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Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield): My right hon. Friend will know that the Select Committee on Education and Skills will shortly examine the report in some detail with the chief inspector, so I shall not ask a substantial question, but I welcome her decision to make a statement to the House today. Does she agree that the atmosphere in the school teaching profession generally has much improved with the appointment of Mike Tomlinson as chief inspector? As Chairman of the Select Committee I see great evidence of that as I travel round the country visiting schools. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the new partnership is a healthy one? The chief inspector is answerable to the House through the Select Committee and we have a healthy, but not a cosy relationship with him. We have detected a clear change for the better under Mike Tomlinson's reign as chief inspector and we look forward to interviewing David Bell when he takes over.

Estelle Morris: I am also a fan of Mike Tomlinson, who has done an excellent job since taking it on at relatively short notice. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Chairman of the Select Committee shares my view. There is a real difference in tone, because teachers are more confident. They know that they are teaching more effectively; their performance is better and children are getting better results. It is important that Ofsted remains independent. I am glad that my hon. Friend is not too cosy with Mike Tomlinson and I trust that he will not be too cosy with David Bell either.

Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough): I also thank the Secretary of State for giving us an advance copy of her statement and I share the interest of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) in the fact that this is the first time we have had a statement in the House on an HMI report—indeed on the very day when we are short of time to discuss the Education Bill. I draw no conclusions from that.

I add my thanks to Mike Tomlinson. It is not just that teachers are more confident; Mike Tomlinson has created a new ethos within Ofsted—a genuine sense that the

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purpose of inspection is to improve schools and that Ofsted is working with teachers rather than against them. We certainly wish Mike Tomlinson well when he goes to Hackney—it is certainly an improvement on The Daily Telegraph.

I also join the Secretary of State in congratulating our schools, our teachers and our local education authorities. This report is the biggest compliment to our teaching force that we have seen for many years. I suggest that the Secretary of State put on all her literature a little statement saying that teaching in 2000-01 was the best ever. That would be a powerful statement to put on a press release and send out to all teachers.

I also welcome the compliment that the inspector's report paid to special schools, which rarely get mentioned. I hope the House will accept that the statement that they are working with children with emotional and behavioural difficulties far better than ever before is a real compliment.

We are also delighted that far more schools are being turned round much more quickly from needing special measures or showing serious signs of weakness. I wonder whether the Secretary of State will have the grace to praise local education authorities, because the vast majority of those schools have been turned round not by private sector companies but by such authorities.

However, the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Green) is absolutely right to say that a lot of messages in the report are not being specifically addressed. How the Secretary of State proposes to narrow the gap between high- performing and low-performing schools is a mystery. We were told that education action zones will do the job, but she has abandoned them and one of the great planks of her policy is therefore missing. How does she propose to address the huge problem of the underperformance of children from Afro-Caribbean, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities? In particular, what plans has she to recruit teachers from those communities? Until we do that, we will not make the necessary impact on that underperformance.

How does the Secretary of State intend to correct the finding of this year's report—and, indeed, of last year's—that too many children are being taught by non-specialists at key stage 3? The curriculum and staffing survey should have been carried out in 2000, but it was not. When does she intend to carry out that essential research, so that we can make proper plans for the future supply of teachers?

Can the Secretary of State also explain how we will provide an adequate supply of teachers—a point that the report describes as critical? In September, delayed retirements that were initiated under the previous Conservative Government will come to fruition, and more teachers will retire this year than ever before. Given that recruitment targets have been missed every year since 1997, how will we deal with that problem, particularly in key subjects such as mathematics, science and modern languages?

It is all very well for the Secretary of State to quote The Times Educational Supplement survey; in fact, she should quote the evidence in the report, which shows that one in five teachers are leaving within three years. What is she going to do to address that horrendous problem?

Estelle Morris: I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not deny me the opportunity to quote The Times Educational Supplement—it provided the first decent headline on this

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subject in about five years. Give me a break—it was a joy to read on Friday morning. I sometimes think that our Department's headed notepaper has too many words at the bottom, but I take the general point that there is an onus on all of us to praise, and I certainly accept my responsibility to ensure that I am as generous when I give praise as when I criticise failure or demand even more from teachers. We must get the balance right. Teachers often hear words of criticism but not praise. We do not want to soft-soap them or to make their life easy—indeed, they do not want that. They want us to recognise good performance, and to challenge them when necessary.

The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) raised many issues, and I too am delighted at the performance of schools that deal with emotional and behavioural difficulties. Theirs is the toughest job in teaching and it is more difficult now than ever, because of the nature of the society in which such children are growing up.

The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Green) mentioned closing the achievement gap, and I want to return to that issue because I may not have dealt with it fully. He will acknowledge that, as Mike Tomlinson says, we have closed the achievement gap in primary schools. We did so through a universal programme for the literacy and numeracy strategies, but we also provided extra targeted help for those who were under-achieving. Where there was an entitlement to resources and training, every single primary school in the country was offered extra training and support, as well as help for those who needed it most. If my memory serves me right, we began with the 15 per cent. with the lowest level of achievement each year, and moved on to the next 15 per cent. We raised the standards year on year, and that is exactly what we will do with key stage 3.

We will have a universal strategy for key stage 3, and every single school in the country will feel its impact. Every school will get money and every teacher will get training, but those who need it most will get more help from the consultants—in fact, those schools will get more of whatever is going. What we do not want to do—and the hon. Gentleman will recognise the danger—is to hold the top schools back while the bottom ones catch up. I know that he would not wish that to happen either. The report shows that standards in the least well performing secondary schools have risen, but so have those of the top schools.

Our approach is always to give help to everyone, and to give extra, targeted help to those who need it most. I am confident about that approach, because it worked in primary schools. We have learned from that experience. We are good learners, and I hope that our secondary school strategy will have the same impact.

I also take seriously the difficulty caused by the lack of specialist teachers in early key stage 3. We have already discussed the situation regarding modern foreign languages, and we know how difficult it is to get enough maths teachers. However, I have always been straight enough to say that I cannot promise that we will recruit for teaching 40 per cent. of the maths graduates leaving university this year. That is the proportion that we need to reach our target.

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We have to do more, and the key stage 3 strategy allows us to train teachers to teach maths who have not achieved the necessary qualifications. People who do not have degrees need extra teaching; they do not deserve to be driven from the classroom. We have to tackle the problem on all fronts.

The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough knows that we have made progress in recruiting teachers to teach maths, and I shall not go through the list. However, I accept that more needs to be done with regard to training those who are already in schools but teaching out of their subject. That is an integral part of the key stage 3 strategy.

The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough mentioned the problem of recruiting ethnic minority teachers. Again, we must break a cycle—people who do not do well at school do not go to university because of their bad experience of school, and they choose not to go back to school. Some years ago, the Teacher Training Agency agreed to have targets for the recruitment of ethnic minority teachers. Progress is slow, as it involves breaking a cultural tradition.

The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough will know that most progress on the matter is being made in areas such as Tower Hamlets. In inner-city Birmingham, sometimes more than half of the people working in a school are from ethnic minorities. That is good, but we must keep to the targets. Advice from any quarter—inside the House, and outside it—on how we can do more in regard to recruitment of ethnic minority staff will be welcomed. I know that the notion of a role model is very important for many youngsters going through secondary school.

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