HL Deb 24 June 1999 vol 602 cc1057-9

Lord Dormand of Easington asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether an assessment has been made of the success or otherwise of their campaign for the recruitment of more teachers.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

My Lords, we have a range of successful strategies to boost recruitment to teaching, including the £5,000 incentives for new maths and science teachers, which have brought a substantial increase in applications, and the Teacher Training Agency's current advertising campaign. The recent quinquennial review of the Teacher Training Agency has recommended that the TTA makes recruitment the top priority for the next phase of its work.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that helpful reply. The advertising campaign to which he refers, with the theme of "No one forgets a successful teacher" is worthy, but is my noble friend aware that it needs to be associated with better salaries and good long-term projects? What evidence is there that the "golden hello" payments are being successful and, perhaps more importantly, what are the Government doing with regard to research into the attitudes of fifth and sixth-formers and undergraduates towards teaching?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

My Lords, my noble friend has raised an important point. I believe that the advertising campaign was successful. Certainly the information line run by the TTA has had 10,000 extra inquiries. While it is early days there is certainly evidence that compared with this time last year we have received considerably more applications from maths and science students who wish to undertake a PGCE. I am not aware of any research that is being undertaken on this matter but I shall take that point back to my ministerial colleagues. I believe that we are creating a virtuous circle; namely, the higher the standards of teaching in schools, the more pupils in schools will think that teaching is a good career for them. In addition, the Green Paper contains proposals to improve the career structure of teachers.

Lord Tope

My Lords, what success has been achieved in recruiting older people with experience in commerce and industry into the teaching profession? Is the noble Lord aware that when such people qualify as teachers they find it virtually impossible to obtain a full-time permanent post in a school, for no apparent reason other than age? Are the Government concerned about this problem and, if so, what do they propose to do about it?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

My Lords, the noble Lord has raised an important issue. I am sure that every Member of this House would be very much opposed to any ageist policy in education or elsewhere. On 14th June we published a code of practice on age diversity in employment which makes specific mention of the teaching profession. As part of our efforts to boost better recruitment of teachers, a new scheme aims to recruit 600 new mature maths and science teachers. It is interesting to note that the scheme will match them to on-the-job training in schools. The TTA has awarded a contract to a company called Timeplan to implement that scheme.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, is recruitment inhibited by the clamour for payment by results? How does recruitment of modern language teachers compare with recruitment of maths and science teachers?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

My Lords, I do not think there is any suggestion that this is simply a case of crude payment by results. The proposals in the Green Paper seek to reward teachers who perform well in schools but they are measured against careful criteria and a careful assessment process. Certainly there has been concern about the reduction in the number of people coming forward to train to be modern language teachers. We shall keep that situation under close review to see whether any special measures need to be taken. But in addition, in order to attract able people to the teaching profession it is essential to reinforce the message of success which we see in many schools and among many teachers, and to implement the proposals in the Green Paper which seek to reward those people adequately.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, just as no one forgets a successful teacher—as my noble friend Lord Dormand of Easington said—equally, no teacher forgets a successful pupil? I can report modestly that my primary school teacher wrote me a letter once a month until the day she died at the age of 96.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

My Lords, I suppose the question to ask is, what did she say?

Baroness Seccombe

My Lords, can the Minister tell the House what success the Government have had in getting rid of inadequate teachers? How many have been dismissed by use of the fast-track procedure?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

My Lords, I am not aware of the figures but I shall certainly write to the noble Baroness. As regards failing teachers and failing schools, we cannot afford to sweep failure under the carpet. While the failures are a small proportion in terms of the overall numbers of teachers and schools, it is essential that we tackle those with decisiveness.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, can the Minister tell the House of any progress that has been made with people who were somewhat disparagingly referred to as "Mum's Army"; in other words, parents with good A-levels and good degrees whose children have grown up and who, with perhaps the very minimum of teacher training, might be available to teach in our schools?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

My Lords, we are keen to see teaching assistants and classroom assistants coming into schools. We have plans for a further 20,000 over the next three to four years. Their whole purpose is to enable teachers to focus much more on classroom teaching.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, I am not suggesting for a moment that the Government are complacent in this matter, but does my noble friend appreciate that there is still a mountain to climb in the recruitment of teachers? I was a wee bit disappointed to hear that no research is being carried out in this area into the views of fifth and sixth-formers and undergraduates, because what we really want to know is why young people are not going into teaching. Until we find that out we shall not make much progress.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

My Lords, I said to my noble friend that I would reflect on his suggestion. However, I repeat what I said earlier: the clear way to attract more high calibre people into teaching is to ensure that there is a proper career structure, with adequate reward for such people. That is exactly what the Government's Green Paper is all about.

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