HL Deb 01 May 1986 vol 474 cc395-404

3.28 p.m.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Swinton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Clause 37 [Appraisal of performance of teachers]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 85:

Page 38, line 42, leave out from ("duties") to end of line 2 on page 39.

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 85 refers to the reserve power of appraisal which the Secretary of State is to take under Clause 37 of the Bill, which provides the opportunity, if there is no agreement between the local education authorities and the teachers' organisations or the teachers collectively on appraisal, for him to take that power for himself and to secure that there are regulations for appraisal to his own liking.

I wish to make it clear that, as was said on Second Reading, we on this side of the Committee are not opposed to the principle of appraisal. We hope, as I am sure the Government hope, that it will be possible for a voluntary agreement to be reached between the teachers' organisations and the local authorities on the appraisal that is in our view necessary, and that therefore the whole of Clause 37 will not be necessary, or will not necessarily be implemented. On the basis that the Government feel it necessary to take these reserve powers, we believe that there are two instances in which the reserve powers go too far and offend against the best interests of the teaching profession and the education service as a whole, and Amendment No. 85 is concerned with the first of those.

In subsection (1)(a) it is provided that the regulations shall apply to teachers "in discharging their duties". There can hardly be any objection to that. That is clearly what appraisal is to be about, and we do not question that. But subsection (1)(b) goes on to say that the regulations apply to teachers, engaging in other activities connected with the establishments at which they are employed".

That implies that these are not duties. I am conscious that there is, and has been, controversy about the definition of duties between teachers and local education authorities, and indeed with the Government, over a number of years. But one way in which it will certainly not be possible to resolve it is by saying, as the Bill as at present drafted says, that appraisal is to apply to what are in effect voluntary activities.

At this stage it seems curious that the Notes on Clauses say something that appears to me to be different from the provisions of the Bill itself. The Notes on Clauses, which are usually so helpful, say: The Government hope that these discussions will produce an agreed definition of duties the performance of which will then voluntarily be made subject to appraisal". I cannot see in this clause any indication that these duties, or indeed any other activities, are voluntarily to be made subject to appraisal. As I read Clause 37 it says that the reserve powers will be to impose appraisal on both the duties of teachers and these other activities.

It may well be that I am reading the provision wrongly; I am no expert in drafting matters. But it appears to me that the clause does not say what the Notes on Clauses indicate, and that what is being proposed here is compulsory appraisal of voluntary activities. That seems to us to be an unnecessary provocation, an unnecessary extension of the principle of appraisal in itself, and one which we query with this amendment. On the basis of the Government reply we shall have to consider what position we take on this matter. I beg to move.

Lord Somers

It seems to me that this amendment overlooks the fact that in most schools most staff are required to do duties of some sort outside their actual written engagement, such as invigilating for examinations, being on duty for lunch, or something similar. There are many minor details. Teachers might even be asked to be present on the ground during games, or something like that. It is narrowing down a schoolmaster's activities very much to say that he may do only this, that, and the other. He should want to take part in the life of the school. That is a far better way to engender a feeling of partnership in the school and a desire to do it well.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

We should have clear in our minds the difference between a duty and a voluntary activity. The two paragraphs of the subsection very clearly make a division. The first relates to duties—and nobody can deny that if anything is to be appraised, duties should be appraised—and the second relates to activities which are not duties. Duties are obviously such things as teaching, preparing for lessons, parent meetings, staff meetings, supervision, and the like, as the noble Lord, Lord Somers, mentioned. In my view he was referring to supervision duties.

However, paragraph (b) relates to activities undertaken by teachers which they do not have to undertake. I take that to mean the voluntary activities such as the running of clubs and societies which, as I have said before in your Lordships' Chamber, are the chief joy and bright spots in a teacher's day. A teacher's day is always extremely hard working. It is often stressful and, I am afraid, quite often discouraging. But the sort of thing that he can do with children which he does not have to do, such as running a club or a society, is the bright spot in his day. This is because of the very fact that it is voluntary, and it also tends to be successful because it is also voluntary for the children.

