HL Deb 26 April 2001 vol 625 cc315-6

3.15 p.m.

Baroness Walmsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they plan to carry out the next official curriculum and staffing survey in secondary schools.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone)

My Lords, the last secondary curriculum and staffing survey was undertaken in November 1996. My right honourable friend is considering whether to carry out a further survey during the 2001–2 academic year and will make an announcement at the appropriate time.

Baroness Walmsley

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer. However, is she aware that in the absence of an official survey for such a lengthy period, the Secondary Heads Association and The Times Educational Supplement undertook their own survey which was published on 2nd March? It found that nearly 10,000 permanent jobs were unfilled in secondary schools in England and Wales. Other evidence indicates 20,000 temporary vacancies in primary and secondary schools. Does the Minister accept that she could stop the haemorrhaging of experienced teachers from the profession if the Government would grasp the nettle and do something constructive about teachers' working hours and conditions?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, there are 5,600 more teachers in England than there were in January 2000. There are 12,600 more than in January 1998. We have to consider the vacancies against that perspective. Of course, the Government are not complacent about vacancies in our schools. As I have said to the noble Baroness on a number of occasions, we are undertaking a range of initiatives to try to increase the numbers of young and mature people coming forward to train to be teachers as well as making it easier for those who decided to take early retirement to come back into the teaching profession.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the curriculum and staffing are closely linked? In view of the regrettable shortage of teachers in mathematics, science and other subjects, what is the Government's approach to a continuing problem?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, perhaps I may say again to my noble friend that the Government are trying to recruit more teachers into training. As a result of the steps we have taken, PGCE applications are up by 24 per cent on this time last year. That is a positive indication that some of the measures are working. Applications are up by 36 per cent in science, by 20 per cent in mathematics, by 31 per cent in English and by as much as 89 per cent in technology. Ninety-five per cent of science lessons and 91 per cent of maths lessons are being taught by those with relevant qualifications. Of course it would be excellent if we could get those figures to 100 per cent.