§ Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)
I beg to move,That the Education (School Teachers' Pay and Conditions) Order 1988 (S.I., 1988, No. 1055), dated 16th June 1988, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th June, be revoked.The debate is about the implementation of the report of the interim advisory committee on school teachers' pay and conditions. It is important to understand the background to the debate and to the order.
Last week, during our debates on the Education Reform Bill, we were told by the Minister of State that we were deliberately creating anxiety among teaching and non-teaching staffs about the Government's powers in relation to employment laws. It was asserted by the Minister that the Secretary of State would not contemplate reducing employment rights. As we understand the background to the order, we know how worthless such assurances are. The Secretary of State removed from teachers the most basic of employment rights, the right to bargain collectively with their employers. We would argue that the basic right to bargain collectively is an essential prerequisite of a healthy pluralist democracy.
§ Mr. Knight
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us how he can bargain collectively when not one Labour Member, apart from himself, is in the Chamber?
§ Mr. Fatchett
I shall continue with my speech. The intervention was not even worthy of the hon. Gentleman's standards.
To take away the right to bargain collectively—it is a right that has been exercised for many years by teachers and their organisations—is a damaging step away from democracy. When the Government give an assurance on employment rights, as they did last week, we must remember their record with the teachers and GCHQ, which tells us that their assurances have no meaning.
The Government have been condemned internationally for their action in removing collective bargaining rights from teachers. They were condemned by the International Labour Organisation, which concluded that the Government's actions were not in conformity with the fourth article of convention No. 98. The Government have rightly been condemned by the ILO and by international opinion because they have no regard for the democratic, industrial and employment rights of teachers. That is why we are debating the order.
We are unhappy about the order because of its genesis. We do not think that it tackles the major problems facing the teaching profession, but we shall not use the debate as an opportunity to negotiate on behalf of teachers. The Chamber is not a place for negotiation. The necessary negotiations between the employers and teachers' organisations should take place elsewhere, with a clear, defined and recognised role for Government. Because we 465 believe that the Chamber is not the place for wage negotiations, and because we believe that the right to bargain is an intrinsic right in a healthy democracy, an incoming Labour Government will restore collective bargaining rights to teachers and their organisations. As I have said, we shall not take the opportunity tonight of negotiating in detail the teachers' pay awards.
Can the Minister of State give the House and the teaching profession an indication of the progress that is being made in establishing collective bargaining rights for teachers? It would be interesting to hear the Minister respond positively and constructively to the ILO's decision. It would be interesting also if the Minister were to accept that the Government should feel embarrassed that an international organisation has so severely condemned the Government. It would be interesting, further, to hear the Minister dissociate herself from some of the comments which were made by some of her hon. Friends last week. When the ILO was mentioned, they found it a matter of some amusement and the opportunity to engage in ridicule. It would be useful if we were to hear the Minister show respect for the ILO and to give a sign to teachers and their organisations that the Government will restore to teachers the right of collective bargaining.
There are detailed criticisms that we would wish to make of the report and the Government's action in relation to it. The first criticism and major comment is directed to the sixth paragraph. The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), with his keen interest and knowledge of these matters, will no doubt have read the report. He will be able to tell me that the first conclusion reached—a crucial conclusion—wasthat teachers' morale is low. This is not only, nor perhaps principally, a matter of pay, though pay was at the heart of the industrial dispute and it would be foolish to imagine that since the 1987 pay increase it has ceased to be an issue.The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth and the Minister will recognise that without high morale and teacher commitment we shall not have high standards of performance and of education.
For the first time in Britain's history in the post-war period we have a Government who have presided over a reduction in education standards. If they are to make an improvement, and if our children are to be provided with the opportunities that they deserve, we shall need a teacher force with a high morale and a sense of commitment, and having the feeling that its professionalism and service are recognised by both society and the Government.
§ Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)
In responding to the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), perhaps the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) missed the point. He is right to say, as the report does, that it may not be chiefly and principally a question of pay. The hon. Gentleman is right to point out its importance, but the principal reason why teachers' morale is low is surely the way in which they are treated by the Government. The principal act against teachers has been the removal, without any attempt to replace them, of their rights to negotiate pay and conditions. That is the Government s responsibility, whatever the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth) may snigger about.
§ Mr. Fatchett
No, I cannot allow a series of interventions on that point.
466 I agree with the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr.Ashdown). I was making the point——
§ Mr. Pawsey
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Do you not agree with me that there is a substantial difference between a giggle and a cheerful smile? I was trying to give the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr.Fatchett) an encouraging smile, because I agree with much of what he says. That was completely misinterpreted by the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), who——
§ Mr. Fatchett
Sometimes, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I can understand your burdens in carrying out your office.
The hon. Member for Yeovil made an effective point. He will recall that my opening remarks referred to the background to the order, which was the Government's summary action in taking away the basic rights of teachers and their organisations to collective bargaining. That is crucial to the collapse in teachers' morale. For nine years, the Government have taken every available opportunity to undermine teachers' professionalism and status.
Tonight, the Minister needs to reassure the teaching force that she recognises that collapse of morale, that the Government are prepared to take action that will deal with it, and that they are prepared, as part of that action, to restore collective bargaining rights. Until the Government do that, as anybody with experience of education and of what is happening in our schools will know, teachers' morale will stay low. The Government's decision to take away their collective bargaining rights was seen by teachers as being central to the esteem in which the Government themselves hold the teaching profession. The report does not relate to that collapse of morale sufficiently, in terms of taking any action to restore it— although it is right to detect it.
There is clear and growing evidence that we are faced with recruitment and shortage problems. There is evidence also that the Government have little idea as to how they are to deliver the national curriculum or of how many teachers they will need for that purpose. The hon. Member for Yeovil may recall that on a number of occasions in Standing Committee we asked whether the Government were prepared to give figures of the number of teachers needed to deliver the national curriculum. First, we were told that there were some mysterious but brilliant calculations on the back of a fag packet in the DES. We now realise that it was probably written on the back of the hon. Member for Dartford, (Mr. Dunn). Later we were told that by the end of this year the Government would provide figures, but I suspect that when we reach the end of this year they will have no more idea then than they have now of how many teachers will be required. If they have, they will not publish those figures, because that would reveal the difficulties of staffing and recruitment that they face.
