HL Deb 26 February 1998 vol 586 cc799-855

3.35 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone)

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.—(Baroness Blackstone.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 1 [The General Teaching Council]:

Lord Northbourne moved No. 3A: Page 2, line 7, at end insert— ("() pupils in schools, () the parents of pupils in schools,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 3A was ably moved in Committee in my absence by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. Together with other amendments in the group, it relates to the question of whose interests should be reflected in the membership of the general teaching council. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that we are not talking about who should be represented on the council, but whose interests should be reflected on it.

I ask myself what the word "interest" means in this case. I assume that it means the same as in the phrase "vested interest" or the interest which your Lordships are obliged to disclose in your Lordships' House. If that is what "interest" means, it seems to me that the category of persons who par excellence has the greatest interest in the success of the GTC is the pupils.

It is stating the obvious to say that if teachers are less good than they should be the pupils suffer. They suffer currently from boredom and in later life from unemployment. In that case, pupils are the customers and their interests should be taken into account. The Bill directs the Secretary of State to have, regard to the desirability of the Council's membership reflecting the interests of … teachers, employers of teachers, providers of teacher-training". There is then a reference to the general public, but there is no focused reference to the customers. If the Bill stands as it is there is a guarantee that the interests of providers will be reflected in the composition of the council, but there is none in respect of consumers.

I do not suggest that pupils should be represented on the council and should stand for election or otherwise. I suggest only that the Secretary of State should be directed by the Bill to ensure that there are plenty of voices on the council to reflect the interests of pupils. I do not intend to object to the Minister's Amendment No. 6 because I am confident and fully accept that most teachers will want to reflect the interests of pupils even ahead of their own interests. But some will not. Therefore, I urge the Government to accept Amendment No. 3A so that the Secretary of State will be clearly directed by the Bill to have regard to the importance of appointing members to the GTC, whether they be teachers or not, who will be prepared to speak out when necessary for the interests of the consumers; that is to say, the pupils and their parents. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, in speaking to this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 5, 5A, 6, 7, 79 and 80.

I listened carefully to the points raised in Committee about the need to provide further detail on the face of the Bill about the composition of the general teaching council. The council must bring together and reflect the interests of all those with a stake in ensuring high standards in teaching—parents, employers, higher education and the wider public as well as teachers. It must be able to speak with authority on behalf of the profession and command the respect of the public.

We will be consulting on the composition of the council to ensure that we have a clear understanding of the views of all those in the system so that we can take forward the establishment of the council on a firm and agreed basis. We do not want to close off options for that consultation. However, equally, we accept the case for offering the clearest possible statement of our intentions at this stage, and for allowing an early opportunity for further discussion on the proposed detail.

I shall speak first to Amendments Nos. 79 and 80. I have reflected on the points made during our previous debate. After careful consideration, I agree that both Houses should have an opportunity to debate the regulations governing the composition of the council. I am persuaded that we should take the opportunity to ensure that the Government's proposals have the support of both Houses. I have therefore brought forward Amendment No. 79 which will require the regulations on the composition of the council to be subject to the approval of each House of Parliament on the first occasion they are made. That will ensure that we are able to have a full debate taking into account the results of our consultation before the final arrangements are put in place.

I do not, however, see a need for regulations made thereafter to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. Any subsequent revisions are likely to be of a minor or technical nature. I would not wish valuable parliamentary time to be used to examine minor changes. I have, however, brought forward Amendment No. 80 which will require the Secretary of State to consult the council, once established, before making regulations under any of the powers in this chapter of the Bill.

Let me take the opportunity to clarify a misunderstanding which arose in Committee. I am advised that the reference to the "constitution" of the council in Clause 1(3) should be taken to refer to the membership of the council. The regulation-making power in Clause 1(3) will probably be used in conjunction with that in paragraph 3 of Schedule I which governs the election or appointment of council members. We envisage that the membership will be established through a combination of direct teacher elections, nominations from third parties, including major educational interests, and appointments by the Secretary of State.

I turn now to Amendment No. 6. During our previous debate there was strong support in all parts of your Lordships' House for us to look again at the representation of serving teachers on the council. This will be the professional body for teachers and it must speak with authority on behalf of the teaching profession. But it must also reflect the input of those from outside the profession who share a common interest in securing high professional standards for teachers. The council's work will also benefit if the council includes some members who can bring valuable experience and fresh perspectives from other walks of life.

I considered the points raised and tabled Amendment No. 6 which requires that at least half the membership of the council should be serving and qualified teachers. That reflects the wording of the amendments moved in Committee by the noble Baronesses, Lady Young and Lady Maddock. However, since tabling the amendment, I have had the opportunity to reflect further on Amendment No. 4, which we shall consider later, which provides that teachers would form a majority of the council. There may not be a great deal of practical difference between "at least half' and "a majority", but I recognise an important difference of emphasis. I am therefore happy to accept in principle that serving, qualified teachers should form a majority on the council. That clearly signals our intention that serving teachers will be the major force on the council properly balanced by other interests within the educational world and "lay" members to represent the wider public.

I believe it is right, however, that the teachers on the council should be qualified teachers with recent experience of teaching. The council will benefit from their experience of teaching in the classroom and they will be able to command the respect of their colleagues. With your Lordships' leave, I shall therefore not proceed with Amendment No. 6 and will return to the House at Third Reading with an appropriate amendment which sets out that teachers should form a majority of the council but that those teachers should be serving and qualified teachers. Amendment No. 4 does not provide for that so I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, will be content with my proposed approach and will be prepared to withdraw his amendment too.

I move on to Amendment No. 5, which provides for the Secretary of State to have regard to the desirability of the council's membership reflecting the interests of commerce and industry and those with special educational needs. There was, I think, strong support for these interests being included when we debated these issues earlier and I am happy to reflect the mood of the House in bringing forward this amendment.

On Amendment No. 5A, however, I agree that it is important that the interests of the Churches who provide training for teachers should be represented on the council. I know that they are committed to ensuring high standards among the teaching profession and that they would provide a valuable contribution and perspective to the work of the council. I am not, however, totally convinced that an amendment is necessary to achieve that.

Subsection (4) of Clause 1 lists employers of teachers and providers of teacher training as interests to which the Secretary of State must have regard when making regulations on the composition of the council. Denominational schools and teacher training institutions employ and train large numbers of our teachers. The Secretary of State will certainly have regard to representation on the council of the Churches in these various guises.

Having heard the debate today, however. I am willing to commit the Government to consult on the composition of the council on the basis that we are committed to ensuring that the interests of the Churches are represented on the council and that we wish to invite views on how this can best be achieved. There might be several ways. One would be for the Churches, who have substantial numbers of denominational schools and teacher training institutions, to make nominations to the council. Another might be for the Secretary of State to make appropriate appointments to the council. There could be other ways. We shall be interested to see what results from the consultation. But I am anxious not to tie our hands at this stage as to precisely how we can best ensure that the range of Church interests are properly reflected in the composition of the council. I hope that what I have said will be welcome to the noble Baroness and she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Turning to Amendment No. 3A, I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, that the council must always have the needs of pupils and parents foremost in its mind. Putting the consumer first is the essence of professionalism. I agree that it is important for consumers of education to be represented on the council. They will bring an important perspective to the work of the council and ensure that the council is focused ultimately on promoting high standards of teaching and learning in the interests of the wider public. I am not sure how practical it would be for the pupils themselves to be represented on the council. I would be interested to hear the ideas of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, on how that might be done and we can certainly invite views in our consultation document. But I agree that it is essential for the voice of parents to be represented in some way on the council. Subsection (4) of Clause 1 requires the Secretary of State to have regard to the desirability of the general public being represented on the council. It has always been our intention that this should allow for parents as well as other interests to be represented.

We intend to consult on the basis that the interests of parents must be represented on the council and invite views on how that might best be achieved. There may be several ways to do this, so, again, I would not like to close off any options before we have had a response to the consultation exercise. It may be possible to consider nominations by national bodies, such as the National Council of Parent Teacher Associations. It may also be possible to look at ways of recognising the valuable contribution that parents make as governors of schools, possibly through bodies such as the National Governor's Council. Alternatively, the Secretary of State could seek to make a number of appointments which can be seen to represent the parent voice. We intend to invite views in our consultation paper on the best approach. However, I should not like to settle on a particular approach at this stage.

The House has already accepted the Government's aim at Committee stage which set out that the council must perform its functions in the interests of the public. The council must not be a talking shop for teachers. It must be outward looking and have the right balance of interests to ensure that it does not lose that focus. I believe, above all, that that should be our intention and that the current drafting of Clause 1, as amended, secures that aim. In the light of that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, will not wish to press his amendment.

Amendment No. 7 is a technical amendment to paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 and relates to the regulations which will make provision for the methods of appointment or election of members of the council and the chairman of the council. As I said earlier, this power is likely to be used in conjunction with that in Clause 1(3) in establishing the composition of the council. The paragraph currently provides that the regulations may enable the council to make those arrangements. We envisage that the regulations might set a broad framework, within which the GTC could fill in the detail.

The amendment is necessary to enable the Secretary of State to make such arrangements in the first instance before the GTC is established. That will avoid the need for such matters to be prescribed in excessive detail in the regulations themselves. It would, for example, allow for an electoral scheme to be drawn up to cover the first teacher elections to the council. I understand that other professional bodies draw up such schemes to govern their elections, and that they go into the sort of detail that would not be appropriate in a statutory instrument. I must emphasise that this amendment only affects those arrangements which will need to be made in order to elect or appoint the initial council membership. Thereafter, the GTC can be empowered to make its own arrangements and set them out as council rules.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, in regard to the observations made by my noble friend the Minister about Amendment No. 5A, could she bear in mind the rather more embracing phrase of "religious denominations" rather than the word "Churches"?

