HC Deb 06 June 1989 vol 154 cc3-5
2. Mr. Arbuthnot

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress his Department is making in promoting teaching as a career.

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

Our approach, through national publicity and the work of the teaching as a career unit, is creating a positive recruitment climate. This is reflected in the record numbers in recent years applying for teacher training places, and in the very high response to our recent advertising campaign, to which there were more than 10,000 responses.

Mr. Arbuthnot

Will my hon. Friend confirm that teaching is an extremely important, valuable and good career, but, that while the Government are taking positive steps to encourage people to adopt it others tend to emphasise only the negative aspects? Should they not take note of the words of Walter levers, the incoming president of the National Association of Head Teachers, who said recently that negative attitudes were themselves demoralising?

Mrs. Rumbold

I agree. The incoming president of the association was right in saying that negative attitudes do not help the general image of teachers. Conservative Members have a high regard for the teaching profession. We consider it an honourable profession that is executed extraordinarily well by the vast majority of teachers. I am surprised that teachers do not recognise how easily they could regain their authority by showing how competently they are managing the changes in our education system.

Mr. Spearing

Does the Minister agree that in every school, day visits by pupils and particularly longer adventure residential journeys in this country are a valuable means of irrigating learning? Does she accept my view, based on 14 years' experience, that such activities are especially valuable in the case of reluctant pupils, and will she and her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State review the mess-up that they have made and change the rules so that willing teachers can pursue those activities to the benefit of their pupils and of education? More teachers will then stay in our schools, and more will be attracted to teaching—the reverse of the result that the current terrible arrangements are producing.

Mrs. Rumbold

I ask the hon. Gentleman to study carefully the recommendations in the Education Reform Act 1988 on charging for extra-mural activities. Those recommendations allow for all such activities to continue, and indeed follow exactly the changes recommended to the Department—which was not originally minded to make any changes—by local education authorities.

Mr. Kirkhope

Does my hon. Friend agree that there are some difficulties in achieving a balance between teachers wishing to go into one specialty or another? Can she say a word or two about how that imbalance will be remedied?

Mrs. Rumbold

Yes. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has taken considerable steps towards ensuring that people are attracted to areas of shortage by means of bursaries, so that they will enter teaching and take it up as a career. That has been very successful. The most recent bursaries offered to those wishing to teach chemistry has resulted in an 8 per cent. increase in the number wishing to enter the profession.

Mr. Straw

The evidence of the recent Gallup poll in the Daily Telegraph shows a 40 per cent. drop in support for the Conservative party among teachers since the last general election and that four in 10 of our most experienced teachers wish to leave the profession. Does not that confirm the verdict of the Daily Express that the tolerance of parents—and of voters— on the Government's education record is almost exhausted"? Why do the Minister and the Secretary of State continue to deny that there is still a serious crisis in respect of our teaching force?

Mrs. Rumbold

The polls to which the hon. Gentleman refers reflect the attitudes of the people who are invited to respond to them. Teachers' actions are reflected by the independent interim advisory committee's report, which reaffirms that the number of people leaving the teaching profession in 1989 is only 1 per cent. of the total.

Mr. Dickens

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is difficult for my right hon. and hon. Friends to take a lecture on teacher recruitment when it was the last Labour Government who, between 1974 and 1979, devalued teachers' pay by as much as 12 per cent.?

Mrs. Rumbold

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Under the present Government, teachers' pay has increased in the order of 40 per cent.

Forward to