§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Baroness Walmsley asked Her Majesty's Government:
§ What action they propose to take to reduce wastage rates among students in initial teacher training and newly qualified teachers.605
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, when filling a bucket it is usually good practice to plug the holes in the bottom; otherwise, you will get very wet feet. That applies particularly when there is a water shortage. Unfortunately, for the past few years the Government have had very wet feet indeed and precious water has seeped away. Sadly, the Government have also had a large bill for the training of teachers from whom our schools have received very little or no service because trained teachers have been falling through the holes in the bucket.
§ In his last annual report for Ofsted published today the chief inspector Mike Tomlinson, while complimenting teachers on rising standards, raises concerns about the Government's failure to recruit and retain enough teachers, especially in specialist subjects. I am sure that the Minister will catalogue all the Government are doing, but from the evidence of their own chief inspector it is clearly not enough. The main reasons he gives are threefold: workload, discipline problems and the fact that teachers do not feel valued by society. I shall return to those three issues later.
§ It is difficult to quantify the wastage of teachers in training and in the early years of service, but let me try. The accepted wisdom is that we lose a third of teachers in their first three years and 40 per cent by the time they reach five years of service. However, that is probably an underestimate. The fact is that the Government do not conduct an exit survey so we do not really know where teachers go when they leave our schools.
§ Professor John Howson conducted some research on maths teacher trainees. He assumed the department's own figures for wastage during the course of training, which was 13 per cent at that time. He then found that 20 per cent did not go into teaching after completing the course. Another half had left teaching by the end of their fourth year of service. So, of the cohort that started training, half were lost by the end of year five.
§ Drop-out rates from PGCE secondary courses have been increasing, from 13 per cent in 1996–97 to 15 per cent in 1997–98 up to 16 per cent in 1998–99. My honourable friend the Member for Harrogate in another place has asked for more recent figures in a Written Question but has not yet received a reply.
§ Sadly, the Government are also failing to fill up the bucket as fast as they would like. The review body report shows that the secondary ITT recruitment target has been revised downwards since 1997–98; and the targets for the past four years have also been missed by between 2,000 and 5,000. Apart from the effect on schools of missing teachers, what is the cost to the country of training early dropouts
§ If one considers the £6,000 training grant, the golden hello that about half the candidates receive and the £4,000 paid to the university for training, they add up to an average of £12,000 per postgraduate student. In 1998–99, some 700 secondary teachers and 580 606 primary teachers left the profession within their first year. That group alone cost the state more than £1.5 million in wasted initial training.
§ Why are the Government so bad at tracking the figures? Even the STRB proposed last month that the Government should review how they collect figures for teachers leaving the profession.
§ Why do teachers leave? Many factors are at work and Mike Tomlinson's report lists some of them. But before they get that far, perhaps those who drop out during or on completion of their course realise that teaching is not for them. This suggests a need for better selection processes. Many institutions are so desperate for student teachers that they give only a cursory 20-minute interview. How can one decide whether someone is suitable for a challenging job such as teaching after just 20 minutes? Why is it that for fast-track courses, candidates are subject to a two-day assessment programme? Would it not be better to improve the selection of all students for ITT courses so that there is less initial wastage?
§ We on these Benches are pleased to see an increase in the range of routes into teaching, particularly those based in schools. Classroom assistants often take their jobs because they enjoy working with young people and, as long as they are not expected to replace qualified teachers, assistants provide a valuable resource. As they already work in classrooms, they have no illusions about the demands of the job. Those who go on to train do so with their eyes open and may be less likely to fall by the wayside than graduates who have not seen the inside of a classroom since they were at school.
§ The same applies to trainees on the school-based graduate teacher programme. It would be interesting to know whether they show a better retention rate than other candidates because their expectations are realistic.
§ Perhaps student debt is a reason for newly qualified teachers never entering the profession and going elsewhere for a job. The concerns felt by Members on these Benches about graduate debt are well known to the Minister. We welcome proposals to pay off student loans for recruits to specialist subjects, but the £6,000 training grant has not been increased even by inflation since its introduction two years ago—and is little enough. Even the golden hellos paid to teachers of shortage subjects do not match up to the training salaries offered by big banks and retail trainee management schemes. Even the Armed Forces manage to do better. University cadets are paid £10,000 a year as undergraduates.
§ All trainee teachers deserve a decent standard of living. We are seeing a more and more complex web of bonuses, golden hellos, training bursaries and so on. What is needed is a comprehensive review of recruitment and retention initiatives, together with an evaluation of their effectiveness.
§ As the Minister knows, the modest and affordable Liberal Democrat policy of providing a full training salary of just over £15,000 per year, plus national insurance and pension contributions, would help all 607 new graduates in ITT start to address their burden of debt and have enough on which to live. But the main pay gap does not occur at the beginning of a teacher's career. The average starting salary for a graduate with a 2.1 degree outside London is only about £400 per year less than the average graduate starting salary. The gap, however, soon widens between young teachers and other professionals. After 10 years, it is often very wide. Although the recent pay settlement recommended that the number of years after which a teacher can access the upper pay scale be reduced from seven to five years, the poor potential earnings of graduates in teaching will already have become apparent to a teacher three or four years into his or her career—and that is when they leave.
§ Many leaving teachers cite the workload and the amount of paperwork. The Government are currently conducting a review of workload and I look forward to the publication of those findings in April. In Scotland, the McCrone agreement has defined much more clearly the contract between teachers and their employers, and has led to a better understanding of what is expected. In conducting the review leading up to the agreement, the Scottish executive was able to identify many of the issues leading to the poor state of teacher morale in Scotland and to implement contractual changes to address them.
§ It is only six months since the implementation of McCrone, so one cannot say whether this new agreement will really improve teacher retention but initial soundings are good. I hope that the Government's review for England and Wales comes forward with a contract that allows adequate time for extra-curricular activities. These enrich teachers as well as students and give opportunities for developing positive relationships that can only assist with discipline and achievement in the classroom. In the meantime, perhaps I may urge the DfES to continue to monitor the effect on workload and paperwork every time that it brings forward a new initiative, however good.
§ Much of the crisis of morale in the profession stems from the large amount of reporting back that teachers have to undertake. It all adds up to an impression that teachers are constantly having to justify what they are doing and prove that it is of good quality. They are not trusted. Not only are our children the most measured and examined in the whole of the western developed world, but our teachers are the most scrutinised and inspected. But in the Education Bill passing through another place this very day, the Secretary of State is planning to give herself draconian powers, greater than any of her predecessors. Why will this Government not let go and allow the teaching profession to teach without this constant centralisation of control? No wonder teachers do not feel valued. Thanking them is not enough. They need to be trusted as professionals to get on with the job.
