious issue for many teachers.

Initiative overload is another factor. Endless projects debilitating time, energy and money. Many of the initiatives announced and funded since 1997 appear to have vanished without trace. Such a waste of resources is sinful when one considers how many schools are struggling to survive. Teachers are overwhelmed by bureaucracy. We are constantly being told it is falling, but on talking to teachers we know that the effect is not yet felt in our schools. Teachers spend 20 per cent of their time on administrative work, filling in endless forms for the Government. Targets such as the 50 per cent of 16-year olds getting five good GCSEs are counter-productive as they encourage teachers to worry about the Government's figure and to neglect students who are not near the margins of obtaining the target. They leave teachers demoralised by stripping them of their professional judgment. Furthermore, out of the nine targets set by the Government last year seven failed to be met. And guess who was blamed? The teachers.

What causes distress and frustration for teachers, the heads and governors is the record of the department itself. Last year it under-spent by 1 billion. What has happened to that money? Could not some of it help to relieve part of this year's problems? Over recent years there has been a massive increase in the department's staff; in the number of advisers it employs; in the public relations budget it executes; in the level of bureaucracy it initiates; and, finally, in the number of Ministers it employs.

There was a time when the reputation of the teaching profession spoke for itself and when high-quality applicants were easily attracted into new teaching posts. Now the Government are forced into measures to reverse the widespread perception of teaching as a highly stressful and poorly appreciated career that they have been responsible for creating—measures such as the costly advertising campaign, "Those who can, teach" and the "interactive" poster encouraging people to visit the Teacher Training Agency website.

The Government have thrown large sums of money, as the noble Lord, Lord Tope, said, into a fast track scheme, bribing high-achieving graduates into the profession with the promise of a 5,000 bursary and a laptop computer. Perhaps it should not surprise noble Lords that only about 110 teachers have been brought into the classroom in that way. My figure of 110 may not be absolutely accurate, but it is not many more.

Surely, we need to tackle the problem in an entirely different way. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has given a practical example of how that could be achieved. Teachers and head teachers should be free to do what they do best; that is, teach and run their schools. That means government not constantly interfering with ever-increasing ring-fenced funding and new initiatives,

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which, since the last Conservative administration, have increased many times over. In that way teachers would be given back their decision-making ability and with it their dignity. This is the best advertisement one could hope for. Out of interest, how much money is held back by the department to cover those projects initiated and controlled by the centre? I know it is an unprecedented figure; it would be useful to know it.

The problem has been aggravated with this year's funding crisis. Schools are now facing new costs—the 1 per cent increase in national insurance and the teachers' pension scheme, the cost of recruiting staff due to the high turnover—again figures have been given by other noble Lords—and now the doubling of the enhanced criminal record check that has to be made. We have approximately 25,000 schools, 5 million teachers and endless governors; all have to have enhanced checks. That has doubled overnight. It was not recognised in the settlement. I ask the Minister: what is the estimate of the cost of the enhanced doubling and of the other criminal record checks to the education service as a whole?

Many schools face a budgetary situation with shortfalls of hundreds of thousands of pounds. In this situation, head teachers have no option but to make redundancies. There are many examples. Whalley Range High School for girls—one of the most improved schools in the country—is reportedly facing the prospect of shedding up to 20 staff because of a 600,000 shortfall. That will inevitably lead to escalating class sizes, which, according to the National Association of Head Teachers, could reach levels not seen since the 1950s.

The funding crisis will no doubt have an impact upon recruitment, not least because of the damage done to the morale of would-be teachers witnessing from the outside the mismanagement of school funding by the Government. Who would want to join a profession when they can see the redundancies forced upon schools due to a totally incompetent miscalculation and a manipulation of grants from the south to the north? Not unexpectedly, many schools have found it impossible to adjust. Teaching posts are being saved by a combination of deficit funding and conversion of capital to revenue spending. There are even novel practices of heads taking only part of their salaries in order to protect their own teachers; teachers jumping from balloons to raise money; and even the possibility of schools charging parents fees.

So what is the response of the Government? The first step was to pass the buck to the LEAs for holding back money from schools, and when that did not work and the situation was moving to crisis point, the Minister responsible for school standards in another place, David Miliband, announced an extra 28 million for the 36 worst-off authorities. In addition, the Government acknowledged the dire straits in which schools were finding themselves and allowed them to use their devolved capital funding to support their day-to-day running costs. I pity the school that has to make a choice between making emergency repair works to classrooms, without which they become unusable, and sending good teachers into compulsory redundancy.

