§ 4.13 p.m.
§ The Earl of Swinton
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. May I just say what a pleasure it is to have my noble friend Lady Young supporting me on this Bill, especially in what I know is the very busy life that she now leads. When she moved the Second Reading of what became the Education Act 1980, she paid tribute to the knowledge and expertise in educational matters to be found in your Lordships' House. This remains the case, and I am sure that today's debate will provide a clear demonstration of that fact. I think it altogether fitting that an Education Bill of the sort before us should start its passage through Parliament in this House.
This Bill's principal provisions on school government and teaching quality provide major and far-reaching opportunities for each of the 28,000 maintained schools in England and Wales. The parents, teachers and communities served by those schools will want to take these opportunities. The consequence will be that our schools will become more vital institutions, with a clear sense of identity and purpose. They will be more responsive to the needs of the pupils and the wider community. Teaching quality will be enhanced and our schools will make more effective use of the substantial resources allocated to them. These major legislative proposals will, together with the rest of the Government's policies, lead to the better schools all want to see.
There is thus much in this Bill that will, I believe, command a fair degree of support from all sides. At the same time, I recognise that there are various matters which your Lordships will wish to test and explore, and I look forward to some searching exchanges today and subsequently.
When the Bill was published on 20th February, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science welcomed it as the largest and, for the nature and thrust of its proposals, certainly one of the most significant since the great Butler Act of 1944. That will become abundantly clear as we work through its contents. I should emphasise at this point, however, that the essential framework established by the 1944 Act is retained. This Bill recognises the important role of local education authorities and that they must have the powers they need in order to secure the provision of sufficient and efficient education for their whole area. There may be room for debate over the extent of the powers needed, but the principle is not in doubt. Equally, the dual system of county and voluntary schools is retained. The Government—indeed, the country—continue to value this highly for the greater diversity which voluntary schools bring to the maintained sector of education.
The Government's broad-ranging policies for schools were set out in the White Paper Better Schools, published a year ago. The principal aims are, first, to raise the standards at all levels of ability and, secondly, to secure the best possible return from the resources which are found for our schools. Many of the policies set out in Better Schools can be fully pursued within the existing legal framework. But the White Paper's proposals for school government and teaching quality 418 require fresh legislation. These two subjects provide the main content of the Bill.
The Bill deals first with school government. The aim of those provisions is to re-establish school governing bodies as a force for good in the life of individual schools and the communities they serve. The 1944 Act established the governing framework, and it was clearly intended at that time that governing bodies should provide the focus for each school to achieve the identity and sense of purpose vital to its success. If I may briefly quote from the 1944 White Paper Principles of Government in Maintained Secondary Schools:Every school of whatever type or category must have an individual life of its own as well as a place in the local system.The 1944 Act placed aided schools within the context of the maintained system, but enshrined many of their distinctive characteristics in the legislation. Commenting on this, the White Paper said:The fact that aided schools are assured under the Bill"—a reference to the 1944 Act—of an independence hardly, if at all, less than that which they enjoy at present, makes it the more desirable to seek means to secure that reasonable autonomy is enjoyed also by county, controlled and special agreement schools. Independence implies, not freedom from proper control, but freedom to exercise legitimate and appropriate functions.It is exactly those principles which this Bill pursues, for the vision intended by the 1944 Act generally did not become reality except in the case of voluntary aided and special agreement schools. As a result of their domination by local education authority appointees, their obscure powers, and their general failure to harness parents' natural interest in their children's progress, most governing bodies and their schools failed to develop their own separate identity and sense of purpose to a sufficient degree. Our schools which, too often, have come to be regarded as mere adjuncts of the local education authority, are the poorer for this.
The 1980 Act provided a valuable step forward by ending the widespread practice of grouping many schools under a single governing body and by introducing elected parent and teacher governors. This Bill completes the journey that, with hindsight, was only begun by the 1980 Act. It will remove the scope that local education authorities have and normally use to appoint the majority on the governing bodies of county, controlled and maintained special schools. Instead, the governing bodies of such schools will become a new partnership between parents; the local education authority; the head and other teachers; certain other representative governors; and a new category of co-opted governors. No interest will predominate. At the same time—and I cannot over-emphasise the importance of this conjunction—a clear uniform distribution of functions is proposed to enable the governing body, local education authority and head teacher to play their distinctive yet complementary roles in the life, work and success of individual schools.
In your Lordships' House, it would be appropriate at this point to acknowledge the work of the committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, in opening up these matters for discussion some ten years ago. I am delighted that the noble Lord is taking part in this debate later this afternoon.
419 I turn now to the detail of the Bill. Part I sets out new procedures for the making of instruments and articles of government. These are the working documents for each school which set out matters relating to the governing body's constitution in the instrument and, in the articles, the various functions to be exercised by the governing body, local education authority and head teacher. The major change embodied in Part I is the provision for the local education authority to make the instruments and articles of government for both county and voluntary schools. At present, it is the Secretary of State who makes the instruments of government for all voluntary schools and the articles of government for voluntary secondary schools. In view of the detailed prescription now proposed, these procedures are unnecessarily cumbersome.
I know there is some anxiety among those concerned with voluntary schools that this change will leave those schools vulnerable to an erosion of their powers in favour of the local education authority. I can give your Lordships the categoric assurance that there is no reason for this to happen. Clause 1 makes it clear that the detailed prescription of the Bill and other legislation, and of any trust deed, cannot be overridden. Clause 2 then provides additional safeguards. The local education authority is required to have regard to the way the school has been conducted and to secure the agreement of the voluntary school's governing body or, in appropriate cases, those governors representing the voluntary foundation. In the event of disagreement over a proposal by the local education authority or, indeed, a proposal put forward by the voluntary school itself, the matter may be referred by either side to the Secretary of State. As now, he will thus remain the final arbiter. Indeed, this is additional protection for voluntary primary schools whose articles are currently made by local education authorities without that safeguard.
Part II of the Bill comprises the clauses concerning the composition of governing bodies and their proceedings, to be repeated as appropriate in individual schools' instruments of government. Clause 3 sets out the new composition, to which I have already referred, for the governing bodies of county, controlled and maintained special schools, with the number of governors in different categories linked to the size of school. Clause 4 covers aided and special agreement schools, and is a re-enactment of the relevant parts of Section 2 of the 1980 Act. The governing body of such a school already serves to give it a distinctive life of its own and is the agency through which the voluntary body responsible for the school exercises those functions which underpin the dual system which the Government are committed to preserving.
Clause 5 provides, in certain difficult circumstances, for parent governors to be appointed by the LEA rather than elected, and Clause 6 provides for the appointment of an extra representative governor in place of a co-opted governor at certain schools.
This would be an appropriate point at which to mention Clause 43 which makes new provision to ensure that, in future, all these governors will be better equipped to discharge their important role. Local education authorities are to be required to secure that governors are adequately informed about and trained 420 for their responsibilities. A number of excellent pilot projects in such training are about to start with the help of education support grants.
Clauses 8 and 9 concern the grouping of schools under a single governing body. While the Government's general policy is that each individual school should have its own governing body, it accepts that there will be cases where some grouping is appropriate. These clauses largely re-enact Section 3 of the 1980 Act with two particular changes. First, the grouping is to be effected by an instrument of government subject to all the procedures under Part I of the Bill rather than under an "arrangement" as at present. Secondly, the letter of the law will be brought closer to its spirit. It will still permit the grouping of two primary schools (neither of which is a special school) without the Secretary of State's approval but with the new condition that they serve substantially the same area and, in Wales, make similar use of the Welsh language. Any other case will require approval.
Clause 11 fills a gap in the present law by making important new provision for new schools to have temporary governing bodies to be active in the crucial formative period leading up to the opening of the school. The composition and powers of such bodies are set out in Schedule 2 with the aim of making them as much like full governing bodies as possible given that the school is not yet open.
Clause 14 contains a number of miscellaneous provisions: some are re-enactments, others provide clarification. I should mention in particular subsection (12) which requires school governors to be aged 18 or more. A similar provision in relation to college governors is in Clause 47. The Government have long held the view that a school or college governor holds an office of public and pecuniary trust; minors are not eligible to hold such an office. This view, however, has never been tested in the courts, and the Government have now taken the opportunity to put the matter beyond doubt.
Part III of the Bill contains provisions for the allocation of functions between the governing body, the local education authority and the head teacher. At present, the allocation of functions is largely left to obscure articles of government which, over the years, have developed a bewildering degree of variety. This variety in the way important decisions are taken (not what those decisions might be) really cannot be right in what is, by law, a national service. The distribution of functions now proposed will secure a uniformity of approach, and will ensure that the new-style governing bodies, local education authorities and head teachers will have a clearer understanding of how they are to work together for the good of individual schools.
In formulating their proposals on functions, the Government have followed three broad principles which I hope will inform all discussion on these matters in your Lordships' House: first, the local education authority must have the powers to carry out its duty to secure the provision of sufficient and efficient schools for its area; secondly, and subject to the local education authority's overall responsibility, the governing body should be able to determine, in consultation with the head teacher, the main policies and lines of development of the school; thirdly, the 421 professional responsibilities of the head teacher and the staff must be respected.
The new provisions are to be set out in individual school's articles of government, to be readily available as a working document. In some cases, there will be little scope for articles to do other than simply repeat the provisions in the Bill. But, in others, the Bill provides minimum functions for governing bodies: local education authorities will be able to confer greater powers on governing bodies as seems appropriate. It should be noted that, in particular, it will no longer be possible for local education authorities to override governing bodies in the legitimate exercise of their functions. It is relatively common at present for articles of government to provide for governing bodies' exercise of their functions to be subject to any direction of the authority.
I turn now to the detail of the proposals. Clause 15 provides for the conduct of a school to be under the control of the governing body, subject to the specific statutory responsibilities of others. This is an important provision which gives real locus to the governing body. Clauses 16 to 18 cover the secular curriculum. None of this affects the provisions in the 1944 Act concerning religious education. The clauses require the local education authority to state its curricular policy for all the schools in its area. Taking account of this but not bound by it, it will then be for the governing body to state its policy for the curriculum in the school. Finally, the head teacher's professional role is made explicit by allocating to him the determination and organisation of the curriculum, in a way that is compatible with either the authority's policy or that of the governing body. In the case of aided and special agreement schools, however, the governing body is to have overall control of the content of the secular curriculum. This preserves the position provided in the 1944 Act for aided secondary schools. I should also mention here that the head teacher's role is emphasised by involving him, under Clause 23, in spending decisions affecting the curriculum.
Clauses 20 to 22 deal with the discipline and good order of schools. Again, the head teacher's professional role is endorsed by placing substantial functions on his shoulders, but with appropriate guidance from the governing body and local education authority. In particular, it is to be for the head teacher alone to be able to initiate an exclusion—a term deliberately chosen to embrace any situation in which a pupil is told to leave the school premises for disciplinary reasons. The clauses tackle the particular problem that some pupils are now left in limbo; excluded from school, but not formally expelled, with no one taking any action to ensure that the matter is properly resolved. To safeguard the pupils' interests, significant exclusions may be overruled by the governing body or the local education authority, applying their broader perspectives flowing, in the case of the authority, from its responsibilities for securing the education of children in its area. For that reason, Clause 22 provides a reserve power for the authority to intervene to prevent the collapse of good order at a county, controlled or maintained special school.
For aided and special agreement schools, the governing body alone will have the final say on the 422 expulsion of a pupil. But, again as appropriate given its long-stop responsibility for children's education, the local education authority will be able to force a decision as to reinstatement or expulsion of a temporarily-excluded pupil.
Clause 23 provides a role for the governing body in the expenditure on its school. To aid cost-consciousness and to enable the governing body to judge whether the expenditure on the school represents value for money, the local education authority will be required to supply the governing body with a statement of expenditure on the school. It will also be required to allocate a sum for expenditure by the governing body on at least books, equipment and stationery. That is a minimum requirement, recognising that over-hasty changes in the complex area of financial delegation can be counter-productive. Those local education authorities who currently allow considerable financial autonomy to their schools will be able to continue to do so and the Government hope that, to advantage, they will soon be joined by others.
Clauses 24 and 25 contain significant provisions that will enable all parents, not just the minority who become parent governors, to become more involved in the work of the school. Clause 24 requires the governing body to prepare an annual report to parents on the discharge of its functions. Clause 25 provides for the governing body to hold an annual meeting for parents to discuss the annual report and other matters relating to the life and work of the school. At that meeting parents may, if they wish and subject to a special quorum, pass formal resolutions for consideration by the governing body, the local education authority or the head teacher. For obvious reasons, hospital schools and residential schools will not be required to hold an annual meeting, though the governing body would have the discretion to hold one if it was thought worth while.
Clauses 28 to 35 provide the detailed framework for the appointment and dismissal of complemented staff at county, controlled, maintained special and special agreement schools, where the local education authority is the employer. As such, the actual appointment of staff is a matter for the authority, and the same is true of dismissal. The governing body is, however, given a considerable role in the selection of staff for appointment and must be consulted in cases of dismissal or redeployment.
I make no apologies whatsoever for the degree of detail that is included to secure this proper role for the governors, especially on the appointment of a head teacher. The selection and appointment of a head teacher is among the most important acts affecting a school. The procedure set out in Clauses 30 and 31 ensures an appropriately strong voice for the governing body, with at least equal representation on the selection panel with the local education authority.
The appointment of staff to aided schools is not affected by this Bill. Staff at aided schools are employed by the governing body. The 1944 Act already makes appropriate provision that needs no change. I should also emphasise that the Bill does not affect the special rights of foundation governors at controlled and special agreement schools over the appointment and dismissal of reserved teachers for religious education.
423 Part IV of the Bill contains provisions for enhancing teaching quality and a variety of miscellaneous measures. Teaching quality is clearly vital to a school's success. One of the most crucial responsibilities of LEAs is to manage the teacher force so that the teachers' professional commitment, skills and knowledge are used to best effect. The managerial responsibility has two main but complementary aspects: first, to support and encourage professional development at all stages of an individual teacher's career; and second, to see that the staff of each school matches as far as possible the curricular needs of the pupils.
The Government believe that the regular and systematic appraisal of teachers' performance is essential to enable management at all levels to have the information necessary for the systematic and effective provision of professional support and development and for the deployment of staff to best advantage. We hope that a national framework for teacher appraisal can be achieved by agreement between the local education authorities and the teachers' associations. However, it may be desirable—and could prove necessary—for that national framework to be provided or supported by statutory regulations. Clause 37 therefore enables the Secretary of State to make such regulations. I must stress again the hope that appraisal can be secured by agreement. But it is such an important tool for management's use in staff development that the Government consider it essential to have that enabling power put on the statute book now.
One of the purposes of teacher appraisal will be to identify where in-service training may be needed. To ensure that appropriate provision is made for such training, Clause 38 provides for the Secretary of State to make wider use of specific grants, under regulations, to promote more systematic and purposeful planning of in-service training. That training may also be for others in the education service, such as local education authority inspectors, educational psychologists and youth and community workers.
Turning now to the remaining miscellaneous matters, Clause 39 supersedes Section 31 of the 1980 Act in dealing with the recoupment of costs between local education authorities where provision for primary, secondary or further education is made by one authority for a pupil or student belonging to the area of another. It extends to such types of non-advanced further education as may be prescribed and to hospital schooling for the under-fives—the "free trade" already provided by the 1980 Act for pupils of compulsory school age. Access to non-advanced further education courses is eased and the home authority will no longer be able to refuse to allow recoupment. The opportunity is also being taken to clarify the Secretary of State's power to settle any disagreement between authorities as to the appropriate rates of recoupment by reference to average costs, in line with current practice.
Clauses 40 and 41 make a modest but useful adjustment to the statutory framework of the dual system. Many of the voluntary schools newly created by the 1944 Act that then opted for controlled status could now afford the financial liabilities associated 424 with the greater independence of aided status; and changes in local patterns of provision could make an aided school more appropriate than a controlled one in some cases. Clause 40 removes the current block on such a change in status by providing a new public process very similar to that in Section 13 of the 1980 Act for changes of character.