There is worrying evidence in the interim report which a sensible Government concerned about education standards would act upon. The following point is made on page 29:We judge that overall the numbers recruited were just about adequate in 1987–88, but there are already signs that recruitment is becoming more difficult.Within 48 hours of the report s publication, figures from the teacher training clearing house revealed a 17 per cent. 467 drop in the number of applicants for mathematics teacher training, a 20 per cent. fall in physics applicants, and an 18 per cent. decline in geography applicants. Those are three crucial subjects forming part of the national curriculum, and all are suffering from a major recruitment shortfall. Again, there is no evidence from the Government, although all the warning signs are to be found in the interim report, that they have a recruitment strategy.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
The hon. Gentleman is being very unjust. Under this Government there has been a tremendous improvement in the pupil-teacher ratio over the past nine years.
§ Mr. Greenway
It is absurd to say that that is nonsense. The pupil-teacher ratio has improved substantially.
§ Mr. Fatchett
The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) is being complacent if he relies on just one set of statistics. Conservative Members know that the crucial point is that we shall face acute shortages of teachers in key subjects and that we are already facing a recruitment shortfall. Until the Government deal with those problems, there will be difficulty in delivering high quality education to our youngsters. The hon. Gentleman ought not to be complacent about that difficulty.
§ Mr. Flannery
What has been said by the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) is partially true, but it is not in any way due to the present Government. The number of primary pupils dropped, while the numbers in the secondary sector, where there were plenty of teachers, increased—so much so that the present Government could not let them all enter universities, for example. The better pupil-teacher ratio to which the hon. Gentleman refers existed when the Government came to office. It was merely a development of the circumstances that then obtained. Ever since, there have been fewer teachers, and there is now a shortage and worse pupil-teacher ratios.
§ Mr. Fatchett
My hon. Friend is right in his analysis that there was a demographic decline in terms of student numbers so that the pupil-teacher ratio improved. That occurred not because of the Government's actions—over their nine years in office they have cut the real level of spending per child—but because local authorities have increased their expenditure in real terms, though often threatened with penalties and rate capping by the Government for doing so.
§ Mr. Fatchett
I cannot give way because I must make progress. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will understand that one or two other hon. Members wish to contribute to the debate.
There are two major criticisms of the Government and their reaction to the teaching profession. First, they have no strategy for dealing with the collapse in morale. Secondly, they have no strategy for dealing with recruitment and staff shortages. Until the Government understand those problems and devise a strategy, education standards will continue to decline. It is easy enough for the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth to 468 snigger, but for those youngsters who are suffering under that decline in education standards brought about by Conservative Members there is no second chance. Life provides only one chance in terms of education. The Government are not investing in youngsters, to give them a full range of opportunities. There is need for a strategy and to ensure that teachers enjoy a status and salaries that befit their professionalism and contribution to society.
I remind the Minister that all the evidence shows that it was because of the teachers' contribution that pupils were able this year to complete their GCSE work. If she will talk to youngsters throughout the country, and will study the analysis by the National Association of Head Teachers published yesterday, she will reach the conclusion that it was teachers doing more than was expected of them contractually that kept the GCSE on the road. It would have been useful if the Government, financially and in other ways, had made a contribution to GCSE similar to that made by hundreds of thousands of teachers. The simple fact is that teachers have kept it alive while the Government have under-resourced it and other parts of our education system.
Typical of that under-resourcing is the limitation that the Government have imposed on the interim advisory committee report. Page 2 of the report comments that the limitation to £300 million was a recommendation that the committee found excessively limiting. The Government, however, have taken that limitation a stage further. The fact that the recommendations produced a figure above £300 million has given them an opportunity to impose, via the back door, further cuts on local education authorities. By agreeing not to fund the full amount of the teachers' pay increase, they will ensure that we lose both teachers and other resources that are necessary in the classroom.
There are parallels in the Health Service relating to the nurses' pay increase and the treatment of non-medical staff. The Government have behaved in the same way throughout the public sector. Local education authorities will have to foot part of the bill, and in doing so they must lose teachers or resources. The Government should have provided the additional money asked for in the report: that would have been an indication of their commitment to good education for our youngsters.
We are debating this order because we feel that the Government must provide some hope for teachers that their professionalism will be recognised. So far they have not provided that hope, and there is no indication that they will do so. We wanted the debate also so that we could demand that teachers be given the right that belongs to millions of other workers to bargain collectively with their employers. We should be mature enough, as a society and as a democracy, to allow our teachers and their employers —with a role for Government—to negotiate their pay and conditions. Until that happens, it is a sad day for Parliament and for democracy when we have to debate such an order in this way.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold)
I suppose that the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) got at least one thing right: the order arises from the work of the interim advisory committee on school teachers' pay and conditions. The committee was set up in July 1987, in accordance with the requirement of the Teachers' Pay and 469 Conditions Act 1987. Its members were chosen from a variety of backgrounds, with a correspondingly wide spectrum of experience. The result was a generally well-balanced and independently minded body which was recognised by all shades of opinion.
In October 1987 my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave the committee a remit setting out certain detailed issues which he asked it to consider. Among those issues were changes in pay levels and allowances, and possible modifications to salary differentials and teachers' duties. It is true that the remit also included a financial limit of £300 million. That constraint, however, provided an important discipline for the committee's work, and was set against a background of concern about the general level of pay increases and the inflationary pressures that might be created. That concern has proved justified, and there remains a general need for lower pay settlements throughout the economy.
The committee proceeded to consult fully with local authority associations, teachers' unions and bodies representing the interests of voluntary schools, among others. In March this year, it presented its findings and recommendations in the report. The report was unanimous and was widely welcomed for its impartial assessment of teachers' pay, duties and working time. It examined the need to recruit, retain and motivate teachers of the right quality.
