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Education Minister Estelle Morris MP
Education Minister Estelle Morris MP

BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW:
ESTELLE MORRIS MP EDUCATION SECRETARY SEPTEMBER 2ND, 2001

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST:
The summer holidays are over, back to school this coming week and Estelle, Estelle Morris who was here, part one of our conversation back in July and now with the White Paper coming out and the, and lots, lots to talk about in that, one or two of the things you've, you've mentioned already, you said you, that you want to make a difference with this, with this and that you are going to transform, there's one quote here for instance, that state schools will introduce creches for teacher's children and you will allow head teachers to employ child minders to look after children other than pupils and so on, and that, someone then said, schools will become dawn to dusk community centres, is that one of the things you want to do?

ESTELLE MORRIS:
Very much so, I think that schools are very important parts of our community and I know that their main job is to teach children and we've got to focus on that but if you go to some of our neighbourhoods, where I used to teach in the centre of Coventry it's a resource for the community as well and I also think it's a shame that come the evening or very early in the morning the school often isn't working and yet there's a need for a building and things to go on there and people might be surprised. But if the school decides that it wants, for instance, to provide a creche or adult education for the wider community and employ people to do that it can't actually do it legally, I think that's a nonsense and what many heads and teachers have been saying to us is, look we've got some really good facilities here, we've got good buildings, we'd like to employ other people for a creche after school, for the neighbours, for the neighbourhood's children, let us do it. And that's what we'll do, so good buildings, good facilities, let's use them for as many hours as we can do.

DAVID FROST:
And in terms of the better schools you want to see helping the less good schools and in some cases outside private people brought in to help, yes?

ESTELLE MORRIS:
We do and I think this is going to be one of the big things of the White Paper, schools have changed over the last four years, they're far more accountable and we really know the performance of every single school now so if they are failing, if they're not doing as well as they should do we're able to go in there and support them. But what I want to do is I want to use our best schools to support our schools that need to be better. I don't teach children, I don't actually deliver the education goods, the people who will make the difference are our good heads and our good teachers. I think what is better is that teachers tell me the best way they learn to be better teachers is to watch is to watch other good teachers teach. I've got a vision really where our good schools are freed up to innovate, let them be the innovators of the next stage of school improvement but more important than that wouldn't it be better if they can go into the struggling schools and work with them closely to turn them around. So that combination of saying to schools, look your main responsibility is to your own children and to your own community and your own parents, never forget that, but if you're good I think you've got a wider responsibility and that's to the Education Service, we want to free them up to do that.

DAVID FROST:
And, and in terms of, and in terms of these, private industry helping and so on, there are two ways, they can make capital grants, they can help, help the local school with money and they can go in and perhaps have certain designated duties?

ESTELLE MORRIS:
They can, we already do that, I think we sometimes forget, you go into most schools now, they've got a relationship with the local company or with the private sector, many of them for instance send their employees in to mentor children to help with reading and their number work. But this is my thought David, really that for all the improvements we've made in schools and I think we've got a, a fantastic school system now, in some respects, but we've got some schools that have still not turned themselves round and they're often in the neighbourhoods which are the most challenging, serving the children who have never really achieve and what I, my view is this, that public sector ethos, there is something called public sector ethos, it's very, very important that if we actually want to deliver a public service well we've got to use everything that we can and if using the private sector to help deliver a public service means that we can solve some really deep-rooted problems I think we should do it.

DAVID FROST:
But do you think you're going to persuade the unions about that, they're all up in arms about that and what was it? Railtrack management, that's what it is, said Nigel de Gruchy, do you think you can persuade the unions to let these private sector people in?

ESTELLE MORRIS:
I hope so, I think everybody who's involved in education is interested in, has the same thing at heart and that is to raise standards for children. I think people care about public service but no one's going to tell me that the school service is as good as we could get it. It can be better and I don't think Nigel de Gruchy or any union leader is going to tell me that, and all I would say to them is the biggest threat to public service is actually not to use every tool at your disposal to make it better. Some children are not getting a good enough education and that's not a criticism of teachers, it's a tough job and they need more help and support and expertise that the private sector can offer. I'm not going to turn my back on it if it can really help to raise standards.

DAVID FROST:
What about the thing that we heard so much about this week, shortages, staff shortages and we've got all these quotes about headmasters who say that they had to accept people over the phone, they didn't have time to check them out and all of that, one person saying 6,000, out of 6,000, 7,000, one fifth, 20 per cent are substandard but they couldn't do anything about that and so on and, and Mr MacAvoy said that there will be four day weeks because of the shortage of teachers in this, and a report coming out tomorrow says that you're going to need to find 70,000 more teachers in the long-run, what, what do you feel about those gruesome statistics?