Controlled schools would be required under Clause 41 to compensate local education authorities for any past capital investment. I should make it clear that we do not expect a flood of applications from controlled schools, and the Secretary of State would clearly not approve a change of status if the local education authority or others could show that such would be detrimental to overall educational provision in the area.
Clause 44 clarifies the present confused statutory position on governors' allowances. Taking as its starting point that service as a governor should be regarded as a voluntary service, the clause makes clear that the only allowance that may be paid to a governor is travel and subsistence. Any such allowance will be payable at the authority's discretion. While it may discriminate between different categories of establishment, it may not do so between different categories of governor.
Finally, Clauses 45 and 46 remove two unnecessary requirements of the 1944 Act; for there to be two central advisory councils (one for England and one for Wales), and for the Secretary of State to publish an annual report to Parliament. For some years, the sort of advice that central advisory councils might have been expected in 1944 to provide has been more appropriately obtained ad hoc from special committees or individuals. The time-consuming preparation of the annual report is no longer justified: the information it provides is readily available elsewhere and the report generates little interest.
I am of course conscious that this is a time of trouble and uncertainty for our schools, but all those with the interests of the nation's children at heart should be intent on making a reality of the Government's declared aims of raising standards at all levels of ability and securing the best possible return from the substantial resources that are made available.
This is a major task which requires the involvement and collaboration of pupils, parents, teachers, governing bodies, the wider communities served by individual schools, local authorities and central government. This Bill provides a new means of securing that vital involvement and partnership. It offers new life to governing bodies freed from local authority domination, first by harnessing the natural interests of parents and the wider community and, secondly, by clarifying the present confused powers. With the governing body as a focus, each school will thus have a significant say in its own destiny as a part of local provision.
The Government are confident that these new opportunities for parents and others in school government, coupled with those for teachers in professional development through appraisal and in-service training, will be taken up and will secure the real progress that we all want to see. In a few years' time we shall all wonder how there could ever have 425 been any doubt about the good sense of the measures in the Bill which is now before us. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time. (The Earl of Swinton.)
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, we must all be grateful to the noble Earl for his lucid and exhaustive explanation of the provisions of this Bill. He is right in drawing attention to the fact that there is a great continuity of legislation and thinking about the government of schools over a period of more than a century, though I suspect that the noble Earl may be a little optimistic if he thinks that the present Bill will provide the culmination of that process. The history of managers—as they were called—in our schools possibly started with the 1870 Education Act, when of course they were largely confined to primary schools. But the controversy about whether or not there should be independent bodies attached to each school, playing a role in the government of the school, has never ceased since that time.
The 1902 Education Act made it possible—perhaps inadvertently—for those who were antagonistic to the idea of governing bodies to flout the intentions of the Government in the Act. It will be recalled that Sir James Graham, the Director of Education for Leeds, successfully used the wording of the Act to abolish all types of governors and managers in the schools of Leeds, and the government were unable to enforce their intentions. That indeed was the case right up until the 1944 Education Act, which in this respect was intended to bring some order out of the chaos which had existed between the different kinds of schools—the direct grant schools, what are now called voluntary aided or voluntary controlled schools, and the county schools.
I feel that the noble Earl is unduly harsh to the 1944 Act. He claims that the provisions of the Act with respect to governors, and in particular of course the provisions of Command Paper 6523 on the principles of government in schools which followed, did not actually work in the county schools. He claims that they were effective only for the direct grant and aided schools. I should have thought that there was a good deal of evidence that that was not the case and that there were many parts of the country where school managers and governors existed successfully. The noble Earl himself has been involved in this system for a number of years in North Yorkshire. I should have thought that if he looked again, he would see that there was a continuity of understanding and appreciation that governors and managers have a valuable part to play.
I want to show very briefly how this historical process has continued virtually without ceasing, whether the government in power came from the Labour Party or the Conservative Party. First of all I should like to pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Taylor, whose report of 1977 is absolutely fundamental for its understanding of the issues and the depth of its inquiry into the issues with which this Bill is concerned. During the period of office of the Labour Government it was followed by Command Paper 7430 of 1978, and if the Labour Government had stayed in 426 office after 1979 that would have been followed no doubt by the provisions of the Education (No. 2) Bill of 1978–79, which might have advanced many of the measures of this Bill by quite a number of years.
However, it is true to say that the Conservative Government to some extent carried on the thinking of my noble friend Lord Taylor, which was the thinking of their predecessor government, in the 1980 Act and in the White Paper of 1983 on teaching quality. I shall say less about the Green Paper of 1984 on parental influence in schools, because many of us were very pleased to see that the White Paper called Better Schools abandoned some of the more foolish proposals from 1983.
It is clear that this has been a matter of debate which has not particularly been undertaken on party lines. The noble Earl always plays a straight bat in addressing the House. He did not use any of the arguments which have been used by pundits of the Conservative Party since this Bill was published, that the widening of the responsibilities of governing bodies to include parents in some way will curb the trendy lefty teaching that a number of Conservatives seem to think is a major threat to our schools. If I cannot convince either the noble Earl himself or his colleagues of the fact that this is not a matter of party stance, perhaps I may draw the attention of the noble Earl and his colleagues to the situation in France. There, the Loi Haby which was made under a Right-wing government, was the law which in fact encouraged experimentation and further political education and to some extent, in the view of some people in France, was a moving away from the rigid standards of achievement which were characteristic of French schools. It is Jean-Pierre Chevénement, the present Minister of Education in France, and a Left-wing Socialist Minister of Education, who has firmly put back on the statute book and into the practice of schools in France the three Rs—the disciplines of the perhaps sometimes too authoritarian procedures in schools which have been characteristic of French education.
There are a number of important matters in this Bill on which we on this side of the House agree with the Government. We are in agreement with the Government that there should be an end to political control in our governing bodies by local education authorities. We are in agreement with the Government that there should be improved procedures for information and communication; for reporting of the activities of the governing body to the school, of the governing body to the local education authority, of the local education authority to the governing body and any other channel of communication which I may have left out in that selection. We are in agreement—with provisos to which I shall refer—with the Government's view that there should be better training for governors in our schools. We are in agreement in principle—again with provisos to which I shall refer—with the Government's view about the need for appraisal of teachers. We are in agreement with the Government when they say that there should be a degree of control by the governors over budgets for their own schools, where we think that it is possible (and Cambridgeshire, for example, has shown this to be the case) to give governors this degree of control without an excessive burden on the local education 427 authorities. At the same time they can make wiser decisions, which are better informed, because they are more locally informed, about the way in which the school should be run.
But I have to say that there are many aspects of the Bill where the wording of legislation, even legislation as detailed as this, can depart drastically from reality. The noble Earl referred to the 1944 Act on many occasions. I have been a governor of schools for many years under the provisions of that Act. It provides that the governing body should have control of the conduct and curriculum of a school. How many governing bodies actually control the conduct and curriculum of a school? That is not the way in practice that the system works. That is not because the governing bodies are politically controlled by local education authorities, but because of the natural difference in experience, self-confidence and understanding of the different people involved in governing bodies.
Sir James Graham is an extreme case. There are other more extreme cases of the way in which the provisions of the 1944 Act do not take place in reality. I well recall visiting the committee of my noble friend Lord Taylor when it had a weekend meeting at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park. I was addressing his committee on the subject of neighbourhood councils. The then chairman of Manchester Education Committee said confidently that there was nothing at all wrong with the Manchester system whereby the education committee comprised the governing body for all the Manchester schools, and there was nothing more local than that. She was confident that that was necessary for the effective control of education in Manchester. I wonder whether she still has the same view.
There are also many devices whereby those who are determined to bypass regulations can do so. Again as a governor of a comprehensive school in Haringey, I was actively involved as the first chairman of that body in the movement of the school from being an ordinary comprehensive to being a community school. We wanted to take away the political majority from the governing body; to appoint far more parents; to have elected representatives of the school community association, which was a powerful and effective body; and to have teachers. We achieved all that, except for the teachers, by agreement with the local authority.
The instruments of government at that time did not permit us to have teachers. We had a simple device; we formed a committee which was called the Drayton School Committee. It had the composition that we wanted: it had pupils, teachers and community representatives. It met at 7.30. At 9.30, 10 o'clock or whatever other time the business of the governing body, in effect, was concluded; it adjourned, and in a few minutes the formal governing body rubber-stamped its decisions. I hesitate to suggest such a system for those who wish to use it for less admirable purposes, but it is possible to bypass regulations in that way, provided that one is determined and that everybody is in agreement that that should be done.
Before I come to talk about the amendments that we shall be seeking, let me suggest that our objective all the time should be effective partnership among the 428 constituent parts of the governing body. The noble Earl used the word "partnership", but can he defend some of the wording that we find in the Bill? He described the Government's principles about its functions. They are that the local education authority shall have control of the overall effectiveness and management of schools in the area; the governing body shall determine the main policies and lines of development of the school; and the head teacher shall be responsible for the determination and organisation of the secular curriculum. I suggest to your Lordships that those statements are all overlapping and potential sources of enormous conflict.
The Government have not made clear what the responsibilities will be among the three parts. I am sure that it is not through any lack of good will. I do not accuse the Government of malice, but I do not believe that the legislation has been adequately thought out by those with practical experience of working in schools. I suggest that on the whole it has been produced by civil servants who do not have the benefit of that practical experience.
I come now to the amendments that we shall be seeking at a later stage in the passage of the Bill. Despite my welcome for its general principles, I have to say that the amendments that we want will be substantial. First, we believe that the proposals for the composition of governing bodies are much too detailed and rigid. They simply do not apply to the different conditions in which our schools find themselves. We should much prefer to have minimum conditions and model instruments and articles of government which shall apply to all education authorities, but by all means let us abolish political control.
Pupil governors have proved their worth in a number of local authorities. I know that from my personal experience as well. We think that their deliberate exclusion is a grave mistake if there is to be a true sense of partnership. To have fewer teachers on the governing body than the number of local authority and parent representatives is an invitation to the teachers not to take the governing body as seriously as they might, and we shall seek to remedy that. We believe that there should be equal partnership among the three.
We believe that the provision for co-opted governors is not adequate to represent those cases where there are strong community associations and where there ought to be, and could be, representation from, for example, higher education, industry and commerce; the many groups which are important in the community in which the school exists. We shall have a number of specific amendments designed to make the governing bodies more flexible and representative.
On the powers of governing bodies, we shall want to try to resolve the confusion that we believe still exists in the wording. We shall seek to remove the minimum limitations on the number of meetings, to improve reporting back to make more secure the provision that parents and teachers should be elected by their constituencies and to reduce the power of the local education authority to make provision for appointment if it thinks it appropriate. We shall certainly want to see that parents are better represented on the governing 429 bodies of boarding schools, hospital schools and special schools. There is plenty of evidence from local authorities that that works.
We see no reason why there should not be governing bodies for nursery schools. We think the whole question of eligibility of local authority employees has not been adequately thought out. Certainly employees of the education department ought to be debarred, but why bar the employees of, say, a finance or a housing department? Our present thinking is that there should be no grouping. The noble Earl described that as being a major defect of the 1944 Act, but he has not proposed to remove it in the legislation. We shall have to listen to more views from those working in the area, but my inclination is to say that there is no justification at all for grouping of schools.
As regards the responsibilities of governing bodies, we think that they should be required to look into charges; to look at any inroads that the Government may wish to make into our free education system. So far as appraisal is concerned, we believe that, in effect, the Government are proposing a blank cheque. All the questions about appraisal are left unanswered in the Bill. There is no indication of whether it should be the head teacher, advisers or the local authority or whether it should be for development or disciplinary purposes. There is no indication that the Government have understood, or appreciated, even if they propose to reject, the teachers' argument that appraisal should not be used as a ground for dismissal or for discrimination in salary. It is not good enough for the Government to put in blank legislation of this kind without discussion of the important issues. So far as appointments are concerned, we believe that the provisions are extremely clumsy. The requirement for repetition of the procedures in positions of deadlock will lead to unnecessary delay. We believe that better ways of doing that could be found.
Turning to voluntary schools, it is notable that the dominance of foundation governors in voluntary schools has been virtually untouched. Our view is that parents and teachers in our voluntary schools should have just as much right to participate as equal partners in the government of those schools as they do in county schools. We shall be seeking amendments for that purpose. Since the Long Title of the Bill says that this is an Act to amend the law on education, we shall be helping the Government by putting forward proposals for the Government to fulfil their responsibility to the European Court of Justice, which they failed to fulfil last summer, and to provide for the abolition of corporal punishment in our schools. I hope that the Government will be grateful that someone is grasping the nettle on this matter. The existing shameful silence of the Government cannot be continued any longer.
On much more minor matters, we are not so confident as the Government are that central advisory councils have outstayed their value. Certainly, we do not understand why everyone needs to make annual reports except the Secretary of State. This is a Bill that deserves and will undoubtedly get very detailed consideration in this House and in another place. It deals with matters of great legislative difficulty. It deals with them, in our view, sometimes in a clumsy and rigid way. We are not convinced—the 430 Government will have to convince us—that this legislation would, for example, have solved the problems of the William Tyndale school where it is a matter of the self-confidence of the governing body to see that the situation does not arise, of the Drummond Middle School, Bradford, where it is a three-way dispute involving the head teacher, the governing body and the education authority, or of Poundswick School, Manchester, where the whole question of exclusion is, in our view, not adequately answered by this legislation.
It is not simply a question of centralisation and decentralisation. As the noble Earl says, in most cases, the Secretary of State is not directly involved in the provisions of the Bill. It is a question of whether the right balance has been found between conflict in our schools and true partnership in our schools. With the best will in the world, we do not believe that the Government have found that right balance.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
My Lords, we, too, on these Benches, would like to thank the noble Earl for his clear exposition of the Bill. But a good deal of the measure, we have to say, does not conform to the claims made by the noble Earl that it will clarify such matters as the respective responsibilities of LEAs, head teachers and governing bodies. As I shall try to point out, we find these claims by no means justifiable.
We believe that there is an over-meticulous attention to detail. We believe also that the Bill does not address itself to the real problems facing our education service. Indeed, I have to confess that, at one moment when the noble Earl was speaking, I wondered whether we were talking about the same Bill. That was the occasion when he mentioned improving teaching quality and producing better schools.
As to the composition of governing bodies, of all the people I have spoken to, I have found none who did not believe additional parental involvement to be a good thing. The object of the Government, doubtless, is to counterbalance any political element, which, in some areas, is represented by the LEAs, and to introduce a consumer element. We support the neutralisation of political interests where possible. Party politics have no place in schools, as all of us, I believe, agreed in a debate in this House some weeks ago.
Parents will bring with them enthusiastic support for the school and genuine concern for the welfare of the children. Hitherto, the overall picture is that parent governors already elected in accordance with the provisions of the 1980 Act have been a little subdued and overawed by the professional educationists sitting at the same table. Sometimes, too, I believe, they have felt themselves unrepresentative of the parent body generally, as, for example, where articulate middle-class white parents are attempting to represent a body of largely immigrant parents. On the whole, however, it is likely that parent governors will gain confidence and become more assertive. There is no doubt that governing bodies will undergo drastic changes and become much more contentious. Let us hope that the trend does not go too far in that direction with too 431 much assertiveness on the part of activist parents—the kind who "natter at the gate at going-home time" as the headmistress of my village school expressed it. As an ex-headmaster, I know that most parents are wonderfully co-operative and helpful but that some, on occasion, can be rather too helpful.
We are a little concerned about elections of teacher and parent governors—concerned that in Clause 14 it is proposed that,It shall be for the local education authority — to make all necessary arrangements for, and to determine all other matters relating to, any such election".One wonders whether there should not be an involvement of the parent-teacher associations and/or the existing governing body itself.
