HL Deb 07 July 1997 vol 581 cc436-50

4.30 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement on the Government's proposals in the White Paper Excellence in Schools which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment. The Statement is as follows:

"The Prime Minister has made it clear that education is the number one priority of this Government. This consultation document and the Budget announcement of an almost £2.5 billion increase in revenue and capital investment in education demonstrates that commitment and our priority. We will publish a separate consultation paper on special educational needs.

"Our proposals focus clearly on the central task of raising standards. We are establishing a new partnership for schools: a new partnership with teachers and the profession. Self-improvement is at the core of success. Schools must take responsibility for accepting that challenge. Good schools will flourish. Under our proposals we will offer increased support through the new standards and effectiveness unit to those schools in need of improvement. We will build on best practice from around the world.

"We have set up the standards task force to spearhead our crusade to raise standards throughout the education service.

"The new role for local education authorities will reflect our priorities by focusing on raising standards and not controlling schools. Intervention by LEAs will be in inverse proportion to success.

"All schools and education authorities will establish challenging targets as part of their development plans on which they will be judged. What we propose today will make a difference for everyone involved in the education of our children—parents, teachers and non-teaching staff, governors and the wider community. Our early years plans will lay the ground work, but to provide a firm foundation the best teaching methods must be available in every classroom in the land. Our national literacy and numeracy strategy will ensure that all primary teachers are trained to use the most effective teaching methods. There will be a structured hour devoted each day to both literacy and numeracy in all primary schools.

"Parents are a child's first teacher. They deserve better information and advice in order to increase their involvement in their own child's learning. Home-school agreements will set out rights and responsibilities for home and school. They will explain clearly what is expected of the school, the parent and the pupil. Such agreements will make clear the need for regular and punctual attendance, for good discipline and for the vital role which homework can play in supporting learning in and out of school.

"Parent participation in the life of the school is also vital. Additional parent governors will be complemented by their direct representation on the education committee of their local authority.

"We are offering a new deal for teachers; a new partnership between government and all those involved in education. This Government value teachers and will celebrate good practice. We will introduce a general teaching council, develop advanced-skills teacher posts and provide comprehensive in-service training. There will be a new curriculum for initial teacher training, focusing on literacy and numeracy. A probationary year for all newly qualified teachers will continue their professional development. We will introduce scholarships for the most outstanding teachers, encouraging them to spend a term sharing their knowledge and skills with others. A new awards scheme will recognise the success of individual schools.

"This Government recognise that strong and committed leadership at every level is crucial. The role of the headteacher is critical to the success of the school. We will therefore strengthen headship by introducing a mandatory qualification for all newly appointed heads. We will introduce a national training scheme for all existing heads and overhaul the appraisal process for both heads and teachers.

"Last week I set out to the House how we will give young people hope through a new deal for under 25s. Today's White Paper outlines a new approach in order to support areas of greatest disadvantage. Education action zones will draw together a range of initiatives in a partnership approach to raising standards. We will develop the specialist schools programme so that their innovative approach to teaching and learning can benefit the wider family of schools in their area.

"The proposals I am laying out today will make failure less likely. But we know that problems still exist. Where teachers, schools or LEAs are failing we will take decisive action. Children do not get a second chance in school. This White Paper is a vital step in our crusade to raise standards and offer opportunity to all of them. Expectations and aspirations must be raised if we are to succeed. Fair funding, fair admissions and co-operation will reunite the education service. It is time to set aside the cynicism and the culture of complacency. This is a can-do government working with a can—do service. Our children are our future. We owe it to them to give them the best possible start in life.

"There is no more important task today than putting good intentions into practice. This Government will do just that".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.37 p.m.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

My Lords, there is much in this Statement that we welcome. In particular, I should like to underline the massive change of philosophy which the White Paper exemplifies. It is a philosophy in many parts that I have advocated most of my educational life. Perhaps I can point to the issues in the paper which we on this side of the House find very encouraging and contrast them with what the present Government said in the past.

