HC Deb 02 March 1987 vol 111 cc589-97 3.30 pm
The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Kenneth Baker)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement about teachers' pay and conditions of employment in England and Wales.

The Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act has now received Royal Assent. The Government want school teachers to receive an average increase of 16.4 per cent., half with effect from 1 January 1987 and half on 1 October 1987. I am today sending a draft order for this purpose to those whom I am required to consult under the Act seeking their comments. The order covers the 1 January pay increase and sets out the conditions which will beome part of school teachers' contracts of employment. I am placing copies of the consultation letter and attachments in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office.

I have considered carefully the responses to the proposals for teachers' pay and conditions which I set out in October, and to those which emerged from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service discussions. I have also taken into account the settlement in Scotland, and I am now bringing forward revised proposals to apply in full from 1 October. The main features are, first, the top of the basic salary scale will increase from £12,700 a year to £13,300 a year, which is £600 higher than the figure in my October proposals. Secondly, there will be five levels of incentive allowances ranging from £500 to £4,200. Thirdly, the 105,000 teachers on scales 3 and 4 and the senior teachers' scale will receive allowances of £1,000, £3,000 and £4,200 respectively. Fourthly, there will be scope for 25,000 new promotions in October 1987, with an increase in the number of teachers qualifying for an allowance to about 165,000 in 1990. This is 20,000 more incentive posts than in my previous proposals. Fifthly, there are no changes to my original proposals for heads and deputies.

These proposals recognise the view put by the teacher unions in support of a basic salary scale, and I have moved towards their position. I have, however, retained a pay structure which provides good differentials and I have increased the number of incentive posts so that the proportion of teachers in them will rise to 55 per cent. overall in 1990. The order also covers teachers in special schools and unqualified teachers. I recognise the distinctive position of teachers in special schools, and the basic allowance for them will be £1,000 as against £855 in the ACAS proposals.

In my statement on 30 October I said that the increased expenditure of £608 million on teachers' pay must be matched by a clear definition of school teachers' duties and conditions of employment. On 27 November, I recognised the useful progress in the ACAS discussions on the definition of a teacher's job and on the length of the teachers' working year. The list of teachers' duties set out in the draft order are based closely on the ACAS proposals. The order provides for a working year of 195 days, of which five days are beyond the pupil year, and states that a teacher may be required to work for 1,265 hours a year at the direction of the headteacher. These requirements are consistent with the ACAS proposals.

The ACAS document proposed levels of cover for absent teachers but recognised that this depended both on finance and the availability of suitably qualified teachers. The Government believe that the ACAS proposals would have created difficulties for many local authorities. We have therefore decided that teachers should not normally be required to provide cover after a colleague has been absent for three consecutive days, nor to provide cover in the case of planned absences of more than three consecutive days. The question of cover will be among the matters to be taken into consideration in the consultations that I shall shortly be initiating about the numbers of school teachers needed and how their time can be used to best advantage.

I am asking for responses to my consultative letter by Monday 23 March at the latest. Ministers or my officials will be willing to meet those who are being consulted. I regard it as essential for these discussions to be completed before the end of this month. We can then lay the order before the Easter recess so that teachers will receive their back pay without delay.

I wish to confirm that the Government propose to increase education GREs in England and Wales by £118 million for 1986–87 and £490 million for 1987–88, with an increase in block grant to local authorities of £56 million and £200 million for those years. On that basis the local authority associations have already been sent information about the likely change in individual GREs and block grant entitlements. Formal consultations will he started shortly.

These proposals will improve the career prospects of teachers and give local management new scope to raise the quality of education. Teachers are being given a substantial pay increase combined with a clear definition of their responsibilities. I believe that parents will expect teachers to respond by giving their commitment to uninterrupted and effective education for all our nation's children.

Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)

Does the Secretary of State believe that his statement represents a genuine attempt to settle the teachers' dispute, or is it yet another round in the Government's war against the teachers?

