§ 5. Mr. Ashdown
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on teacher recruitment in national curriculum core and foundation subjects.
§ Mr. Kenneth Baker
Recruits to initial teacher training in all subjects, including the national curriculum core and foundation subjects, were well up last year. Allocations to initial teacher training from 1990 and our energetic campaign of recruitment will both focus on the teachers' needs of the national curriculum.
§ Mr. Ashdown
Does the Secretary of State agree with the Black report that proper assessment and testing in line with its recommendations, as against the crude snapshot tests preferred and favoured by the Prime Minister, will require more time for training and assessment and, therefore, less contact time with pupils? Does he accept that that will have an inevitable consequence for the pupil:teacher ratios required to deliver the national curriculum? Will he undertake to consider that matter fully when producing the figures on the number of teachers required to deliver the national curriculum, which was promised to me by the Minister of State three months ago?
§ Mr. Baker
A review is being carried out on secondary staffing, but we are broadly satisfied that there are sufficient teachers within the system to deliver the national curriculum, bearing in mind that there will be a drop in secondary pupils of 280,000 over the next three years and that the school population at secondary level will not be up to this year's level again until the year 2000. We believe, therefore, that, with proper retraining and in-service training, we will be able to meet the needs of the national curriculum.
§ Mr. Anthony Coombs
Does my right hon. Friend agree that teacher recruitment involves meeting a shortage of teachers in some subjects and a surplus in others? Does he also agree with Sir George Porter, president of the Royal Society, who last week said that the way to solve that problem was through a regional form of bargaining, even down to local authority level, for teachers' salaries, rather than through a nationally-based union?
§ Mr. Baker
That raises very wide questions, but I agree with my hon. Friend that there is a shortage in certain key subjects—mathematics, physics and craft, design and technology. There was a substantial increase last year in the number of teachers training in those shortage subjects. For example, in CDT and business studies there was an increase of 21 and 19 per cent., and there has been an increase in the number of teachers training in mathematics and physics. That is part of our thrust, because they are key subjects.
§ Mr. Duffy
Is the Secretary of State aware of the persisting fears, as revealed during the last few days, of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales that his Bill threatens the Catholic schools system? The bishops are especially anxious that the national curriculum should 668 make provision to enable teachers and the governors of voluntary schools to preserve and develop the distinctive ethos and character of their schools.
§ Mr. Baker
I can give the hon. Gentleman an absolute assurance on that. We want to ensure that the particular ethos of Church schools, whether Catholic, Anglican, Jewish or of other faiths, is preserved. We also want to ensure that religious education is taught in the non-Church schools, and we shall bring forward amendments in the other place to ensure that religious education is part of the basic curriculum, standing alongside the foundation and core subjects, primus inter pares.
§ Mr. Baker
I received the interim advisory committee's report on 31 March. I shall publish it later today, together with my proposals, as a basis for consultation. It is a long, detailed report, and I know that hon. Members will find it very interesting. The next step is to ensure that we enter into the consultations required under the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987 with the teacher unions, local authority associations and the Churches.
§ Mrs. Clwyd
The Secretary of State is being particularly complacent in glossing over the serious difficulties facing schools in the shortage subjects. Why, according to the latest figures obtained yesterday from the central register and clearing house, are there significant shortfalls in applicants for the postgraduate certificate of education course, which starts in the autumn, compared with last year? In mathematics the number of applicants is down by 17 per cent., in physics by 20 per cent., in biology by 18 per cent, and in modern languages by 12 to 13 per cent. Surely that is a very serious situation.
§ Mr. Baker
We are not in the least complacent. We have not finished computing the cycle of recruiting. We had a large advertising programme in March to encourage people to apply for teaching training, and overall there is an increase of about 3 per cent. in applications over last year—and last year was an exceptionally good year.
§ Mr. Paice
In view of my right hon. Friend's statement about the shortage of mathematics and some science subject teachers, will he redouble his efforts to draw into the teaching fraternity people who have had a career either in the services or in industry, so that we can add their tremendous experience to the pool of wealth?
§ Mr. Baker
I support what my hon. Friend has said. We have a scheme to encourage people who have experience in industry, commerce or the services and who wish to change their careers, because they have a great deal to offer. If they have an aptitude for teaching they can draw upon their experience and also upon their maturity, which are valuable assets in a teacher.