I must tell the hon. Member for Leeds, Central—who touched on the problems of recruitment as he saw them —that the committee made it clear that, having looked carefully at the need to recruit, retain and motivate, it detected no suggestion that overall recruitment and retention was inadequate, and it specifically mentioned that the wastage rates were low. But, as the hon. Gentleman dwelt at some length on the matter of recruitment, perhaps I should set his mind at rest with some additional information. We are currently seeing a 19 per cent. increase in the number of people wishing to enter primary school teaching, and they are being recruited as students.
It is true that we have not yet seen the improvement that we saw last year in the numbers wishing to teach in secondary schools and taking part in PGCE or other graduate courses. None the less, I remind the hon. Gentleman that it is quite common at this time of year for young people who have just graduated from university not to decide instantly about their career prospects. We have noted in the past—and it is perhaps slightly more noticeable this year—that in general young graduates have not yet reached a conclusion at this time about what career to pursue.
This afternoon, however, I talked to TASC—the teaching as a career unit within the Department which examines teacher recruitment—and I can report an interesting and, in my view, encouraging trend. Within the past month, we have received no fewer than 650 inquiries from people up and down the country—and even from abroad—about the possibility of coming into, or returning to, the profession. That should go some way to allay the hon. Gentleman's anxieties.
§ Mr. Ashdown
As the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) said, this is a key issue. Is the Minister telling us that the Government are satisfied that it will noi be a problem? She must have made some decision this afternoon.
§ Mrs. Rumbold
It would be the crassest of mistakes for any Minister to say from the Dispatch Box that he or she was entirely certain that the future for teacher recruitment was satisfactory. We shall, of course, continue to monitor the position and check that adequately trained responsible people are entering the profession. But I cannot stand here this evening and give guarantees to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), and I have not the faintest intention of doing so.
§ Mr. Ashdown
With respect, that was not the question that I asked the Minister. Will she now tell us that the Government, according to their own judgments—and she has talked this afternoon about how she made judgments —are satisfied that there is a reasonable prospect that there will be sufficient teachers?
§ Mrs. Rumbold
The Government remain confident that the measures that we are taking at present will encourage as many people as possible to come into the profession, both as mature students and as graduates straight from university. We shall monitor the position, and we shall be vigilant in ensuring that there are enough teachers to meet not only present but future requirements. That is part and parcel of the Department's work. It is a duty that we have not shirked in the past, and I cannot see us shirking it in the future.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway
I have every confidence that the Government will continue to maintain their high pupil-teacher ratio. Opposition Members who keep intervening presided over education, in the days of the Lib-Lab pact and the last Labour Government, at a time when there was a tremendous mismatch between what was provided in the classroom and the need for specialist teachers in certain subjects. It ill becomes hon. Members who sit on the SLD and Labour Benches to speak as they have spoken this afternoon.
§ Mrs. Rumbold
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention. That is true. However, I do not want to point the finger at any Administration for any mismatch within the profession, particularly at the time when there was turbulence in the schools.
I have already made the point that the interim advisory committee's report was unanimous and widely welcomed, but it is also important to say that it tackled the issues in ways that were clear, concise and constructive. Neither the unions nor the management have made serious criticisms of the way in which the committee tackled its task.
On 19 April my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science published the report and began the statutory consultation process on its recommendations. On 26 May he confirmed that after careful consideration he had decided to accept in full the pay recommendations of the interim advisory committee. The Government believe that the IACs proposals were both sensible and fair, coming as they did on top of the 25 per cent. pay increase that teachers received on average between March 1986 and October 1987.
The proposals implemented by the order gave all teachers a 4¼ per cent. rise in their basic pay from 1 April this year. Teachers on the main scale will receive a further 4 per cent., on average, in September as a result of their annual increments. In addition, there is a 7.5 per cent. 471 increase in the London allowances—backdated to July 1987—increases in the value of incentive allowances and an acceleration in the introduction of the A allowances.
A teacher who was formerly on scale 2, for example, who receives an A allowance from this September will receive an overall increase of 14.5 per cent. during this year, made up of the increase in all scale points, an increment and the value of the incentive allowance.
The report effectively endorsed the new pay structure, duties and working time for teachers that were introduced last year. The IACs positive attitude towards the use of incentive allowances as a reward for good teachers has been welcomed on all sides, especially by the local education authorities. The report recorded the local authority representatives as saying that the new incentive allowances provided "a useful managerial tool" which could beflexibly applied to secure a range of different objectives.
§ Mrs. Rumbold
I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would let me make a few more points. Then by all means I shall give way to him. He knows that I always do.
The interim advisory committee recognised the importance and usefulness of the incentive allowances by recommending that the value of each allowance should be increased and that the proposed rate of introduction of the A allowances should be accelerated. The Government accepted the recommendations, even though they took the total beyond £300 million. The planned expansion of 36,000 A allowances will now take place over two years rather than three. That means that 50 per cent. of teachers in primary schools and 60 per cent. in secondary schools will receive incentive allowances or be heads or deputies by September 1989.
§ Mr. Ashdown
The hon. Lady mentioned 14.5 per cent. Will she tell the House what the increase will be if we take away the increments that teachers were already due to receive?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I remind the House that this is a short debate. When hon. Members seek to catch my eye the Chair will be bound to take into account the frequency of interventions. The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) has intervened four times. He should bear that point in mind if he seeks to catch my eye.
§ Mrs. Rumbold
The hon. Gentleman cannot even add up. It is 6.5 per cent. The interim advisory committee made no recommendations that required changes to the part of the school teachers' pay and conditions document of 1987 dealing with the duties and working time of teachers, but it made various comments on mid-day supervision, cover for absent colleagues and teachers on short notice contracts. The Government believe that local education authorities will want to consider carefully the views expressed by the committee on the conditions of service of teachers.
