HL Deb 21 June 1991 vol 530 cc366-73

12.53 p.m.

Lord Cavendish of Furness rose to move that the draft order laid before the House on 9th May be approved [19th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Education (School Teachers' Pay and Conditions) Order 1991 be approved. This order will give effect to the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document 1991. Local education authorities and the governors of grant-maintained schools will then be required to pay teachers at the new rates.

The publication of the 1991 pay and conditions document will complete a process which began in September 1990 when my right honourable friend the then Secretary of State for Education and Science asked the interim advisory committee to advise on teachers' pay in 1991–92. He asked it to look as ways of further increasing flexibility within the pay system in order to improve recruitment and retention, paying particular attention to measures to help LEAs tackle teacher shortages in key subjects or particular areas such as London, and to reward excellence in classroom teaching.

The committee fulfilled its remit admirably and produced the fourth in what has been a series of thorough and well argued reports. It recommended a number of improvements to consolidate the important structural changes introduced last year and to extend local flexibility to make discretionary payments to individual teachers. The committee emphasised the importance of using these pay flexibilities imaginatively and purposefully to meet local priorities, to develop an attractive career structure, to reward responsibility and good performance and to attract high quality entrants to the profession.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science received the report on 18th January and announced on 31st January that he proposed to accept its recommendations, but to stage their introduction in the same way as for the review body groups. He explained that in view of the size of the proposed pay award and for wider economic reasons the recommendations would be implemented in full by 1st December 1991.

Section 3 of the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987 requires consultation with interested parties before the proposals can be implemented. My right honourable friend considered very carefully the points made by the teacher unions and the employers, but concluded that the Government's proposal to accept the recommendations in full, while staging their introduction in the period up to 1st December, should be given effect.

Implementation of the committee's recommendations will mean very substantial rises for all teachers, particularly heads, deputy heads and teachers who have more responsibility. When fully implemented, the value of the points on the heads' and deputies' pay spine will have risen by 12.75 per cent. and all ranges on that spine will have been extended by two points. The value of points on the standard scale for classroom teachers will increase by 9.5 per cent.

The IAC reaffirmed its belief that incentive allowances have an essential role to play in recruiting, retaining and motivating teachers. It therefore recommended a 30 per cent. increase in the value of the five rates of allowance, taking the value of the highest allowance to over £7,100. It also proposed that an extra 9,100 incentive allowances should be introduced in the 1991–92 academic year, bringing the total number of allowances in primary and secondary schools to nearly 200,000.

The IAC drew particular attention to the importance of rewarding good classroom performance. It recommended that, from 1st September, discretionary scale points above the standard scale should be awarded solely against the criteria of a teacher's performance across all aspects of their professional duties, but with particular attention being given to the quality of their classroom teaching. The upper limit of the discretionary scale will rise to £3,000, and most importantly the discretion to put in place additional scale points will be devolved to the governing bodies of schools with delegated budgets. I hope that governing bodies and LEAs will use this discretion to the full to motivate their teachers and to reward achievement.

These increases in salary points and allowances mean that, by December, average earnings for a primary school teacher on the top of the standard scale will be some £18,300. For a secondary school teacher on the top of the scale the average salary will be about £20,200—some £2,700 above the scale maximum of £17,500.

The IAC also stressed the importance of effective, positive management by heads and deputies in seizing the opportunities provided by the local management of schools. The Government welcome this and have been encouraged by the committee's comments about what they observed in schools with delegated budgets. The TAC noted in its report that in such schools: the freedom associated with delegated budgeting was warmly welcomed, and was being used by the head teacher to achieve ends which benefited teachers and pupils: employing additional non-teaching staff to relieve teachers of clerical and other time-consuming tasks; ensuring adequate cover with supply teachers; and undertaking programmes of redecoration and minor building works".

The changes recommended by the committee, and accepted by the Government, will help LEAs and governing bodies to recruit and retain the teachers they need, and to reward good performance. They give governing bodies and LEAs more discretion to make selective payments in the light of local circumstances. They will greatly increase the capacity for local management to manage.

We have just completed the Second Reading of the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions (No.2) Bill. This is therefore an appropriate time to pay tribute to the work of the interim advisory committee. Its clear analyses and far-reaching recommendations for change have won widespread support. The IAC's report provided an excellent basis for the future development of the teachers' pay structure and, by highlighting and encouraging teacher professionalism, has played an important part in preparing the way for the award to teachers of review body status.

The IAC recommendations for 1991–92 are embodied in this order, which is needed to ensure that teachers receive their pay increases. I commend it to the House and ask that the order be approved.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 9th May be approved [19th Report from the Joint Committee]—(Lord Cavendish of Furness.)