On page 7: Schools setting pupils according to ability and further development of innovative approaches to pupil grouping". On page 11: The pursuit of excellence was too often equated with elitism. It was right in the 1980s to introduce the National Curriculum—albeit that it was 20 or 30 years too late. Who was in power in the 1960s? It was right to set up more effective management systems; to develop a more effective inspection system: and to provide more systematic information to parents". That is very encouraging. It was the policy of the previous government and was attacked by those on the Benches opposite. But I am not criticising. There is more joy in heaven over a sinner that repenteth than over anything else.

I am delighted to see on page 31 Ofsted given such a favourable welcome. Even in my short time in this House Ofsted has seemed at times like an invention of the devil. But this repentance is total and complete: We arc firmly committed to regular inspection of all schools by OFSTED". All that is delightful to those of us on this side of the House. An educational philosophy has undergone a certain change. But, as we all know, the devil is in the detail. The problem that the Government will face is the ideology that they are tentatively abandoning and replacing with setting by ability and changes in teacher training colleges in the way of teaching literacy and numeracy are deeply embedded in the education system. I have doubts whether the methods that they will use to transform the education system in a way that I welcome will be adequate. I am also worried that they may require many layers of bureaucracy. For example, the White Paper says on page 27: The LEA's task is to challenge schools to raise standards continuously and to apply pressure where they do not. That role is not one of control". I recognise that. The fact is that in many parts of the country the LEAs have failed to do that. The Government will require those LEAs to insist on setting by ability and new methods of teaching literacy and numeracy. The question I put to the Minister is: does she rely on them doing it?

On page 28 the Government give details of what they will do if the LEAs do not do so: a discussion with the chair of governors and the headteacher, including an offer of help … a formal warning, requesting a plan of action from the school … OFSTED to inspect the school". That is very heavy bureaucracy, especially against a profession which is very reluctant to respond to outside pressure. Will the LEAs do it? That is my first question.

Secondly, the Government say that they are more interested in standards and that they matter more than structure. I take that directly from the report.

As I have often said in the House, I am worried about the English education system providing adequate specialised teaching post-16. The White Paper pays attention to specialist schools; but in no sense—it is possible that the noble Baroness will say that she will come back to the House some months from now to reply to this point—does it give attention to the Dearing Report on post-16 education and on the structures of education that Dearing will require. I should have liked, for example, to have seen the White Paper declare that, in the efforts to improve standards and skills, concentration would be on a better vocational examination, with better vocational technological provision than is at present provided.

The Government say that they will have a new comprehensive system. Does the new comprehensive system still require post-16 schools to cover the whole range of education? They pay respect to France and Germany early in the report, which they say were much better than us historically. Are they prepared to learn a little more from them?

I am also worried about whether the ideals will translate into reality. The proposals for admissions could mean that children will not get to the school that they want. They begin, as does the whole of the report, with a delightful ideal. It is the kind of report which says that one must not kick little kittens.

The Government say that they want as many parents as possible to send their children to their preferred school. But—here comes the devil in the detail— where demand exceeds supply and one school is more popular than another, some parents will be disappointed". There is talk about the Audit Commission drawing attention to the level of unfilled school places: 800,000. Most of those 800,000 are in schools which parents do not want their children to attend. Will the Government force people to do so? They say how they intend to do it: We will therefore expect to see the development of local forums of head teachers and governors from community, aided and foundation schools, to share information about their schools' admissions arrangements, with administrative support from LEAs". It will be like a set of ferrets in a sack. Can your Lordships imagine the governors of a declining school advocating sending children to another school? That committee will not achieve choice. There will be problems. I shall be interested to hear what the noble Baroness says about that.

As your Lordships will expect—I shall not dwell on this matter because it will arise much more in other debates—I am concerned about foundation schools and the end of the grant-maintained schools. In effect, the Government have withdrawn their control of capital development. The foundation governors do not have a majority. Although it is true that there are only two LEA governors—I assume that the others are co-opted or parents—the grant-maintained schools will be emasculated.

On page 72 a nice compliment is paid to the independent schools. The noble Baroness can be assured that I shall not talk for too long about this point. The White Paper says that independent schools can give, specialist teaching in subjects such as the less common foreign languages", and certain other things. By the abolition of the assisted places scheme, the Government have stopped pupils from going to them to learn those languages.