I should like to ask the noble Earl, echoing the words of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, why, in all schools having over 99 pupils, the teacher governor contingent is to be smaller than the LEA or parent contingent. All the major unions have commented on this, and so has the Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations. And what about representation of non-teaching or support staff? No mention is made of this. As for childrens' representation, about which the Children's Legal Centre feels so strongly, the position is perhaps arguable. The only time that I had youngsters sitting on a committee, they were totally speechless. I know, however, of at least one school where the experiment has been successful, where, for example, a Nigerian girl of 17 has had to produce reports to the governing body on the activities of her sixth form. This is excellent. The answer, surely, is that there is nothing magical about the age of 18, that an intelligent and mature 16 or 17 year-old may well have a useful contribution to make, and that over-16s should therefore be eligible for co-option, if, but only if, the right candidates happen to be there.
The feeling in the small Church school of which I am a governor is that the reduction from three to two foundation governors shows too little recognition of the sterling work done over the years by these schools with a Christian basis. This little piece of secularisation seems unnecessary. One wonders whether the governing bodies of 19 in larger schools are not altogether too unwieldy. I suppose it is felt that a large number of children must be represented by a large number of parents and that the other elements on the committee must be increased proportionately. We welcome the idea of a governors' annual report and parents' meeting and also that governors should be given information and guidance.
I should like to consider briefly the proposals in the Bill with regard to certain functions of the governing body—namely, the curriculum, the matter of discipline, and the appointment of staff. It is in these areas that we feel that considerable simplification and clarification is desirable. In Clause 16, LEAs are to,determine"—please note, my Lords, that the dictionary meaning of the word is to "settle or decide conclusively"—and keep under review their policy in relation to the secular curriculum for the county, voluntary and special schools maintained by them".432 However, under Clause 17, the governing body is,to consider what, in their opinion, should be the aims of the secular curriculum".How can the governing body consider the aims if the LEA has already determined the policy? Meanwhile, a little later on, the subsection provides that,the determination and organisation of the secular curriculum [is] to be the responsibility of the head teacher".All this is very longwinded. All that is needed, surely, is something along the lines of the LEA laying down the general policy and the governing body, in consultation with the head teacher, considering its application to their particular school, the final detailed arrangements to be the responsibility of the head teacher and his staff.
Again, Clause 20 deals with discipline. Subsection (1) is perfectly satisfactory, making the head teacher responsible, in consultation with the governing body, for the acceptable behaviour of the students, apart from one extraordinary and surely quite unnecessary provision in paragraph (d), announcing that,the standard of behaviour which is to be regarded as acceptable at the school [is] to be determined by the head teacher, so far as it is not determined by the governing body".However, in subsection (2), everything goes wrong. It says that a head teacher, where he has excluded a pupil from the school for bad behaviour, must:comply with any direction given by the governing body or the local education authority for the immediate reinstatement of the pupil".This is what happened at Poundswick where certain pupils were excluded, where the LEA ordered their immediate reinstatement, and where the staff then refused to have them in their classes. That is obviously an impossible situation. A head teacher and his staff—and they alone—know when a pupil or pupils can no longer be contained within a school. A great educationist once said to me that the school—children as well as staff—will as it were, vomit them from their presence. Ultimate decisions must be matters for consultation, not dictation. In the last resort, an independent appeals procedure might be necessary.
Before I leave the matter of discipline I should like to echo what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said. One feels that it is a great pity the Government have not taken the opportunity in this Bill of finally clearing up the outstanding question of corporal punishment and settling the matter by abolishing it in compliance with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights.
We are somewhat concerned about the matter of staff appointment. Clause 32(1)(c) empowers the LEA to fill a vacancy for assistant staff with any employee of their own choice regardless of the possible objection of governing body or head teacher. For the purposes of redeployment of teachers, one sees that this may have to be done. But it is much easier to accept in large schools, where for example probationary teachers gaining early experience can have the support of a large staff, than in small village schools with a very small staff where, as the chairman of the governing body of my village school put it, if you only have three legs you cannot afford to have one of them limping.
I come finally to the question of teacher appraisal, previously referred to by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. This matter is dealt with in Clause 37. In it 433 the Secretary of State is given the reserve power to institute an appraisal system unilaterally by means of regulations, which are not amendable by Parliament. We on these Benches and, one suspects, the great majority of teachers, favour an appraisal system as a means of strengthening teacher performance, of helping frailer vessels, of offering career guidance, and of suggesting further training. However, this is a delicate subject and there is a general feeling among the teaching profession that any scheme should be set up with the maximum consultation by negotiation and the minimum secrecy or diktat.
At this particularly sensitive moment of time when negotiations are even now under way between teachers and their employers, touching conditions of service, salary and promotion structure as well as pay levels, it would in our view be most provocative to put into the hands of the Secretary of State such a powerful weapon.
I fear that the whole teacher dispute has been characterised by an undiplomatic approach by the Government. Most teachers are very vulnerable people doing a very exacting task in which they have to give not just their brains or their industry but their very selves and in which the consumers—the children—are merciless. To have had society's under-valuation, in cash terms, of their status and importance has been bad enough; but to be told as a profession, as they have been repeatedly over the last year, that they are not good enough, has done more damage to their morale than any parsimony over pay.
I hope that it will be possible at Committee stage to amend Clause 37 in such a way that it constitutes less of a threat to the teachers in their demoralised state and hands to LEAs, governing bodies, head teachers and their staffs the responsibility for devising a system of appraisal which is freely accepted by all. I hope, too, that we shall be able to clarify and simplify the Bill in other places where confusion and contention might arise.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, it must at least be refreshing to your Lordships when most of our Bills deal with matters where we have to guard against ill faith or bad behaviour to have a Bill before us which takes so elevated a view of human nature that it can do without sanctions altogether.
The first elevated view of human nature is taken in Part II of the Bill which deals with the increase in the number of parent governors. I do not myself feel that this is likely to be an important contribution to the raising of standards in our schools, which I think is the common objective on all sides of the House.
There was a famous head teacher who said, "Boys are always reasonable, teachers sometimes, parents never". That is not a bad rule of thumb for the very simple reason that most parents, if they interest themselves in a school, are concerned with their own offspring and do not take a view about the general community, because if they had more general views they would probably seek to express them in some other way.
I believe that the authors of this Bill thought of potential parent governors as persons skilled in their 434 trades, successful in the professions, well founded in their businesses. I think on the contrary, that apart from those who seek such positions to push forward factional or other causes, one will get the kind of parent who is perhaps represented by those lachrymose "mommas" who go whining to the European Court of Human Rights when anyone suggests proper chastisement for their insufferable offspring.
I do not myself think we shall get very far. I would not oppose these clauses of the Bill but I think that if the Government believe that this is a major change they are mistaken. If I may follow a suggestion, perhaps made obliquely by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, I would rather have seen representatives of other important elements in the community. He suggested that this could be done—of course it can—by co-option. However, there might be something to be said for the right of certain bodies—for instance, institutions of higher education—to have governors in secondary schools as is the case with most secondary schools in the independent sector.
However, we come from that to Parts II and III, where there are confusions, as has been pointed out, as to the location of responsibility both for curriculum and for discipline. I myself find it difficult to accept the view which the Government appear to hold that local authorities are the suitable bodies to determine the curriculum of the schools. Only recently schools have been urged by the Secretary of State to adopt a core curriculum to include those important elements in teaching, in education, to which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred as having been insisted upon by the admirable Monsieur Chevénement. If the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, could assure me that the next Labour Government would choose him or his British equivalent as Secretary of State for Education they might see me crossing the Floor of the House.
However, if the Government believe that this degree of central direction is necessary in order to compete with the products of countries like France, which have a national system of education and a national curriculum, then that should have been more clearly spelled out. I see no reason why the local authority should be an intermediary, where curriculum is concerned, between the nation and its needs and the individual school and its headmaster and staff.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Bill which has so far been referred to by both noble Lords who have spoken and of course by the noble Earl the Minister, is the question of the appraisal of teachers. As the noble Lord who has just spoken has reminded us, the teaching profession is somewhat demoralised. I am not sure whether the reasons which he gave are those to which I would subscribe, but the degree of demoralisation, which has been shown by its participation in disruption over a long period of time, cannot be denied, and it must certainly infuse any future debate which we have about the shape and conduct of our education system.
If one were to take members of another group whose claims on the public purse one must sympathise with—and I am speaking of the nurses or the medical profession—one can only say that if they had behaved 435 towards their patients with the degree of indifference which many teachers have shown towards their pupils in either moral or academic fields, one can only assume that our hospitals today would be littered with the dead and dying.
What is the remedy? First—and this does not appear in the Bill and in my view it is regrettable that it does not appear in the Bill—the absurd situation by which local authorities employ and negotiate with people whose salaries are paid out of the general Exchequer, should now be brought to an end. The Government should at least take over the full responsibility for teachers' salaries and we could have meaningful face-to-face negotiations between the real employer, who is after all the person in any business who supplies the wherewithal, and the employees.
However, let us assume that the proposition is too radical for the Government, or any government, to contemplate. Let us look rather at the question of whether we can reconstruct a teaching profession which will itself accept and work out—and this point was made by the noble Lord who has just spoken—a system of appraisal and internal discipline—an accepted cursus honorum towards the higher and more responsible appointments.
A couple of years ago I would have suggested—indeed I did suggest—that the right model might be the medical profession; that what one required was to create a professional ethos in the way in which the medical profession and certain other professions had done by providing their own disciplinary body to lay down rules of conduct, to explain the ethical considerations which govern the practice of the profession and in the last resort to act as a disciplinary body. I still find that appealing as a concept, but clearly the events of the last two years have made it much more difficult to visualise. That is why I go further than merely the assumption of financial responsibility by central government and, regrettably, am coming round to the view that the tradition of British education for the last century, which has been that it is a matter for local government, is one which we now have to question.
We are talking of the nation's livelihood, because the main reason for our failings in competitiveness lies in our educational system at all levels. The main reason for at least part of the success of our competitors is the fact that service in the educational system, like service in other branches of the state's activities, is a part of central government and that enables their career structure to be more effective than it is with us and enables Parliament and the country to place the responsibility where it needs to be. That matter, I appreciate, goes beyond the scope of the Bill. Perhaps some future Monsieur Chevènement in this country may yet think out a way of dealing with it.
However, when we look back at the Bill—whether at the composition of boards of governors, or the responsibilities for curriculum; or indeed, as we have been reminded by references to Bradford and Manchester, at the responsibilities for discipline—we have to take it for granted that, although there may be 100 education authorities in this country who could be trusted without sanctions, without government intervention, to fulfil the tasks properly, there is 436 another group the members of which are in many respects the principal impediments to the progress of the children of this country through their education. It is sad no doubt for those who cherish our view of self-government, but it seems to me that it must be the schools and their teachers who ultimately do the work, and it must be for the national government to set the parameters within which that work is done.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Lord Taylor of Blackburn
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl and my noble friend Lord McIntosh for the tributes which they paid to the work of my committee. I say "my" committee, but I was only there to look after them; the members of the committee did the work. Therefore, I am grateful for the tributes which have been paid to them. But I also find it very sad on this day that, looking across the Chamber, there is not one right reverend Prelate in the Chamber to listen to this debate. It is very sad, when one remembers that the Church has said so much about education over the years, that it does not have any representative here this afternoon. I hope that as the Bill proceeds through its various stages, the Church will have representatives in the Chamber.
It is about nine years since my committee produced the report entitled, A new Partnership for our Schools. It was a very simple report, based on the belief that the government of schools, which had fallen into such disrepute, could be made into a vital force for good if the idea of power could be replaced by that of partnership. It has taken a long time to gain acceptance for that belief; but I think that public opinion is now ready for a big step forward. In the years between, parent and teacher governors have been introduced practically everywhere. Many heads have found that their parent governors have been most interested and supportive, and where governing bodies are working well there is a deeper understanding between parents and teachers.
When Sir Keith Joseph's Green Paper proposed in May 1984 that parents should have a majority on governing boards it was universally condemned, and nearly all those who commented, including parent groups, said that they wanted an equal partnership of all interests as recommended in the Taylor Report. Many will rejoice that the present Bill brings a better balance and more representation for parents. But it does not bring us our equal partnership because it allows for no increased representation of teachers. In this respect public opinion has been ignored. This is a tragic error in my view.
The appearance of the Bill in the middle of what one might call one of the most bitter disputes highlights the issue. So does the inclusion in the same Bill of the unrelated question of compulsory teacher appraisal. The powers of governors have been dressed up to look a lot fiercer than they are. All this may make teachers feel threatened. But fair shares on governing boards would go a long way to correct the balance.
Nothing can work in education without the good will of teachers. What is more, when power is being shared the easiest principle to operate and justify is the simplest; namely, equality. When my committee discussed—at enormous length—the best formula for constructing a board of governors, we kept coming back to this simple proposition. We thought, 437 moreover, that any under-represented group would be "courted" to give one or more of the other groups control. We believe that we needed teachers' full contribution if governors were to have a genuine involvement in the curriculum. Two teachers, alongside five parents, in a large comprehensive school is absurd.
For all these reasons I feel that it would be disastrous if we did not provide fair representation of staff. We can still do this. The necessary places could easily be found by reducing the co-opted parent and LEA shares only marginally.
Other major errors in the Bill seem to me to be as follows: first, the grouping of two primary schools is still to be allowed. We found grouping to be a major evil. We gave a lot of thought to what exceptions might be allowed, and decided that even where there was an infant school downstairs and a junior school upstairs, if they had separate heads and organisations they should have their own governors. I would make all grouping illegal.
Secondly, the Bill says that LEAs may select parent governors if there are not enough volunteers. This is just the way to bring back all the bad old habits of political patronage. Nothing would so quickly create suspicion and lose parents' confidence. Parents will come forward if they see governors as a reality in the life of the school and if boards work openly and without party politicking. LEAs and schools will have to work at this, and it must not be made easy for them to give up.
Thirdly, the development of student participation will be crippled by the age limit of 18. Young people mature so much more quickly these days, and with the rapid development of sixth form and tertiary colleges there is a great need to give them experience of democratic responsibility. Eleven to 16 schools need to be encouraged to make a start with pupil involvement too, if their older pupils are to assume the leadership role the sixth form once did.
Fourthly, there ought to be a lot more support to enable governors to work effectively. I should like to see an independent body to sponsor training schemes and spread good practice. I want recognition that governors have the right and the duty to visit schools and to be given the information they need to do the job. My committee also recommended that parents should have a right to form associations, and facilities to run them. We saw this as essential if governors were to communicate properly.
The recommendations we made in 1977 came from a high level committee of elected members, chief officers, the Churches, heads, teachers and parents. They have since found acceptance right through the service. The Bill is indeed an advance, but I am very distressed to think that we are so near and could still muff it. There is so much at stake. We must get it right this time.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Lord Alexander of Potterhill
My Lords, when I started reading this Bill I thought I had picked up a textbook on the details of administration. It is totally over-simplistic to think that if you write down a mass of detail you will get the result that you are seeking. I 438 share the view of others in support of an adequate voice for parents in the education of their children, though I get a bit worried by the other two effects of the provisions of that part of this Bill.
First, there is quite definitely a marked reduction in the power of the local education authority. Secondly, there is a marked increase in the power of the Secretary of State. That worries me. When the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, was speaking he worried me even more, because he wanted to go the whole hog on central control and direction. I should like to show him a copy of a letter that I had from the headmaster of a school in Germany in 1935. The letter said quite simply:War is inevitable. Every teacher is required, because they are all servants of Mr. Hitler, to see that every child says every morning, 'To live, we must eat. To eat, we must fight. Heil Hitler!'Central control and direction in education is very dangerous, in my judgment. Distribution of power in education is an essential condition of freedom in a democratic society.
I would go further. I believe that the 1944 Education Act was a great triumph in that respect. For 20 years we did not have party politics playing any part in the service. We were operating on the basis of consensus. We had a partnership in which it is true that central government paid the larger proportion of the cost of the education service, but they did so in a system of specific grant, which meant that the money they provided was spent on education. But all this has changed, and changed dramatically. We now have a system of rate support grant. It followed the adoption of general grant in 1958. What was the effect of general grant? It had several effects. First, it greatly weakened the position of the education committee, including its co-optative members. Secondly it very much increased the impact of party politics by enabling a council, of whatever political complexion, to decide whether to spend the money allocated by the Government on education or on something else.