Baroness Perry of Southwark

My Lords, Amendment No. 5A is tabled in my name. I am grateful to the Minister for her reassuring words about the Government's intentions in that regard. I know that the consultation that she and her colleagues have given to the Churches during the passage of this Bill, and that which is passing through the other place, has been most welcome.

Nevertheless, I am slightly nervous about accepting that the consultation and the regulations would be the only guarantee of the interests of the Churches being represented on the GTC. I am sure that I do not need to rehearse in this House the enormous importance of the contribution of the Churches to the development of education historically in this country; indeed, not only historically but, today, I believe that it is the case that about one-quarter of all teachers teaching in our schools were trained in one of the Churches' colleges. So their contribution as teacher trainers is still very substantial and that also applies as regards their role as providers of education in the Church schools. As the Minister has acknowledged, the standards that the Churches have set are very high and very popular with parents.

Therefore, I should very much like to see on the face of the Bill a permanent assurance that future Secretaries of State—not only the present Secretary of State—would bear in mind the interests of the Churches in appointments to the GTC. I have no intention of pressing my amendment today. Nevertheless, when we reach the Third Reading stage, I hope that we shall have some assurance that the interests of the Churches as trainers of teachers will remain on the face of the Bill.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the co-operative style of today's debate and for the way in which she has approached our many worries. Indeed, in view of the storms of the past, we have moved into pastoral idylls—and long may it remain so! I am glad to note that the Minister agrees to affirmative resolutions for when these regulations and the composition of the council is decided. However, I would fail in my duty, standing at this Dispatch Box for Her Majesty's Opposition, if I did not say that, although these details are helpful and I welcome the co-operation, I should like a little more flesh on the bones before the legislation goes to the other place.

Perhaps I may give the House one example. A rather important point is that the different styles of school should be represented. By that I mean, primary, junior, comprehensive, grammar and, indeed, some from the independent sector. I support my noble friend's views about the importance of Church representation. In the constructive mode in which we have begun our debates this afternoon, I should say that I believe the passage of the Bill would be helped in the other place if the department could find it in its heart to give those further details and even go as far as to outline some methods of selection that it is suggesting.

I know that the Minister is just as aware as I am that the consultation has very nearly reached the end of its process. Indeed, the amount of documentation that I have received, and the amount which must have gone to the Minister, makes the Koran and the Bible look like novelettes. To make the passage of the Bill easier and to ease the controversy which inevitably arises—as, indeed, happened during the discussions on the composition of a general teaching council which were bedevilled by such controversy in the early 1980s—the more detail the Government can give the more helpful it will be to them. Therefore, what the Minister has said is welcome, but I should like the Government to make the carcass a little fatter.

Lord Walton of Detchant

My Lords, I, too, should like to express my pleasure and gratitude to the Minister for introducing Amendment No. 79, which I believe is welcomed by all sides of the House. In the light of her comments about the council having a majority of qualified teachers among its membership, I imagine that it is likely that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and others may decide not to move Amendment No. 4.

However, before that issue arises, perhaps I may point out to the House an aspect of the wording in Amendment No. 6, which the Minister confirmed, by way of the assurances that she gave, she will now modify. The amendment refers to persons, appointed or elected to the Council as qualified teachers within the meaning of section 218(2) of the Education Reform Act 1988, who are employed, or otherwise engaged to provide their services, as teachers". I raised this important point on Second Reading. I believe that that wording would preclude the employment of teachers—qualified, senior and experienced—who have recently retired from employment. Past experience with other regulatory authorities has shown that the demands upon members of such bodies become extremely arduous at times.

It has proved to be a great advantage in, for example, the General Medical Council and the General Dental Council, and other bodies, to have as members some of those who may have taken retirement at the age of 60 or thereabouts but who are still well within the age limits prescribed and who could in fact make a very effective contribution. Hence, if I may say so, I believe that it would be right to suggest that the wording of the amendment should be modified to refer to persons, who are employed, or who have recently been employed, as qualified teachers". That is an important issue relating to future membership.

4 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I express my gratitude to the noble Baroness for Amendment No. 5, which I believe will be the first reference in this Bill to persons with special educational needs. The reason there are no amendments to this Bill concerning such persons is that we had a constructive meeting with the Minister, Estelle Morris, on 21st January, attended by my noble friend Lady Blatch and Dr. Berry, Member of Parliament and chairman of the all-party disability group— the meeting was supported by all sides of this House—concerning what is to be done about children with special educational needs. The two main issues concerned whether the rights of the child, which were removed by the 1993 Act, should be restored, and whether the SEN regulations should be amended so as to ensure that the child had a right to be heard or represented. As I said, it was a most constructive discussion. On that basis, no amendments were sought to be tabled to this Bill, but the hope is that in due course—nothing can be done at once—when parliamentary time is available, these matters will receive attention in another Bill. I reiterate my gratitude to the noble Baroness for having at least recognised in this Bill the existence of persons with special educational needs.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

My Lords, I support Amendment No. 5A of the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, and apologise to the Minister for not being present when she began her speech. I was in consultation with one of her ministerial colleagues. I shall read what she has said in Hansard with great interest. Having listened to the debate since then, and having gathered that, after consultation, the membership of the GTC will be reflected in regulations, I support the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry.

As we commented in Committee, the involvement of the Churches in the whole educational system is huge. It would be surprising—whatever form the general teaching council takes—if there were not representatives of the Churches on the council under one or more heads, probably that of teachers, employers, and many of the other categories that are mentioned. Nevertheless there is no explicit mention of the Churches. The amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, refers to, those Churches which provide training for teachers". There are 19 colleges which belong to the Church and Associated Colleges Group, and almost all of those are church related colleges. They are now colleges of higher education rather than teacher training colleges, but they still provide a large number of teachers. The most recent figure I have been given of those who are at present being prepared for initial teacher training in the primary sector and who are trained in such colleges is 27 per cent. This, of course, reflects also the massive involvement of those Churches at the school level and not just at the initial teacher training level. I hope that the Minister will be able to give positive encouragement to those of us who feel that somewhere on the face of the Bill there needs to be recognition of this huge involvement of the Churches. This needs to be reflected in the membership of the GTC.

Baroness Young

My Lords. I wish to intervene briefly. First, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, for what she has said about Amendment No. 6. I recognise that she will withdraw it. but the important point about qualified teachers has been taken by the Government and I am grateful for that. I support what the noble Lord, Lord Walton, has said. He made a practical and realistic suggestion. The idea that teachers could give up much time during the course of a term to work on the council seems to me to be rather unrealistic. That is a point that needs to be considered.

I also support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Perry. I declare an interest as a governor of Westminster College, Oxford. The comments of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon are quite right. I think that we all believe in the dual system of education. We know the major role that the Churches play in the provision of education, which has been so much a part of the educational world right from the early 19th century. It was established by statute in 1944. There ought to be some provision on the face of the Bill to recognise that. However, we may be told that the wording of the provision is not quite right. Nevertheless I believe, from her remarks, that the Minister was sympathetic to this point. Such a provision on the face of the Bill would give a real assurance that this major part of the educational system is recognised.

Lord Tope

My Lords, I join in the gratitude and praise that are being heaped upon the Minister this afternoon. Like the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, I believe we have had a positive start to these proceedings. That is a welcome change from what occurred earlier in the week. I welcome what the Minister had to say with reference to her Amendment No. 6 and my Amendment No. 4, which I shall not move in view of what she has said. She has recognised that there is a difference between the phrase, "not less than half" and the phrase, "a majority". That may be a semantic difference in some respects, but it is not necessarily so. The phrase, "not less than half' means what it says. If we are talking about half the council, and the chair has the casting vote, that is not a majority. Therefore I believe that there is an important difference between the two phrases. I certainly would have pressed Amendment No. 4 if the Minister had not said that the Government intend the majority membership of the GTC to comprise teachers, and that an amendment will be forthcoming at Third Reading. As I have said, in the light of that assurance I shall not move my amendment.

I echo the wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, on the time that people can spare. However, the only reservation I have is that the experience of those teachers who may no longer be employed as teachers needs to be relatively recent. As we all know, it is a fast-changing world, not least in schools, and experience can rapidly become out of date. I am sure that when the Minister frames the amendment on Third Reading she will bear that in mind. I repeat that I shall not move my Amendment No. 4. That seems to be something I am saying too often this week.

I turn to the other amendments we are discussing. The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, may speak again in a moment, but I understood him to say that he was not proposing that pupils themselves should be members of the GTC, nor indeed parents of pupils, which might possibly be more practicable, but rather that their interests should be recognised. I believe that is not quite what the amendment states. However, the intention of the amendment is one that we wholeheartedly support, as I believe does the Minister. Perhaps a further amendment could be framed more accurately to reflect that interest.

I welcome Amendment No. 5 in the name of the Minister and the recognition of the teaching, of persons with special educational needs". That is an important matter for my party and the Minister's amendment is welcome. I am pleased that the Minister has included that matter on the face of the Bill. I also welcome the recognition of the interests of commerce and industry. That, again, reflects part of an amendment which 1 and my noble friends moved in Committee. I am pleased that the Minister has recognised the importance of what we said in that regard.

As regards Amendment No. 5A, again I have a sense of the positive proceedings that have taken place this afternoon. As has already been said, it is important that we recognise the role the Churches play in providing training for teachers, and in our schools. It is important that that role is properly recognised on the GTC. I am not exactly sure how that is best done but it is important that it is done. We certainly support the amendment.

