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Teacher Vacancies

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 15 March 2007

Teacher vacancies in local authority maintained schools went down between January 2005 and January 2006 by 250, to reach 2,230 posts, which is broadly the same percentage as it was 10 years ago. We expect that vacancy figures for January 2007 will be published on 26 April.

Will the Minister accept that the large number of supply teachers in all too many schools, particularly as head teachers, French teachers and maths teachers, is not only very bad for morale in the common room, but harms children’s education? What more is he going to do to make sure that we have more permanent head teachers, French teachers and maths teachers?

We have commissioned a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers on leadership in schools. We are doing a series of things involving the National College for School Leadership in respect of head teachers. Lord Dearing published his report this week on language teaching, and we are addressing some of the recommendations. The statistics on maths teachers are very encouraging, and my hon. Friend the Minister for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning launched some new measures for science, technology and maths this week. The overall picture is that we have more than 36,000 more teachers than we did 10 years ago, and we have added 140,000 more support staff so that teachers can concentrate on teaching. The general trend is extremely positive.

My constituency lies right on the boundary with inner London, where there is a significant enhancement for teachers through London weighting. Although the areas and the schools are very similar, my area finds it difficult to attract teachers against that competition. Will my hon. Friend consider the issue to see whether there is any way in which he can make a more level playing field, so that the schools in my area can attract teachers to work in Enfield?

My hon. Friend has been assiduous in raising that concern with the ministerial team. We will continue to look at the success that we have achieved through the chartered London teacher scheme, London Challenge and Teach First. A series of measures is making sure that London schools are getting the leadership that they need and that we are getting the quality of teachers that we need to continue the exceptional improvement in the quality of education in London schools, which is ahead of that in the rest of the country.

We have heard the figures on teacher vacancies. According to the most recent figures, however, 25 per cent. of newly qualified secondary school teachers and 26 per cent. of newly qualified primary school teachers were not in full-time employment six months after they graduated. Does the Minister agree that that is a real concern? What does he plan to do about it? And what implications does it have for the Government’s recruitment campaign for teachers?

We have to get the right balance. I have received a number of letters from hon. Members representing constituents who have trained as teachers and who are struggling to find posts. We have to balance that against the concerns raised by the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay). There are particular subjects such as languages, maths and science where we need to improve the supply of teachers. Although the vacancy rate for head teachers is broadly what it was 10 years ago, there is a future challenge in terms of succession planning. We have to strike that balance. The level of supply is broadly in tune with the level of demand, but there will always be some geographical disparities.