HL Deb 23 February 1998 vol 586 cc437-53

5.10 p.m.

Consideration of amendments on Report.

Clause 1 [The General Teaching Council]:

Baroness Carnegy of Lour moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 11, after first ("Council") insert ("for England and Wales").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we begin the Report stage of the Bill with consideration of the clauses creating a new general teaching council. This is a simple amendment and, I believe, it should not detain the House long. However, the amendment is important. Its intention is simply to change the name of the council from the general teaching council, as the Bill proposes, to the General Teaching Council for England and Wales. In studying the record of the Committee stage of this part of the Bill, it struck me—and it has since struck the registrar of the GTC for Scotland—that it is in the interests of all concerned that there should be no confusion between the existing General Teaching Council for Scotland and the new one which the Bill sets out.

In the early stages of the council I suggest that this will be especially important. Unless the Government relent and take on board some of the amendments on the Marshalled List, such as those of my noble friend Lady Young, the new general teaching council will have virtually no executive powers while the Scottish general teaching council has many. The two bodies will be very different indeed. It will be important that nobody mixes their functions.

I appreciate—and for this I apologise—that the amendment on its own, if accepted in principle, will necessitate further amendments elsewhere in the Bill. I am sure that the noble Baroness will castigate me on that point. I am sorry that I have not sorted out the consequential amendments. That is particularly important in order that the change is valid when the general teaching council for Wales separates from the parent body.

I hope that the wording is not a stumbling block and that the flexibility which the noble Baroness is aiming to bring to the Report stage will extend to some of the amendments as well as to the procedure. This is a matter on which she should be flexible. I hope that the Government and the House will feel able to change the name of the general teaching council in this way. I beg to move.

Lord Butterfield

My Lords, I support this amendment. It is not recognised in this country how much work the General Teaching Council for Scotland has been doing. It is very important that because of the differences which will undoubtedly emerge between the general teaching councils in the different countries that they are recognised by their names. I strongly support this amendment.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am very happy to accept the principle that the GTC's name should reflect its territorial responsibilities to avoid confusion between the councils covering different parts of the United Kingdom. The last thing I would wish to do is castigate the noble Baroness for what she has said. However, I am advised that the wording would need to provide both for the council to be called The GTC for England and Wales in the first instance and also for it to be re-named The GTC for England once a separate GTC for Wales has been established under Clause 6. I believe that the noble Baroness has already alluded to that and I fully understand. If the noble Baroness is prepared to withdraw her amendment, I will undertake to bring forward an appropriate amendment at the next stage to achieve what she is seeking.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness very much indeed for that response. It was the problem of how to word the Bill for the circumstances that she identifies. It was impossible for me to do that. This is a very good start to the Report stage and I am sure that the House appreciates it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 11, at end insert—

("() The principal aims of the Council in exercising their functions are—
  1. (a) to contribute to improving the standards of teaching and the quality of learning, and
  2. (b) to maintain and improve standards of professional conduct amongst teachers,
in the interests of the public.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 3, 12 and 14. During debate a number of amendments were tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Young and Lady Maddock, and the noble Lords, Lord Northbourne and Lord Tope, which sought to set out on the face of the Bill an objective for the GTC. I agreed to consider the proposed amendments further. I have now done so and I am returning to the House with Amendment No. 2, which sets out a principal aim for the council.

The GTC will be the professional body for teachers. It will represent the highest professional standards. I believe that we can all agree that it will promote a positive image of teaching both within the profession and outside. It will play a vital role in improving standards of teaching and the quality of learning and will maintain and improve standards of professional conduct among teachers. The amendment I am proposing sets this out clearly as a principal aim for the council.

I also believe it is right that the GTC should be a body not just concerned with protecting the interests of its own members. It should be outward-looking and speak out where standards are not as they should be. It will be working to raise the quality of teaching and learning in our schools for the benefit of parents, pupils, and the wider public. There are few professions as important as teaching. Teachers are responsible for the success of future generations. Any objectives for the GTC must therefore have these responsibilities to the wider public at their heart.

The amendment I have brought forward I believe reflects the principles behind the amendments tabled by the noble Baronesses and the noble Lords during Committee stage. There was some debate then about whether the GTC should also have an overall aim about enabling the profession to exercise responsibility for the standards and quality of its professional service and to offer advice. There were mixed views about that. In my view the GTC will achieve this by fulfilling its wider aims and its functions, as set out in the Bill. Therefore, I do not believe it is necessary, or indeed appropriate, to state this as an aim in itself.

