HC Deb 25 October 2001 vol 373 cc404-5
9. Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam)

What assessment she has made of teaching staff shortages in (a) further and (b) higher education. [6695]

The Minister for Lifelong Learning (Margaret Hodge)

Both further and higher education report recruitment difficulties arising from competition from other institutions and the wider economy. In further education, there are teaching staff shortages in information technology, engineering, science and construction. In higher education, the main shortage subjects are information and communication technology, business studies and engineering.

Mr. Allan

I hope that the Minister will agree that British students, including those from both north and south Sheffield, deserve the best possible opportunities to study information technology in further and higher education. On information technology, does she agree that the word "crisis" can be used accurately to describe the shortage of academic staff and, crucially, support staff, whom we simply cannot recruit? What measures will the Government take to increase recruitment and retention in the IT sector in further and higher education?

Margaret Hodge

There are difficulties, but I would not call it a crisis. We are taking steps to overcome those difficulties by working with schools and national training organisations, and by giving additional money to FE and HE to support development and pay for teachers in shortage subjects. All that should help over time, and should prove to be of benefit to all those learners who depend on skilled teachers.

Mr. Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

Where staff vacancies are filled by temporary contract-holders, will my hon. Friend ensure that standards in FE are monitored closely by the Department so that the quality of teaching is maintained?

Margaret Hodge

Standards in FE are being monitored and the new inspection regime involving Ofsted and the adult learning inspectorate is closely examining the quality of teaching in the FE sector. The £300 million that we have set aside in our settlement for FE will support the improvement of standards and we will monitor that closely.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Gregory Barker. [Interruption.]

Mr. Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle)

Does the Minister accept that, in respect of her comments on the crisis in education recruitment, the intolerable burden of bureaucracy and directives on teachers in the classroom is as much a factor as teachers' pay?

Margaret Hodge

I see that the hon. Gentleman has difficulty in recognising his name.

Mr. Barker


Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister must now answer and the hon. Gentleman must listen.

Margaret Hodge

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wanted to tell me that he does know his name, but he certainly has some difficulty in recognising the question under debate. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) referred to particular shortages in particular subjects, which I acknowledged. We have taken steps to address those problems. To suggest that we are not addressing properly the work load of teachers, or that we are not looking to recruit a sufficient number of teachers to provide high quality-education, is just wrong.