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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Jacqui Smith): The Government are committed to supplementing the information already published in school performance tables with information about how far schools help their pupils to progress between the stages of their education. We intend to do this as soon as we have the necessary
Mr. Benn: The Government's commitment to publish these measures is greatly welcomed and eagerly anticipated by schools in my constituency serving the most disadvantaged areas because those schools believe passionately that they will provide a fair reflection of the progress they are making with pupils. Will my hon. Friend use every effort to ensure that, apart from the Department, those who publish performance information, including the newspapers, include the new value-added measures as soon as they are available?
Jacqui Smith: My hon. Friend has made an important point and I know that there will be many schools in my his constituency and more widely that are doing an excellent job in making a difference to children's lives. That is what the value-added information will enable us to measure. I regret that we have not been able to introduce value-added performance tables more quickly, but my hon. Friend probably needs to know, as does the House, that when we took office, no work had been done on developing the individual pupil information that is necessary to ensure that our value-added tables are based on individual pupil progress. We have undertaken to do that work and we will publish the information as soon as possible. I hope that the way in which the information is published, in newspapers and more widely, will help to recognise the difference that schools are making to our children's lives.
The Minister for School Standards (Ms Estelle Morris): Overall, there were almost 500 more teachers in post in outer London in January 2000 than January 1998 and over 600 more than January 1997. There are problems for some schools in particular subjects.
Mr. Dismore: Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the products of the successful economy in London, particularly over the past couple of years, has been a real increase in house prices? Head teachers in my constituency tell me that one of the biggest problems they have in filling teacher vacancies is the high cost of housing in London, which means that schools have to become increasingly dependent on agency staff, particularly from overseas. Will my right hon. Friend look at housing costs for teachers in London and see whether she can do something to help with this real and growing problem?
Ms Morris: My hon. Friend is right. Schools in some areas are having particular difficulties and he is right to identify housing costs, particularly in London and the south-east, as one of the factors making things tough for some schools. That is why my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister announced the initiative for starter homes involving expenditure of £250 million to help
Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): In spite of the answer to the original question, will the Minister confirm that there is a serious and worsening shortage of teachers in the London borough of Barnet, particularly specialist teachers? That is instanced in one school where there are vacancies for four teachers, which is putting in peril a five-day education week for many of my constituents. Will the Minister confirm that that is also the case in other outer London boroughs? My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) has told me that it is certainly the case in Hillingdon. Is the right hon. Lady addressing those serious problems?
Ms Morris: The hon. Gentleman also represents a constituency in an area of London where it is particularly tough to recruit teachers. That is why, as well as introducing the £250 million to support key workers with housing costs, we asked the teachers pay review body this year to look particularly at the use of recruitment and retention posts, and it will be responding shortly. Although such posts have been available in past years, they have not been well used by schools. An open message can go to schools to use the recruitment and retention posts available.
In response to the hon. Gentleman's query about teacher shortages, the facts are clear. Now that we have the training allowances, there are more teachers in post than there were last year and in 1997, including in London. More people are going into initial teacher training and that would not be so if the Tories were in power and took away the training salaries. That is what they did. Of all the measures that the Government have introduced which have effectively got more people into teaching and into teacher training, I suspect that the training salary has had the most effect. The hon. Gentleman should not run away from that fact.
The Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities (Ms Tessa Jowell): Latest data from the labour force survey show that all regions in the United Kingdom have employment rates higher than the European Union average of 64.2 per cent.
Mr. Clapham: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does she agree with me, however, that all regions of the UK have areas of high and low unemployment? The areas that tend to have the highest level of unemployment are those in which the local economy is in transition. Does my right hon. Friend further agree that although the new deal has been very helpful in areas such as Barnsley and south Yorkshire in directing young
Ms Jowell: I think that my hon. Friend's constituents and everyone on this side of the House would strongly agree with his last point. The recessions of the early 1980s and 1990s hit the country as a whole and we saw 2.5 million manufacturing jobs go. Those recessions hit his constituents in Barnsley particularly hard. He is right to pay tribute to the positive contribution of the new deal for young people which the Opposition, were they to be elected, are pledged to scrap. The new deal for young people has seen long-term youth unemployment in my hon. Friend's area fall by 74 per cent. since the election. The other major boost for the local economy is an extra £1.7 billion through the objective 1 status which south Yorkshire now has.
My hon. Friend is also right that the partnership between employers, unions and workers focusing on the improvement of skills, particularly the skills required in the new economy--the new labour market--is key to raising productivity.
The best future for my hon. Friend's constituents is a continuation of the policies that have promoted economic stability under this Government, enabling us to see the prospect of long-term unemployment as a thing of the past. For his constituents, that future would be threatened by the return to boom and bust, the hallmark of the Opposition.
Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): As the question related specifically to the European Union, will the Minister comment on whether this economic success is due to staying out of the euro? We were told that if we did not enter the euro, our unemployment rates would rocket while those in the European Union would fall.
Ms Jowell: There is no clear correlation between membership of the single currency and employment rates--[Hon. Members: "Ah!"]--if we take, for instance, Sweden--[Interruption.] Conservative Members conduct business by heckling, Mr. Speaker. In the UK, employment rates in every region are higher than in the EU as a whole. The EU average conceals large variations. The secret of the UK's success is a combination of minimum standards at work and labour market flexibility.
Let us not forget, however, that close to 2.7 million jobs rely on our trade with Europe--about 60 per cent. access to one of the largest markets, post-enlargement, in the world. We shall make judgments about entry to a single currency in the light of the five economic tests--one of which will be the impact on jobs--when the time comes.