HL Deb 29 March 1990 vol 517 cc964-8

3.7 p.m.

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government: How many licensed teachers there are in maintained schools

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, a total of 44 licences have been granted since the arrangements were introduced in September last year.

Baroness David

My Lords, are the Government satisfied with that figure, which does not appear to show much enthusiasm for the scheme? Is the Minister aware that I tabled the Question because the LEAs are most incensed? Under the local education authority training grant scheme they were told last September to apply for grants for the training of licensed teachers and that they would receive answers by December. By 26th March, the beginning of this week, they had received no reply. I understand that replies were received today. Does it take the tabling of a Question in this House before the DES will respond? Can the DES be a little more efficient? How can local authorities plan their future expenditure if they must wait an additional three months: before receiving a reply?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I understand the frustration experienced when one is waiting for a reply. However, the scheme started only in September. While my initial Answer to the Question sounded a little gloomy, it is important to note that approximately 55 LEAs have now applied and the allocations were sent on 26th March. On that date a list of allocations to LEAs was also sent setting out the bids which were made by them. We shall find a different picture this time next year.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, can the Minister say whether there are initiatives for people aspiring to the teaching profession other than that mentioned in the Question?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the Government are taking seriously the present difficulty in recruiting teachers. There are a number of initiatives, including the licensed and the articled teachers schemes. There are special bursaries for teachers in shortage subjects and education support grants to help with recruitment and retention. Special assistance is being given to teachers for London. There is also an interesting innovation whereby ILEA entered into an arrangement for housing for teachers in London. Indeed, the Secretary of State intends to help with the housing of teachers in London. Help is also provided to encourage mature people to return to the profession and the Teaching as a Career Unit is helping substantially with the recruitment and retention of teachers. The campaign is most vigorous and I hope that in the future we shall see a buoyancy in the recruitment of teachers.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, can the Minister explain the Government's intentions on payment, first, of unqualified licensed teachers and how that will compare with a new graduate and, secondly, of licensed teachers once they are registered and how that will compare with graduate teachers' pay? There seems to be some confusion on this matter.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the pay for teachers while they are training will vary according to the experience of the particular person. Some come highly qualified and are already graduates when they enter teacher training. They will do the equivalent of a PGCE although it will be more school based. My understanding is that once a graduate is trained he will be treated as a graduate teacher. Non-graduates who achieve trained teacher status will be treated as non-graduate but qualified teachers.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether she has any figures as to the number of licensed teachers who are trained to teach dyslexic children and whether there is a general sufficiency of such teachers? Or is that beyond the Question?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I do not have a specific answer to my noble friend's question. Nor do I suspect that it will be possible to single out a specific number of teachers. A large number of teachers are involved in special needs teaching and some of that will be for children with dyslexia. However, my noble friend may be interested to know that next week there is to be a specific debate on the teaching of dyslexic children. I shall try to bring as much data to that debate as I can.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, can the Minister enlighten me as to how those licensed teachers will receive their training bearing in mind that to have knowledge and experience of a subject is one thing, but to be able to teach it is very different especially to young people who do not wish to learn?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the particular training for a licensed teacher will largely depend on the knowledge which a teacher has at any time. A teacher may well come in with advanced qualifications in the first instance. It will then be a matter of teaching him to teach children. Therefore, the programmes will vary according to the particular teacher. However, I can assure the noble Lord that no licensed teacher will achieve qualified status unless he has the appropriate knowledge, the personal qualities for teaching, is competent and has classroom experience. It will not be until those factors are satisfied that the status of qualified teacher will be achieved.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, does the Minister accept that the teaching profession is as important as the legal or medical profession? The Government would not dare to attempt to impose such a scheme on either of those professions. When will the Government realise that learning to teach is not simply sitting next to Nellie? It takes a course of four years or a one-year postgraduate course. Is the Minister aware that one of the worst features of this ridiculous scheme is that it will be divisive within the teaching profession and that will be to the detriment of the pupils?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I hope that nothing I have said has downgraded the importance of the teacher in the school. I am not entirely in agreement with the noble Lord who believes that only people who attend a four-year training course are competent. I believe that there are considerable talents outside the classroom. With some training, those people will make excellent teachers. I am not competent to comment on the legal profession but my lay understanding is that there is an articled legal process.

Lord Peston

My Lords, I believe that my noble friend Lord Dormand of Easington is right in that many people are under the impression that you do not need any training to be a teacher. I ask the noble Baroness how many of the licensed teachers are likely to end up in the fee-paying schools to which noble Lords opposite send their children. As the noble Baroness has reminded us, the Government have many ad hoc expedients to deal with the teacher shortage problem. However, does not the noble Baroness agree that the Government should have a teacher supply policy overall and in particular, following my noble friend Lord Dormand, they should start to pay teachers properly?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, all the initiatives which I have outlined in the course of answering this Question at least show that the Government take very seriously the issue of supply of teachers. All the imaginative and innovative steps that are being taken are designed to provide more teachers competent in the classroom.

On licensed teachers, they must be at least 26 years of age, they must have two years of higher education before coming into licensed teacher training and they must have GCSE in maths and English. That is a greater qualification than was required by many teachers who applied for teacher training in the 1960s.

Lord St. John of Fawsley

My Lords, will my noble friend agree that the one thing needed to be a good teacher is a teaching nature?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, there is much in what my noble friend says.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, is the Minister aware, to take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that I— and no doubt others of my age who were at fee-paying schools a generation or two ago— was very satisfactorily taught by teachers whose only satisfactory qualification was a good degree, knowledge of the subject and a proper allowance of carrot and stick for those who, as the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, reminded us, may not want to learn at all?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, my noble friend makes an interesting point. We need to break the mould of view that only teachers who go to teacher training college for four years are competent to teach in our schools. There are many ways into the classroom. The important thing is a good knowledge of the subject, competence and an aptitude for teaching children.

Lord Peston

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, has embarrassed me once before on raising the matter of his own education? For the second time I forbear to comment on the consequences of it. Have the Government changed their policy as regards the noble Baroness's last remarks concerning the desirability that the overwhelming majority of our teachers should be taught properly themselves and go to teacher training college?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, it seems that the Government cannot win in the view of noble Lords opposite. The Government's policy is that teachers should receive a formal training for teaching. That is desirable. However, there is a particular problem at this time which has been identified by your Lordships; that is, a shortage in particular subjects and a reluctance for people to enter the profession. I believe that we have a list of imaginative schemes to get people into the classroom. At the end of the day, as long as they are qualified to teach our children, we should welcome those initiatives.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that there is something rather peculiar about the fact that the noble Lords, Lord Peston and Lord Beloff, and myself all taught in universities without having had any training whatever to teach?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, do not tempt me to comment on that!