I also indicated during debate in Committee that I was very sympathetic to the proposal made by the noble Lord. Lord Jenkin of Roding—I do not believe that he is in his place—that the council should be required to take into account the needs of disabled people in the course of its work. I have therefore brought forward Amendment No. 3, which will require the GTC to have regard to the requirements of disabled people when carrying out its functions. This parallels an existing duty placed on the Teacher Training Agency. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, for raising this very important issue, with his customary force and eloquence, through his amendment at Committee stage.

I should add, that I have also introduced a further amendment, Amendment No. 5, which we will be discussing later. This further amendment requires the Secretary of State to have regard to the need to reflect the interests of persons concerned with the teaching of persons with special educational needs when making regulations about the composition of the council. The Government are determined that their crusade for higher standards should encompass all learners. I believe that, taken together, Amendments Nos. 3 and 5 will ensure that the GTC will have regard to the interests of those with disabilities and learners with special educational needs when carrying out all its functions.

I turn now to Amendments Nos. 12 and 14, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and his colleagues. The existing Clause 2 sets out what we believe should be the advisory functions of the GTC. This will be the professional body for teachers and it will be able to advise the Secretary of State on a broad range of matters related to teaching. These include standards of teaching; standards of conduct for teachers; the role of the teaching profession; the training, career development and performance management of teachers; recruitment to the teaching profession; and medical fitness to teach. It may also advise on individual cases of teachers' misconduct.

Amendment No. 12 suggests an expanded and reworded version of those responsibilities. On a number of points I believe our intentions are exactly the same, and much as I respect the noble Lord's drafting skills I am not altogether persuaded of the case to amend or adjust the present wording.

There are also a number of significant additional responsibilities here which we would not see as properly falling to the GTC—at least in the first instance. I do not think it would be right, for example, for the GTC to take a role in advising on grounds for suspending and dismissing teachers. We have recently agreed new procedures with employers and unions for dealing with teachers who are not up to the job. It is for line managers and employers to identify teachers who are not performing to standard or who ought to be dismissed for other reasons. Suspending someone or dismissing them from a particular post is quite different to barring them from the profession. The Bill gives the GTC a power to advise on the latter, but I do not think it would be helpful to start cutting across the relationship between employer and employee. Responses to our consultation exercise last year displayed a wide range of views on this topic with many urging us to tread very carefully where employment matters were concerned.

I do not believe it would be right either for the advisory role of the GTC to be expanded to cover other aspects of education such as funding or the curriculum. In the initial years, at least, the focus of the GTC should be on teaching. We need to give the GTC time to develop and establish itself before its role expands any further.

In particular we should not set out to duplicate the advisory functions we have given to other public bodies. Other public bodies, such as the Qualification and Curriculum Authority, will certainly look to the GTC for advice on issues, but it would not be right to give the GTC a principal function of advising on the school curriculum, syllabuses, examinations and testing. Many of the advisory functions presently envisaged for the GTC will involve questions of resources, but I do not think that advising on the funding of the education service should be set out as a principal advisory function of the GTC.

Amendment No. 12 also provides for the GTC to establish such committees as it thinks appropriate. The GTC will already have this power under paragraph 9 of Schedule 1, so that part of the amendment is unnecessary.

Finally, I note that the amendment provides for the GTC to determine which other bodies it should advise. It is certainly not our intention to constrain the council's ability to play a full part in the national education debate. Where there are issues on which the council would be expected to have a professional perspective to offer, it should be able to do so. In practice, I do not think that Clause 2 would unduly limit the GTC. We have already provided in Clause 2(5) for the GTC to publish its advice, so it would be open for any other body to take note of it. The amendment appears to remove that power from the GTC. I am not sure whether that was intentional. However, I am persuaded that we should consider further whether Clause 2 fully secures our intention that the GTC should be a major partner in the national drive to raise standards in schools.

I must also resist Amendment No. 14, again proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and his colleagues. It seeks to provide that the GTC should be given a greater role in promoting teaching as a career and in the continuing professional development of teachers. In England, those functions currently rest with the Teacher Training Agency. I do not think that it would be a good idea to see the TTA's statutory responsibilities weakened or its critical work in any way undermined. The TTA is doing a good job. We have recently given it a major new remit to ensure that good quality candidates are attracted to the teaching profession and receive the training and professional development they need throughout their careers. If experience shows that we need to consider the balance of statutory duties between the GTC and the TTA we may return to that in the next Parliament. It may be that the case proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and his colleagues is drawn from the clauses referring to the GTC for Wales. However, the situation in Wales is rather different because there only a small TTA unit has responsibility for a very limited range of functions. I beg to move.

