HL Deb 28 March 1994 vol 553 cc836-45

3.7 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [The Teacher Trainer Agency]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 21, at end insert: ("and generally to secure that teachers are well fitted and trained to promote the spiritual, moral, social, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils and to prepare pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life.'').

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment gives the agency a general objective to ensure that teachers are well fitted and trained to promote the spiritual, physical and other aspects of pupils' development, and to prepare them for adult life. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, for identifying the case for such an amendment through one of his own at Committee stage. I hope that he will find that the points he raised in Committee are reflected in the amendment before the House.

Noble Lords will notice that this is a detailed and prominent amendment to Clause 1. It complements but also extends the existing objectives, such as that to contribute to raising the standard of teaching. The amendment will require the agency to take account of spiritual, moral and other imperatives in pursuing all of its objectives.

The amendment follows a path first taken in Section 1 of the Education Reform Act 1988. That section, and a similar provision in the Education (Schools) Act 1992, with which the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, was also associated, have helped to pinpoint the importance of ethos and values in our schools. It is entirely right that that strain of thinking should also be present in the agency's approach to its work. I beg to move.

Lord Elton

My Lords, in welcoming the amendment I should like to mention the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, is at this moment presiding over a Victorian children's party to draw attention to the unfriendly nature of work at the Palace of Westminster so far as concerns the family. He deeply regrets the fact that he cannot be here to thank my noble friend for this receptive response to his concerns.

My noble friend has made clear that the spiritual, moral, social, cultural and physical development of pupils is at the centre of the concern for those who train them for their professional careers and must be seen to be so on the face of the Bill. Therefore it is proper that the provision should be inserted at line 21 as one of the objectives of the agency in exercising its functions. Many of us would prefer the provision to be inserted as paragraph (a) rather than paragraph (e); nevertheless it is good to have it in the Bill. For too long the preparation of teachers to teach has been taken as training in its strict sense, whereas it is education.

When I embarked on a career in education as a teacher my father, who had been a don at Oxford for many years, said, "I can only tell you two things that you ought to know about the profession. First, it is the most exhausting profession there is; and secondly, you cannot teach people you do not like". I took that with a large pinch of salt. I tried as hard as I could not to dislike anyone I sought to teach. However, I discovered that where I failed I could go on training them although I could not teach them. I could get them to learn the proper responses, but I could not develop in them any empathetic response to their subject.

We are fortunate that the amendment is in such a prominent place on the face of the Bill. I hope that my noble friend will accept the apologies in absentia of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, who is engaged in such worthwhile service.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that the amendment and all the particulars in the clause are precisely those factors which ought to be on the agenda of a general teaching council rather than a training agency?

Baroness Cox

My Lords, I warmly support the amendment. It is particularly timely for two reasons which I shall highlight and ask my noble friend to comment on. First, as I am sure my noble friend is aware, last week the adult literacy and basic skills unit produced a disturbing report. A study of 21 year-olds indicated that a large number felt themselves lacking in the basic skills of numeracy and literacy. If one extrapolates from that number the relevance for a larger population, it means that several million adults in our country believe themselves inadequately prepared in numeracy and literacy.

Even more disturbing is the fact that among those who did not feel lacking in basic skills, significant numbers were lacking in such skills. That points to a further 2 million adults in the population. Will my noble friend give some assurance that in its reference to preparing pupils, for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life", the amendment ensures that those serious problems are addressed with regard to the basic skills of numeracy and literacy?

Perhaps I may highlight and commend other areas and seek my noble friend's assurance. During Question Time, reference was made to an important circular on the teaching of religious education, in particular the way in which leaders of different faith communities had agreed ways in which they would like their faiths taught, respecting the integrity of their faith. I understand that the matter is at the consultation phase. When that circular is agreed, in whatever final form, will it form the basis of the preparation of teachers for teaching faiths in ways with which the leaders of different faiths are content?

3.15 p.m.