I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has modified the proposals that he announced in November and that he has at last recognised the need to offer all classroom teachers an improved basic salary scale. Does he not realise that his rejection of the ACAS agreement, which was freely agreed between employers and the teachers; his legislation, which has been through this House and another place, to remove teachers' bargaining rights; and now his decision to impose a settlement on the teachers, have left the prospect of a lasting peace in our schools still uncertain and that, by imposing a settlement, the Government are embarking on a dangerous gamble which, sadly — I regret it very much — could lead to further disruption in our schools?

Mr. Baker

As regards imposition, yes, I am imposing a pay increase which will mean that teachers have an average rise of 25 per cent. over 18 months. That is what I am imposing.

I do not agree that this is a constitutional outrage. The hon. Gentleman will know that I have tried hard to find a way through during the past three months. This is a genuine attempt. I have moved closer to the union stance. It is deeply regrettable that the teacher unions did not move at all towards the Government's position.

Perhaps I might say something about causing further disruption. It is not I who can cause disruption in our schools. Only the leaders of the teacher unions can seek to take out their grievancies on children in this way. Despite the antics of the two cold war warriors of the main teacher unions, I do not believe that the hearts of teachers will be in further disruption. The settlement that I am implementing is fair to the teachers, to parents, to ratepayers and, most of all, to our children. I believe that most teachers who have taken action during the past few years have done so with a very heavy heart and that, with the better pay and prospects which this settlement provides, they will want to get on with their job in peace.

Mr. J. F. Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement will be warmly welcomed by teachers and parents and that, far from being another round in the Government's war against teachers, it is a further sign of the Government's good intentions? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that roughly 165,000 teachers will be in incentive posts by about 1990? How does he intend to publicise this good news to schools and teachers so that they can take that information carefully into account when deciding what action to take?

Mr. Baker

I can confirm what my hon. Friend has said. One of the features of my latest proposals is an increase in the number of incentive posts by 25,000 from 1 October this year. Many of those posts will go to scale 1 and scale 2 teachers, as it became clear in the negotiations and consultations that I have had that one group which did not do very well were those at the top of scale 2. They will be able to benefit from the higher number of incentive posts.

I am one of those who believe that good news travels by itself. However, I shall help it on its way by writing tonight to all head teachers setting out my proposals, and will enclose a copy of a booklet that sets out the proposals — they are very complicated. On Wednesday, I shall again be taking space in the national press to set out the proposals so that everyone will be able to see the advantage of them.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

While I welcome the Secretary of State's movement, I recognise that this is a gamble by the Government. Does the Secretary of State appreciate that many teachers regard the right to negotiate pay and conditions as being just as important as their level of pay and remuneration? In the long term, is not the need for an independent pay body essential? If we are to avoid this kind of trench warfare, which has led to so much loss of morale, falling standards, many lost days by teachers and pupils alike and so much hurt to parents, is not a mechanism required?

Mr. Baker

On my frequent visits to schools, I see many dedicated, committed and hard-working teachers, who, I am sure, will respond to the higher rewards and better prospects that I am bringing forward. I do not sense any urge to revive disruption.

Future negotiating rights were debated last Thursday, when the official spokesman for the Liberal party was in his place and put forward the case for an independent review body. I have made it clear that the advisory committee is an interim measure. We need a cooling-off period or breathing space to try to resolve the differences. I made it clear on Thursday, and I reiterate, that I am willing to open negotiations with the various parties to find a long-term solution. However, I ask the House to bear in mind that this move is against the background of a negotiating process that has become thoroughly discredited. That was the Burnham process, which, by the Royal Assent announced at the beginning of Question Time today, is now at an end.

Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that under his original proposals, many teachers were worried that there appeared to be too many rewards going to teachers who were promoted out of the classroom and away from the art of teaching? Will he confirm that even then, but especially now, under the adjustment in his proposals announced today, there is ample reward for the good teacher who wishes to remain in the classroom?