The one clause in the Bill which I really welcome is Clause 38. It is a recognition by the Government of the utter failure of general grant. It provides specific grant for the in-service training of teachers, and that is utterly necessary. I remember when Mrs. Shirley Williams was Secretary of State for Education agreement being reached that the Government would put £8 million into the grant for in-service training.
As a result, £2 million was the total expenditure on in-service training. Where the other £6 million went, I do not know. Whether it was spent on some other part of the education system or service, I do not know. Whether it was on some other service altogether, I do not know.
If I had one suggestion to make to the Government it would be a simple one: to restore the specific grant for the whole of the education service as obtained until 1958. The education service is no less important for the welfare of the nation than the police. The police are funded by specific grant, but not the education service. In my opinion that would have a number of effects. It would greatly strengthen the position of the education committee of a local authority, including the co-optative members. It would greatly reduce the impact of party politics in education, which has been a disaster for the education service for a great many years.
439 I think I was amused rather than anything else by Clause 37, on the appraisal of teachers. It is true that I have not been a chief education officer in a local authority for over 40 years, but my memory is sufficiently secure to know that when I was we had an appraisal report on every teacher in the service every year prepared by an adequate advisory staff who visited the schools every day. These reports were very valuable. They were helpful if they were favourable in looking at promotion prospects. If they were unfavourable, they were helpful in enabling us to lay on courses of additional training for those who apparently were unable to succeed in the teaching profession. Let us face it: for the unsuccessful we felt it perfectly proper to advise teachers that teaching was not the right career, that they had made a bad choice and would be unhappy and probably unsuccessful. A good many took that advice.
The thing that worries me about the provisions of the Bill is not that there should be an appraisal of teachers. The idea that anybody running any business does not make any appraisal of his staff is an absurdity. But I worry that the Secretary of State will not only require local authorities to do it, but will tell them how to do it. I worry about every bit of the Bill that adds to central control and direction, and that is one of them.
I was a little worried about Clause 40. One of the great triumphs of the Education Act 1944 was that it solved the dual system, which had been a problem for many years. It was a great triumph. By enabling voluntary schools to become controlled was an absolute precondition of making the fundamental purpose of the Act, secondary education for all children, a possibility. Now we seem to be putting the engine in reverse. We are not happy with the position that has come from the 1944 Act. We are saying to the controlled schools: "Why do you not apply to become aided? If you can afford to pay the monies being spent you will have a greater degree of independence. After all, you will have to pay only 3 per cent. of the costs of maintaining the school." That is about the cost that the governors contribute in an aided school. This worries me. I should hate to think that we might be walking down the road which lead us to the situation which obtained before the 1944 Act, stemming from the dual system. I hope it will not happen. I was comforted when the noble Earl thought that there would only be a few such applications.
Finally, I want to say what I believe is the most important thing that can be said when we discuss education. Never let us forget the words of Disraeli, which preceded the 1944 Act:On the future of the education service, the future of the nation depends.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
My Lords, I enter this debate with considerable trepidation. Unlike my very distinguished fellow countryman who has just spoken, my involvement with schools has been almost entirely in the rather different system north of the Border. But the problems confronted by this Bill and the number of remedies proposed are so closely related to what I experienced during my time as a chairman of a local authority education committee and my time as a 440 member of three different comprehensive school councils (which are our equivalent of governing bodies) that I cannot resist joining in. I hope that I may be forgiven.
First, on the Bill as a whole, it seems to me that it is potentially a very important step, albeit a medium-sized step, in the right direction. I suspect, however, with my noble friend Lord Beloff, that bigger steps must follow; and I will say a word about that, if I may, before I sit down. The great point about this Bill is that it concentrates on the state system where the vast majority of our children are educated and it makes what I regard as a thoroughly realistic attempt to tackle some of the greatest current problems of that system at their roots. It does this principally, it seems to me, by proposing what for many local authorities will be a new balance of power in relation to schools and by offering what I believe to be, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, has just said, a new opportunity to teachers.
Since its publication, the Bill has been criticised for tipping the balance too much one way or too much another way, for being too prescriptive of detail or too vague. I would suggest that taken as a whole the Bill probably gets the balance about right. It obliges schools, if they do not do so already, to provide opportunities for substantial involvement by all parents. That is crucial, above all—and we should not forget this—because the evidence is mounting that educational achievement is as much dependent upon parental interest and encouragement as it is on the skill of the teachers. At the same time, the Government have not fallen into the trap of regarding parents as the only customers to whom state schools are answerable in the sense that parents are the customers in the private sector. The Bill reflects the fact that state schools are paid for by all taxpayers and ratepayers, whether they have children at school or not, and, as other noble Lords have said, it reflects the fact that our success as a society as well as the life chances of individuals are dependent on our schools.
With my noble friend Lord Beloff, I wonder whether a strong enough input by central government in England and Wales is present. In Scotland, it is a good deal stronger and I wonder whether we, south of the Border, should not be looking at that. The Bill responds to the desire of most teachers to be skilled professionals, continuously improving and updating their professionalism and their desire to be acknowledged and respected as such by parents and by the wider public.
I do not believe that the kind of appraisal that is done behind the scenes by the authority—and of couse it is done—enables parents to see as much as they should of this. Very importantly, the Bill goes to considerable lengths to allow for the widespread desire to have less politics in the decision-making and the appointments system in schools—less politics with a small "p" as well as with a large "P". It also allows for the desire, which is now widespread, for a new and clearer commitment and sense of direction shared by parents, teachers, managers and the public at large. The Bill does nothing specific, as far as I can see, to ensure the involvement of local industry and commerce in schools; although I suppose that this can come through co-opted governors. It is light on 441 providing for the crucial motivation to good behaviour which comes through the informal curriculum—clubs, societies, expeditions and the like. It concentrates upon depoliticising management but it does nothing to prevent political indoctrination in schools. Apart from these imbalances, it seems to be broadly appropriate.
On some particular aspects, I should like from experience to raise a few questions. First, will the proposals for parent governors attract the articulate and independent-minded people who are needed? Training may help; but my experience is that the parents who get elected—if they are not of the kind to go whingeing to the European-Court, the kind to whom my noble friend referred—are enthusiastic at the beginning; but when it comes to the point they tend to be altogether too humble and too diffident and to assume that the teachers, being the professionals in this field, know better than they do. In fact, that may frequently be the case but for the balance to operate teachers simply must not always make the running. The most able potential parent governors are probably the busiest people and gladly do not stand and leave the job to others. How do the Government envisage attracting the most effective parent governors, and, for that matter, the most effective co-opted governors? Would it be easier to attract them if the job carried more responsibiliy than is at present outlined in the Bill? I should be interested to hear the comments of the noble Baroness on that when she replies to the debate.
Also on membership of the governing body, I wonder whether it is the best way to give the head teacher the choice of being a governor or not. I realise that the numbers are carefully worked out to allow for such a choice but my experience is that the unique role of the head teacher, in a secondary school at any rate, is much better carried out if he or she is sitting as an assessor without a vote rather than as simply one of the governors. Doubtless head teachers are more than capable of deciding for themselves. But, if one way is better than another, why the choice? I agree with noble Lords that there should be pupil representatives on the board of governors and I am astonished that it is necessary to argue for this. It works well on school councils on which I have had experience and I can see no reason why there should not be such representation.
The procedure for the appointment of head teachers and their assistants as set out in Clauses 31 and 33 is close to my own experience and seems to me likely to work and to depoliticise the process well. Like the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, I am not so sure about Clause 32. The LEA needs flexibility, but will it be possible in certain circumstances for the governors to be landed with a redeployed head of department whom they do not want; or do I misunderstand?
On Clause 38, I join the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, in being delighted to see a breakthrough into earmarked funding for training—other than money coming by way of the MSC, which has lately been the Government's wont. I am particularly pleased, too, that there is recognition of the importance of up-to-date and skilled youth and community work in schools. I hope, finally, that an addition will be made to the Bill to outlaw political propaganda in schools. The Government keep telling us that there is little evidence. Of course, that is so. The 442 people who would complain are the parents. But who would report a teacher when the area is a grey one and when such an act might come back on one's child in some way? To report that the law has apparently been broken would be very much easier. If any noble Lord were to move an amendment to that effect, I personally would support it.
I said at the beginning that I regard the Bill as an important step but that more has to happen. Might the next step perhaps be, as I thought the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, seemed to indicate, along the lines of the experiment now going on in Cambridgeshire where governing bodies would be given the job of handling virtually the whole of the school budget, with or without the paying of teachers' salaries and with funding calculated on a per capita basis, with a weighting for special circumstances? That would probably do more than anything else to attract the best governors and to make the proposed new structures work to full advantage. It could work well, complemented by some sort of credit system. In the meantime, I welcome the Bill. It is excellent that it has begun in this House, and I look forward to your Lordships' discussion during the Bill's passage here.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, I have never before taken part in a debate on education—not in either House. That is not because of indifference; it is through lack of experience. I had far too little education as a boy. I have had no family to tell me what education in later years has been like, and no grandchildren to wave their banners denouncing the Secretary of State. So that is a great handicap; and looking at the list of noble Lords and noble Baronesses who are taking part in this debate, I feel at the same disadvantage as I nearly always do in the presence of those who are masters of the administration of education. One has to grasp so much of complex detail on the distribution of authority, the exercise of power and all the conditions of making appointments, with regulations relating to discipline and all the rest of it—all this one has to get through before one reaches the point of seeing a child being taught to read and write.
This is a forbidding approach to education. I have been listening to this debate very carefully indeed and I am about to lose my courage really in taking part in it; but I have something to say about teachers, and I think that is relevant to the Bill before the House. Twelve years ago I was asked to lead a committee on the review of the pay and structure of the salary scales and other matters relating to the teaching profession in England, Wales and Scotland. What worries me—and we are nearly all worried about something, because I have listened to nothing but worries up till now—is to look at the conditions today in the teaching profession and compare them with those which existed at the time I was asked to take on this job in 1974.
The pay of teachers had then fallen well behind their place in the salary structure of society. That is the case again today, 12 years later. There is a strike on in Scotland, and there was a strike on in Scotland in 1974. Indeed, I went up to Scotland two weeks after being appointed to the chairmanship of this committee and I was met by a big crowd of Scottish 443 teachers with a very large banner which said, "Hurry up, Houghton!" We were given six months to do the job, from June to December, and there was a general election in between. There was a strike on in Scotland and a threat of disruption in England. Could there be more depressing conditions in which to assess the future of the teaching profession?
In 1974 we did the job in conditions of strife. Today, this Bill is introduced into your Lordships' House in conditions of strife. The report that we produced in 1974 was the most comprehensive, the most radical and the most expensive report ever before given on the teaching profession. That shows how bad it was when we got it, and how much better it was when we had finished with it.
But those who parade under the banner of Houghton today must not think that only the salary scales are on that banner. There was a great deal of vision in that report. There was an attempt to put the teaching profession and their vocation on a much higher plane of public esteem and of self-esteem. We wrote into that report—I refreshed my mind on its terms over the week-end because they were long forgotten—that in return for this bold move forward to put the teaching profession where it wanted to be and where we thought it ought to be, then teachers themselves had to uphold the highest traditions of their professional claims and have regard to their responsibilities to the public and to the children. We wanted to put them above, if I may say so, the industrial action to which we are so used from the Transport and General Workers' Union—something above that; a professional outlook which, without being élitist can at least contain a standard of public service which is so essential in this profession.
We tried to put them on the track for the future. We reconciled the differences between the teachers' unions, which were acute, and we tried to bring to bear on the problem our overriding insight and judgment upon the fundamentals of their position. The differences between the teachers' unions then were so troublesome that I decided I would take all the teachers' unions together in one session of evidence and none of them separately, and if they did not want to come with all of them they could stay away. We got them all, in one room at the same time, to state their points of view in the presence of each other. We also took evidence from the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, who was a wizard and whose experience was of such profound value to us.
Well, here we are, my Lords, back where we were 12 years ago: four years of a Labour Government and eight years of a Conservative Government, and we are back where we were 12 years ago. What is the explanation for this? How has it come about? One of the reasons is the unsatisfactory nature of the Burnham machinery for dealing with problems relating to the teaching profession. It is antiquated. I believe that it is now an anachronism. One thing of great importance that has occurred in the past 12 years is that the balance of power on the Burnham Committee teachers' panel has changed.
For years and years, and certainly when we were dealing with this matter 12 years ago, one union—the National Union of Teachers—held the controlling 444 voice and votes on the teachers' panel. That inevitably meant that its outlook had a pronounced influence on the teachers' panel proceedings. In negotiations on teachers' pay, the global sum was fixed before the negotiations began. The negotiations had to take place within the global sum. One can understand that within the teachers' panel a great deal of discussion and controversy arose on what share of the global sum each section of the profession should receive. The consequence of that over many years was that we were required to pull out the concertina very sharply to give the proper status and remuneration to those in the higher positions. That is why, as a result of the Houghton Report, the senior members of the teaching profession—the heads, deputy heads and the senior grades—received more money than those below.
The balance has changed. We would not have the somewhat twilight settlement of teachers' pay in England and Wales at the moment were it not for the fact that the power of veto on the teachers' panel has passed from the National Union of Teachers to a group of other associations representing different elements in the teaching profession. That, I suppose, in a way may create just as many difficulties as having the power in the hands of one union. It is difficult to settle negotiations affecting a wide range of interests in a very large vocation by the casting of votes based on the number of members of the staff side of the negotiating machinery. An alternative should be found.
The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, made a Statement on behalf of the Government the other day about the independent committee set up in respect of the Scottish dispute. He said:It is also in marked contrast to events in England and Wales, where, as the House will be aware, an agreement for the current year has been reached; and constructive negotiations on pay, pay structure and related matters are about to begin under ACAS auspices".—[Official Report, 6/3/86; col, 331.]Do the Government really say that agreement has been reached under the circumstances that I have described, when one union alone had 13 votes and the rest of the teachers' panel had 15 votes? That division settled what is called an agreement.
What I am saying is of great importance to the Bill because unless the morale, the efficiency and the inspiration of the teaching profession is lifted, the Bill is useless. Education is about teachers, their capacity, enthusiasm and sense of public duty. Unless one can capture and hold all that, the system is bound to fail. This is what worries me. I wish ACAS well in undertaking a task which has had to be referred to an independent committee in Scotland. It is a great pity that an independent inquiry is set up more than 12 months after the dispute began. For England and Wales the dispute has been referred to ACAS. I understand that it is a three-man committee which will look at the problems of the breadth and complexity that have been referred to an independent committee in Scotland. It is a task which I do not envy.
The special independent inquiry in Scotland has been given about six months to complete the job. That seems to be the length of time that any committee of inquiry is given to settle a dispute affecting the teaching profession. ACAS has been asked to do it in weeks. I hope that it succeeds. I do not hold out very much hope that it will find a solution because opinions 445 are hard in certain quarters of the teaching profession and it will be difficult to overcome them.
Clause 37 of the Bill is ill-timed. I know that the noble Earl said that the Government take the view that they must have statutory powers to do this now. It is a great pity that they have to have statutory powers to do it now. It would have been better had the scheme been part of a comprehensive settlement with the teachers and others.
I have had long experience of individual appraisal systems. I do not shrink from them. I have helped to compile them. I am not at all opposed to trying to assess the quality, capacity and potential of individuals in important positions, but it is much better if we can have consent to do so and get people to co-operate in working the scheme. As my noble friend Lord McIntosh said, what kind of a report will the assessment be? Who will fill it in? Who will be the countersigning officer? Who will make the ultimate judgment? Where do we go for it—inside or outside the school? Certain elements of the system need to be settled before we can make progress with it.
