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Volume 622: debated on Wednesday 21 February 2001

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11.38 a.m.

Baroness Walmsley rose to call attention to the shortage of qualified teachers; and to the impact of inspections and bureaucracy in schools; and to move for Papers.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, when I was a young girl it was a maths teacher who taught me to appreciate Beethoven and Bach, a chemistry teacher who taught me to sing Gilbert and Sullivan, and an RE teacher who taught me to perform Oscar Wilde. Those things have enriched my life as much, if not more, than the maths, chemistry and RE that I learned in the classroom. Today's teachers are so burdened with bureaucracy, targets, new initiatives and responsibilities that I fear that the next generation of children will not benefit from such life-enriching experiences as I did.

Furthermore, it was a talented specialist biology teacher who inspired in me the love of the subject that led me to take a degree in biology. Too many children today are being taught specialist subjects by people whose specialism is something else. Those teachers, struggling to master enough of the content of a subject for which they were not trained, are much less likely to inspire the next generation. Many of the subjects where there are the most chronic teacher shortages are those that the country needs most: maths and the sciences, English, the humanities, modern languages. In today's debate, we are concerned with the problems of recruitment and retention of teachers and the roles of bureaucracy and the culture of the inspection process in exacerbating those problems.

First, let me outline the extent of the shortage. The number of vacancies advertised in the Times Educational Supplement last year doubled from 2,500 to 5,000. Last September, there were more than 4,000 vacancies in secondary schools in England and Wales, and it is in the secondary sector that the main problem lies. It is because of rising vacancies that pupil:teacher ratios in secondary schools are at their highest for 25 years. Analysis of the DfEE's own figures showed that nearly 5,000 extra secondary teachers would be required to return ratios to their 1997 levels. If the 4,000 vacancies and the 5,000 needed to bring up the ratios are added together, we find that 9,000 secondary teachers are missing from the system. Furthermore, due to demographic changes, secondary numbers will continue to rise until 2008. According to Education Data Services, unless something is done, this will leave a shortfall of 20,000 teachers, based on current trends.

The Minister keeps telling us that there are now 7,000 more teachers than when Labour came to power. This is because of the reduction in class sizes for five to seven year-olds. Everywhere else in the system, children have had to suffer larger classes. What is the point of having smaller class sizes at key stage 1 if the classes are overcrowded after that? If the Government's objectives for other age groups are to be achieved, they really must find ways of making the teaching profession more attractive. Results in Scotland show that smaller classes produce better educational attainment. That is why we need to recruit more teachers.

Experienced teachers are leaving the profession in droves and are not being replaced by enough new trainees. The Government have consistently missed their targets for trainee teachers. Despite the introduction of training grants and "golden hellos" for shortage subjects, applications to PGCE courses at the beginning of this month were down in every national curriculum subject except science. There is a long way to catch up. Compared with January 1997, there were 14 per cent fewer applications for secondary teacher training places in January of this year. The drop-out rate for teacher training courses has also risen to 16.1 per cent, so fewer people are actually qualifying at the end of the course. There is a hole in the bottom of the bucket and the Government are failing to plug it.

Salary drift and economic growth have compounded the problem. As teachers' traditional fringe benefits of long holidays and professional autonomy have become eroded, so at the same time new companies are looking for graduates to fuel the growth in the knowledge economy. The ever-greater strain under which teachers are being placed is reflected in sickness rates. The first national survey on teacher sickness released by the DfEE showed that in 1999 six out of every 10 full-time teachers took some sick leave. Some 44 per cent of all absences were for more than 20 working days and the average number of days' absence was higher than the average for the national workforce.

Why, therefore, do people not want to go into teaching and why are so many experienced teachers leaving our schools? The answer is not only money, although better pay would undoubtedly help. According to the TES, graduates going into teaching are paid around £2,000 a year less than those going into other professional jobs and last week's announcement about increasing starting salaries will not help because the wage gap widens after a few years' experience. The answer is to make the profession more attractive by improving the conditions under which teachers have to work.

Perhaps I may illustrate the current situation by telling noble Lords about the workload of a real deputy head of a real medium-sized primary school in a deprived inner city in the north of the country. First, he wears 11 hats. If noble Lords think that three hats are excessive for the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, think of the burden of wearing 11. The following are his 11 responsibilities within the school: one, deputy head; two, full-time class teacher; three, curriculum co-ordinator; four, responsible for school discipline; five, maintaining consumable stocks; six, head of physical education; seven, programmes to support gifted and talented children; eight, the assessment of the performance of a group of more junior teachers; nine, in-service training for all staff; ten, work experience placements in the school for secondary schoolchildren; eleven, main mentor for student teachers on teaching practice in the school.

His regular extra-curricular activities include conducting assemblies, training and supervising the football and basketball teams, attending concerts and plays, weekly staff meetings, fortnightly senior staff meetings and dinner duty every day. Over the past couple of months he has attended courses on information technology, PE—his own subject area—literacy and numeracy initiatives, and teacher assessment skills. Every Monday morning, at least six communications arrive on his desk from the local education authority and the DfEE, all of which require action. Every day, other post needs to be dealt with. He comes into school at 7.45 a.m. and rarely leaves before 5.30 p.m. In the evening he spends two to three hours preparing lessons, writing reports and analysing test results and comparing them to national standards. This week is half term. He has already spent the best part of the past two days in school and expects to be in school for some part of every day this week. That is some holiday.

That teacher is not unusual. There are thousands like him. He is just one of the many teachers to whom I have spoken who, a few years ago, I would have said was very dedicated and loved the job. Now he says that he would get out if he could, even if he had to take a salary cut. The stress is affecting his formerly robust health. Teaching is in crisis. Young teachers are much less willing to undertake the kind of extra-curricular activities from which I benefited when I was at school. The older ones are still trying to do it, but it is killing them.

Analysts agree that the rising tide of bureaucracy and central interference is one of the biggest criticisms by the teaching profession of this Government. Since May 1997, the DfEE has set 4,585 targets which require a total of 306,480,472 measures to be monitored by schools and LEAs, many on a quarterly basis. There are 74 different targets set for every primary school pupil. When last month my noble friend Lady Sharp of Guildford asked the Minister what the Government planned to do about the rising burden of targets faced by schools, the Minister replied that the Government have targets to reduce the targets. An image crossed my mind of Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer's apprentice in Walt Disney's film. Mickey looks on helplessly at the rising tide as the spellbound broom, multiplying unchecked, fetches ever more buckets of water. Every month, buckets of targets are being poured over the floors of our poor schools and drowning the teachers in paperwork. Teachers, who should be in the classroom teaching, are not waving but drowning!

Teachers are also demoralised by the lack of resources and equipment. A recent Ofsted report found that one in 15 primary schools and nearly a quarter of secondary schools had inadequate resources. Research comparing spending on books in 12 European countries put the UK at the bottom of the league. Although the Government have begun to invest in IT in schools, provision varies greatly and is not as comprehensive as DfEE propaganda would indicate. A survey conducted by the Liberal Democrats during winter 2000 showed that there is only one computer with an Internet connection for every 56 primary pupils and 46 secondary pupils.

Gimmicks such as increasing the number of specialist schools to 46 per cent, as announced in last week's Green Paper, are simply an excuse to avoid funding 100 per cent of the schools properly. The enthusiasm with which schools have applied to become specialist schools is mainly because by doing so they receive £100,000 capital grant and more cash for each pupil. I believe that all schools matter and that all schools deserve this heightened level of funding.

The culture of blame has also demoralised the profession. It is right that those with such an important job are put under the microscope. On these Benches, we support the principle of the independent inspection of schools. However, in recent years, the way in which Ofsted has done its job has rightly generated enormous criticism. This is because of several factors: first, the stress that the process has put on teachers, partly caused by the length of notice, the length of the inspection and the amount of written evidence required; secondly, the style of many inspections, in which teachers gained the impression that the inspectors were there to catch them out rather than to help them improve; and thirdly, the efficiency and competence of the inspectors has been called into question on occasion. No one likes to be criticised, but to be criticised by someone who appears not to know what he is doing is an insult.

Fortunately, these criticisms have been loudly voiced and the Government have responded to many of them and set changes in train: shorter notice; self-evaluation, leading to shorter inspections; reduced written evidence; and a new chief inspector, who appears to have a different attitude altogether. I do hope so.

We still believe that Ofsted should be more directly accountable to Parliament and that inspectors should not be banned from suggesting ways in which teachers could improve but should be positively encouraged to do so. However, we welcome the changes. We would warn, however, that the process of self-evaluation is putting yet more strain on school management teams. They need to be given the time and, if necessary, the supply cover to do it properly.

It gives me no pleasure to catalogue this miserable litany of fact, so perhaps I should turn to what the Government are doing to make the profession more attractive to new teachers and to keep existing staff in the classroom. Sadly, the "golden hellos" and the tiny training grants have been too little, too late. Since Labour came to power, 11,000 training places for secondary teachers have been left empty as graduates, saddled with student debt and often already burdened with mortgage payments, cannot afford to train as teachers.

The Government appear at long last to have realised the inadequacy of their efforts as they announced in last week's Green Paper a further incentive to pay off one-tenth of a new teacher's student loan for every year he or she stays in the profession. This is no more than a sticking plaster over a gaping wound—and a very divisive sticking plaster at that! Imagine how a young teacher who entered the profession last year with an appalling burden of student debt will feel when grabbing a quick cup of coffee in the staff room alongside a newly qualified teacher for whom the problem has been removed—as long as he or she avoids a nervous breakdown for 10 years.

The bureaucratic overload is preventing teachers and headteachers doing their jobs effectively. The Government's proposal to halve the mountain of paper is not enough. The DfEE should be obliged to ensure that the documentation distributed to LEAs and schools is kept to a minimum and that schools are easily able to distinguish what is relevant. The Liberal Democrats would introduce a statutory requirement for the DfEE annually to review all material distributed through the department and its agencies and to withdraw any irrelevant paperwork.

To reduce the bureaucratic burden produced by the monitoring targets and to ensure that every child is treated as the individual he or she is, the Liberal Democrats believe that all national targets must be scrapped. We would replace these thousands of targets with just one; that would be a statutory requirement for schools to develop individual education plans—which already exist—for each child, with clear targets and criteria for improvement. This would put the child at the centre. The plans would be set by the school and would be accountable to parents, to the LEA and to Ofsted.

The Minister may claim that standards have risen during this Administration. If they have, it is at the expense of the teaching profession. I fear that the next straw will break the camel's back. Of course, every child matters—it is the child who must be put at the centre of education thinking and planning, not the teacher—but the teacher is the key to helping the child to learn. With well trained, well motivated, well equipped, enthusiastic, well paid teachers who are continually developing their skills, we can ensure that every child fulfils his or her potential. The future of our country is in their hands. Let us return the teaching profession to the attractive, respected, popular profession it once was. The shortages will then solve themselves. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

11.55 a.m.

My Lords, the debate is both timely and important and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for introducing it. I agree with everything she said. Her Motion is in two parts. I suspect that it will be much easier to deal with the part concerning bureaucracy than with the part concerning the shortage of teachers.

I take as my starting point the importance of teachers at the centre of education. Two members of my family taught all their lives in state schools; others have taught in higher education. I believe that teaching is one of the greatest of the professions that anyone can undertake. Standards rise in schools because of good teaching, not because of government edict. The whole education system is completely dependent on teachers; hence the importance of this debate. Good schools are good schools because of good teachers.

Today there is a crisis. It is impossible to talk to anyone in teaching without being informed that there is a crisis and a difficulty; it is not an exaggeration: low morale; more teachers leaving the profession; more unfilled vacancies; some schools on short time; and more teachers coming from abroad—some very good and well qualified, others not so good; a variable standard.

Two teachers have said to me that if all the maths students graduating this summer went into teaching, there would still be a shortage of maths teachers. Even if that is not entirely true, it is an indication of the kind of gap that needs to be filled. One hears the same story from teachers and teacher unions; it makes the most dismal reading for the local education authorities and others involved.

Perhaps I may start by making three points about teacher morale. First, it hardly helps the teaching profession if those close to the centre of government—such as Mr Alastair Campbell—talk about "bog standard comprehensives". That is not a term that I would ever apply to any school. It is completely disgraceful. It is bad for the teachers, bad for the parents and bad for the pupils. The Government are trying to encourage young people to go into teaching, but who would go into a profession which could be described, in any respect, in those terms? The remark has not been retracted. It is a very serious matter.

Secondly, we have a pitfall with the differential in pay between England and Wales and Scotland. If I was a teacher in Berwick-upon-Tweed, for example, why would I stay with Northumberland County Council when over the Border I could now get £5,000 a year more and, if I have understood the arrangement correctly, a further £5,000 in two or three years' time? This will create a serious difficulty for teachers in England and Wales and in Scotland. This issue needs to be addressed.

