HC Deb 06 June 1989 vol 154 cc8-9
8. Mrs. Mahon

to ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans he has to ensure that teachers are fully prepared to implement the national curriculum in primary schools next term.

Mrs. Rumbold

Specific grants are available for £100 million additional expenditure by local education authorities to support introduction of the national curriculum. We have allowed schools two extra closure days for training, and the National Curriculum Council has provided advice and training materials.

Mrs. Mahon

Does the Minister realise and understand the anxiety that primary school teachers feel about the nature and pace of the curriculum change? What plans does she have to provide the extra specialist training and resources necessary so that children with special needs have access to the national curriculum? Would not the Minister be the first to condemn teachers if they acted in such an irresponsible way with such haste?

Mrs. Rumbold

The hon. Lady will be satisfied to know that two extra in-service training days are being provided for primary school teachers in particular to learn about and to update themselves on the national curriculum. In addition, we have made provision for all schools to have the national curriculum documents in their hands in good time, so I hope that all primary school teachers will feel themselves ready. Some provisions will not necessarily apply to children with special needs, but we want such children to study the national curriculum from day one if they can.

Mr. Baldry

Clearly, it is vital that teachers have adequate in-service training to prepare them for the national curriculum, but is there any reason why much of that training should not take place during school holidays so as not to disrupt normal classroom activities?

Mrs. Rumbold

Yes, I tend to agree with my hon. Friend. It is interesting to note that of the 1,265 hours that a teacher is contracted to teach, the average primary school teacher spends 850 hours in lessons. If time is allowed for breaks, assembly and supervision, primary school teachers should still have 130 hours within the allocated time outside school holidays and weekends in which to do additional training.

Ms. Armstrong

I am sure that many primary school teachers will be horrified to hear the Minister's complacency this afternoon. Does she understand primary school teachers' fears that their professional integrity is being undermined by the completely haphazard way in the which the Government have introduced the core curriculum documents? How are teachers seriously to prepare, through training, for the teaching of English in September when the order has not yet been approved by the House? How are they to develop methods of monitoring and to agree ways in which English can be properly taught when the documents will not reach some schools until after the end of the summer term?

Mrs. Rumbold

It is exactly such an attitude that contributes to the demoralisation of teachers. Hearing such statements do not help. Primary school teachers are working extremely hard. Those whom I have met in the schools are looking forward with enthusiasm to the introduction of the national curriculum and are working hard to make their systems work. They appreciate that what they have been doing over the years has now been underwritten by Government action.