HL Deb 02 March 1987 vol 485 cc449-54

3.38 p.m.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement being made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. The Statement reads as follows:

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

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

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

"These proposals recognise the view put by the teacher unions in support of a better basic salary scale, and I have moved toward their position. I have however retained a pay structure which provides good differentials, and I have increased the number of incentive posts so that the proportion of teachers in them will rise to 55 per cent. overall in 1990.

"The order also covers teachers in special schools and unqualified teachers. I recognise the distinctive position of teachers in special schools and the basic allowance for them will be £1,000 as against £855 in the ACAS proposals.

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

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

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

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

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

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.45 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, for repeating the Statement made by her right honourable friend. It is necessary to say at once that we recognise the reasonable tone of the Secretary of State's proposals, and indeed the extent to which the noble Baroness has moved away from the Statement of 30th October towards the position agreed in the ACAS talks and subsequently agreed at the Burnham Committee on the 7th January. But is it not the case that, had the Secretary of State been as reasonable and adaptable on 30th October last year, we might have been very much closer to an agreement without the need for the imposition of the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act? Indeed, is it not the case that, had the Secretary of State or his predecessor been prepared to make the same sort of money available two years ago when the round of negotiations started, we could have been spared the extreme unpleasantness and pain in our schools over the period up to May 1986? Is it not the case that it is the successive Secretaries of State who have been responsible for the problems in our schools, rather than those actually working in the education service?

The Statement will obviously need to be studied in detail in the short time available by the teachers, the local authorities and indeed by all of us. We note that the Statement announces a rise in the top of the basic salary scale to £13,300, which is £600 higher; we note that there is a substantial number of promoted posts; we note that there are better proposals for special schools, and we note a number of respects in which the proposals are closer to the ACAS agreement. If that is the case, how can this be afforded within the £608 million which was originally set as the target by the Secretary of State? If the answer to that is a change in the second implementation date—and this may or may not be the case—will the noble Baroness recognise that the teachers and the employers were prepared to consider that possibility when we were still in a negotiating position?

I hope the Government will recognise that we on this side of the House have no interest whatsoever in continued disruption in schools or of our children's education, but I hope the noble Baroness will recognise also that the ultimate conditions for peace in our schools are not only good pay and acceptable conditions of service, but democratic negotiating rights for teachers and their employers.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, we on these Benches also wish to thank the noble Baroness for repeating this Statement. It is certainly welcome that the Secretary of State has agreed that the top of the basic salary scale shall be increased from £12,700 to £13,300. But it does lead one to ask why, if the Secretary of State was going to move towards the position of the larger unions over the main professional grade, he did not make this move earlier—because that would have been much more likely to lead to an agreed settlement. As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said, it would have made the imposition clause in the Act unnecessary. If he is prepared to be flexible now, why was he not prepared to be flexible then?

The second point concerns the five levels of incentive allowances. Can the noble Baroness say how these are to be allocated? Will this be left to headteachers, and is deciding whether they are going to award a little more to someone because he is taking on extra responsibility for chemistry, or whatever, not going to put them in a rather invidious position? It seems to put the ball entirely into the headteachers' court.

On the question of the 1,265 hours, this was indeed part of the ACAS package, but of course it was linked to a closer approximation to their ideas on pay structure, which have not in fact been fully met, so one must wonder whether this can be implemented. As regards the Government's announcement that they are increasing the GREs in England and Wales by £118 million, I should again like to ask the noble Baroness what is the position for ILEA, which does not of course receive any block grant and, so far as I understand, will be receiving absolutely no help towards the implementation of these proposals.

There are two points which I should like to raise concerning the draft order. The covering letter appears to suggest that there will be a genuine consultation process. Can we be assured that the points made during this consultation process will be taken into account?

In page 9, section 2 refers to the question of the duties headteachers can reasonably require teachers to perform. Although it appears to be a slight improvement on the Secretary of State's original condition No. 19, it still remains an open ended question. Is this something to which attention should be paid during consultation? Page 12 refers to the question of teachers being obliged to supervise persons providing support for teachers. I should like to ask whether that means only laboratory technicians and technical staff or whether it includes ancillary staff, for example, dinner ladies. This point was at issue at an earlier stage in the negotiations.

