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Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Benn). Although I did not agree with all his remarks, I agree that we need to find new solutions to the current problems. However, we need to recognise the nature and scale of the problem and that the Government's current policies simply do not work. The evidence for that is clear in the numbers of teachers who are being recruited and the problems that schools face.
We need to define the nature and scale of the problem because it has been suggested in some quarters that it is local, affects only one or two schools and that it can be solved if one or two schools get some extra teachers. It is a nationwide problem, which affects all types of school in every part of the country. In an interesting speech, the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) mentioned the problems of the private sector. Earlier this week, the Independent Schools Council, which represents 1,300 independent schools, complained of recruitment problems. Dulwich college, which is at the top of the academic league, has difficulty in attracting teachers. Other academically excellent schools in the state sector, such as Watford grammar school for boys and Watford grammar school for girls, experience difficulty in attracting teachers. I infer from all that that there is a problem throughout the country, especially in the south-east, where the most extreme manifestation of the crisis occurs.
My constituency is no exception. I have referred to the difficulties of Watford grammar school for boys; those apply to all types of school in my constituency and throughout Hertfordshire. Let the teachers speak for themselves. In an NUT survey of schools in Hertfordshire, every school admitted suffering some staff shortages. The survey found that many teachers are turning to agency work to bypass the increasing bureaucratic burdens of teaching. It stated:
We have been told that we must be careful about the terms we use to describe this recruitment problem. I shall adopt the term that the Secretary of State used on the "Today" programme in November last year. He said:
The important point is: what is the position today? What is the position now that the Government have implemented the policies that the Secretary of State has told us about--the golden hellos and the measures adopted in March last year, such as salaries for graduates entering teacher training? What is the position on recruitment to secondary teacher training, because the greatest problem is faced by secondary schools? In the academic year that commenced in September 2000, the number recruited for teacher training in secondary education was still well below the number recruited under the Conservative Government in the academic year beginning in 1996--there were 1,000 fewer recruits. More important than that, it was well below the Government's own target for secondary recruits--the figure that the Government say is needed for the future--and way below the number required in the shortage subjects of maths and foreign languages.
What is happening in the current year? Suspiciously--I agree with the suspicions expressed elsewhere--the Graduate Teacher Training Registry has rushed out a press release showing the number of applications for teacher training so far this year. Last week, the Secretary of State put an optimistic spin on those figures at Question Time. He said:
What is the picture? How many people have applied for teacher training courses this year compared with last year? The number of secondary recruits is slightly up by 4 per cent. from the low point it was at last year. The number of recruits in key shortage subjects, such as maths and foreign languages, is down on last year, which was a poor year when the Government were way below the target that they needed to meet, especially in maths.
A real crisis is building up in maths, because the Government are about 30 per cent. below their own target for the number of teachers required to teach that subject. As for the comments made about the numbers recruited under the Conservative Government to teach maths in secondary education, they were greater in every year of that Government than they are now. In some of those years, the figure was greater than the present Government's target, which they have manifestly failed to meet.
Ministers must realise that, if the current situation is a problem, a crisis, a serious problem, a meltdown, or whatever we want to call it, it will get that much worse in the future. We need new thinking, because the Government's own statistics show that the policies they
The Government's policies are not working. We are on course for a much more serious problem. The Government will fail to put teachers in front of classes to teach children. We need new thinking to avoid that, and we have not got it at the moment.
Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South): I have great pleasure in contributing to this debate as I was a teacher in my early professional life and I have maintained a keen interest in education ever since. My pleasure is added to because I believe that the Government have got the policy right, and will continue to get it right. It is not just the policies on standards that are appropriate, but the funding has been superb and the teaching profession in my constituency has said so again and again.
I am keen to put a local perspective on the debate. Schools in my local authority are not on a four-day week, and they are not threatened with a four-day week. Children are not being sent home early, and there is no evidence that teachers are being replaced by unqualified staff.
I want to focus more particularly on my constituency. I was elected in 1997, and in each of the two previous years, 1995-97, the Conservative Administration had cut my local authority's education budget by £6 million. It had had to make 52 members of staff take early retirement or face redundancy. It is with great pleasure that I say to the House that, although it is a strain to fill all the posts, it is tremendous that there is demand in the system and we are seeking to supply it. Take it from me, that is a superb moment for the teaching profession. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) is shaking his head. Teaching staff in my constituency will see his party's proposition as a shabby misrepresentation, and I am more than pleased to rub that in.
I say to my Front-Bench colleagues with great care and passion--because that is my approach to life--that I have had robust meetings with head teachers in my constituency. They have been robust about the way in which they want the Government to respond to them, but there is serious pleasure at much of what we are doing. They are telling my right hon. Friend that, at times, the inspectorate undermines them and they want him to review its operation. They do not object to being inspected, but they want the process to be more proactive. They believe that that may happen now that there has been a change at the top. They like the fact that the standards debate is demanding and exacting, and they find that exciting. They are pleased at the way in which new maths at key stage 2 is being taught, and they say how much they have learned.
I have much of value to say about education in Stockton, South. There is a demand for primary school teachers and schools in less-advantaged areas are struggling to fill posts, but they are doing so. There is a
The Government made a commitment to people in Stockton, South, and I reinforced it, that five to seven-year-olds would be in classes of under 30 pupils. I have pleasure in telling the House that by September, we shall have achieved that goal. I am extremely pleased to make that statement, and I know that this has been achieved as a result of the way in which the Government have pursued that course of action. I also take great pleasure in telling hon. Members that 25 per cent. more 11-year-olds in my constituency will achieve key stage 2. That is tremendous.
I would love to tell the House about the specialist schools in my constituency, and about the way in which we have received capital and standard spends that we did not have previously, but, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am aware that I do not have time to do so. However, I can say to my right hon. Friend that, in Stockton, South, there is serious pleasure and pride in all that the Government are doing. Of course, my constituents ask one thing: could we do more, and could we do it more speedily?