472 The hon. Member for Leeds, Central also referred to negotiating rights for teachers and linked that important matter to the morale of the teaching profession as a whole. The interim advisory committee did a very good job this year but, by definition, it is an interim arrangement. It remains the Government's aim to introduce new arrangements for the determination of teachers' pay and conditions.
With this objective in mind, the Government put forward certain proposals for the future determination of pay and conditions in the form of a Green Paper that was published last October. The Green Paper aimed to survey the relevant issues and set out a range of possible solutions. It proposed a teachers' negotiating group with a separate committee to deal with heads' and deputies' pay and conditions. That was a consultative paper which did not set out final decisions.
A large number of comments have been received as a result of the Green Paper and we are giving them careful consideration, but I am bound to say that the various comments suggest that there will be difficulties in reaching agreement. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has held brief discussions about future machinery for the determination of teachers' pay and conditions with the teacher unions and local authority employers in the context of the meetings held this year about the IAC report. He will be offering further meetings in September, when I hope we shall look to the time when longer and more detailed discussions can be held.
Because of the differences of view among the various parties, it would have been impossible to have new, permanent and acceptable machinery in place in time for the 1989 pay settlement. For the sake of the country as a whole, we must not risk a return to the sort of chaos that has been so damaging to the teaching profession, the pupils and the schools. The interim arrangements have given us a chance to review the whole question of teachers' pay determination. We must use that opportunity to work towards machinery that is acceptable, workable and permanent. It must reflect the interests of parents, teachers, central and local taxpayers and, above all, the children.
§ Mr. Fatchett
We have had a number of assurances from Ministers at the Dispatch Box that the provisions will be interim and temporary. Can the Minister give a clear commitment that the 1990 pay round will be determined by some form of collective bargaining process?
§ Mrs. Rumbold
If the hon. Gentleman had been patient and waited for two minutes, he could have saved the House some time. I was about to say that the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987 made provision for the interim arrangements to last until 1990. We have always made it clear that that was the target date for establishing new permanent machinery. It remains so. My right hon. Friend therefore confirmed last week that the interim advisory committee would advise on the pay settlement for 1989. We are grateful for the fine work that has been done by Lord Chilver and his committee during the last year. We look forward to a further year of thorough analysis by the committee.
§ Mr. Fatchett
I deliberately asked the Minister about 1990 because that is the time when the interim arrangements run out. The Minister said that it is still the Government's target to change the arrangements after 473 1990. Will the Minister give a clear commitment now that the Government intend to restore collective bargaining for teachers' pay after 1990? Will she confirm that that is an intention, not a target?
§ Mrs. Rumbold
Through the negotiating machinery and discussions with unions and the local authority employers, the Government intend to establish sensible negotiating arrangements. We do not want to return to the kind of chaos that reigned before the interim advisory committee was set up.
§ Mrs. Rumbold
The hon. Gentleman asks me who caused it. It happened over a period of years. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman will want to go any further into that matter. As I have said, the Government are looking to a firm arrangement, and the target date is 1990.
I now turn to points raised by the hon. Member for Leeds, Central about the International Labour Organisation. Much noise has been made about all this. Hon. Members may not, however, be aware that the ILO has recognised that we are already taking steps towards new and lasting machinery. The committee on freedom of association of the ILO has noted that the consultations now under way will give the United Kingdom Government an opportunity to make legislative amendments.
The ILO is, of course, fully aware of the timing of the interim arrangements as set out in the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987. It is aware of our intention to set up new machinery for the determination of pay and conditions by 1990 and it has not asked that matters should proceed on any different timetable.
As a signatory to the International Labour Organisation convention, we are considering what the ILO has said and will keep this in mind as we move towards new machinery for determining school teachers' pay and conditions.
The order which we are debating this evening brings into effect the provisions relating to remuneration and other conditions of employment as set out in the school teachers' pay and conditions document of 1988. I recognise that the Opposition felt bound to pray against this order if only to give the hon. Member for Leeds, Central a chance to have a good old rant at me. But I cannot conceive that they expect the debate to result in anything other than approval of the order. Teachers want their pay rise and the Opposition cannot seriously intend to deny it to them.
The making of the order and the publication of the school teachers' pay and conditions document of 1988 followed extensive consultation. During the consultations, very few comments were made on the text either of the order or of the document.
Finally, one of the most encouraging signs during this school year has been the fact that teachers, despite all the comments from the newspapers, the unions and from many others that their morale is supposedly low, have worked closely with pupils without disruption. The evidence of a changed atmosphere has been highlighted by the introduction of the GCSE and the willingness of everyone to co-operate in making it successful. That is a tribute to the teachers' professionalism and the way in which they wanted to make it a success and put their pupils before other considerations.
§ Mr. Nicholas Bennett
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Does my hon. Friend agree that when one considers the union membership figures and sees that the National Union of Teachers has lost 74,000 members, the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers has lost 32,000 teachers, yet the two most professional and most moderate unions, the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association and the Professional Association of Teachers, have increased their membership by 50,000 and 43,000 respectively in the past nine years, it is clear that professional teachers know exactly where their interests lie?
§ Mrs. Rumbold
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Professional teachers are voting with their feet and joining organisations that represent their interests and put their professionalism and the interests of their pupils well above their own personal interests or the interests of some collectivist group that rants against the Government.
I am sure that all teachers would rightly be aggrieved if the order were to be revoked and if they were to lose their pay increase. I hope that the Opposition will not press the matter to a vote, but if they do I must ask the House to vote against the Opposition motion.
§ 8.3 pm
§ Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)
The ILO has put the Government on the spot. I urge them to respond urgently, do the decent thing and let us have voluntary negotiations. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) was right to dwell on morale. The teaching force has been treated very badly by the Government. During the past few years it has been pushed from pillar to post, and I know that the teachers are still smarting from the loss of their free collective bargaining. I was glad to hear my hon. Friend's policy commitment on behalf of the Opposition.
