HC Deb 29 January 1997 vol 289 cc357-8
13. Mr. Dafis

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what proposals she has to improve morale among schoolteachers. [11738]

Mrs. Gillan

The Government recognise the skill and dedication of the vast majority of teachers, and say so at every opportunity.

Mr. Dafis

Does the Minister accept that the Government's insistence on placing the principles of competition and market forces at the heart of the education system has contributed to the reduction in teacher morale and that the continuing campaign on grant-maintained schools is an exacerbating factor? How will she ensure that information provided to parents by the Grant Maintained Schools Foundation in England and Wales when ballots are held is accurate and complete? Will she take it from me that at a meeting in my constituency last Monday night, parents, teachers and the public were widely convinced that they had been seriously misled by representatives of that organisation?

Mrs. Gillan

I cannot agree with a single word that the hon. Gentleman says. As far as the Government are concerned, high morale goes with good schools, and our policies for improving standards will also improve morale. I know what would be bad for my morale if I were a teacher: the prospect of a Labour Government, who would destroy grammar schools, grant-maintained schools and the assisted places scheme, attack independent schools, reverse the nursery voucher scheme and turn back all the progress that the Government have made on education. If I were a teacher, the prospect of a Labour Government would certainly destroy my morale.

Mr. Dover

Will the Minister accept that any low morale among schoolteachers in Lancashire is due to the fact that, in the past two years, the Government have provided an extra £45 million in education spending, but precious little of that has been passed down to the schools?

Mrs. Gillan

My hon. Friend makes a good point. The Government have increasingly, year on year, provided more funds for education, and the local education authorities should be answerable for how much of that money reaches the chalkface. The more that reaches our schools, the better it is for teacher morale.

Mr. Eastham

Is the Minister aware that, only a few months ago, I brought a deputation from the city of Manchester to see one of her colleagues? We pointed out that the city had been starved of funds for building maintenance and that a £50 million deficiency had built up. Roofs are letting rain in, the electrics are deficient, new boilers are required and children have been evacuated from schools by bus because of the conditions. Will not that affect the morale of teachers and schoolchildren? It is happening up and down the country.

Mrs. Gillan

I should have thought that teachers' morale would have been enhanced because they were pleased by the local government funding settlement for 1997–98, which allows 3.6 per cent. more for education than in 1996–97. The hon. Gentleman should address his remarks to his local education authority, which is responsible for the fabric of its schools. He should not ask the Government questions: he should ask his local education authority.