On the question of general morale and the settlement of teachers' problems, the weakness of governments—both of them—the lack of determination of teachers' unions and the lack of resolve on the part of education authorities, all combined to take no notice of what we said about the need for some satisfactory basis for the future determination of teachers' pay to keep them in line with relative standards and contemporary conditions in professions which might be regarded as having some equivalence to them. Nothing was done about that and yet we spent a great deal of our report describing the various options that were open and the difficulties of finding the right one, and urging that the Government should set about doing that.
We wrote the report just before Christmas 1974 when the teachers were so pestering the authorities to get some money in their hands before Christmas that we authorised the Secretary of State to make a £100 advance to the teachers before Christmas in advance of our report. That was the situation at the time we wrote our report. It was disgraceful that we should be doing business under those conditions. We were all nervous wrecks by the end of it. And here we go again, putting other people, volunteers who do it for expenses only, through the mill to settle the dispute in Scotland for one, and we do not yet know who will settle the dispute in England and Wales.
I am saying that without one of the two essentials for the future we shall have no peace. One is an agreed and explicit formula of criteria for guidance on pay levels, and the other is a firm promise of a regulated review by an independent committee every few years. That is what we said. You cannot go more than seven years with the teaching profession before it needs an overhaul. And let me say that the teaching profession is an institution which cannot reform itself, any more than this Chamber can reform itself. There are some institutions which it is impossible to reform from the inside. That is why there are Royal Commissions on the Civil Service, and that is why there are other inquiries to settle disputes which are intractable through the normal course of negotiation and agreement.
446 So why have we not faced this at the outset? It is 12 years since the last one and that was the first for 50 years. Why are governments so stupid? They are supposed to be the brains of the land. I refer to the fact that the police are not in this pickle. I offered to take the chair on the police review body, but the Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day said "We aren't having you, Douglas. You're a 30 per cent. man." So it went to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, who gave them 32 per cent!
The Civil Service is trying hard to get the next phase of its own problem away from the fair comparability system that we had for so many years. But the Civil Service was sailing on in peace and tranquility, and with regular adjustments of its pay, during the period when we were grappling with the indefinite problems and intractable difficulties of the teachers' pay. With whom do you compare teachers? With whom do you compare policemen? With whom do you compare firemen? You have to find some basis upon which you can reach a judgment, and not a bad idea, sometimes, is to take the qualifications that you require for the job, rather than try to assess in detail what the work is and how it compares.
I must bring my remarks to a close. I hope that as a result of listening to the debate I may be able to make a contribution on one or two other matters relating to education. There is a layman's view of education. When I go into a shop to make miscellaneous purchases and find that the young man behind the counter cannot add up the bill because his modern technology on the counter has broken down, and he has to ask a man old enough to be his father to come along and add up the bill, a layman's view of education in those circumstances is that there is something wrong with it.
The great debate which my right honourable friend James Callaghan wanted to begin fizzled out. There are too many difficult and controversial questions to discuss in relation to education at the present time and a lot of them are just being swept under the carpet. But I think the job that teachers have today is immeasurably more difficult than it was in 1974. I do not know how a lot of these teachers keep sane, considering the problems that confront them in their daily lives, the pressures that are at work and the explosions which can occur. It is terrible.
So I suggest to the Government, and really to both Houses of Parliament, that this problem of the future of education and the future of the teachers within it should be lifted on the political and parliamentary agenda. Education has been regarded as of low priority in political importance by many governments of the past. There have been too many Ministers of Education for the good of education, and ministers not of the requisite stature have sometimes been appointed.
I make no reflection on Sir Keith Joseph, for whom I have a great admiration. There is no man in politics today of greater integrity than Sir Keith Joseph, nor is there any Minister I know who tortures himself so much trying to find the right answers to problems to which there is probably no answer. So it is not at all a reflection on him. I sincerely hope that, if there is any sign that ACAS cannot grapple successfully with the problem that it has been given, the Government will 447 get straight away to another independent inquiry and bring the whole subject again to the review which I think is overdue and now urgently necessary.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ The Countess of Mar
My Lords, the proposed changes in school government and arrangements for teacher appraisal and in-service training have been public knowledge for some time. They have also been discussed very adequately by previous speakers. I find myself in total accord with the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill. I particularly share his concern about Clauses 40 and 41 and propose to restrict myself to them. Those clauses do not seem to have had the same publicity, and certainly they have not been dealt with in any depth today. They may be just enabling clauses and cannot be implemented without application from school governors. The Minister said that a flood of requests was not expected, but I am puzzled as to the reason why they are thought to be at all necessary in this Bill.
The 1944 Education Act defines the differences between a controlled school and an aided school. The first schedule to the 1946 Education Act defines the duty of a local education authority to provide a site and buildings which are to form part of a school premises in the case of a controlled school. In the case of an aided school, the managers or governors of the school have a duty to defray, with the assistance of any grant to be made, the expenses of providing any buildings.
I have simplified what is a fairly long schedule, but it would appear that the main difference between the two types of school is that in the case of a controlled school the local education authority owns, and is responsible for the maintenance of, school buildings and premises, while in the case of an aided school the managers or governors hold that responsibility with the assistance of LEAs. It therefore seems to me that if the governors or managers of a controlled school were to ask the Secretary of State to make an order to change the status of their school from controlled to aided, they would, under the terms of Clause 41 of the Bill, be expected to pay to the local education authority what could be a huge capital sum by way of compensation for capital expenditure on the school.
We are all aware of this Government's attitude to public expenditure and, in particular, to expenditure on education. Do not these clauses enable the Government to abnegate their responsibility to provide adequate financial resources for education? Do they not remove the necessity to increase the block grant in respect of education, while increasing the capital available to local education authorities? In recouping capital by the sale of nationalised industries, the Government have been accused of selling the family silver. Are they not now trying to emulate King Henry VIII with his dissolution of the monasteries?
May I ask the noble Baroness the Minister to define in what circumstances a governing body is likely to ask for a change of status from controlled to aided, and what benefits she sees accruing from such change: first, to the school; secondly, to the local education authority and, thirdly, to the Government? Can she assure us that there will be no pressure put on school governors to change the status?
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Baroness Cox
My Lords, like other Members of your Lordships' House, I welcome many aspects of this Bill. The increased involvement of parents as governors is to be warmly welcomed as one means of helping to make schools more accountable to those whom they serve—the pupils. As other noble Lords such as the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, and my noble friend Lord Beloff have already said, a particularly beneficial feature of the changed provisions for governing bodies is the reduction in the proportions of local authority representatives. This of course does not imply a general indictment of all those who have served in this capacity. Many have done so with great dedication and political impartiality. But it is a sad fact of life that in some highly politicised local education authorities the complexion of LEA representation has become excessively political and partisan. The proposed changes should help to ameliorate this problem.
However, these changes will be effective only if parents are willing to come forward for election and actively to participate in discussions and decisions. It is profoundly to be hoped that politically motivated parents of any political allegiance will not organise caucuses or "slates" to achieve the kind of excessively partisan or politicised ambience that this legislation is intended to remove. It is partly in anticipation of that possibility and partly as a general principle of accountability that I should like to see provision made for the wider dissemination of information about schools, especially their budgets and curricula, to any parents or members of the public who wish to receive it.
I also join other noble Lords in welcoming the enabling provisions to ensure implementation of the principle of teacher assessment. Our education system has suffered for far too long from the difficulties in dismissing teachers who are professionally inadequate. Too much is at stake for the future of our children to allow that situation to continue. One reason used by teachers in their demands for better salaries is that the future of the next generation lies in their hands. Precisely so. And they are therefore entitled to a salary commensurate with that responsibility. But like other professions they should also accept the concomitant responsibility of professional accountability and the preconditions for this in the form of professional appraisal. So I believe that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is absolutely right to have stood firm on this point of principle and I welcome the provision for its implementation in this Bill.
However, as my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour has pointed out, the Bill, although useful as far as it goes, does not address some of the most fundamental problems now besetting our educational service. I refer in particular to disturbing developments in the use of political indoctrination. Your Lordships may recall that in the debate on 5th February speakers from most parts of your Lordships' House expressed anxiety on this matter. Speaker after speaker cited examples which are cause for concern and gave evidence of the politicisation of teaching in a variety of forms. Sometimes this is done under the auspices of a particular subject, such as peace studies—a problem discussed by my noble friend Lord Trenchard and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont.
449 Other developments take the shape of themes which some local authorities or teachers wish to promote throughout a whole curriculum—such as so-called anti-racism or anti-sexism. The noble Lord, Lord Charteris, and my noble friend Lord Bethell drew our attention to some particularly invidious material on racism produced for children and recommended by some teachers. Yet other kinds of political indoctrination involve highly biased anti-police propaganda produced for schools by local authorities such as the GLC. My noble friend Lord Renton drew our attention to some of the disturbing implications of these developments.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich and my noble friend Lord On-Ewing gave formidable accounts of the adverse effects of the influence of far Left teacher activists in London. My noble friend Lord Mersey described how even the teaching of music has become politicised. Finally, perhaps I may recall for your Lordships how my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel claimed that there is no subject more important for the future of our society than this perversion of education by using it for the purpose of political indoctrination.
Given this sober and powerful expression of concern it is perhaps not surprising that many people—both within your Lordships' House and outside—feel that the opportunity should be taken to use this Bill to enshrine in law the principle that partisan political indoctrination should be banned from schools. There may be difficulties in achieving an appropriate formulation, but I understand that these are not insuperable. I therefore hope that your Lordships will give sympathetic consideration to amendments which may be proposed to this effect. I was most heartened to hear my noble friend Lady Carnegy saying that she would support such an amendment. If the law can be changed in this way, it will not only demonstrate the centrality of the principle that education must not be perverted into political indoctrination; it will also help parents, teachers and the general public to seek redress if they are worried about what is going on in particular places. At present, there is often no incentive for complaint—only fear of victimisation. Were this principle of keeping politicisation out of education to have the backing of law, it would be likely to have two effects: teachers would be more careful, and parents would feel that there was a possibility of effective redress.
My noble friend the Minister referred in a previous debate to the draft guidelines circulated by his right honourable friend the Secretary of State in The Treatment of Politically Controversial Issues in Schools and Colleges. I welcome these guidelines in so far as they go; indeed, the suggestion for such guidelines was made by my own colleagues some two years ago. But as they stand, those guidelines are deficient. For example, there is no mention of the word "balance" as a criterion for teaching politically controversial subjects. Perhaps more important, no duty is laid on anyone to respect or to enforce the guidelines. They can thus be ignored with impunity by precisely those who are most likely to violate the criteria which the guidelines are intended to enunciate. Therefore I do not believe that the guidelines are a substitute for a change in the law which will prohibit 450 political indoctrination in our schools. Such a change could transform this Bill from a moderately useful but far from radical measure to one of the most significant Education Acts of this century.
I now turn very briefly to a suggestion of a different kind which I trust will find favour with all Members of your Lordships' House. I refer to the unequivocally non-political issue of health and safety in the form of provision of qualified first aiders in schools. The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations of 1981 updated an Act of 1974 and required all employers to have a qualified first aider on site if there are more than 150 employees. Where there are special hazards—for instance, in chemical industries—a trained first aider must be present for an even smaller workforce. There is no doubt that the presence of such a person armed with techniques for dealing wih emergencies can lead to fewer lives being lost in accidents and to fewer injuries being exacerbated by incompetent handling.
Not long ago a fork-lift truck operator broke a young man's leg; his workmates broke it again while dragging him to a hut before they dialled 999! Correct first aid would have halved his period of convalescence and saved him a great deal of pain. However, your Lordships may be surprised to learn that, whereas 150 people working, for instance, to print newspapers are protected in law by the provision of a trained first aider, no such protection is required for 1,500 children in a school. In fact, the law applies to schools only in so far as they are places of work, so the teachers receive a measure of protection but not the pupils.
Of course local education authorities have a duty to make schools as safe as possible and some schools—usually large ones—have a nurse available but, sadly, nursing posts have too often been cut and now most schools no longer have them. Yet are not children, especially when they are in high spirited groups with other children, just as much at risk from injuries as adults working in factories? Every day hundreds of thousands of children play hard, body contact games, study in laboratories, workshops and kitchens, yet their teachers rarely have skills which enable them to deal with serious emergencies. It is good to know that many teachers have volunteered to attend the new course, Emergency Aid in Schools, designed by the St. John Ambulance organisation, but still only a minority of schools have a qualified first aider on site.
It is sometimes argued that our excellent local ambulance services are only a telephone call away and can usually respond within 10 minutes. However, if breathing has ceased, if a child's heart has stopped beating, or if there is rapid blood loss, then irreversible changes can take place during the first five minutes and a young life could be lost. Yet, restarting breathing, restarting the heart, and controlling serious bleeding are simple skills that anyone can learn in a few hours—and there ought to be at least one teacher in every school who possesses them.
I hope therefore that your Lordships will consider sympathetically an amendment that would put a duty on local education authorities and on the governors of independent schools to maintain a first aider in each school—or perhaps two if the school is on separate sites—trained to an appropriate standard to be set by the Health and Safety Executive. There is no need for 451 that to be an excessively expensive provision. Voluntary aid societies such as St. John Ambulance and the Red Cross are expert in training for emergency techniques, and because many of their personnel give their time free of charge their overheads are not great.
I am certainly not suggesting that education authorities should themselves set up training centres. However, they should do as large numbers of employers do; use one of the voluntary bodies for statutory training in first aid. At present, employers pay on average £50 per year for training a qualified first aider. There is every reason to think that the cost for schools might be smaller. Some £1½ to £2 million would easily pay for such a provison on a national basis and could, I suggest, be found from money already available for educational support grants.
In real terms, of course, the saving to the public purse in hospital and teacher time would probably cancel out the cost of training. I firmly believe that we are morally bound to give children the same protection of first aid provision in schools as employers have to provide in places of work. It seems an extraordinary anomaly that we do not already do so.
In conclusion, I reiterate my welcome for this Bill as far as it goes, and I express my earnest hope that it will be improved during its passage through your Lordships' House; improved in such a way as to provide safeguards for children's educational and physical wellbeing, by prohibiting intellectual injury through political indoctrination and physical injury through incompetent treatment of accidents. Both kinds of injury are serious and avoidable. It is surely incumbent upon us to ensure that our children are protected from them and to use the opportunities provided by this Bill to enshrine that protection in law.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, I was greatly fascinated by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and I am sorry that he is not present in the Chamber now.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, he has begun the process of crossing the Floor! I am bound to say that I do not believe we can make much use of the noble Lord's ideas in our discussion of this Bill. If we proceeded along the lines suggested by the noble Lord, we would find that we could not get anywhere without first tearing the Bill to bits and then starting afresh with a totally different document, because the noble Lord's philosophy is totally different from that of the Bill. While I found some of the things that the noble Lord said stimulating and worth further consideration, I felt that he, like some other noble Lords, was profoundly underestimating the part that has been played in the development of education in this country, as in other public services, by local government.
Very many cities and counties in this country have taken a great pride in the educational services that they have built up. I may say to the noble Baroness who has 452 just sat down that such was true of London. We shall be able to see, when the elections come before very long, what Londoners really think about the educational service that has been provided for them. I am speaking not only of schools but also of the adult education service that has been built up in London, which is an astounding achievement, and one that probably has not its like anywhere else in the world. I mention it as only one example of the great achievements of local government in the field of education.
The fact that such provision was local meant that different cities and counties had a certain friendly rivalry, and that they were a source of experiment and new ideas. Some weeks ago, I was able to initiate in this House a debate on community education. What has been done in that field could never have been done had there been a completely centralised system of education. The fact that there were different local education authorities, and that each was free to decide whether or not to give encouragement to that idea, enabled that particular educational development to occur. I am therefore a little apprehensive about the decline in local government influence on the governing bodies of schools.
Noble Lords in their justifiable welcome to the parent representation, have been inclined to underestimate the value of experienced local government workers; people who, either as officials or as elected councillors, have given their lives to the development of a fine local government service of which their city or county could be proud.
