HC Deb 06 May 1986 vol 97 cc4-6
4. Mr. Greenway

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement about pay and conditions of service for teachers.

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

Talks covering both pay and conditions of service continue at ACAS between the management side and the five unions which signed the ACAS agreement in January. The National Union of Teachers has excluded itself from the talks by refusing to abide by the agreement and end its disruption of schools. The National Union of Teachers has requisitioned a meeting of the Burnham primary and secondary committee for this Friday, 9 May.

Mr. Greenway

Is it not a tragedy that the National Union of Teachers, which represents 48 per cent. of teachers, is excluded from the talks, when ever-increasing numbers of parents are voting with their feet by transferring their children from state to independent schools? Would it not be in the best interests of children, parents and teachers if the NUT ended its disruptive action and took its proper place at the conference table?

Sir Keith Joseph

The National Union of Teachers could return to the talks quite easily by ending disruption and abiding by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service agreement. I wish that it would do so.

Mr. Dormand

Is the Secretary of State aware that teachers are voting with their feet by leaving the other unions and joining the NUT? That is a fact. Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that many of the activities which are carried out by all teachers of all unions, such as after-school club activities, Saturday morning sports games and activities outside lunchtime supervision, cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be held to be other than voluntary? Will the right hon. Gentleman also give an assurance that those duties will not be taken into consideration when trying to lay down the law and attaching them to salaries?

Sir Keith Joseph

The hon. Gentleman should be wary before announcing exactly the flow of teachers to union membership. The duties of teachers have long included activities outside the classroom. It is the definition of duties that is being sought by the five teacher unions and the local education authorities under the ACAS umbrella.

Mr. Sayeed

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one cannot say what a job is worth unless one says what it entails?

Sir Keith Joseph

It is precisely for that reason that the Government regard the definition of duties, as well as the definition of pay and career structure, as important. That is why we are glad that the ACAS negotiations are taking place.

Mr. Flannery

Have not the ACAS talks, which are a democratic interchange of opinion, always taken place when there are honest differences? However, on this occasion the employers laid down conditions before the talks began. They said that unless the NUT agreed with certain things, they would not sit down in the same room and talk. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we cannot continue to organise the education of our children without the help and agreement of the NUT, which represents half the teaching force in this country?

Sir Keith Joseph

The NUT should consider the interests of children. It professes to be concerned about education, yet it promotes the disruption of the educational process. The NUT has urged its members to refuse to carry out activities which have long been recognised as part of a teacher's work. I support the view of the local authority employers that the NUT should return to the talks only if it ends the disruption.

Mr. Lyell

Would not a large number of teachers, including many members of the NUT, welcome a proper contract, fair assessment and the improved job and career opportunities that would follow? What does the NUT hope to gain by its continued obstruction?

Sir Keith Joseph

My hon. and learned Friend's proposition is entirely correct. I cannot be expected to defend the National Union of Teachers' behaviour.

Mr. Radice

As this is almost certainly the right hon. Gentleman's last Question Time as Secretary of State for Education and Science, it is a pity that we cannot say farewell on a happier note. Does he accept the judgment of the Tory candidate in the Ryedale by-election that there is a wide gap between the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman and what he has managed to achieve, so much so that our schools are now in a worse state than they were in 1981 when he took over as Secretary of State for Education and Science?

Sir Keith Joseph

I accept that last year was a miserable year for education. Will the hon. Gentleman answer a question from me?—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Very well.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I did not stop the Secretary of State. I did not know what he was going to say.

Mr. Forth

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that he and the Government are still concerned, above all, with quality in education? Will he also confirm that he gives the highest priority to introducing a system of assessment of teacher performance, so that those who do well in the classroom are duly rewarded and those who do less well are encouraged to improve their performance?

Sir Keith Joseph

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The Government's objective is to raise standards and, for that reason, to offer teachers much more effective in-service training, coupled with appraisal.