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Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford): I hope that the House will find that the two things that I want to say are pleasant and complimentary. First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley) on her outstanding maiden speech, in which she outlined those parts of her constituency that are especially interesting from the point of view of education.
I also thank the hon. Lady for the very gracious, warm and lovely compliments that she paid to our late friend Mr. Colvin, and to his wife, Nichola. We treasure our memories of both of them and much regret their departure. I am sure that the House looks forward to hearing from the hon. Lady often in the future, and to benefiting from her presence.
Secondly, like the hon. Members for Halton (Mr. Twigg) and for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), I take great pleasure in paying a compliment to the teachers in my constituency. Over the past 20 years, under Conservative as well as Labour Governments, education has improved in this country. I am not interested in a party political scrap on the matter, but the teachers who have achieved that improvement deserve to be complimented.
Many teachers in my constituency are married women, and the job of teaching fits well with their duties in the household and as mothers. We are very fortunate to have many highly qualified teachers who have helped schools to improve their standards. Many hon. Members have described how hard teachers work, day in and day out. I was a teacher and I remember very well how drained and exhausted one felt, having given all one's mental capacity to the job.
We must pay enormous compliments to teachers, as their achievements are not confined to pushing up academic standards. Their work is evident in music and on school playing fields, for example, and in the many extracurricular activities from which pupils benefit hugely. All the schools in my constituency have improved over the past 20 years. Some difficulties remain, but I do not want my compliments to the teachers to be overshadowed by the problems that we still face.
However, one such problem is that many women will not enter the teaching profession in the future. The statistics show that in the next 10 to 15 years the teaching profession faces a huge exodus of experienced teachers whose children have grown up and who wish to retire. The problem, which is becoming a crisis, is how to recruit sufficient teachers to replace those who leave the profession. We need more men, as well as women. There are many more opportunities available to women than there were 20, 30 or 40 years ago. I rejoice in the fact that they are entering all kinds of professions and activities, but that means that they will not be available to teach in our schools. That will create a recruitment and retention crisis.
The hon. Member for Romsey talked about a lady who had taught for four years--the average length of time that someone teaches--and was going to start up her own business. That is typical of what happens and, while it is to be welcomed, it creates a problem that we must all face.
We must work hardest to tackle this problem in the inner-city areas. The inner cities are letting our children down because there is no stability in the teaching force. Schools in inner cities have the greatest concentration of supply teachers and unqualified teachers. This January, almost one teacher in 20 was a temporary supply teacher or an instructor. Before he gets over-excited, the Secretary of State should know that an instructor is an unqualified teacher. The number is going up--for the second year running there are 3,000 instructors. According to John Howson, visiting professor at Oxford Brookes university,
Unqualified and supply teachers provide the major teaching force in our inner-city schools. Who makes up inner-city populations? Very often, they are dominated by minorities--black, Asian and immigrant populations. We should be ashamed of having unqualified and supply teachers in schools that do not enable children to grow up with a capacity to compete with their peers. I have had to advise some parents to send their children back to the West Indies, where they will find a higher standard of teaching, a higher standard of school and a more stable teaching force compared with what is available in schools in London and other cities.
We should be concerned about that. We must find a way of attracting teachers into schools and then retaining them. In my view, we must pay them more, even if that means creating jealousy among teachers in my constituency who do not earn as much. Indeed, the Government have done this--they are attracting more teachers to the subjects in which there are is an insufficient teaching force, particularly maths and science.
There should be a differential in the pay scales. I welcome performance-related pay, but I do not think that the Government have got it right. I was talking to a friend who is a teacher and is, of course, tempted to apply for the £2,000 performance-related pay rise on offer from the Government. It is no good the Secretary of State saying that it is quite easy to do that and that the Government are not over-burdening teachers with bureaucracy. Let me tell the House what teachers have to do, on top of their teaching load, and on top of helping pupils revise for their A-levels. They have to submit evidence, giving concrete examples from the past few years, that they
Consistently and effectively plan lessons to meet individual pupils' needs, use a range of appropriate strategies for teaching and classroom management, and use information about prior attainment to set their pupils appropriate targets.
Take responsibility for their professional development and make an active contribution to the school's policies and aspirations.
Challenge and support all pupils to do their best by inspiring trust and confidence, building team commitment, engaging and motivating pupils, thinking analytically and taking positive action to improve the quality of pupils' learning.
That is a burden on each teacher wishing to benefit from performance-related pay. It is over-burdensome and over-bureaucratic, and will not achieve the objectives. Teachers to whom I have spoken say that they do not have the time, that they are too exhausted and simply will not apply.
The Government must look at the matter and get it right. It is not right now, and I should like an undertaking from the Minister replying to the debate that the Government will look at the system, streamline it and make it easier, so that many more teachers can benefit from what has been put forward as an incentive for them to teach well. I do not think that it will work under the present system.
Even with the recent announcements of additional money, that money will not come to my schools. Therefore, there is a high degree of stress in the schools in my constituency. It is no good crowing that "education, education, education" is being given to all people in this country--the money is simply not coming into many schools.
Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): Would my hon. Friend also note that the cut in budgets for grant-maintained schools came in spite of a clear pledge from the Secretary of State that budgets for non-grant-maintained schools would be increased to the level of grant-maintained schools? What the Government have done is precisely the opposite: they have cut the budget for schools that were grant-maintained.
Mr. Wells: The Government have indeed cut the amount of money going to grant-maintained schools, which are now called foundation schools. The result is that we are getting higher numbers in each class and the teachers find it much more difficult to achieve the standards that they want to achieve on behalf of their pupils. Far from there being less stress, there is far more in those circumstances. The Ministers in charge should take note of that. I hope that they will listen to what I have said and to what my hon. Friend has said and do something about it, because the situation cannot go on for long without something breaking.
Another matter that is very serious and needs attention is the secondary school transfer system, which the Government are severely changing, resulting in very serious stress for many parents and many pupils in my constituency. The Government have to find a way to make the secondary school transfer much less stressful both to pupils and parents. They should drop the ideological idea that they must create community schools, and should advance more along the line of finding schools for pupils--that is, have a variety of schools with different specialities to which people can go, wherever they come from, whether in my case from Essex, from Bishop's Stortford or from the villages.
Whether pupils want a technical education, an academic education or a musical education, or whether they want a school concentrating on sports, that choice should be available to them. They should not be forced into the nearest school, but nor should they have to travel across the town--as they are being forced to do in Bishop's Stortford--because there is no place for them at a nearby secondary school that they want to attend. The secondary school transfer system is not working; it needs to be rethought and thoroughly overhauled.
The real way to push up standards will be by concentrating on the courses for teachers at training colleges. The colleges must increase and improve the standards required for those entering the teaching
We need more highly qualified teachers. The foundations for numeracy and literacy are set in primary schools. The colleges need to raise standards for primary teachers, although that is not to say that we should neglect standards for secondary schools, but children spend those foundation years 1 to 5 in primary schools. We should then tell teachers to teach to the standards that they learned in college and that they will be inspected to ensure that they are doing so. We should reward those teachers adequately and differentially, so as to attract more people into the profession.
Teaching is a vocation. People do not go into teaching just for the money, but for the huge satisfaction of helping children--perhaps those who perform least well. They can help such children pull themselves up and become stars in their own right. We should be attracting people into the profession so that they can experience the joy of helping others to learn.