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3.50 pm

The Minister for School Standards (Ms Estelle Morris): I am not sure how to respond to the announcement that the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady), who spent the morning ringing the Teacher Training Agency hotline, is seeking an alternative career. Perhaps congratulations are in order from us, and commiserations from his colleagues. Helpful as ever, I shall make sure that his call is returned so that he can fill in an application form and add to the 10 per cent. increase in applications for initial teacher training that have already been received this year.

Seriously, I begin by thanking hon. Members who contributed to the debate. I readily accept that all Members, no matter which side they represent, consider teaching an important issue. All constituency MPs care about their schools; all parents care about their children. On that, at least, I can start with a measure of agreement. I also acknowledge the generous and correct way in which the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) described the achievement of teachers and the way in which standards have been raised.

Support came from my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Benn), who represents a constituency of considerable challenge where generation after generation of children has lost out in the education service. I suspect not only that the school in Little London to which he referred has no history of sending children to university and higher education, but that its children come from families whose members have never attended university.

Although one may refer to the increase in literacy and numeracy standards, the figures for the standards agenda that please me most are those showing that, for the first time, standards of literacy and numeracy and for GCSE are increasing across the country, in all neighbourhoods. The fastest rate of improvement is in schools and local authorities that under-achieved in the past. Closing the gap between performance in poor and rich neighbourhoods, between those from different ethnic minorities and between boys and girls is the real mark of an education service that is being transformed so that it will never go back to being a lottery in which receiving a good standard of education depends on which school a person attends.

18 Jan 2001 : Column 566

That improvement has been achieved only because of the increasing quality of teaching. No matter what anybody says about the difficulties and the challenges facing schools--I shall come to those--the truth is that the quality of teaching in our primary and secondary schools has shot up. It is better than last year, better than three years ago and certainly better than when I and many Members of the House were teaching nine or 10 years ago. That is a tribute to the teaching profession.

I am the first to acknowledge that more is asked of teachers than was ever asked of any previous generation of teachers. More is expected because the Government are asking teachers to end the cycle of under-achievement in some of our neighbourhoods and to become the first generation of teachers to work with the Government so that both can say, "We raised standards, not for a few, but for every child in every school, no matter which part of the country those children live in."

Yes, recruitment is difficult, and I want to acknowledge the challenges that many schools face. I thank teachers who take cover lessons. There is not a Member of the House who has been a teacher who does not know that that is the least favourite task of any teacher. It gives me no pride or satisfaction to say so, but I know that some of the teacher recruitment troubles that schools face are not new. I am afraid that the same problems existed when I was teaching. We lost cover lessons. I taught combined classes. Classes had a list of supply teachers over the terms. I know that that is not good, not right and not the way that we want it to be.

The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough and my hon. Friends the Members for Leeds, Central and for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) gave a proper evaluation and analysis of what is happening, and that is what we should all do. The truth is that this nation's inability to recruit the brightest and the best to teaching at any time other than one of economic recession or depression is one of its saddest aspects. That has held back progress in our schools for too long, and it is what we inherited.

I shall not quote statistics back to the House or give masses of figures for 1992-94 or 1994-97. We can play games and score points, but, as was borne out by the report by Professor Alan Smithers, we were below target on secondary recruitment every single year in the 1990s, unless the economy was in recession. That was the Tories' one-club approach to solving the teacher crisis: hang on, wait for a recession and more people will want to go into teaching.

The challenge for the Government has been breaking that cycle, and we have broken it. It has always been difficult to recruit teachers in the British economy, so from the moment we took office, we introduced a series of initiatives and measures that are having a real impact on the number and quality of people coming into schools. On retention, the Government have not introduced a staged pay increase. Indeed, we have given a fully-funded above-inflation pay increase every single year. We have introduced performance-related pay as an incentive for teachers who teach well to stay in schools, get promotion and earn more money without taking on administrative responsibilities.

18 Jan 2001 : Column 567

We are the Government who introduced the golden hellos and reversed the decline in recruitment to shortage subjects for the first time since the recession of the early and mid-1990s. We are the Government who introduced the training salaries. Under our Government, those who want to return to teaching in London can not only go on a course for no charge, but get paid £150 a week to do so. We are the Government who are bringing 12,000 returners back to our classrooms. In terms of retention and attracting the best, under our Government, a training salary of £15,000 can assist those who want to train to teach in a shortage subject to do so through the fast-track approach.

The real test of whether we are right and whether we have fulfilled our obligations to the teaching community and the children of this country is whether those initiatives are working. They have been costed and carefully implemented. They are based on evidence and targeted on the areas of greatest need and, yes, they are working. That is why last year, for the first time, the decline in the number of people training as teachers was reversed. That was not imagined, nor was it due to us counting the numbers. It was nothing to do with spin. Real bodies--men and women--went to train as teachers last year, and there has been a 9 per cent. increase. The hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) was right: the increase is greater in primary than in secondary schools, but there has been an increase in secondary schools as well.

Mr. Clappison: Will the Minister give way?

Ms Morris: No, I do not have time.

That increase should be added to the number of people taking graduate-based routes. This is the beginning of a turnaround. I am not saying that that is enough. I know that we are still not hitting our targets. I know that the maths figures are still 3 per cent. below last year's, even though the figures for chemistry, for example, are 33 per cent. up on those for this time last year. The figures for biology are up as well. [Interruption.] That is not complacency; it is a mark of a Government who have grasped the teacher recruitment problem. The figures represent not hanging around for a recession, but bucking the trend in times of economic strength in this nation. That is what we have done.

I put this challenge to the Opposition: their one policy, apart from waiting for a recession, is to take away the paperwork. Not only would they take away the paperwork, but they have failed to guarantee the education budget. They guarantee only the budget for a school. They would take away training salaries, golden hellos and recruitment strategy managers--all the initiatives that have not only helped recruitment, but supported teachers. They would take away learning support units, excellence in cities and education action zones. All are centrally funded through the standards fund.

Teachers are the most important professionals in our society. The jobs that they do on behalf of us all are immeasurably valuable, and we owe them our thanks. With us, teachers also have the support of the Government.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:--

The House divided: Ayes 128, Noes 309.

18 Jan 2001 : Column 568

Division No. 66
[4 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Baldry, Tony
Beggs, Roy
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Clappison, James
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Pickles, Eric
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Prior, David
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. John Randall and
Mr. Peter Atkinson.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allan, Richard
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Ballard, Jackie
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burstow, Paul
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clelland, David
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Etherington, Bill
Fearn, Ronnie
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hancock, Mike
Hanson, David
Harris, Dr Evan
Healey, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Joyce, Eric
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Pearson, Ian
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Sarwar, Mohammad
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheerman, Barry
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Snape, Peter
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Clive Betts and
Mr. Don Touhig.

Question accordingly negatived.

18 Jan 2001 : Column 571

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments):--

The House divided: Ayes 278, Noes 151.

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