Finally, all these matters might have been more acceptable if the Government had accepted our proposals for an independent review body, which as your Lordships will remember received a great deal of backing from both inside and outside your Lordships' House. We can only hope that matters now proceed smoothly and that there will be no further disruption to our schools.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for the welcome given to my right honourable friend's current proposals, and also for their recognition of the fact that he has taken into account consultations already held and points raised and comments made during the passage of the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act (as it now is) through this House as well as the other place.

A number of the detailed questions will be answered by the draft order which is now available to your Lordships in the Printed Paper Office. In particular, some of the detailed questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, will be answered by that document, which is under consultation.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, suggested that the Act would not have been necessary if the Secretary of State had adopted a more flexible attitude at an earlier point. This comment was echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock. However, I have to remind your Lordships of the history of this affair and that the unions themselves were not able to agree. There was certainly no overall support for the so-called ACAS agreement. If it had not been for the firm line taken by the Secretary of State I suspect that the parties would not have achieved a consensus.

I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that there is no change in the implementation dates. The overall effect of the scales and allowances now proposed is the same; namely, 16.4 per cent. from 1st October, as in the Secretary of State's previous proposals. Therefore, there is no question that any increase in the basic scale cannot be afforded.

Regarding teachers' negotiating rights, which was a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, it is only fair to say that the discussions in the course of the passage of the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Bill through this House gave plenty of opportunity for us to state the position. The Act provides a breathing space and an interim period during which a more satisfactory system than the previous Burnham system can be set up. The attitude of the Secretary of State concerning the Statement and the fact that he has shown he has taken account of points raised is a good indication of his attitude in terms of long-term machinery.

With reference to other points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, at one time he questioned the number of hours to be worked by teachers. I should like to repeat that the requirement is that they should work 195 days and 1,265 hours on specific tasks at the direction of the head. This is consistent with the ACAS document of November 1986.

The noble Lord raised the question of funding in relation to ILEA—a question which he raised recently in the course of our discussions at the Committee stage of the Local Government Finance Bill. I can only repeat in this context that that Bill includes the formula by which the Secretary of State is to determine the precept maximum for ILEA for 1987–88. In deciding on that formula he took account of the cost of my right honourable friend's proposals on teachers' pay for ILEA, and of the likelihood that these would have to be funded wholly through the precept. The Secretary of State also took the view that there was considerable scope for ILEA to reduce its expenditure, while maintaining an adequate education service.

Viscount Eccles

My Lords, would the noble Baroness agree that two years ago the situation in many schools was so bad, the lack of confidence so great, dislocation so frequent and the problems besides pay and conditions so many, that it is a marvel the Secretary of State has been able to produce so generous a package with such widespread support? Ought not we to encourage anybody we know in the education service, whether parents or teachers, to take this package and work on it in the future, because there are many other reforms which are very badly needed by the children in this country?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I think we must all recognise and welcome the progress that is being made. The profession is receiving a 16.4 per cent. average pay increase and a defined set of conditions. Therefore, a new beginning is opening up. While there are already many excellent and respected teachers doing a demanding job in an outstanding way, I believe that implementation of the settlement will allow this fact to be reflected throughout the profession.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, I should like to deal briefly with one point that the noble Baroness made. She suggested that the answers to some of the detailed questions I raised could be found in Schedule 3 to the order. It is precisely because the answers are not there that I put the questions to her. I should like to say to the noble Baroness that now that the consultation process is being opened up these are matters on which clarification will be sought

Baroness Hooper

Thank you. I note what the noble Lord has said.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that the package of conditions of service and the very substantial pay increase must be taken together, and that in the the event of any teacher being so foolish as to respond to the suggestion made by one or two of the unions to indulge in disruptive practices, these increases should not apply to him or her?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, as I have already said, the offer made by the settlement provides, a new beginning for our schools. I believe that the vast majority of teachers will recognise the need for this and will welcome the pay increases and the new structure. I do not believe that teachers like to disrupt schools and I am sure that they will put the interests of the children first.