I again welcome Amendments Nos. 79 and 80. At Committee stage we made much—and I think rightly—of the unsatisfactory nature of this Bill and of how much was left to regulation. Therefore it is important that the House has an opportunity to examine and debate those regulations. I am pleased that the Minister has recognised those genuine and important concerns and has tabled these amendments at this stage.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

My Lords, I am in the happy position of being able to tear up my notes on Amendment No. 4, as we are not now going to have an issue over that one. I no longer need to make a number of points, but will reinforce the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Tope. I join him in saying that at least half is not quite the same thing as a majority. I am glad that the noble Baroness accepted that point, and I join the chorus of congratulations on the flexibility that she is showing on this, as in respect of Amendments Nos. 79 and 80 and affirmative resolutions. We are very grateful.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Walton of Detchant. His remarks reminded me that I was a serving teacher at a comprehensive school when I first became, technically, a Member of this House. There was not a ghostly chance of my getting time off to spend any period here. I imagine the same would be true of the general teaching council. That point ought to be borne in mind.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, my only contribution to discussion on Clause 1 in Committee was that teachers should have the majority on the council. I do not think that it is even slightly different to have it being not less than half. They will in theory control their own council and that is an important point. I am sure that the Government are doing the right thing. I am wondering whether those teachers will have to be registered teachers. It would be slightly strange if the council is controlled by people who are not on the register that they keep. That points out the anomalies in the Bill, which makes it not actually essential to be on a register to teach at a school. I understand from the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland that only teachers in state schools will have to be registered. There is a slightly awkward anomaly here that the Government ought perhaps to address.

Lord Annan

My Lords, I much agree with the amendment proposed by the noble Lord. Lord Walton of Detchant, but there is a point to which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, drew attention. It would be helpful if the words "religious denominations" were used rather than "Churches". I am sure that our non-conformist colleagues and those in the Society of Friends would not object terribly to being called a Church but it is important for other faiths that they should not be designated in that particular way.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for what she said about Amendment No. 3A.

Noble Lords


Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, may speak at the end. I begin by saying how grateful I am to Members of your Lordships' House who have spoken in the debate. We are moving towards a very constructive discussion.

As to Amendment No. 3A, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, the interests of parents and pupils are central to the setting up of the GTC, which is about the raising of the professional standards of teachers. We will of course consult further about the possible representation of parents on the council. in light of that, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

On Amendment No. 5, I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, for his remarks about his discussions with my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State. There is widespread support in the House for the desirability of the council's membership reflecting persons who have knowledge and understanding of pupils with special educational needs. I am very glad that that amendment has been welcomed.

With regard to Amendment No. 5A, I will pick up the point made by the noble Lords, Lord Mishcon and Lord Annan. Of course I take the point that we are not just talking about churches but also religious denominations—religious interests, indeed—and will take that into account. I support also the remarks of the right reverend Prelate and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, about the major role that the Churches in particular but other denominations also play in the provision of education. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that the interests of the Churches are represented. We will be consulting on the membership of the council and shall listen closely to any suggestions from the Churches on how best to ensure that denominational interests are well represented.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, thought that something ought to be on the face of the Bill, and I undertake to consider further how we could make our intentions clearer and whether an amendment might be appropriate. I think that would have to be done in another place.

The GTC will be working to raise the quality of teaching and learning in our schools for the benefit of a wide range of people. The noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, was supported by the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, on the issue of whether we could ensure that some teachers on the council were recently retired. It is important that any teachers on the GTC should have recent classroom experience, but I recognise the noble Earl's point about the contribution that newly retired teachers might be able to make. I would be happy to consider that matter further and whether the Government can bring forward an appropriate amendment at a later stage.

The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, referred to the importance of different types of schools—primary and secondary. I am not sure that he mentioned the nursery schools but they also should be included. We will certainly consult on how to involve different types of schools but I am reluctant to put more detail on the face of the Bill, so that we do not constrain consultation. Your Lordships will of course have the opportunity to debate the regulations before they are made.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, for his comments about Amendment No. 4, which he intends to withdraw, and Amendment No. 6. I hope that we are able to come forward with something on which we all agree.

4.15 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, with the leave of the House and before the noble Baroness sits down, she did not answer my question. I was not inquiring about retired teachers but questioning whether teachers would have to be registered.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, some retired teachers might not be registered, so I linked the noble Baroness's point with that. Perhaps she was also referring to teachers in independent schools. All state school teachers must be registered under the legislation. I hope that as many teachers as possible in independent schools would want to register. I think that it is important that they do. We ought to be able to draw from registered teachers in independent schools representatives for the GTC. Again, that is something on which we shall consult.

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, I confirm the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Tope. I definitely said in my introductory remarks that I was not suggesting that representatives of pupils should sit on the council.

This leads to an important point. In our discussions we are confusing the words "reflecting the interest of" with the word "representation". That difference needs some consideration. I shall read carefully in the Official Report what the noble Baroness said. However, I had the impression that she was prepared to look again at the ways in which the interests of consumers will be reflected in the provision.

It is important that the wrong message is not on the face of the Bill. I think that the noble Baroness's heart is in the right place but the Bill does not reflect that position accurately. Perhaps she will be prepared to discuss the matter. On that basis, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Strabolgi)

My Lords, Amendment No. 5A comes next. The Marshalled List is wrong.

Baroness Perry of Southwark

My Lords, I listened with great care to what the noble Baroness said about Amendment No. 5A. I am slightly concerned—

The Deputy Speaker

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness. If she wishes to make a speech, as she is perfectly entitled to do, will she please move the amendment? We are on Amendment No. 5A. I have called the name of the noble Baroness.

[Amendment No. 5A not moved.]

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 5: Page 2, line 10, after ("training,") insert— ("() persons concerned with the teaching of persons with special educational needs, () commerce and industry,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 6 not moved.]

Schedule 1 [General Teaching Council]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 7: Page 25, line 33, leave out from ("Regulations") to end of line 34 and insert ("made under this paragraph before the establishment of the Council may enable the Secretary of State to make provision with respect to any of the matters referred to in sub-paragraph (1): but regulations made under this paragraph after the Council have been established may authorise the Council to make rules with respect to any such matters.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 8: Before Clause 2, insert the following new clause—


(" .—(1) The Council shall be responsible for determining the following matters—

  1. (a) standards of teaching;
  2. (b) standards of conduct for teachers: and
  3. (c) medical fitness to teach.

(2) The Council may be required to seek advice from—

  1. (a) the Secretary of State; or
  2. (b) such other persons or bodies that he may from time to time designate, on matters falling within subsection (1).

(3) This section has effect in relation to regulations made under subsections (2), (3) and (6) of section 218 of the Education Reform Act 1988 (regulations relating to schools, etc.) as they apply to teachers at schools.

(4) The Secretary of State shall make provision in such regulations for a determination or direction under those regulations to be made by the Council.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment falls into a rather different category from those to which we have been speaking. It refers to the general teaching council. The point at issue is what kind of council we want. The purpose of the council should be to give real responsibility. At Second Reading and in Committee comparisons were made with both the Law Society and the General Medical Council. There is anxiety that if the council does not have the power to do certain things it will be seen as a second class council, and certainly second class in relation to other professional bodies. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon made an important point. He said that if the council were not seen in the same class as other professional bodies it would not attract the same able people. That in itself would be damaging.

I agree entirely with what the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said about teachers at Second Reading. I think that we would all agree. At col. 253 of the Official Report of 11th December 1997, she said: Teachers are our greatest educational resource. Teachers, in particular head teachers, are at the heart of our drive to raise standards". She went on: This Government listen to teachers and we intend to work in partnership with them". Later, at col. 255, she said: This Government are determined to restore pride and professionalism to the teaching profession". The noble Baroness made various comments on the White Paper, Excellence in Schools. I believe that there is not one person in your Lordships' House who would not entirely support all those statements. It was disappointing therefore that when we discussed this matter in Committee the teachers who had been referred to in such glowing terms were not described in the same way. If one looks, for instance, at the crucial matter of debarring teachers, the noble Baroness said at col. 1449 of the Official Report of 20th January 1997: The public have a right to expect that the protection of children will he governed by a coherent, consistent and rigorous barring regime". I entirely agree with that statement. But if we do not think that teachers are capable of carrying out that aim. it suggests that we do not think that they have full responsibility. We cannot have one without the other.

The noble Baroness spoke about the registry of teachers and barring them from the profession. Again, the suggestion is that teachers cannot he trusted to undertake those important tasks. I ask myself why. I ask particularly because I understand that teachers seem perfectly capable of undertaking them in Scotland. I am second to none in my admiration of the Scots, and Scots teachers. But it seems strange that north of the border responsibility should reign, but not south of it. It is a serious question.

Furthermore, the noble Baroness said that the proposals were to be evolutionary; that we would start off with this provision and move at a later stage to something else. Perhaps I may again quote the noble Baroness. At col. 1447, she stated: I assume that they are intended to give the GTC full responsibility to decide whom to register and whom to deregister. This may seem an admirable aim and it is possible that in the fullness of time the GTC will be able to develop in that direction. I am most sympathetic to that happening in the longer term. But it would be premature at this stage". That suggests that within the lifetime of this Parliament, or a measured time, it would all come to pass. But we now know that it will require primary legislation. Once that is recognised we are looking into the indefinite future. All of us, certainly any who have been in government, know how difficult it is to get any Bill before Parliament. The idea that we would have another Bill to deal with this issue in the immediate five years or so is unlikely. So whatever goes into the Bill is there for the foreseeable future.

I fear that the measure will be seen as second rate. I fear that it will not therefore attract the best. I believe that if we want to encourage real responsibility among people we have to give them responsibility. On serious matters such as the debarment of teachers, I cannot imagine a general teaching council not taking the strictest of views and having the highest of standards on the debarring of teachers who would fall under Section 99; and one knows how extremely serious that matter is.

At Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Walton, made the point that it is a task that the General Medical Council undertakes. He can speak with more knowledge on that subject than I can. But the two situations are somewhat similar although not identical because we are talking exclusively about children and that makes it more serious.

I hope that the Government will consider the matter again. One should either have something that is really worthwhile, or one should decide not to have it. For my part I should like to have a measure that is really worthwhile. I beg to move.