I have not been able to take part as I would have wished in the proceedings on the Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill and, therefore, other nobles Lords will be much more knowledgeable than I about my third point. It is quite clear that that Bill will impose further responsibilities on teachers when an increasing number of children with special educational needs come into mainstream schools. Deputy head teachers will be responsible not only for the 11 jobs described by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, but will have others added to them. From talking to teachers, I know that they are very worried about having further tasks added to their workload.

I looked at the recently published Green Paper to see what the Government had to say about teachers. One goes quite a way into it before teachers are mentioned. On page 8, paragraph 7 of the summary, it states:
"We will demonstrate trust in the informed professional judgment of teachers"—
and the sentence then goes on—
"while maintaining a focus on accountability and standards"—
to indicate that they do not trust the teachers.

Perhaps I may give one example of not trusting head teachers. Given all the complexity of performance-related pay, teachers are required to fill in a very complicated form. Having filled it in, they are assessed by an outside assessor to see how they actively perform in the classroom. It is not good enough that the head teacher of a school says that X is suitable. If ever there were a job for a head teacher, I should have thought it was that. I do not know what the extra cost is of having an outside assessment.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has given a large number of figures about teacher shortages. To take just two, in 1992–93, 15,490 undergraduates were recruited into the initial teacher training course. This had dropped to 9,340 by the year 1990–2000. The survey of the Secondary Heads Association published last year said that secondary schools were short of their targets by 4,000 teachers; that many schools were employing teachers without recognised teacher training qualifications; that some schools were on a four-day week; and that the situation was particularly difficult in London.

In preparation for this debate, I consulted Oxfordshire County Council where I live. I asked about the position there. The situation is similar to that which I have described. I quote:
"The number of teaching advertisements placed during the academic year 1999/2000 has been 1514 compared with 1106 in 1998/99, an increase of 37%. This seems to demonstrate increased turnover … to compound the difficulties, it has become increasingly difficult to find supply teachers and many schools are using private Supply Agencies which are expensive".
The council also states:
"We know from our own Headteachers that recruitment of teachers has become a major problem, particularly for Schools in Special Measures or with Serious Weaknesses".
I now turn to bureaucracy. It is quite right to say that this is the main reason that teachers have identified for their dissatisfaction. They are told what to teach and how to teach; then they are tested on what they have been taught; they have endless forms to fill in for endless statistics. One has only to look at what the NAHT is saying to its members. I quote:
"Unrealistic expectations, frequent initiatives, last minute policy changes and duplicated demands from government, OFSTED, QCA and LEAs place a great deal of pressure on school leaders".
That must be right. The NAHT report goes on to tell head teachers how to deal with this excess amount of material.

Indeed, the Government themselves, in their report entitled Red Tape Affecting Head Teachers, state:
"We believe the main reasons for these concerns [on red tape] are: blurred lines of accountability between head teachers, governors, LEAs and the DfEE; over-complex funding arrangements; a multiplicity of reporting requirements; and inadequate administrative support for head teachers, especially in small and struggling schools".
It is difficult for outsiders to remember how few support staff there are in schools, especially in primary schools. There will be the school secretary and perhaps one other person dealing with all this bureaucracy.

It would be nice to think that the future will be better. But teacher shortage presents a demographic time-bomb. Over 50 per cent of all teachers are over the age of 45. I understand that 8,000 retired places need to be filled. That figure will rise to 17,000 by the year 2014. That is not a long way ahead; so a major long-term problem is building up. It will require a great deal more than simply a bit of extra money here and there. It needs to be fully thought-out. Red tape and bureaucracy need to be dealt with. Above all, the importance of teachers needs to be recognised.

To return to the Government's Green Paper, they state at the end, in large letters:
"The teaching profession has taken huge strides forward in recent years and is beginning to demonstrate the characteristics of a 21st century profession".
It would be difficult to find a more patronising or condescending comment. It is a classic example of "New Labour, new speak". There were thousands of good teachers before 1997 who were dedicated to the profession. I doubt whether there is one of us in this Chamber who does not recall a good teacher and a good lesson and who has not been influenced by them. We need a great deal more than that kind of rhetoric if teachers are to be given the kind of support that they deserve and if they are to receive the respect as professionals that the country needs and, above all, the pupils need.

12.6 p.m.

My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness. However, I point out that if this Government had not spent a vastly increased sum on education since 1997, heaven knows what sort of situation we would have inherited from the previous government.

I join the noble Baroness in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on securing this debate. She struck a chord with me when she talked about the life-enhancing experiences outside the narrow terms of teaching. However, I was surprised to listen to the catalogue of duties of the deputy headmaster she told us about. Heaven knows what the headmaster does. The sooner the deputy headmaster applies for promotion, the better.

I rarely speak on education matters. When I was in the House of Commons a large number of Members were involved in education and my constituents would probably have expected me to concentrate on other things. However, I do occasionally speak about education, on the basis of what I believe is substantial and, I hope, relevant experience.

I taught for 17 years in state schools. I was an examiner when the CSE was introduced. I occasionally contributed provocative articles to educational journals. I taught classes in descriptive engineering when Doncaster college was required to have its engineering students back in the evening, and the engineering students did not like it. So the subject was not called English. I think I was the 13th teacher to attempt to cope with that when the academic year started. At that stage teachers' pay was not very good; it was low down on the incremental scale. I accepted the job only because I found it an attractive way of supplementing my income. I was also chairman of my professional association in the area and became chairman of governors and a passionate supporter of comprehensive education, to which I shall refer shortly.

I was the only serious applicant for my first job. The interview lasted only about two minutes, and I thought I was going to receive a vote of thanks for replying. The job was in probably one of the roughest secondary modern boys' schools in the West Riding. The school should have had a head and 15 assistants, and there were six vacancies. The headmaster spent a great deal of time, before he rang the bell at four o'clock and ran, in trying to find bodies to stand in front of classes. It was a demanding but illuminating experience.

When I began, I was in charge of a first-year form of 40 pupils, and taught English and history. I found that over half of the pupils were barely literate. Fortunately an HMI arrived a few days after I started, and I pointed out that no one had equipped me to teach classes of this size of boys who were barely literate. The inspector said, "There's a wonderful school near here. I will arrange with the head for you to go and spend a day there. You can see the wonderful, groundbreaking work they are doing". I was extremely grateful. I went to the staff room and the deputy head—a wonderful local man, the rock on which the school existed—asked me how I got on. I told him about this "wonderful opportunity". He laughed, and said, "Look at the back of the register when you return to your classroom. You will see a list of the schools from which the pupils came. Have a look and see which of them cannot read". I spoke to the inspector before he went and told him that I did not think that I would avail myself of the opportunity but that, nevertheless, I was very grateful for his attention.

So I struggled on and learnt to teach; it is a very good kill or cure method of developing teachers. A few years later the inspector returned. He had been doing some work on the teaching of reading and had been following a sample of children right across the country. He asked me whether I had a certain two boys in my classroom. The answer was yes. I cannot remember their names because it was a long time ago. I pointed out where the two boys were sitting. The inspector looked at one with astonishment. He then walked towards the other boy and became even more astonished. He said, "That boy is reading Dog World". "Yes", I said in response. He then pointed out the other boy, who was reading the Guardian, and asked why. I explained that the father of the boy who was reading the Guardian had become very active in his trade union; that he was devoted to politics; that the boy worshipped his father; and that he wanted to be able follow his father's interest.

As for the boy reading the dog paper—I brought mine in every Monday for him—I told the inspector that his father showed dogs; that he had bought the boy a dog; and that the boy was also showing dogs. You can easily ascertain the development of children's reading. The reading age of those two boys had shot up during that time, but I believe that the inspector would have been happier if it had not done so.

I then went into a primary school. Again, I was the only applicant; and, again, the people interviewing me were delighted to receive my application. However, I was old-fashioned. I told them that the current fashion in West Riding at that time was that teachers spent their time doing music and movement and that I did not particularly want to do that. I was promised that if I accepted the post that the school wished to offer me I would not have to teach such subjects. So I joined the school, but found that I had music and movement on my timetable. Fortunately, an inspector arrived some time later who was devoted to music and movement. I asked him whether he would like to take my class and show me how to approach the subject. When the class appeared to be breaking into disorder after about 15 minutes, I relieved him from that task. I do not believe that he came anywhere near my classroom again.

I discovered that the headmaster of that school, who tended to bully young teachers, did not like dogs. So, from time to time, I took one of my dogs to school and the headmaster stayed in his office all day. However, he approached me after a couple of terms and asked me to do him a favour. He said that we would have one class more than we had classrooms the following year and asked whether I would take that class, which would not have a classroom. At least the noble Baroness's deputy did have a classroom. I replied, "Well, what shall I do'?" He responded, "If it's fine you can go in the park across the road". I then asked what I should do when it was raining. He replied that I could use the school hall when possible, but pointed out that it was used for other purposes. I wondered what I should do if the school hall was in use and it was raining. He said that I could use the boys' cloakroom.

I taught for quite a while with rain dripping down my pupils' necks on occasion. It was the time of the Suez crisis and I was rather hoping that the Royal Air Force would fetch me back as a reservist. However, I then went to a new school, which had just been built. It was a position of responsibility, and wonderful. But the teaching shortage was so acute that we were cleared out and the school became a day-training college. It was an interesting experience.

In my next school I was responsible, as senior head of department, for the teacher training of student practice, and so on. We had student teachers coming in from about five different establishments. But I found that the day-training college was taking mature pupils, not necessarily with high academic qualifications. They were very good in some cases, but in many cases they were superb. Our teacher shortage in that part of the country was rapidly reduced by the injection of people with maturity and common sense. I am not suggesting that we should return to the old days. I consulted our local copy of the 1891 census just the other day. I found that some girls in the area at the time were student/pupil teachers at the age of 14. I do not believe that we should return to that practice.

My time is nearly up, and I should like to make one further point. When I served on a Select Committee in the other place that considered the attainments of the school-leaver of 1976, we looked at mathematics teaching. I discovered that there were parliamentary debates about unsatisfactory mathematics teaching in the 1860s. It was a vicious circle. I also noticed one school where the standard of mathematics teaching was superbly high and had been so for some years. The head of department had had 12 months' emergency teacher training after the war. He had people with very high qualifications working in his department, but they were not better teachers. Indeed, I know of one small boy who was very good in primary school with maths at the age of 11. However, by the end of the second term of secondary education he was barely numerate. His teachers, too, had very high qualifications.

We must ensure that we do not ignore the fact that, first, teachers teach children rather than subjects. Pupils do not go to school merely to take examinations. The noble Baroness made the point about life enhancement. I believe that the most rewarding period that I spent as a pupil was during the time after we had taken examinations both at the age of 16 and at the age of 18, when we took part in many other activities. However, these days pupils are shovelled out of the school building as soon as the ink has dried on the examination papers.

In my area there were two grammar schools, which took perhaps a few hundred children a year out of a population of 120,000. We took that small proportion and said that they were able; the rest were rejected and regarded as failures. I should like to point out to my noble friend that if we wish to see 50 per cent or more of our young people going into higher education—we must do so if we are to maximise the talents of the British people—it is no good selecting 10 per cent, and telling the others that they are inferior.

12.16 p.m.

My Lords, I begin by declaring an interest as chairman of the governors of one of the major independent schools in the country; namely, Bedford School, with 1.110 boys on the roll.

Your Lordships will recall that only last week I accused the Minister of complacency because secondary teacher training targets have not been met, and the purpose of setting a target is to try to achieve it. Noble Lords will also recall that in yesterday's Question Time pleas were heard from all sides of the Chamber to reduce red tape; indeed, those pleas have been repeated this morning by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and others who have spoken.

Noble Lords may also recall that my noble friend on the Front Bench referred yesterday to the trials for the procedures to be introduced in September. Although I do not have the Hansard report with me, I believe that the Minister dismissed those trials as being uneventful and not helpful. If the trials have not been a success, that seems to me not to augur too well for what I understand is to be introduced in September.

My headmaster and I were discussing today's debate and the problems of teacher training and recruitment. Obviously, this affects the independent sector as much as it affects the maintained sector. I wonder how many noble Lords are aware of the true picture from an independent source. I looked through the most useful and up-to-date guide that I could find, which is to be found in a detailed study published in December 2000—only a few weeks ago—by Professor Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson from the University of Liverpool. Their study was entitled, Attracting Teachers—past patterns, present policies, futureprospects. Those noble Lords who know Professor Smithers will be aware of the high regard in which he and his team are held.

