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Teacher Redundancies

Volume 405: debated on Thursday 22 May 2003

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6.

What discussions he has had with teaching unions about teacher redundancies in financial year 2003–04. [115000]

Ministers and officials have regular discussions with teaching unions covering a wide range of issues. We are working with local government to ensure that the growth in teacher and support staff numbers is sustained, as promised in 1997 and 2001.

Does the Minister understand the real concern in Poole that, in an authority area in which more than 100 per cent. of the standard spending assessment has been passported to schools, there are going to be redundancies among teachers and classroom assistants? Parents in Poole do not want excuses; they want an acknowledgment that there is a problem and a will to sort it out.

I am slightly disappointed by the tone of the hon. Gentleman's question, since he came to the Department with a group of representatives from Poole and had an extremely useful meeting with me about these issues.

The hon. Gentleman might say that, but I have had a letter from the chief executive in Poole saying how useful the meeting was, and that one of the things that had resulted from it was a new dialogue with the schools to try to overcome the problem. That is the kind of action that we like to see.

May I urge the Minister not to take any notice of Conservative Members crying out for more resources? Many of the authorities that are making people redundant—or claiming that they will have to do so—are receiving vast amounts more than authorities such as St. Helens. Will he resist those calls?

I know that my hon. Friend is a doughty campaigner for schools in St. Helens and that he is as pleased as I am by the enormous increase in achievement in both the primary and secondary sectors. The Government's commitment is to a fair system of funding, and I am glad that my hon. Friend thinks that it is working well.

Will the Minister now admit that he has been entirely wrong? Will he come to Leicestershire and see how we are having to set deficit budgets and make teachers redundant because of the Government's failure of policy? Apparently, everyone else is wrong except those on the Government Front Bench. Well, what about the story in The Times which says that 3,000 teachers are to be made redundant across the country? They cannot all be wrong. How about the Minister saying sorry and admitting that he is wrong?

There are important and serious issues around the country. Thanks to the Government's economic policies, Leicestershire has half the level of people on income support than the national average, and that is reflected in its funding position. It is also significant, however, that the variation in funding for different schools across Leicestershire is one of the highest in the country. There is fully 10 per cent. difference between the schools that have been helped the most and those that have been helped the least.

The Minister will be aware from his visit to my constituency that standards in all the schools are continuing to rise very encouragingly under the policies of his Government. It would, however, be a pity to see certain schools falling back on account of the very marginal shortfall in Coventry, which got the full 7 per cent. The Minister will be aware that this does not involve a huge amount of money—about £1 million—and if there could be some sort of indicative arrangement as to what we might expect next year, the schools would be encouraged to carry on with their full complement this year.

My hon. Friend has spoken well about the achievements in Coventry schools. I know that the local education authority is working hard with the local schools to ensure that any problems are overcome, and making use of the flexibilities that were offered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State last week.