§ Of course, professionals are expected constantly to hone their skills and keep up to date with developments in their field. Most teachers welcome the opportunity to undertake continuous professional development, but the quality of courses is variable. 608 Schools differ in the way that they provide access to them, and there is no clear entitlement. We need a coherent structure of additional qualifications which will lead a young teacher up the ladder to higher status and the money that should go with it.
§ I hope that the implementation by the Government of a long-standing Liberal Democrat policy of having a general teaching council to represent the professional standards of teachers and access to the profession will lead in the medium term to a more structured approach to professional development that will be motivating, lead to better retention and better performance in the classroom and add to the status of teachers in society. In the meantime, today's Ofsted report has identified the fact that only a minority of schools establish clear targets for development activities and monitor whether these have been achieved. Perhaps the way in which schools support and develop new teachers should be one of the criteria on which a head teacher is judged.
§ Teachers enter the profession with a commitment to young people and a desire to do a good job. It is distressing, therefore, to see them ground down by the burden of the expectations of society. Sometimes they do not feel sufficiently supported, especially when it comes to discipline problems. It was not helpful for the Government just to set targets for reducing the number of pupils excluded from schools. It is very welcome that the number of learning support units and of learning mentors is to be increased. That is a very important factor in teacher retention. Graduates will continue to avoid the teaching profession if they do not feel that they will be well trained and supported when dealing with the most difficult discipline problems.
§ Perhaps we should not expect our schools to put right everything that is wrong with our society; or, if we do, we should be realistic about the support needed. Not only do we expect teachers to deliver their subjects and teach children how to think, make decisions and conduct research, but we also expect them to deliver citizenship, health education and leisure activities arid to deal with the results of deprivation and social exclusion. It is a tall order.
§ Teachers are a precious resource—too precious to waste. It costs a lot to recruit and train them, and much of that money is currently wasted. The Education Bill passing through another place today has no answers. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us how she plans to plug the holes in the bucket. I look forward to hearing the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Chester
My Lords, I begin by thanking Members of this House for the warmth of the welcome that I have received since my introduction last November. I am delighted to be able to speak to this Unstarred Question, which appears in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. Not only is education close to my heart and my experience, but it is a particular pleasure to he able to speak to a Question moved by a resident of the Diocese of Chester
609 Education, education, education. That half sums up my life. Apart from one year in my early 20s, I was in full-time education as a student from the age of five—or perhaps four-and-a-half—until I was 30. "No wonder they made him a bishop", you may think. The problem, actually, was a Damascus Road experience—it was in fact in Derbyshire just off the A6—following a degree in chemistry, that took me back to university to read theology, to study for a doctorate and then to theological college prior to ordination. Subsequently, I spent eight years experiencing higher education from the perspective of a teacher.
As my family has moved around the country with me, I estimate that as a governor or parent, I have had direct involvement in around a dozen schools in the maintained sector and nearly half a dozen in the private sector. For the past five years, I have chaired the governing body of Chester College of Higher Education—a church college of higher education that was originally founded in 1839 by William Gladstone, in conjunction with the Church of England. The original vision of the college was indeed to provide qualified teachers for the church-sponsored schools, which were in the vanguard of the provision of universal education in our country. The college has expanded and diversified to a full-time equivalent student body in excess of 5,000, but it has retained a firm commitment to its founder's vision of training teachers. That has not always been easy in recent years, as policies connected to the training and professional development of teachers have lurched and staggered from one initiative to another.
Throughout my years as a teacher and governor— and parent—I have witnessed the underlying problems in education in this country, which lie behind the unacceptable statistics for wastage of student qualified teachers. I will gladly acknowledge that there are now real signs of progress and emergence from the darkest days. But how are things to be taken forward in such a way as to reduce the figures for wastage rates among teachers both in training and in their first post? Let me briefly suggest three dimensions of the necessary strategy.
First, to echo some comments made by the noble Baroness, we need to establish a greater sense of stability throughout the educational world. Over the past 15 years—since the two education Acts of 1986—there has been a seemingly relentless series of changes, reviews and initiatives. I do not doubt the benefits that are flowing from, for example, parent governors, the local management of schools, Ofsted inspections and the national curriculum. But to those in the profession, it has often felt like a slow torture of endless bureaucratic demands and adjustments. The ink has only just dried on one questionnaire when the next one thuds on to the doormat—or so it has felt. So far as possible, in schools and higher education alike, we need to maintain an atmosphere of stability, which will breed confidence and a sense of community, which are so vital to any institution.
610 Sometimes in life a shake-up is required, but that should not become a constant merry-go-round, with all the attendant extra work that comes with it. Good gardeners learn to leave well alone and to let nature do its work, rather than constantly digging up the plant to see how well it is growing. Let the teachers teach!
Secondly, we need to provide the necessary resources for schools and teachers alike; and, if I may, I would add universities at this point. A good start has been made in that direction in recent years, and I believe that it is essential that we do not allow the teaching profession to fall back in the comparative league tables for remuneration. In the increasingly meritocratic world in which we live, there may yet be a further need selectively to reward the best, and perhaps also those teaching in areas of greatest need. The figures for people leaving the profession will partly reflect the greater rewards that are available elsewhere, especially for those who are qualified in certain subject areas.
Thirdly—I wish to lay particular emphasis on this as I believe that it undergirds everything that we should say—the educational provision for our children must be set in the wider framework of society. If poor material rewards in teaching have influenced wastage rates, perhaps a general undervaluing of teachers has played a greater part. Noble Lords would expect me to say something here about the contribution which church schools have made and can continue to make.
Why is it that church schools have consistently been rated so highly by parents, including those who have little or no religious affiliation themselves, by the inspectorate and also by the results that they achieve? I spend a good deal of my time in schools, especially, but not only, in the 120 or so church schools in the Diocese of Chester. In my view, they provide an effective educational environment by providing just that: an environment—an overall sense of purpose, belonging and community.
