Hexham General election candidate's warning of 'crisis' in schools

Hexham's general election candidates at a hustings event in Prudhoe
-Credit: (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

Schools across the North East are facing a "crisis" in teacher recruitment and retention according to one General Election candidate.

Nick Cott, the Liberal Democrat nomination for the Hexham constituency, made the comments at a hustings event in Prudhoe on Thursday. The former Newcastle city councillor was responding to a question from a youngster who was concerned about the turnover of teachers at his brother's school.

Other candidates also raised concerns about education. However, Conservative incumbent Guy Opperman defended his party's record on education in the south west of Northumberland.

Mr Cott said: "There's a crisis of teacher recruitment and retention. That child and his brother are worried about the future of their school.

Liberal Democrat candidate Nick Cott
Liberal Democrat candidate Nick Cott -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

"If children don't have the best start from their teachers, their life chances will be affected. We need to keep good teachers and recruit new ones.

"The Liberal Democrats would reform the Teachers Review Body to make it truly independent of Government and able to recommend fair pay for teachers. One of the issues is around pay.

"I think it is a scandal that teachers aren't paid sufficiently."

SDP leader William Clouston said: "We have to have an economy that works properly. All of this rests on the tax base.

SDP leader William Clouston
SDP leader William Clouston -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

"Every single public service rests on the tax base and the tax base has been hollowed out. One of the reasons is because we have de-industrialised and keep running a trade deficit.

"We need to reinvigorate the economy and have proper labour market planning. "

Independent candidate Chris Whaley commented: "My wife is a teacher in Northumberland. She has told me first hand what the problems are - there are a lot of problems in the education system, this is just one.

Independent candidate Chris Whaley -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle
Independent candidate Chris Whaley -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

"The problem they have got are the budgets only account for a certain number of teachers. Sometimes they don't have enough money to stretch.

"We've got to get more people into teaching, but the priority is to increase the budget and get more staff."

Labour's Joe Morris discussed his party's plan to recruit thousands of new teachers.

Labour candidate Joe Morris
Labour candidate Joe Morris -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

Mr Morris said: "I think of the impact that my school teachers had on me at the Sele School in Hexham. There's no way I would be sat here if I didn't have exemplary teachers.

"It's really unfortunate that these young boys' experience is not unusual. We see far too many teachers being burnt out due to frankly low morale.

"Labour wants to bring in 6,500 teachers and more support staff, so teachers and actually teach. We're in the situation where PE teachers are teaching maths and history teachers are teaching physics.

"That doesn't put young people on a path to success. Overall, we need to massively examine how we teach."

Tory candidate and Hexham MP since 2010 Guy Opperman said: "There are 27,000 more teachers than there were in 2010. We're well on the way to making sure starting salaries for teachers are over £27,000.

Tory candidate Guy Opperman (L)
Tory candidate Guy Opperman (L) -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

"I have been in this job for 14 years and I believe I have a record of action and I have a promise of more going forward. In 2010, the four high schools needed improvement - and all four have been rebuilt or refurbished."

Green Party candidate Nick Morpeth did not attend the hustings.