Mr. Baker

I am willing to confirm that. The position on incentives is that the five allowances which I have announced, which is an increase over the last proposals, will go for additional responsibilities—for example, a head of a department—for where there is a generally recognised shortage of skills, for recruitment to posts difficult to fill and for good classroom performance. We want to reward the teacher who does not wish to become a head of department but wishes to remain in the classroom teaching. The incentive allowances will be available to such teachers.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

Will the Secretary of State understand that, while he has made some movement towards the unions' position, anger will remain in the teaching profession until negotiating rights are fully restored? Will he also understand that in many places, including Bradford, teachers are concerned about pupil-teacher ratios, the availability of equipment and the fabric of schools? What will be the maximum cost to individual local authorities as a result of the settlement?

Mr. Baker

When we came into office in 1979, the pupil-teacher ratio was 18.9:1. It has now fallen to 17.6:1 and by 1990 it is planned to fall to 17.1:1. These are historically low figures. At the same time, the proportion of classes in secondary schools with more than 33 pupils has fallen from over 2 per cent. to 1.1 per cent. The average class size now is 21. This shows clearly the Government's commitment to providing resources for the education system.

I reiterate my point about finding a better long-term answer beyond the interim advisory committee. When I met Mr. Smithers, Mr. Jarvis and Mr. Willis last week, they said that for the longer term they could deliver a negotiating forum that would act responsibly and not lead to the divisions and disputes of Burnham or to disruption in the classroom. I hope that the first token of their good intent will not be a call for strikes and stoppages, because that would bode ill for their aspirations.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

My right hon. Friend's statement proves that constructive consultation can work, and nothing that he said has given any further excuse for industrial action. However. is he aware that concern has been expressed that his proposed settlement may favour secondary school teachers at the expense of primary school teachers, who see little prospects for promotion and a general levelling down of scales? What can he tell us to assure primary school teachers that they will not get the rough end of the stick in his proposed settlement?

Mr. Baker

Once again, I pay tribute to the vast majority of teachers in primary schools, who do an outstanding job. I can give my hon. Friend some reassurance on the point that he raised. The first two levels of incentive allowance will be available in all schools so that the outstanding classroom teacher in the small primary school can be rewarded. In larger primary schools, the £2,000 allowance will also be introduced over three years to give a maximum salary of £15,300 for teachers other than heads or deputies. As from October this year, there will be 30,000 incentive allowances, rising to 55,000 in September 1990.

Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower)

While it is obvious that everyone will welcome the Government's move towards increasing the quality of teaching in our schools, does the Secretary of State accept that the conditions in the new city technology colleges, which the Government are setting up and which encourage payments over the odds for good teachers, should apply also to the inner city schools, which will still suffer because the rate of pay in them will not be sufficiently high to attract the good teachers whom those schools desperately need?

Mr. Baker

The hon. Gentleman is far too pessimistic. I have made it clear that the money for the city technology colleges will be extra, over and above the money available for the State maintenance education system. I was glad to go up to Solihull in the west midlands last week to announce the first city technology college, with support from the Hanson Trust and Lucas industries. In due course, I hope to visit many other cities and towns and bring them good news about the city technology colleges.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley (Surrey, South-West)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, although record pupil-teacher ratios may be popular, the crucial variable in education is teacher quality, and that his proposals offer an opportunity for well-motivated and properly rewarded teachers and a decent career structure? It is now up to pupils, parents and the professions to make a success of those proposals and offer our children a period of uninterrupted education.

Mr. Baker

I warmly agree with what my hon. Friend has just said. The thrust of the proposals has been to try to improve the professional standing and status of teachers by better remuneration. For example, a good honours graduate would enter the profession at a salary of £8,500, which is £700 or £800 more, and he or she would rise, through several annual increments, to a salary of £13,300. That is an increase of 26 per cent. over what a teacher can now expect without promotion and it will be reached in a shorter time. That represents a substantial improvement.

I should like to reinforce my hon. Friend's comments. We must attract graduates of a higher and better quality into the teaching profession—that is no reflection on the existing profession. The pay scales and the rewards that I am announcing today will go a long way towards doing that.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

Does the Secretary of State agree, while he is in his fairy godmother mood, that teachers' wages are now becoming commensurate with their rightful position, as they were between the two world wars? Does he agree that that seems—perhaps I am being cynical—to have some link with the fact that this is an election year? Perhaps if we had another election next year we could eventually reach a proper payment for the teachers?