In my constituency, I have encountered a great deal of resentment and frustration in the teaching force. In many visits to schools throughout Wales, in my constituency and in my LEA of Clywd I repeatedly encounter frustrated head teachers who feel that they and their staff must do more with less for children, the parents and the community. The pressure from local education authority headquarters, and from parents, is growing and is relentless. The staff and the profession are always under pressure to deliver. Most head teachers that I speak to about their problems want, above all, extra staff to deliver the highest standards that they are determined to give to parents and children.
At the heart of the many problems that we face in the service are the massive cuts in the rate support grant over the past nine years. Cuts in RSG in England and Wales have borne down severely on the education service. It is argued that in the Principality some £750 million has been lost in rate support grant since 1979. Much of that grant is earmarked for the education service.
In my constituency and my county of Clwyd, there are now major limitations in nursery schooling. In my constituency, in Buckley, a closure is causing uproar among parents.
The Minister did square up to the issue of teachers' pay and tried to respond to the questions of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central. But the award just is not enough, because 4.25 per cent. barely maintains the purchasing power of a year earlier, and in effect it 475 continues the erosion of the teachers' relative position. It is well below the 6 per cent. negotiated for teachers in Scotland. I do not crib at the Scottish teachers getting that amount, but if the Minister is able to respond, will she say why the teachers in Scotland have obtained a 6 per cent. increase, whereas those in England and Wales will get only 4.25 per cent?
I wish to raise one or two matters covered by the report of the interim advisory committee on school teachers' pay and conditions which was chaired by Lord Chilver. It is an interesting and revealing document which highlights many of the problems faced by the service, and which it would face under any Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central dwelt on the question of morale which is very important if our children are to have the best possible education now and if our country, in the run-up to the next century, is to reorder its economy and cope with the increasing competition in industries throughout the world. The document states:We judge that commitment is good—among the teaching force—but we were concerned to find—especially during our visits to schools—that the morale of many teachers is low.It continues:Many teachers complain of a lack of public appreciation and recognition; they feel that they have been blamed for all the faults of the education system, and expected to implement a succession of initiatives, for which resources and training are limited.The resentment at limited resources and training is widespread. I do not believe it to be an exaggeration to say that many teachers who I meet frequently are seething with resentment.
The report also considers co-operation and says:the co-operation of teachers is essential if the planned changes in education are to be delivered in the classroom. In our view, teachers deserve a fuller measure of public understanding for the difficult role which they will be expected to play in those reforms, and an expression of public appreciation, encouragement and confidence in them.The Secretary of State and the Minister should take more opportunities to say what the report is saying.
§ Mr. Jones
Indeed not. The Government have taken the big stick to the profession. They have forgotten that the harder they hit, the lower morale will be, so our children will not get the very best in state schools. I want the Government to end their constant sniping at teachers. They should take the lead and attempt to raise teacher morale.
On quality, the report says:there is evidence of a mismatch between the demands of the curriculum and the qualifications of teachers; too many secondary classes are already having to be taught by non-specialist teachers, and the problem seems likely to be exacerbated by the demands of the national curriculum.I do not believe from any of the utterances of Ministers that I have heard recently that the Government have faced up to the fact that, although they want more from teachers, they are not providing sufficient staff in certain areas. The curriculum is narrowing. That is a feature of secondary schools in Wales and I should be astonished if the same were not true in England. I do not believe that the Government understand the seriousness of the mismatch 476 between the demands of the curriculum and the qualifications of teachers. Teachers and parents tell me of their great regret at the narrowing of the curriculum.
The Government have misjudged the mood of teachers. It appears that they have also underestimated parents' anxieties about the shortages of books and equipment in many schools as instanced in the harrowing details in Her Majesty's inspectorate's annual reports for England and Wales. The Govenment are understating teachers' difficulties. A large majority in the House has made the Government careless and arrogant, but before long they will pay dearly for their misuse of power.
§ Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)
Perhaps the best answer that I can give the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) is a quotation from a speech which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science made only today. The hon. Gentleman accused the Government of sniping at teachers and said that that should stop. My right hon. Friend said:I pay tribute to the way very many teachers have responded, despite the difficulties in recent years in the relationship between the Government and some of the teacher unions. I welcome the fact that these difficulties are behind us, and that the teaching profession as a whole has accepted last year's settlement on pay and conditions".The debate arises on an Opposition motion, but when the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) rose to open the debate, not one member of his party was present. Indeed, not one member of the SLD was present. There was nobody here to support him. Having heard the hon. Gentleman's speech, I understand why none of his hon. Friends were here. His speech was pedestrian and lack-lustre even by his unexacting standards.
I was pleased to read in a parliamentary answer of 22 June that Lord Chilver has agreed to continue for a second year as chairman of the interim advisory committee on school teachers' pay and conditions. His recent report is detailed and constructive, and it should be commended by the House.
Teacher motivation has attracted the House's attention. While pay is important, it clearly is not everything. It has been said that teachers' morale and motivation have been adversely affected by uncertainty about who is in charge in a school—the local education authority and its officers and elected members, governors with a strong parental element or the head teacher and staff. Each of those groups has duties and responsibilities, but they overlap from time to time. I can illustrate the point by referring to last year's pay report. Few teachers read it because its circulation was somewhat haphazard. The report did not reach the people who were most affected by it. Teachers were left unsure, and to the tender mercies of their trade unions' propaganda and the sometimes ambiguous statements of local education authorities.
Management in schools sometimes leaves something to be desired. An important issue which faces teaching is the need for a clear chain of responsibility so that teachers know who is in charge of the day-to-day running of a school. The vacuum left by the absence of responsibility, authority and good communication is filled by speculation and uncertainty, and where there is uncertainty, rumour will abound. The delegation of more power to schools under the Education Reform Bill will help in that respect.
477 Lord Chilver and his colleagues on the advisory committee have identified an area that needs attention. I listened with some interest to Opposition Members speaking about negotiating rights. We have heard it all before, but I do not believe that anybody would argue for the return of the discredited Burnham committee. It was a shambles of disagreement and a recipe for dispute. A joint negotiating council would be much the same—it would merely be a son of Burnham. In the end, Burnham was sustained only by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. The advisory committee's report proposes an increase of about 4.25 per cent. on average, which my right hon. Friend has accepted.