I shall not cover the whole of that study. I shall pick out what seem to me to be some of the key dimensions that the professor has highlighted. The first one is something about which no government can been chastised: quite simply, the more pupils go into higher education than was the case in the past, the more what one might call the "natural supply of teachers" is diminished, because so many more opportunities are open to our young people. The teaching profession, therefore, has to compete with the whole wider open market for graduates today. That is a matter of a general nature that we all have to face up to.

Secondly, Professor Smithers—and I agree with him—states that measuring vacancies is not an effective method of assessing the scale of a problem. As we all know from the schools we visit, all schools make do and do their best and try very hard to avoid sending pupils home. Of course one observes that where a school is forced to run a four-day week, it must be in dire straits.

A better way of assessing the underlying problem—for me this is the interesting table in the report—is to look at PGCE targets in relation to graduate output. The number of graduates in any one subject constitutes the finite number who may wish to teach. The table shows PGCE targets as percentages of graduate output. I shall not quote all the examples. For English, the PGCE target is 1,927 and the graduate output is 6,275; the percentage required is 30.7 per cent. For maths, the PGCE target is 1,577 and the graduate output is 4,250; the percentage required is 37.1 per cent. For geography, which is traditionally not seen as a problem area, the PGCE target is 1,062 and the graduate output is 4,536; the percentage required is 23 per cent.

The percentage of graduates required to go into teaching to meet the targets is pretty high. Therefore, something must be offered to attract them into teaching. As we can see, the PGCE target for maths requires nearly two-fifths of all maths graduates; languages require over two-fifths and English nearly a third. As for science, the PGCE target is only 2,355 out of some 24,000 graduates—just under 10 per cent. But if you dig a little underneath—that never does any harm—and consider the position in relation to chemistry, there are only 160 PGCE of the graduates and for physics there are just over 80. I suggest that physics as a subject is in terminal decline in our schools.

Furthermore, there is an additional problem in that those entering PGCE training do not all successfully reach the end. One can accept a fall-out rate of a smallish percentage, but when one discovers that in maths it is more than 20 per cent either the wrong people are being selected or the PGCE training is not succeeding. That is a problem. I hope that I shall not be accused of being sexist, but one has to note that in terms of people entering the profession today the vast majority are increasingly female. If we are not careful—I do not think that this is a good thing—this has an implication for the future in that it may be seen not as a profession for men. I think that that is something we should be aware of.

The survey concludes by stating—I suppose this is a slight surprise—that salary is not the primary factor that affects teachers; it remains job satisfaction. I find that enormously encouraging, although in my judgment the starting salary of a young teacher is still exceptionally low. The evidence shows that there is a huge problem. The question is: how do we make teaching more attractive? I venture to suggest that if job satisfaction is the key, the Government should perhaps, if they are of an open mind, think again and perhaps repeal the Act on the statute book that attempts to get rid of our grammar schools. That would bring great joy to all those who teach in grammar schools and great joy to parents, pupils and those who aspire to teach in those schools.

I had the benefit and the joy of having a number of government assisted places pupils in my school. They added to the colour and to the strength of the school. Sadly, those places are being run down now and we have to try to find another way to substitute for the joy those boys brought to my school. I say to the Minister that the independent sector has a role to play. I believe that it would be fruitful for both parties to find a way forward to work together rather than everything going one way.

It needs to be repeated that to have the Prime Minister, and his spokesman of the day speaking on his behalf, talking about bog standard comprehensives is not helpful to teacher morale. Anyone in a bog standard comprehensive will probably be a bog standard teacher; that is not a complimentary term and it is not one that I should like to see applied to any teacher. It does nothing at all to enhance the profession of those who teach. I suggest to the Minister that the time has come—it may take more time—for the Government to recognise the sheer scale of the problem. It is a problem that needs to be addressed. Perhaps the Government should even bring in the Opposition parties to see whether we can find a consensus to take forward a way to enhance the whole of the teaching profession.

12.26 p.m.

My Lords, this debate is timely. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for introducing it.

It is easy to use the language of crisis and I am reluctant to devalue its currency. I begin with an example. If you had gone to a certain junior school in north Portsmouth any morning last week, you would have found a diligent head teacher, who has taught in Portsmouth schools for 14 years, involved in making—either himself or through colleagues—up to 20 phone calls each morning in order to secure supply cover. That is a particularly acute example but I am led to believe that it is not entirely untypical.

I do not believe that the cause of the present crisis can be laid specifically and solely at the feet of any single party political philosophy—or lack of it. I think that the causes go much deeper and they relate to an evolution, almost by stealth, of the teacher into an unrespected and over-regulated provider of a commodity, at the mercy of a complex bureaucracy, in which parents have rights spelled out to them in detail but who perhaps live in a culture in which responsibilities are less clearly discussed. That scenario is compounded by what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, referred to as "the culture of blame".

As I tried to point out in the debate held here three weeks ago on numbers and morale in the police force, I do not speak from a perspective of a false nostalgia. Some things have got better. Schools needed to become more accountable. Individual teachers needed specific targets. But the balance has shifted too far in that direction. The late Cardinal Basil Hume—it is good to note that his successor, Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, receives his cardinal's hat today—often spoke of the importance of teaching as a vocation and he even suggested on one occasion that they would be respected and valued only if they were paid as well as doctors and lawyers, over and above the extras that are given here and there, or have to be argued for competitively.

As the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, pointed out, money is not everything, but it is an indicator of the place society holds for a particular profession in its midst. Teachers need to become a respected, accountable profession working in partnership with parents and the rest of the community, with an administrative loading that has a sense of proportion about it.

What are the issues which we need to address? First of all, teachers need to be respected and valued. We live in an age that is rightly critical of authority but too easily it confuses proper respect with undue deference. Moreover, I keep hearing of politicians who say that they do indeed express praise for teachers but their words are not heard. A generation of dedicated teachers has grown up with the perception—and perceptions are often the stuff of common attitudes—that they are seen if not as the enemy, then as a problem which it is the task of government of whatever colour to solve and put right. People pick up signals very quickly even if they are the wrong ones.

Many of us would not be here today had we not ourselves been the objects of educational, moral and spiritual transformation by those who taught us. My noble friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn said in a debate in your Lordships' House in January of last year that standards are rising despite the pressures on teachers. I think that that is still broadly true, but that kind of positive comment needs to be made more often and more publicly.

Secondly, I refer to bureaucracy. I am not sure when this word was first coined but it roughly means, "rule by the office desk". One naturally thinks here of Ofsted and of what might be called "curriculum fidgeting". There is a growing conviction that while it was probably necessary to invent Ofsted, it can with some justification evolve into a less frequent, less complex phenomenon, resulting in schools having short inspections and undergoing self-reviews.

In that regard the recent proposals of the new Chief Inspector of Schools are to be welcomed. Indeed, those telling words of his,
"Let us not value only what we can measure",
are still ringing in my ears five days on. Ofsted began life as a blunt, some would say necessary, instrument. It now needs to become a more sophisticated tool for the fine tuning of the delicate process of education.

Thirdly, I raise the question: what is education about? I alluded earlier to its potential downgrading into being regarded as the provision of a commodity. Here again it is easy to be misunderstood as giving the impression of advocating some kind of pure and exclusively visionary view of education—a vision unconnected with reality, untainted by the realities of hard cash, recruiting good teachers, and projecting a positive image in the local community, all of which are necessary and increasingly sophisticated.

Education is in one way about delivering specific goods; for example, one may be thinking about arranging a course on European history; or an IT project to increase literacy, particularly in my part of the country, involving after-school classes and courses for parents; or a cultural trip to the war graves of northern France. Those are fine examples. But education has to be about more than that. It is about leading students, of whatever age, through complex processes of understanding, growth, self-awareness, challenge—including disturbance on occasion—and, above all, deepening whatever aspect of the curriculum one is concerned with. Many of today's teachers see that all too clearly. Perhaps the rest of the community needs to be more aware of it.

Fourthly, on the subject of Church schools, many welcome the report of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, to the Archbishops' Council on the Future of Church Schools, as well as the positive comment it has received from the Government's Green Paper which included mention of schools of Churches other than my own and those of other faith groups. Questions of funding, as always, will have to be addressed if there is to be the increase in those schools, which is strongly suggested. But I wish to make clear to your Lordships how seriously the Church of England takes the fact that so many of our schools are oversubscribed, sometimes by parents who may not have strong or specific religious commitment but know that we can run educational centres of high quality and spiritual awareness.

Our response to the Dearing report will inevitably involve looking closely at how we in the local dioceses can better support and resource Church schools—whether in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight or St Luke's Secondary School in inner urban Portsmouth. Bishops and diocesan directors of education meet constantly with head teachers. Perhaps such encounters should be extended. Support and resourcing might well focus on the teachers themselves, providing effective chaplaincy and so on but, above all, encouraging young people on the lookout for a career to consider entering the profession.

I began by referring to a crisis. I would not be speaking from these Benches with a cross around my neck if I did not see a crisis as a real opportunity for growth and change. I want to conclude by quoting one of the many aphorisms of that half-don/hall-prelate figure, Mandell Creighton who became Bishop of London at the end of the 19th century, as I believe that his words apply to the matter before us. He wrote:
"Character is an atmosphere rather than a sum of qualities. It is revealed in crises. The great marks of character are teachableness and a capacity for growth".

12.36 p.m.

My Lords, like other speakers in the debate, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for introducing the subject. It is timely both in view of the importance of schools to the future of our country and of the national debate taking place. I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth on the danger of education becoming a commodity and the importance of the nature of education.

I should like to make two major comments, both of which will be somewhat critical of the Government. Before doing so, let me preface my remarks by saying that I believe that the Government can be justly proud of a number of successes over recent years in the field of education, including the improvement in literacy and numeracy in primary schools, the expansion in information and communications technology and various reforms to improve the status of the teaching profession. I welcome the Government's welcome of the Dearing report on the future of Church schools and their view of the significance of specialist schools.

However, my first criticism has to do with the increasing burden of bureaucracy faced by heads and teachers. Virtually every speaker has referred to it. I believe that that is no accident. When this House debated the School Standards and Framework Bill, it was clear that new detailed powers would be given to the Secretary of State and the local education authorities to prescribe precisely what schools could and could not do in a large number of different areas. I believe that that Act was based explicitly on a philosophy of central government intervention. In implementing the Act, the LEAs were required to draw up plans, the form of which was set out centrally. Each LEA was required to produce no fewer than 17 different kinds of plans dealing with matters as diverse as school standards, childcare, special needs, lifelong learning, asset management, behaviour support and so on.

Before the plans for standards, for example, could be approved, six groups of constituencies needed to be consulted; and before the plans for access could be approved 13 different constituencies needed to be consulted, including in both cases the heads and governors of all LEA schools. For an authority such as Surrey County Council, that would have meant consulting well over 1,000 different bodies. In addition, the local authorities themselves have been asked to come forward with, for example, a crime and disorder strategy and community plans, all of which made demands on schools.

In addition, the noble Lord, Lord Dearing—a respected Cross-Bencher—said in his report last year:
"The extensive consultation in which we have engaged has given us a particular concern about the heads of small primary schools, which are typical of village communities and whose well being matters very much to the character and identity of the whole community".
He went on:
"The burden on heads of running the school"—
including small schools in urban areas—
"and at the same time coping with this flow of statutory requirements and initiatives … can be overwhelming. That strain is reflected in the level of long-term sickness, early retirement and the small number of good candidates for headships".
The report concluded that anything that could be done to remove or reduce the personal administrative load was a good thing. The increasing paperwork, bureaucracy and form-filling puts heads under pressure.

Last week, the Government produced a Green Paper. I went carefully through it twice and jotted down on the back page the number of initiatives that it claims have taken place in just under three years. The total is 51. The Green Paper concludes:
"The reforms since 1997 have been driven from central government".
I accept that the Minister will respond that the Government are making a commitment to reducing red tape and will point to their efforts to increase the autonomy of schools. The penultimate paragraph of the Green Paper goes on to say that as schools are able to earn greater autonomy,
"the role of government will not become less important, but it will change".
It then lists eight separate "key functions", including:
"To establish the regulatory and accountability framework within which increasingly autonomous schools play their part … to design strategies for reform to enable successful change … to monitor the progress of the system at every level and intervene on behalf of the pupils wherever necessary".
Once again, as we look forward to greater autonomy for schools we can look forward to more regulation, more intervention, more control, more paperwork, more meetings and more distraction from teaching.

My point from all those examples is simply that the increase in bureaucracy faced by schools, which we all acknowledge, is not an unintended consequence of the new change of direction that the present Government have brought to schools policy. It is not an accident. The Government did not plan a light system of control that somehow went badly wrong. The increase in bureaucracy is the inevitable result of a centralised, top-down, interventionist approach to the running of schools. It is inherent in recent education legislation, in the compulsory plans demanded of the LEAs, in past initiatives and even in the future outlined in the Green Paper.

