BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Audio/Video: Programmes: Breakfast with Frost
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 
Programmes 

banner

Education Secretary David Blunkett MP
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

DAVID FROST:

Well Labour is promising to radically overhaul the secondary school system if it wins a second term and more specialist schools are on the way, teachers say they're already buckling under the strain, can the Education Secretary deliver results if there aren't enough teachers to man the classrooms, will the new scheme we heard about for the government to pay off graduate teacher loans attract enough new recruits. Well the man himself, the man himself David Blunkett joins us now from Sheffield, good morning David.

DAVID BLUNKETT:

I always love you David, good morning to you.

DAVID FROST:

Good morning to you, Blunkett to write off debts of graduates, graduate teachers, graduates who pledge themselves to be teachers, how will that work?

DAVID BLUNKETT:

Well we have two big challenges, firstly to attract young people, particularly into the specialist shortage subjects, maths, English, science, languages generally and secondly to retain them in the classroom once we've actually trained them. So in putting in place the golden hellos as they're called, the extra cash that we give for those shortage subjects we want to progressively write off the student loan over a ten-year period, so a tenth at a time for those who stay in teaching. Obviously the moment they leave teaching then they start picking up the residual amount that's left over.

DAVID FROST:

And there are 12,000 extra teachers needed in these subjects?

DAVID BLUNKETT:

Yes we've got, applications are up by 12 per cent this coming year which is very encouraging but in maths it's only one per cent and in English it's only two per cent, so we have a challenge, firstly to get them in and then secondly to keep them and we want to package this proposal with measures that will actually attract people generally to want to have a try at teaching, so we're putting together a programme which will experiment with offering under-graduates whatever course they're on, the opportunity of trying teaching with perhaps a module in a school, we're linking that with those who are taking under-graduate Bachelor of Education courses to offer them the chance of accelerating their programmes so in their fourth year, because these are four-year courses, they would have the opportunity of working in the classroom, either being paid as a trainee, or alternatively actually finishing the fourth year as an induction year so they'll actually become a teacher in the fourth year. Now all these things are ones that we need to try out with the profession, we need to see what people think about them but it will offer the opportunity of a vastly a greater number of youngsters to see whether they like teaching and then to be encouraged and supported in doing the teacher training.

DAVID FROST:

Well those are two dramatic initiatives, particularly the former one I guess, can you also do anything about the subject that lots of teachers in the London area and in other conurbations quote which is the real crippling problem with housing costs?

DAVID BLUNKETT:

Well of course the amount that is added in for those in London and outer London has gone up by 30 per cent from the Review Body Report just two weeks ago, that will mean that a starter salary in inner London will be 20,000 a year and for those who have done seven years in the classroom and want to stay in the classroom, as opposed to becoming managers, they'll be able to earn up to 34,000 because the promotion programme that we put in place, the promotion, the performance related promotion, will actually enable them to go on to a whole new pay scale, so they'll get an extra 2,000 immediately, but 4,000 over a period of time as they move up the scale. So we're doing a lot about recruitment and about retention but we're doing it for a purpose which is, firstly to meet that challenge that you outlined of more teachers needed, because we only need more teachers because we're investing the product of economic success, I mean if we, if we were doing what our predecessors had done we wouldn't have a teacher shortage, that's one of the paradoxes David, because we wouldn't be lowering class sizes, we wouldn't actually be investing in more teachers. But secondly to actually ensure that we improve the quality of what's on offer, quality teacher training which we've done with primary and quality standards in the classroom are the two key elements.

DAVID FROST:

How much will these, particularly these new initiatives, how much will they cost in a full year?

DAVID BLUNKETT:

Well the initiative that I've described in terms of the retention package, the writing off over ten years, would initially cost us something like 25 million, the great advantage that I have is that the budget that's been agreed with the Chancellor and the Prime Minister allows us great flexibility over the next three years in being able to put these resources in that otherwise wouldn't exist and to put them in from central government and as well as investing heavily in the school system so that we've got the specific grants now to head teachers on top of the normal budget that a school will receive but we've also got sufficient money in the pot to be able to take these new initiatives, that's why of course we were able to revamp primary teacher training, in-service training and implement the literacy and numeracy programmes which have worked so well, I just want to pay tribute to teachers and staff across the country who have done such a first-rate job in showing in showing that it really can be done.

DAVID FROST:

Let's move on to secondary schools now, Tony Blair outlined the new plans which basically were turning from primary schools to focus next on secondary schools and making half of Britain's secondary schools specialist schools by the end of your second term, assuming you have one, that's correct is it?

DAVID BLUNKETT:

It is, we want diversity within a modernised comprehensive system, we want to ensure that we can play to the strengths of individual schools so that they can develop their own ethos, I want them to share that with other schools and the broader community and I want to tailor education to the needs of individual children and the pupil learning credits that we'll be announcing tomorrow will help to do that, to back up in particular areas of great deprivation the needs of those children so we can tailor our system to the standards for every child rather than simply having high standards in a handful of schools and putting up with mediocrity elsewhere.