§ Mr. Pawsey
In a minute. The hon. Gentleman is far too impetuous. I can see that he is giggling all over his face, to use his preferred phrase, but he must contain himself for a moment. It is honestly a pleasure to see the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) here participating in our debates. I understand that he has other matters preying more deeply on his mind, but it is good to see him.
§ Mr. Pawsey
I will not disagree with that. Why should I?
The report to which I referred recommends substantial increases in the number of incentive posts which carry allowances and provide a boost to the good, conscientious teacher. I am happy to say that good, conscientious teachers still remain the majority in their profession.
Most teachers are dedicated to the children in their charge and to their profession. I want to refer to an article that appeared in The Times Educational Supplement on 24 June. The article refutes a point made by the hon. Member for Leeds, Central. The article states:Certainly the recent pay review has stemmed the flow of good teachers out of schools especially those who work outside London. But it would be an insult to the vast majority of the teaching force if it were suggested that they come into teaching essentially because of money. Most consider their work to be a vocation.How I applaud the sentiments in that article.
One virtue that springs from the abolition of Burnham and the introduction of the interim advisory committee is that the recruiting and propaganda platform provided by Burnham no longer exists. That platform was used for those purposes by some unions. Interestingly, the unions are no longer as militant as they were. That point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) in his interesting observations.
I notice that the loss of membership in the National Union of Teachers coincides with a reduction in militancy by that union. The more militant, the fewer members. I urge hon. Members to consider that. The dislocation that occurred over 18 months including the half-day strikes was damaging not just to our schoolchildren—and God knows, that was bad enough—but to teachers and their profession. The dislocation reduced their prestige and in turn adversely affected morale.
Pay is not the only and overriding issue. However, the 164 per cent. award last year helps to ensure that teachers are appreciated. However, teachers have concerns other 478 than pay. For example, they are apprehensive about school discipline. They are also apprehensive about certain changes in the Education Reform Bill.
Teachers require more reassurance and appreciation. As I said earlier, most teachers do a splendid job. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has a persuasive manner. I am sure that he will use that manner to good advantage when he meets members of the profession. I am certain that unless we enjoy the good will of the teaching profession, we shall have difficulty carrying through the reforms in the Education Reform Bill.
I am quite convinced that the Education Reform Bill will substantially improve the quality and standard of state education, where the majority of our children are educated. I am convinced that we shall have the full support of the teachers in this country.
§ Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)
I listened to the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) today, as I have listened to him for so long in Committees, with interest, but not much agreement, However, he did get one matter right and he should be congratulated on that. He was blunt enough and accurate enough to give the real increase in teachers' pay. He was right to say that it is 4.25 per cent.
It would benefit the House if he were to take the Minister aside. She is clearly as inaccurate and off the record as she has been so often before. She said that the award was 6 per cent. Of course she was wrong. She has been wrong before. As she will not listen to Opposition Members, it would benefit the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth, hon. Members on both sides of the House and the cause of truth if he were to educate the Minister in this matter. She is clearly not educated. For the record, the award is 4.25 per cent. and not, as the Minister said, 6 per cent. after taking increments away or, as she tried to say, 14.5 per cent. That is a characteristic example of the Government's lack of attention to detail and an example of their characteristic capacity to manipulate figures to make people believe what the Government want them to believe.
We need a clear answer from the Minister on another point. Your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, rightly asked us not to intervene too much. I wanted to intervene in the Minister's speech because we require her to be clear on a specific point. If she provides me with the right answer, I will finish my speech now. The Minister told us that the Government's target date for operating the permanent mechanism is 1990. I will happily give way to the Minister if she will answer me. Does she mean in place by 1989 to deal with 1990 pay or does she mean in place by 1990 to deal with 1991 pay? The Minister was not clear on that. It would benefit the House if she could tell us which of two options is right. The Minister is spending a lot of time thinking about the matter—enough time for her to send a Parliamentary Private Secretary to ask an adviser. Is the target 1989 for 1990 or in place for 1990 to negotiate pay for 1991? We have a right to know.
§ Mr. Ashdown
In the interests of time, I would be prepared to finish if the Minister would clarify that point. 479 It should stand on the record that the Minister does not seem to know the nature of the commitment that she made.
§ Mr. Ashdown
The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth says, "Wait and see." I should not have to wait and see.
The Secretary of State for Education and Science gave a commitment on the record on 5 May last year that the Government were heading for the mechanism to be in place by 1989 to deal with the 1990 pay rise. Is the Minister sticking to that? If so, the House should know. If, on the other hand, the target date that the Minister has put forward is a full year later, the Secretary of State's commitment has not been honoured. The House must take that matter very seriously.
For fear that anyone should doubt what the Secretary of State said, I point out that he said in response to a question from me:I do not think that it will be possible to get an agreed new permanent machinery by April 1988. However, that does not mean that we will not be able to get it in place by April 1989 —that is, before 1990"—[Official Report, 5 May 1987; Vol. 115, c. 675.]The Secretary of State declared that as the target. Is the Minister saying that there is a slippage of a year? If so, we have a right to know why.
I do not speak against the motion on the basis that I oppose the Chilver report. I agree with some of the comments. Lord Chilver's report was good and well rehearsed and I am delighted that he had the courage to resist the Government's £300 million limit. Of course we could expect the Government to accept the recommendation, but then cynically to fail to give local education authorities the money to fulfil it.
We also expect the Government to manipulate the level of the pay rises in the way that the Minister has been exposed as doing. Nor will I vote against the principle of incentive allowances, even though the scales that the Government have suggested are very confining. They lack fiexibility to such an extent that the headmaster of the comprehensive school which my children attended told me that the allowances are so confining that he has no real chance of allocating them except on the basis of new responsibility.