Baroness Perry of Southwark

My Lords, I, too, give my support to the amendment. Can my noble friend assure us that the content of the clause will be reflected in the criteria for accreditation of the courses of initial training? In the past there has been mixed and variable success in initial training for some of the issues highlighted in the amendment. Does the last part of the amendment which states, to prepare pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life", relate to those opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of working life? There has long been a lack of success with regard to initial training working well with industry and commerce, and reflecting the concerns of future employers of the pupils in the methods and contents of the teaching.

It has long seemed to me that there is a strong case for employers—industrialists and commercial people —to be much more involved with initial training, and to be more closely allied to the institutions and, in future, the schools in which teachers are to be taught. I hope my noble friend will give some assurance that those issues will be borne well in mind with regard to the criteria for the accreditation of the courses.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister, most respectfully, whether there is riot a defect in the amendment, apart from the question of religious education, to which my noble friend Lady Cox referred. I am worried that the provision could be implemented without specific reference to the teaching of children with special needs who have learning difficulties. Express reference is made to that in Amendment No. 24 to Clause 5 on the functions of a funding agency. Is it not appropriate that the need for specialised training of teachers as regards children with learning difficulties should be expressly acknowledged in Clause 1? It may be said that it is part and parcel of Clause 1 (1) (b) or Clause 1(2) (c), as one of the routes of teaching. However, in view of the importance of the subject, acknowledged by the excellent regime laid down in Part III of the previous Education Act, perhaps further consideration might be given to the issue.

Assessment for children who have special education-al needs may well provide for the school to cope with the learning difficulties—that is the ordinary school, not a special school. A statement may also make special demands on teachers at a school other than the specialist teachers. I refer to speech therapists, educational psychologists, and what have you. If such provision is made for a child with learning difficulties, the art of a teacher is more than ever the task of teaching that child how to learn.

I have taken a hide of your Lordships' time for it is a subject of our common concern. Some of us who were backward beyond belief in certain subjects remember with gratitude how a patient teacher could teach us to learn and send us on our way at least with a school certificate. But had we been assessed or statemented children with special educational needs, I wonder what would have become of us without a teacher trained to teach such children.

I shall listen with attention and respect to what the Minister says. In principle I support the amendment. The Minister may say, "The measure is covered by other statutory provisions". Even if that is so, perhaps consideration could be given to a more comprehensive amendment by the Government to Clause 1 at Third Reading.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, I welcome the amendment. However, I wish to comment on a remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. He said that the amendment supplied the educational element in teacher training. I agree. But it is curiously out of step with the mechanism that the noble Baroness proposes for the training of teachers.

Teachers will be trained—not educated, but trained —in school. They will learn the craft of teaching. However, the amendment provides that they have to be taught, to promote the spiritual, moral, social, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils". Can anyone envisage teachers in an ordinary school teaching teacher trainees such matters? Therefore, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Elton: the measure provides the educational side of teaching. However, that side cannot be met in the set-up which the Government propose.

The Earl of Radnor

My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with the remarks about special needs made by my noble friend Lord Campbell. I have read carefully the 1993 Act, as no doubt he has. My noble friend Lady Blatch has tabled an amendment to provide for someone in the agency who has special knowledge of the subject. However, perhaps she will reassure me that under Clause 4(5) (c) the institutions which will provide the special training for the teachers who must teach children with special needs will be adequately provided for. If that provision remains, the matter is adequately covered. I notice that an amendment has been tabled which will remove the provision, which of course I shall resist when the time comes.

Lord Elton

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, will he confirm his reference to Clause 4(5) (c), which I cannot find?

The Earl of Radnor

My Lords, I am sorry, I read the line number. I refer to Clause 4(2) (c), which reads: any other institution or body designated by order of the Secretary of State".

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, in joining others in welcoming the general thrust of the amendment I hope that it will not be seen as too churlish or cynical if I examine its wording a little more closely. Perhaps I may ask my noble friend for clarification as to exactly how she believes the wording will be interpreted by the teacher education fraternity.