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Will those schools which go into deficit funding this year on the advice of the department have that deficit covered next year in the settlement, or will the settlement have to be pre-empted to put right that deficit before schools can then apply it to employing teachers?

I am afraid that the Government are deluding themselves into thinking that the budgetary problem is only short term. I quote the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, Mr Charles Clarke:

    "I accept that this is a difficult year of change for schools and LEAs, with unique circumstances arising from the changes of the funding system, and the one-off pressures on teachers' pensions and National Insurance".

I add to that the costs of criminal record checks—and there are many other pressures as well—which were not taken into account this year.

On the contrary—it does not appear that the Government will be able very quickly to resolve the problem, which is of their own making. Elements of the teacher workload package, introduced by the Department for Education and Skills, will add substantial new costs to schools and have not yet been introduced, but will be phased in over the next few years. By September 2003, schools must have enough classroom assistants to take over from teachers on 25 tasks, such as chasing absent pupils, and the NASUWT has pledged industrial action if any teacher is asked to perform one of these tasks. By September 2004, a contractual limit of 36 hours per year per teacher on covering for absent colleagues will be put in place. Schools will have to spend more of their non-existent resources to ensure that they have the staff to provide cover when teachers are off sick; and yet more of a headache for school bursars is the guaranteed minimum of 10 per cent of a teacher's time having to be set aside for planning, preparation and assessment by September 2005. How schools will cope with these measures on top of the current funding fiasco is quite beyond me—and certainly beyond the teachers. They know that, with all the Government's promises, the measures will not be fully funded.

To add insult to injury, many schools face considerable uncertainty on their future budgetary allowances. This is thanks to the new government finance settlement and the impact that it will have over the next few years, particularly on schools in the South of England, where the costs of living are much higher. Planning for new buildings or improvements for the mid to long term becomes all but impossible given the current uncertainties that schools face.

The recruitment and the retention of teachers would be more effective if professional satisfaction could be restored; if there was far less intervention by central government; if the Government would agree to the abolition of central targets which would leave schools accountable to parents, local communities and to Ofsted for educational standards; if there was greater transparency, simplicity and fairness in the funding system; and if there was greater economic stability.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has done us all a great service. He concentrated on a specific aspect of schools expenditure which, if his advice were followed, could free up a great deal of money that

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would go a long way to resolving some of the problems of individual schools. It is wasted money. It is money that is simply not being applied to the education of children in the classroom.

Finally, teaching is a noble calling which moulds the lives of young people, intellectually, physically, culturally and spiritually. It is a huge challenge. My plea is that teachers should be freed from the shackles of central bureaucratic control to meet that challenge.

8.54 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours and am delighted to have the opportunity to respond to his concerns about the working of the current teacher vacancy-filling market; and his proposed solutions, to which I shall devote some of my remarks.

I am delighted to have experienced the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, although I am not entirely convinced that that is an experience with which I want to continue, bearing in mind the policy of his speech. I was especially pleased to hear that he is still married after 30 years and, for a moment, I confess that I thought that he was horribly on-message. However, that did not last long.

I acknowledge that the means and cost of filling teacher vacancies is of great concern to the Government. In my remarks, I want to stress some issues of concern, and our belief that we are doing much that provides an essential foundation for the teacher recruitment market to work effectively.

We remain open to constructive arguments for engaging with the technical aspects of teacher recruitment. But I must say at the outset that I am not persuaded that the market would benefit from the direct involvement of the department, along the lines suggested by my noble friend, although for different reasons from those advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch.

To begin with, let me say a little about teacher supply. I recognise that the Government have broken the traditional linkage between the economic cycle and teacher recruitment. I disagree with my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours, because teacher numbers are at their highest since 1982. Those increases in supply will themselves, over time, reduce the need for advertisements, because many more vacancies will be filled. Indeed, there are fewer vacancies in the system—25 per cent fewer than last year. The vacancy rate stands at less than 1 per cent of all posts.

