HC Deb 04 April 1989 vol 150 cc9-10
8. Mr. Matthew Taylor

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proportion of primary school teachers' working time has been assigned as non-contact time in each of the last five years.

Mr. Butcher

The 1987 primary school staffing survey showed that there were 22.5 hours of taught lessons in the average pupil's week in maintained primary schools in England. Within that total, teachers had an average of two hours' non-contact time.

Mr. Taylor

The Minister will be aware that the same unpublished staffing survey, which is lodged in the House of Commons Library, makes it clear that fewer than half of all primary school teachers have any non-contact time. In my own area, virtually no teachers have non-contact time. A typical school in Cornwall has been described as three teachers and three classes. What will the Minister do to ensure that resources are provided to give teachers the necessary preparation time, particularly in view of the demands placed on them in the drawing up of preparations for the national curriculum?

Mr. Butcher

Non-contact time within the pupil week is not the whole story. Considerably more non-teaching time is available within the 1,265 hours a year that teachers are required to work, and that can be used to prepare for the national curriculum. Of the 195 days a year on which a teacher is required to work, five may be used for in-service training, and schools may close for two days this year specifically to prepare for the introduction of the curriculum.

I know that many representations are being made on the need for further in-service training, but any dispassionate examination of the figures will show that the teaching profession in this country is very well provided for in training.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Will my hon. Friend examine marking periods in the school week, as distinct from non-contact time as set out in the Education Reform Act? Will he do all that he can to ensure that periods are set aside for marking?

Mr. Butcher

As I said earlier, considerable discretionary allocation of time is available to headmasters. Some 800 of the 1,265 hours are direct teaching time. I should have thought that the activity to which my hon. Friend refers could be catered for within a well-managed school, provided that headteachers were prepared to use their management discretion appropriately. That, indeed, was one of the conclusions reached in the recent Her Majesty's inspectorate report.

Mr. Flannery

The shortage of teachers is now so serious that the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts is examining it very carefully. Has not that shortage, which the Government have created by attacking teachers relentlessly—an attack led from the top on the Front Bench—resulted in the virtual disappearance of non-class-contact time in primary schools? Not only that, but teachers in the primary sector are now staying behind regularly, for an hour or two every day, because of the pressures imposed upon them. When will the Government realise that to bring back teachers who have left the profession they must increase wages and give teachers back their negotiating rights?

Mr. Butcher

The position described by the hon. Gentleman is simply not reflected in the facts. Primary class contact rates have fallen from 91 per cent. in 1984 to 89 per cent. in 1988. That means that, on average, teachers are spending less time in front of classes.

The question of teacher shortages is complex. We understand that there are geographical and, indeed, subject difficulties, and I hope that some of the action plans introduced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be supported by the hon. Gentleman, as they are proving effective.