4.30 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

My Lords, I support the amendment tabled in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. There are two possibilities for the general teaching council: on the one hand, that it will simply be a body which acts when the Secretary of State requests, responding to whatever he or she may ask it to do; or on the other, that it may from the very beginning have the possibility of initiating and making independent recommendations.

I understand entirely the point that is being made, not least by the Minister, about evolution. However, it seems to me that the starting-point from which this body is to evolve is very important. If it begins merely as a body which responds to the Secretary of State, it will have a very difficult start. It is important that it has a clear start, with responsibilities which it is able to undertake on its own initiative.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, referred to the General Teaching Council in Scotland. It has a duty to keep under review the standards of education, training and fitness to teach of persons entering the teaching profession—the phraseology echoes some of the elements in this amendment—and to make to the Secretary of State from time to time such recommendations with respect to those standards "as they think fit". It is those words, "as they think fit", which are so important. They place upon that body responsibility to initiate and undertake such work as it thinks it right to do. It is important that the general teaching council should have similar powers to undertake work which is its own responsibility and not merely in response to others.

Baroness Warnock

My Lords, if this body is to be called a general teaching council yet does not have the responsibilities set out in the amendment, it will be rather a fraud on the public. When the idea of a general teaching council was first mooted—and it has been discussed again and again over a long period of time—it was always the intention of those who supported the idea that it should be roughly analogous (obviously there are differences) to the General Medical Council. It would be inconceivable for the General Medical Council to have the role that is seemingly to be allocated to the general teaching council under the Bill. It is a waste of time, energy and money to set up a body called a general teaching council if it does not have the power and responsibility to determine the standards and conduct of teachers, their medical fitness to teach and the other elements set out in the amendment. If those powers are not to be allocated, the Government ought seriously to consider changing the name of this body; teachers and the general public are being misled by its being so called, without its being allocated the relevant powers.

Lord Walton of Detchant

My Lords, I support the principles set out in this amendment, so eloquently proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. The noble Baroness referred to the General Medical Council and the principles that govern its performance and activities. But it is not merely a question of the General Medical Council. There are now a considerable number of statutory authorities concerned with the regulation of the professions. The noble Baroness referred to the Law Society, but there is in addition the General Dental Council; the United Kingdom Council for Nursing, Health Visiting and Midwifery; there are also now on the statute book laws governing the General Chiropractic Council and the General Osteopathic Council. Every one of those bodies has the authority to remove or suspend from the register individuals practising those professions who may have been guilty of professional misconduct or of inadequate performance.

Let us look, for example, at the General Medical Council. I had the privilege of being its president for a period of seven years after serving beforehand on several of its committees. One of those committees, the Preliminary Proceedings Committee, examines the question as to whether in effect there is a case to answer. If there is, then the doctor who may be accused of serious professional misconduct then comes before the Conduct Committee, which has a full judicial hearing with the advice of a legal assessor, a QC, before deciding whether or not, at the end of the day, to deal with that particular registered member of the medical profession by admonition, suspension or erasure from the register—suspension being for a finite period; or, for a doctor whose behaviour may under certain circumstances demand it, the council has the power to impose restrictions upon that individual's practice.

But, of course, if it is a question of medical fitness to practice, then the procedures through a health committee are more compassionate. There is no power to erase, because the individual requires treatment. Therefore, there is a power to suspend or to impose conditions. Similarly, if the doctor in question has demonstrated an inadequate professional performance, there is a power to require that individual to undergo remedial training before being enabled to return to practice. So the issue is a very complicated one. But the principle remains that each of those regulatory bodies, at the end of the day, has the authority to take action in relation to a professional who has by reason of professional performance, behaviour or ill-health not come up to an appropriate standard.

It is wrong in principle for a regulatory authority being established in this form as a general teaching council not to have the final authority over such action and to leave that by reference to the Secretary of State. Of course, this amendment makes clear that the council will be guided by advice from the Secretary of State. That is absolutely correct. But for the final authority to discipline or suspend, or to act in the case of a teacher whose health is putting students at risk, to be reserved powers of the Secretary of State, is quite wrong in principle. The general teaching council should, in the ultimate, have that authority-

I appreciate that the noble Baroness may suggest, as she did in Committee, that this matter could be introduced later into primary legislation. But the General Medical Council has at least five issues upon which it is seeking amendment to its primary legislation in the Medical Act; the General Dental Council has for four years been seeking amendments to the Dentists Act because there are issues that it wishes to have amended—and they are being told repeatedly by government that there is no chance of primary legislation being introduced. It is therefore now that the decisions need to be taken to give this general teaching council teeth and the authority to deal with the needs of the teaching profession—bearing in mind that there may be some who are concerned as to whether the elected members of the teaching profession will have the full authority and the right qualities to take such action. All the experience of the other regulatory authorities has been that, provided the committees of the council have an adequate balance of professional and lay members and of those representing a wide field of interests—about which we shall learn when the regulations are published—we have to give this council confidence. We have to express our confidence in its ability to act in the way the other professional regulatory authorities have. For that reason, I strongly support the principle underlying this amendment.

Lord Annan

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, how are the operations of the General Medical Council and all the other subsidiary councils that he mentioned funded? Does the money come from public funds?

Lord Walton of Detchant

My Lords, they are financed from fees, and from an annual retention fee paid by all registered medical practitioners.

Baroness Perry of Southwark

My Lords, I wish to give my support to the amendment, knowing full well how difficult Secretaries of State, government departments and civil servants find it to relinquish control over such fundamental issues. Nevertheless, it is well known among social scientists that the definition of a profession includes that it shall have control over its own registration, and indeed deregistration, of members. It is very much our wish on all sides of this House to enhance the professionalism of teachers and their standing, and their sense of themselves as a profession, which is recognised by the general public and by Her Majesty's Government. Therefore, on those grounds alone, I would urge that the general teaching council is permitted to have control over such matters.

It was some years ago, when I was involved in an OECD education project, that 1 learnt from our Scandinavian friends a very important truth—namely, if we learn to trust the teachers, then the teachers will in every sense fulfil the best of our expectations. This is a prime occasion when we should learn to trust the teachers.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I described at Second Reading the powers of the General Teaching Council for Scotland. I have since discussed with a number of practising teachers what they value most in the council's work on their behalf. Virtually always their view is that the most important thing they want to pay for in the General Teaching Council is the overseeing of the register.

In Scotland you cannot teach unless you are on the register, so it is very important to be registered. It is highly valued by teachers that the General Teaching Council decides who should be on the register and who has to come off the register, for whatever reason. It operates an extremely successful and firm appeal system for people who are taken off the register. It also decides who should go on to the register after a probationary period, on the recommendation of the school where the person teaches. That, too, is greatly valued.

Some of the other powers are reflected in my noble friend Lady Young's amendments. The noble Baroness is making proposals which, I think she will agree, follow the practices of the Scottish General Teaching Council.

I found in discussions with teachers that the council's advisory role is considered of less value. They feel that there are a number of bodies which advise the Government through which they could put their ideas forward, not least what they now call their unions—bodies which they used to call their professional associations. They can do it that way, and in many other ways. The noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, who is not here today, made the point that there are many people who can advise the Government.

At Committee stage the Minister made a series of quite complicated arguments as to why she did not feel that the time had come for this measure. She should think hard about this. It is not a party political point. The Government will probably set up a body which will be a huge disappointment to teachers and be counter-productive from the point of view of the Government and the department. Merely to advise what other people are doing is not very satisfactory.

I noted what my noble friend Lady Perry said about people who have a power often being reluctant to relinquish it. It may well be that the Minister's advisers quite enjoy their work—it is important—and they will be allowed to go on doing it. The Government have been in office since May; they should take a grip on this issue and consider whether they should alter the kind of council they are setting up. It cannot be exactly like the BMA at this stage—and, anyway, the need is somewhat different—although the information that has been provided is very useful.

The noble Baroness should reflect and not stick to her guns on this matter as the Bill goes through Parliament.

Baroness Maddock

My Lords, I rise to support the intentions behind Amendment No. 8. It sets out very worthwhile functions which the majority of your Lordships' House believe the general teaching council should have if it is to do everything we hope that it will, particularly in raising the status of teachers and encouraging more teachers into the profession.

Other amendments in this group deal with the responsibility of the general teaching council to look after the register and decide who should be a qualified teacher. We welcome that but, as many of your Lordships know, in earlier debates we on these Benches set out wider provisions for the general teaching council. We would like to go further, but we certainly support what the noble Baroness has so eloquently put before us today.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

My Lords, we very much support the noble Baroness in this matter. No one disagrees that at some stage the teachers ought to be given powers; certainly over the register and possibly more powers later. That is agreed by everyone.

Secondly, although I have had no experience in Government I know that everyone agrees that the department would face enormous difficulties in passing primary legislation to award this body control over the register.

My noble friend proposes that the Government should find it in their hearts at least to give this body power over the register. I repeat again, at the risk of boring but it needs to be said, that everyone agrees that it ought to have that power—the noble Baroness, all her noble friends and people in the other place. The argument is about time, and everyone agrees that to pass primary legislation would be hard.

Why are the Government not prepared to concede this point? It would be easy to accept my noble friend's amendment. It would please the teaching profession, who will get very annoyed when, in the next Parliament, the department cannot find the time for the legislation. This will increase their frustration. As the noble Baroness knows, those teachers who are prepared to wait expect that in the first Session of the next Parliament the noble Baroness or her successors will put this forward. They will be very annoyed when it does not happen.

As anyone who studies history knows, bodies which are consultative but without power in the end become discontented bodies. The constitutional history of many countries bears this out. As the noble Baroness agrees with me and my noble friend that this body is important and ought to have and will have some power, why not swallow one clause and give it some power now?

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, before the House comes to consider this question, I hope your Lordships will forgive a pedantic lawyer if he raises a point arising from the words of this amendment. I assure your Lordships that he is doing it to help and for no other reason.