ESTELLE MORRIS:
I think we need to put it in context, now we are, we are short of teachers, I know that some heads have found it really difficult to recruit particularly in some areas of the country and particularly in some subjects, I know that and I know that they've had to spend a lot of time trying to recruit in when they'd sooner have been doing other things. I also know that many teachers haven't had the choice of candidates that they would want. Now I'm not hiding away from that, I know there's a problem but I don't think we do ourselves any favours and I don't think we solve the problem by not looking at the other side as well. It's a strange situation because I just admitted there's a shortage of teachers but it is true and nobody can deny it because it's the case, we've actually got more teachers now in our schools than at any time since 1984 and we've got more people training to be teachers than any time in last decade┐

DAVID FROST:
But the problem┐

ESTELLE MORRIS:
And both those things are the case.

DAVID FROST:
But the problem with that obviously is as everybody says, is 25 per cent, some people say up to 40 per cent, some people say within three years they leave the profession again and so on.

ESTELLE MORRIS:
Yes.

DAVID FROST:
Retaining them is the other┐

ESTELLE MORRIS:
It is both things. You have to recruit them to retain them, I get a bit frustrated that we've done so much over the last few years to improve recruitment, everybody is now saying that's not important, of course it's important, and we're recruiting in a very, very tight graduate market, in fact this is the first time we've increased teacher recruitment when the economy's been booming ever, it's always gone down and we've bucked that trend. But you are right, we've got to keep those, those that we've got. The statistics haven't changed that much, what tends to happen is about 15 per cent never start teaching and about another 25 per cent leave after about three years. There's just one point, I'm not hiding away from that and I want those figures to be better, 13,000 a year come back so once you've lost them after three years, not gone and gone forever, 10,000 to 13,000, many for example are women who have had families have come back, so it's in and out sometimes, I don't want anybody to think that I don't want to do better on retention, I do, but just remember that they're not gone and gone forever.

DAVID FROST:
Not gone and gone forever is a good point but at the same time you've got to find one or two magic formulae to keep them?

ESTELLE MORRIS:
Well there's, there's no magic out there that will do this, I wish it was as easy as waving a wand, it's a hard slog and I think that that's got to be our priority and what I think I want to do, I think there's a number of things, one of the things, this is what I'm a bit worried about at the moment, I think we've just got to give that message to teachers and everyone else how much they're valued and what an important profession it is. I talk to teachers and sometimes they feel that, certainly politicians and the rest of society don't thank them enough for what they do. I am a bit worried in the conversation of the last few weeks that we're painting the picture of a profession that isn't very good. It's the best bunch of teachers we've ever had, not me saying that, Ofsted's saying that, but where I need to do more is actually to make the job more manageable while pushing for higher standards and that's the┐if there's any magic around that's what we've got to do.

DAVID FROST:
Talking of standards and these new tests for 14-year-olds.

ESTELLE MORRIS:
Yes.

DAVID FROST:
Are coming in and there's been a lot of criticism of GCSE and so on this year, do you see a possibility that in the end those 14-year-old's tests will take over from GCSE?

ESTELLE MORRIS:
I think they'll become more important but you know we're not talking about abolishing GCSE. The one thing I'm really worried about is we know our 11-year-olds are doing much better because of the literacy hour and numeracy hour, a pretty strange and terrible thing happens between 11 and 14, they slow down, the pace goes and we've got a frightening figure that after one year in secondary education 30 per cent of children, almost one in three, are performing less well than they were the previous year. So I want to make those early years of secondary education very much a focus so I think the emphasis at the moment is on making those, what we call, key stage three, they're the 14-year-old tests, they exist at the moment but I want to put more focus, there's one important point though I did want to bring out because this is the first and I think it will matter, there's a lot of complaints that when the performance tables are published they're what we call raw results and so if you worked your socks off at school and you had a really low level and you've really progressed sometimes you don't get the credit and if you were quite good and you've only done a little bit more and quite honestly you're coasting, you get a bit too much credit and what we'll be able to do next year with these 14-year-old tests, we'll be able to publish results as well as well as the raw results which are what we call value-added. So we'll actually recognise the improvement that's been made between 11 and 14 and this is new, it's a first and I'm pretty proud of that, I think it's going to be a huge improvement.

DAVID FROST:
Well people have hoped for that for a long time.

ESTELLE MORRIS:
They have and it's on its way.

DAVID FROST:
It's instantly fairer than the, the current system?

ESTELLE MORRIS:
Yes better quality information.

DAVID FROST:
Well thank you very much for being with us, Estelle.

ESTELLE MORRIS:
Thank you David.

DAVID FROST:
We enjoyed part two as much as we enjoyed part one, many thanks. Estelle Morris and that's all we've got time for this morning. My thanks to all of my guests and of course to the England team, we'll be back next Sunday same time, same place but until then top of the morning, good morning.

END


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