This is a curate's egg. It is good in parts. I am delighted with the change of philosophy and interested to see how it will work out. I am worried, however, about the implementation of the proposals. There is a lot of local education authority power and a lot of old state bureaucracy, together with a bit too much rhetoric. "Can do" and "will do"—we shall see.

Lord Tope

My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. Like the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, I give a general welcome to it, although I suspect for rather different reasons.

The Liberal Democrats welcome the White Paper and the Statement that has been made. Perhaps, again for similar reasons as given by the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, perversely, because much of what is in the White Paper has also been in our policy documents. I am tempted to wonder why, if all three parties are so much in agreement on all this, it is still necessary after all these years.

We welcome particularly the proposals for the general teaching council, a body I have advocated previously in your Lordships' House. I am sure that the Minister can reassure us that the Government will consult widely and will try to reach as wide agreement as possible on the establishment of the council. Much is at stake and the wider the agreement that can be reached when it is established, the more likely it is to be successful.

We also welcome the proposals for target setting for individual schools. We welcome particularly the proposals for teacher training, the return of the probationary year and especially the qualification for head teachers. My regret—I should perhaps mention once again that I am married to a teacher—is that, so far as I understand, there are few proposals for continuing training for teachers throughout their career once they are qualified, apart from the relatively small number of them who will have a scholarship. That is a matter of some concern.

I am sure that we all share the overall aim that the Government have stated: to drive up standards and try to achieve a situation where no child should fail. That is absolutely right. A child has only one chance during his school career. But once again I must agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington: the devil is in the detail. I have not yet had an opportunity to read the White Paper and I shall do so with considerable interest.

We know where we want to go but maybe the route will sometimes be a little different. I worry about the tendency to be over-prescriptive and control more than is necessary and desirable, whether it is by the LEA—a concern of the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, although not one I share, but then I am also the leader of a local education authority—or by the Government. My worries were not allayed, reading the Guardian this morning, by its reference to, the unprecedented control given to ministers over what goes on in the classroom". It is not Ministers who will drive up the standards, nor Members of your Lordships' House. Teachers will drive up the standards and we must give them the space, the opportunity and, above all, the resources to do the job.

That takes me on to my next points of concern. The Statement refers to "fair funding" and "fair admissions". Fair funding is a very desirable aim. I wish the Minister and her colleagues every success in seeking to achieve it. If they can achieve a system whereby both Lancashire and London feel that they have a fair funding system, she will truly have achieved a miracle. It is inevitable that what will be fair for some will be seen as unfair for those whose share of the cake is a little smaller. That is inevitable. The cake is already too small. The issue is not so much how it is to be divided up, but how big the total cake will be. The concerns about fair funding will be less if greater resources are provided.

As far as I can tell, there is nothing in the White Paper or comments made around it to suggest that there will be in real terms additional new resources to meet the additional new requirements. The Budget Statement last week, though welcome in the sense that it would have been unwelcome if it had not been made, still means in real terms a cut of £200 million in the level of education spending for LEAs in the next financial year. If we had not had the Statement it would have been worse. It is still a cut in real terms and does not indicate where the resources are to come from to meet the new requirements.

Related to that, I have considerable worries about how the "payment for results" system will be implemented. That is something I shall certainly want to examine in detail. One of my anxieties, which I suspect will be shared by many schools, is what the position is to be of those schools which have already taken action to drive up standards and therefore start from a higher point than perhaps those that are of more concern. Can the Minister assure us that there will be an equitable scheme to take account of that, particularly for those schools that have improved significantly but can go no further without additional resources which will certainly be financial and may also be space?

I turn now to fair admissions—I suspect an area with which it will be almost as difficult to deal as fair funding. I have not had an opportunity to read the White Paper; I do not know what it says specifically in relation to admission arrangements. Can the Minister tell us how the Government propose to tackle what is, in many areas, a nightmare situation? In some LEAs, my own included, there are a significant number of grant-maintained schools. So there are a large number of different admission authorities, each operating a different system where some parents gain but many, and many children, actually lose. What plans do the Government have to tackle that problem? Do they envisage a role for the LEA in co-ordinating admission arrangements?