Under the wording of this amendment, are we deciding that the council should have powers to do things which are unqualified, or are we saying that those powers should be qualified? I say that because subsection (2) of the amendment says that The council may be required to seek advice from the Secretary of State; or such other persons or bodies that he may from time to time designate". If I may refer to that latter wording, are we saying that the council is bound to consult any person or body that the Secretary of State designates and has to follow that advice, or are we saying that it shall seek that advice?

That happens to be rather important because the first person whom the council may have to consult or take advice from is the Secretary of State. Are we saying under this amendment that if the Secretary of State advises something the advice has to be followed, or are we saying merely that the council has to take advice? That would not be so important were it not for the other power that the Secretary of State has, which is to designate anyone or any body. Is the council bound to take that advice, or not? Should the wording be, "to seek and follow advice", if that is the intention; or should it be just, "to seek advice", with the council having the power to refuse to accept that advice? One often hears a judge in a criminal court saying to an accused person, "I think you should seek advice". That does not mean that the accused, having sought that advice, is bound to follow it. What does the amendment mean?

Lord Northbourne

My Lords, before the noble Baroness replies, perhaps I might strike a slightly discordant note. There seems to have been a tremendous love feast in favour of the amendment, but I confess that it leaves considerable doubts in my mind, particularly the words, The Council shall be responsible for determining the … standards of teaching". I hear from the Conservative Benches everybody advocating that, but in the 1970s and 1980s our education system got in such a frightful mess because the standards of teaching were being determined by the schools and the teachers. The Conservative Government had to introduce an elaborate structure, including Ofsted and the national curriculum, in order to regulate the standards of teaching. Perhaps the Minister could explain that when she responds.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Young will respond to all the questions posed to her. Perhaps I may come in behind the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. I have practically sat at his feet and accepted his views on almost anything. He is such a wise counsel in this House.

I hope that the principle of the amendment will be accepted. From the first round of consultation an unequivocal voice has come from the Minister and others in the department that if there is to be a general teaching council, it should have responsibility for standards of professionalism, teaching and the other matters set out in the amendment. Subsection (1) of the amendment gives responsibility to that body for those matters. As I understand subsection (2)—again it would be helpful to be advised on this point—it will be important for the council to seek advice (as I see it, advice is advice; it is no more than that) from the Secretary of State in order to carry out its duties properly.

If one takes the General Medical Council model, to which we have referred in the course of speaking to the amendment both on this occasion and on a previous occasion—this may partly be an answer to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne—the body that will represent teaching professionalism and the professional standards of teaching, when it is transparent and has that responsibility, (a) it will behave responsibly and (b) it will act in the interests of the profession as a whole. It is that which we are trying to get at, rather than leaving it to holes in corners and behind closed doors in classrooms, where things went very wrong in the 1960s and 1970s.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, this has been an interesting debate and the House will expect me to reply in detail. I therefore apologise for the length of my response. At the risk of abandoning the idyllic pastures—or pastoral idylls—I am afraid that we cannot accept the amendment.

Clearly the aim of these amendments, in essence, is to give the general teaching council, instead of the Secretary of State, full and final responsibility to decide who to register and who to deregister. I repeat the arguments made by my noble friend Lady Blackstone at earlier stages that, though this may be a desirable ultimate objective and may well be a target to aim for once the council is up and running, we do not consider it sensible to make provision for that at this point. The difference between us therefore is not one of principle but of timing. Nor is it a question, as the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, suggested, of people being reluctant to relinquish powers. It is a question of when the optimum moment to change the responsibilities will be.

We outlined a number of reasons in Committee why the time is not yet right. The noble Baroness and others argued that this Bill should leave more room for the GTC's role to expand without the need for further primary legislation. We envisage the GTC's role evolving over time, and that approach had some support in the House during the Committee and earlier stages. However, it would be wrong to include such an intention on the face of this Bill before we have some real experience of the GTC in operation.

Reference was made to this being a matter for the next Parliament. I remind the House of the timescale. The GTC will not be in operation under this legislation, however good a wind this House and another place give it, before the year 2000. Without disclosing the date of the next general election, by the time of the next Parliament the GTC will have been in operation for less than two years. It is therefore for the next Parliament to assess its effectiveness and its ability to take on additional roles, as envisaged by the amendment.

The amendments essentially deal with two separate issues—the entry to the profession and the issue of barring. In relation to entry to the profession, this Government were clearly elected on a platform of raising standards in schools, and therefore the standards of the profession are essential to that strategy. It remains our view that regulating the quality of teaching in the maintained sector—schools paid for by the public through their taxes—in the immediate period should ultimately be the responsibility of the Secretary of State. He is accountable to Parliament and to the electorate in a way in which the GTC, as envisaged, would not be.

However, I agree that the GTC must and will have a major role, and a role which will develop over time. The intention clearly is that the Secretary of State will look for advice from the GTC on how the standards for entry are working and the case for any change. He will look to the GTC in that area to work in strong partnership with the Teacher Training Agency. which has not been referred to a great deal in this debate but which already has statutory and administrative powers in this area. We believe that in moving to set up the GTC we are already giving a measure of self-regulation to the teaching profession—something that teachers have been denied for so long. The council's role will grow over time.

Reference was made to the General Medical Council. But the General Medical Council has been in existence for over 150 years and there was no state regulation of the medical profession before that time. The noble Lord, Lord Walton, referred to other professional bodies. They are dealing with much smaller professions than the teaching profession. We are talking of over 500,000 people. Before the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, refers to dinosaur stages of evolution, as he did the other day, we are not saying that it will take 150 years, but it will take a couple of years before we can be sure that the general teaching council will be able to take on these serious responsibilities.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps I might ask the noble Lord, on the basis that there is no disagreement in principle and it is therefore only a matter of timing. to consider taking the matter away and reflecting on it. He can come back with an answer before Third Reading and perhaps consider the possibility of adding a regulation-making power to the Bill which will allow a power to be added, as opposed to a power to be advised to be added. That would dispense totally with the time factor and also with the need to come back to Parliament under primary rather than secondary legislation.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I think not. We are dealing with both timing and the time that it takes to make a proper assessment of whether the GTC is operating in a way that allows it to take on additional responsibilities. That assessment can only be made by the next Parliament, which will provide for primary legislation to extend it in that way.

We believe that we have a balance of responsibility between the GTC, the Teacher Training Agency, which is important in this area, and the Secretary of State's direct powers. We would not be happy to see the new standards that we have brought in relating to qualified teacher status, and which come into effect for the first time in May this year, undermined by the development of a separate procedure under the GTC. We have only recently revised those standards. The regulations on registration may allow the GTC to make its own arrangements on many issues. They will set a framework within which the GTC will be able to make its own more detailed rules. But I think this strikes the right balance between maintaining effective statutory regulation and moving towards, at this stage, greater self-regulation of the teaching profession. I believe that the amendments would take us too far, too fast and upset that balance.

Nevertheless, having listened to the strength of feeling in the debate, we are prepared to consider whether we should tilt the balance a little further towards the GTC; for example, by bringing forward an amendment at a later stage to place the Secretary of State under a very clear duty to ensure that the GTC is fully consulted on standards for qualified teacher training, teacher status and entry to the profession. I hope that that would offer at least some further assurance that we are moving in the right direction and that it is clear what eventual role we envisage for the council on such matters.

Possibly more serious even than the evolutionary way in which we view the GTC on entry to the profession is the question of excluding teachers from the profession. We understand that Amendment No. 8 is intended to allow the GTC to take decisions on those barring cases which arise under Section 218(6) of the Education Reform Act 1988. I understand why many of your Lordships feel that the GTC should be in charge of this process. But perhaps I may explain why the Government believe that our alternative view is right. This relates to the important and sensitive issue of child protection.

The teaching profession differs significantly from other professions that have self-regulatory bodies in that it is almost entirely composed of people whose jobs involve them in regular contact with children. Sadly, a small minority of teachers abuse children psychologically, physically or sexually. We absolutely must have the ability to exclude such people from the profession. Tragically, too, there are a small minority of teachers who develop medical conditions that could make them dangerous to children. They also have to be excluded from the profession.

Moreover, it is not a question of not trusting teachers to make these assessments—teachers who will be involved in the GTC—because this whole issue of child protection goes beyond teaching. Regrettably, those few people who are determined to abuse children are cunning. They will take advantage of any gaps and loopholes that we leave them. It is not nowadays enough to say that if we bar someone as a teacher it is the end of the matter. They can come back as classroom assistants, they may seek to come back as volunteers, or they may seek to work for a firm that regularly drives children to school in taxis and so on.

I must draw attention to the fact that the previous government rightly increased substantially the provisions on child protection. They were extended to cover staff in schools who have regular contact beyond the teaching profession, such as classroom assistants; they were then extended to the independent schools: and they were extended to cover agency teachers and volunteers and to cover others who provide regular services to schoolchildren. The whole child protection system goes beyond the teaching profession.

5 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I thank the Minister very much for giving way. Does he appreciate that all these circumstances prevail in Scotland and that it has been done by the General Teaching Council in Scotland for 35 years? So these arguments are not valid.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I am not as familiar as the noble Baroness with the situation in Scotland, but I am advised that both the remit of the GTC and the child protection arrangements in Scotland are somewhat different from those in England and Wales. Therefore, there is not a direct analogy. No one is suggesting that the GTC's responsibilities should extend to classroom assistants and others who come in contact with children. There would be a problem if we shifted the balance from a direct Secretary of State responsibility for child protection that these loopholes would become usable by people who, unfortunately, might be in a position to abuse children. As I understand it, the situation in Scotland is somewhat different on both sides of that argument both in terms of what we envisage for the GTC and the existing child protection provisions.