Baroness Maddock

My Lords, when I wound up for my party at Second Reading—at nearly midnight—I forecast that the Bill would have a rough ride. I did not expect, however, that it would be quite as bad as it has been, as today has shown.

I begin by being positive. I welcome the government amendments. The Government have listened to what we said in Committee and we thank the Minister for that. It would be most ungracious not to do that because I notice that the phrases, "principal aims", "standards of teaching", and "quality of learning" have been incorporated in the government amendments.

I realise that it may sound a little pedantic but I do not apologise for what I am about to say because other noble Lords agree with our concern. Indeed, the way in which the teaching profession has been treated in past years means that we have to be careful now. That is why I am disappointed that the Minister has not adopted our phrase, "to maintain and enhance", but has used instead the term, "to maintain and improve". We believe that the word "improve" has a slightly negative implication which is not helpful.

I turn now to our amendments, Amendments Nos. 12 and 14, which we hope will become Clauses 2 and 4. In doing so, I stress once again the importance of having as a general teaching council an independent professional body which can give the teaching profession status and authority. Many of us fear that, if we are not careful, such a body may become merely an arm of government. In passing, I must add that we warmly welcome Amendment No. 3 which ensures that the specific requirements of persons who are disabled are included on the face of the Bill.

Amendments Nos. 12 and 14 set out fully what we see as the functions of the council and the activities we believe it is right for the council to carry out. We feel that the present proposals give the GTC far too limited a role. Indeed, it is mainly an advisory role. Perhaps I should have referred to "the present proposals as far as we know them" because regulations are to follow and we do not quite know what will be the end result.

I believe that everyone, including the Government, is agreed that the setting up of the GTC is intended to have the effect of raising the status and esteem of the teaching profession. I believe that our two proposed new clauses leave teachers in no doubt that that is what we on these Benches want to see happen. Whether the Government have the same vision is open to question. The Minister has spelt out the differences between her vision and ours. I am not particularly optimistic that all that we would like will be taken on board so that we can have a truly effective general teaching council. This is particularly disappointing, because what we propose is precisely in line with the words of the Minister for School Standards when launching the consultation document on the Government's proposals for the general teaching council. He said that the aim was, to enhance the standing of teachers by giving them a clear professional voice, independent of government hut working with us to raise standards". That is what we seek to achieve by many of our amendments.

As the Minister pointed out, subsection (2) of the proposed new Clause 2 seeks to do very similar things to those proposed in the Government's clause. We make no apologies for that, because we have removed the Government's clause and included it in our new clause. Subsection (3) of our new clause makes clear that it is for the council to decide which other bodies it advises, not the Secretary of State. That point was discussed in Committee. Our proposed subsection (4) reintroduces some material. In part this was supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, when discussing amendments in Committee. Originally they were tabled to amend Clause 1. It emphasises standards and commits the profession to putting pupils first. We have grouped the functions in order. Paragraphs (d), (e) and (f) deal with developing the profession, which we feel is very important, while (g) (h) and (i) deal with the disciplinary code and the striking off of teachers.

Having listened to the Minister, I believe that there is some confusion. We do not envisage that the general teaching council should become involved in the individual appointment of teachers but rather that it should be fully involved in the way that this takes place. Paragraphs (j) and (k) deal with the wider aspects of the profession's work in the education service. We believe it is vital that it has a public say. That point is also picked up in our new Clause 4 which may well not be discussed today.

I turn to Amendment No. 14 which proposes our new Clause 4. Most of this is borrowed from Clause 7 of the Bill. It gives powers to the Welsh general teaching council which are not given to the English council, as the Minister said. Subsection (1) enables the GTC to take independent action on its own behalf to promote recruitment. Perhaps it can improve on some of the efforts that have been made so far. We think that this is an opportunity to deal with the real crisis that we face in teacher supply, retention and recruitment. Subsection (2) is particularly vital because it gives the general teaching council in England legal power to act publicly. Without that right it would not be able to publish material in any form, which effectively would be gagging the general teaching council. This reinforces our point that we want the council to be independent and not an arm of government.