I looked for a recognition of the problem in the Green Paper. All that I could find was:
"At times our reforms have created increased workload and administrative burdens".
Not only is the problem far more serious than the Government will admit; it is endemic to what looks like an almost Napoleonic enterprise to control the running of our schools.

Because of that, the claim that the reforms in the Green Paper will lead to greater autonomy and freedom for schools, cutting red tape and giving heads more discretion, must be judged very carefully. Having presided over such an interventionist and dirigiste approach to schools, the Prime Minister cannot in all honesty then champion freedom, autonomy and independence for school heads. It is intellectually inconsistent and incompatible on the one hand to argue that we need strong intervention in schools to raise standards and on the other hand to say that alongside that it is possible to have greater autonomy, freedom and independence.

That leads me to my second point, which is teacher shortages. The increase in bureaucracy is a clear disincentive to anyone entering the teaching profession. I was a university teacher for 20 years. Teachers across the education spectrum have been taught to think for themselves and express themselves and are attracted to the job by the independence of it. By definition, the art of teaching is something creative. I took a great interest in education under the last government but one, advising the then Prime Minister. I was also chairman of the School Examinations and Assessment Council for two years in the early 1990s. I found that the Department for Education had at its heart an ethos of interventionism. That is why I am sceptical about the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, about small changes remedying the situation.

My time is almost up, but we should not underestimate the importance of salaries when dealing with teacher shortages. This is not a party political point. Globalisation is having a tremendous impact on our economy. Teaching is part of a competitive market for graduates. I know that there are other factors involved, but we cannot attract teachers into schools unless there is a new settlement with the teaching profession. The best way to do that is to provide much greater freedom for individual schools to decide how much to pay.

12.47 p.m.

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend Lady Walmsley for introducing the debate. I must declare an interest as a governor of Christchurch Church of England primary school, which sits at the junction of Brixton Hill and the South Circular in South London. It has single-form entry and a third of its pupils have special educational needs. It has a very committed, dedicated and impressive staff.

Since this Government came to power, there have been many changes at the school. Some of them have been positive. On balance, the numeracy hour and the literacy hour have been positive developments. We have also seen the beginning of additional resources coming through to the school.

However, along with those positive elements there have been two major problems, which are the subjects of the debate today. First, there is a problem with recruiting staff. At one point last year, fewer than 50 per cent of the teachers at our school were permanent staff. Secondly, there is the problem of increasing bureaucracy.

As a general principle, I do not believe that fundamental resource shortages can be resolved by cutting bureaucracy. That is not my main argument. The Liberal Democrats believe that greater financial resources are needed in the public provision of education. We shall argue that point at the next election. However, bureaucracy in education is wasting resources and, just as importantly, depressing morale. As a number of noble Lords have said, low morale is deleterious to existing teachers and reduces the attractiveness of the profession, making existing teachers much less likely to tell their friends that it is a career for them.

I shall give an example of the nonsense of the existing bureaucratic framework by talking about the performance management regime for heads of primary schools. For the benefit of mere mortals, performance management is the annual appraisal of a head. For all heads, the law requires that that procedure is carried out under an amazingly rigid framework and under the guidance of an external adviser who is employed by a single company, Cambridge Education Associates. The appraisal procedure has in that respect been privatised. The first part of the procedure is for a school to give Cambridge Education Associates a huge raft of material that that company already has because it also carries out reports on the school. It has to have the latest Ofsted report and PANDA report. A huge amount of paper has to be produced and sent to the company.

The chosen adviser spends a morning at the school with two governors and the head to discuss the head's performance. The main purpose of that is to set targets for the year ahead. There have to be at least three targets, relating to leadership, pupil progress, and training and development. The procedure lasts for four hours. When I asked, rather innocently, whether I might leave before the end of the procedure if it ran a little late because I had a meeting to go to, I was told that the law required two governors to be present at every point. I felt rather like a naughty schoolboy who had asked whether he could leave the room but was told that he would have to wait until the end of the lesson. By the end of the procedure, we had fortunately succeeded in setting objectives for our headmaster under the various headings. Not surprisingly, the objectives flowed from the previous year's Ofsted report and were priorities for the head and the school in any event. However, we all felt that the procedure—two governors taking half a day's leave and the headmaster wasting a morning—was a complete waste of time.

The Government are keen on introducing private-sector practice where possible. However, it is inconceivable that a successful private firm would bring in an external consultant to tell the non-executive directors how to appraise the chief executive. Yet that is exactly what is required in every school in the land.

The procedure is even more ridiculous because of its link with the setting of performance-related pay. Our headmaster, who has been in post for a long time, is ineligible for performance-related increases because he is at the top of the individual salary range, which can be set outside that for a range of schools of a particular type only if the school is in special measures or has serious weaknesses, which is not the case with. our school. The maximum permitted pay increase that he can be allocated is 2.37 per cent, despite another year's excellent performance.

In frustration at the procedure, the headmaster wrote to the Secretary of State to ask how an increase of 2.37 per cent was expected to improve his motivation and how the recruitment and retention of staff in a difficult area such as Lambeth would be assisted by the fact that governors' flexibility on pay was in many cases completely tightly circumscribed. Incidentally, his letter, which was sent on 10th October, is still awaiting a reply. Again, that is not a very motivating response from the Government.

Why have the Government got into such a mess? I suspect that they have done so with the best of intentions; namely, they wish to raise standards. 'That is obviously a laudable aim with which everyone in education agrees. The Government have had some success in some respects.

In relation to targets, league tables may work for some narrow purposes, but for a school such as ours they can be deeply demotivating. With single-form entry and an increasing number of SEN pupils, which we have, it is completely impossible to improve pupils' outputs, however good the school's teaching and the wretched performance appraisals. For example, a class in our school contains a boy who is autistic but who does not get full-time support. The teacher obviously has to spend a huge amount of time and effort dealing with that boy as well as with all of the other pupils. t is difficult, if not impossible, for the teacher to end up with the same output in terms of exam results as that which would have been achieved with a different class composition. Targets are deeply dispiriting in such cases because one can quickly fall below them through no fault of the teachers.

Ministers and officials have clearly decided that the only way in which to improve performance is to impose such rigid uniformity—I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, referred to it as Napoleonic uniformity. That cannot be the best way to proceed. The effect on good schools such as ours is not to raise performance but to lower the morale of the teaching staff. Moreover, it does not work in relation to less-successful schools and it does not prevent problems. In Lambeth, a school that has run up debts of approximately £250,000 has to be closed and restarted because nobody spotted the debts in time to do anything about the problem, despite the appraisal system. One wonders about that headmaster's appraisals relating to financial management.

The system simply is not working for clear reasons: the reasons why rigid bureaucracies fail everywhere. In weaker schools with weak leadership, the rules simply are not followed because of the quality of the people. Governing bodies are not strong enough. In our school, there is a three-line whip to attend governing body meetings, and, if one does not, one feels that one has let people down. However, in many schools in Lambeth, it is difficult to get more than a quorum of people to attend governing bodies. Imposing rigid rules on governing bodies and individual governors simply does not work because the appropriate system is not in place.

The system is failing because too much time is spent on pulling up the roots to see how successfully a school is operating rather than on concentrating on areas of weakness. What, in a nutshell, should be done? The Government should loosen up. They should let good schools and teachers get on with their jobs without such an intolerable bureaucratic straitjacket. They should reallocate the money saved in a useful direction, such as giving my headmaster a sensible incentive or giving our teachers additional SEN help, which they desperately need.

12.57 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for introducing the debate with such informed and metaphorical vigour.

In preparing for the debate, I was reminded of the essay by E. M. Forster entitled, Two Cheers for Democracy. One cheer was because democracy admits variety, and the second was because it permits criticism. Three cheers were elusive because perfection—the ideal—is difficult. The same might be said of education strategies. One admirable fact about recent speeches made by the Prime Minister and others is that they recognise that we can and must do better. So two cheers are in order. I shall later explain why three cheers are not appropriate. I shall also comment on teacher shortages, inspections and bureaucracy and use examples from a local education authority and two schools.

Like my noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath, I have taught a variety of subjects, including music and movement and A-level modern languages—not at the same time, I hasten to add—in a variety of schools. I, too, believe that all schools matter and, like the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that teaching is a noble profession. I have come across many aspiring and dedicated teachers, and I continue to do so.

The Government deserve credit, which is sometimes not acknowledged, for their determination to raise standards. High standards are what education is about. As noble Lords have already said, that is significant in primary schools. I, too, am a governor of a primary school in a deprived area of London. At a governors' meeting last week, it was encouraging to learn that the school was one of 281 that were singled out by Ofsted for excellence in learning and teaching and for raising children's self-esteem. Academic results have been rising steadily and are now among the highest in the country. Management is strong, extra-curricula activities abound and structures are robust. That enables the school to cope well with inspections and bureaucracy. There is no shortage of teachers or of creativity.

Inspections have been stressful for staff but they are delighted to have their achievements recognised and publicised, as are the parents. And confirming success is an important feature of inspections, as is identifying shortcomings. Parents have every right to know how a school is performing. Some of us who had children going through schools in the mid-1980s would have been delighted to see more rigour in schools and, yes, more inspections and more bureaucracy. That was sadly lacking and many children suffered as a result. Of course it is not all about measurement but measurement does not necessarily cut out inspiration or make teaching a commodity.

At the same governors' meeting, the director of education's report pointed out three areas of concern about teacher turnover and shortage: London weighting, affordable housing and controlled parking zones. It is not necessarily what is going on in the classroom which affects the recruitment and retention of teachers, certainly in London and certainly among teachers in their 30s. That is not a new phenomenon, as a recent series of articles in the Guardian pointed out.

I recently visited the town where I grew up and attended the small grammar school where very few of the intake, mainly working class, went on to higher education. While there, I was given a most encouraging Ofsted report on the new local education authority which stated:
"In April 1998 when the LEA was established, it inherited a formidable legacy of under-performance … at inception 15 schools required special measures … all have improved and consequently been removed from these categories … improvement rates at the end of Key Stage 2 are amongst the highest nationally".
The report praised the LEA for its,
"monitoring, challenging, support and intervention",
and its high quality of data to schools. I do not know how it is possible to improve standards without data, without monitoring, without challenge and without praise when things are going well and intervention when they are not. That inevitably involves inspection and bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is a pejorative term by implication only rather than by actual meaning. The dictionary definition is that it is a system of administration based on organisation and routine. There is nothing wrong with that. I am not sure what Napoleon might have said.

I come on to why I give only two cheers to educational strategies. Some changes in schools and the education system have been necessary in order to raise standards. Every teacher and head teacher I know and speak to would agree with that. Some would say, however, that the rate and pace of that change has been too quick and some heads feel drowned in paperwork, as do some school governors. I too have just been conducting an assessment of a head teacher. It is undeniable that the rate and pace of change has been extremely rapid.

A good friend of mine who is a successful head teacher of a large community school is taking early retirement due to a number of pressures. She is tired of having to make bids for extra funding. She is disappointed by local disparities in funding. She feels worn down by initiatives. She supports change to improve entitlement for all children. She has dealt with inspections and bureaucracy very well but it is the intensity of constant change which is her problem. That discontent must be addressed. Her discontent is only partly, and not necessarily at all, about inspections, teacher shortage and bureaucracy.

I give two cheers then for current education strategies. One cheer is missing because problems still exist. Can the Minister assure me that those problems will be addressed?

1.4 p.m.

My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for initiating this debate. As other noble Lords have said, it is a very important and timely debate.

I speak today as the leader of Essex County Council, one of the largest local authorities in the country. I am also the vice-chairman of the Local Government Association. Therefore, one is living with those problems all the time.

In Essex, we are already in crisis. We have problems on the borders of London, particularly in the area around Epping and Loughton, where the vacancy rates have trebled compared with those in other parts of the county. The crisis is getting worse—and I must describe it as a crisis for my county.

My county is one of the largest local authorities. It has 11,000 teachers. There has been an Ofsted inspection of the local education authority, which received a very good report. Therefore, we are trying to do a good job within our county but there is a real problem in relation to teacher recruitment and retention. Over the past year, the vacancies in our schools have doubled. This morning, I looked at the figures for January. The number of vacancies has increased again. The main problem is that young teachers are not remaining in the profession. We are perhaps able to recruit and keep some of them but after a year or two, they become disillusioned and leave the profession. We must try to analyse and solve that.

We have heard a lot about bureaucracy and problems this morning. I particularly agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said in her opening speech about the "bucket loads" of targets. I agree also with my noble friend Lord Griffiths who talked about the enormous number of plans that we must prepare as local authorities and which the schools must also prepare.