If this becomes subject to appraisal, it becomes something that the teacher has to do because he has to think of his future and his promotion chances. As soon as he has to do it, it ceases to be voluntary. That takes the joy out of it for both him and the pupils. I feel strongly that this paragraph should not be there. If the teacher is to be appraised in regard to such activities, he must be appraised by someone who is reasonably expert in them. Suppose you have a woman teacher teaching dancing. How can anyone appraise a dancing club unless they know something about dancing?

I think that teachers would fear—I know that I would have feared, as a teacher, rehearsing a play, which is what I spent most of my voluntary hours doing—that whoever came to appraise them would not know anything about the activity. This may well be a fear of teachers. I am not saying that the out-ofschool activities of teachers should not be taken any account of. They should enter into a general consideration of a teacher's quality, but not in any specific way. Therefore, it is a great mistake to introduce this as a separate paragraph, and I support the amendment.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

When the Minister replies will he throw a little light on what is going on between the teachers' organisations and ACAS at the present time? I understood that the reference to ACAS covered conditions of service and other matters in dispute between the Secretary of State and the teachers' unions. The impression I had was that this matter was part of conditions of service and was therefore within the scope of the discussions they were to have with ACAS. They have been given a few months to try to come up with something permanent, agreed, and comprehensive.

Here we are considering putting a matter of this kind into statute law. It is preposterous that Parliament should be occupied, with all its Members and expense, in dealing with a matter of this kind which elsewhere is dealt with as a matter for negotiation and agreement between staff interests, management, and those responsible for the organisation. I know of no other sector in the public service where it is necessary to have a law before you can report on people, and have some appraisal of their qualifications and their aptitude for advancement and of whether the whole organisation is efficient because of the common denominator of quality within the organisation. All this is management.

What an out-of-date set up we must have for the teaching profession and the teaching organisation if we have to have a statute law before we can decide whether or not a teacher is qualified according to some prescription or report made upon him.

The activities referred to in sub-section (1)(b) are external activities in one way. They are assumed always to be voluntary. They may not be entirely irrelevant to the general usefulness, quality and character of a teacher. In many reporting systems—I have had a great deal to do with many of them and invented one of them—outside activities and interests were not irrelevant to the assessment of aptitude and the characteristics and general fitness of an officer. We have all this in the Civil Service. We have a special set of reporting arrangements in a technical department such as the Inland Revenue. We have different reporting forms and systems for management as distinct from other classes and I should expect the form to be prescribed in due course would be different according to the classification of the people being reported on.

I do not object to anybody being reported upon who was engaged in activities for which they were in some degree accountable, especially in the public service. We are all reported upon. Probably the least reported upon people are Members of this chamber. They can get by with anything or nothing. We have no constituents to say how good or ill we are. We might occasionally have a favourable or unfavourable comment in the press or in somebody's speeches against which we have no appeal, but we are not regarded as fitted for promotion by some qualities we display here that are reported upon in any formal way.

It is better to have this appraisal done by agreement so that people accept the structure upon which their qualifications are to be judged. Management is interested because it has to do the invidious job in many cases of making an appraisal of those who are serving with them or under them. In any agreed scheme I should not expect these other activities mentioned in the clause to which this amendment relates to be ruled out entirely. However, if one is asked to put them in, for the Secretary of State to have statutory powers to ask for these items to be included in the report made on teachers, one bridles against it. What are we coming to? We shall soon have to have statutory authority to allow teachers to use lipstick and to make themselves presentable. Many of them are not! But we are making ourselves look ridiculous. I hope that the Secretary of State will have enough gumption—he has plenty surely by this time—to leave this clause out of the Bill altogether, when we come to it, and let this take its proper place in the discussions that are now going on. He can see what he can do to incorporate this in a complete system of new pay and conditions of teachers and get some kind of harmony restored in this outfit. He will not get this while the teachers are in their present state of mind. He will not get this while management is in its present state of mind. This is a dead duck in this Bill. We are wasting time on it. It is about time that we submitted ourselves to an efficiency test and said, "This is rubbish, get rid of it!"