If the Minister is still not minded to accept what we propose, we remind her of some of the issues raised last week in another place when a debate took place on the first report of the Education and Employment Select Committee for the 1997–98 Session. That report was entitled Teacher Recruitment: What can he done? The chairman of that committee, the honourable Margaret Hodge, when speaking in the debate in the other place last Wednesday, made two or three telling points. I repeat them for the benefit of the Minister and hope that they have some effect when she responds to the points that we make about the general teaching council. First, it was said that the teaching profession lacked self-esteem and struggled to meet the needs of children and the demands of policy-makers. Another point, which is very relevant, is that the Government must respond more enthusiastically than they have done so far to the report of the committee about standards and the need for teachers.

The chairman said that the committee had advanced radical and practical ideas to head off the growing crisis in teacher supply and was very disappointed by the Government's lukewarm response to the report. I suggest that when the Minister responds she takes that on hoard. I believe that many of the proposals that we have made to enhance the role of the general teaching council will go a long way towards convincing teachers that this is a profession to which they want to belong because the council will regulate that profession, work in its interests and lead to better working between government and teachers in the ensuing years.

5.30 p.m.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, for Amendment No. 2 which is clearly designed to meet the first amendment that I tabled at Committee stage. She gave an undertaking that she would look at it. I should like to be the first to express gratitude that she has tabled this amendment, which puts into rather better language the point that I sought to make at Committee stage. I believe that it is valuable to set out in these terms the aim of the general teaching council. Although my noble friend Lord Jenkin is not in his place this afternoon, I am quite sure that he would want me to thank the noble Baroness on his behalf for tabling Amendment No. 3. I believe that we all acknowledge it to be a very great improvement on the Government's proposals.

I turn to the other two amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, but spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. I recognise that Amendment No. 12 is in many ways designed to be similar to my Amendment No. 8, which I shall move later in the proceedings. I share some of the concerns about this amendment that have been expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone. Although I accept entirely the principles that lie behind it, on which I shall elaborate when I move my own amendment—namely, the importance of giving to teachers the responsibility which such a teaching council would give if it had powers to do the things that I believe it shouldI—I would be unhappy, for example, about the funding of the education service, which would lead us into difficulties, and the details about the curriculum syllabuses, and so on. I do not believe those to be matters for a general teaching council except very much in an advisory capacity. Many people will have a view about that. I am not quite sure that that is right.

However, I share some of the concerns in relation to Amendment No. 14, which applies to the teaching council in Wales. One quite worrying area is the recruitment of teachers. We are very short of men to teach in primary schools, for example. We all know how extremely difficult it is to get people to agree to be head teachers. That is something which emerges from talking to almost any teacher now in the profession. I believe that we must look at imaginative ways to improve the position. I quote just those examples but there are others that should be looked at.

I said in Committee—I apologise for repeating myself—that I thought very highly of the Teacher Training Agency. I know Professor Clive Booth personally, for whom I have a very high regard. I am quite certain that he is doing a very good job. This is not intended in any way as a criticism of him, but I should have thought that there was a role for the teaching council in recruitment, if only on the general principles set out here of helping, explaining and encouraging young people to consider taking up teaching at all.

We have to face the fact that although all of us here this afternoon are interested in education, and believe being a teacher to be one of the most important things one could ever do, the picture painted to young people in the outside world is not one of a life of interest and ease. I am reminded of a novel which I read many years ago which told of the young girl who wished to teach in a poor school in New York. I think that the title of the novel was Up the Down Staircase.In a way it summed up the position well. When she reached the class and was longing to explain to it the joys of literature, replies she got were not what she expected. The reality of teaching is different from the ideals.

The serious point about all that is the problem of recruitment, and the need to get across to young people that this is something of importance; that when one does it well it is very enjoyable, but extremely hard work for very little pay. There is definitely a down side to it. Any further ways of increasing recruitment will be an advantage. I am not here to pick holes in all this. I thank the Minister for accepting my original amendment. I shall return to the whole question of the principles of the GTC later in the debate.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth

My Lords, I took no part in the earlier stages of the Bill because I was abroad. I extend a warm welcome to Amendment No. 3 which gives the GTC a duty to have regard to the requirements of disabled people, which brings it into line with the Teacher Training Agency and the HEFCs. It has been useful way of reminding large organisations what a major impact their decisions can have on individual students. It will be important in this case for the GTC, which will be responsible for the medical-fitness-to-teach regulations, which in the past have been responsible for barring many disabled people from becoming teachers.

