HC Deb 27 March 1990 vol 170 cc192-3
2. Mrs. Maureen Hicks

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what assessment he has made of the additional time which teachers in primary schools will spend on administration as a result of the introduction of the national curriculum and assessment at seven and 11 years.

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

We are awaiting the School Examinations and Assessment Council's advice about the administrative implications of the assessment arrangements for seven-year-olds in the core subjects of English, mathematics and science, in the light of the pilot assessments being conducted in 2 per cent. of primary schools this summer.

Mrs. Hicks

During the past term I have taken every opportunity to visit as many primary schools as I can in my constituency to hear the views of teachers at first hand. Although I have been encouraged by the enthusiastic response to the national curriculum and assessments, does my hon. Friend agree that there must be some foundation to the concern felt by many teachers about the increasing amount of administrative work imposed on them by local authorities and by the Government? That is especially the case in primary schools, where teachers do not have free periods for planning. Will my hon. Friend assure me that she is listening carefully to those anxieties and that it will not be a question of saying, "I hear what you say", and then doing nothing?

Mrs. Rumbold

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those comments. Like her, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have visited a number of primary schools and made similar observations. We appreciate the extremely hard work that primary school teachers have put into introducing the national curriculum, especially in the core subjects of English, mathematics and science. Our major concern is that some primary school teachers have taken their responsibilities so seriously that they are trying to introduce assessments without the proper guidance that will be brought forward in the autumn. I hope that some of them will wait for that advice rather than trying to construct their own assessments in an effort to do their best.

Mr. Win Griffiths

The Minister will no doubt recall that when the Education Reform Bill was in Standing Committee there was a great deal of discussion about the amount of non-teaching time needed fully to implement the national curriculum. At the time a figure of 10 per cent. was talked about. Given that since then we have had the Elton report on discipline, which also imposes work and duties on teachers, will she confirm that primary school teachers will have at least 10 per cent. non-teaching time to carry out all the essential functions associated with the national curriculum and the Elton report on discipline?

Mrs. Rumbold

Primary school teachers are delivering and introducing the national curriculum and, rightly, taking time for in-service training to ensure that they deliver the national curriculum correctly. I am sure that they will also find time to do other work within the 1,265 hours that they have under their contracts.

Mr. Burt

Will my hon. Friend note the anxieties of Conservative Members who are sympathetic to the extra work and burdens placed on all teachers? Is she aware of our anxiety at the decision by the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers to call for a one-day strike? Will she explain that the best way for teachers to put their case over to the Government is not by strike action but by building on the sympathy and understanding of the general public which they are putting at risk?

Mrs. Rumbold

My hon. Friend is right. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I were deeply disappointed by the decision of the NAS/UWT to take action. That decision was taken by a small percentage—about a third—of the members of the union. We believe that the decision will deprive children of necessary education deeply disappoint their parents. It will not fulfil the expectations of the general public, which over the past three years have been improving greatly. A respect for teachers and their work has been building up which the action will destroy at a stroke.

Ms. Armstrong

When answering my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths), the Minister failed to mention that section of Her Majesty's inspectors' report which says that, by some route or other, 10 per cent. of non-contract time must be allowed for each teacher for administration. Is she aware that the report says that otherwise it will be impossible for primary schools, particularly small ones, to implement the national curriculum, testing and reporting of testing?

Mrs. Rumbold

I am well aware of the amount of time that primary school teachers spend with their children. They have always spent most of the school day with their children. But that does not comprise the full 1,265 hours to which they are committed to work under their contracts. They have non-contract time outside teaching time for in-service training and other duties, and teachers undertake those duties willingly.

Mr. Favell

On the national curriculum, does my hon. Friend believe that more and more people from all backgrounds will in later life buy personal pensions, buy their own homes and be share owners? Is she satisfied that schools are equipping people for what, after all, will be a fairly complicated financial life?

Mrs. Rumbold

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to that. We hope that one of the most important common themes running through the teaching of the national curriculum will be economic awareness of matters that will be a feature of everyone's life in the future.