Education at all levels is essentially a community enterprise. That is why a degree of stability is so important as a background and basis for whatever changes need to come to pass. Happy pupils and happy staff achieve results, and happy schools will tend to retain their staff. Schools with a strong sense of community will, by their very ethos and atmosphere, tend to maintain good discipline and a certain restraint upon difficult and disruptive pupils. As someone who regularly takes school assemblies, which is a challenge—perhaps a little like spending the night shift with the police, as we heard in our previous debate; it is certainly a little like Daniel in the lion's den, except he only went in once—one quickly senses what a school is like. If kids are going to misbehave, they will do so when there is safety in numbers. The atmosphere in a school affects the discipline in many, many ways.
The Anglican church schools that I know—both those in my diocese and elsewhere—do not in any sense seek to indoctrinate or to be exclusive. Quite to the contrary, they serve the communities in which they are set, just as the church schools did when they set out in the 19th century. But they do so, above all, by 611 providing communities of teachers and children who are committed to learning, exploration and mutual support. They are communities in which wisdom and a certain philosophy for living are prized, alongside the transmission of information and knowledge. Indeed, the transmission of information and knowledge can take its proper place only if' it is set in that overarching sense of the whole purpose of life and the wisdom of living. I believe that that attention to the broader moral and spiritual context of education in all schools will play a crucial role in retaining teachers in the profession.
I believe that there are real signs of progress and hope in our schools, as indicated in the Statement earlier today from the noble Baroness the Minister. We now need to build upon the foundations which have been relaid amid the turmoil of recent years by keeping high on the agenda stability, adequate resources and, above all, the confidence of community life in our schools.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Lord Dearing
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester. I cannot rival him in experience of education but I can understand and respect what he said. It is fitting that he should have chosen the subject of education when the Church of England has had such a distinctive, and distinguished, record in education. It is one in which the Church has recognised that its future in education depends upon the continuing availability and retention of teachers. Therefore, as I see it, teachers are central to the thinking and well-being of the Church. I hope that the right reverend Prelate will join in many future debates on education.
Perhaps I may respond to the specifics of the debate. In his report. Mike Tomlinson, after his recognition of achievement, sounded the low notes of concern about recruitment. To my knowledge, he has kept that concern very much in mind for the past year.
We shall be confused by the figures. I shall quote three, which I hope to get right. There are three elements to the wastage. The first is the 15 per cent who do not complete the course. I do not believe that we should be particularly concerned about that, because, I am reliably informed, the wastage rate in this area is below the average for other courses in higher education. However, of those who complete the course, 20 per cent do not appear in the classrooms. There is also wastage of about 8 per cent a year in the early years. I shall concentrate on the last two figures.
This morning I was passing a school in the East End of London arid, without any prior notice, I called in to speak to the head teacher. I said, "There is a debate in the House of Lords today. What shall I tell them?" My schoolmaster used to say that I have the cheek of 10. After persuading her not to lecture me on pay, she said, "Yes, at the top of my list I would put respect, recognition and appreciation". I thought: "You are so right".
In a sense, a teacher is a performer; like an actor, or a footballer on the field, he or she stands before a class. If one feels that one is appreciated, one performs well. 612 If one is booed, one does not play a good game. In that professional sense it matters. It is also relevant to retention.
The youngsters who are training as teachers and who have reached the end of their courses, during which they have gone into schools and into the staff room, will have heard the staff saying, "The work load is impossible, and the pay". That must be an important point. In relation to retention it is important that teachers feel valued.
A teacher who was on supply in a tough area of Kent once wrote to me saying, "At the end of the day I sit in my car and scream my frustration". One can imagine an exasperated teacher slapping a student, and that would finish his career. It would make the headlines. But the thousands of kindnesses beyond the call of duty that teachers offer every day go unnoticed and unrecognised. We must be much better at saying "Thank you" to teachers. That is my first point.
My second point relates to caring for them after they have passed out, as it were. I was talking to the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, who unfortunately and regretfully cannot be present because he has another engagement. He mentioned the possibility that, through the good offices of the teacher training agencies, and perhaps a few shillings, the colleges of higher education and the universities that engage in the development of teachers, may have a shepherding role, a reference back role, during the early years. I know how much new head teachers value coming together and discussing their experiences, learning from and receiving reassurance from each other.
Another point that was mentioned to me at the school I visited this morning was the flow of paper. The head teacher said, "Yes, the flow of paper has come down, but the e-mails haven't half gone up". Last week I spoke to another teacher who also raised the point about the flow of paper.
In part, that is a function of desirable change. When' I read individual proposals, usually I say, "Yes, why did they not do that last week?". On the other hand, I say this to the Government, and, if the Prime Minister reads House of Lords' Hansard, to him too. In top level management—the Prime Minister is in top level management, although a politician's trade is not essentially management—the hardest thing to learn in seeking to manage a large organisation such as education—as I say, this is the hardest thing to learn and, having learnt it, to discharge—one must riot continue to address and provide solutions to every problem. One must say, "I shall live with some of them. I must recognise that in this vast system, if I am going to get change, I must go for a few things and stay with them." Otherwise the troops get initiative fatigue and one does not get the benefits from it.
We must recognise too that we cannot be continually asking the Government, "Please do this. Please do that". We must moderate the demands so that teachers can get on with pursuing policies in a consistent way. Then one gets the benefits coming through.
613 The second point on workload relates to administration. Good teaching involves administration—for example, good marking, setting targets and keeping records. When I was invited to do a review for the then government in 1993 of what was going on in the national curriculum, I found that the teachers, especially in primary schools where they are immensely conscientious, were maintaining tick lists about performance against every attainment target, and half ticks and quarter ticks. They would go home at weekends with a briefcase to do their ticks. They were over-conscientious about it.
I ask the Government to bear in mind that in the primary or secondary schools in remote places or big cities with Ofsted hovering in one's mind, we must ease teachers' minds about over-responding to these things; we must moderate.
In managing issues one basically has two strategies. One is to tell people what to do, in detail, and make sure that they do it. The other technique is to give them clear objectives and hold them to account for achievements. If they are not achieving, then you weigh in. But what we tend to do is to do both. That is exhausting and it deprives people of motivation. I shall not come up with any nostrums because there are none. This is into the detail.
PricewaterhouseCoopers have given reports and then there is the review body which is due to report in April. Take heed and see if we can moderate our passion for control. John Harvey-Jones in his book Making Things Happen, which I was re-reading over Christmas, said that in every large organisation—no matter—there is a tendency to centralise and take control. We all do it. We must learn not to do it. Hands off.