On the child protection issue, we believe that it is important to maintain a consistent and coherent system of child protection and that that should remain in the hands of the Secretary of State as far as concerns children in schools. I have undertaken today that we should look again at whether we can give the GTC a clearer statutory role in relation to the standards required for entry to the profession by including on the face of the Bill a provision that ensures that the GTC is consulted on such standards. I have also explained the difficult situation in regard to child protection aspects. Even if we were otherwise convinced of the arguments of the noble Baroness and others, I think that my noble friend Lord Mishcon and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, have raised problems about the wording of the amendment. In the light of that, and on the understanding that there is no difference in principle here, I hope that the arguments that we have put to explain the Government's position will allow the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I thank all those noble Lords who have supported me on this amendment. I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon, the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, and the noble Lord, Lord Walton. It was a recognition of all parts of the House being concerned about this matter.

Perhaps I may deal, first, with the two specific points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. I always enjoy the noble Lord's interventions. He has a wonderfully seductive way of speaking. One of the troubles I find is that I am so busy listening to his voice that it is quite difficult sometimes to remember what exactly he has said. It is all very nice and one rather longs for it to go on, but I shall not take up more of the time of the House on that matter.

He referred to the drafting of the amendment and whether or not subsection (1) of the amendment was qualified by subsection (2). Perhaps I may explain how I see the two subsections operating. The first point is that subsection (1) (a), (b) and (c) would have the effect of making the GTC primarily responsible for determining standards of teaching, standards of conduct for teachers and medical fitness to teach. But in doing so the Secretary of State would have the power, under subsection (2), to require the GTC to seek his advice or the advice of bodies designated by him on these matters. However, I would not wish to have a great legal argument with the noble Lord about the wording of the amendment. If it is not clear, I should look at it again.

On the specific point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, I think he misunderstands what I mean by the term "standards of teaching". In that context, I mean standards against which a general teaching council could judge issues of incompetence and once a matter has been dealt with in employment terms by the teacher's appropriate employer. I think he would accept that teachers probably know more than anyone else in the school who is an incompetent teacher. This is a quite difficult area of employment but it is one of importance.

I hope the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, will not take it amiss if I say to him that I think he made the very best of a rather bad case. We are all agreed on the principle of this. It is a question of timing, as he said. I must read Hansard very carefully in the morning. I think he said that the department was not reluctant to relinquish but was looking for the optimum time. I felt that that was one of those quotes which must have been taken from Mr. Mandelson and one which I must work into the next speech I make. However, I shall check the wording to get it right. We all agree with him on the importance of raising standards. That is what this is all about. But I cannot accept some of the arguments that he adduced.

When we debated this matter in Committee I recognised the role of the teacher training agency. I do not believe that these proposals would necessarily cut across it. Nobody wants qualified teacher status to be undermined. I accept everything that has been said, both on unqualified teacher status and on the very important issue of the exclusion of teachers, about whose seriousness there is no disagreement. I suspect that teachers would be much tougher on other teachers than outsiders would be. It would reflect very badly on them. Using a perhaps unhappy analogy, one can usually recognise the rotten apple in the barrel of those with whom one is working. The last thing people want to do is to work with someone like that. Therefore, I shall not be afraid on that score.

I should like to reflect on the point that the general teaching council might not be able to exercise powers on people like caretakers or agency teachers. I should like to seek advice on that point. But I do not believe that there is any reason in principle why teachers cannot be trusted to look at exclusion and standards. Indeed, if we believe in raising standards, I believe that teachers would do it better.

I am sorely tempted to press this amendment this evening, but a point has been raised that I should like to consider. I shall reflect on what the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has said. I do not believe that he has gone as far as I should like because ultimately what really matters is whether we give teachers the responsibility for managing their own affairs. I fear that, if we do not, they will be seen by themselves and outsiders—even worse, by parents and pupils—as a second-class group. There are one or two points that need to be looked at again. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 9 to 12 not moved.]

Baroness Maddock moved Amendment No. 13: After Clause 2, insert the following new clause—


(" .—(1) The Council shall prepare and from time to time publish a code of practice ("the code")—

  1. (a) laying down standards of conduct expected of registered teachers; and
  2. (b) giving advice in relation to the practice of teaching.

(2) It shall be the duty of the Council to keep the code under review and to vary its provisions whenever the Council consider it appropriate to do so.

(3) Before issuing the code or varying it, the Council shall consult its registered members and such representatives of practising teachers as they consider appropriate.

(4) Where any person is alleged to have failed to comply with any provision of the code, that failure—

  1. (a) shall not be taken, of itself, to constitute unacceptable conduct on his part; but
  2. (b) shall be taken into account in any proceedings against him under this Act.

(5) Any person who asks the Council for a copy of the code shall be entitled to have one on payment of such reasonable fee as the Council may determine.

(6) Subsection (5) is not to be taken as preventing the Council from providing copies of the code free of charge whenever they consider it appropriate to do so.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the previous debates are a very useful lead-in to this clause which we wish to add to the Bill. Other professional bodies have codes of practice. I do not believe that it is particularly easy to achieve that for the teaching profession. The purpose of our amendment is to pursue how to get some measure of codification for the professional ethics of teaching.

The wording of our new clause is based on the Osteopaths Act 1993. We believe that it introduces for the first time the idea of a code of practice for the teaching profession. It would give the council a great deal of additional standing and influence. It suggests that teachers themselves, constituted into a legal body, will define how teachers behave and will advise on best practice.

One of the problems that there has been with the teaching profession in recent years is that everyone who is not a teacher professes to know how to teach and everything else about the profession. As regards doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and other professions, people do not pretend to know better all the time in quite the same way. That is why it is particularly important that we look to this matter in relation to the teaching profession.

Our aim must be to produce a code which will help teachers to promote a shared understanding of their professional ethics. It also needs to inform them of what conduct their profession expects of them in particular situations. That can be of particular benefit to teachers if they are being encouraged, maybe by their clients or their employers, to indulge in unprofessional behaviour. Having a code of practice is an important part of encouraging public support and trust in the teaching profession.

That is not without danger because it could become a very rigid set of rules and a straitjacket, which would not be helpful to teachers, their employers, students and families. By its very nature, teaching is a highly responsible, socially important and very demanding profession personally. That must be the starting point for any debate on its ethical nature and on consequent demands that that might place on teachers.

There are also moral imperatives surrounding these matters. They are not the only factors that must be taken into account when judging teachers. They can find their ability to accept their professional responsibilities heavily circumscribed by the conditions which surround teaching. I am thinking particularly of financial matters: many people, and not only teachers, believe that there has been considerable under-funding of education in this country. We have already had discussions during the passage of this Bill about the problems of inadequate leadership or management in schools. That also affects the ability of teachers to carry out their job. It is clear that the altruistic ideals of professionalism are therefore related in a very complex way to political, economic and structural issues.

I have briefly demonstrated how difficult this issue is, but I hope that the discussions that we have had today have shown its importance. It is a very cautious amendment. It is girded round with advice on legal safeguards. I am not a lawyer and never have been. I have always taken advice on these matters. The amendment is intended to probe the Government about reaching some kind of recognised code of practice for teachers. I look forward to the Minister's response, which I hope will be positive towards the intentions of the amendment. I hope too that other noble Lords will contribute their views on what I believe is a very important matter. I beg to move.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Butterfield

My Lords, I support this amendment. It has very much the right feeling about the aims of the teaching profession. I am a little anxious about the complexities that might arise under subsection (4)(k) as regards which an enormous amount of work is taking place concerning syllabuses, the curriculum, examinations and testing. The amendment is very nicely covered by those moving the amendment that, The Council may from time to time designate, on matters falling within [that] subsection as they [see] fit". If things are going well, then presumably it will not be necessary to delve too deeply into that. Examination and testing problems arise each year as each cohort of young people go through their various exams. That might be a burden if it got out of hand. Overall, I say to those proposing this amendment that I am personally strongly in favour of it.

Lord Walton of Detchant

My Lords, I support the principle underlying this amendment. Having said that, I have some slight anxiety about the wording of the amendment as phrased. In response to a point made a little while ago by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, about the last series of amendments, he spoke about the medical profession having been regulated for 150 years. He said that most of the other professional regulatory organisations related to a much smaller profession. I remind him that the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visitors and the teaching profession have almost identical numbers of members. However, to be as specific as the provisions contained in this proposed clause is perhaps potentially dangerous because it could be regarded ultimately as imposing on the profession advice in a sense laid out in tablets of stone. If I may say so. it would be much simpler to advise that, "The council should prepare and from time to time publish advice upon professional standards and the practice of teaching", and to leave the other paragraphs rather less specific.

It would not be the usual policy of any other regulatory authority before issuing advice upon professional standards and standards of practice to consult its registered members because that is a massive task that would involve an enormous amount of correspondence and expense. It is important to make it clear that in issuing such advice the council should be advised to consult widely and appropriately in order to have the opinions of those upon whose advice it would depend.

My concern is not so much that it would not be useful to have such a provision in the Bill, but that specifying this degree of detail might be counterproductive in the long term. With an amendment simply advising the council, "to prepare and from time to time publish advice on the standards of conduct expected of registered teachers and advice in relation to the practice of teaching", the remaining provisions of the new clause might be inappropriate.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I apologise for not having been in my place earlier, but I had intended to speak on this amendment. I wholly support what the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, has just said. There are some technical problems in having a code of practice. We have to ask: what is the status of the code? If failure to comply does not constitute unacceptable conduct, but is, taken into account in any proceedings … under this Act", what are those "proceedings … under this Act"? There is no way of discerning that from the Bill as it stands.

There are to be regulations under the Act: under Clause 9, on registration; under Clause 10, on the deduction of fees from salaries; and under Clause 13, on induction periods. However, those provisions import no civil or criminal liability. There are also regulations under Clauses 16 and 17 with regard to financial support.