Another of my anxieties concerns the consultation period. As I understand it, it is a three-month consultation period ending in early October. At most times of the year a three-month consultation period would be more than adequate. I share and understand the Government's desire to get on with this, but in two weeks the schools in England will be going on holiday; the governors will not be meeting; and the local education authorities will not be meeting. Effectively, the consultation period for schools, for governing bodies, for local education authorities and local authorities has been hard. It is actually no more than six weeks and a fairly difficult six weeks coming, first, at the end of the term and then at the start of the following term. I understand the reasons. It is unfortunate. I hope the Minister can reassure us that if there are late submissions from governing bodies, LEAs and so forth, they will be treated with as much value as those who are perhaps better able to meet what is, under the circumstances, a particularly tight timetable.

In conclusion, the Liberal Democrats welcome the White Paper. We certainly welcome its intentions. Where we are able to support the proposals we will do so; where we are not able to support them, then our criticisms will be constructive.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Pilkington and Lord Tope, for welcoming the White Paper. I am also delighted that there seems to be consensus across the political parties in relation to it. I am sure that the electorate will be pleased to hear that there is such consensus. I feel that they sometimes get fed up with hearing politicians of cross parties arguing with each other.

However, if I may say so, I felt that the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, was a little cynical at times in regard to our commitment to try to raise standards in schools. This White Paper is a demonstration of our concern and our passionate wish to improve standards in British schools, and that is what we intend to do.

The noble Lord was being a little cynical also when he suggested that we had always been opposed to a national curriculum. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Callaghan of Cardiff—who is unfortunately no longer in his place— in a famous speech made way back when he was Prime Minister, was the first leading politician to raise the whole issue of the curriculum and whether it could continue to be a secret garden for the teaching profession. We have always felt that there is a strong case for involvement in the curriculum from government, local education authorities and parents as well as the teachers. Of course, we did not necessarily support the exact form of the national curriculum as it was originally introduced.

Perhaps I can say also that in answering questions this afternoon I shall not go back to the issues raised on the assisted places scheme and languages. There will be plenty of time to do that later this week during the Committee stage of the relevant Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, raised the question of consultation in two respects. First, more specifically, it is our intention to consult widely on how the general teaching council will operate and on its membership. That will include consultation with the teacher's unions.

The noble Lord also raised the question of the time for consultation generally on the White Paper. We are sensitive to the fact that the schools go on holiday at the end of July. However, I hope that in the next two or three weeks there will be time for people to read the White Paper and start the process of discussion. Schools come back early in September and will be able to take up the matter again. They will have another two months after the holidays. That ought to be ample. However, we are sensitive to the issue.

The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, made some points in relation to grant-maintained schools. He suggested that we intended to emasculate them. Talk of emasculation of those schools is absolute nonsense. Grant-maintained schools will become part of a new framework. Like other schools, they will be able to choose to become a foundation, community or aided school. They will continue to serve their local communities and flourish in a new environment. Foundation status will give grant-maintained schools many of the powers that they currently value. For example, foundation schools will employ their own staff and own their premises, much as GM schools do now.

We are not turning the clock back; we are simply looking for a new framework which incorporates the best of the past and allows all good schools to prosper, including grant-maintained schools. But that framework will also reflect the need for all state schools to be part of a local partnership based on fairness and co-operation.

Both the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, raised questions about parental choice and admission proposals. I can assure your Lordships that we have no intention of reducing parental choice. Quite the reverse. One of the things the last government introduced was partial selection which seriously loaded the dice against certain pupils and created harmful and unnecessary uncertainty for all parents in an area. Recent Audit Commission figures show that around one in five parents did not obtain their genuine first preference of school, even though there were around 800,000 surplus places in the system. We want genuine opportunities for parents to decide between good local specialist and church schools, not a senseless scramble which ends up with massively over-subscribed schools and many disappointed parents.