Those are the two main points that I wanted to make on workload. Teachers are starting at 7.30 in the morning, leaving at 5.30 and then going home to do more work. A 60-hour week is too heavy. Teachers love teaching. The TES report said that last weekend. That is what I find all the time. But they do not enjoy this great burden of administration. We must find better ways of putting it together.
In conclusion, I want to quote—and I think it is fitting although rather daring in the presence of two Bishops—from Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes, which came to my mind in the light of the praise that came from Mike Tomlinson. I shall see if I can get it right:To everything there is a season … A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, a time to dance".Now that is a challenge. I shall not ask noble Lords to rise to it. But this is a time when, in the business of recognition we ought to be saying to our teachers, "Thank you". If I can presume to mar the symmetry of party recrimination, as a Cross-Bencher, it is also to say to each of the three political parties who have striven with administrators and teachers to lift performance throughout the land, "You have done your bit too. Thank you".
614 So, yes, we have a problem. We shall hear shortly from dear Liza about filling the hole in the bucket. But much has been done. Let us celebrate it for the sake of retaining our teachers.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Baroness Andrews
My Lords, it is a great privilege and pleasure to take part in this debate, especially in the light of the excellent maiden speech from the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Chester and the complementary wisdom from another educational guru. If we can observe the sense of teachers joining the dance, we shall definitely have raised their spirits. In a sense, that is what it is all about—recovering the reason why so many teachers went into teaching in the first place.
I have an interest to declare. Ten years ago I set up an educational charity to try to help schools to develop their extra-curricular activities and community links. In so doing, I discovered that that was the first time that anyone had publicly thanked teachers for the extra activities that they undertook. The small element of recognition that I thought was such a natural part of what we should be doing turned out to have a revolutionary quality and made it possible for our organisation to raise funds and support. That now means that we have 8,000 schools joined with us in a network that is developing those activities.
With the privilege of going into schools on a regular basis, I have discovered the extraordinary dedication that means that teachers not only give 100 per cent during the day but then find the extra energy to attend early, to start a breakfast club, stay on until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. just as the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, said, go back at weekends to offer additional support and even run schemes during the holiday. They do it because they love the children and they love teaching. That is the absolutely fundamental foundation on which we build and from which we can take hope for the future.
It has been an extremely good day for education—not only because the Ofsted report is so positive and gives us some clear pointers for future action but because of the Times Educational Supplement survey last week. I cannot imagine that the Secretary of State ever expected to read a headline that basically said that the teachers lot is a happy one. She must have enjoyed her weekend enormously because of that.
The profound sense of vocation is really what Mike Tomlinson has been speaking about. He has been rightly praised today for reiterating what we have not said often enough, which is, as he put it,I cannot remember a time when there has been so much good teaching".That is a wonderful and powerful phrase. It is gratifying to see the Government taking the advice that new teachers are given in the classroom, which is that we should always give three times more praise than blame. That is now happening because we have an exemplary Secretary of State, an ex-teacher who knows the value of praise and what it can achieve. By her language she is making a major difference to how teachers feel about what it is to be a teacher.
615 But this debate is about things that are not going quite right. We must ask why they are going wrong: why does such a high proportion of students in training never make it into the classroom? The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, was quite right when he spoke about the infectious apathy or disaffection that many young teachers pick up by osmosis when they enter the classroom for their teaching practice. One of the problems is that even those, such as Alan Smithers, who have explored the reasons for the bad drop-out rates, are not absolutely certain what is happening or why. I agree 'with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that we should have more intelligence to track those young people and find out why they do not make it into the classroom: what were their motivations in becoming teachers in the first place; what did they expect to get out of it; and where did it go wrong?
I should like to concentrate on why 20 per cent of young teachers leave teaching within three years: in what way is teaching proving to be such a disappointment for them? No matter how many extra students have been recruited—it is an impressive record, including in shortage subjects, such as CDT, science, modern foreign languages and religious education for which I am sure that the Minister will give us the figures—there are some incontrovertible realities that cannot be fudged. One is that the demand for teachers in the next few years is bound to increase, because pupil numbers in secondary schools will increase. Secondly, the profession is ageing; we will see a massive exodus in the next 10 years of people who are now in their 40s and 50s. Thirdly, the rate of resignation from the profession is also increasing, and we need to know why.
It may be that the overall national rate of 1 per cent vacancies is, in fact, a low and quite comforting figure, but it disguises huge regional variations and does not deal with the fact that in every classroom in which there is no mathematics teacher, there is a crisis. If there is a poorly qualified supply teacher, there is another sort of crisis, both for delivering the curriculum arid managing the children.
The Ofsted report today has confirmed what all the other researchers have already told us. The main issue relating to recruitment is not pay: it is workload, closely followed by pupil behaviour, professional autonomy and the value of teachers. It is not rocket science. Recently, a leading educator put it this way:Workload is rising not least because we are expecting our teachers to be clerical officers and administrators for too much of their time … We must ensure that every paper-based task required is absolutely necessary and related to standards".Those are strong words, but, strangely, they come not from the former chief inspector, but from the present Secretary of State, who understands well what is going on in the classroom. That refutes any charge of complacency.
If the Government were complacent, they would not be cutting down so dramatically on what can be sent to schools. I know to my cost that even when one is trying to send good news, one cannot get it into the schools. It is not so much the paper or even the e-mail traffic—which, as we all know, has exploded—and it 616 is not the work of teaching for continuous improvement. It is the standardised and immensely detailed written account of what has been done, which seems, sometimes, to provide more evidence that the managers have managed, rather than that teachers have done their job. In that context, it is self-evident that urgent attempts must be made to free-up and enhance the teachers' role. That is where the new Education Bill has a contribution to make. We have seen an expansion in the number of classroom assistants, bursars and other supporting staff and in ICT, but the emphasis must be on supporting—not replacing—the teacher. Teaching is an interpersonal gift; it is not a technical transfer.
I also welcome the opportunity that the Bill will, in turn, provide to extend the autonomy of successful schools and the creativity of the classroom. Again, that is a major issue. What young teachers value is not the opportunity to turn out a thousand ticks a day; it is the opportunity to turn the classroom into a. place in which their imagination can run riot, alongside those of the children.
Recently, I had the privilege of being able to fund a small project that took classroom teachers out of the classroom and into performing arts organisations for a day at a time over a term. They went to dance organisations and theatre organisations. They learnt about what it was like to be an artist and how to borrow artists' techniques that they could go back and use in the classroom. They went back refreshed and enthused about their own creativity. Of course, the children had an enormously good time as a result, and it benefited the school in all sorts of ways. Those teachers will stay in teaching, I believe, because that has helped them to rediscover some sense of why they had gone into it in the first place. However, finding the time to take them out of the classroom caused problems. That is a problem: if we are to have structured professional development, that means, in the short term, that people will have to be taken out of the classroom and it might be difficult to provide cover.