Baroness Phillips

I am delighted to follow my noble friend in his theme. Of all the time-wasting and expensive Bills that we have ever been presented with, this has to take the cake. At a time when the teachers are trying to get a little extra salary we are to spend money on ridiculous things like training governors.

However, when it is said that there is not already an appraisal of teachers I feel that shows a lack of information. What is the county inspectorate doing? What are Her Majesty's Inspectors doing? They are constantly going round schools, appraising teachers and submitting reports. If this is now to be extended to out-of-school activities—and I seem to recall that I spent a lot of time taking primary school children to pantomimes and to sports grounds—then I am not sure whether that would have been in my favour or would have been described as a subversive activity which perhaps would have gone against me in an appraisal.

I support everything that my noble friend has said. The teachers are totally demoralised and here we sit discussing this kind of nonsense when we should leave it to the profession to do their job. No other profession has been interfered with as much as the teachers. For Heaven's sake, let them get on with the job.

3.45 p.m.

The Earl of Swinton

My noble friend Lady Young made clear on Second Reading that the Government hope that the negotiations now taking place will make sufficient progress to allow an early start to the practical field work which the Government have long wanted to launch. We do not expect the talks themselves to lay down an exact working model, but we hope progress will be made. We have no national blueprint to impose.

I think that I can answer the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. ACAS is indeed discussing conditions, duties and appraisals. In fact, four working parties are now sitting and are, I understand, to report in mid June. Like the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, the Government wish them every success. We hope that this is the way to do it. Of course, this is the way to do it; but surely it is not provocative—and this is only an enabling power—for this to be put in the Bill in case they do not come up with a satisfactory solution. After all, this was first mooted by my right honourable 'friend in October 1984 and it appeared in the March 1985 White Paper Better Schools. Contrary to what the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, said, the principle of appraisal is accepted on all sides. I cannot see any provocation in moving it in this Bill just in case it has to be used as an enabling power. As I said, this amendment attempts to pre-empt the outcome of the current talks. If the talks go well, we can expect agreement on: a clear definition of the contractual duties and responsibilities of teachers". These duties should form the core of the appraisal scheme.

In addition, the intention is that other activities, such as running: clubs, societies, weekend activities, and so on, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, and the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, should be appraised. The Government firmly believe that many activities which teachers are not contracted to undertake are part of a teacher's overall contribution to the life of the school and there should be scope in the appraisal process for recognising that contribution.

The amendment would effectively deny that teachers make a considerable professional commitment to the well-being of our schools through those activities. If only contractual duties are appraised, the extra commitment made by teachers who run a multitude of other activities will be ignored. That cannot be right. Here I take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, and also the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips: the idea of this appraisal would be to the advantage of the teachers. After all, if a teacher spends his or her lunchtime running a chess club or taking the children out on walks, it is surely right in the appraisal that these things should be brought to light, and this would go down on the teacher's very good record.

Baroness Phillips

This happens already.

The Earl of Swinton

I should not reply, as the noble Baroness speaks from a sedentary position; but the whole idea is that from now on this should be the situation. She also asked what is the point when already confidential reports are made by authorities and appraisals are carried out. I am delighted to say to the noble Baroness that this was the very first question I asked when I went to be briefed about this. Having served for many years on a local education authority I said just what the noble Baroness said—one gets confidential reports. The point of the confidential reports made now is that they are made behind the teacher's back by somebody and as often as not the teacher has no right to find out what is in them or to question them. This will make it clear that the teacher has a right to find out what is put in.