I have a question for the Minister. The GTC in Scotland, which already exists, does not have a duty to have regard to the requirements of disabled people. Does the Minister have any plans now to remove that anomaly? As she mentioned Amendment No. 5 relating to the composition of the council and the desirability of including someone concerned with the teaching of persons with special educational needs, I extend it a warm welcome to save time at a later stage.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

My Lords, I, too, welcome the amendment. The Minister has been as good as her word and brought it back. I think that it is thoroughly satisfactory. I have just one small point. It is no more than a schoolmasterly quibble, if you like. Perhaps I am reverting to type. I wonder whether one can "maintain" and "improve". Are they not in some sense mutually exclusive? Ought one perhaps to say "or improve as appropriate" or something like that? It may have got past the draftsman already, but it struck me that they were two rather different things, and you could not do them both at the same time. However, in principle, obviously, this is an amendment to be welcomed.

I would say the same about the amendment standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, because I believe we need a good deal more—if you like—beefing up on the face of the Bill for this council from the moment that it starts. I am also in two minds about one or two things that appear in the amendment. I shall not go over that ground. I rather wish that the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, had been grouped with these amendments, so that we could have heard her arguments at the same time, and I could have heard those before deciding on this matter, because it covers a great deal of the same ground. Having said that, I certainly approve in principle much that has been put in the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Tope.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I join my noble friend Lady Maddock in offering a welcome to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3. So far as they go, they are significant improvements. I am glad to see that they are going to be in the Bill. I said "so far as they go", because I must say a word in support of Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 to which I have put my name.

One of the key advantages of those amendments is that they get us away from the straitjacket of the existing Clause 2, which is the one that restricts the GTC entirely to the job of giving advice to the Secretary of State. I have always said that legislators, like parents, must learn to let their offspring grow up. They must learn to let the legislative progeny evolve, grow and develop in their own way, rather than perpetually seeking to control them.

Clause 2 treats the GTC like a toddler who is put in leading reins. I know that in dense traffic with a young child that occasionally may be necessary, but to keep them perpetually in leading reins as they grow older, seems to me to be unnecessary. It is likely to diminish the status of the GTC and its usefulness.

The key words in Amendment No. 14 are: The Council may of its own volition". The words, "of its own volition" cross a crucial watershed which the Minister's amendments have not approached.

I should like to say a few words in support of the particular points in Amendment No. 12. I must admit that I am a little surprised by the Minister's reading of subsection (4)(h) which provides: grounds for suspending and dismissing teachers". I cannot see anywhere in those words any intention to address individual cases. That was not in our minds. "Grounds" is a legislative rather than a judicial notion. It is general reasons why dismissal or suspension may be justified. The cases are different.

When the Minister talked of matters not on syllabuses or the curriculum, she reminded me a little of a former professor in the university of London—part of what is still known 30 and four years later as the ancien régime—who once said in the History Board of Studies: This proposal originates with the teachers of the subject which I regard as a most improper matter". I do not share that attitude. It is a little out of date. I was sorry to hear it from the Minister.

I was sorry, though not surprised, to hear what the Minister had to say about funding. That is a ministerial litany. If Ministers in the DfEE, or whatever name it may from time to time be known, have one signature tune it is not "Never on a Sunday", it is "Never on funding". I have been moving similar amendments to education Bills since 1988. They have been turned down every time, but I think that the results show that I was quite right to move them, and I wish that they had been accepted.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Peston

My Lords, the amendments put forward by my noble friend the Minister improve the Bill considerably. I think that they enhance the Bill. I particularly like the expression: in the interests of the public". I hope that noble Lords have noticed that that is what is said there. That is enormously useful. The distinction between the aims and functions is needed, as was pointed out, and my noble friend has dealt with that. Of course there is no disagreement between any of us on the amendment dealing with discrimination. That was obviously needed. It is a pleasure to see it there.

I agree, although I do not think that it is fundamental, with the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. I prefer the word "enhance" to the word "improve", but, to use her other word, is a bit pedantic. I would have chosen "enhance" but I do not think that we need to die in the last ditch between the words "enhance" and "improve".