There are many more things that, I hope, the Government will consider. The National College of School Leadership is definitely making a major difference to the way that head teachers perform and to the way that schools perform. However, we need more support for middle management. The induction year is an excellent idea, but we do not have the skilled managers to provide support to young teachers in their first year, which makes all the difference. How many young teachers have been turned off because their first encounter with a group of stroppy 13 year-olds dedicated to wrecking the lesson has not been supported? No one has been able to help them with the day-to-day realities.
The problems of recruitment and retention are not unique to Britain. It does not help to know that. But we have to rise to the challenge of creating a framework for the teaching profession which is about a buoyant economy and not a failing economy.
617 The Secretary of State referred to the remodelling of the profession. It is a radical term and could mean a radical solution. It may not be a McCrone solution for England, but it is certainly worth looking at some of the ideas put forward, for example, by the Institute of Public Policy Research in terms of what can be done about time in the classroom, including the time necessary for preparing lessons. It put forward many good ideas. I hope there will be lots of access courses for classroom assistants and all school staff. As the noble Baroness said, they know a great deal about schools and can make a great contribution.
Finally, I turn to the word "trust" about which we have heard so much today. Trust must be there for all our public servants, particularly the teachers. It is not only their task to care for children, but also to create that ability to think independently which goes on to make them critical and contributory servants in society. So let us build up that trust. I believe we are doing that now. For some years there was a lot to answer for, but we are now on our way.
§ 10.1 p.m.
§ Baroness Sharp of Guildford
My Lords, I join others in thanking my noble friend Lady Walmsley for raising this important issue and congratulate the right reverend Prelate on an excellent maiden speech. I congratulate other participants on what has been a good debate.
This Question raises a difficult issue. In this country we have a teaching force of 450,000 full-timers and 50,000 part-timers, so we are looking at roughly 500,000 teachers. Each year we are seeking in the region of 30,000 recruits for the teaching profession. Of that 30,000, we now know that one in three will drop out during training, so that only 20,000 end up completing their teacher training course. One in 10 of those will drop out in the NQT year, so of the 30,000 who begin only 18,000 are left. Another one in 10 will drop out during the following two years. So at the end of the first five years we are looking at somewhere in the region of a 50 per cent drop-out rate. Of the 30,000 initially recruited only 15,000 or 16,000 are left.
That in itself poses a problem. As my noble friend Lady Walmsley indicated, a cost is involved here. If we reckon on it costing £12,500 to train each teacher, that is not a small amount. In the community we have around 300,000 people trained as teachers but not now practising as teachers. If we multiply that by £12,500, we reach a figure of around £6 billion. That is the waste of resources that has aggregated over the past 20 years. So it is an issue with which we should be concerned.
It is also important that we keep in the teaching profession those whom we have trained. The disturbing statistic is that if we reckoned that those who have been trained would stay in the profession for 35 years, we would be looking for 15,000 recruits every year and not 30,000. That extra 15,000 has to be recruited every year because that is the annual dropout rate.
618 That issue is particularly critical in the secondary schools. We have enough recruits to fill the primary school places and do not need to worry too much about that. But there is a real crisis of recruitment in the secondary schools, particularly in some of the shortage subjects. We had a good debate in this House not too long ago on the language subjects; shortages include also science, history and religious knowledge. It is amazing now how many subjects have become shortage subjects.
I am particularly concerned about mathematics—this was mentioned in the Tomlinson report and in the debate on the Statement today—where we have almost reached the point of no return. Fewer than 75 per cent of kids are now being taught maths in secondary schools by maths specialists. As the Tomlinson report indicates, one of the results of this is that the kids are not turned on. Not enough children are taking A-levels in order to go on and do maths at university and therefore to provide our teachers. It is a serious crisis that we need to address.
We need to worry also about the drop-out rate in headships. In the past year, more than 2,500 heads quit their posts. Twelve per cent of secondary schools and 11 per cent of primary schools had to advertise for new heads, and 19 per cent of the secondaries and 31 per cent of the primaries were unable to fill their posts the first time round. There are more than 400 vacancies for headships. These are the leaders of the profession and it is vital that we get good people to fill these posts. If they are missing, a link in the whole chain is missing.
Why are there such high rates of wastage in the profession? Again, we had some discussion of these issues today. It is notable that the survey in the Times Educational Supplement showed that the profession is relatively content. The long hours and the high workloads are the issues that teachers are really worried about.
Last year, Demos carried out a survey of the teaching profession and discovered that 79 per cent of people join it because they want to work with young children. This rings a bell. When you talk to teachers and ask them why they are there they say, "I love working with children. I love the children. If only it weren't for the awful hours". One hears that time and time again.
There is no doubt that teachers are worried about these issues. Although the comparatively low pay explains part of the problem, it does not explain the recruiting crisis or the drop-out rate. Teachers are concerned about the quality of their whole professional life, about poor pupil behaviour and the stress it causes and about the volume of paperwork, to which the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, referred.
I should like to draw two points to your Lordship's attention. The first concerns the media's portrayal of teachers. There is an increasing tendency in the media to portray them as people who are constantly harassed in their work. This does not do them full justice. In some ways it would be nice to see a soap about teachers. Nevertheless, there are problems in that area.
619 The other point concerns the degree to which the reforms we have seen have been constant. The whole basis is that there are initiatives and initiatives and initiatives. I think it is called "initiativitis" or something like that. It is important that we recognise that within society things happen through influencing institutions. The teaching profession is an institution. Any institution in society can take so much change but not too much change. You cannot expect to change the parameters too frequently or in too many dimensions. If you do this—and we have seen it happen in this country in institutions such as local government, teaching and the health service—it destabilises that institution. Arguably, we have destabilised the teaching profession to some degree. We need to give it a chance to recover.
What do we need to do to achieve this? Mike Tomlinson's report gave us some ideas. It was pointed out in the Minister's Statement today that the Pisa study from the OECD indicates that in this country we have seen educational standards increase, whereas in most other European countries they have been standing still. The combination of the stick and the carrot—the high aspirational level set for teachers, on the one hand, and encouraging them to change their practices on the other—has been important. The problem is the degree to which these initiatives have been centralised. The pressure was too strong and the stress on teachers was too great. They were not given enough of a chance to do their own thing, or enough space in their lives to think for themselves. That alienated them. Constant carping criticisms came from the former chief inspector of schools which wore them down.