1 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I hope that this will be the last time that the House is asked to consider an order which derives from the recommendations of the interim advisory committee on teachers' pay and conditions. We have been considering such orders for far too long. As I said in the earlier debate, the Government have indulged in unacceptable delays in bringing in more permanent machinery. But that does not mean to imply that we on this side of the House are not grateful to those involved in the IAC for the work that they have done; we are. We are also fully aware of the extent to which they have succeeded in winning the confidence of teachers in spite of the fact that many of those directly affected would have preferred a system of collective bargaining. As there may not be another opportunity to thank the committee formally, I should like to do so now.

Many of the recommendations the committee made in its report are ones that we would endorse. I do not wish to take up the time of the House in going through them all and indicating our agreement. However, we strongly support the decision to reward excellence in classroom teaching. We support also the views of the committee on the hard work and commitment exhibited by most teachers. The IAC remarks were based on visits to a number of schools where members were able to observe teachers in the classroom. Were Members of your Lordships' House to make similar visits I am sure that in most cases the same conclusion would be reached.

I should like to add that we strongly endorse the case made for teacher appraisal in the report. That is now recognised as being of great importance in improving the performance and professionalism of teachers. However, as I have said before in this House and will say again, it is regrettable that the Government have underfunded the new system of appraisal. If it is to work well, the funds must be there. I note that the interim advisory committee is also concerned that there are insufficient funds available specifically for training. Appraisal is a complex business and to carry it out effectively those involved must be given good training. It is also crucial to the process of awarding discretionary payments, to which the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish, referred.

The IAC recommendations for more non-contact hours for primary teachers are also welcome. Her Majesty's inspectorate argued in favour of that development. The task of the primary teacher is becoming more difficult. We are asking them to take on new responsibilities with regard to assessment and the curriculum. For example, we now expect primary teachers to teach more science and to provide lessons in technology. That is quite new. It is difficult for teachers to develop those new skills and do all the paperwork associated with assessment if every minute of the school day, every day of the week, is spent in the classroom with children. I hope that the Government will look favourably at the committee's suggestions on that matter.

I now turn briefly to three aspects of the order that are causing anxiety. The first is procedural and can be dealt with quickly. The teachers' unions have become justifiably concerned about the lateness in the year when this debate takes place. There seems to be a quite unnecessary delay between the completion of technical consultations on the order and the laying of the order before Parliament.

The second and more substantive anxiety is about the introduction of discretionary awards in a context where schools' budgets are too low to give any of those awards to their staff. For example, those schools with substantial numbers of teachers at the top of the scale are finding it increasingly difficult to manage on their budgets, let alone pay out discretionary awards. Indeed, there have been numerous reports of very experienced teachers who make a big dent in the salary bill under local management of schools being made redundant. Surely local management of schools was not meant to lead to that outcome.

Most importantly, what is the point of a new discretionary system of payments if there is no money to pay for them? Reports throughout the country suggest that only a small fraction of discretionary awards are being made in practice. What is needed is a proper system to monitor the new arrangements before Ministers make claims that are based on inadequate information. Perhaps the Minister can indicate whether a system of management can be set up so that the benefits of a new pay system, which is completely unproven, can be properly assessed.

My third anxiety is about financing the pay award. The government assumption built into the 1991–92 standard spending assessment was a 7.1 per cent. increase overall for local authority budgets, with education receiving 8.8 per cent. The increase proposed for teachers by the interim advisory committee was 11.3 per cent. That led to a totally unsatisfactory situation in two respects. First, it led to a shortfall this year of £420 million compared to local authority estimates of need. Secondly, and perhaps more important from the point of view of teachers, it led to the staging of the teachers' award for the second year running. The Government have in that fundamental respect overturned the recommendations of the interim advisory committee by staging the award. They failed to implement the timetable recommended by the committee and in so doing diluted the contribution the committee sought to make to solve the problems of recruitment, retention, morale and motivation in the profession.

What is the point of setting up an independent review body which spends many months examining what is needed within the parameters set by government—and it has adhered entirely to the guidelines—only to have its recommendations ignored in that crucial respect? In that regard I agree with what my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby said in our earlier debate. That overturning of the IAC recommendations cannot create confidence in the new system that we debated earlier today. Nor can it signal to teachers that the Government mean what they say when they claim to value their work.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish of Furness, for explaining the order to us. We have only just finished debating the merits of the Bill detailing the Government's proposals on how the pay of school teachers in England and Wales should in future be determined. The order before us will soon be overtaken by the provisions of that Bill and I do not therefore propose to say much about it now. However, I cannot let the opportunity pass without regretting the fact that the recommendations of the interim advisory committee concerning the pay of teachers in the year 1991–92 have not been accepted in their entirety. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, remarked, at least in part they are to be staged. Indeed, that is why this order can be approved only by an affirmative resolution of the House.