But one area has not been covered at all; that is, the increased amount of bureaucracy involved in schools obtaining their money. There are more and more specific grants, and teachers and head teachers have to fill in a great many forms in order to obtain very small amounts. I was talking to the head teacher of a large comprehensive who said he had filled in 10 forms in order to obtain £70. Obviously, he was trying to obtain every single grant that was available to him. But with the increasing number of specific grants, there is an increasing amount of bureaucracy. That has not been touched on by any noble Lords this morning. So there are three areas which we should be tackling: the large numbers of targets and plans and also the provision of moneys. There should be a simpler system of providing moneys to schools rather than staff having to deal with the current enormous amount of paperwork.

We have all paid tribute to teachers and I should have started with that. I want to do that now. What we must not do in this debate and in other debates over the coming months while we try to tackle this problem is to make the morale of teachers any worse. I t is not good at all.

In Essex we have a select committee which is looking at education. Last week the teaching unions said in evidence:
"There are indications of in excess of 200 teacher-vacancies across Essex at the start of this term … This presents major problems for the schools concerned, hiding a greater picture of temporary arrangements and the use of supply cover in many schools. There are many reports of primary classes having different teachers each day and non-qualified teachers covering specialist classes in secondary schools. The normal pool of supply teachers has dried up as they are called in to cover unfilled vacancies".
Last summer, the unions commissioned two areas for consultation, headed "Coping with Teacher Shortages" and "Talking Heads". Several problems have been identified. Teacher shortages are not showing up in the vacancy figures, primarily because head teachers are adopting a number of strategies to cope with the problems of vacant posts. They include actively seeking out the staff who are available through networking, pre-emptive appointments, stealing a march on colleagues, using student placements to head hunt and appointing without seeing. They are using part-time, temporary and supply appointments; relying on overseas staff; modifying the curriculum to fit staff vacancies raising class and group sizes; reducing non-contact time; increasing the amount teaching staff are asked to teach outside their subject. On occasions, they are using technicians and Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant staff to teach.

It was found that supply teachers covering unfilled vacancies were often teaching lessons without proper qualifications. Primary classes are often split. That has consequences for children's education, which can have an impact on behaviour. We have seen a reliance on overseas teachers. There has been a particular impact, as several noble Lords have said, on special schools which find it difficult to recruit staff anyway.

What can we do to solve the problems? I endorse the comments that several noble Lords have made in relation to pay. I first became involved in a local education authority in the 1970s when both political parties tried to restrain teachers' pay. I was a member of an awful committee, called the Burnham committee, that used to meet for hours to try to sort out teachers' pay. We did not do very well, and at that time teachers were not well paid.

At the end of the 1970s, there was a recognition that something had to be done. I remember teachers taking on two jobs. One could find a teacher also being a part-time barman. Such a situation is arising again, so it is vital that the problem of pay is tackled. I agree with several noble Lords who have said that we need a fundamental look at teachers' pay. Speaking of my own county, how can one expect to retain young teachers when they can earn £1,000 or £2,000 more in an IT firm? We have to tackle the problem of pay.

Another problem that must be tackled is the amount of bureaucracy, as other noble Lords have mentioned. We must go to the root of the matter. We cannot continue to ask people to fill in more and more forms. We have to free up teachers and schools so that they can get on with their jobs. We have to find a simple way of increasing the money flowing into schools and a simple way of setting simple targets for schools, as many noble Lords have said. We must also stop increasing the number of plans that have to be prepared. In the end, schools will be so plan-dominated that they will be impossible to run. As my noble friend Lord Griffiths said, we are becoming much more centrally dominated.

There are several points of action that I hope the Government will take up. Schools are in crisis now. As my noble friend Lady Young has said, this is a time-bomb because within four or five years 50 per cent of teachers will be over 50 and if we do not keep young people in the teaching profession, what will happen? This is a timely and an important debate. Let us hope that we have started a process in which, over the next few months, people will sit down to sort this out. If the vacancies continue to increase at the rate that I have described, in another year there will be a real problem for our children and our schools. I suggest that today we have an opportunity to widen the debate. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for initiating this debate.

1.13 p.m.

My Lords, I begin with an apology because Essex will feature in one or two of my illustrations as that county forms a substantial part of the diocese that I serve. I add to the expressions of gratitude that have been expressed by other noble Lords to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for introducing this debate, which is vitally important. It comes at a time when morale in the teaching profession is low. The noble Baroness said that teaching is in crisis, but as my fellow Prelate said, crisis is also about opportunity.

I want to focus on two matters. First, there is a long-term issue about the recruitment of good candidates, not least younger ones, to the profession. That is influenced by pay and conditions of employment for teachers and by the public perception of them. I thoroughly endorse the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, about the provision of housing for teachers in the London and Home Counties area. There is a particular problem in attracting and retaining teachers today, caused by the shortage of affordable housing, in which young teachers want to live and to establish roots.

Too many young teachers work for a short time in the area of London and the Home Counties and then move out to other parts of the country, where housing is cheaper or, sadly, they move into other occupations where financial rewards are higher. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, has already referred to the acute shortage of teachers within the county of Essex. A four-day week has been threatened due to the lack of available resources, such as insufficient numbers of supply teachers.

So we need imaginative schemes to help teachers to establish themselves and their families in early to mid-career in the part of the country in which they start teaching. Some church diocesan boards of education have been working with schools and local authorities to address that issue, but much more needs to be done by schools and local communities to make teachers who are new to the area feel welcome and part of those local communities.

My second key point relates to teachers in mid-career from which our head teachers and deputies will be drawn. Too many experienced teachers become disillusioned by a combination of the pressures of work in the classroom, the inspection process, the perceived increase in bureaucracy, schools hit by paper or electronic mail from all directions and the increasing failure of parents, pupils and society in general to respect and value their work and all that they seek to offer to the education system. Often teachers are expected to act as social workers and, at times, as substitute parents, as I have seen on a number of occasions.

I am reminded of a discussion that I had a few days ago with a deputy head teacher who described to me the parental pressure and abuse that he and other teachers in his school had to endure. He said that essentially money was not a problem—although he would not for one moment deny that it is part of the overall pattern and concern—but that the constant demands and denigration by some parents of the role of the teacher in the school was so demoralising.

A change of culture is needed. We need to move away from the culture of blame—a phrase already mentioned—to a culture of affirmation and support of those in the teaching profession. We should take a leaf out of the book of our neighbours in France where there is a strong drive to emphasise the importance of civility, manners and treating others with respect.

My grandfather was a head teacher at a secondary school in Bow in East London, the Old Palace School, which was destroyed during the course of the Second World War. The motto of the school was "Manners maketh man". I believe that today within our communities and within our society we need to empathise with that motto. I believe that the importance of civility, respect, good discipline and valuing each person—not just the successful ones but, even more importantly, those who need to be affirmed in other gifts that they may have—should be taken up in our schools.

Not surprisingly, at the moment there is a widespread reluctance on the part of teachers to apply for posts of responsibility. In particular head teachers and deputy head teachers are in short supply. Many schools find it difficult to appoint them and often, where there are applicants, the quality is not as high as it should be. Not surprisingly, those in posts as head teachers can be prey to stress-related illnesses. In our own county and in our fine church schools, of which there are over 140, 10 per cent of the heads are off work with stress-related illnesses.

A great deal of support must go into schools, many of which are oversubscribed because they are popular. I have no doubt that the situation is reflected in other schools, too. Schools' advisers, sometimes having to relate to as many as 30 schools, are often at their wits 'end in trying to help plug the gaps.

In order to establish higher levels of moral, and thus slow down the rate at which experienced teachers are leaving the profession, there needs to be more public support for teachers in the task which they perform on behalf of our society. There needs to be a more developmental and supportive atmosphere in the whole inspection process and a genuine reduction in unnecessary bureaucracy, particularly in monitoring progress. There needs to be a greater commitment to the coherent and rounded continuing professional development of teachers from LEAs, government bodies and central government. Finally, there needs to be a strengthening of partnerships in our communities between schools and every other part of the local community.

The Church will be a willing partner in this work through its Church colleges, its diocesan boards of education and the work of its national schools teams. The Church's contribution is focused not only on the needs of teachers currently working in Church schools, but also on the recruitment and retention of Christian teachers working in all schools. The Church has a particular concern to encourage the vocation, the calling, to teach and has been pleased to work with the Teacher Training Agency in initiatives in this area.

Finally, it is of the utmost importance that the teaching profession is given afresh the honour it deserves and all the necessary support so that our present and future teachers can play their vital role in helping the formation of the lives of our children and young people, and thereby strengthening the fabric of our society, and, as a result, being able to do so with greater confidence, a greater sense of self-worth and effectiveness.

1.23 p.m.

My Lords, other noble Lords have spoken of bureaucracy. In my capacity as a governor of a primary school, I, too, have witnessed stress among teachers. I have also witnessed the puzzlement of the teachers who, having undergone the stressful process of inspection, have been faced with a splendid report. However, because the inspectors had to find five aspects on which to comment, their fifth comment was about dog mess on a pathway well away from the school on the route to a playground. That seems to me to encapsulate some of the nonsense which one comes across.

I want to follow the remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford by dealing in particular with the shortage of teachers in London, especially the part played in that by the shortage of appropriate housing. I base my remarks on a report published yesterday by the Greater London Authority, of which I am a member, entitled Key Issues for Key Workers. It examined affordable housing in London for workers in a range of public sectors.

I was a member of the committee which undertook that work and I was shocked by a good deal of what I heard. We considered not only teachers but also at nurses, bus drivers and police officers. In connection with teachers, we heard that vacancy rates are at their highest for a decade and that in some schools the staff turnover is 30 per cent a year. We heard of a school in a London borough where the headship at a salary of up to £60,000 had attracted only three applications. We heard that nationally the readvertising rate for head teacher posts is 26 per cent. That is staggeringly high, but in London the figure is 40 per cent. We heard that in difficult schools—that is not a scientific term but refers to schools which are regarded as difficult—it is not unusual for posts to be readvertised three, four or five times. We also heard that 40 per cent of all teachers expect to leave London within the next five years and that 48 per cent, almost half, are planning to look for another job within the next 12 months.

Why is that? It is not merely because of what they face as part of their jobs—the bureaucracy, their perceived lack of status and the stream of directions coming from the DfEE—but in many cases because they cannot afford housing in London which meets their aspirations. We heard that young teachers are prepared to put up with a poor level of accommodation because they want to experience the buzz, the excitement, of living in London. They are at an age when they have the energy to enjoy it and are not too much deterred by crumby living conditions. However, from their mid to late 20s, and certainly in their 30s and 40s, they are looking for different things. London is failing to house our professionals, including our teachers.

I regard the matter as important not only because of the overall shortage but also because of issues such as the stability of staff in any given school. The age range of those left in schools is low; there are often many young teachers but not many older ones. Furthermore, we are not easily able to ensure that teachers and their schools are at the centre of their local communities, as many of us would want.

We found that retention was far more of an issue than initial recruitment. I mentioned the word "aspirations" and it arose again and again. As these professionals advance in their careers, they are aware of issues such as quality of life. They want to have children and to bring them up with a good quality of life and they want to own homes. I shall not in this debate discuss what I see as the reinvigoration of the private-rented sector. However, at present such people aspire to home ownership. The director of education of one London borough said that,
"there is one factor above all else that has always been there but has become overwhelmingly important in the last year which is now such a large issue that it overshadows everything else in terms of recruitment and retention of teachers in London. That is the issue of the cost and availability of housing. You could, overnight, pay all teachers in London double the current threshold payments and it would not make a difference to this issue".
I cannot cover all the committee's recommendations and I am aware that there has been much creative thinking among, for instance, the London chief education officers. As regards London weighting, it has not been reviewed as a whole since 1974 and there is inconsistency across the public sectors. The reaction among teachers when, towards the end of last year, the police were awarded an increase of £6,000 was, "What have we done to be in this position?". It may be more cost effective to have a system which accurately reflects the relevant cost of living in London rather than a proliferation of schemes. The committee called for the Government to undertake a review in order to clarify issues which should be addressed by a consistent formula and to try to distinguish issues which are structural from those which relate to the economic cycle.

The detail of weighting causes problems. We heard from the head of a school in what is for administrative reasons an outer London borough. However, the school is close to the centre of London, where inner London weighting is available for jobs only a mile away. Of course, there will always be problems of boundary but these seem to be particularly acute.

