HC Deb 28 February 1989 vol 148 c146
5. Ms. Quin

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans he has to encourage more women to go into science teaching.

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

We are very keen to encourage more men and women into science teaching. 'We have made available £6.5 million to higher education for specially designed courses to increase the supply of teachers in shortage subjects, including physics and design and technology. Some of those courses are specially designed to include part-time study and distance learning, with women graduates returning to teaching after starting a family in mind.

Ms. Quin

In view of the shortages and predicted shortages in science teaching, will the Department regard it as a matter of urgency to encourage more women to enter the profession? Can the Minister give details of how many new access courses will be created and when they will come into effect?

Mrs. Rumbold

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, we are encouraging mature students from other careers who are seeking a career change to teaching. We are also attacking the hidden shortages with in-service training for the conversion and updating of under-qualified teachers. Open learning materials commissioned from the BBC and the Open University will also be used to mitigate the problems of supply cover. We are collaborating with a group of independent television companies to produce science videos for updating and improving the teaching skills of science teachers. All those efforts can be targeted at helping returners to teaching—including women wishing to return to the profession after having families—to update their skills. According to information to be published later this week by the National Foundation for Educational Research, girls are doing better than boys in science learning in United Kingdom schools. That is very encouraging.

Mr. Bowis

Does my hon. Friend agree that one way of attracting more women and men into science teaching is to encourage more part-time teachers, so that scientists working in industry and elsewhere can give the benefit of their knowledge to our schoolchildren? Incidentally, the science that they teach may be even more up-to-date.

Mrs. Rumbold

The new licensed teacher route is geared directly to such entrants, and we look forward to enjoying the results of that scheme when it is introduced.