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Volume 175: debated on Tuesday 3 July 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will publish in the Official Report the text of the reply to the letter of 21 June from the head teacher at Beaufort Street county primary, junior mixed and infants school, Liverpool.

The following is the text of the Department's reply:Dear Mrs. RedmondThank you for your letter of 21 June 1990 to the Secretary of State.You have in your letter raised some very important issues. I understand that after nineteen years at Beaufort County Primary School you will be retiring with mixed feelings.The Secretary of State wrote recently to all head teachers stressing his appreciation for the hard work teachers are undertaking in our schools. He has made clear on many other occasions that the teaching profession deserves gratitude, recognition and respect for its professionalism and the commitment shown to pupils. Ministers value that commitment very highly indeed.I hardly need to tell you that teaching remains a very attractive career for many people. You may know that about 25,000 people enter or re-enter the profession each year. Despite what we are sometimes led to believe, wastage is generally low. The latest data indicate that less than 1% of teachers leave for other paid employment.The Government's proposals for local authority current spending in 1990/91 allow for almost £15 billion to be spent on education. That is 9.6percnt; higher than the comparable total for this year. Within the £15 billion total, specific grants of over £180 million will be available under the Education Support Grants programme and the LEA Training Grant Scheme to help implement the education reforms. Given effective management, the total should be sufficient to allow good progress to be made in getting the reforms into place. It allows for LEAs and schools to give more priority to spending on key areas of books and equipment, repairs and maintenance compared with the levels of spending assumed for this year.The vast majority of teachers support the aims of the National Curriculum, which is founded on current best practice. Its introduction together with other education reforms does place extra demands on teachers, and the Government has responded to pleas that further reforms might overstrain teachers' goodwill and commitment. The intention is to ensure that the reforms are implemented at a reasonable pace, while retaining the momentum already gained.You express particular concern about children with special educational needs (SEN) in relation to the National Curriculum. The Government believes that all children, including those with SEN should follow the National Curriculum to the maximum extent possible. The levels of attainment within the National Curriculum are being flexibly designed so that almost all pupils, including those with special educational needs, will be able to show what they have achieved and, more importantly, what progress they have made over time. Up until now too many pupils have had limited educational opportunities, and that includes children with SEN. Their curricula have often lacked breadth and balance and they have not been challenged into achieving their full potential. The Government firmly believes that the National Curriculum will lever up standards in education and benefit children including those with special educational needs.Maintained schools are under a duty to offer the National Curriculum to all their pupils unless exceptions are made in accordance with the relevant Sections of the Education Reform Act (ERA). Some children with SEN, such as those referred to at the end of your letter, may have a statement of their special educational needs drawn up in accordance with the Education Act 1981. That Act rejects the concept of labelling pupils and concentrates instead on identifying individual pupils' needs and ensuring that those needs are met. In future each statement will be able to specify how the National Curriculum is to apply to the individual pupil. A statement can modify or disapply the National Curriculum requirements, and where appropriate offer an individual programme of study. However, where exceptions are made, maintained schools are still under duty to ensure that the curricula they offer pupils are balanced and broadly based, in accordance with the requirements of Section 1 of the ERA.The quality of your own commitment to teaching and the development of your pupils is very clear from your letter. We too are dedicated to the well being of education and to giving the best support we can to teachers. Important changes are taking place, particularly with the introduction of the National Curriculum and Local Management of Schools, and I would ask you to have faith that those who will be working in and on behalf of education after you have retired will carry forward the best values and build upon the best practices of teachers in your generation.Yours sincerelyG. A. HOLLEYSchools 2 Branch