On the remainder, I disagree with the noble Baroness. I stand second to none in my desire to see a considerable increase in funding of education. I think that my record in proposing that, which I have not forgotten now that I am on this side of the House, is not a minor one. I strongly support the need to improve the funding of the education service, but, until I saw Amendment No. 12, it had not occurred to me that that would be a major role for the GTC. When it comes into existence, it will probably find it irresistible to make the odd comment on funding, because all bodies do, but it would not have occurred to me to write that into the Bill.

I also find paragraph (k) confusing. It does not identify the curricula, syllabuses, examinations and testing. My inclination would be to exclude them from the Bill because I do not believe that Clause 2 is constricting. In that respect I disagree with the noble Earl, Lord Russell. On the contrary, I believe that at this stage it gives the general teaching council a massive role.

As we debated in Committee, this is the first stage in the development of the general teaching council. To use the noble Earl's analogy, it is the toddler in reins which many of us wish to see striding ahead on its own. There was some disagreement between us on how powerful the body should be. As my noble friend the Minister knows, I would have gone further, although I believe that the Government's position is within the bounds of reasonable discourse in not going further. If there were ever a matter on which one should agree to disagree this is it.

I share the anxiety of the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, that one does not want to see the general teaching council as an arm of government or in the pocket of the Secretary of State. It is worth getting that on the record. However, it will depend to a considerable extent on who is appointed as chairman, chief executive and members of the council. My noble friend is introducing an amendment relating to the number of teachers who will be members. However, my limited experience shows that the idea that any such person will end up in the pocket of the Secretary of State is unfounded. As soon as the body gets going, led by the chairman, it will start making trouble for the Secretary of State because that is exactly what such bodies do. Perhaps I should not have said that because he might change his mind about whether he wishes to go ahead with the proposal.

However, the reason for the body's existence is to do exactly what is proposed and I believe that it will. For that reason, I believe that Clause 14 is less important than the noble Baroness, said. The body is intended to enhance the professional development of teachers. I am convinced that it will do so. That is one of the most important paths towards improving the recruiting problem. The present trouble is that teaching does not look like the kind of attractive profession that a would-be professional wants to enter. I strongly believe that, even at this early stage, the general teaching council will he capable of returning us to the view that teaching is a noble profession of which one can be proud. However, that does not solve the problem expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I have seen teachers working in the most adverse physical and psychological circumstances, trying to explain to a group of oversized boys the pleasures of "Romeo and Juliet". The role of the council is to give enhancement to the profession.

I believe that my noble friend's amendment improves the Bill. We have our points on the record, which is helpful, but I am not persuaded that we need to go further at this stage. My noble friend has spoken of the next Parliament and new legislation, and I am convinced that we might have to do more in due course. However, I believe that we can tread a little carefully at this stage.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, I welcome Amendment No. 2 and I am grateful to the Minister for taking on board the points enshrined in the amendment tabled in Committee by the noble Baroness. Lady Young, and myself. The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, referred to raising the standards of the teaching profession and enhancing the standing of teachers. They are desirable objectives, but they cannot be achieved in a vacuum. I suggest that Amendment No. 2, which sets out the principal aims of the council, will set in context the enhancement of teachers' standing and will help to achieve the objective of improving the status of teachers. I strongly support the amendment.

Lord Butterfield

My Lords, perhaps I may make a small criticism of Amendment No. 2. I am anxious that when the teachers of this country read about the general teaching council they do not feel that it is lording things over them. I suggest that it might be more diplomatic to change the wording in subsection (b) of her amendment. The words, to maintain and improve standards", imply that in some cases the professional conduct among teachers is in need of improvement. I should prefer wording such as, "to encourage the highest standards of professional conduct among teachers". That leaves out any question of judgment of the present position.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, perhaps I may draw on my experience of Scotland and give the benefit of that to the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. If a general teaching council is to achieve all the objectives in her Amendment No. 12 it will need to have many committees and spend a great deal of time at a central point discussing them and deciding what to say. One of the problems for the general teaching council in Scotland is that members must be sure that it is worth paying their membership fees. They believe that if the council has executive powers and is taking actions which affect the issues it is worth doing so. They find no satisfaction in funding a talking shop. That applies also to teachers who must fill in for school teachers who are absent because they are members of the general teaching council. Therefore, from a local authority point of view, I doubt whether Amendment No. 12 is wise.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

My Lords, too, join the choir of praise for Amendment No. 2. It may therefore seem ungracious if I am then critical of what has been omitted. The Minister may remember that when we discussed the Bill on Second Reading I supported the Government's evolutionary approach. But when it emerged that their evolution was at a dinosaur-like pace and that we had to wait until the next Parliament I began to worry. When I discovered that evolution was blocked by the fact that the Bill cannot be altered except by primary legislation—and we know that there is little possibility of that in this Parliament—my worries became considerable.