We now have a situation where one cannot be quite sure where responsibility lies. I add my voice to those who have urged the Government to do something that is overdue; to insert an anti-corporal punishment clause into this Bill. In that connection, I want to draw attention to this point. When we debated the foolish and ill-starred Bill that the Government introduced about corporal punishment, it emerged that nobody could say for certain whether the governing body of the school or the local authority was the body that had the power either to permit or to prohibit corporal punishment in a particular school. We did not know the answer then, and I am not sure that we know it now. Reading this Bill, it probably means that the governing body can do as it likes whatever the local authority thinks. However, I am very willing to be contradicted by somebody who reads this ambiguous document and reaches a different conclusion.
If I am right, where will that put the local authority? Suppose that the people living within a particular local authority area say to their elected representatives, "We do not approve of corporal punishment in our schools. You ought to get rid of it". Is the local councillor to reply, "I quite agree with you but we must wait to see what the governors say"? In that case, one will shift the political argument and heat onto the election of governors.
It seems to me that none of those aspects has been thought out. In drawing up the clauses defining the different responsibilities of governors, local education authorities and teachers, the Government have not properly considered exactly how matters may work out.
On the question of the curriculum, I believe that one can read and re-read the sections on that aspect in the 453 Bill and still not be quite sure at the end who determines what the curriculum is. The local authority will have one say. The governors will then look at what the local authority has said and decide whether or not they want to alter it. Then the head teacher may consider what both of those two bodies have said and decide to agree with one or the other of them. That does not seem to me to be a very satisfactory way of arranging the curriculum of a school. We know that in practice in this country, it is of course very largely the universities that in the end determine what are the curricula of secondary schools; but that is another and larger question.
On the question of discipline, I mentioned the uncertainties as to who can decide about corporal punishment. If one looks back at any of the disputes about school discipline that we have had in recent months, and then one looks at the text of this Bill, it is extremely difficult to know what is the answer. Who has the authority to decide the disputes which are going on at Poundswick and other schools? I do not think that this Bill gives a satisfactory answer.
I want to refer also to the question of appraisal of teachers, and in particular to one part of Clause 37 which I think has not been mentioned by any previous speaker. After the first part of Clause 37 which deals with appraisal in general, it then says that:the regulations apply [to teachers]—They are doing something connected with the school, but not discharging their duties. Presumably that means engaging in voluntary activity which, as anyone who knows what schools are like recognises, is a very considerable part of a teacher's work today. For example, if I cast my mind back about 40 years to when I was a teacher, I can remember after schoolwork was over one evening spent helping the boys to rehearse one of the acts of St. Joan, which was to be performed at the end of term. This school was no gentle academy in an ivory tower; it was a tough boys' school in East London. On another evening I can remember chairing a debate, on what everybody will be distressed to hear was a political subject, in which the pupils actually expressed their own opinions and not those which they had heard from someone else. Meanwhile, some of my colleagues with different gifts were engaged on Saturday afternoons, which was not an official school period at all, in helping boys to learn how to play football or in refereeing a match.
- (a) in discharging their duties; and
- (b) in engaging in other activities connected with the establishments at which they are employed".
As far as I understand this subsection, it is the "other activities connected with the establishments at which they are employed" (but not their duties) which would be subject to appraisal. Who is going to appraise that work? Who will come round to the teachers when they are engaged in this kind of activity, watch to see how they do it and report on how they do it? And what will be done with the reports? I raise the point not because I think that in practice this will result in anything very much, but to suggest that the Bill has been drafted by people who really do not know very much about what school-teaching is like, and I think that is a serious defect in the Bill.
There is a great deal of reporting to be done. The governing body has to prepare a report which has to be 454 presented to a parents' meeting; the governing body also has to report to the local education authority; the head teacher has to report to the governing body and to the local education authority; and everyone has to be prepared, if from time to time he asks for it, to send information to the Secretary of State. The one person who does not have to send reports in any direction at all is the Secretary of State himself. I must say that I thought it was a very feeble defence to put up that the information can be obtained elsewhere. I dare say that it can, if one has unlimited time; but none of us has such time, considering the many topics about which we are supposed to be well informed.
The object of a report on a department is to put together in a convenient volume a meaningful record of that department's work. It seems to me that they may be even more indignant about this proposal in the other place then we are here, because after all they provide the money. They have to pass the estimates and they rely on annual reports as one of the items that they study when they come to discuss the estimates. In the annual report we want one or two real things other than, quite frankly, trivialities that appear in many parts of this Bill.
In the first place, we want simply to know how the education service has been getting on quantitatively in the previous 12 months. How many over-large classes are there still? What proportion of parents who want nursery education for their children are able to obtain it? To what extent have the targets which we set ourselves for the education of handicapped children been met? There are a dozen such questions which ought to be looked at and reported on every year, so that Parliament can have informed debates on them. There are also the more recent questions. What progress are we making in the language problems which are created by the existence of so many ethnic minorities in our schools? One can add indefinitely to the list.
That is the kind of information that we need. That is the sort of thing which is much more to the point than this elaborate working out of exactly how many governors out of 19 are to be teachers and how many co-opted members and so on. While I am on this topic, why is there this very mean-spirited and unimaginative exclusion from governing bodies of the under 18s? We are not asking the Government to take the desperate step of appointing governors who are under 18 when it has never been done before. Of course, knowing what we do of this Government, we would not expect them to do anything so reckless. We are merely asking them not to destroy what, in fact, has been done by some authorities with success and benefit both to the governing bodies and to the young people concerned.
The reason that we are offered for this exclusion is a wretched little legalism: that they are in a position of trust, which a person under 18 cannot legally hold. Your Lordships' House is part of the legislature and can alter that provision in the law so that for this purpose a person under 18 can be a school governor. I think that it is a piece of slovenliness to say that it will be a little difficult legally to maintain this position, so they will just be rubbed out without any attention being paid to the useful work which these young people have done as governors.
455 I am therefore bound to say that, though one ought to welcome any interest that the Government show in education, their habit of showing interest by having a sort of annual education Bill does not seem to me to be altogether felicitous. I think that the education service is becoming a little overburdened with constant alterations of the law, and this one does not really have a great deal to be said for it.
I have received a great deal of material from many bodies and organisations, as have all your Lordships. I am trying to find the comment of the Association of County Councils, and though I cannot turn up the quotation at the moment, in effect they said that this Bill was too much concerned with particular details and not with the real stuff of education as we know it today. I have now found the quotation which reads:In general we believe the Bill is overmuch concerned with prescribing procedural detail which will hamper the effective running of the education service, obscure the important principles which parts of it seek to promote, and distract attention from the more important objectives of meeting the real needs of pupils, parents, and the community".Now that I have read it, your Lordships can hear how it puts the situation very much better than I have done. I think it has put it correctly.
I should like to encourage the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, on one point. When I was a teacher 40 years ago I attended a course in first aid together with a number of my colleagues. We thought it would be useful to know something about the subject, and the local doctor, who was the doctor for the school, was most helpful to us. I achieved a modest qualification in first aid. I hasten to say that that was 40 years ago, and if any noble Lord has an accident I recommend him to seek more up-to-date assistance! I mention that to suggest that some of the things that are paraded to us as great new discoveries the teaching profession has been aware of and working at for a considerable time, and has never quite received the thanks that it deserves from the nation.
§ 7 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester
My Lords, I must first apologise to your Lordships. I was obliged to be absent for part of the debate because, as the Minister and the Government Whip know, it was my duty to appear as a witness before a joint committee of Parliament in the Moses Room. I shall endeavour to be more brief than I should have been had I been able to speak in my allotted place on the speakers' list.
I approach the Bill wanting above all else to be assured that it will contribute to good government, to support for the teachers and to stability for the children and everyone else involved in school communities after all the difficulties of recent months. The aims of the Bill are praiseworthy. One can only hope that clarification of the functions of the local education authority, the head and the governing body will contribute towards the stability that the schools so desperately need, and also to the creative relationships that have always been essential to the effective working of the unique partnership in education which I believe is a most valued part of our heritage in this country.
I speak only for myself, but I know that if he had been here the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of 456 London, as chairman of our Church of England Board of Education, would have wished to welcome the Secretary of State's assurance that the Government intend to strengthen the dual system of county and voluntary schools, as the Minister echoed earlier this afternoon. I certainly welcome the clause in the Bill which will allow controlled schools to gain aided status. That may happen only rarely, but in Kent I know that such greater flexibility would be warmly welcomed because the present rigid, one-way legal situation acts as an unfortunate brake on dealing imaginatively and creatively with some of the consequences of falling school rolls in every kind of school.
I am glad that the Government have taken serious account of the reactions to the Green Paper, Parental Influence at School, and have produced a Bill which, while allowing greater representation for parents, does not allow any single interest to predominate upon a governing body. What gives me ground for anxiety are the proposed requirements, to which the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, referred, concerning annual reports, annual meetings, financial statements and the like. Is there not a danger that those will impose too great a burden on resources at a time when in other areas they are scarce? Even more important, will not all this further undermine the role of a head teacher as a teacher by further adding to his administrative load? I believe that there is already evidence of a fall in the number of applicants for vacant headship posts because of the stress experienced by heads in recent months.
I hope that when we are in Committee on the Bill we shall look carefully at those clauses which are likely to have consequences for the morale of head teachers and members of their staff. Like the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, I think that if one of the objectives of the Bill is clarification, that is not the immediate reaction that comes to mind when one reads the clause relating to the curriculum, whether one is talking about county or voluntary schools.
At the risk of trespassing on a minefield best traversed by those with legal equipment, I should like to turn to the making of instruments and articles—a duty to be undertaken by local education authorities in all cases. Notwithstanding the safeguards of reference to the Secretary of State in cases of dispute where voluntary schools are concerned, would it not be better to see a more explicit recognition of the principle that the only powers held by a local education authority are those given it by statute? I think that many would be reassured if specimen draft instruments and articles were included as schedules to the Bill or perhaps were promised in regulations to be made by the Secretary of State.
Local education authorities and voluntary bodies have only recently, as a result of considerable effort, gone through the exercise of obtaining new instruments of government following the 1980 Act. Now, within the next year or so they must carry out the exercise all over again for county and controlled schools. Surely we must get the Bill as near perfect as is humanly possible so as to allow local education authorities, voluntary bodies and schools a period of real stability after all the administrative upheaval to which they have been and will be subjected.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Ritchie said at the beginning of the debate, there is a great deal that we can welcome in the Bill, although it seems to me to be full of flaws and to suffer from serious omissions, and so I venture to think that it will attract rather a lot of amendments. We certainly welcome the reconstitution of governing bodies so that no single element will predominate. The aim is clearly the depoliticisation of education, with which we agree.
The Secretary of State's original idea of making parents paramount was neither realistic nor supported by the parents, and so this is an improvement. But we should prefer the balance proposed in the report of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, whereby, I think I am right in saying, three-quarters of the governing body would have consisted of equal representations of parents, staff, including non-teaching staff, and the LEA, and the final quarter would then have been co-opted from the community. The purely token teacher representation proposed, ranging from one teacher out of a board of nine and two out of a board of 19 (that is, excluding the head), will do nothing to improve teachers' respect for governing bodies, and does not, incidentally, accord with parents' wishes.
As regards the training of governors, it seems right to us in view of the rather formidable technical jargon of the education world that they should receive some training. That applies particularly to parent governors, who are likely to be inhibited by diffidence and lack of expertise. But how is that to be paid for? The Financial Memorandum speaks of costs building up to £10 million, but it is not clear whether additional funding is to be provided. If not, that provision can be carried out only at the expense of other services. I should like to ask the noble Baroness for clarification on that. I think that the noble Earl mentioned some schemes being currently funded under education support grants. Is that to be the mechanism of the future, and is it adequate?
I am personally indignant, but I do not think that I am alone, about the proposal in Clause 5 that parents with children at boarding schools may not elect their own parent governors but must put up with those foisted on them by the authority. I am the parent of a child at an ILEA boarding school. We have exactly the same association and the same meetings as those of any other schools. Why on earth should we not elect our parent governors in the same way as anyone else? We may indeed be in greater need of elected governors to express our concerns as our children are much more under the influence of the school than if they returned home every afternoon or evening. I can promise the noble Baroness an amendment on that score unless she can give me a very good reason indeed for my exclusion from that right.
On the appointment of parent governors for a standard four-year term, that appears to mean that the parent can continue even when he or she no longer has a child at the school. That would presumably extend to a parent who had switched the child into the private sector. Surely the proper thing is for parents of children no longer attending the school to stand down at the end of the academic year in which the child 458 leaves. Will the Government bring in an amendment to that effect?
On student governors, what puzzles me about their exclusion is that the Government say that their reforms are consumer orientated, yet who are the principal consumers if not the students? And not only that: those LEAs which already have student governors will presumably have to abolish them. Our policy is eligibility for students from 16 which, after all, is when young people are considered of an age to go out to work. As the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, said, there seems no good reason for taking off the statute book something that is working perfectly satisfactorily.
Clauses 16 to 18 on the curriculum have already given rise to rather a lot of flak. I should not perhaps add to it. As they stand, the clauses are, in my view, a recipe for muddle and conflict through unclear lines of responsibility—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, and by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester. The only point that is clear about them is their motivation. They are an attempt to prevent political indoctrination, an aim which we on these Benches share. But the mechanism of checks and balances proposed could, it seems to me, put the head teacher in an impossible position between his governors and his authority.
The head's duty, according to Clause 17, is to ensure that the curriculum is,compatible with the policy of the authority or, where it is incompatible with that policy with the policy of the governing body".This is a pretty invidious position and hard to reconcile with the increasing pressure put by the Government on local education authorities to agree and secure the implementation of clear curricular policy. If one turns to the Notes on Clauses, thought-fully provided by the Government, confusion is worse confounded. I do not propose to read out the note on Clause 17 but it would, I believe, perplex even the most intelligent head teacher.
Discipline is covered in Clauses 20 to 22. Here again, we are in dispute-prone territory. Once more the head is put in a quandary. Clause 20 states that the standard of behaviour to be regarded as acceptable at school is to be determined by the head teacher so far as it is not determined by the governing body. What on earth is this but a recipe for two rule books? The proposals on suspension in Clause 21 seem to offer no way out of the difficulties which have already arisen and no doubt will continue to arise. Ultimately the LEA has a statutory duty to provide education to all of educable age and, in the absence of alternative provision, may well want to reinstate in the teeth of head and/or governors. These are never easy decisions, but I cannot see that they are made any easier by the procedures laid down here.
This seems to be recognised in the Bill which, through Clause 22, gives ultimate reserve power to the local authority over both the governors and the head in the case of a threatened breakdown of discipline. That seems correct, as it is the members of the authority who are legally responsible and therefore in the firing line. However, anxiety over exclusion needs to be met. The appeal mechanism in Clause 21 is surely inadequate because it is limited to an appeal to 459 governors if there is any such provision in the articles of government, and this does not necessarily have to be the case. I should be inclined to accept the proposal of the Children's Legal Centre that the LEA should be placed under a duty to provide an independent appeals mechanism to hear suspension appeals and to adjudicate other conflicts which have failed to be resolved within the school or governing body. These can be built on the existing framework of the 1980 Act appeals committee which hears schools choice conflicts. I should like to know what the noble Baroness has to say about that.
On finance, the provision in Clause 23(b), allowing the governors a discretionary sum for books, equipment and stationery, has given rise to fears that this might be interpreted merely as a float designed to be topped up by parental contributions. No one, I believe, objects to voluntary fund-raising among parents for additional amenities for a school. But if this should be extended to the provision of basic materials and tools, required for the curriculum that the LEA is obliged by statute to provide, it seems wrong that the implementation of that duty should depend on voluntary contributions. The National Confederation of Parent-Teachers Associations has expressed concern on this point. I should like the noble Baroness's assurance that this is not the intention of the measure.