Finally, in responding to noble Lords speaking for the Opposition parties, perhaps I can pick up the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, on the question of finance. Of course it is true that fair funding is extremely important—I cannot guarantee the miracle the noble Lord is asking for in making both Lancashire and London happy—but I think he is quite wrong in suggesting that the Budget last week did not provide a substantial real terms increase in funding for our schools. The cash increase will be 5.7 per cent. and the real terms increase will be 2.9 per cent. That is a lot better than our predecessors have done for many years.

5 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, the noble Baroness's welcome words about an ambition to have the best teaching methods available in every classroom appeared, to a careful listener, to fall in that part of the Statement which referred to an early years plan and to the teaching of literacy and numeracy. I hope she can assure the House that it is the Government's intention to see the best teaching methods available in every classroom at all age ranges and that the need extends beyond literacy and numeracy to all other subjects. Many of us have been anxious about teaching methods for many years. I am reassured from what I have heard, not having seen the White Paper, that the turn appears to be away from mixed ability and child-centered teaching. That is reassuring. But even if the teacher training colleges now all adopt this with enthusiasm at once, which is not likely—I wish her every success in changing traditions there—it will still be 40 years before the new intake has worked through the profession. There is therefore a heroic task to be done with in-service training with existing teachers. I hope she can tell us a little more about that.

A lot of not very old dogs cannot learn new tricks. Honest people have been taught difficult methods and cannot adopt new ones. There must be an escape hatch. It is not only children who do not get a second chance in schools; it is also teachers. If a teacher has failed in one school, he or she ought to have an opportunity in another. You can never retrieve a seriously damaged reputation with children in a school in which you have lost it. I hope that the Minister will be able to say something therefore about the possibility of giving teachers a second chance before they are put out of the profession. Nothing is more desperate than seeing someone with another 15 years before they draw their pension being ridiculed by children they cannot control. That is a serious problem.

The very welcome news that headteachers will now be trained for their business and management job appeared to announce that the training would be after they had taken post. That being the case, it will be very superficial or it will be some time after responsibility has been taken in the long holiday; or—in my view this is the better solution—anyone who applies for a job as headteacher should in the reasonably distant future have the qualifications to enable him or her to take the job. That is a task to be undertaken by the new General Teaching Council.

Those are the three issues about which I wanted to ask the noble Baroness. I hope that she can help us.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord. He has raised three rather large areas. I hope that he will forgive me if I do not cover all of them in full.

The noble Lord asked about early years education. It is vital that young children should have a balanced curriculum and a curriculum that is broad enough to engage their interest in many things besides literacy and numeracy, whether it be discovering nature or learning how to be good on the trampoline. We have to give young children the opportunity to enjoy themselves— not that that means that teaching about literacy and numeracy need not be enjoyable. We are seeking to redress the balance a little where we feel that insufficient attention has been given to those subjects. But it does not mean that we want our teachers to become Gradgrinds and our children to be falling asleep as they sit in rows reciting, as perhaps happened at the turn of the century.

The noble Lord asked about teachers. Teachers are at the centre of this programme. Without good teachers, without teachers who are enthusiastic and committed to their jobs, we will never raise standards in our schools. It is our intention to try to support those teachers who are in difficulty. We shall do so by a variety of different methods. At the same time we are clear that, if we are to have more rigorous and higher standards for the teaching profession and to build on a clear framework for the professional development of teachers throughout their careers, we need better initial teacher training arrangements, better systems of induction—that is very important as well—and in-service training, which in the first instance will be specially focused on literacy and numeracy. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, also asked about in-service training. It is certainly our intention to continue, and indeed to develop, in-service training as the stock of teachers is as important as the flow of new teachers.

Finally, on the question of headteachers, the Government's view is clear. Without good leadership in all of our schools, however good the assistant teachers are, we will not succeed. It is our intention to introduce a qualification for headteachers to be taken before they are appointed to the post of running a school.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

My Lords, may I press my noble friend on the question of those teachers who, for one reason or another, good or bad, do not come up to the standard which she and we and all parents would expect from those teachers? Is she aware that at the present moment it takes almost two years to remove an incompetent teacher from post? What plans do the Government have to introduce a fair but quick way of dealing with those who are clearly identified as unsatisfactory or under-performing teachers? Will there be what I have heard referred to by the vulgar as a "fast sack" procedure?