In many cases, local management of schools means that salary budgets are being funded on the basis of overall teachers' salaries rather than actual salary costs. Local authorities do not have the resources needed to meet that cost; LEAs are therefore having to make some teachers redundant in order to pay others the recommended increase. That is sadly not the fault of the interim advisory committee to whose work over the past four years I, too, should like to pay tribute.

I welcome particularly the emphasis given in the committee's last report to the use of pay flexibilities to meet local priorities, and to the promotion of performance appraisal. I very much hope that with the advent of the proposed review body LEAs will at last obtain the resources needed to give school teachers the salaries that they deserve. Meanwhile, I do not propose to comment further on the details of the order before us. On these Benches we do not oppose it.

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, and the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, for contributing to this short debate. I, too, hope that this will be the last time this order will come before your Lordships' House.

The Government are implementing the recommendations of the interim advisory committee because they represent a very good deal for teachers. They make further improvements to the pay structure and hold out the prospect of enhanced awards for the acceptance of extra responsibility and good classroom performance. This generous pay award will help LEAs and schools to recruit the staff that they need and to motivate the career of teachers.

The Government's acceptance of the IAC's recommendations demonstrates their commitment to raise the status of the profession and its self-confidence. In this respect we are very encouraged by the comments made by the IAC in its latest report. The report notes that there are indications that morale is improving among teachers, partly by the increased self-confidence of teachers as they see the successful introduction of reforms and partly by the new freedom available under LMS". I must now pay tribute to the commitment and abilities of our teachers and the professional way in which they responded to the challenge to raise standards in our schools.

A great deal has been made of the Government's decision to stage this year's supplement. Both the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, and the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, raised this matter. Against a background of falling inflation the majority of teachers will be considerably better off. Inflation is now at 5.8 per cent. and is expected to fall further by the end of the year. The effect of the IAC's recommendations is to increase the teachers' pay bill by 8.4 per cent. this year and by 11.3 per cent. in a full year. That is a very substantial pay increase by anyone's standards. It is essential that schools and LEAs develop clear policies for the use of all the various pay flexibilities to ensure that good performance is promptly rewarded and to attract good teachers in the shortage subjects. There is evidence that some LEAs and schools are moving in this direction, but more needs to be done. My right honourable friend made clear in another place that he believes the IAC was right to urge the teaching profession to accept a larger element of the pay bill made available to enhance the salaries of standard scale teachers should be related to performance.

The Government have again accepted the IAC argument that heads and deputies should receive increases which are appreciably higher than those for teachers on the standard scale. As the IAC said, at paragraph 3.46 of its report: The role of the head teacher has always been essential to the success of the school, but now more so than ever. Head teachers will need to show clear leadership and able management and to give all their teachers a sense of common purpose in the aims and objectives of the school". The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, asked about the policy leading to teacher redundancies. There are many reasons why a school's budget may not be as large as the governors and head wish. There is a proportion of money held back by the LEA on its own spending. There is a balance between primary and secondary sectors; there is a change in pupil numbers and then there is the correction of historic inequities where some schools have been unfairly supported at the expense of others. Those schools may have to make budget reductions. That has nothing to do with charging real or national costs against schools.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, reported on local authorities saying that they cannot afford an award higher than 7.1 per cent. Local authorities may say that they cannot afford an award higher than the increase in 1991–92, total standing spending over the 1990–91 budgets. We do not accept that. If one looks at the figures for education, the increase in 1991–92 ESS over 1990–91 is around 9 per cent. Even that is misleading because it assumes that budgets are the right starting point for making such comparisons; they are not. We still believe there is scope for improving efficiency in education spending.

The noble Baroness mentioned the lateness of the year. We do look at this and I have some sympathy with what she says. I can only say that it is completed as quickly as we can manage. No doubt there is room for improvement.

The IAC has done its job well. We have been discussing today the permanent pay arrangements which the Government propose should be put in place. I hope for the next pay round the Government will be able to ask the review body to take over where the IAC left off and to advise how pay and conditions of school teachers should be further developed to improve recruitment, retention and motivation and therefore the quality of education in all our schools. However, that is for the future. The immediate task is to complete the implementation of the 1991–92 award. I therefore ask the House to approve this order.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, will he answer my question about monitoring the payment of discretionary awards? There is anxiety that very few of these awards are being provided at present because of the lack of funds in school budgets. Will he say whether during the course of the next school year there will be a proper system of monitoring their payment?

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, I cannot at the moment answer that question. I shall have to write to the noble Baroness.

On Question, Motion agreed to.