We come to the question of whether we are using the available skills. I refer in particular to refugees. I understand that refugee teachers need to obtain an offer of employment before they can undertake the one-year course that is required for retraining, which seems to be quite unrealistic. The unemployment, or under-employment, of refugees is estimated to be between 60 and 75 per cent. It would be to the good of the country as well as the individuals who seek refuge to make use of that available resource.

I turn to the use of land in the public sector. We believe that it is sensible for the public sectors to cooperate more than they are able to do at present to provide the kind of accommodation that we understand is required. For example, Treasury rules as they relate to land held by hospital trusts in the health service require that the highest price be obtained. That land might more effectively be used for housing teachers as well as health service workers and police officers. The Government have emphasised their support for starter homes for key workers, but we believe that they have failed to grasp the scale of the requirement. For most areas of London the scheme that is planned would not even buy a one-bedroom flat. The rules need to be reviewed and relaxed to ensure that reasonably priced family-size housing is available for the key workers we need.

Finally, one turns to shared ownership. We believe that the Government are in a very good position to support and sponsor the development of model schemes which are acceptable to lenders and are quite clear to purchasers so they understand that they can have the benefits of full ownership similar to those that they would have if they bought a whole house, subject to a mortgage, in a cheaper area. Central government could sponsor schemes with a broader range of financial instruments that draw on good practice across funders, employers and overseas experience.

Not all the solutions to the shortage of teachers are matters for the DfEE, but if (to use the jargon) the department joins up with others we can see something very productive.

1.33 p.m.

My Lords, I join in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for stimulating this debate. I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for detailing me to come and join it. One of the recurring themes of this debate is the need for respect. Alf Robens, a former Member of this House, was appointed chairman of the National Coal Board at a time when the industry was in great travail and did not stand high in the esteem of the nation. He called together all the staff at Hobart House, the headquarters, and addressed them. One of those present, who had been so impressed by one of the greatest motivators of people at that time, told me that Lord Robens said to those assembled that when they sat on the beach on holiday and the man next to them asked for whom they worked their response—that they worked for the Coal Board—should be heard with respect. That goes for all of us, including teachers. It is much more significant than "nice", and it has real effect.

I suggest that it has three effects. First, it affects the way that I perform. If when I stand in front of a difficult class of teenagers I do not have the right to their respect, my task is that much more difficult. If I am to perform day in, day out I need respect to be most effective. Secondly, it affects recruitment. Again and again I hear from teachers, and sometimes their children, that they do not in conscience feel able to recommend to their students that they enter the profession. Thirdly, it affects retention, because it is relevant to job satisfaction and to what is happening in the classroom. It is a sad fact that if the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, the Secretary of State, or even the Prime Minister, made a speech in praise of teachers, probably it would not get front-page headlines. If we are to change that, it must be a shared undertaking.

I was delighted that the two right reverend Prelates attended the debate. Having a modest role in advising the Church, I am concerned that it should play its full part in raising the respect for and the esteem of the teaching profession and the realisation that we love teachers for what they do. One of the right reverend Prelates referred to the way in which those in the Church should seek to affirm their relationship with parish churches, whether they be Church of England, Roman Catholic or community churches. Care must be shown not just by the incumbent but the members of the parish. In the discharge of their duties bishops should show their care for teachers by meeting them and inviting them to visit.

We have a part to play in education on Sunday. Reference has been made to a report on which I am currently working. One chapter is concerned with teachers. It is not headed "Teachers" but "Teachers, teachers, teachers", because that is the beginning and end of it. We must affirm our care and respect for them. There are others in this Chamber, in local education and on school governing bodies who can be proactive in showing that respect.

I have been a governor on two occasions. Looking back on it, I asked myself what I did to show my concern, affection and care for the individual members of staff, as opposed to attending governing bodies and looking at the pile of papers for which we had been responsible. I believe that local education authorities, which have great powers and responsibilities, can be more proactive in showing concern and respect for teachers. Perhaps as a governor I might have done more to encourage parents to show that concern and respect. I suggest that that is something in which we can engage proactively to good effect.

In my dozen years spent in education, mainly as an observer, I served two governments, both of which were passionately concerned to lift standards. Both made progress and a valuable contribution. My experience was that both were enthusiastic about securing change by means of a great number of new initiatives, perhaps forgetting that schools are small places and not powerful government departments full of good bureaucrats (if I may say so as a lifelong member of that profession). "That's my trade, guv'nor", but that is not the trade of teachers.

I remember being invited to look at the national curriculum. Teachers were best pleased when I stumbled across something called "attainment targets". Teachers had to record the progress of each pupil against each attainment and sub-attainment target. As a man of influence at that moment I said, "Down with tick lists", and they went. That was perhaps my best service to teachers in my dozen years.

Reminiscing again, never having run a coffee shop, once upon a time I was made chairman and chief executive of the Post Office, which is no small undertaking. I found that there was a great deal of change needed. Chairman Dearing sat in his great office, surrounded by many very able bureaucrats in the Post Office, saying, "We will do this" and "We will do that", and, coming from the chairman, it was done. It took me about three years to realise that while all these changes were valid and desirable, I was being very dysfunctional because the machine down there could not cope with the avalanche of desirable change.

Perhaps one of the most significant decisions I took was to take myself aside and say, "Dearing, this will not do. You must be highly selective. You must be a little clever too. You must make sure that there are other able people in the headquarters who do not fill the vacuum with initiatives of their own". It is the easiest thing in the world facing, as I was, thousands of post offices, or a bureaucrat, to say, "We need to know this", or, "Let us do that", without realising that they are little places out there.

A few years ago I went to a primary school in Northumberland. For reasons I cannot recall, I asked to see the safe. Out came an Oxo tin. It did not even have a lid. They are little places without great systems, and so on.

I admire much that the Government are doing. I support them. I read with enthusiasm much of what was written 10 days ago in the Green Paper on secondary schools. I should like to point out to Ministers that the hours that teachers work have been increasing steadily. As befits a non-political Cross-Bencher, I say that the weekly hours of primary classroom teachers between 1964 and 1966 went up by two hours, and between 1966 and 2000 they went up another two hours. It was not quite so much in our secondary schools, but enough. If we are going for more change, let us concentrate on the changes that really will make a difference. Let us eschew making large numbers of changes that we should like to make in the interests of getting what matters most.

I come back to my first point. I once heard Dr Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, say that frontiers are defended by soldiers. Civilisations are made in schools. If we care for the well-being of our civilisation, we shall care for the well-being of our teachers.

1.43 p.m.

My Lords, I am delighted to add my name to those noble Lords who have congratulated the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on instigating the debate at this opportune moment. It is of vital importance and if the noble Baroness had not tabled the Motion, one of my noble friends would have done so.

It seems inconceivable that a government that came to office putting "education, education, education" at their heart should, after four years, have produced a crisis in the profession. I am sure they had the best of intentions but, whether it was incompetence or arrogance, the Government have created a situation where Downing Street believes that our schools are bog-standard. I hate that phrase, but what an indictment!

I have the highest regard for teachers. I believe that the ability to teach is a talent and a special gift requiring patience, tolerance, serenity and pastoral qualities, in addition to those needed by other professions. I would have made a hopeless teacher, as my husband would agree, but thankfully our children were blessed with being taught by many dedicated and wonderful people. I shall always be grateful for the part those teachers played in their upbringing.

Today the state of affairs is dire. Teachers are leaving the profession in droves, worn down by the daily burden of more and more bureaucracy. One has to look only at recent copies of the Times Educational Supplement to be aware immediately of the vast number of teacher vacancies. I understand that since 1997, 100,000 teachers have left the profession, some going on to take such employment as lorry driving and chauffeuring. It does not take much imagination to understand their state of mind if they have abandoned their chosen career as a result of the pressures that have been placed upon them.

I was interested to read the comments of Doug McAvoy, the leader of the National Union of Teachers. He said:
"While the economy is buoyant, young people are rejecting the stresses and strains of teaching for more financially rewarding employment which offers them greater career development and far better working conditions than is currently the case for teachers".
In addition to the problems that teachers face, pupils are losing out. In many cases classes are lumped together, pupils are sent home early and temporary and supply teachers are trying to plug the gaps. There are schools where a four-day week is more than an idle thought. Many schools have staff numbers haemorrhaging to a dangerous and unacceptable level. It is no good the Government underplaying the crisis with such complacency. Emergency measures need to be taken to address the desperate situation in which many heads find themselves.

The problem has not just arisen. Last year a survey by the head of a secondary school revealed that government targets were short by 4,000 teachers. The Secretary of State, David Blunkett, said that schools came close to breaking point. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, apparently did not accept that view and complacently called the crisis "a little exaggerated".

Behavioural problems abound in schools today. It must be horrendous facing a class when disruptive pupils cause mayhem for everyone. I know it is not helpful to hark back to one's own schooldays, but I find it amazing that many children today have no respect for teachers and are certainly not in awe of them as I was. Discipline in the classroom is essential if high standards are to be achieved. One troublesome child can be like the bad apple infecting others. In the end there is frustration and chaos—the teacher cannot teach and the children cannot learn. Teachers must be able to hold the attention of the class, impart knowledge in an acceptable way, enthuse the children and literally get them onside, as I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, did when he was teaching.

That can be done only if teachers are of high-calibre and well-qualified, and if not experienced eager to be so. But a shortfall of applicants necessarily results in heads having limited or even no choice. It therefore follows that if there are insufficient full-time appointments, supply and temporary staff have to fill in. No doubt pupils take advantage of the circumstances.

Increased violence in the classroom is a worrying problem. It is a disgrace that children assault not only each other but members of staff. Teachers should not be subjected to such treatment. Whenever an assault takes place it should be dealt with quickly and fairly, and if exclusion is the answer then that should happen.

The Government do not appear to understand what is happening on the ground. It is not possible to have targets for exclusions. Each offence should be treated on merit. It is not fair to allow disruptive pupils to harm the education and welfare of everyone else. DfEE guidance should not place bureaucratic hurdles in the way of schools taking the required action. Members of staff should be protected and supported. Everyone should be made aware that such behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

The Government's performance-related pay initiative has been widely criticised, including by the High Court. Mr Justice Jackson stated that the Secretary of State had bypassed Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the teachers' review body. It has been seen as a sham and is, in reality, a £2,000 pay award. It would have been more honest and much less costly to make it so than to institute this monstrous and bureaucratic system of assessment incurring millions of pounds in expenditure. I understand that 90 per cent of applicants will qualify for it so, of course, the majority have applied—who would not? As Doug McAvoy said on the "Today" programme,
"they have been put in an impossible situation".
But we as Conservatives believe that it should be left to head teachers to decide their own pay packages and performance rewards.

We all remember so well the phrase, "Crisis, what crisis?" It was the beginning of the end of the last Labour government. How ironic it would be if the Government's flagship policy—education, education, education—was the very issue that discredited this Government.

1.50 p.m.

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lady Walmsley for so very ably introducing the debate.

Many statistics have been thrown at us. We know that the crisis is greatest in our secondary schools. Secondary schools face the largest class sizes for 25 years. Despite "golden hellos" and other blandishments, applications for teacher training are 14 per cent down on 1997. I should like to put those statistics into context.

There are 24,000 schools in this country. We have 450,000 full-time teachers and 50,000 part-time teachers. In the period 2000–2012, approximately 8,000 teachers will retire. Last year, 30,000 teachers left the profession. Many of them were not taking early retirement. They just packed their bags and left the profession. We know that 50 per cent of our 450,000 teachers are over the age of 45. We know also that, in about 10 years' time, when the cohort between the ages of 45 and 50 reaches retirement, there will be a real problem in terms of filling the vacancies.

At the moment, recruitment is not hitting targets. The noble Lord, Lord Naseby, referred to the difficulty in particular subject areas. Science and maths are frequently mentioned. However, as we now know, the problem arises not only in science and maths but also in history, geography and English. Maths has been in crisis since 1983. Ever since 1983, targets for recruitment in maths have failed to be met. At key stage 3 in most secondary schools—the vital 11 to 14 age group—there is a one in four chance of a child being taught maths by a specialist maths teacher.

The noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, said that one needs to teach children; one does not need to teach a subject. He is absolutely correct. We have some brilliant maths teachers who trained in other subjects. My own daughter, who went on to read engineering at university, took A-level maths and was awarded an A in it. She was taught, and very well taught, up to A-level by a PE teacher. But perhaps that is an exception.

A survey last year by the Department for Education and Employment revealed that in the past two years 60 per cent of all our teachers had taken time off and 44 per cent were away for more than 20 days. Among the teaching profession, 2.5 million days were lost through stress-related illnesses. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, how difficult it is to get supply teachers. I know of two schools in Guildford—one a secondary school and the other a primary school—which on occasion operate for only four days a week because when there is illness there are no supply teachers to fill the vacancies.