Baroness Blackstone

No, my Lords, nothing so vulgar as a fast sack procedure but, I hope, a much better system of appraising teachers so that it is possible to identify as early as possible difficulties that some teachers may be getting into. Better systems of induction, which I mentioned earlier, are also very important. In other words, before we worry about incompetent teachers, we should try to prevent incompetent teachers ever happening. We can do that with better in-service training, better induction and then better appraisal. When all those things fail, and when support offered by headteachers does not lead to an improvement, we will then, after consultation, try to introduce much faster procedures for getting rid of incompetent teachers. It is only fair to them as well as to their pupils.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I ask the noble Baroness to consider whether she was perhaps a little cavalier with what my noble friend Lord Tope had to say about funding. The point is that the Chancellor has revised his inflation forecasts upwards, has corrected his revenue plan projections accordingly, but not his spending projections. According to Mr. Andrew Dilnot of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, this means that the amount of extra money going into education is not, as the noble Baroness suggested, £2.5 billion but £410 million, so she is asking us to be thankful for a rather small mercy.

I also want to take up what she had to say about the best teaching methods. Can she tell us what gives Governments the competence to decide what those are? I was a little alarmed to hear her quoting the phrase "secret garden". That is a phrase I remember very well for it originates from a speech by Mr. Robert Jackson in 1988 which began the Conservative assault on academic freedom which was the subject of my maiden speech. I am a little uncomfortable to see it in this context.

I listened with interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington of Oxenford, had to say about a very heavy bureaucracy. I wonder whether he is beginning to realise that this policy is perhaps a little too conservative for the Conservatives.

Finally, I should like to take up a phrase which was perhaps prudently not in the Statement but it is in the Government press release on the tapes outside the Chamber. I refer to the phrase "zero tolerance of failure". Is that a standard by which the Government are willing to be judged?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, as regards the last question from the noble Earl, the answer is yes, that is the standard by which we wish to be judged. Perhaps I may pick up first his point about finance. I believe that the noble Earl has got it wrong. The figure that I quoted earlier, which is a real-terms increase of 2.9 per cent., takes account of higher GDP deflators.

I now turn to the noble Earl's question about the "secret garden". I was rather surprised by what he said on that, particularly since he is an eminent historian. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, will agree with me when I say that the term the "secret garden" goes back many years before Mr. Robert Jackson introduced it in a debate on higher education. It was a term that was used in the 1950s and 1960s to describe the way in which the curriculum was then treated by the teaching profession. I am sorry to be a little didactic on this matter, but the noble Earl's history is wrong.

As regards the teaching profession, there will be many difficulties in defining what constitutes good standards. I am not pretending that it is an easy task, but it is fairly easy for us to recognise when serious failure is taking place and teaching is not being practised properly in the classroom.

Lord Parry

My Lords, I welcome the general thrust of the White Paper and the attempt to reunify the education services of Britain after a long period of division and sub-division and at a time when teachers feel that most of the attacks have been mounted at them rather than the system. I am particularly glad that the special education system will be reviewed in a separate White Paper. I look forward to that as I do debating again the issues raised in this White Paper.

I believe that there has been a very heavy consensus of agreement on some of its main thrusts. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, and I have debated education many times over the years. I follow him in everything that he said, particularly about in-service education and the requalification of headteachers for their specific role. We introduced managerial change on a great scale without contemplating requalifying headmasters for the managerial role that they had to take on.