DAVID FROST:

And in terms of art, music, technology and now engineering, science and business and enterprise, who will make the decisions about which school will be a specialist school and what they will specialise in, will it be the headmaster, the LEAs or the Ministry?

DAVID BLUNKETT:

It will be the head recommending to governing bodies the direction of the school, they should be doing this already in any case in terms of a, a clear, I suppose in the jargon, a mission statement of where the school's going, its plan for raising standards, the resources it requires, the backing it'll get through the programmes of, that we put in place, particularly in the most challenged areas. And then obviously to discuss with neighbouring schools because one of the things we've done with the specialist school programme is to get schools to discuss more broadly how what they're doing fits in with what's described as the family of schools around them and the community and then to put forward those proposals to government and the technology colleges trust and ourselves, then make decisions about the appropriateness and the quality of those bids.

DAVID FROST:

So that we are bringing back, at least with ten per cent of the pupils in these specialist schools, in order to nurture and encourage talent you are re-introducing an element, albeit a small element at the moment, of selection?

DAVID BLUNKETT:

Well aptitude is obviously something that children have in areas like language and if they have and a school chooses to develop a ten per cent of their intake who have got that particular aptitude, we're permitting them to do so, only around seven per cent of specialist schools have chosen to use that particular operation of aptitude, the vast majority have decided that they will take the comprehensive intake from their locality but they'll build on their strengths and of course one of the advantages of getting 80 per cent plus of kids being able to do English and maths appropriately is that they've got a flying start and building on that flying start will be the big challenge of this policy paper this week. So that we don't allow children to fall behind at 11, so that we have the tailored system to their own needs, we have diversity with strength but collaborative and community orientated and we ensure that when a child reaches adulthood each of them have had the opportunity to develop either vocationally or academically their own particular strength.

DAVID FROST:

And will in fact these specialist schools, because they're specialist schools, receive more money than the non-specialist schools?

DAVID BLUNKETT:

Well firstly they'll receive a boost to put in place the immediate needs if it's a technology college it gets the equipment and the back-up required. Thirty per cent of the additional funding is specific to them sharing resources with the community and with other schools, so yes they do get a booster but they get part of it to actually be able to reach out and do the job and of course we're doing that in conjunction with the massive investment, 7.8 billion over the next three years in repair and renewal of schools, in putting in new technology, we've got almost 100 per cent of secondary and coming up to 90 per cent of primary schools linked up now to the internet, when we started I think there was something like 20 per cent.

DAVID FROST:

And the papers this morning, of course, in terms of the government, are full of stories about Peter Mandelson, people are saying they're angry and fed up with him, he should take silence on board, or he should leave politics, or stay in politics or whatever, what do you think he should do?

DAVID BLUNKETT:

Well I said what I needed and wished to say on the day of his resignation, I think that the opinion polls that came out just at the end of this last week illustrated that people really do need and want to, to concentrate in the run-up to the future general election on how we can use the product of success in the economy, the investment that's now available to improve their services, to see their children flourish, to have a decent health service and of course to be able to invest again in a competitive economy.

DAVID FROST:

You're changing the subject dear David, is that because you wish Peter Mandelson would change the subject as well?

DAVID BLUNKETT:

I am I put my hands up David, I plead entirely guilty to ensuring that we concentrate on the things that I came on to do. I don't deny that I've moved the subject off, I think that Peter and the public watching all now believe that it's time to concentrate on the things that people watching this morning care about and although we care about each other I think even Peter would admit that discussing education is slightly more important.

DAVID FROST:

Slightly more important. And one last question, 18,000 you've rightfully been awarded, legitimately awarded as a Cabinet Minister, all Cabinet Ministers, are you going to take it this time, you were very much against not taking it last time, what do you feel this time?

DAVID BLUNKETT:

Well we haven't taken it for four years, most people watching don't know that we haven't taken it for four years, I think the balance of course is to ensure that we reward those who are doing a damned good job very well, that they don't turn on us and believe that we're looking after ourselves, but equally we ensure that as with other countries we always argue and discuss the rate for the job.

DAVID FROST:

Was that, was that arguing for productivity pay in the Cabinet?

DAVID BLUNKETT:

I'll tell you what it might have been arguing for, how about performance related pay, this is by the way humorous just in case my advisors have a fit and think that I'm diverting because what I was going to say was that we have offered now the teaching profession the opportunity to be able to progress in a way that was never possible before the new scales that I mentioned a moment ago, will allow teachers not only to get 2,000 uplift but an extra 4,000 on top of that and then to progress to advanced skills teacher posts and if I might just put a plug in.

DAVID FROST:

No I have to come in there because I think you've put a couple of plugs in in the last 30 seconds there. Dear David we have to stop there, thank you.

DAVID BLUNKETT:

Dear David, thank you for trying to divert me.

DAVID FROST:

Well it's always a challenge, it's better when you're right here, but anyway good to have you from Sheffield and thank you for outlining so clearly those policies, those new policies earlier on.

END

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE











E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Breakfast with Frost stories