HC Deb 23 October 1990 vol 178 cc175-6
2. Mr. Ian Taylor

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what further initiatives are currently being considered by his Department to help relieve the problems of teacher shortages in particular subjects in the south-east.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Tim Eggar)

We already have in place a range of measures that are helping to relieve teacher supply difficulties in the south-east.

Our September count of vacancies revealed that all local education authorities, including those in London and the south-east, had succeeded in filling the great majority of the posts that were vacant at the beginning of the summer.

Mr. Taylor

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister of State, welcome him to his debut with chalk and blackboard in the House and wish him a long and successful stay in his position.

In Surrey, the problem is becoming quite serious. The readvertisement of jobs for primary school teachers is running at about 27 per cent., and for secondary school teachers it is now 31 per cent. Will my hon. Friend assure the House that the measures that have been announced will be brought in as soon as possible so that local pay bargaining can increase the potential for giving bursaries to teachers in special subjects, in particular maths, modern languages and science? Will he also make sure that local management of schools provides even greater flexibility so that Surrey and other counties in the south-east can fill their vacancies?

Mr. Eggar

My hon. Friend will reflect upon the need for his own county council to consider whether local funding is appropriate at some time in the future. Surrey has taken advantage of a scheme run by my Department, that has enabled the setting up of courses specifically for women returners who have experience in teaching modern languages. As a result of one course alone, Surrey was able to recruit 22 modern language teachers.

Mr. Flannery

Does the Minister of State realise that the Select Committee would never have published its report on teacher supply, which took nearly two years to complete, unless the position was deadly serious? Does he realise also that talking about being able to put a body in front of every class, whether it be in the south-east or elsewhere, is nonsense? The number of applications for major teaching posts has fallen catastrophically. Whereas there used to be 20 or 30 applications, the number has now dropped to one, two or three, and the people who are employed are not necessarily the people who are wanted? As the problem is more serious than that, will the Minister please treat it as being more serious and settle it once and for all?

Mr. Eggar

The hon. Gentleman appears not to be aware that the overwhelming majority of classes have permanent teachers who teach children on a well-established basis. The level of teacher vacancies in our schools is almost exactly the same as it was 10 years ago when the Labour party left government. Those are the facts. It is no good the hon. Gentleman exaggerating the position.

Mr. Dunn

Does my hon. Friend accept that the only way to eliminate teacher shortages in the south-east is to abolish national pay scales and to move to a system of regional pay with school-centred pay bargaining? The second thing that could be done to improve teacher morale in the south-east would be to ask the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) to keep his mouth shut for at least a year.

Mr. Eggar

I am sure that the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) will pay attention to the advice given by my hon. Friend. We should all benefit from that advice being followed.

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