Several noble Lords raised direct questions, and I shall attempt to answer them—with the promise, as always, that those that I fail to answer, I shall do so in correspondence, placing copies in the Library. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, was of course interested in full-time equivalence. In January 2003, 423,900 were employed in schools, a rise of 4,300 since 2002; of 13,700 since 2001; and of 24,700 since 1997—which, I think, was the specific comparator that the noble Baroness

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required. Most are UK-qualified; 97 per cent have QTS. Overall, that means that we have reached the highest level since 1982.

The number of full-time equivalent qualified teacher numbers has risen by 500 on last year and is at its highest level since January 1984. The number of new entrants applying to college-based teacher training courses in England has risen for the third year running.

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, talked about drop-out rates. He recognised that about 90 per cent of all qualified teachers will work as teachers at some stage in their careers. Wastage rates are falling, which is extremely heartening. It is important to recognise that there are many reasons why teachers may start off wanting a teaching career, leave and then return or, indeed, decide to take another career and later enter teaching.

Noble Lords also raised the issue of new flexibility in considering our workforce. I recognise the value and importance of our support teachers. Noble Lords mentioned our support staff. We have made significant funds available to recruit and train extra teaching assistants. We have 80,000 teaching assistants and support workers more than in 1997. They are an important part of the teaching workforce in schools. It is critical that we release our teachers for the professional job of teaching. I recognise that other adults have long played an important role, and we must support and enhance their position in so doing. The work that we are doing with the various unions that are involved with our work source agreement gives us an opportunity to ensure that the issue of bureaucracy, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, once again returned, is addressed in an important way.

Understandably, noble Lords have raised the issue of funding. Those noble Lords who were present for the debate on that subject will know that I have been clear that we understand that there have been real difficulties this year. My right honourable friend has taken steps to ensure that schools are able to manage this year, with a view to ensuring that we have a good system in place for next year. That flexibility has been important. We have allowed schools to go into deficit in a proper and considered way with their local education authority. We have made flexibility in capital for this year.

All of that is in the context of ongoing work to ensure that we have stability in the system for next year and to ensure that schools have the capacity to manage in coming years. I will, with great pleasure, come to your Lordships' House to discuss those issues in more detail when I have more to say.

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, asked a specific question about redundancies due to funding shortfalls. They stand at around 237, which are figures that we have from the NASUWT. There have been a number of figures; that is the figure that I have before me. If it changes, I will, of course, inform your Lordships.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, asked about pupil-teacher ratios. Overall, the pupil-teacher ratio in 1997 was 18.6; and in 2003 was 17.9. I have more detail, but I

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am conscious of time, and I am happy to make that available to the noble Baroness and other noble Lords if they would like to see it.

We have made sure that we have a good retention and recruitment fund. We have allocated 77 million direct to schools in 2002–03. London schools received 42 million. Targets of the fund are mainly secondary schools in areas of the highest teacher vacancies, as noble Lords would expect. They aim to support local initiatives of the kind that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, described. It is on retention, of course, that we want to focus some of the attention of this debate. It is critical, for all the reasons that noble Lords have raised tonight.

We have also made sure that in London, which is a particular case, we funded a teacher recruitment and retention unit in the Government Office, to address the questions that noble Lords have raised and which are of great concern in London.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, referred to early intervention, behaviour and issues that directly affect teachers' ability in a classroom and their willingness to stay in the profession. The noble Earl was kind in his remarks about Sure Start and my role in that initiative. It is a delight to still be here.

The Government are investing 470 million in the behaviour and attendance strategy. That is important as we begin to address some of the needs of our teachers and the needs of our children. The noble Earl is right about early intervention and early years work. We recently launched the Birth to Three Matters framework, guidance aimed at practitioners and professionals involved in the delivery of services to children between birth and three years, to support children's emotional development and to help to promote positive behaviour.

We know that where there are good pre-school experiences, there are significant benefits for cognitive development and sociability of children. The noble Earl is right to talk about the research that is making us look carefully at the quality issues that surround all of our settings.

That is why the watchword of the work that we do in the Sure Start unit is "quality". That will be the direct reason that children are more successful. It is an important part of ensuring that once our children get to school they will have the ability to learn and to enjoy school life.

I focus the next set of my remarks on the proposals that my noble friend has raised. I recognise that the wide range of activities that the department is involved in with education authorities and beyond does not provide all the answers for busy head teachers, who are faced with the practical needs of trying to fill vacancies week to week and term to term. I acknowledge too that, as my noble friend said, the teacher vacancy market is overwhelmingly paper-based and is led largely by the Times Educational Supplement. My noble friend mentioned a figure of 70 per cent. The TES fulfils a need, but it does so without any government recommendations to schools that they should pursue

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that avenue alone. The TES would not claim to be the only advertising source, although it is, of course, the largest.