My doubts are inspired, as I have mentioned previously, by my experiences during 10 years as the representative of commerce on the Council For National Academic Awards. As many noble Lords are aware, it was the validating body for more than half the teacher education courses in the country. When 1 joined the CNAA in 1983 it had the responsibility for validation and accreditation to the Secretary of State It was my view that CATE (the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education) was brought into being in 1984 because my noble friend Lord Joseph, then Secretary of State for Education, had reached the same conclusion that I had reached; that the CNAA was not doing its job at all well.

As I visited the courses and validated them, my difficulties, which relate specifically to this amendment, were inspired by the aggressively anti-Christian and anti-religious nature of the attitude that we brought to our validation. I have mentioned previously in your Lordships' House, and will say so again on the occasion of this amendment, that nearly all our courses had an exaggeration —I would call it an academic bias, although I am not sure that one would use the word "academic" about these courses —towards issues of gender, race and class.

In 1983, never having been in the world of education apart from some rudimentary schooling, I was surprised and even shocked to learn the extent to which politics —and in this area the politics of the Left—had entered into education. Indeed, when my honourable friend Mr. Waldegrave asked me to join the CNAA in 1983 it was supposed to be an honour to represent commerce on that body. I said to him, "How long do you think it will take? How much time will it take per annum?". He said, "It meets four times a year so it will take four days a year". It was when I got inside teacher education that I decided that it had to take very much more of my time and for two or three years it became almost full time.

I had thought that politics stayed out of education but I was wrong. The Centre and the Centre Left and Right of British politics obeyed those honourable rules and stayed out of education. But that left a vacuum. The Left or the hard Left entered education and nowhere was that more successful than in our teacher education courses. I am aware that in speaking like that one is accused of seeing the Loch Ness monster. All I can say is that I did walk the shores of Loch Ness and that that is the monster I saw. I am sure that the influence came out of the sociology courses and related activities of the 1960s, but they took a deep root in our teacher education courses.

I went on many validation exercises and read a great number of course profiles in considerable detail. As I shall be doing in respect of later amendments today, I must ask this of those who want school-based teacher education to be strongly influenced by higher education: how many of these courses have they validated personally and how much time have they spent talking to the students who are taking them?

With specific reference to the amendment, I have no difficulty with the laudable intention of promoting the spiritual, moral, mental and physical development of pupils. However, because of the situation that I have described there is a real dearth of teachers in the system who have the ability and the ambition to promote those laudable characteristics. My difficulty with this amendment—and it is one that I should like my noble friend to dwell on when she replies—is with the words "social" and "cultural". How will social matters be promoted in future by the teacher-training fraternity? It seems to me to open not just the possibility but a firm invitation to the culture of which I have been speaking to concentrate on matters of gender and class in a way that the courses already do. I do not want to see that confirmed in this amendment.

Likewise, I have some difficulty because in the hands of our teacher educators there could be ambiguity in respect of the word "cultural". It seems to me that nowhere has more damage been done to race relations in this country than in the aggressive promotion of one-sided, anti-racist policies throughout our teacher-training courses. Our guidelines, which we followed for many years, required the promotion of issues of gender and class and, as far as the word "cultural" is concerned, of anti-racist policies to, in the jargon that we used, "permeate the whole curriculum". That was our aim and that is what we achieved. In supporting the amendment generally, I wish to be sure that we are doing nothing to further those unworthy aims.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I too welcome the amendment; not on political grounds, as my noble friend has done, but on educational grounds. In doing so I wish to make a small point that has not yet been made. One of the problems of implementing in schools the educational policy on religious education, sex education, health education and in other areas is the fact that many teachers do not know how to handle such issues. Quite often teachers who are not qualified in those specific subjects do not know how to handle them, particularly when they crop up unexpectedly.

