HC Deb 05 March 1997 vol 291 cc898-9
11. Mr. Clifton-Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to improve the appraisal system for teachers in Scotland. [17323]

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson

Appraisal should be the basis for assuring teaching standards in Scottish schools. The present voluntary arrangements have resulted in too few teachers being appraised. My right hon. Friend and I have therefore decided that appraisal should be put on a statutory basis. Consultation on the draft regulations has begun and will be operational by the start of the new school session.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

Does my hon. Friend agree that the appraisal of teachers goes hand in hand with the testing of children? Has my hon. Friend noticed, in contrast to the positive proposals in the White Paper on the future of education in Scotland, the near hysteria of Opposition Members and their teaching union allies in opposing those policies? Does he agree that that shows that old Labour is still alive and kicking in some areas and that the tragedy is that it is to the detriment of children in Scotland?

Mr. Robertson

My hon. Friend is right. Our approach to appraisal of teaching, and testing in S1 and S2 in secondary schools, is part of our continuing drive to push up even further standards in Scottish schools. That contrasts sharply with the attitude of Labour Members, whose answer to all this seems to be to close bad schools.

Mr. Welsh

When will the Minister respond to the 40,000 parents, children and teachers in Edinburgh and the 20,000 in Glasgow who demonstrated against the Government's education policy? Will he now appraise his mishandling of the education system? If he will not, the electorate certainly will.

Mr. Robertson

As I understand it, those people were demonstrating not against the Government's policy but against the spending decisions and expected spending decisions of local authorities. Every teacher on that march and every parent of every child in Scotland's schools should know that every local authority in Scotland has more money to spend next year on education than last year. We expect those local authorities to make education the same key priority as the Government have made it.

Sir Hector Monro

On the training of teachers, does my hon. Friend agree that the continuation of the assisted places scheme and the introduction of vouchers for nursery education are crucial for the future of Scottish education and that if the Labour party continues to object and say that those schemes will be abolished, it will continue to plummet down the polls as it did yesterday?

Mr. Robertson

Every parent in Scotland of a pre-school child should know what the Labour party intends to do this year, next year and the year after. It would snatch back the vouchers, worth £1,100, which we are issuing and allow parents to choose, for the first time, whether to send their child to a nursery in the private or local authority sector. We are empowering parents by giving them that money and if, God forbid, Labour was sitting on the Government Benches, it would snatch that money back.

Mrs. Liddell

Will the Minister acknowledge that the key to raising standards in Scottish schools is the excellent work done by Her Majesty's inspectorate of schools? Will he condemn the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans), who claimed that school inspectors do not have proper jobs? Is not it hypocritical of Conservative Members to attack teachers when no action is taken against Conservative Members who pollute our schoolchildren with racism, sexism and bigotry?

Mr. Robertson

The hon. Member who should be condemned is the hon. Lady who, two weeks ago, was briefing the press that the Government intended to privatise HMI. That was absolutely untrue. As always, the hon. Lady seeks to hector and lecture all involved in Scottish education with the attitude that granny knows best. That is why granny wants to snatch back £1,100 from the hands of parents in Scotland.