The summary chapter at the beginning of the Demos report states:Centralised change has failed to engage many, if not most, teachers and has resulted in suspicion of, if not hostility to reform. If both schools and the culture of educational practitioners are to be transformed then the creativity and energy of the professionals need to be drav, n on fully".That point, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Dearing—the lord of the dance—is about the unleashing of creativity of professionals, which is desperately important. Part of that is trust. We have to reorient ourselves.
What would we Liberal Democrats do to change the centralised culture to one that allows more room, freedom and space for teachers to do their own thing? There is room to cut back on the national curriculum and to concentrate more on a core curriculum. 'We want to limit testing. There is no reason to test at seven or at 14, although we would keep key stage 2 testing and some kind of school certification. Phil Willis, our spokesman in the other place has made it clear that we have great reservations about the GCSE as a school-leaving certificate. We should like to see a wider form of certification at that point.
We feel strongly about the need to restore a sense of profession to the teacher. My noble friend Lady Walmsley mentioned that we argued long ago for a general teaching council and we are delighted to see what the GTC is now doing. We urge it to become the 620 key area of registration for teachers and to be the teachers' regulator, independent of government. We also welcome the degree to which heads are now being put through leadership training, which is vital. We have always said that if there is a good head it is a good school. Such leadership training is necessary as it does not come naturally from teacher training. We should prefer to see fewer but perhaps more relevant targets. Above all, we want to move away from centralised control.
The chief inspector's report was an important turning point. For the first time we have heard the chief inspector saying how important it is to recognise what our teaching profession has achieved. We are praising our teachers, which is right because they have done so much and have worked so hard. From today's report, I hope that we can move forward to develop a new trust with our teachers and give them a little more space to get on with the creativity and joy of teaching because they really do enjoy it. I hope that this will he a new beginning and that we can develop a new culture, which is what the Demos report argued for.
§ 10.14 p.m.
§ Baroness Miller of Hendon
My Lords, as most noble Lords have said, there is a crisis of teacher retention in our schools. The wastage in student teachers and newly qualified teachers is an enormous problem. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has done the House a great service by introducing the debate in an attempt to discover what the Government intend to do to remedy the matter. It has also given us the opportunity to hear the excellent maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester.
No doubt we shall hear from the Minister that recruitment to initial teacher training is at an all-time high, but that ignores the fact that many students do not complete the training, many others complete the training but do not go into teaching and many of those who enter teaching leave within the first three years.
Last year, the NUT commissioned Professor Alan Smithers of Liverpool University to examine the reasons underlying the problem. His report, Teachers Leaving, made depressing reading and confirmed that 12 per cent of trainees never finish their course, 33 per cent of graduates do not go into teaching and 18 per cent of those who graduate leave within the first three years. That represents a costly attrition of much-needed professionals from our classrooms. The initial teacher training budget is currently £245 million. Those trends represent an annual waste of £100 million.
By the Government's own admission, the number of unqualified teachers has almost doubled since 1997. When this Government came to office with the slogan that their first three priorities would be "Education, education, education", there were 2,940 teachers without qualified teacher status. By October 2001, the number had risen to 5,620.
An additional cause for concern is the ageing population of teachers, as mentioned by the noble Baroness. More than 61 per cent of teachers are over 621 40 and 42 per cent of teachers are between 40 and 50. Professor Smithers' report found that teachers were leaving the classroom because of a feeling of not being valued, because of the workload pressures, because of stress and pupil misbehaviour and because of a surfeit of new government initiatives, such as the review of the Curriculum 2000 initiative.
Then we had the fiasco of the Government losing the judicial review on the impractical performance-related pay scheme, which the judge rejected in such scathing terms that, except in the case of an arrogant Government, it ought to have resulted in the resignation of the Secretary of State, who never the less was promoted instead.
Only on Friday, the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, plaintively begged the public not to blame his successor as Secretary of State for Education for everything that goes wrong. I accept that she cannot be blamed for everything that goes wrong, but he has obviously not heard of President Truman's aphorism, "The buck stops here".
The most obvious example of a U-turn has been on the policy of exclusions, which is an issue directly related to classroom discipline. While he was Secretary of State for Education, Mr Blunkett made it almost impossible for schools to maintain serious discipline. He did this by creating rigid guidelines and arbitrary targets to cut exclusions by a third by this year-2002. Those targets bore no relationship to the problem of behaviour.
To her credit, the present Secretary of State has reversed that policy, sayingDisruptive behaviour wears down teachers, interferes with the education of other pupils and condemns some children to failure at school and long-term problems".The Conservative Opposition, the teaching unions and, most significantly, teachers themselves, as well as many parents, said the same at the time, but the Government chose to ignore them.
When questioned, 45 per cent of teachers leaving the profession cited poor pupil behaviour as the reason. It continues to be a very serious problem, particularly in the more urban areas.
The number of teachers injured by pupils is increasing and the sanctions available to teachers have been reduced. David Hart of the National Association of Head Teachers has said:A rising tide of pupil misbehaviour has hit primary schools with the inevitable result that heads will exclude pupils who are damaging the education of the rest of the class".More power to control indiscipline should be given to the heads and governors and more support should be forthcoming for parents whose children are totally out of control.
However, one factor that has taken the gloss off the U-turn by the Secretary of State is that when a school excludes a pupil, it suffers a financial penalty by means of a capitation loss.
In the real world it is usually the case that where exclusion is the answer, the school will have undoubtedly spent a huge and disproportionate 622 amount of funding and teacher resources in doing everything in its power to bring the situation under control. Exclusion is really the very last thing on its mind.
Excessive bureaucracy and a bewildering number of so-called "initiatives" are also high on the list of reasons why teachers leave the profession. Julia Grant, president of the ATL, said,Unless the Government offers some radical solutions to the teachers' workload, nothing will stem the growing haemorrhage of good teachers".The ink is hardly on the School Standards and Framework Act and its plethora of regulations which impose endless bureaucratic tasks on teachers. Teachers are overwhelmed by the relentless preparation of plans, co-ordinating meetings, responding to initiatives, bidding processes, and Whitehall's insatiable appetite for information most of which, I suspect, gathers dust and which adds little to the well-being of a child in the classroom.