Education, particularly at secondary level, has to be divided into subject areas with specialist teachers. But opportunities to help young people in the areas covered by this amendment crop up unexpectedly when any subject at all is in hand. It may be reading, maths, geography, science, history or whatever. Teachers need to know just how to use the situation which crops up unexpectedly to put over a bit of teaching. That is not at all easy. It requires education and training.

The noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, made the point that he has often made during discussion on this Bill; namely, that it is about training and not about education. That is a distinction that we must not make. One cannot train teachers without educating them. Training teachers is all about education. The argument has been used to support all sorts of points. But a blurring of the two is absolutely unavoidable. Teachers not only need to know enough about the subject to be sure of their ground when the opportunity crops up, but they also have to have the craft skill (to use the noble Lord's words) to use the opportunity when it crops up to get a discussion going and make various points. That must be part of the agency's remit. It must make sure that teacher training courses include those aspects.

Although one may learn the subject away from a school, it has to be said that the way to learn the craft side of teaching is to watch experienced people doing justice to the subject, taking the opportunity when it crops up and using it well, and then practising doing that oneself. I believe the noble Lord would agree that that craft aspect can only be learnt in schools. It cannot be done anywhere else. That is well known.

I agree with the noble Baroness who said from the Liberal Front Bench that this matter should be on the agenda of the general teaching council. Of course it should. But highlighting it with this amendment on the face of the Bill is of extreme value. I hope that my noble friend will be able to confirm that the particular skill of bringing in a subject as it crops up under other subjects will be encouraged and will be possible.

3.30 p.m.

Baroness McFarlane of Llandaff

My Lords, I welcome the addition to this clause. Along with the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, I served on the Council for National Academic Awards, and latterly on its teacher education committee. I too have paid visits of validation. There are times when I hardly recognise the description that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, gives of what was happening in teacher education. I believe that there were indeed some places where there was an overemphasis on matters of gender and class. But my general impression of the teacher education committee of the Council for National Academic Awards was that it was doing an excellent job of work, one from which my own profession, namely nursing, benefited greatly. In our most recent syllabuses this matter of the spiritual care of patients—and therefore the spiritual education of nurses—was put at a very high level. Yet we have found that, as nurse-teachers have taken that up, they have not been able to give any definition to what is meant by spiritual or moral education. I believe therefore that there is a great need for teachers to be educated in what is meant by spiritual and moral education.

Lord Peston

My Lords, I welcome the amendment. But I have two points to make. First, I take it that the words "spiritual", "moral" and others are adjectives which modify "development of pupils". Can the noble Baroness confirm that that is her reading of the matter? Therefore the points raised by her noble friend Lord Pearson simply do not apply. It has to do with the development of pupils rather than society and culture in the sense in which he used the words. I also ask the noble Baroness if she will clarify whether she really means the amendment to read in the precise way that it does. It refers to "teachers". That is all. It does not refer to "new teachers" or to the teachers for whom we understand the new body to be responsible. In other words, as it stanch, the amendment looks flawed in terms of what I understood the noble Baroness was trying to do. Can she confirm that the agency is not responsible for all teachers in the sense of this amendment. Alternatively, could she bring another amendment before the House?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, perhaps it is easier if I take the last point first. It is pertinent to much of what was said during the course of this debate. This is one piece in the jigsaw. We hope that it completes the jigsaw, in that the 1988 Act makes it central in Clause 1 to all teaching. The 1992 and 1993 Acts refer to it so far as inspection is concerned and so far as the development of the 1988 Act is concerned. Now we are talking about those teachers for whom the agency will be responsible. It is related to the functions of the agency. If the noble Lord has any improvement on the wording he may like to come back to it on Third Reading. If the national curriculum requires that these matters be addressed, it is important that teachers who are trained to deliver the national curriculum should be aware of them.