Lord Chilver commented on precisely the same point, but that is not why I am speaking against the motion. I am doing so because a commitment was made a year ago in the House by the Secretary of State for Education and Science that steps would be taken to put the permanent machinery in place as soon as possible. To honour that commitment, in October 1987 the Government published their proposals and sought responses by January 1988. From that date to this, no discernible movement has taken place. The Minister said that there have been brief discussions; they were very few and very brief. I suspect, as I imagine do teachers and others outside the House, that the failure to meet that commitment was not an accident. The truth of the matter is that the Government want the Gerbil in place so that school governors have the right to remove allowances, to abolish automatic salary increments and to introduce performance pay by stealth before 480 the permanent body is established to reintroduce teachers capacities and to give them some say in their terms and conditions.
I am not, in principle, against a sensible system of performance pay. It must be introduced by consultation and negotiation with teachers, not by stealth. I hope that the Minister will make it clear whether the Government have shifted their target. If they have, they have done so cynically so that conditions will be in force when the permanent body is established, thus undermining the democratic consensus-based system.
§ Mr. Ashdown
The hon. Lady has her answer. It has taken her five or six minutes to get the answer from her minders in the Box and, perhaps, as long to digest it. The House awaits, with some anticipation, for her answer.
§ Mrs. Rumbold
May I read to the hon. Gentleman— who appears to be deaf and dense, among other things —what I clearly said. The Teachers Pay and Conditions Act 1987 made provision for interim arrangements to last until 1990. The Government have always made it clear that that was the target date for establishing and having in place the permanent machinery, and that remains so.
§ Mr. Ashdown
It has taken the hon. Lady six minutes to get it wrong. I asked her to tell me whether the Government's target is to put the permanent machinery in place, as the Secretary of State said, by April 1989 to deal with pay for 1990 or by 1990 to deal with pay for 1991. It is no good the hon. Lady looking to her minders; they will not give her an answer. She must have sufficient mastery of her brief to allow her to answer one way or the other. I give the hon. Lady the opportunity so to do. Perhaps when she replies to the debate she will have received the answer. Will the machinery be in place by 1989 to deal with pay for 1990 or by 1990 to deal with pay for 1991? In the interests of receiving an answer, and having said what I want to say, I shall finish my remarks.
§ Mr. George Walden (Buckingham)
I apologise to the hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) for not being present to hear his speech.
We are talking not only about pay but pay and conditions, which are both mentioned in the motion. There are conditions on either side. Teachers' conditions are to supply quality teaching. My hon. Friend the Minister paid tribute to the professionalism of teachers. I understand why she has to say that—it is part of the functions of her job. I draw attention to the report of Her Majesty's inspectorate that was published yesterday. It said that 75 per cent. of the classes that the inspectors attended were guilty of the most heinous education sin —low expectation. It is difficult to square what my hon. Friend the Minister naturally felt obliged to say about the professionalism of teachers with the HMI report, which mentioned low expectation in 75 per cent. of the 8,000 classes that the inspectors attended. That signifies that a basic and fundamental problem of quality remains within the British education system.
I know perfectly well that my hon. Friend and the Government are doing what they can to improve the position, and I know that many teachers are concerned about the quality of their profession, but it is not fair on 481 the ordinary children who receive state education—who can never aspire to attend a private school and receive a higher quality of education—to delude ourselves that there is an untapped mass of professionalism, when we know perfectly well—it was confirmed by the HMI report—that there is a major problem of low expectation.
The other side of the conditions coin is what teachers are expected to do. If one asks teachers to have higher expectations of their pupils and to compete with the private sector—which is growing, flourishing and producing better standards—one must reduce class sizes. I know that nationally the figures have been decreasing, but they need to decrease further. The size of classes in private schools is normally 14 to 20 pupils. Clearly that is a major advantage for the teacher and brings out the best in him or her. It encourages him or her to demand and receive higher expectations, which are of crucial national importance. I know that the overall record and the pupil-teacher ratios are good, but I should like the size of classes to be reduced further. As the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) said earlier, it will not be possible for teachers to deliver all the additional effort and professionalism that is rightly being asked of them by the Government, even with smaller classes. Class sizes must reduce further, and if that costs money it will be money well spent. It would have a good effect on the private sector, which at present is having life far too easy. It is impossible to talk about pay without mentioning the quality of teachers and the obligations that class sizes and other problems place on them.
I am convinced by my hon. Friend's remarks about the pay increases teachers received that 4.25 per cent. is reasonable, but I should like to enter one important caveat. It is impossible to discuss this subject without having regard to the whole economy. My hon. Friend said that high inflation damages teachers as much as anyone else, but given the crucial importance that I attach— perhaps privately my hon. Friend does also—to education and the quality of teachers, it would be serious and damaging if we returned to the position of the past when teachers were the only people marching in step and keeping high wage claims down.
I understand the background to this matter and the Treasury's viewpoint—it is responsible to take account of its viewpoint. If we want the elite teaching force that ordinary children—whose parents do not have the money to give them a private education—have a right to expect, we shall have to watch the quality of education, watch class sizes and watch teachers' pay. Teachers should at least be adequately rewarded for their extremely difficult task.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
It was interesting to see how the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) under-estimated, just as the Minister did, the report from the inspectorate, which said that 25 per cent., not 75 per cent., of teachers were dissatisfied. Like the Minister, the hon. Gentleman has got it the wrong way round in his eagerness to condemn teachers.
It is necessary to give some of the history of what has happened to teachers. Last night, there was a debate about democracy and the failure to consult the teachers' unions and local education authorities. This is a continuation of 482 that debate in different circumstances. The Minister let the cat out of the bag. There is not a semblance of democratic thought in anything that she said. The interim report says:The interim advisory committee was established as a result of a major change in the framework in which the pay and conditions of school teachers in England and Wales are determined.It speaks of that happening in 1987, but now we have to wait until 1990. Therefore, teachers will have had four years without negotiating rights. It is no wonder that the International Labour Organisation, which is part of the United Nations, condemned the Government for not having a proper negotiating machinery.