In my own service as a warden at an in-service education centre, I was conscious that many of our attempts to re-educate teachers were perhaps lightweight and not what teachers themselves wanted. It is absolutely essential that in introducing new impetus into the in-service teaching section, the Government are careful to see that they produce a national scale of in-service education with qualification at the end of it that will give the teachers a new confidence in their role which they gladly take up in this revitalisation of our education system.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am very grateful for what my noble friend has just said. We see the White Paper as a new deal for teachers as well as for parents and pupils. It is very important that we support them. We recognise how important is the job that they do. That recognition of their value and vital role in our society is balanced by the pressure to raise their game where it is necessary. As I have already said, the factor of key importance is effective leadership. That is the really critical factor in the success of schools. Once again, I endorse what my noble friend has just said about the importance of training for head teachers.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I was able to get a copy of the White Paper just before the Statement. I have had a quick look through it. Can the noble Baroness confirm that it does not apply to Scotland and contains nothing about Scottish education? If that is so, is there to be a White Paper on education in Scotland and, if so, when? As the noble Baroness will know, the system of education in Scotland is separate and different. For example, a general teaching council was set up in Scotland some years ago. A Scottish curriculum was being put in place when what is called the national curriculum was first being thought out for England and Wales. Those are examples of the considerable differences in the subjects mentioned in the White Paper. Can the noble Baroness answer those questions?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I can confirm that the White Paper is not about education in Scotland. As the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, has just said, the Scottish education system is different. It is one which many Members of your Lordships' House no doubt admire, as I certainly do. We can learn a great deal from the Scottish education system. One factor is that it introduced a general teaching council quite a long time ago. If only it had happened earlier in England and Wales!

I am unable to answer the more specific question that the noble Lord asked about a White Paper on education in Scotland and when it might be published. I shall certainly write to the noble Lord.

Baroness David

My Lords, can my noble friend enlighten me a little about the phrase, Intervention by LEAs will be in inverse proportion to success", which appears in the Statement? I hope that the LEAs are going to have a larger role than they had before they were diminished by the last government. I remember very well one way in which LEAs could help schools in some difficulty. It may be that one department was in difficulty whereas the rest of the school was not. Advisory teachers would go to the school and help to get the department right without the whole school having to go downhill. I hope that the LEAs will have a bigger role in helping schools and not have to wait until a school has failed before taking action.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for her question. Our proposals mean a new role for LEAs focused on challenging and supporting schools rather than controlling them. Every LEA will be asked to draw up an education development plan showing the target that it has agreed with its schools and how it proposes to support them so that the targets are achieved. The plans will be approved by the Secretary of State. Every LEA will be asked to have such a plan in place by April 1999. The LEAs will also have a very important role in advising and, where necessary, challenging schools in the setting of targets. I believe that we have provided a very clear job description for local education authorities. In return we want them to become fully accountable.

Baroness Perry of Southwark

My Lords, I warmly welcome this White Paper and the consensus that it represents. I have one question for the noble Baroness. There were three years in the 1980s when there was a national pilot scheme for induction. It fell apart at the end of three very good years with some very good experimentation, because there was not enough money to continue to give new teachers the one thing they most needed, which was some time in their timetables to reflect on their experience, to be given help and not to have a full timetable. That is expensive and it takes resources. Will that kind of time and the resources it represents be available?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I accept entirely what the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, has just said about the importance of providing adequate time for teachers during an induction period. I cannot answer specifically how much additional time we shall be able to provide. However, it is something on which we shall be consulting the schools, the local education authorities and those in the teacher-training establishments who will be involved to some extent in the support of the initial training of teachers, induction and in-service training.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, I too very much welcome the White Paper. Can my noble friend say something about the role of parents, as she sees it, through this White Paper? The noble Lord, Lord Tope, spoke about teachers driving up standards, but parents will also have a crucial role in doing that. Can we believe any of the rumours we read in the newspapers about homework targets and things of that kind?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I speak as a parent myself—I know that my noble friend Lord Ponsonby is a parent of school-age children—when I say that we believe strongly in the role of parents in supporting their children at school and in working with teachers. We want to see them involved as much as possible. We intend to introduce more family learning schemes to encourage parents to become involved, and to help them. All schools will be required to develop written home/school contracts which parents will be expected to sign. We also want to see greater representation of parents on governing bodies and LEAs. National guidelines will, for the first time, set out the amount and type of homework that pupils of different ages should be expected to do if homework is to play a full part in pupils' education. They are meant to be guidelines and they are meant to be helpful to parents as well as to teachers.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

My Lords, I am sorry to say that the 20 minutes for Back-Bench discussion have now elapsed and that we must now move on to other business.