I thank my noble friend Lord Elton, who spoke first in the debate after myself, for his warm comments. I thank him also for speaking in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne—who informed me that he would not be here today. He is to be involved with the committee on the family, which is an all-party Back-Bench committee, and therefore has very important business to attend to this afternoon.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, thought that the words in the amendment ought to apply to a general teaching council. The House well knows my views about 4 general teaching Council. The establishment of a general teaching council as proposed on a number of occasions in this House would not necessarily impact on the professionalism of an individual teacher in the classroom. These words in this Bill will indeed impact upon individual teachers in training to deliver education for our young people.

My noble friend Lady Cox asked whether basic skills and basic literacy would be covered. Again, I have to refer to the analogy of the jigsaw. That is another piece in the jigsaw. There is the national curriculum; the system of assessment and testing; and inspection. All of those will make sure that those basic skills are covered.

My noble friend Lady Perry asked about the meaning of the last sentence, and the preparation of young people for work as well as for adult life. Indeed preparation for adult life subsumes the importance of work in adult life.

My noble friend Lord Campbell pointed to a defect in the amendment and asked whether it could be implemented without reference to children with special needs. It could not, in that the whole of this Bill and the work of the agency would be directed at teachers who were to be concerned about the needs of all children —which again would subsume the importance of serving the needs of children with special learning difficulties.

The noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, made reference to the point that teachers are to be trained, not educated. We are talking here particularly—I believe this is what the noble Lord hinted at—in relation to school based teacher training. We are talking about young people who have been through the school system, who have done their GCSEs and A-levels, who have gone into higher education and have achieved a higher education degree; then they do one year's postgraduate training, either in a higher education institution or together with a higher education institution and school, or indeed solely in school. We are not talking about uneducated people. All aspects of their training and preparing them to do a very demanding job have to be attended to by the agency.

I am not absolutely certain of the point that was being made by my noble friend Lord Radnor. I wonder whether we could talk about it. If there is a deficit in the amendment, perhaps I could address it at Third Reading.

My noble friend Lord Pearson and the noble Baroness, Lady McFarlane, were both concerned about life under the CNAA and life as it was in teacher training. I cannot believe that any Member of this House would set his face against an understanding that there is good, bad and indifferent teacher training just as there are good, bad and indifferent teachers and good, bad and indifferent people working in any walk of life.

Again, with reference to the jigsaw, what is absolutely essential is that teacher training reforms, the criteria for teaching training, the national curriculum reforms, systems of assessment and testing, the publication of information, inspection systems and the requirement of schools to publish in a very clear way information to parents should all come together to make sure that we have more of good practice than of poor and indifferent practice.

I was asked how the social part of the amendment would be implemented. Again, it will deal with matters such as citizenship, responsibility, understanding of constitutional government and so on. They will all help young people to live competent, confident and, if I may use the word, wholesome lives—in other words, making sure that they understand that whatever action they take usually impacts on someone around them—and will inform a proper respect of their role as they move in adulthood.

My noble friend Lady Carnegy referred to the very important point of blurring. There is a positive blurring in this area because it includes subject competence as well as teaching young people. There is the moral and spiritual underpinning of education and, as I mentioned before, citizenship—young people working together and understanding the world into which they will move after school.

I have already dealt with the special needs aspect and probably also with all the individual points.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

My Lords, perhaps my noble friend will allow me to interrupt her. There is one point that I would have raised had my noble friend not been so nimble on her feet as she began her concluding remarks. It seems to me that there is one word that is notably lacking in this amendment; namely, "intellectual". Surely learning and indeed teaching should be an intellectual adventure and not simply a mental adventure. I hope that at Third Reading it may be possible to introduce that concept into the Bill as well as all the others, which we very much welcome in this amendment.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am not sure whether that is subsumed when one takes all those aspects together. I shall make sure, as I always do, that between now and Third Reading I shall look carefully at what my noble friend said. However, I believe that this amendment is consistent with the 1988 Act and the 1992 and 1993 Acts. I am grateful for the positive comments that have been made and hope that the House will accept the amendment.

On Question, amendment 'agreed to.