§ Mr. Andrew Hunter
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, if he will take measures to ensure that only local education authority-approved teachers can be employed by schools as supply teachers. 
§ Mr. Miliband
My right hon. Friend has no present plans to take such measures. However, the Government has already taken action to improve the quality and reliability of supply teachers. A package of self-study materials was launched in June 2002 specifically for supply teachers. In addition, my Department's Quality mark scheme requires that teachers being offered to schools by agencies and Local Education Authorities have been interviewed and their references checked. I plan to write to schools soon recommending that they use Quality Mark holders for fulfilling their supply needs wherever possible.
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 English—no.of pupils1 665 708 757 772 797 819 767 Mathematics—no. of pupils1 633 633 727 723 742 774 733 English—%of pupils 76 76 81 83 86 84 84 Mathematics—%of pupils 72 68 78 78 80 79 80 1 The number of eligible pupils for the Key Stage 2 tests varies slightly from year to year.
§ Mr. Ben Chapman
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many teacher vacancies there were in Wirral South on the latest date for which figures are available; and what steps he is taking to reduce them. 
§ Mr. Miliband
Teacher vacancy information is collected at local authority level. There were 18 vacancies for full-time teachers in maintained schools in the Wirral local education authority (LEA) area, which includes Wirral South.
Like other areas, since 1997 Wirral has benefited from the initiatives that the Government has put in place to recruit and retain teachers and to increase the number of staff supporting them in schools. Since 1997, the number of full-time equivalent regular teachers in maintained schools in Wirral LEA has risen by 150, from 2,930 to 3,080 in 2003. Over the same period, the number of full-time equivalent school support staff in the LEA has grown by 690, from 680 to 1,370.