HC Deb 20 December 1988 vol 144 cc271-4
6. Mr. Morley

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he is now in a position to publish the quantity and type of teachers required to teach the national curriculum; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

My Department's memorandum to the Education, Science and Arts Select Committee on teacher supply includes some tentative estimates of teacher demand in national curriculum subjects. I have placed a copy in the Library.

Mr. Morley

We have already discussed the problem of science teachers, but there are also considerable teacher shortages in mathematics and mechanical subjects. Can the Minister assure the House that those shortages will be dealt with before the national curriculum comes into effect? Can he speculate whether denying teachers their civil right of pay negotiation and imposing on them pay settlements that are less than inflation do much for teacher recruitment?

Mr. Baker

On the latter point, we must await the report of the interim advisory committee. On the first point, on the estimates that I have made, we expect overall teacher supply and demand to be in balance in the 1990s. That, of course, reflects certain shortages in science, mathematics and technology, which I have acknowledged, and we must take steps to improve recruitment. We have a bursary scheme for students who wish to take teacher training in those subjects. As I said earlier, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman), we want to attract people from other careers into teaching and to encourage teachers who have stopped teaching for some time to come back into teaching.

Mr. Pawsey

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the quality of the teaching force is just as important as the quantity? Is he, therefore, satisfied that the teacher training colleges are producing graduates of the relevant quality and that the syllabuses that they are following have particular relevance to today's schools? Also, are the teachers capable of keeping control in the classroom?

Mr. Baker

We have improved the quality of teacher training considerably over the past three or four years, but I am the first to recognise that more needs to be done. It is clear that those going through teacher training need more experience in the classroom and less study of subjects such as the history of education. Certainly, trainee teachers should be trained in the techniques of controlling a class.

Mr. Straw

Does the Secretary of State not accept that something is seriously wrong when, on his own figures, three in 10 newly qualified teachers fail to go into teaching straight away and nearly four in 10 new teachers leave the profession within five years?

The Secretary of State has increased his own publicity budget by 2,900 per cent. since taking office. Why does he not devote the same attention to dealing with the central problem of schools—teacher shortages—as he does to the production of self-serving glossy pamphlets? Was the Spectator correct when it said recently that the Secretary of State is trading short term political advantage for the longer term interests of the education system"?

Mr. Baker

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman reads the Spectator. That is a great improvement on what is usually read by Labour Members. We are now promoting the career of teaching very strongly as part of a departmental campaign. This year, 1,000 more people want to become teachers than last year and 3,000 more than two years ago. We have stopped the decline and we have recovered from the bad time of the teachers' strikes. We want to encourage more people who have been trained as teachers to come back into the teaching profession. About 50 per cent. of entrants into teaching each year are those who are returning. We must make it more attractive for people to return to the profession.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is strong support for the reform of the national curriculum and for the other measures in the Education Reform Act? Will he bear in mind the continuing shortage of highly qualified teachers of physics and mathematics, and will he do all that he can to ensure a better supply of well qualified pupils for university science and engineering departments?

Mr. Baker

I agree. There are bursaries of £1,300 per year for those who want to train as physics, mathematics or technology teachers. We want to attract people, perhaps in their 30s, to undertake a career switch from other careers to teaching, especially if they have a science or engineering background. Such people have much to bring to teaching, not only in knowledge but in maturity.

7. Mr. Hardy

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proportion of the time available for the education of the age group eight to 11 years will be needed to meet the requirements of the national curriculum.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold)

Decisions on timetabling the national curriculum will be for individual schools.

Mr. Hardy

Is the Minister aware that many eminent and expert educationists fear that the requirements of the national curriculum will occupy virtually the whole time available in primary schools? As British primary education is frequently effective and very often excellent, will the Minister reconsider the requirements to ensure that flexibility is not prohibited?

Mrs. Rumbold

I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the report of the speech made recently by an HMI, who said that in primary schools, in particular, the core subjects would obviously take up the majority of the time—.

Mr. Hardy

All the time.

Mrs. Rumbold

No, he suggested that primary schools would need to examine closely the timetabling of mathematics and English and of the science parts of the core curriculum. That is perfectly true, but he went on to say that it would be possible, and most desirable, for primary schools to manage their affairs to include such matters as environmental and health education.

Mr. Alton

Given what the Secretary of State said about engineering and technology, is it not ironic that a group of primary school teachers whom I met yesterday in Liverpool had received yet another booklet from the DES, this time urging the teaching of classics to five to 11-year-olds? Does not the Minister have some sympathy with their complaint that the teaching of basic subjects such as arithmetic and reading to children—many of whom will otherwise leave school unable to read and write —must come first? Does she not agree that what we really need is more resources, particularly for remedial teaching?

Mrs. Rumbold

It is important that all children should leave school with the basics—the three Rs; every one of us would agree with that. Nevertheless, it is also important for other subjects, such as classics, to be highlighted by the HMI, as they were in an excellent publication, which I recommend the hon. Gentleman to read.

Mr. Anthony Coombs

When considering the primary phase of the national curriculum, will my hon. Friend confirm that despite recent study groups and newspaper reports, the national curriculum will reflect the manifest needs of primary school children to learn grammatical and structured English and arithmetical ability, as well as to use pocket computers? Will my hon. Friend also ensure that the assessment test at seven reflects that interest?

Mrs. Rumbold

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already denounced as absolute rubbish the articles that appeared in the newspapers yesterday and over the weekend. The questions that were printed were examples taken from the existing work by the working group on mathematics, whose report was then submitted to the National Curriculum Council, which has done considerably more work since then. The School Examination and Assessment Council has just let the contract for the new assessment tests for the core subjects for the three different organisations to work on. I assure my hon. Friend that Ministers are expecting simple comprehensible tests in the core subjects to be used in the classroom in the future.

Mr. Flannery

Does the Minister not realise that he or she is completely underestimating the difficulties that will arise while the national curriculum is taking root? Are not large numbers of primary school teachers feeling the pressures at this moment? Teachers who are not properly equipped to teach science, for instance, are trying their best to teach it with inadequate resources. That is causing them deep worry, because they honestly want to do their best and they do not have the resources to carry out the preparation for the national curriculum.

Mrs. Rumbold

First, let me assure the hon. Gentleman that I am a she. The resources expected to be spent in the year 1989–90 include £130 million on the development of in-service training and other work associated with the national curriculum. I do not think that it is legitimate to suggest that teachers will not have sufficient resources. I fully understand that they will have to undertake in-service training and two extra days have been allocated especially for that work to take place this year.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be helpful to advise parents not to do the homework of children aged between eight and 11, or the GCSE coursework of older children, in the interests of their children's learning and of sound results?

Mrs. Rumbold

My hon. Friend is right to say that parents should not do their children's homework, but it is important that parents encourage their children to do homework and are ready to answer any questions that their children may ask.

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