HC Deb 04 May 2000 vol 349 cc277-9
3. Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)

If he will make a statement on the teacher recruitment and training salaries for postgraduates entering teacher training. [119618]

The Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mr. David Blunkett)

On 30 March, I announced training salaries for postgraduate initial teacher training, improved golden hellos for those training and going on to teach in shortage subjects and new funding for schools offering places on the graduate training programme, with 13,000 salaries to encourage, in particular, mature students into that route. Since then, almost 2,000 people have applied to do postgraduate certificates of education—nearly 30 per cent. up on the same period last year. I have asked the Teacher Training Agency to help reinforce that by putting in place a major advertising campaign. Given that, and the new measures to improve the salary and earning prospects of teachers, we hope to be able to attract many more of our best graduates into teaching.

Mr. Cox

I thank my right hon. Friend for that detailed and welcome reply. He and his team are to be congratulated on the efforts that they have made to achieve substantial increases in salary to graduates coming into the teaching profession and on the increased status that such salaries will give to the profession. Everyone from both sides of the House knows from our communities that the general public want ever-increasing respect for the teaching profession. My right hon. Friend's announcement this morning is a clear indication of the Government's commitment to that.

Mr. Blunkett

I am grateful for the support of my hon. Friend. The endeavour now is to get everyone, including teachers and their leaders, to spell out the message that teaching is a good profession to enter. It is fulfilling and rewarding and it is an essential part of ensuring that the next generation is better educated than the last.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

Those are welcome messages, but more important will be the ability to retain new teachers, and that will depend on sustained funding of pay increases. Why has the Secretary of State top-sliced the budget, causing so many problems for local education authorities?

Mr. Blunkett

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have increased funding for this financial year by 8.5 per cent. in real terms, which is as much as the total real-terms increase that the previous Government put in during the whole of the previous Parliament. Our plans for the new pay awards and for the retention of teachers resulting from the increased salary potential will be welcomed by teachers from this autumn as they see the results coming through. That new money will be sustained over the years to come, so that those applying to go through the threshold to access the new pay levels and new incremental scales will have the guarantee that resources will be available not just from this autumn, but in the years to come.

Dr. George Turner (North-West Norfolk)

I welcome the measures that the Government have introduced to ensure that teachers are properly paid and have proper respect in the communities that they serve, but can my right hon. Friend answer a question that was raised by a teacher in one of my local schools? She told me that she was disappointed to find that there was a time barrier and that she would have to serve for a number years before she could receive the enhancements under the new scheme. Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that good enough measures are in place to ensure that teachers can be promoted rapidly in the same way as young people so often are if they work in the private sector?

Mr. Blunkett

All teachers who are at point 9 on the scale or beyond will be entitled to access the £2,000 uplift and the consequent incremental scales that will take them to £30,000 and beyond. Those who are not yet at point 9 on the scale because they have not been in the profession long enough will be entitled, as from this autumn, to access the new fast-track procedures that will enable them to move more rapidly through the existing incremental scale so that they are able to access the new thresholds.

Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead)

Not only have the Government failed to meet their targets for recruitment into teaching training—recruitment into initial teacher training fell again this year—but a recent poll showed that more than half of those in the teaching profession expect to leave it in the next decade because of the work load, stress and bureaucratic burdens that the Secretary of State is imposing on them. The Government's own better regulation taskforce has said that over-elaborate processes are being used to achieve straightforward objectives, leading to unnecessary duplication and confusing, excessive lines of accountability.

As an aid to attracting postgraduates and others into teaching and to encouraging more teachers to stay in the profession, will the Secretary of State now tell the House how many fewer, compared to last year, circulars, letters and notes his Department intends to send out in paper or electronic form to schools, directly or through local education authorities, in the remaining seven and a half months of this year?

Mr. Blunkett

It would be futile to give a statistical answer setting out how many pieces of paper I shall send out or the number of electronic communications that will be made, not least because, as the better regulation taskforce pointed out, many of the missives that schools are complaining about come from other agencies or local authorities and not from the Department, where the working party report has been implemented. [Interruption.] I am being heckled by Conservative Members. The statistics that they quoted publicly turned out to relate to education authority missives to schools and not to the batch mailings from the Department.

There is the problem of ensuring that the material that goes out is relevant, is in the right form, is accessible and genuinely consults where that is necessary. We shall take whatever steps are needed to make that happen and to ensure that we get things right. In the end, people are not put off from coming into teaching because of consulting on regulations and the sending out of pieces of paper to ensure that teachers have up-to-date information on best teaching practice. They are put off by the Jonahs who keep on saying that teaching is a bad profession to be in and playing down the enormous gains that have been made in literacy, numeracy, standards of education and pay levels.