Skip to main content

Teacher Training

Volume 174: debated on Tuesday 12 June 1990

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what measures he is taking to encourage students to study shortage subjects during initial teacher training.

The Department has supported expenditure of more than £56 million since July 1986 on a range of measures to combat teacher shortages. These include a bursary scheme to improve recruitment to initial teacher training, a substantial programme of publicity and advertising, and new routes into the profession aimed particularly at mature entrants.

My hon. Friend and I are both believers in the free market. How can it be right, under the law of supply and demand, that when the nation demands more mathematicians, physicists and engineers we offer students studying those disciplines the same level of student grant, supported by the same level of student loan, as students studying sociology and politics, neither of which are endangered species?

I shall confine my answer to recruitment to teacher training. We have responded to the reality that my hon. Friend's analysis highlights. While in an ideal world every teacher who is contributing in the best way that he can in a school would be paid on a comparable scale, the demand for people with skills in mathematics, technology and science in our modern and highly successful economy is growing all the time. Unless we can offer bursaries to encourage people to train in those subjects, we shall not have enough of them, just as we shall not have enough of them unless we can offer incentive allowances to them once they are qualified. The Government's policies take full account of that.

In subjects such as physics, chemistry and mathematics, there is a shortfall in graduates going into teacher training for this year, next year and the year after. Does the Minister accept that the Government have failed in their attempts to get teachers for those important subjects?

Once again the hon. Gentleman is determined to portray the teaching profession as being in a state of total collapse. The profession greatly resents that portrayal.

Let us consider the statistical realities. In 1989 recruitment to the secondary school shortage subjects of mathematics, physics, chemistry, craft, design and technology, and modern foreign languages was down by 0·5 per cent., but that does not represent a collapse. The hon. Gentleman will be aware from his membership of the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts that we have an energetic programme, particularly the bursary scheme that I have already mentioned, to sustain recruitment. We saw the response last year to the introduction of the new chemistry bursary. Recruits to initial teacher training in chemistry have risen sharply. This year, following our introduction of a bursary for teacher-students of modern languages, the signs are once again that recruitment is on the upturn.