Mr. Baker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will speed the orders on their way because I am sure that, election or not, he would not want to delay the back pay to teachers, as it could be quite substantial. For example, if it is paid in the May pay packet, the deputy head in group 4 would qualify for £625 and a senior teacher for £450 in back pay. I am sure that that is what the teachers will want.

Mr. Steve Norris (Oxford, East)

Given that the one thing on which most objective observers agree, regardless of their political credentials, is that the Burnham system was wholly discredited, and given the urgency with which it was necessary to replace that system, may I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the package that he has now presented to teachers? May I invite him to stress that the present arrangements for negotiation are interim arrangements? Will he tell the House what plans he has to produce a substantive arrangement for the negotiation of teachers' salaries in the future, to lead on from the excellent package that he has presented to the House today?

Mr. Baker

I reinforce what I said earlier, that the proposals are of an interim nature. That is their essence. There will be consultation. I shall appoint the advisory committee later in the year. There is ample opportunity for unions to make representations to it. I have already given clear undertakings that when I receive recommendations from the advisory committee, there will be widespread consultation with all the interested parties, which will tend to have the character of negotiations. Apart from that—I reaffirm this—we want to move to a system that is more satisfactory in the long term. I shall do all that I can in the coming months to do that. However, I emphasise that I believe that the unions need a cooling-off period and a breathing space to try to get over the bitterness—I witnessed great bitterness—of the past few months.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

Is the Secretary of State aware that the wholly inadequate settlement that he intends to impose from today will not lead to the depoliticisation of the teachers' struggle but will only prolong, not remove, teachers' hostility? This is particularly so because, by taking this action, the right hon. Gentleman removes the basic trade union right of negotiation. If, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden), he is looking for a target for pupil-teacher ratios for local authorities to aim at, we shall settle for Eton's—8:1.

Mr. Baker

If the Bill that was debated in the House on Thursday last week was a great constitutional outrage, removing negotiating rights, I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman was not in the Chamber. Not only was the hon. Gentleman not in the Chamber, but the debate packed up after three hours. It collapsed. So much for that great constitutional outrage. That was an opportunity for the Opposition to take the Bill right through the night and, indeed, into the next day, if need be. The hon. Gentleman's outrage is an outrage of rhetoric, not reality.

Sir Peter Hordern (Horsham)

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the incentive payments that he has announced, which will be widely welcomed, will rest on assessment of teachers' capacity, because continuous assessment is just as important for teachers as for pupils?

Mr. Baker

I very much hope that during the next year it will be possible to establish a system of appraisal for teachers. Six pilot projects are going aheaad at the moment, and that is very important. With regard to the level of incentives that are now available, this is the first occasion on which some members of the teaching profession will be earning over £30,000 a year.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

The Secretary of State announced that he would write to head teachers explaining the effects of his announcement. Is it the practice of the Department, through Darlington, to write to retired teachers to explain the effect on them? If not, will the right hon. Gentleman do that?

Mr. Baker

I did not have that in mind, but I shall certainly consider what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, if some of the teachers are misguided enough to follow the advice that some Opposition Members would give them, and seek to continue industrial action, they will lose 1/195th of their pay every time they go on strike rather than 1/365th?

Mr. Baker

I shall need notice of the fractions. I hope, as I have said several times from the Dispatch Box today, that there will not be further disruption. An advertisement has been put in the press by the Professional Association of Teachers, which calls upon all teachers to reject industrial action at this time PAT says that teachers organisations should : Encourage teachers to adopt a responsible attitude to contractual conditions of service, since they will be based upon conditions agreed in recent ACAS negotiations. I thoroughly applaud that line.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We have an important Welsh debate today. I shall allow questions to continue for another six minutes, until 4 o'clock, and then we must move on.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire, West)

Will my Friend draw the attention to the House to what teachers' pay was in 1979 and what it will be when this increase is given to them?