It is a question not just of recruitment but of retention. Someone entering the teaching profession at the age of 21 could teach, potentially, for 40 years. The average length of time teachers spend in the profession is 15 years. We face a crisis of recruitment and a crisis of retention in this country.

What are we going to do about it? As the right reverend Prelate suggested, a crisis is an opportunity; and it is one that should be seized. One important issue is red tape. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, that I found hypocritical what I heard from the Conservative Benches. It was the Conservatives who introduced the national curriculum, with all the detailed "tick" targets that came with it; it was they who introduced testing for many children and league tables for schools which had to be published; it was they who set up Ofsted, with all the detailed requirements for Ofsted inspections. But the Conservatives then stand up and criticise the Government for what they have done.

I shall not refrain from criticising the Government because they have carried forward those policies even further. That is the terrible thing about it. With all the regulations, directives and targets, we have gone almost from the frying pan into the fire. We were at it this morning until 3.45. We were looking at more plans to be produced by schools; more plans to be produced by local education authorities; more targets and more ticks. We on the Liberal Democrat Benches want to see a bonfire of these targets.

My noble friend, Lord Newby, referred to what a one-form-entry primary school has to do in terms of all the paperwork. He asked why it was all introduced. The answer is, "standards". We acknowledge that the literacy hour and the numeracy hour were relevant, are good and have achieved things. We would abolish a great many of these targets. We would leave in place one target alone. By value-added standards, every child must show progress every year. That means that the children must be monitored. It means that one has to monitor and evaluate what is going on. It means that there must be external evaluation. We do not: want to get rid of Ofsted. We do not want to get rid of local education authorities. But we do want to return trust to the head teacher to run the school.

When, back in the 1960s, I first became involved in education there were notices at the doors of schools saying, "Parents not beyond this point". There was something called the "secret garden" of the curriculum. It was left to head teachers to run their own schools. We recognise that there were problems with that. Nevertheless, let us go back to trusting the teachers. Teachers must be valued. It does not help if the Prime Minister's press secretary, echoing presumably what the Prime Minister thinks, refers to our secondary schools as being "bog standard".

I am entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath. We want to honour the comprehensives for what they have achieved. In the days when only 10 per cent were selected and we had grammar schools, which is the answer coming from the Tory Benches, 90 per cent were rejected. Many of the problems we face today arise from that rejection. There was a famous article called "Pygmalion in the Classroom". Two groups were set up. They told the teachers which group was regarded as being the brighter and which was regarded as being the dimmer. However, they swapped them over, so that the teacher taking the dimmer group thought she had the brighter group, and vice versa. Can your Lordships guess which of those two groups did better after a year? It was the "dimmer" group that did better and the "brighter" group that did worse. Children's self-image is so important. At the age of 11, we should not discriminate between those who are bright and those who are regarded as being dull.

Class size matters. Discipline matters. Paperwork takes away from the time the teacher can give. I think back to the days when I spent more time on education. Michael Rutter showed in the early 1970s that teachers who had time to spend with the kids achieved better results. One of the problems with all the paperwork is that our teachers do not have enough time to spend with the children, talking to them about the problems that they face. It is vitally important to give back to teachers that time, as well as returning to them the respect and trust that they used to enjoy.

In that respect, pay matters and it is vital that we look again at rates of pay. However, performance-related pay moves away from the collegiate atmosphere of the classroom and is not the answer. It sets teacher against teacher and head teacher against teacher. We should think very seriously whether that is the answer.

From time to time, the Minister has said that the Liberal Democrat Benches never come up with any new ideas. I shall now put to her two ideas of how to tackle the problems of recruitment. First, we promote the concept of a training salary. If one leaves university to train for the law, one goes into chambers and receives a training salary. The same is true for accountancy. While we would not suggest a salary of £20,000 a year, a training salary of £15,000 a year to attract teachers into the profession would be useful, such is the nature of the crisis. In addition, a training salary has two other advantages: for those who are switching careers, a training salary offers the great advantage that it will help to pay the mortgage and, above all, it maintains both national insurance and pension contributions. Those factors would be attractive to those considering a career change. We need to attract and bring in many more mature people into teaching, some who may have spent their first career in accountancy or another profession.

Secondly, let me pick up the idea put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath; namely, "grow your own". He is quite right to say that at the time of the post-war emergency, many people came into the profession, to its great advantage. Today many enter as nursery assistants and so forth whom we could train to become teachers.

Teachers are a vital part of our society. It is they, above all, who inculcate into the new generation the mores and culture of our society. As this debate has shown, I am not alone in admiring those who today carry the profession forward and in worrying that somehow we have lost the thread and got it wrong. In our public services—not only in teaching—I do not think that we can ever hope to match the levels of pay offered in the private sector. Instead, we need to rely on altruism and on a sense of service. People join the teaching profession because they like the kids and they want to do something worth while. But if that is the case, we must return to the relationship of trust which has been lost in the profession. I believe that this is the most important message that has come through in this debate.

2.2 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for initiating this debate. The noble Baroness made a powerful case for teachers in education and her speech was underpinned by impressive research. We congratulate her on that. I shall try not to overburden the House with too many statistics, although some statistical reference in a debate on staff shortages and unnecessary bureaucracy will be inevitable.

In response to a point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth concerning the nature of education, in addition to academic and cultural achievement, education must also concern itself with raising awareness of the spiritual and moral dimensions in learning. Furthermore, it must concern the deepening of intellect. Without a moral and spiritual dimension, education can be no more than an and arid clinical experience.

My Lords, I was agreeing with what the right reverend Prelate had to say. I certainly was not taking issue with him.

My Lords, are not we all? As I have said, I wished only to reinforce the points made by the right reverend Prelate.

This debate gives me an opportunity to redress the balance of my response last week to the noble Baroness when she repeated a Statement in this House. Apart from being in a state of shock as a result of what the Secretary of State announced in the Statement, in particular when I compare those proposals with the stand taken by the Labour Party in opposition, when many of the proposals contained in that Statement were opposed tooth and nail, when a Statement is made in this House, time is always the enemy, as indeed it is today. It does not allow for a full response. Perhaps I may take this opportunity to be a little more positive in order to counter the charge made by the noble Baroness that I was all too negative.

We welcome the Government's announcement of more selection. We welcome the Government's announcement of more specialisation, although some doubts have been expressed about the management of that programme. We welcome the emphasis on establishing more Church schools. We welcome the involvement of the private sector in education, especially in seeking solutions for the more intractable problems faced by schools in our inner cities. We welcome the opportunity to select talented and able pupils so that they can benefit from the new specialist academies. We welcome the provision of more instrumental music tuition for children, a point to which I shall return later in my remarks.

We welcome, too, the contribution made by my noble friend Lord Harris of Peckham who, in addition to his support for education through city technology colleges and university colleges, is now working to create exciting new educational opportunities in his birthplace, Peckham, following the tragedy of young Damilola Taylor. Furthermore, a number of friends are co-operating with the Government on similar projects.

Nevertheless, my welcome is tempered by a sense of caution, for this is a Government who speak with a forked tongue. For example, we know that No. 10 Downing Street supports opportunities for selection, while the Secretary of State does not. Then there is the use of rhetoric to support diversity and choice compared to the vendetta against our grammar schools and the abolition of grant-maintained status in schools; and the use of rhetoric to support devolution to schools, when in practice education has become more centralised and interventionist, a point well made by my noble friend Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach.

The degree of second-guessing of head teachers, teachers and governors is almost reaching crisis point. It is certainly impacting on the morale of those working in our schools. Teachers should be free and their professionalism should be allowed to flourish.

We know the Government's line on teacher shortages because we have heard it many times in this Chamber. It is the same as the line on anything: spin, deny the unpalatable truth and then scorn the critic. On 7th January, the Prime Minister said that,
"This is not the great problem".
The Secretary of State declared in Hansard that:
"This is not a crisis".—[Official Report, Commons, 111/01; col. 1220.]
Like my noble friend Lady Seccombe, do I hear echoes of the words, "Crisis, what crisis?"?

However, a different story is told by those who know what is happening in the real world outside the lobby briefing room. For example, in January, Mr David Hart, the General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers said that teacher recruitment was "approaching meltdown". Mr Dunford, the General Secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said in December that:
"The teacher supply crisis is having a substantial effect on the education of thousands of pupils in secondary schools. Shortages exist across the country".
We should listen to the view of the National Union of Teachers, which has stated that:
"England and Wales are facing the prospect of the worst shortage in teacher supply for many years".
Hear, too, the view of the Director of Education in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, who commented that:
"The threat of sending home pupils because staff are not available to teach them is imminent. We are facing a crisis".
The Secretary of State may not believe that there is a crisis, but the people in the front line, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has already pointed out, quite rightly know that there is.

We have seen far too much evidence of children being sent home early, schools becoming completely reliant on supply teachers from abroad and many schools on four-day weeks. We have seen a proliferation of unqualified and non-specialist staff. That is the reality on the ground. When she comes to reply, the Minister will deny that the Government are complacent and then go on to take issue with those of us who believe that there is a crisis. For example, last autumn the department was saying that only 1,000 vacancies existed across the country. However, a survey conducted by the Secondary Heads Association showed that there were 4,000 vacancies, a figure four times that produced by the department.

Whatever the Minister tells us about applications for training, it is not only a shortage of trained teachers that we face but a shortage of trainees. On initial teacher training I need only cite the words of the new Chief Inspector of Schools, Mike Tomlinson, in his first annual report which was published this month. On page 74 of the report he states that:
"The total of secondary trainees recruited in all subjects in both 1998 and 1999 remains substantially below target. Teacher Training Agency data for 1999 shows shortfalls of 41% in technology, 33% in modern foreign languages and 23% in mathematics … Headteachers in many secondary schools inspected reported growing difficulty in recruiting either experienced or newly qualified teachers to posts in the above subjects, but also in music, religious education and, in some London schools, even English".
Before the Minister blames the previous government, let me remind the noble Baroness that in 1992–93, 15,500 undergraduates were recruited into initial teacher training when the population of children was much lower than it is today. In 1999–2000, the figure was only 9,340. The number of teachers recruited in 1999–2000 was 11 per cent lower than the target set by the Government.

No doubt the Government will say that they are taking action. We welcome some of the steps that have been taken, belated though they are, but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said in another context, too much of the action that has been taken is putting sticky tape over the wound.

The problem is not only about recruitment but about retaining teachers. Why are teachers leaving in droves?—largely because of the workload caused by red tape and bureaucracy and interference in the classroom. I stand culpable of the criticism from the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, but, in my term of office in the DfEE up until 1994, working alongside the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, we did a great deal to tackle that first introduction. When it was introduced it was out of our hands, but when we were in control we did a great deal to reduce it. We supported very much the abolition of box ticking. I wish that the 10-level scale had gone with it, but I was defeated by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing.

I can do no more than cite the words of one desperate headmaster in Chelmsford. He said:
"We don't seem to be able to do anything in schools these days without filling out forms … We are now living in a bureaucratic nightmare".
Whatever is being said about reducing bureaucracy, this is the reality on the ground in our schools.

Teachers need to be left free to teach. Indeed, only a matter of hours ago, we piled yet more regulations and red tape on the education establishment through the Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill that we discussed yesterday.

However, against the background of this debate, many of the government initiatives will be doomed if the crisis in teaching is not addressed. Whenever the Minister and the Secretary of State respond to questions and debates on the issue there is an air of complacency. Looking through Hansard, one reads expressions such as "We must get this in perspective"; "There are more teachers in our schools than ever before"; "The percentage of vacancies in our schools is only nought point something per cent". In our schools and classrooms things are very different indeed. The word "crisis" is common parlance among teachers and governors.

It is not enough to look simply at the number of vacancies; one must also take into account the number of temporary teachers in posts that are deemed to be filled; the low number of applicants for vacancies, which is having a real impact on the choice and quality of appointments; the number of teachers in post teaching subjects for which they are not trained; the disproportionate number of vacancies in key subjects, on which the increasingly high technical and competitive world depends—maths, science, technology, Ianguages and so on.

I said that I would return to music. The announcement by the Secretary of State to give all children more instrumental tuition will be achieved only by a great deal more money and more staff. Where are they to come from? So many schools which value the importance of music in the curriculum go to great lengths to employ musical expertise among the staff. However, because of the curriculum subjects that have to be covered, music so often is an additional talent of, for instance, an English, maths or history teacher. Of course lateral thinking can produce solutions, but there are about 25,000 schools, all of which will expect access to musical instrument teaching.

As has been said by many noble Lords, the morale of teachers is also an issue. For the Prime Minister's office to use the phrase "bog standard comprehensives" was not only extremely inelegant but it did nothing to raise the morale of staff, parents and children in our schools across the country. Although one suspects that there is much embarrassment about such language coming from the Prime Minister's office, as my noble friend Lady Young said, there has, as yet, been no retraction of that phrase.

