The single most important determinant of a good education for every child is having good teachers, which is why we have set out plans to raise the professional status and standards of the teaching profession in the White Paper, “The Importance of Teaching”. We will focus on recruiting the best candidates to become teachers. We will improve their training and give them more opportunities to learn from high performers in the profession.
I thank the Minister for that answer. A YouGov survey found that for undergraduates the No. 1 deterrent to becoming a teacher is violence in the classroom; that is being compounded by fear of false and malicious allegations. What steps are the Government taking to protect the physical and reputational integrity of teachers, so that a career in the classroom attracts the best and the brightest talent?
Of course, my hon. Friend is right: violence in schools is completely unacceptable. The Education Bill, now in Committee, includes a wide range of reforms to increase teachers’ ability to challenge poor behaviour. It introduces reporting restrictions, giving anonymity to teachers when allegations are made by or on behalf of a pupil. The reforms are intended to shift the balance of authority back to the teachers and head teachers in our schools, to enable them to provide a safe environment in schools where children are free and able to learn.
I am sure that Ministers will agree that the quality of teaching in schools is enhanced by the work of Saltmine, a fantastic charity based in my constituency that puts on plays for secondary school children to educate them about issues such as alcohol, drugs, racism and bullying. Will the Minister ask the Secretary of State to come and see one of these fantastic plays, and does he agree that despite the difficult decisions that schools have to make, reducing expenditure in that area would be very short-sighted indeed?
I do not know why the hon. Gentleman wants me to ask the Secretary of State to come along, and does not ask me to come along instead. I would be delighted to visit a school to see that work in action. The issues that the hon. Gentleman mentions are very important, and unless we get them right children will not be in the right place to access the curriculum and learn successfully.
I am concerned that some schools in South West Norfolk are struggling to recruit teachers in short-supply subjects and head teachers. Will the Minister consider improving the quality of teaching in Norfolk by rolling out Teach First to the county, and by relaxing rules on national pay bargaining to allow us to recruit teachers in those short-supply schools?
I appreciate the recruitment difficulties experienced in west Norfolk, and I am encouraged by the work being undertaken by Norfolk county council, supported by the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services, to develop local solutions to meet the demand for head teachers. On pay, my hon. Friend will be interested to know that a further remit will be issued to the School Teachers Review Body later this year, asking for recommendations on how the pay and conditions system can be made less rigid. That work will build on the current extensive flexibilities, which will allow schools to pay, attract and retain teachers.