HC Deb 22 January 1985 vol 71 cc843-4
1. Mr. Haselhurst

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress has been made in the discussions about linking pay and conditions of service of the teaching profession.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Sir Keith Joseph)

At the last meeting of the Burnham salary structure working party on 5 December the teachers' panel rejected the employers' proposals and withdrew from further discussion.

Mr. Haselhurst

Has there been any change in that rather depressing picture since my right hon. Friend's meeting with the NUT, and can he hold out any prospects for progress in this important sphere?

Sir Keith Joseph

There was a meeting with the NUT yesterday, which turned out to be encouragingly constructive on the issue of teacher assessment. It appeared from yesterday's meeting that there was a great deal of common ground. It was common ground that assessment goes on in an informal manner at present in connection. for instance, with promotion; it was common ground that some aspects of assessment have implications for pay; and it was common ground, cordially agreed on my side, that a system of assessment could be useful in enhancing the career development of teachers, for instance, with in-service training, and could help the employers to deploy their forces effectively. There was a great deal of common ground. I still have the thought, particularly when promotion prospects have been reduced by falling rolls, that a system of merit-effectiveness-related pay, or even, if it comes to it, of regulations, may have a place. Yesterday there was a constructive outcome.

Mr. Flannery

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, like most people, teachers are always willing to discuss their profession and the way in which outstanding problems can be solved? Is it not a fact, however, that the nature of the restructuring is causing the teachers to be even more determined to struggle against what is being proposed? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that teachers should be given an honourable payment, instead of having their wages tied to the question of restructuring, so that, following an honourable payment being given, any educational problems still outstanding can be discussed? Is the Secretary of State further aware that the present situation is bound to cause a prolonged struggle on the part of the teachers — [Interruption.] — Have Conservative Members forgotten the meaning of the word "negotiations"?

Sir Keith Joseph

The hon. Gentleman has not taken into account what happened yesterday. As a result of yesterday's meeting, the Department, on my instruction, and with the agreement of the NUT, is embarking on talks with the education employers and the other teacher unions. I hope that the negotiations that still lie ahead on Burnham go well.

Mr. Greenway

Does my right hon. Friend accept that any assessment of teachers should be undertaken by Her Majesty's inspectors, but should include an element of assessment by teachers of equal status or of slightly above or slightly below such status?

Sir Keith Joseph

I am sure that that would be part of one of the options. We are only too anxious to embark on the evaluation of options, which we intended to do through education support grants. I hope that the teachers' associations will in due course make that possible.

Mr. Radice

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that yesterday's constructive talks with the NUT show that teachers are prepared to respond positively, provided that, for his part, he is prepared to listen and to discuss such issues with an open mind?

Sir Keith Joseph

There is every indication that I am willing to listen. I suspect that it is common ground, though the teachers' unions might not be willing to agree openly, that the very small minority of really bad teachers, after every effort has been made by in-service training to make them effective, should be eased out.