We are in a sort of miasma, a fog. We do not know what the regulations will say. Let the regulations be clearly drawn; let the sanction for breach be clearly defined and stated; and then let us consider, as a House, whether we approve or whether we do not. A code of practice such as this has no legal efficacy and is most unusual. I suggest, with respect to the House—

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for giving way—I always call him "the noble and learned Lord", quite properly, but not in accordance with the custom of the House—but is he speaking to this amendment or to the next amendment? I understand that we are now dealing with Amendment No. 12.

Noble Lords

No, Amendment No. 13!

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I am so sorry.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, for that relief, more than many thanks. I was speaking to Amendment No. 13. I gather that that is at least the right amendment. So far, so good.

I have said what I have to say about this amendment. I did not know what the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, was going to say, but I wholeheartedly support it. There are problems with this amendment. The matter is best left to consideration when the regulations are drafted.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

My Lords, dare I suggest to the Minister and to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, that this debate embodies the problem of a body without power? I totally agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, that a code of conduct or a code of practice is an excellent thing. We would all support such a code, but I fear that the noble Lord, Lord Walton, has put his finger on the sore that will tarnish this Bill. All our worthy thoughts are totally without power. My noble friend Lord Campbell has pointed out the dangers facing the Government. If an advisory body claims for itself the powers to do all these things, which we all agree are absolutely right, that will land the Government in enormous trouble. It is the department's wish to avoid handing over powers that are possessed in Scotland but which it is not prepared to give here. The Government are refusing the suggestion of my noble friend Lady B latch to include a regulation on this—and Lord knows, one more regulation would not break the camels back of this Bill—so I ask the Government why they do not include a little regulation now. We are asking for a regulation. The Government could do all these noble things if they truly were the exponents of educational progress and they could be loved and canonised by the teaching profession. I say to them, "Your opportunities are immense and I am surprised that you reject them".

Earl Russell

My Lords, my name is to this amendment, which makes a rather important point of principle. It creates—at least, it moves a lot closer to creating—a self-governing profession. The power to make rules for one's own society is an essential power of self-government. It is because that is what we are doing that we are running into all the problems about how to draft legislation which we have discussed many times previously in this Chamber.

The noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, made an extremely interesting speech about which I have been thinking for some while. As the noble Lord said, there is obviously a problem of flexibility if the rules are drafted in too detailed a manner. There are two possible answers to the genuine problem which the noble Lord raised. One is that which the noble Lord took. The other is that which has been defended in another context by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, which is allowing the code or the law to be drafted in fairly general terms so that the tablets are not of stone and the law can evolve as cases are considered. That is an alternative method to that suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Walton, and it is an alternative method which sits comfortably with this amendment. I hope that noble Lords will agree with that point.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, perhaps I may in all amity and humility ask him whether he will take on board the way in which the provisions are drafted. Amendment No. 13 refers to, in any proceedings … under this Act". What are those proceedings? If certain behaviour does not "constitute unacceptable conduct" but is taken into account as a failure to comply, in any proceedings … under this Act", where are we getting to? What is it all about? I wonder whether the noble Earl will consider that point.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that point, which I accept. Further consultation on this point would be useful and I thank the noble Lord for suggesting it.

Lord Walton of Detchant

My Lords, with the leave of the House, it would have been appropriate to include that wording if the earlier amendments allowing the GTC to remove from the register had been accepted, but, as they were not accepted, I believe that it would be inappropriate to include such provisions.

In accordance with the advice given by other professions, I suggested that the provisions should simply read, "The council shall prepare and from time to time publish advice upon standards of conduct expected of registered teachers and in relation to the practice of teaching, departure from which could in certain circumstances raise an issue of unacceptable professional conduct". That is the kind of wording for which one would be looking.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Yes, my Lords

5.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, we have some sympathy with the views expressed in this debate, but not enough to achieve the accolade from the teaching profession to which the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, referred. I should say immediately that we are entirely in favour, as are most teachers, of the GTC developing advice and a code approximately along the lines described by the noble Baroness. However, there is an interrelationship between this and the previous debate. We see the council as having a key role in representing professional standards—rightly, I think—and Clause 2 already gives the GTC the power to advise the Secretary of State on such a code as is envisaged by this amendment. I also know that the GTC for Scotland is about to issue for consultation a draft professional code for teachers. However, we are concerned with aspects that are almost the opposite of those raised in this debate. The proposed clause would tie the council's hands too much; it would commit it to preparing and publishing such a code rather than determining for itself whether it believed that such a code was the best way to promote the highest standards in the profession.

In this and preceding debates we have heard a good deal about respecting the independence of the general teaching council. We want to leave the council free to consider the best way forward in consultation with the profession and then make proposals to advise the Secretary of State. For example, the amendment does not make clear whether such a code should cover both standards of conduct and advice in relation to teaching. I believe it would be better to allow the council to make its own proposals about how and when to produce such a code and what it might cover. I am sure that the council would want to consult among the profession and more widely, but it should be free to make its own arrangements.

Equally importantly, we believe that it is right for the council's role to be advisory in this respect. That fits in with our philosophy in relation to the previous amendment. Such a code could have fundamental implications for the whole operation of the public education service. Under our approach the Secretary of State will be able to consider the council's proposals within the context of education policy overall. As I believe the proposed subsection (4) recognises, it is also important that such a code is wholly consistent with the system of barring teachers on the grounds of misconduct. I covered that at length in my comments on the previous amendment.

We are sympathetic. We do not consider that it is sensible to put this on the face of the Bill because it will tie the council's hands too much. In those circumstances, I hope that the noble Baroness understands the position of the Government and is prepared to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Maddock

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his comments. I also thank other noble Lords for their very helpful comments, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, who I understand is an expert on codes of practice. I bow to his expertise. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, and my noble friend Lord Russell. In moving the amendment I said that I was aware that this was not a perfect amendment but I wanted to get a debate going on the principle. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 14 not moved.]

Clause 3 [Registration of teachers]

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley moved Amendment No. 15: Page 2, line 40, at end insert— ("() The Council shall have the power to remove from the register the name of any person who, as it decides after due inquiry, has fallen short of appropriate professional standards.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, Amendment No. 15 deals with an issue that has cropped up at various points at Second Reading and in Committee. However, so far it has not been the subject of an amendment. We have also had a very good run at it this afternoon in relation to the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. The issue of the deregistering of teachers became a major feature of our debate. In Committee I asked the Minister whether she felt that there was a lack of symmetry in the GTC being empowered to register teachers but not to deregister them. She said that she did not. A little later in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, the Minister described such a measure as premature, while expressing sympathy for the longer term. We have heard that argument again this afternoon.

The matter comes down to timing. I believe that I am in good company in wishing to see this particular provision written into the Bill from the start: the noble Lord, Lord Tope, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and my noble friend Lord Walton—quite a wide spectrum of opinions—all have said at various stages that the new council should have this power. My noble friend Lord Walton reminded us that the National Commission on Education, which he chaired, had reported that, whatever the eventual and more extensive powers of a GTC, its initial functions should include this one. Without it the new council would be a toothless creature. I believe that it would start off on the wrong foot, with lack of esteem on the part of both the public and the profession, which would be highly undesirable.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, who is not in her place, said that any fear that the council would be too lenient on errant or incompetent teachers was misplaced because a new body which was keen to prove itself with the eyes of the world upon it would be particularly careful in this respect. At an earlier stage my noble friend Lord Walton described it as illogical not to have this power. I believe that that is right. Clause 3 deals with just the register, not some of the wider functions like training, recruitment or some of the matters put forward in the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. This is a quite narrow point, although an important one, and I do not believe that it would be too hard to accept. If the council is to be responsible for the register, surely it should be responsible for it in all its aspects.

This is logical and normal, and it is a desirable first step for a responsible professional body. Even the newly-arrived professions of chiropractic and osteopathy enjoy it. This is not intended to deny the parallel role of the Secretary of State who has existing power under the Education Reform Act to bar teachers. In Committee one example given by the Minister was child abuse. This was touched on recently by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. In moving this amendment I look, as the wording makes clear, to the question of professional standards and classroom issues that would never reach Whitehall. I believe that that is an area of which the profession should have ownership, to use the Minister's own words. If it is not to lack standing with the public and its own constituency I believe that it should have it now. This is an integral part of the Minister's aim expressed in Amendment No. 2 that the council should maintain and improve standards of professional conduct. I believe that she would be tying one hand behind the back of the council if she refused to grant it the power, however rarely it may be used in practice, to remove a teacher from the register for unprofessional behaviour. I beg to move.

Baroness Maddock

My Lords, I and my colleagues believe that this is a key amendment that has been much saluted by many professional teachers, unions and associations. As we have already heard in debate this afternoon, if the GTC is to be a professional body this is a key amendment. On that basis we support the amendment and we are grateful to the noble Earl for moving it.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps the noble Earl is prepared to say whether he is of the view that there should be a right of appeal.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

My Lords, I believe that that is a very fair point. That is a quite separate point from the amendment as drafted, and I do not believe that it is in any way fatal to the amendment. However, it may be worth considering that point at a later stage.

Lord Walton of Detchant

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for raising this issue because it is based upon a principle that we have debated in extenso this afternoon. I believe that if the general teaching council is to fulfil its functions this particular authority should be vested in that council.

I wholly appreciate from earlier discussions that this will not commend itself to the Minister on the Front Bench. However, in answer to the point just raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, in all of the other statutory authorities concerned with the regulation of the professions there is a statutory right of appeal on points of law to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. At Second Reading I urged the Government to accept in principle that this council should be answerable not to the Secretary of State but to the Privy Council. That was not accepted. I wholly agree with the noble Lord that if this amendment or something like it is accepted there must be a statutory right of appeal on a point of law, if not on the issue of professional conduct or behaviour. Certainly in respect of the General Medical Council and other medical bodies the Privy Council, in its judicial committee, has invariably ruled that it is not qualified to comment upon professional matters but only on points of law.