The Minister compounded her felony by going on to praise the interim advisory committee. The issue is not whether that advisory committee under Lord Chilver made a good report. It comprised a hand-picked group of people, unelected by anybody and chosen by the Secretary of State. Naturally he chose the members so that they would produce the report that he wanted. People condemned the Burnham committee, but it was an elected body. I was elected to serve on it by the National Union of Teachers. That committee was smashed by the Government. It had weaknesses, but all democracy has weaknesses. The House has weaknesses. Many hon. Members are not here for the debates—often fewer than 25 per cent. of all Members are present.
The teachers' unions asked that, instead of the interim advisory committee, there should be an elected body, which they called the joint national council. The International Labour Organisation watched what was happening and took action. However, it cannot compel the Government to do anything, so the Minister was wrong to say that it connived at this process because it did not interfere. The ILO cannot bludgeon the Government into doing as they are told. It has to watch them and see What they do. I am sure that any honest democrat will agree that it will be a disgrace if the teachers have no negotiating machinery for four years. Well over 100 years of free negotiations have been cast aside, and this order continues that felony, despite the fact that it is possible to have proper negotiations.
This lack of negotiating rights is wrong and will have profound effects. The teachers were defeated after they were provoked into action by the pitiful wages they were being paid, so they are now in a difficult position. However, they have a democratic approach to the problem that the Government do not have, and a lack of democracy will always catch up with a Government. The Government are arrogant and over-proud because of their huge majority, but in time this will catch up on them.
The hard facts about wages have not been given. My hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) gave some of the figures when he talked about an increase of 4.25 per cent. and the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) noticed the 6 per cent. mistake that the Minister had made. The Scottish teachers have got 6 per cent., and good luck to them. However, it has not yet been mentioned that the national average wage increase is 8.5 per cent., so a 4.25 per cent. increase for the teachers takes them back a year. The teachers are rightly angry about that.
The teachers have repeatedly asked to see the Secretary of State, but he has repeatedly put them off. He was asked at the beginning of the year and spoke about 29 January. He was asked later and told the deputy general secretary of the NUT that the meeting would happen in a month or 483 two. Then, he said that it would happen a bit later, and then he said it would happen in June. It has not happened, so there has been no negotiation and only a report from an unelected body. No matter how good that report might be, it has come from an undemocratic body.
We would like from the Minister an answer to the question that the hon. Member for Yeovil asked many times. Will the teachers spend three years with no negotiating rights, or four years? If it is to be four years after assurances that it would be three, who knows whether it will not be five years? Who knows whether the Government will not go on in the same old way because of their huge majority?
Although we shall not vote against the order, it must be pointed out that it is a continuation of a lack of democracy in dealing with a long-established profession. No amount of slanging about that profession or against teachers will do anything to alter that.
§ Mr. Flannery
I am about to finish so that another hon. Member can speak.
Will the Government extend democracy or will they carry on with no democracy for the teaching profession? If they do the latter, it will catch up with them in the long run because a lack of democracy always catches up with those who engage in it.
§ Mrs. Rumbold
With the leave of the House, may I say that the Government are as keen as anyone else to have some organisation to negotiate pay and conditions for teachers in a way that is satisfactory to the profession, to the local authorities and to the Government. With that in mind, we wish to embark as soon as possible on serious discussions with the various parties whom we hope will come together eventually with a proper negotiating group.
In case the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) does not understand this, it is not possible to have negotiations in 1990 with a negotiating body unless such a body has been thought through and some conclusions have been reached by the end of 1989. The Government have given that commitment already, and that is the answer to his question. In other words, if there are to be negotiations on pay and conditions, there must be negotiating machinery.
§ Mrs. Rumbold
I have only a few minutes to reply, so I shall not give way.
It has been alleged on a number of occasions that teachers' pay has not been increased by more than 4 per cent. The average main scale teachers'pay will rise by just under 4 per cent. as a result of increments, but it is important to remember that teachers' pay has also increased by 4.25 per cent. across the board. By anybody's reckoning, this leads to an increase of more than 4 per cent. for everybody, because teachers are not all paid at the same rate all the way through.
§ Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)
It may be convenient for the House to know that a head teacher on the maximum scale earns nearly £32,000 a year. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the teacher on the top of the scale —not a head or a deputy head—will be earning nearly £14,000 with possibly £4,500 extra as a result of the incentive allowance?
§ Mrs. Rumbold
In fairness, the heads and deputy head teachers have not managed to receive as high increments as the rest of the profession as a result of the pay round. Therefore, although my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) is correct, it was the principal task of the interim advisory committee to consider the main group in the profession.
I do not accept the allegation that the Government are not considering seriously the establishment of proper negotiating machinery for the teaching profession. I also do not accept that the Government have not thought carefully about the rewards for the teaching profession's hard work, given that, in the past three years, they have received a 25 per cent. pay increase as a result of restructuring. On top of that, this year, teachers have received an increase of more than 4 per cent. plus increments representing a further 4 per cent. increase. I believe that that is a good and adequate payment for the hard work that teachers do.
§ Mr. Fatchett
With the leave of the House, I shall reply. The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) made an appropriate and necessary contribution to this debate. It is sad that that speech did not come from the Minister. The hon. Gentleman spoke about the need for professionalism and the need to reward it, which affects morale and recruitment. Such issues are crucial and have been spotlighted by the interim advisory committee. It is a shame that the Minister did not respond in accordance with the importance of those issues.
It is also a shame that, yet again, the Minister was dismally inept in discussing when the negotiating machinery will be in place and the Government's intentions. The Secretary of State made it clear, in response to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), that it was the Government's intention to establish that negotiating machinery by April 1989. Every word that the Minister has uttered has suggested that that is no longer the Government's intention. We must either reach that conclusion or conclude, as was self-evident during the passage of the Education Reform Bill, that the Minister does not understand her brief and does not understand the issues involved.
The Minister also failed to understand the importance of democratic collective bargaining rights for teachers. The loss of those rights goes to the heart of the collapse of teacher morale and the Minister——
§ It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order [22 July], put the Question.
§ Question negatived.