HC Deb 28 February 1989 vol 148 cc142-4
3. Mr. David Evans

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many new teachers were recruited in 1988 with experience in non-teaching professions; and what plans he has to encourage recruitment of other skilled mature entrants to the teaching profession.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Baker)

Thirty per cent. of new student teachers training in 1988 were aged 26 or over. We have a campaign to boost the number of older people from industry and business who want to switch to teaching. The licensed teacher route will directly help such people.

Mr. Evans

Will my right hon. Friend congratulate Welwyn Hatfield in Hertfordshire on its lead in that matter, and make sure that such a policy is followed elsewhere so that specialist teacher posts can be filled in part by students?

Mr. Baker

I have no hesitation in endorsing my hon. Friends comments. The Hertfordshire scheme for recruiting mature entrants has been successful. In the past two years there have been 53 appointments of mature people with a variety of experience and I hope that the scheme will pave the way for other local education authorities to follow suit. The introduction of our licensed teacher scheme later this year will greatly help that process.

Mr. Beggs

Does the Secretary of State agree that, considerable progress has been made in increasing the number of graduates with teacher training entering the teaching profession, which should not be diluted? Does he further agree that mature students with experience in commerce and industry have skills which will complement the expertise already in schools? What arrangements will he make for those entering teacher training without any direct class contact?

Mr. Baker

There are two schemes. One is for mature entrants in their twenties and thirties who have not had teacher training but who wish to change their career. From September this year, they can be taken on as teachers in schools. The head teacher and the local education authority will be responsible for their training for two years, principally on the job, with some day release to colleges. That will be widely welcomed in the education service.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

When dealing with mature entrants, will my right hon. Friend consider the continuing shortage, often expressed by head teachers and others, of teachers of physics, chemistry and other specialist subjects, and do what he can to deal with that problem at the same time?

Mr. Baker

I agree with my hon. Friend. I recognise that that is a problem. There are various schemes to meet those teacher shortages. For example, the bursary scheme makes available a grant of £1,300 for the one-year training course. I have extended that scheme in financial terms and to include people who want to train as chemistry teachers from September this year.

Mr. Vaz

The Secretary of State may like to know that last week I conducted a survey of schools in my constituency which revealed an appalling recruitment record. One headmaster stated that he had left to become a double glazing salesperson, and one class had had 12 different teachers in the past year. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the crisis of confidence in our education system is directly related to the Government's policies? When does he intend to allocate more cash to improve prospects for teachers?

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman should know that last Friday I visited one large successful comprehensive school and one small primary school in Leicestershire. I specifically asked the head teachers of both schools whether they had any vacancies or recruitment problems and their answer to both questions was no.

Mr. Favell

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one question that should be asked of entrants is whether they are prepared to help with team sports? Did he hear Roger Uttley on the "Today" programme this morning saying that there was an enormous shortage of pupils leaving school prepared to play rugby football? Does he agree that team sports are an essential part of education for everyone, but that there has been a decline in the past 10 or 20 years?

Mr. Baker

I understand that rugby football is enjoying a boom at the moment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not in Wales."] Wales will have to do better next term.

Education is not simply a matter of training either children's minds or their bodies, and time will be devoted to physical education as part of the national curriculum.

Mr. Straw

When does the Secretary of State expect the teacher shortage crisis to be solved?

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman knows that we have a range of proposals in place. Last year there was an increase of 1,000 in those wishing to enter teacher training, making an increase of some 3,000 over 1986. The hon. Gentleman is always accusing me of increasing my Department's publicity budget, but the largest increase has been on programmes to recruit teachers.