Surely if the teacher is doing something extra above the call of duty in the school and taking part in school activities at lunchtimes, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, said, this is rewarding, the idea is not that they should have to do it but if they do it and do it voluntarily this should, as it were, be a Brownie point to them. I think that is absolutely fair. It may be argued that the inclusion of non-contractual activities in the appraisal process is unfair to those teachers who are highly competent in the classroom but simply cannot afford the time for additional activities. The Government firmly believe that classroom effectiveness is the prime test of a teacher's success. But they also believe that other factors—for example, relations with parents, pupils and the local community—add to classroom teaching to define the teacher's total contribution to the school. The weighting given to non-classroom factors will always, and rightly, be less than that given to classroom teaching. But if a teacher is able and willing to help with other useful activities, it seems right that that contribution should be formally recognised. It is possible, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, that the current talks will not produce: a clear definition of the contractual duties and responsibilities of teachers". If, unfortunately, there should fail to be agreement between the employers and the unions on this issue, the Government would then expect LEAs to appraise these duties which the employers believe to fall within the express or implied terms of their contracts of employment with teachers—together with those other activities by which teachers contribute to the full life of the school.

I hope this explanation helps remove any concerns that this clause might be used in some way to "punish" teachers who do not take part in activities other than duties. This is not the case. The reverse is the case. The Government want to see an appraisal system which is not mechanically restricted to duties but is flexible enough to recognise the extra professional commitment through which teachers contribute to the vitality of schools. Teachers themselves expect that contribution to be recognised, and so it should be. If they are doing things beyond what is laid down for them, it is only right, as I have said, that they should benefit from that. This amendment would destroy that flexibility and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey—and I know that he is a reasonable person—will feel having heard that explanation, that he is able to withdraw this amendment.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

Before my noble friend sits down, I wonder whether he can clarify something for me. If the appraisal goes against the teacher then what happens?

The Earl of Swinton

The teacher will be able to meet the people who are appraising him and will be able to discuss the appraisal and make very clear what he thinks about it. That is something which does not happen at this time.

Lord Alexander of Potterhill

I wonder if the noble Earl the Minister can help me on a very small point. Who is to supervise the activities of the teachers who supervise the better part of 100,000 children at Wembley attending the final of the Schoolboys' International? Would that be a function of the Secretary of State?

The Earl of Swinton

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, whom I very much respect, is getting somewhat carried away here. This is not laying down what teachers must or must not do. This is saying that, if teachers do things which are bringing extra credit to them and to the schools in helping the children, that should be recognised as such in their appraisal.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

As the Minister says, I am a reasonable man. I am also noted for my devout adherence to the proprieties of the Committee. I spoke only about the amendment and not about the wider issues which have been raised in debate. I am bound to say that the contributions of my noble friends and others have convinced me, if I needed convincing, that the issue is more serious than what is covered by this amendment, and the reply from the noble Earl gives me much greater concern about what is in the mind of the Secretary of State and whether this is the right way to go about it.

The Minister has indicated the kind of weighting—and he used the word himself—which will be given to classroom activities as opposed to other activities. Clearly, the Government have in mind some sort of balance between classroom duties and other activities. There has been a good deal of discussion about what are duties and what are not duties and, clearly, the Government have in their mind some definition—and not just the definition which may be arrived at by the ACAS negotiations—of what are duties and what are not duties.

The Minister replied to the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, in terms of the use to which appraisal is to be put. That is the absolutely fundamental question. Clearly, the Government have in their mind some formula for the use to which these appraisals are to be put. What we are being asked to give to the Secretary of State here is a blank cheque on appraisal. There is no indication of who should do the appraisal. There is no indication of what the objectives of the appraisal shall be; there is no indication of the range of activities which the appraisal will cover, other than that it can be totally all-embracing. There is no indication of whether the appraisal is to be used only to the benefit of teachers in order to encourage good teaching and to encourage professional development among teachers. whether it should be used actually for rewarding teachers—and there are plenty of arguments on both sides of that issue—or whether it should be used for punishing or ultimately removing bad teachers. Again, there are arguments on both sides of that issue.

The more one thinks about the seriousness of the appraisal issues and the more one looks at the description which is made of it in Better Schools and the lack of any precision in this section of the Bill, the more sceptical one has to be about the wisdom of including this clause at all in the Bill as it stands. Before making up my mind finally on what to do, I must ask the noble Earl to respond to the particular question that I asked him about the wording of the Notes on Clauses and how that is reflected in the clause itself. The Notes on Clauses, I remind the Committee, say: performance of which will then voluntarily be made subject to appraisal". I ask the noble Earl directly, where in the text of the Bill is that voluntary aspect of appraisal made?