Schools should be freed from bureaucracy; freed from central control; freed from their core funding, which is constantly being hived off to fund yet another initiative; freed from the second-guessing of government and government-sponsored quangos.

I thank most warmly the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for bringing forward the debate and for the excellent way in which she introduced it. She has provided the House with an opportunity, which noble Lords on all sides have used well.

2.14 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for giving the House the opportunity to discuss this important topic. I am grateful also for the contributions of all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that teaching is at the centre of everything that we do in education. I agree also with the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, that we have to pay tribute to our teachers for the excellent work that they do right across the country in our primary and secondary schools. But, like the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, I fear that when we pay tribute to teachers, when we praise them, when we say how much we appreciate their hard work and the efforts that they are making to raise standards in schools, it does not get much coverage.

It has been a stimulating debate, although some of the claims that have been made are not supported by the evidence. I am sure that all noble Lords who have contributed would expect me to respond on behalf of the Government by providing accurate facts rather than ones gleaned from the newspapers, which, as we know, do not always report accurately.

The January 2000 official census and surveys carried out by my department at the beginning of the autumn 2000 and spring 2001 terms show that the number of vacant teaching posts remains below 1 per cent. Saying that is not in any way to suggest complacency. I have confirmed that fact to noble Lords because it is important to keep the difficulties that we face—there are undoubtedly difficulties—in context.

The Government do not deny that some schools find it difficult to recruit teachers in the numbers and of the quality that they would like. Quality is as equally important as numbers. It will be high quality teachers who will do the jobs that need to be done to raise standards in our schools. That is especially true of schools in challenging circumstances and higher-cost areas; and, as noble Lords have reminded us, in certain subjects too. I have acknowledged this in your Lordships' House before and I do so again, but it is important to maintain perspective.

It is also important for governments to try to act as early as possible to address emerging problems. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, for acknowledging that there are some parts of the Green Paper she is able to welcome. She also welcomed some of the steps we are taking to deal with the problems of teacher recruitment and retention. We have taken decisive steps to prevent recruitment problems turning into a recruitment crisis.

Perhaps I may remind noble Lords of some of the steps we have taken in the past year alone to recruit more people into teaching. Last September, we extended our successful "golden hello" scheme. Previously, maths and science graduates received £2,500 during training and £2,500 on taking up a teaching post. These incentives resulted in a 9 per cent increase in the numbers recruited into initial teaching training in these subjects in 1999–2000. This year most graduates—whatever their subject—will be eligible for a salary of £6,000 while they are training.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for explaining her ideas, which included the payment of training salaries. The Government have introduced training salaries, albeit not at as high a level as the one proposed by the noble Baroness. We consider that to be rather unrealistic for someone who is not qualified. Those training and completing their induction years as maths, science, technology or modern language teachers can receive an extra £4,000.

These initiatives and the new funding we have made available to support school-based training have reversed eight successive years of falling recruitment to teacher training. There are now nearly 2,300 more people in initial teacher training than at this time last year. Of these, more than 1,000 students are doing school-based training and working as teachers while they qualify. More than one-third of these are in shortage subjects.

In August, my right honourable friend announced a dedicated package of measures to promote teacher recruitment in London. This included money to double the number of school-based training places in the capital and to support 350 returners to teaching through refresher courses. Earlier this month, my right honourable friend made more funding available to extend this scheme to an additional 500 returners in other parts of the country.

On 12th February, the Government published a Green Paper setting out proposals for the longer-term development of school education. We are now proposing a scheme to help new teachers in shortage subjects who enter and continue in employment in the maintained sector to pay off their student loan debts. We are also looking at options for providing extra support for undergraduate training and at proposals to open up new routes into teaching. The Green Paper seeks consultation views on some of these new options, including: providing a training salary; waiving fees for trainees on fourth-year BEd courses leading to qualified teacher status: paying a salary for fourth-year trainees working in schools; and allowing the award of QTS to exceptional fourth-year students, who can then be paid as teachers before the end of their first degree. So a number of proposals are being taken forward.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, questioned ITT recruitment targets and said that they had consistently been missed. We know the challenge. That is why we are taking action. This has resulted in recruitment against the target improving. The shortfall was 14 per cent in 1988–99; 9 per cent in 1999–2000; and 7 per cent so far in 2001. As to next year, applications are not down, as the noble Baroness suggested—quite the reverse. Data published earlier this month indicated that graduate applications are up by 12 per cent compared with the same time last year. Within that, science applications are up by 20 per cent and technology applications by 53 per cent. In quoting those figures, I do not want to be accused of complacency. What I am doing is setting down for the record exactly what the position is so far as new recruitment is concerned.

I turn now to our proposals for tackling shortages. Some of the measures I have already described—for example, the expanded graduate teacher program me—offer immediate help to schools as well as encouraging entry to the profession in the longer term. The Government are helping in other ways, too. In November, a special unit was set up within the DfEE to offer help and advice to schools and LEAs with recruitment problems. In the few cases where it has been called on, it has been extremely effective.

Last month, my right honourable friend the Minister for School Standards announced proposals that will make it easier from summer 2001 for overseas-trained teachers to work in schools. For those who want to develop longer-term careers here, a new programme will be set up to allow up to 450 experienced overseas teachers a year to gain qualified teacher status. She also announced funding to raise from 66 to 85 the number of recruitment strategy managers working within LEAs to develop planned solutions to local teacher supply needs, rather than having to react when a crisis occurs.

I turn now to pay. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth and others that pay is not the only thing that matters to people who enter the teaching profession; however, I agree also with the noble Lords, Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach and Lord Hanningfield, that pay is important. I thought the most amazing contribution to this entire debate came from the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe. I never thought that I should live to hear a Tory spokesman deriding the whole idea of performance-related pay and of rewarding teachers who are doing a good job, and citing the National Union of Teachers in support of her argument. It really was an incredible experience.

All this is on top of our programme of reforms to improve and modernise the teaching profession. I shall not dwell on the proposals for teachers' pay announced by my right honourable friend on 2nd February. They are subject to consultation. However, I would note that, besides increasing pay for all teachers by more than inflation for the third year running, without staging, the proposals take particular account of how financial incentives can help schools to recruit and retain teachers; for example, the three London weighting allowances have all been increased by almost 30 per cent. We have heard contributions from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and others about the particular problems in London. That reference to 30 per cent is not a typing error in my speech. London weighting has increased by almost 30 per cent—more than 10 times the rate of inflation. Moreover, schools will be freed from all restrictions on their ability to offer recruitment and retention allowances. That includes the new fifth allowance, the value of which is over £5,000. Schools can pay the allowances as a single payment of up to £15,255 to teachers who stay in challenging jobs for a specified period.

The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, asked for a fundamental review of teachers' pay. That is exactly what we have been doing. We have undertaken a review over the past two years and we have come up with some very substantial improvements. Perhaps I may reiterate: teachers' pay has been increased by more than inflation for the second year running. We plan a further increase for next year. Pay over point 9 is now 20 per cent higher than in 1997, and will be 25 per cent higher from next year. Starting pay for most new teachers is now 11 per cent higher than in 1997, and will rise by a further 9 per cent next year. I do not want to bore the House will too many statistics, but it is important that we set on record what we are doing in this respect. We are also giving substantial pay increases to head teachers, who have also been mentioned in the debate. Nor is it true, as was claimed from the Liberal Democrat Benches, that there has been a reduction in teachers applying for headships. As a result of the changes that the Government have brought in, there has been a substantial increase in the past 12 months in people coming forward wanting to be head teachers.

Many speakers referred to the issue of bureaucracy. I want to reassure my noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen who asked for some reassurances that we would reduce burdens on teachers. The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, made a great deal of this. However, I remind the noble Lord that he was once an adviser on education to a previous Prime Minister. I think the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, was very even-handed in what he said about the importance of governments of all political complexions avoiding putting too great a burden on teachers. It was the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, who had to sort out the mess that derived from an over-prescriptive national curriculum under which schoolteachers were burdened with thousands of documents.

I think we all agree on the need to strip out bureaucracy from our schools. We must allow teachers to concentrate on teaching and preparing lessons, and allow heads to concentrate on providing the leadership and strategic vision that we want to see in schools. We are determined to remove unnecessary paperwork and burdens from the classrooms. That is why we have pledged that we shall this school year cut by a third the number of documents and by a half the number of pages that we send automatically to schools. Last term, primary schools were sent 490,000 pages of material, which is a reduction of 1,170 pages compared with the same term last year. Moreover, secondary schools also received a substantial reduction in the number of pages sent to them.

This is why next year's standards fund, which goes live in under six weeks, has been radically simplified. We have put an end to all the bidding and claiming involved with that fund. All the grants are now allocated by formula, and returns have been kept to a single sheet of paper to be updated just three times in the cycle. We are also allowing schools to transfer money between most of the grants to target the areas of greatest need, and allowing them to carry over funds to the end of the school year. Monitoring is carried out against existing targets and audit. It will be by sample. The only doubts that I have heard expressed by schools are that it cannot be as simple as it sounds. However, I offer my personal guarantee that it is as simple as it sounds.

To make life easier for classroom teachers, we have put model schemes of work on our website. These are entirely voluntary, but allow teachers either to use them immediately or to customise them to meet their specific circumstances. We are now planning to launch a series of web-based specimen plans further to simplify the process of lesson preparation; for example, we have joined forces with the Cabinet Office on a project to cut out unnecessary paperwork. Bureaucracy did not come out of nowhere. The major workload factors—the national curriculum and Ofsted—are a legacy of the previous administration. We are working, and have already worked, to reduce the burden that they left on our schools.

The issue of inspection is also part of this debate, although it is one that has attracted rather less coverage from noble Lords than some of the other subjects. I was grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for admitting that the Government have listened in this area and for acknowledging that they are taking action to reduce some of the impact that burdensome inspections can have on our schools. Ofsted has strengthened its advice to schools against over-preparation for an inspection. Its guidance to inspectors now makes it very clear that demands on schools—for example, for pre-inspection paperwork—must be kept to a minimum. Again, I hope that that move will be welcomed.

I turn now to teachers leaving the profession. The measures that the Government are taking to help to recruit more teachers, and to encourage serving teachers to stay, are substantial. Noble Lords will be aware of reports in the media, and of the claims that have been made by some participants in this debate—for example, by the noble Baronesses, Lady Blatch and Lady Seccombe, among others—that teachers are leaving the profession in droves, and that more teachers are leaving than are joining. Again, the facts are somewhat different.

The official census in January of last year showed that there were almost 405,000 teachers in England and Wales—that is 7,400 more than in January of 1999. So how can it be that more teachers are leaving than joining the profession? I should remind the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that it is quite untrue to suggest that those extra teachers are all to do with reducing class size in our infant schools. More than half of them are working in secondary schools. Indeed, the latest data available suggest that the rate at which teachers leave the profession has remained relatively stable over recent years. However, that is not to say that we do not want to reduce it; of course we must do so. I believe that we shall bring forward more sensible policies if we do not overstate the problems and come out with over-the-top "facts" that do not stand up to the evidence.

Of course the Government want good teachers to develop long-term careers in the profession. To encourage them to do so, we are listening to teachers' concerns, and acting upon them. I should also like to correct a remark made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, regarding what my right honourable friend David Blunkett said. He did not say that schools are heading for breaking point; he said that teacher training had been approaching melt-down, but that that had been averted by government action to introduce training salaries. I do not disagree with that; indeed, I have been at pains to recognise the problem, to put it into perspective; and to support the action taken by my right honourable friend.

Perhaps I may conclude by saying that teacher shortages are not an invention of this Government. In January 1991, 5,500 teaching posts were vacant in England and Wales—almost twice as many as in January of last year. There were appalling shortages in primary schools in the early 1970s, but my noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath talked about shortages in the profession many years before that time, at the beginning of his teaching career.

Only a handful of schools have resorted to reduced hours this year because of recruitment difficulties. However, in all those cases, the schools were back to a full timetable within days. Although I am by no means complacent, I am confident that the major reforms that we have put in place, together with the plans described in my right honourable friend's proposals for teachers' pay and in our Green Paper on schools, will help further to ease the pressure on teacher supply over the coming months and years.

2.37 p.m.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her outline of what the Government intend to do about the teacher crisis. However, I have echoing in my ears the clang of a stable door. I should like also to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this most interesting debate today. I thank especially the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth who has given me a new phrase for my vocabulary. I am sure that I shall use the words "curriculum fidgeting" at some future date.

I hope that the whole House will join me in thanking every teacher in the country for what he or she does for our children. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.