HC Deb 08 February 2001 vol 362 cc1064-5
8. Barbara Follett (Stevenage)

What measures he has implemented to update school science laboratory facilities. [147911]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Jacqui Smith)

Under the school laboratories for the 21st century initiative, £60 million has been allocated from the Government's capital modernisation fund to tackle deficiencies in secondary school science accommodation over this financial year and next. That is enabling about 400 improvement projects to be carried out.

In addition, local education authorities have been able to apply for funding from the new deal for schools programme to improve the condition of school laboratories. So far, 151 such projects have been funded, at a cost of just under £37 million. Those authorities may also have incorporated improvements to science accommodation within larger schemes of school expansion, or rationalisation.

Barbara Follett

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply and for the money that the Department has made available for 13 new laboratories in three secondary schools in my constituency. Although that is most welcome, will she tell me what measures the Department is taking to recruit and train more science teachers for secondary schools?

Jacqui Smith

I am glad that my hon. Friend has welcomed the extra investment in her constituency, which is important in itself in providing the surroundings that are necessary to maintain teachers in classrooms and to deliver high standards. We are pleased also, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, that new figures for applications for post-graduate certificate of education courses show that applications for chemistry have increased by 45 per cent., and for physics by 23 per cent. Applications overall for science have significantly increased. The action that the Government are taking to recruit extra teachers in all subjects, but particularly science, is having the necessary effect to maintain high standards and to improve them in my hon. Friend's constituency and throughout the country.

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere)

So that we can have some criteria by which to judge the Minister's comments, will she simply say whether there are more or fewer recruits for secondary training in science for the academic year that began in September 2000 than in the academic year that began in September 1996? More or fewer?

Jacqui Smith

What is important is the action that we are taking to get more teachers into classrooms and more teachers into specialisms. We have already seen capital investment such as that which has been made in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Barbara Follett). The actions that the Government have taken in terms of training salaries and encouraging people into teacher training are having an effect. For the first time for eight years there are more people in teacher training this year than there were at this time last year. The Government are concerned to put in place actions that will encourage teachers into the profession and maintain them in it, while Conservative Members are keen to talk down the profession and worsen the recruitment problem.