The Earl of Swinton

The Notes on Clauses refer to the ACAS talks which are going on and where the Government fervently hope that a voluntary agreement will come out. If that is reached then the power will not be used.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I agree with that. That is certainly what is said in the sentence that I read out earlier. But does that mean that every aspect of a teacher's working life, or even, to some extent, leisure life, is going to be controlled compulsorily by appraisal? The whole point about this clause is that this is provision for compulsory appraisal. What may be agreed voluntarily by negotiation is a very different thing from what can reasonably be imposed by the Secretary of State on the basis of statute.

I am afraid that this debate has raised wider issues than those in the amendment itself but the amendment is a boiling down of one of the most important issues on appraisal and I do not believe that it is one which this Committee ought now to pass on from without expressing a decision.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 85) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 82: Not-Contents, 103.

Alexander of Potterhill, L. Ewart-Biggs, B.
Amherst, E. Ezra, L.
Ampthill, L. Foot, L.
Ardwick, L. Gallacher, L.
Aylestone, L. Galpern, L.
Banks, L. Gladwyn, L.
Bernstein, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
Birk, B. Grey, E.
Bottomley, L. Hampton, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Hatch of Lusby, L.
Caradon, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Irving of Dartford, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Jeger, B.
Crawshaw of Aintree, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Cudlipp, L. John-Mackie, L.
David, B. Kennet, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Diamond, L. Kirkhill, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Listowel, E.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Sainsbury, L.
Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Serota, B.
Lockwood, B. Shepherd, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Silkin of Dulwich, L.
MacLeod of Fuinary, L. Stallard, L.
McNair, L. Stedman, B.
Mais, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Mellish, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Mishcon, L. Strabolgi, L.
Molloy, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Morton of Shuna, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Nicol, B. Tordoff, L.
Oram, L. Underhill, L.
Phillips, B. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.] Wells-Pestell, L.
Whaddon, L.
Rathcreedan, L. White, B.
Rea, L. Wigoder, L.
Rhodes, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Ritchie of Dundee, L. [Teller.] Willis, L.
Wilson of Langside, L.
Rochester, L. Winterbottom, L.
Allen of Abbeydale, L. Hooper, B.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Belstead, L. Ilchester, E.
Bessborough, E. Kinnaird, L.
Blake, L. Kitchener, E.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Lane-Fox, B.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Layton, L.
Broxbourne, L. Long, V. [Teller.]
Bruce-Gardyne, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Buckmaster, V. McFadzean, L.
Butterworth, L. Mancroft, L.
Caithness, E. Marley, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Merrivale, L.
Cathcart, E. Mersey, V.
Coleraine, L. Mottistone, L.
Cottesloe, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Cox, B. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Craigavon, V. O'Hagan, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Orkney, E.
Davidson, V. Penrhyn, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Denning, L. Porritt, L.
Digby, L. Portland, D.
Dundee, E. Reilly, L.
Effingham, E. Renwick, L.
Ellenborough, L. Rodney, L.
Elles, B. Romney, E.
Elliot of Harwood, B. St. Davids, V.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Sandford, L.
Elton, L. Sandys, L.
Faithfull, B. Sempill, Ly.
Fanshawe of Richmond, L. Shannon, E.
Ferrers, E. Skelmersdale, L.
Forester, L. Somers, L.
Fortescue, E. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Gainford, L. Sudeley, L.
Gainsborough, E. Swinton, E.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Terrington, L.
Gisborough, L. Teviot, L.
Glanusk, L. Thurlow, L.
Glenarthur, L. Trefgarne, L.
Gray of Contin, L. Trumpington, B.
Gridley, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Vickers, B.
Vivian, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Hayter, L. Whitelaw, V.
Henley, L. Windlesham, L.
Hives, L. Young, B.
Hood, V. Young of Graffham, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

The Earl of Swinton

I think this might be a convenient moment to take the Statement. I beg to move that the House be now resumed.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.