Initiative overload certainly takes its toll on teachers. Hardly a week goes by without another announcement of the launch of yet another initiative backed by X million pounds, sometimes even double-counted millions. Many of the initiatives absorb the funding and energies of bureaucrats and teachers only to be abandoned and allowed to wither on the vine. Worse still, even if the initiative does not work, the cost of rolling it out to all schools has to be absorbed by the schools themselves.
That leads me to the central issue of funding. Unprecedented sums of money are held back at national level to fund various Government schemes. That means that however much the Government boast about the additional money for education, the fact is that core funding at school level is not increasing proportionately.
In the time allowed to me I would like to just touch on the other issue of funding which will affect schools in the coming year. The Government have announced pay increases and accelerated pay scales which are substantially beyond the capacity of local authorities without substantially increasing their council tax or of cutting other services. For schools it could mean reducing staffing levels in order to meet the pay awards. I do not see how that will ameliorate the teacher shortages that have been highlighted by so many noble Lords during this debate.
As I have said, we might hear today that the problem is not so great and that more teachers than ever are now being employed. However, I still believe that will mask many problems that simply must be addressed. For example, there is the unprecedented number of supply teachers who are recruited regularly. According to a recent report, some pupils had 13 teachers in as many weeks.
There is also the problem of teachers required to teach subjects for which they are not trained, which is obviously bound to affect standards over time. As the Chief Inspector of Schools himself has said,You are more likely to have newly qualified, supply and unqualified teachers teaching at key stage 3".623 Our teachers who remain in teaching despite the problems deserve our full support and appreciation. They are of course the key to our children's future. However, their life could be made more tolerable and more teachers would be attracted to stay in the profession if there were less interference from the centre, less bureaucracy, greater professional autonomy and if a greater proportion of the central government education budget could be transferred to our schools.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Baroness Ashton of Upholland
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for her Unstar red Question and noble Lords for their contributions to what has been a stimulating debate. It has indeed been a clay of education. I am especially grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester for his fantastic speech on, for me, the ethos of schools and their atmosphere. which we all recognise when we walk in. I have no doubt that he will have much to say in our debates on the Education Bill and when we touch on the issue of safe schools, a matter which he also raised.
"The Lord of the Dance"—as the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, has now become—referred to me as Liza with her bucket. So I intend to adopt as my theme, "With what shall I mend it?" This debate has raised three issues that are of great importance to the future of the teaching profession, and I assure the House that the Government recognise the need for serious and sustained action on each of them. Failure to take action would place in jeopardy our commitment to continue to raise standards in schools, which remains as high on our agenda in this Parliament as it did in the last.
Many themes have come out of this debate. The need to recognise teachers is one that is shared by those on the Government Benches and especially by this Minister and the Secretary of State—to whom the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, paid tribute in a manner that I felt was wholly appropriate. As the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, heard said on his way to the debate, respect for teachers is crucial. I am sure that every noble Lord would agree with his comments on that point and with the teacher whom he met this morning. It must have been an extraordinary experience for her.
The issues are as follows. First, how can we encourage more of our most talented people to train as teachers, and give them the support that they need while training, to bring as many as possible to qualification? Moreover, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said, we need teachers to qualify in subjects such as maths, science, modern foreign languages and technology. Secondly, how can we ensure that the enthusiasm that brought them into teacher training is not blunted by hard experience? Their enthusiasm must carry them from qualification into their first application for a teaching job and their early years in the classroom. Thirdly, how can we ensure that our new teachers are not lost to the profession after a few years but go on to develop long-term careers in teaching?
624 I shall start by saying a few words about those who are now coming into initial teacher training. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, is absolutely right that I am going to say that teacher numbers are increasing. I do so, however, not from a sense of complacency but from the belief that some of the things we are trying to do are beginning to work.
Noble Lords are aware of the impact of the teacher training bursaries that the Government introduced from September 2000. We inherited declining recruitment to training. By 1999–2000, the number of trainees coming forward had decreased for eight consecutive years. If that trend had been allowed to continue it would have seriously endangered our ability to replenish the stock of teachers in the medium term. The noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Miller, also referred to the fact that the teacher population is ageing. We need to be aware of that fact.
When the training bursaries were announced, the number of inquiries about teacher training received by the Teacher Training Agency leapt to an all-time high. That level of interest has risen still further in the two intervening years. Interest was soon translated into increasing numbers of applicants, and for the 2000–01 academic year there was a 7 per cent increase in total recruitment to training. A further 5 per cent increase followed in 2001–02. Tomorrow morning the Graduate Teacher Training Registry will publish the PGCE applications figures to date for 2002–03. I am sure that all noble Lords await those figures with interest.
The quality of our trainees has sometimes been subject to unfair criticism. It has been said, for example, that increasing recruitment is reducing the overall academic standards of entrants. There is no evidence to suggest that that is the case. Our evidence shows that the average degree pass of new postgraduate trainees has remained. stable for a number of years, with about half of all new entrants holding an upper second or better. I should perhaps add that degree class is not, in any event, an entirely reliable indicator of how effective a teacher a candidate will be. Moreover, almost all teachers coming into the classroom nowadays are effective. That is one reason why, as the Chief Inspector of Schools' annual report noted today, the number of good, very good or excellent lessons has risen to its highest ever level.
It has also been said that a rising recruitment rate is being negated by a rising drop-out rate. Authoritative figures on how many of that cohort successfully completed their training will not be available until later this year. However, last week the results of an independent study of wastage from PGCE courses in 2000–01 were published. The sample was very large, comprising more than half the trainees recruited in that year. The results showed that only 11.3 per cent failed to complete their courses. In the previous year, the overall course failure rate was 13.5 per cent.
We believe that the position is improving, and it is not difficult to see why. The training bursaries and the fact that the Government pay the tuition fees of 625 graduate trainees are encouraging more people to consider and enter teacher training. They are also enabling more of them to stay the course who in previous years might have abandoned it.
Completion rates will never be 100 per cent. Teacher training is demanding and the standards required are very high. However good they look on paper, some trainees will simply fail to meet them. Others will decide, on exposure to the realities of the job, that teaching is not a career for them. But what we have tried to do, and I believe we have succeeded, is to reduce the number of potentially good teachers forced to give up their ambitions simply because they cannot afford them. I take on board the point that both the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and my noble friend Lady Andrews made about the need to track that information to give more detail. I shall take that idea back to the department, provided it does not involve asking teachers anything as we do not want to increase bureaucracy for them, as I said before.