Online advertising is increasing, and that is helpful. It should be cheaper and more flexible than solely paper-based systems. It is well known that an increasing number of websites are dedicated to online recruitment. Several of those are dedicated education suppliers.

There are other direct interventions by certain agencies to help schools. The Teacher Training Agency has recruitment managers working in education authority areas throughout the country. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, mentioned them. They provide co-ordinated support in filling local vacancies. Likewise, education authorities often co-ordinate vacancy trawls in their area, providing schools with free vacancy circulation. Some back that up with Internet options. As noble Lords will know, 60 per cent of teachers move within their local education authority area, so it is important to recognise those locally based systems.

The Government do not collect centrally the details of the cost to schools of advertising vacancies, so we cannot draw authoritative conclusions. However, I shall not quibble with the figure of 60 million that my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours suggested. It is as good an estimate as any. Whatever the sum, it is sizeable. Many of the alternative providers will make charges and may not reduce costs for schools, but some are free. Noble Lords will know of Everythingeducation, and several such as, which was mentioned by my noble friend, have keenly competitive subscription rates and can, in some instances, provide a year's advertising for less than the cost of a decently sized advertisement in the TES.

I share my noble friend's conviction that the Internet can offer savings to schools in advertising, as well as enhanced services and opportunities. Electronic search, notification and follow-up options are well suited to teaching posts, which are easily searchable. The market principally addresses only those teachers actively searching for a new position at a particular time. Targeted e-mailing, as my noble friend said, allows a wider constituency to be kept in touch with fresh opportunities. Use of the Internet allows recruitment to be closely aligned with other service users so that career development opportunities can be targeted at a more closely identified market. For advertisers, the Internet allows schools to source teachers or potential candidates from online CV banks and to present unlimited additional information about their post or their school. With our substantial investment in an ICT-literate profession, we know that teachers are an increasingly appropriate audience. It is an angle on teacher recruitment that we look forward to encouraging.

There is a significant number of partners already in the field, some with services free or cheaper than popular current models. The question with which I will finish is the extent to which the Government should become directly involved. The Government do not recruit teachers; decisions on needs are made locally by governing bodies and head teachers, as is appropriate and right. My noble friend argued specifically for a

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government vacancy website, with schools obliged to register their vacancies centrally. My concern about that proposition is the degree of compulsion and the threat of further bureaucracy for schools, which the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, will be quick to recognise. In particular, I do not share my noble friend's belief that such a measure would necessarily promote the efficiency that he argues for. I do not concede that some form of state monopoly requiring schools to log vacancies centrally would necessarily provide a more streamlined and efficient system. It goes against the principle of devolving spending decisions to schools.

Like my noble friend, I recognise the value of the Internet as a recruitment tool that should be encouraged, but it does not follow that the Government are—or are likely to be—best placed to provide Internet job-matching facilities, exclusively or otherwise, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, will agree. However, I am open-minded enough to consider alternatives to the status quo. Several possible activities have been suggested, through which the department could help teachers, advertising schools and the existing market providers to promote efficiency and effectiveness. There may be scope for exploiting the department's web presence to promote better recruitment and shape the market by enhancing the support available. That could be done by providing,

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for example, CV doctors and advice, thus encouraging teachers and hence advertisers deeper into the Internet market.

I am more sanguine than my noble friend about the precedents in the United States. The scale is different. Already there is a national consciousness about teacher recruitment here in England. Such a portal in this country could quality-assure advertisers against certain criteria and could allow a single request to source vacancies from different providers. On the face of it, such options are technically feasible. I make no commitment to their introduction, but they strike me as a more appropriate marriage between the proper role of the department in a free market and the value of exploiting new technology.

In conclusion, I believe that as teacher supply increases, we can expect recruitment to offer better valuefor money. We have equipped the profession for the growth of e-recruitment. That is the proper role of government on this issue. I see a growing Internet vacancy market that has breadth and technical flair. It should be encouraged to succeed rather than be squashed by heavyweight government intervention. We shall continue to keep this matter under consideration. I, too, thank my noble friend for initiating this debate.

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