Part IV deals with miscellaneous provisions. But two of these, appraisal and in-service training, are of great importance. The appraisal clause, Clause 37, is at present only an enabling power. But it is widely drafted covering not only duties but also the contentious and ill-defined "other activities". I can only say at this stage that I hope that the Secretary of State will not swing into action with an armoury of regulations entirely of his own making and, as the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, said, not only telling local authorities what to do but how to do it. It is particularly important that he should not do so in view of the memorandum of agreement accepted by the moderate unions within the framework of the ACAS talks and ratified by the Burnham Committee on 3rd March. According to the press, the NUT has also become involved, though it is not clear to me on what basis.
This memorandum commits the unions to negotiate constructively and expeditiously not only on salary but also on arrangements for appraisal and training and a clear definition of contractual duties and responsibilities of both teachers and their employers. There will be a review of the progress of negotiations after six months by the ACAS panel. It is essential that the Government should do nothing to undermine this process and that they should, if it shows any progress at all, allow it to continue beyond six months if necessary. I hope that we shall hear from the noble Baroness that this is the Government's intention.
In-service training, mentioned in Clause 38 of the Bill, and also by a number of your Lordships during the debate, is a matter of vital importance. Everyone agrees that it is essential, on a much wider scale than at present, both for the quality of teaching and for the teacher's career development. We come here to the acid test of the Government's seriousness about having 460 a good publicly-funded education service at all. What is proposed in the Bill, so far as I can see, is that the Secretary of State may make grants for training or retraining but he is the arbiter of which training to approve for this purpose and which to reject. Thus it appears that he can disburse for retraining of science teachers if he wants to steer the curriculum in that direction but may totally neglect other things he considers less important. This is not fair on teachers in less favoured disciplines. We have constantly argued for in-service training to be part of the teacher's contract. I think that teachers would be well justified in raising this under the heading of career development within the ACAS forum.
The Government are presumably aware that not only are more teachers seeking early retirement but that there is also a 26 per cent. decline in applications for entry into the profession, to say nothing of the brain drain of science and maths teachers into industry. The Government may think that, with falling rolls and some teacher unemployment, they are in a buyer's market and can afford to offer the meanest possible conditions. That calculation could well lead, in the not too distant future, to a shortage of competent and motivated teachers with disastrous effects on the prospects of the next generation of children. In-service training is essential not only to the teacher's personal career structure but also to his or her performance in the classroom. I hope that we shall hear from the Government that they are prepared to see an entitlement written into the contract and to put some new money behind it.
The wider use of specific grants was welcomed by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, and also, I believe, by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy. One has to remember, however, that specific grants have usually been subtracted from other moneys—from the RSG. We want to hear from the noble Baroness this evening that there is genuinely new money on the table for this proposal. Otherwise it is meaningless.
I turn briefly to the omissions from the Bill. My noble friend Lord Ritchie has already mentioned the question of corporal punishment, which can surely not be divorced from consideration of discipline. It seems incredible that the section on discipline should have walked round this issue. The Government's last attempt to comply with the ruling of the European Court was seen to be unworkable and was rejected by your Lordships. The Government should have accepted this by now and taken the opportunity to include the only alternative—abolition—as a clause in the Bill. I have no doubt that an amendment will be proposed to this effect.
I want to raise one other matter of which there is no mention in the Bill. It is the relationship between schools and the police. It must surely be axiomatic that the foundation of a good relationship between the police and the community must be laid at an early age. Yet so-called police monitoring groups have recently been whipping up anti-police feeling in London and the ill-considered campaign of the Inner London Teachers Association—the NUT branch in inner London—has led to banning the police from speaking to children in some 20 London schools on such topical issues as drug addiction, crime prevention and even road safety. ILEA has expressed regret for this but has 461 taken no action to prevent it. I should therefore tell the noble Baroness that my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich, together with noble Lords from other parts of the House, is likely to lay an amendment to oblige the authority or the governors to allow reasonable access to the police for these purposes.
Finally, I repeat that we support the thrust of the Bill in the direction of wider powers for better balanced governing bodies, but we are very sceptical about some of the measures proposed. It is hard to avoid the impression, as a number of noble Lords have said, that the mechanics of some of the clauses have not been thought through and are designed to hedge against certain dangers rather than to give schools a positive shot in the arm, which is what they so badly need. Any claim that this Bill can be ranked with the Butler Act of 1944 fails on the one major count. The 1944 Act embodies a vision and this Bill does not. We must aim to effect at least some improvements in your Lordships' House before the Bill goes to another place. We very much hope that the Government themselves will join us in that endeavour. I think that the noble Earl gave us an assurance on that count, so I am sure we can look forward to a constructive Committee stage.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Lord Irving of Dartford
My Lords, I want first of all to pay a very warm tribute to my noble friend Lord Taylor for his chairmanship of the committee and the report that they produced of this subject. I should also like to thank him for his contribution this evening, and to regret with him that the Government have not accepted some of his most important recommendations.
I want also on behalf of this side of the House to welcome the greater involvement of parents in the running of our schools and to hope that this can be made effective. Those of use who have served as governors over many years know how frustrating the experience has been with little more than a nominal role and almost no influence. We hope that change will be in respect of all governors.
I welcome the attempt to define the relationship between parents, local education authorities and teachers. I was asked some eight years ago by a leading firm of management consultants in this country—who had done work for almost every local authority but never for a local education authority—what the scope was for employing management services in the education system. It became clear that one of the obstacles was that there was no management statement which defined the roles of the local education authority, the head, the parents and the teachers. I welcome an attempt to clarify this and to make that relationship more effective. Like my noble friend Lord McIntosh, I welcome the increased information which is to be given to governors and for more training for teachers.
The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, gave us a glowing prospectus of what he thought the Bill would do for us in the future and described it as the biggest, and perhaps the most significant, Bill since the Butler Act. I have to tell the noble Earl that that is not the view of many organisations which have been in touch with 462 me. The Bill has received a very mixed reception indeed and many organisations certainly do not agree with it. The Association of County Councils have said:We do not find that the Bill lives up to this claim and although it contains some significant proposals which could have important consequences, it notably fails to tackle some of the major problems facing the education service".My noble friend Lord McIntosh also said—it was not said by the noble Earl tonight—that one of the major reasons for the Bill was to provide powers for governors to overrule their councillors to prevent peace studies being taught, and I accept that there may have been some abuse. However, the Association of County Councils has said:The narrowly prescriptive nature of the proposals will result in governing bodies in some LEAs being less effectively representative of local community interests".The Bill will certainly prevent LEAs from packing governing bodies, and that must be a good thing. But the general view of most of the organisations is that it will not prevent either a Poundswick or a Honeyford situation. The National Association of Governors and Managers has said:The attempt to spell out the precise nature of the relationship between LEAs, heads, teachers and parents will not prevent confusion and disputes".My noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham pointed out possible major confusion is under Clause 17(4)(i) of the Bill where the head is required to look at the local authority proposals for the curriculum, then look at the governing bodies, and is assumed to choose between the two where there is a difference. If there is more of a recipe for strain than that I should like to see it.
The Association of Municipal Authorities has also expressed anxiety. It says:Perhaps the most contentious and difficult part of the Bill is that dealing with the curriculum. The scope for governing bodies to 'modify' LEA curricula policies, and the duty of the head to determine a curriculum consistent either with the policy of the LEA or with that of the governing body will lead to endless confusion. To take just one concrete example: it would be open, under the proposed legislation, for a school's governors to subvert an LEA policy, arrived at after thorough consultation and the consideration of professional advice, that minority modern language teaching be concentrated into particular schools. Governors of other schools could decide otherwise, leaving the LEA to decide whether to seek to impose its policy by the indirect and clumsy means of adjusting the staffing establishment of the school or to abandon the policy".But what is certain is that the Bill of itself will not free governing bodies from the influence of pressure groups whether these be political or non-political. Sir Keith has said:The allocation of responsibilities will work best if the partners in the task work together".We on this side of the House certainly believe in partnership on governing bodies as on other fields. That is, equal representation of the LEAs, parents, community and teachers. In this way no one group would be able to give undue influence, and with a reasonable proportion of professional educators being represented, there would be an incentive for the various partners to co-operate.
This Bill not only fails to create such a partnership, it moves substantially away from it by increasing the parental representation and the number of co-opted members, while leaving teacher representation the same. Under the present Bill it is possible to have a 463 governing body of 19 of which only three—the head and two teacher governors—would have professional knowledge of education, and meeting on only four afternoons or evenings a year could be detrimental to the development of our schools.
The local authority influence, as has been said by some noble Lords tonight, over education and the diversity which has resulted has been one of the most creative influences in education in this country. The Bill further weakens local authorities, a process which has been going on for some time.
This Bill is noticeably different from previous Bills in governing bodies which have offered guidance on representation. This one lays it down specifically. The National Association of Governors and Managers says:In general the Bill attempts to legislate too precisely over minutiae instead of providing a framework of development".This is a mild-mannered criticism. In fact, the Bill breaks almost every rule in the book. Your Lordships may ask, which book? I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has disappeared.
In 1975 an eminent lawyer was asked to chair a committee, which he did. The committee report was entitled the Preparation of Legislation. The noble Lord concerned was the noble Lord, Lord Renton, who was seated opposite only a minute or two ago. He occupied eight pages of his report on over-elaborated legislation. There is no doubt at all that, in terms of the report, and in terms of properly devised legislation, much of what is in the Bill should at worst be either in the schedules or in regulations, and at best in guidelines.
But this is not just a matter of style or fastidiousness. The Association of County Councils says:Overmuch concern with procedural detail … will hamper the effective running of the education service, obscure the important principles which parts of it seek to promote, and distract attention from the more important objectives of meeting the real needs of pupils, parents and the community.The suggestion that this Bill is to be compared with the Butler Act fails to recognise the different circumstances surrounding each of these Bills. In 1944 all of us were anxious to establish an entirely new system giving wider opportunities to our children. There was optimism and enthusiasm, and a desire for a real partnership in order to bring about this change. Today the position could not be more different. There is in the teaching profession a deep disillusionment which is affecting both entry to and departure from the profession. It is not therefore surprising that when the Government in this Bill reduce the balance between parents and the teachers, teachers take this as one more attack on them by a Secretary of State who is viewed with the greatest suspicion as having deliberately undervalued and underpaid the profession. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, had some very significant comments to make from his great experience as chairman of the committee which produced the report which teachers look back on with great longing.
It is not just testiness on the part of teachers. They have the support of the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations which claims to represent 5 million parents and has said: 464The parent is the first educator of the child and it is essential to encourage parents to participate more fully in the life of the school. But we reject the failure of the Government to recognise that teachers should also have an equal representation on governing bodies".The low morale was referred to by Dr. Harry Judge, Director of the Department of Educational Studies at Oxford since 1973, in an article in the TES last year when he said:The morale and confidence of the education service are now at a desperately low point, and unless and until the facts of the crisis are acknowledged and its nature agreed upon nothing can be improved. The present mood is without precedent, certainly within the working life of the older among us and arguably at any time over the past century".Dr. Judge continued in the theme of the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, because he said:The root of our trouble lies in an attempt to accumulate all effective power in the hands of an aggressive central government".The ACC has complained:It does seem extraordinary that we should be subjected as employers to such detailed rules by Government".However, when it comes to Part IV, on appraisal, the Bill goes to the opposite extreme. Nothing is spelt out. Sir Keith has said that he is taking powers which he has no wish to use. Neither did the noble Earl spell out the position, although he said that the purpose was to discover how many teachers wanted or needed in-service training. If that was all there was to appraisal it would not provide anything of significance or of value in the totality of the need, and it would not cause the eruption which it has done in many quarters in the teaching profession. The NUT and other unions have been in favour of appraisal as long as it is for professional development. However, there is no sense in which there can be real negotiation when written into the Bill is the power for the Secretary of State to use this whenever he likes.
There is the whole question of the appraisal of other activities connected with the establishments at which teachers are employed. Appraisal of activities which are not part of a teacher's duties can only be subjective. If appraised, either they are truly voluntary, in which case someone who does not understand them will be appraised with someone who does, or they will become de facto compulsory, which obviously makes a mockery of the idea of voluntary duties.
I was very sad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, talk about lack of trust. The question of trust or lack of trust is at the heart of all our problems in the education service. It should now be clear to Sir Keith and others that appraisal cannot be done without the co-operation of the teachers, and threats will not make this co-operation more likely. It cannot be done effectively until peace is re-established in our schools and, as I warned in the debate which I initiated in January, that is not likely until Sir Keith does something to restore confidence. I urged then that he could only achieve this by setting up an independent review, of which assessment could be part. It is still clear that at least the NUT and perhaps some members of other unions will not participate, despite the ACAS arrangement.
I am glad to see that the Secretary of State for Scotland has accepted the sense of the proposition. The noble Baroness will say, as the Minister said 465 yesterday, that of course the situation in England and Wales is very different from the situation in Scotland. I say to her that there are sufficient similarities to make it clear in the end that the Secretary of State will have to do exactly what has been done already by the sensible Secretary of State for Scotland.
It is time that the conflict in our schools was brought to an end, with an end to the damage that is being done to our children's education. The Bill typifies Sir Keith's weakness in handling his responsibilities. He wishes to be regarded as a great innovative education secretary, and he could have won such a reputation, instead of which he has presided over a deteriorating situation condemned by Her Majesty's Inspectors, by Neddy, by the National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations and by others. Many of the things that he wishes to do are perfectly sound, but his handling of teachers has been disastrous.
Although technically not their employer, he controls the purse strings and imposes statutory and other requirements. Instead of leadership he makes to impose his will and he intends to do that in respect of appraisal. For some time the Secretary of State presided over a very distinguished company, Bovis, with which I have had some association as a member of a local authority. If he had applied the same rules to that company as he applies to teachers, they would never have built a house, a swimming-pool, a school or the excellent theatre which they built for us in Dartford. I commend to the Secretary of State the remarks made the other night on the "Any Questions" programme by Sir John Harvey Jones, the chairman of our biggest and probably most successful company, when he said that it was management's responsibility to give leadership with effective consultation and involvement of workers.
The Association of County Councils said that it had only brief opportunities over the last 18 months to discuss some of the proposals with the Secretary of State. The Guardian commented:Sir Keith does not seem to be in a hurry to settle the pay dispute. This is not the case with his new Bill. Two hours after copies of the Bill arrived at the DES from the printer, Sir Keith presided over a press conference. Correspondents had at best 30 minutes to skim through the largest piece of legislation since the 1944 Act, before putting their questions. Less than a month later, 21 days at most, this so-called momentous piece of legislation is given its Second Reading".As a result, some of the briefing for this debate was only received by some Members this morning. The comment continues:With such bizarre conduct, can one wonder that our school system is in such a mess?Once again proposals are made for quite considerable change without any clear indication of funding. The ACC say:We have not been consulted about the one firm figure (£10 million) given for additional costs and believe it to be an underestimate. We assume that the statement that it will 'fail to be met from the resources to be made available' implies that there will be no additional funding by Government. Financially, the consequences of the Bill generally will be to add significantly to operational costs in LEAs and in schools. Under present expenditure plans and constraints, these costs can only be met by reducing spending on other parts of the Service".Similarly, the manpower consequences of the proposals must lead either to the employment of 466 additional staff or to a reduction of the time spent by LEA staff on existing work.
We see once again what has become known as consumer power—the determination of our situation by the market, rather than a piece of legislation which should provide an opportunity to strengthen our school system by partnership and co-operation. The opportunity has been missed. My noble friend Lord McIntosh has said that we shall be making a number of proposals at the Committee stage, and I am sure that that is true. However, I believe that the real improvement will have to wait for another education secretary and perhaps, indeed, for another Government.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Young)
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Swinton said in his opening speech that this Bill contains the new legislation needed to give effect to the broad range of policies set out in the White Paper, Better Schools, published a year ago. Its aim, with which few could disagree, is, in the words of the gracious Speech:to improve the management of schools and to promote the professional effectiveness of teachers".Indeed, I have been glad in the course of the debate this afternoon to note the support in principle for those objectives by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, confirmed by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, and, I think to a certain extent, by the noble Lord, Lord Irving, whom we would all on this side of the House like to congratulate on speaking for the first time from the Dispatch Box on his side of the House. If I may say so, even the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, had some good things to say about the Bill, if only that he was pleased about Clause 38 on specific funding of training.
