Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Teaching Assistants

    Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): Does the Minister accept that classroom assistants at best can be a supplement to teachers, but never a substitute for them? Why, therefore, has the pupil:teacher ratio in state secondary schools, which improved in the Conservative years, deteriorated every year under this Government?in Hertfordshire, and in most counties?

    Mr. Timms: The right hon. Gentleman knows well that the Government are committed to achieving a substantial reduction in class size for infant schools. That reduction has been delivered. We have 11,000 more teachers today than in 1997, the end of the period of Conservative Government. Recruitment to teacher training is up by more than 20 per cent. this year compared with last year. We will have twice as many people this year as last in the graduate teacher programme, which allows people in mid-career to come into teaching. That shows that we are also making very good progress with teacher recruitment.

    The right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) is right that teaching assistants are only a supplement. It is vital that we recruit more teachers and bring more people into the profession. We have put in place the measures to achieve that, and we are being successful.

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