I should have liked the Minister to include in Clause 2 powers to control the register on the grounds of professional conduct. I and my noble friends will support her amendment to that extent at subsequent stages of the Bill. However, I believe that the Government are making a great mistake and that teachers will be resentful of paying money to a general teaching council which will have no powers. It will become a source of discontent. I have spoken to my own union, the National Association of Head Teachers, and to two other unions and all of them share my opinion on the matter. Even at this late stage, I urge the Minister to discuss with her colleagues in the other place the possibility of at least giving the teachers some control over the register as regards standards of teaching and the quality of learning. Otherwise, I see great problems ahead.

My noble friend Lady Young will debate the issue later when we return to it, but it is important. The council will become not only a talking shop but a discontented talking shop. The teachers will not be pleased that the Government have created a council with such limited powers. Like everyone else, I welcome the support given to the disabled and to the whole intention of the Bill, but without powers it is a sorry business.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

My Lords, I wish to make a point which I made in Committee but which has not been made on Report. I, too, welcome Amendments Nos. 2 and 3. I listened carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, and to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, about the powers of the general teaching council. I particularly noted the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, about the words in Amendment No. 14: The Council may of its own volition undertake activities". That distinguishes it from the parallel clause for the General Teaching Council in Wales. Although many phrases are the same, there it is the Secretary of State who instructs the council to undertake work.

The point I wish to make is not unlike that made about teachers paying fees. I wonder who will consider it worth belonging to the general council. It is clear that if the general council is to be effective it must have people of the highest calibre, but they will only be attracted to it if they feel that it can undertake work of real significance. In my view, unless greater powers are given to the General Teaching Council in the Bill I am not clear that people of calibre will be willing to serve on it.

6 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am sorry that Members of your Lordships' House have not been entirely in support of Amendment No. 2, although I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, who supported it, as did one or two others who have spoken in the debate. In my view the amendment clearly states the principal aim of the General Teaching Council, showing how it would represent professional standards and promote a positive image of teaching. Of course I accept how important that is in the current teacher supply situation. The council will play a vital role in improving standards of teaching and professional conduct and will raise the quality of learning.

I believe that the amendment fully reflects the principle behind the amendments tabled at Committee by the noble Baronesses, Lady Young and Lady Maddock, and the noble Lords, Lord Northbourne and Lord Tope. It was intended to do so. However, I am delighted that Amendment No. 3 is widely supported by noble Lords. It will ensure that needs of disabled people are taken into account by the GTC in the course of its work.

Perhaps I may deal straight away with the point made by the right reverend Prelate. He asked whether it would be likely that people of high calibre would come forward if the powers of the GTC were limited in the way that we suggest. I cannot judge what will happen in the future, but the Government believe and hope that after so many years of waiting for a GTC, something which the teaching profession has wanted for a long time, excellent people will come forward who are willing to serve and will do so.

I add that we have said all along that we wanted an evolutionary approach, as the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, said. The NUT which is the largest teachers' union takes that view. I received a letter recently from the General Secretary of the NUT which said: The Union believes that the establishment of the GTC…should he by way of a small number of enabling clauses, followed by subsequent regulations… As the largest teacher organisation, we believe that the creation of a body which is entirely new requires a 'step-by-step' approach which seeks to achieve consensus. Placing all the powers of a GTC in primary legislation could create division rather than consensus". Although I do not always agree with everything that Doug McAvoy says on all matters, on this occasion he has set out in a clear and succinct form some important reasons for supporting the Government's approach.

The noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, criticised Amendment No. 2 on the grounds that it might be slightly insulting to teachers. I do not believe that. We can all improve our standards and I say that as someone who was a university teacher for a long time. Good teachers believe that it is always worth looking at how to do things better and how to improve.

Lord Butterfield

My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt—

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, that brings me to the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. Should we use the term "enhance" or "improve"? I do not see much difference between them, they seem to be similar and I am not strongly wedded to one or the other.

The noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, said that in a schoolmasterly way he would question whether we could say both "maintain" and "improve", and that in some way they are contradictory. I see his point, but the wording has been through the parliamentary draftsmen. They think it reasonable and not contradictory, and I hope that the noble Earl can accept that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, raised one or two questions about whether we would be jeopardising the independence of the GTC in the way in which we have worded our amendment. My noble friend Lord Peston suggested that that was not the case and I strongly agree. The Government wish to see a strong and independent GTC giving independent advice to the Secretary of State. It would defeat the object if that were not the case.

The noble Baroness and other Members of your Lordships' House raised the issue of whether what her amendment says in relation to individual appointments and dismissals cuts across employers. The noble Baroness said that there was no intention to do that. I can take the matter away and examine it, but my advice is that the way in which it is currently drafted means it could well be interpreted to cut across the role of employers.

Baroness Maddock

My Lords,—

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, as this is Report stage, the noble Baroness may wish, before I sit down, to ask a question for elucidation. In that case I should be happy to answer it. Would she like to do it now?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, we are dealing with a point of order. My understanding is that on a point of order the Red Book says that one can intervene for clarification. The noble Baroness has just refused to allow my noble friend Lord Butterfield to do just that on a point of clarification. Having given the promise that she would be accommodating on points of clarification, she has now accepted a question from a Member of the Liberal Benches.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I was not aware that the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, wished to ask a question on a point of clarification. I thought he was going to make a further point. He did not proceed to ask a question but, if he wishes, I am happy to accept a question, as I am from the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. That is, if it is a point of clarification on what I have been saying.

Baroness Maddock

My Lords, I wish to clarify whether the Minister understood that what we are saying is that the provision concerns advice and teachers advising on what the standards should be and no more.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, if the point concerns advising, I am happy to take the wording away and ask for its re-examination, to see whether it can be drafted in such a way as to make it absolutely clear that it concerns advice. I shall then come back to it. I am happy now to give way to the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield.

Lord Butterfield

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I merely wished to ask what was the difference between the Minister's amendment and my suggestion that the provision be worded: "to encourage the highest standards of professional conduct". That is perhaps a little less pejorative of the professional standards of the profession today.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, the government amendment makes it clear that that is what we want to do. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, will accept that that is what the Government have in mind.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, raised questions about teacher supply. I agree with them that that is a serious problem—both trying to recruit more men into primary schools and to make sure that more people come forward for headships. That is a particular problem in the primary sector and much less of a problem at the secondary level.

The Government are taking a number of actions to try to deal with the problem of boosting recruitment. The TTA has that very much at the forefront of its current work. As I mentioned in Committee, a number of advertisements have been shown in cinemas to which there has been quite a good response. But clearly we must monitor the position and continue to do more.

I believe that the very existence of a GTC which speaks for the profession will raise its status and the self-esteem of teachers which has been referred to. However, we must remember that the TTA also has the primary responsibility for teacher supply and I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for what she said about the work of the current chairman, Professor Booth, because we all have the highest regard for what he is doing.

The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, asked about disabled people in Scotland and the Scottish GTC.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I was not speaking about disabled people. I suggested that Amendment No. 12 might be very time consuming for teachers and therefore very expensive for local authorities and schools. I did not address the government amendments which I believe are excellent.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth

My Lords, I asked the question about whether the duty should be attached to have regard to the Scottish Teaching Council.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am most grateful for that. I have come to assume that any reference to Scotland comes from the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, who is so assiduous, and rightly so, in promoting the position of Scotland. I shall have to write to the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy, about that. There is a question as to whether that would be within the scope of this Bill, which is not about setting up a GTC for Scotland but about setting up a GTC for England and Wales.

I have tried to respond to all the issues that have been raised. I regret that I cannot support Amendment No. 12 as it would add a significant number of additional responsibilities which we do not see falling properly to the GTC at present. However, as I said earlier in the debate, I am prepared to consider further whether Clause 2 fully secures our intention that the GTC should be a major partner in the national drive to raise standards in schools, if that helps the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield.

As regards Amendment No. 14, I am pleased that your Lordships value the work done by the TTA and accept the importance of the TTA working in harmony to raise standards in the teaching profession. I am sure that all noble Lords in this House will agree that that is a very desirable objective. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will not press her amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1. line 17, at end insert— ("() In exercising their functions, the Council shall have regard to the requirements of persons who are disabled persons for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I beg to move that consideration on Report be now adjourned.

Moved accordingly and. on Question, Motion agreed to.

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