I should like at the start of my remarks to give an assurance that I and my noble friends will study with great care all that has been said this afternoon. A great many detailed points have been raised to which I am sure we shall return at the Committee stage of the Bill. Time will not allow me to answer all of them this evening, although I shall touch on the principal points that have been raised.
Good teaching and educational quality are inseparable. We need teachers who engage the minds of their pupils, who instil self-respect and respect for others, and who generate interest and enthusiasm in their subjects. Such teachers are an asset to the nation. Many teachers already perform this important and demanding task with professionalism and skill. But few teachers would deny that there is scope for improvement. Indeed, it is part and parcel of the teachers' professionalism that they should constantly strive to improve their performance and realise their full potential. Effective staff management must rest on a continuing effort to help all teachers to realise this potential.
A cornerstone of effective management is systematic teacher appraisal. As we work our way out of the tragic dispute to which a number of noble Lords have 467 referred this afternoon—and on this side of the House we believe that the current teachers' dispute is a tragedy—which has disrupted our schools for more than a year, it is important that appraisal should be seen not as a threat (and this is how some critics of the Bill would have it) but as a series of opportunities for teachers: the opportunity to discover how their performance is perceived by management; the opportunity to consider their career development needs; the opportunity to identify and meet their need for training or wider experience.
To be effective—to enable management at the school and local authority level to deploy their staff effectively and to give them adequate professional support—appraisal must be set within a national framework. I was very glad that both the noble Lords, Lord McIntosh and Lord Ritchie, accepted in principle the need of appraisal. It is the Government's hope that this national framework will be achieved by agreement. We have no national blueprint to impose. Our position—and this is important—is that teacher appraisal should largely be conducted at the level of the individual school by the teachers themselves.
The intention is that it will be done in accordance with general arrangements introduced and monitored by the local education authorities in accordance with national guidelines worked out in consultation between teachers, employer and the department. The Government hope that the negotiations now under way with the assistance of ACAS will make sufficient progress to allow the early start to the practical fieldwork which the Government have long been wanting to get under way. Money for an education support grant project has long been set aside for this purpose, and it remains unused.
However, failing agreement it may prove necessary to set or, in any event, to support a national framework for appraisal through statutory regulations. The Bill provides for this. It will give the Secretary of State an enabling power. It is important that it should be available. Whether or not it will be used depends on the progress of talks at national level. I very much hope that those talks succeed in capturing the mood of teachers up and down the country who have willingly agreed to take part in appraisal schemes voluntarily introduced into their schools. That is the way forward for the schools, their pupils and the teaching profession.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, suggested that this was a blank cheque. I repeat to him that we seek an enabling power to be used if the talks fail, and of course we hope that the talks will not fail. The noble Lords, Lord Ritchie and Lord Houghton, said that the appraisal clause was provocative. In fact the appraisal clause can hardly be seen as provocative. It is not a new idea. It was included in the Secretary of State for Education's letter of 30th October 1984 to the teacher associations, and was in the White Paper, Better Schools. Appraisal has the support in principle of all parties. This, I repeat, is an enabling power.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Baroness would permit me to 468 intervene? I have listened with great care to what she has been saying, looking for some light at the end of the tunnel. I hope I am wrong in thinking that she is actually making life more difficult by making the conditions on which statutory appraisal would be imposed dependent upon the present negotiations with the teachers in England and Wales. I hope she does not mean that, because the issue of appraisal has been a much wider bone of contention between the teachers, the local education authorities and the Government over a much longer period of time, and it is important that we should not be trapped into making it conditional on these particular talks now.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I hope that I have not given that impression. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, will look carefully at what I have said because I have stated the position as I believe it to be: that we want this to be by agreement with the teachers, and conducted under the circumstances I have described.
The noble Lord, Lord Stewart, also raised a point on teacher appraisal and asked what was to be appraised. I should like to make it clear that what the Government want to see is teachers' performance of their duties appraised. My right honourable friend's view of these duties is on public record and goes back to last May; the 14-point list which appeared in the employers' September option. Duties are not currently defined. This will form part of the negotiations which began at ACAS last Friday, and so the clause is cast in general terms. Beyond this the intention is that other activities which teachers want to see appraised should be so appraised.
If appraisal is to facilitiate the more professional management of a more effective teaching force, it must be coupled with a more purposeful and extensive network for in-service training. The Bill provides a power for the Secretary of State to make greater use of specific grants for this purpose. Through appraisal management will become better able to identify and then meet the specific needs of their teachers.
I turn now to the question of school government, on which there has been most comment. A successful school invariably has an identity and clear sense of purpose of its own. It is not just an agency of the local education authority. The Government believe that the Bill's school government provisions will re-establish school governing bodies as this force for good in the life of individual schools and the communities they serve.
Valuable advances were made under the 1980 Act, but the present arrangements still take insufficient account of parents' natural and special interest in their children's education and progress. Governing bodies' powers have developed haphazardly, often giving them too restricted a role in relation to the local education authority or head teachers, and in respect of all except voluntary aided and special agreement schools the authority normally uses its power to appoint the majority of governors and thus dominate the governing body.
469 The Bill tackles these issues in two ways. First, it removes the local education authority's scope to appoint the majority of governors. Instead, the governing body will become a new partnership among parents, the authority, the head and other teachers, and certain other representative governors as at present, and a new category of co-opted governors. And governors will be trained for the discharge of their important responsibilities.
The Government believe that schools are the poorer if they fail fully to harness and encourage the interest and support of parents. The Bill offers individual parents greater opportunities to serve as governors, but the parent body as a whole will also have the opportunity to become more involved in their children's schools through the governing bodies' annual report, and at an annual parents' meeting. Generally, parents will have new and significant opportunities to influence the way their children's schools develop as part of their local provision.
The noble Lords, Lord McIntosh, Lord Ritchie, Lord Stewart and Lord Alexander, talked about the Bill as being over-detailed. The Government believe that the detail is necessary if governing bodies and head teachers are to be guaranteed a worthwhile role free of undue intervention by the local education authority.
It will obviously be best if the partners can proceed in an atmosphere of co-operation and agreement. In the new situation, where governing bodies are manifestly separate from the local education authorities, such harmony will be real. If the partners disagree the Bill provides means of resolution by which, as seems right, no party can simply set aside the views of others without consultation and consideration. The formulae represent about the only feasible solutions to the various conflicting pressures and necessary range of representation.
On the question of minors or pupils as governors—a point which many noble Lords have raised—the Government's view is that a school or college governor holds an office of public and pecuniary trust. Such an office may not properly be held by a minor. However, I accept that this opinion has never been tested in the courts so this opportunity is being taken to put the matter beyond doubt, particularly in the light of the greater importance being attached to school governorship in the future. But that does not mean to say that there will be no opportunities to involve senior pupils in the life of the school. The governing body is free to invite them to attend meetings as observers; while some schools find that school councils can provide a useful means of involving pupils, and there are other means as well.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who has been interested in education for a very long time—I remember his report very well indeed—raised the point about teacher governors and the number to be included in the proposals in the Bill. That point was raised by many others. We believe that as the governing bodies will generally be smaller than present governing bodies, the teachers' governing voice will be proportionately stronger in the situation outlined in the Bill than it is at present.
Many noble Lords referred to governors from the community, business, industry and commerce. All elected and appointed governors will bring a variety of 470 attributes to the governing bodies, but provision is made for an additional category of governors co-opted by the elected and appointed governors to broaden the governing bodies' membership. The intention is that the co-options should be used in that way.
My noble friends Lady Carnegy and Lady Cox were both worried about how effective parent governors can be. It seems to me that the Bill before us does a number of things for parent governors. In the first place it gives the opportunity for training of governors: it gives governors a greater say in the running of the school. Increasing the representation of parent governors means that they are less likely to be outnumbered by more dominant interests. Furthermore, parent governors should be properly informed about their responsibilities and governing bodies will have more clearly defined tasks. All these facts should be of help to parents.
I was also asked whether head teachers are allowed to be able to choose whether or not to be a governor. We believe that there is advantage in the head teacher being a governor but, as in the 1980 Act, we have decided to respect the views of those heads who feel that this formal role is inappropriate.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, raised a question of finance in in-service training. On finance, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State fully understands the need to give local authorities as much notice as possible of all details of the scheme, including the amounts of money to be made available. However, decisions on the financing of the scheme can only be taken in the context of the Government's decisions about other public expenditure.
I turn now to the functions of the school governing bodies, for the new governing bodies need guaranteed powers to enable them to do an effective job. Consequently, the Bill allocates functions between the local education authority, the governors and the head teacher, so that all can play their proper part in raising the standards of the school. I should emphasise the important principles which have informed the proposed allocation of functions which were set out by my noble friend Lord Swinton at the beginning of the debate. First, the authority must have the powers necessary to secure the provision of sufficient and efficient schools for its area. It must be able to determine policies for the overall effectiveness and management of the schools it maintains. Secondly, and subject to the authority's overall responsibility, the governing body should be able to determine, in consultation with the head teacher, the main policies and lines of development of its school. This generally means strengthening its role and ensuring that it cannot be over-ridden in the exercise of its assigned functions.
Thirdly, the professional responsibilities of the head teacher and the staff must be respected: the role of the head teacher should have a firm legal foundation, clarifying his responsibilities and preserving his authority.
A number of your Lordships, including my noble friend Lord Beloff, referred particularly to the role of the local education authority on the curriculum. As I hope I have set out, there is a role for the local education authority, for the governing body and for the head teacher. No doubt we shall debate at length 471 on further stages the exact relationship among these three, that it is a relationship and that the roles have been more clearly defined is one of the purposes of the Bill. I was asked whether in the cases of Poundswick or Honeyford these issues would have been resolved. In a contentious issue such as this there are good arguments in favour either of the governors or the authority having the last word. The problems of Poundswick school and the publicity it has attracted have highlighted for many people the case of leaving everything to the governing body, but that would not remove the scope for conflict which, unless resolved, would leave the authority to pick up the pieces. The crucial consideration in our view has to be the authority's ultimate responsibility for securing the education of pupils in its area. By continuing to exclude a pupil, however justified that may be, a school imposes an obligation on the authority to arrange a transfer, to order reinstatement, to provide home tuition or to find some other solution. No such responsibility is left with the governors, and it would be wrong in our view if they were to have the final say. Such power in the hands of an authority does not mean that it can be exercised lightly. An authority would clearly need to think very carefully before overturning the head's decision endorsed by the governing body in such a case.
My noble friend Lady Cox and the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, suggested that the Bill would come to little unless the morale of teachers throughout the country had risen and this required a long-term solution to the teachers' dispute. We accept, and we have for a long time accepted, the need for more pay to enable good teachers to be recruited and retained and that we need a long-term solution to this dispute. As long ago as last August my right honourable friend said that we were prepared to see an extra £1,250 million spent on teachers' pay over the next four years. There were strings to that offer—a better career structure offering more promotion opportunities, a proper appraisal system tied to better in-service training, professional development and a clear definition of teachers' duties.
We hope very much that there will be a solution to this problem. The ACAS talks began only last Friday with all the parties, including the National Union of Teachers, taking part. We must all wish them well. Constructive progress would enable my right honourable friend to release over the next four years the extra resources of more than £1 billion which have been set aside.
As a general rule the allocation of responsibilities proposed in the Bill will obviously work best if the partners in the task work together. However, in cases of conflict, each partner will have some protection against simply being set aside. I would emphasise that the Bill does not prescribe what local decisions could be; it establishes that in national service there is uniform good practice in how local decisions are reached.
I have been asked a number of other detailed questions, some of which I shall answer, but I think that time will not allow me to refer to all of them. My noble friend Lady Cox expressed the hope that there would be a wider dissemination of information to parents and others, and Clause 24, of course, has this as its objective. The noble countess, Lady Mar, 472 referred to Clauses 40 and 41, as did the right reverend Prelate. May I say that the noble Countess was right to point to the financial liability for capital expenditure as one of the differences between controlled and aided schools. It is in such terms that aided-school governing bodies have a greater degree of independence from the local education authorities than other schools in the maintained sector.
Under the 1944 Act, the newly-created voluntary schools had to choose aided or controlled status and some, especially the Church of England schools, chose the latter because of the financial liability of aided status. Now that dioceses have extra resources through the closure of other church schools because of falling rolls, it seemed right to allow some controlled schools to change to aided status. The proposals in Clauses 40 and 41 are a request from the Church of England that such a statutory route should be opened and the Government have been happy to respond.
A number of noble Lords have raised the question of corporal punishment and discipline in schools. May I say on this matter that we have never disguised our view that it is wrong in principle for LEAs to use their powers to override the views of schools on the use of corporal punishment. The Bill seeks to put the matter right and, through the articles of government, to put the responsibility where it properly lies. It would be highly regrettable if, in the context of new legislation, LEAs were to resent the full use by schools of powers accorded to them under the articles of government.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, asked for an assurance that the provisions in Clause 23 are not designed to allow reduced public funding for our schools and I am glad to give him that assurance unreservedly. He also asked a question about the funding for training. The training for governors need be neither costly nor elaborate; but the funding of such training will be borne by LEAs out of the resources available to them in the years in question, although not entirely through education support grants. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester suggested that there should be model instruments and articles available to assist local education authorities. But we believe that, given the diversity of individual schools' circumstances, it would be impractical in effect to give such models statutory force; but the Government are ready to consider issuing administrative models for local guidance.
My noble friend Lady Cox raised a number of points about political indoctrination and, in particular, peace studies. May I say to her that it is worth looking at what the Bill actually has to say on this matter. We believe that unsatisfactory elements in the curriculum, which I think we would all agree would be political indoctrination, could only be imposed on head teachers if both the LEA and the governors were in agreement. The Bill provides that the latter body, the governors, will no longer consist of a majority of political appointees, will have to report regularly to parents and will have a substantial parent representation subject to regular re-election. In this, it is intended to ensure that all governing bodies are more aware of and sensitive to parents' views than at present. We believe that the likelihood of political influence on the curriculum against the wishes of parents is therefore significantly reduced by the provisions in the Bill.
473 But I may say to my noble friend that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is taking very seriously the points that were made in your Lordships' House on 5th February and is proposing to issue a circular on the handling of politically sensitive issues in teaching. A draft was published for comments on 4th February, and I would say to my noble friend and to those who feel like her that it is an opportunity for her and for her friends to comment if they are still concerned about these matters.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, raised a point about the appointment of head teachers and suggested that the proposals were clumsy and were destined to lead to deadlock. It is true that a head cannot be appointed by the local authority unless the governing body is in agreement; but this is surely as it should be. If it takes time to reach the right decision, then so be it. In the meantime an acting head must be appointed. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, both expressed some concern about the right of the local educational authority to choose to re-deploy in the case of ordinary teacher appointment or the deputy head in some cases. This is the case and must be so in the interests of the authority running an efficient service throughout its territory. However, there are checks. The governing body has the right to draft a job specification and must be consulted by the authority before an appointment is made. As always, there is a balance to be struck.
I am conscious that I have not answered all the points that have been raised. As I said at the beginning, I shall read carefully what has been said in your Lordships' House in this debate on these very important matters that are covered by this Bill. We shall have the opportunity to return to them all at later stages of the Bill. In the meantime, I believe that there is general agreement about the aims set out in the Government's White Paper, Better Schools, and this has been confirmed in the debate this afternoon. Standards need to be raised. We need a better educational return for the very large sums of public money invested in school education. High standards of school education cannot be secured by prescribing them in legislation. What can be done, however, is to give those with a close interest in standards on the ground, parents, teachers, governing bodies and local education authorities, better arrangements than now exist to apply their various complementary skills to the maximum benefit of each individual pupil and of the nation. That is what the Bill provides and I commend it to your Lordships.
§ On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.