HC Deb 04 July 1989 vol 156 cc146-7
10. Mr. Livsey

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many teachers in the primary school sector have resigned in the last 12 months.

Mr. Butcher

The latest available data are for the year ending March 1987, when 12,730 teachers left full-time service in the maintained nursery and primary sector in England. Of these, 1,320 transferred to full-time service elsewhere in the maintained sector in England and Wales and 1,300 to part-time service in the maintained sector. A further 4,300 retired and 200 died.

Mr. Livsey

Even allowing for the fact that those figures are two years out of date, do they not suggest that there is a crisis in the primary school sector and that, even according to the Minister's own figures, 15,000 teachers a year will be leaving the profession by 1995? What does he intend to do about preventing primary school teachers from leaving their profession in droves?

Mr. Butcher

The hon. Gentleman is utterly wrong. A substantial proportion of those who leave the profession do so for maternity or retirement reasons. That is evidence of a remarkably stable teaching force. As the interim advisory committee has reported, those who leave teaching to go into other professions represent about 1 per cent. of the teaching force. That cannot be described in any way in the terms that the hon. Gentleman used.

Mr. Soames

Will my hon. Friend commend to other local authorities the excellent scheme run by West Sussex county council to stay in touch with teachers who have left the profession, so that when they have finished whatever duties they may have had away from teaching they can be brought back in at an early stage?

Mr. Butcher

That is an excellent scheme. Through appropriate and imaginative measures, a large number of teachers can he persuaded to re-enter the profession. Their expertise will be greatly welcomed. I am sure that other local authorities are observing that experiment with great interest.

Ms. Armstrong

The Minister's answer confirms that the Government simply do not know what is going on in primary schools. Our evidence from local education authorities throughout the country is that the number of resignations this year is unprecedented. Britain has some of the best primary teaching in the world but the Government's policies are undermining it. What are the Government going to do to support and encourage primary teachers?

Mr. Butcher

One of the great strengths of the British system is the primary sector. Having visited Germany recently I am confirmed in that belief and I pay tribute to our primary school teachers. The Opposition's assertions have more to do with propaganda than with fact. In the primary sector we have a stable work force and the teaching force is behaving professionally. The facts on recruitment into teacher training colleges and loss to other professions confirm that we have a well-motivated and stable primary work force.