The second key issue that I want to address briefly has also attracted more than its share of unreliable statistics. Higher recruitment to training may be producing more newly qualified teachers, we are told, but more of them are failing to enter a teaching job. The latest figures at our disposal show that over 70 per cent of those teachers who qualify in England are teaching in the maintained sector in England by March of the year after they qualify, and that 80 per cent will have taught in the maintained sector in England within four years of qualifying. Of course, other teachers will find jobs in, for example, Scotland and Wales.
That is closely linked to a third issue. The story continues to the effect that those new teachers who do enter the classroom leave again in droves after only a couple of years. Any noble Lord who studies the latest official figures will know that, indeed, some 20 per cent of those who started teaching in England in 1997 were no longer doing so three years later. That is a sobering statistic, even though it does not take account of the fact that many of those who leave the profession subsequently return to it. In the latest year for which figures are available, there were 36,000 entrants to teaching in England, 10,000 of whom were teachers returning to the profession after a break in their careers. Furthermore, as noble Lords are aware, the total number of teachers has continued to rise, by no fewer than 11,000 since 1997.
Nevertheless, the Government have never sought to conceal the fact that too many of those who qualify as teachers never teach, and that too many younger teachers leave teaching never to return. Every percentage point by which we can reduce teacher wastage means over 4,000 teachers in the classroom who would not otherwise have been there. My noble friend Lady Andrews spoke of regional variations which are an important factor—the relevant figure is 4.3 per cent for inner London compared to an average of 1.4 per cent. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said that the number of unqualified teachers has doubled. The number has risen but mainly because of new 626 employment-based training programmes such as the graduate teacher programme. That is largely why the figure has risen.
It is clear that we must make careers in teaching more attractive, financially and otherwise. We also need to make them more sustainable, to prevent teachers being worn down by the reality of life in the classroom. This is what we are striving to achieve. All teachers have already enjoyed three above-inflation pay rises in a row. Following my right honourable friend's acceptance of this year's recommendations, a fourth is in prospect from 1st April. Pay for a good, experienced teacher is already 25 per cent higher than it was in 1997, 12 per cent higher in real terms. Teachers at the start of their careers last year received a pay rise of almost 6 per cent. This year, their pay will again rise by more than inflation. Gradually, we are making teaching better able to compete with the rewards that other careers can offer. The General Teaching Council, which I understand from the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, was a Liberal Democrat idea—if that is the case, I pay tribute to the Liberal Democrats for that—has played a major part in supporting teachers in that way.
I must mention the contribution that induction for newly qualified teachers is making. We need to ensure continuous professional development in schools. I acknowledge the concept of heads being judged by their commitment to continuous professional development—that is an interesting concept which we shall consider—and the role of middle managers in supporting teachers. I believe that my noble friend Lady Andrews mentioned that point. We also know that school leadership is important and that school leaders new to headship need a good support system. We have therefore asked the National College for School Leadership to review the relevant programme in order to maximise the support given to heads as they take up their first headship post.
Noble Lords mentioned paper and e-mails. I understand that point. We have made a commitment to reduce teachers' workloads which is perhaps the most frequent factor cited in research into why teachers leave the profession. The PricewaterhouseCoopers report is now being considered by the pay review body. It confirms the extent to which teacher workloads have been rising, largely because we are expecting our teachers to be clerical officers and administrators for too much of their time. The document states:Teachers in many schools perceive a lack of control and ownership over their work, undertaking tasks—particularly documentation—which they do not believe are necessary to support learning, or which could be done by support staff rather than by teachers or more efficiently using Information and Communications Technology".What has been done in Scotland is interesting but is a matter for Scotland. Our discussions have recognised that flexibility is important at local level and that is something for which teachers and head teachers will be looking. Together with that goes the use of other professionals who are able to develop their skills to work alongside teachers.
627 Behaviour and exclusion has been cited again and again as a key reason for teachers leaving the profession. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, mentioned perceptions of what teaching is like—and this may touch on the role of the media. We know that behaviour and exclusion is a problem but many schools are dealing with it effectively and efficiently. It is our job to support them.
Having cut exclusions by one third from a high figure, it is important to ensure that children who are excluded will receive the full-time education that they need and deserve, regardless of the circumstances, to help them return to mainstream education where that is possible.
We are addressing all those issues. Our positive vision for the teaching profession is that which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State described to the Social Market Foundation on 12th November. If the workload is to be cut significantly, teaching must be helped to modernise. We need not only to recruit more support staff but to use them better—helping qualified teachers to shed tasks that could more sensibly be done by support staff. We need to release at last the full classroom potential for information and communication technology.
We need to see that remodelling of the school workforce as part of the modernisation of the teaching profession. We must free teachers to spend their time on activities that can make a real difference to pupil achievement and to concentrate on the ideals that brought them into the profession in the first place—ideals mentioned by many noble Lords. Measures to assist in that respect will be my right honourable friend's top priority in the current spending review—your Lordships heard it here first—that concludes in July 2002. The Education Bill that will shortly come before the House is designed to make its contribution. I am sure that we will have many opportunities to 628 debate whether the Bill contains draconian powers but within it, trusting teachers and allowing schools to innovate is key.
The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, used a good reinventing government phrase about deciding what we want people to do, then getting them to understand and doing it. I would argue that we have done that with our literacy and numeracy strategy—designed a system, explained it and let teachers implement it. It is the achievements of teachers every day in the classroom that we celebrate, not ours. I am sure that Sir John Harvey-Jones would agree with that analysis.
Despite the progress made, recruitment and retention problems in teacher training are not yet solved. We know that there is more to do and we are committed to doing it. We have talked about stability and the need to ensure that teachers have time to bed down the initiatives. We have talked about workload, bureaucracy and the need to communicate appropriately with teachers. We have talked also about continuing professional development—the means by which we ensure that skills are constantly upgraded, which is part of teachers feeling valued and rewarded—and working closely with all those involved.
The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, mentioned Ecclesiastes and said that this is the time to say thank you. The chief inspector's report and the responses of all noble Lords tonight have been a definite echo of the need to say thank you to all our teachers. We need to get the message across to teachers that they are indeed valued. They provide a more than important service to all the young people in our country. We benefit from teachers. The next generation, with the fantastic group of teachers that they have, will benefit even more.
The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, described teachers as having an interpersonal gift—a wonderful phrase that precisely describes them.
House adjourned at nineteen minutes before eleven o'clock.