Mr. Baker

There will have been a substantial increase in real terms in teacher's pay when these proposals work through in October 1987. It almost seems indecent to bring a little party politics into this exchange, but the big drop in take-home pay for teachers occurred in the lifetime of the Labour Government.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

Will my right hon. Friend accept that his action in putting these generous proposals out to consultation so promptly after Royal Assent will be widely received in the teaching profession as evidence of his good will towards teachers? Will he say a little more about how his proposals will affect teachers in special schools, who do an important job, and who felt that they were undervalued in the ACAS deal?

Mr. Baker

There are some 16,000 teachers in special schools. Any hon. Member who has visited a special school in his constituency will know of the enormous devotion and dedication which is shown by those teachers. It is inspiring to see the dedication that they show in dealing with children who are severely handicapped. I recognise the contribution that they make to our society. My proposals give to teachers on scales 1, 2 and 3 in special schools a £1,000 advantage at October 1987 over teachers in ordinary schools. That is an increase from the previous proposal of £855.

Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

Will my right hon. Friend accept that his accent on the communication of this good news is crucial to its acceptance? Will he accept that many of the difficulties of the past have occurred because of lack of good communication due to the long chain of command from himself to the teacher in his class? Will he assure the House that he will pay particular attention in future to communications on pay and assessment so as to reassure teachers of the temporary nature of the Act that now exists to guide their pay?

Mr. Baker

I most certainly will do that. The other point in the PAT advertisement is that Sir John Wordie, chairman of the Burnham committee, says of the three years during which the interim advisory committee is scheduled to exist, that the unions ought to: use to the best advantage that period to produce a really good form of collective bargaining. I re-emphasise that.

As to spreading the good news, I shall be writing to all hon. Members tonight giving them the basic facts that I have given to the House today, together with a booklet and some information, which. I shall encourage all hon. Members to pass on to their constituents.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Cannock and Burntwood)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that his proposals will be widely welcomed by parents and taxpayers throughout the country—who will have to foot the bill—as evidence of the Government's generous approach? They will not take lightly to those teachers who abuse the trust placed in them and cause further disruption in schools. Is my right hon. Friend able to tell the House whether he has been able to persuade the local authorities that his deal is a good one?

Mr. Baker

On the latter point, I had a meeting this morning with Councillor Pearman and other representatives of the local authority leaders. When talking about the willingness of local authorities to co-operate and implement the proposals, he said—these were the words I took down: the duty of LEAs to implement the law of the land. We shall implement it. To suggest otherwise would be to play very dangerous games with the future of our children.

Councillor Pearman wishes to do everything that is possible to make education effective for our young people. I think that I speak for all sides of the House when I say that I welcome that. I hope that we will be moving to a better set of arrangements as a result of this offer, and I was glad to see that the local education authorities will play their part.

Mr. Roy Galley (Halifax)

My right hon. Friend is to be warmly congratulated on the statement, especially on the improvement in the basic salary scale, while retaining substantial incentives. Is it not amazing that the leaders of some unions still threaten disruption in the face of what must be one of the most generous pay offers ever made to teachers, particularly when set against a background of low inflation and reductions in income tax? Since most parents are likely to receive rather less generous pay rises than 25 per cent. over two years, should not parents now impress upon the teachers the need not to disrupt education and to put children's education first? Surely disruption now will be an unparalleled case of greed and irresponsibility.

Mr. Baker

I very much share my hon. Friend's comment on that. The Bill allows for a new beginning in our schools and a necessary breathing space on pay and negotiating arrangements. I believe that teachers will recognise the need for that and will welcome the pay increases in the new salary structure. I do not believe that teachers like disrupting schools. I am sure that they put the interests of the children first. On my hon. Friend's last point, parents will not understand teachers who disupt children's education when they have won pay increases amounting to an average of 25 per cent. over 18 months.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I am sorry that it has not been possible to call all the hon. Members who have risen, but I shall endeavour to give them precedence when the matter is next discussed.