Examination of Witnesses (Questions 17
WEDNESDAY 21 MARCH 2001
TOMLINSON, CBE, MR
17. Of course, Mike, you are very well aware
of the rule that we use first names but we still ask pretty tough
questions! Let us get started on the main part of the annual report
and let us start at the sharp end and talk about teacher recruitment
and retention. Could you give us a bit of an overview? This is
much in the news. The last time we talked, to your predecessor,
on an annual report, he said, "Thus, we have not experiencing
the crisis in teacher supply that some commentators predicted".
This contrasts certainly with your comments on recruitment and
retention this year. Have we seen a rapid increase in the scale
of the problem since last year?
(Mr Tomlinson) I think so. Remember the annual report
covered the academic year 1999-2000 and, I think, clearly, if
you believe what is said in the press and elsewhereand
certainly a lot of headteachers to whom I have spokenthen
the situation has worsened in recent months. What is clear from
the data we have is that the issue of recruitment and retention
was becoming one that was taxing schools and its effects were
already beginning to be seenas I drew attention to them
in my report. For example, we were seeing many more supply teachers
in schools and many of course being deployed in the early stages
in secondary schools of Key Stage 3, between the ages of 11 and
14. We are also, for the first time, seeing an increase in the
mismatch between the subject or subjects a teacher was teaching
and their qualifications and experience. Again a symptom of the
likely fact that headteachers are having to redeploy some staff
and therefore ask people perhaps to do things which they are not
as strong in teaching as they might be. So there were clearly
signs of that emerging, and that was the worry that I expressed,
that if that is not tackled, and tackled vigorously, then it might
well put at risk all the important and substantial gains that
have been made in recent times.
18. To put it in "tabloidese" is it
a problem that has got more serious or is it a crisis?
(Mr Tomlinson) I think it is a problem that over recent
months has got more serious for a number of schools. I hesitate
to use the word "crisis" not because of any embargo
on the use of the word but merely because I think that it is difficult
to know what point would be reached when you could use that word.
I have seen two of these cycles. Back in the 1980s a similar position
was found. It always occurs at a similar point in the economic
cycle of course. But I do think that this particular cycle is
more difficult and more complex than the previous one, so I think
it is an important and serious problem.
19. One of the ways in which the Government
is looking to retain teaching staff and to aid in recruitment
is through performance-based pay. Would you agree with the following
statement that was made with regard to performance-based pay?
"The teachers, good or bad or indifferent, had their rise.
No-one really worried about the children who were being cheated
of an excellent method of motivating and keeping good teachers."
(Mr Tomlinson) I cannot imagine where that came from!
I think that the concept of performance-related pay is an important
one. I have no evidence at the moment, because it is early days
in the work, that headteachers are not applying the systems that
are in place conscientiously and effectively. We will have data,
I suspect, in due course, from the threshold assessors to say
whether or not this has all been applied sensibly. I do believe
that performance-related pay has an important part to play in
the structure of the general pay and conditions of teachers. But
I do not think pay is the be-all and end-all. It is important
but it is not the be-all and end-all for many teachers, when one
talks to them; it is about other matters that they are concerned.