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Hansard 14 Jan: Column 424 ...
Hansard 14 Jan: Column 424

MPs clashed yesterday over the number of teacher vacancies with education secretary David Blunkett declaring: 'I do not want there to be talk of crisis in the education service when, across the United Kingdom, there are only 2,600 teaching vacancies - which is 0.8% - 240 of which are for head teachers.

'It is important to remember that, although I accept that the position has worsened in recent years. That is why the minister for school stadards [Estelle Morris] has announced a package of measures with the Teacher training Agency, including£5,000 bonuses for maths and science graduates to come into the profession. We are also proposing radical changes for the teaching profession in our green paper - an issue that the Conservatives neglected for the two decades they were in office'.

But Conservative education spokesman Theresa May, MP for Maidenhead, said it was a pity the education secretary had not managed to emulated his colleague, health secretary Frank Dobson, and recognise the crisis in the service for which he was responsible and was unwilling to recognise the growing crisis in classrooms caused by a lack of teachers and problems of recruitment.

She added: 'Whatever government figures the secretary of state gives, a recent survey by the National Union of Teachers shows the real figure for teacher vacancies...Its survey shows that there are 10,000 vacancies - four times the number that the government accept. Despite there being so many vacant posts, over Christmas the secretary of state cut targets for teacher recruitment by 13%'.

Mrs May asked: 'Does he believe that he can solve the problem of lack of teachers in our classrooms by recruiting fewer of them, or is he just desperate to fiddle the figures to avoid failing to achieve yet another target?'

Mr Blunkett, who said government wanted to support and help teachers do their job, replied: 'We are ensuring that there is a plan for the future. We shall overcome recruitment problems, we shall raise standards and, above all, we shall make the teaching profession one that all people want to join'.

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