HC Deb 30 January 1990 vol 166 cc143-4
2. Mrs. Ann Taylor

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions he has had with local education authorities about the number of supply teachers; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Alan Howarth

My right hon. Friend has not had any such discussions. He is aware that supply teachers are more readily available in some localities than in others. A total of £2 million of expenditure by 45 local education authorities will receive education support grant in 1990–91 on schemes designed to enable local education authorities to encourage qualified teachers in their area to come back into service, whether as supply teachers or on a part-time or full-time basis.

Mrs. Taylor

Does the Minister accept that the national shortage of supply teachers is just one reflection of a deeper malaise in British education? Does he further accept that until we restore the confidence and morale of our teachers, we shall continue to see a shortage of classroom teachers? Does he agree that the main reason why we have those shortages is the pressure that the Government have put on teachers and the way in which this Government have undermined the confidence of the classroom teacher by the weight of legislation and by not taking proper account of experts and of those who actually teach?

Mr. Howarth

All of us on the Government Front Bench, including my right hon. Friend, honour teachers and have the greatest respect for what they do. We shall continue to give them all the practical support that we can. It would better become the hon. Lady if she spent less time on opportunistic and cynical denigration of the position in which teachers are held in society and was a little more generous in her recognition of the respect in which they are properly held.

Mr. Sims

Is my hon. Friend aware that teachers who have taken early retirement from full-time teaching are liable to have their pension reduced if they take up part-time teaching in the state sector, whereas they suffer no such penalty if they work in the private sector or in higher education? Would it not be as well to remove that anomaly and to encourage teachers who have taken early retirement to resume part-time teaching if they feel able to do so?

Mr. Howarth

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is important to ensure that there are no pension obstacles to enabling teachers either to continue in the teaching profession or to return to teaching, or that may discourage other people who may wish to come into teaching later in life. We have that area of policy under review. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that I am consulting various sectors of industry and taking their advice on how we can best ensure that pension arrangements do not provide the discouragement to which my hon. Friend alluded.