If a similar amendment were accepted it should be qualified because the council should have the power to suspend or remove from the register, or attach conditions to the registration of, any person who, it decides after due inquiry, has fallen short of appropriate standards of conduct and professional practice. Those are important changes because the power to erase would be draconian. Other conditions should be inserted in any such amendment in order to qualify its power.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I agree that there must be a right of appeal. In the medical profession there is a right of appeal to the council. Other professions also have a right of appeal to the professional body. The spirit of the proposal is right, but it needs fining down. One needs the power of suspension and the discretion of the tribunal to impose conditions. I have appeared before the GMC on several occasions. It uses its discretion magnificently in order to enable it fairly to do justice on the facts of each case. I wholly support the concept and ask those who propose it whether they are prepared to take it back and redraft it in order to take on board a more suitable form.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

My Lords, subject to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Walton, who speaks with great experience, I support the amendment. In view of what I said earlier today, the council is a body without teeth, hands or arms unless we give it some power. Subject to appeal, I support the amendment and shall advise my noble friends to do so. It is what the council is all about.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

My Lords, I, too, support the amendment in principle but wish to clarify one matter. The noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, said that any powers given to the GTC under the amendment would not affect the existing powers of the Secretary of State. Is that correct?

I understand that the role of the Secretary of State in such matters referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty—that is, child abuse—would not be affected by the amendment. As was said by the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, it relates to matters of professional conduct. It would also be the case that the role of the Secretary of State in relation to other employees of a school would not be affected. However, we are talking about a power, in addition to the existing role of the Secretary of State, which would not be affected by the amendment. I should be grateful for clarification that that is the case.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, we are covering ground which we went over in relation to amendments proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. The amendment would give the GTC power to remove a person from the register of teachers and therefore from the profession. The noble Earl, Lord Baldwin. indicated that he saw that coexisting to some extent with the Secretary of State's powers, particularly in relation to child protection. While I understand that that is the intention, I am not sure that the wording makes it clear and whether it subsumes any of the Secretary of State's existing powers in relation to professional standards or misconduct.

The amendment does not set out the circumstances which would enable the council to remove a teacher from the register. Nor does it show the process which would have to be taken in order for that to stand up. Points have been made in relation to an appeal. As regards professional standards and competence, my difficulty would not be with the objective of ensuring that incompetent teachers are removed. Clearly, we are all committed to that. However, at this stage we do not envisage the GTC having that role in dealing with individual cases.

At earlier stages we accepted that it may be appropriate to give the GTC a clear advisory role in relation to the circumstances in which teachers might be suspended or dismissed. On Monday, when we discussed Amendment No. 12 of the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, my noble friend Lady Blackstone undertook to reconsider bringing forward an amendment to achieve that. Earlier today, I undertook to look again at aspects raised in the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, as to whether we could strengthen the advisory role of the council in this area.

I repeat that although the noble Earl indicated that his intention is that the GTC will deal only with debarring or deregistration cases about professional standards, and that child protection would continue to be safeguarded by the Secretary of State, the amendment as worded does not make the distinction sufficiently clear.

Perhaps I may address the intention of the amendment. Coexistence in this way is an interesting suggestion. We are not confident that it can work in practice. Even if a clear distinction can be made between one kind of case and another, it is possible that it could run into the difficulty of fragmenting what is currently an effective and coherent system for dealing with cases of misconduct. We believe that it is right to maintain a single system which has been proved to work and which commands the confidence of both the public and the teaching profession.

We believe that we should see how the GTC discharges the advisory function envisaged in Clause 2(4), which is a significant innovation in its own right. For reasons spelt out earlier today, let us first see how that works and how it settles down and then consider the case for any further change. For the time being we consider that the Secretary of State should retain the ultimate responsibility for a single coherent barring regime to deal with misconduct by teachers and others who have contact with children. Despite what the noble Earl said, we believe that the amendment as drafted would lay us open to confusion, apart from the absence of detail on establishing fair processes for dealing with professional standards and debarring from the profession for that reason.

I hope that the noble Earl and those who support the intention of the amendment understand some of those arguments and that even those who wish to support the noble Earl's principle will recognise that the amendment does not achieve the objective they are seeking. Therefore, I hope that the noble Earl will be prepared to withdraw his amendment at this stage.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

My Lords, I am grateful to everyone who has taken part in the debate and for the contributions made. I listened very carefully to what was said by my noble friend Lord Walton and in particular by the Minister. I am not as anxious as he is about whether the wording would achieve what we set out to achieve. I believe that it would and that some of his objections are not valid in terms of deficiency.

I came to the amendment with every intention of pressing it because I thought that it had logic and very many things on its side. I have had to re-think, having heard one or two of the comments of my noble friend Lord Walton of Detchant and the two noble Lords who put legal points. My conclusion is that, dearly though I would like to press the amendment, it is more important to get it right. I have every intention of bringing it back at the next stage, but I shall certainly take into account what the Minister said and consult with others. I shall take my noble friend's views into account. The notion of suspension is worthwhile and important to include. Therefore, with every intention of bringing the amendment back at the next stage, at this point I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 16 not moved.]

Clause 4 [Regulations relating to registration]:

[Amendment No. 17 not moved.]

Clause 5 [Additional and ancillary functions]:

[Amendment No. 18 not moved.]

Clause 10 [Deduction of fees from salaries, etc.]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 19: Page 6, line 16, after ("fees,") insert— ("() the administration charges which may be deducted from any fees remitted to the relevant Council,").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a technical amendment which clarifies what has been our intention from the start—that teachers' employers should have the additional costs they incur in collecting GTC registration fees covered by allowing them to retain a portion of the money collected.

I hope there is broad support in your Lordships' House for our overall approach. The GTC should use the most efficient and effective way of collecting its registration fee from teachers. Clause 10 of the Bill enables the Secretary of State to make regulations which will require employers to deduct the registration fee for the GTC from teachers' salaries and pay it to the GTC. That is a much more efficient approach than requiring teachers to make individual payments to the council. It is the method used by the GTC for Scotland. There are over half a million teachers who will be required to register with the GTC and many more who will wish to join on a voluntary basis. It would be an expensive administrative exercise, and excessively bureaucratic, if each teacher was expected to make a separate payment to the council, all the more so, given that the registration fee is likely to be set at a modest level. The GTC will set the fees, with the approval of the Secretary of State, but I have every reason to believe that they will look to set a fee at a similar level to the £20 per year levied by the GTC for Scotland. We have spoken to the Local Government Association and it believes that this approach is workable. We will continue to work with it and will, of course, consult more widely before making regulations.

I wish to move this amendment because I think it is right that teachers' employers should be reimbursed for any reasonable costs they incur in undertaking the collection of teachers' registration fees on behalf of the GTC. That has been our intention from the outset, but I am advised that the wording in the clause is not sufficiently clear on this point. Amendment No. 19 puts the matter beyond doubt.

The details of how this will work will be set out in the regulations made under Clause 10. We will consult on these matters, but our intention is that the regulations will cover the level of administrative charges which employers may make for conducting the work. We understand that administration is likely to take up between 2 per cent. and 4 per cent. of the fees collected. The regulations may allow for different levels of administrative charge, if consultation shows that that is necessary. For example, a big city LEA with thousands of teachers may benefit from considerable economies of scale. For teachers in a foundation school, within the new school framework being considered in another place, the employer will be the governing body. Although many governing bodies contract in their payroll services from the LEA or from commercial providers, that requirement may nonetheless represent a greater proportionate burden. Where that is the case, the regulations could allow for some employers to make larger administrative charges. Similar consideration may apply to supply teachers or teachers working for supply agencies.

In all cases, we would expect the administrative charges to reflect a reasonable level of costs, which should only be a very small fraction of the sums collected. We will work with the local authority associations and others to ensure that employers use the most efficient administrative systems to deduct the registration fees. I beg to move.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

My Lords, I accept the necessity for this amendment. I shall not go into detail but I should point out that even the Garrick Club gives me a vote. Although the administrative costs are to be covered, I prophesy that there will be resentment about the charge even of £20 for a body which is purely advisory. The bursars or administrators dealing with it will say, "What a waste of time", even though the costs are to be covered.

Lord Tope

My Lords, I am just pondering on what the noble Lord does with his vote at the Garrick Club and whether that has any bearing on similar votes that the MCC has conducted this week.

I welcome this amendment and the statement made by the Minister. I do so as leader of a council which employs several thousand teachers. While, as the Minister said, I believed that would be the case, I welcome the clarification which is given here on the face of the Bill and in the words of the Minister. Like the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, I cannot go into the detail of the matter today. I welcome the Minister's recognition of the different levels of employer, if I may express the matter in those terms. We shall certainly look at the detail with much interest. However, the principle is welcome and I am pleased to see this amendment.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, it may be of interest to noble Lords that I belong to a well-known club in Edinburgh and I do not have a vote because I am a woman.

Lord Annan

My Lords, I am sure that this is a wise amendment. However, I should point out that it underlines the fact that this council will be a drain on teachers' salaries. People are talking about more and more duties and abilities for the council. That means that fees will rise unless they are kept under control.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am grateful to those who have supported the amendment. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, does not believe that teachers want a GTC of the kind that we are proposing. I beg to differ. I believe that many teachers will welcome the decision, after so long, to establish a GTC. I believe that they well understand the evolutionary approach which the noble Lord has supported.

I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, that our attention is not to allow the registration fee for the GTC to rise unduly. It is very important that the costs of the GTC should be kept at a reasonable level and that we should not require teachers to pay enormous sums of money. Indeed, we have no intention of doing so.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I intervene on a point of clarification. What mechanisms are the Government planning to use to curtail the activities of this body? As I understand it from previous speeches that the noble Baroness has made, it can have conferences, commission research and advise on all the functions set out in Clause 2. People will attend, work and report to it. It will make publications. What mechanism will the Government use to curtail its activities and keep it within cost?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, we shall not need a mechanism. Everything that has been said in this House this afternoon has argued in favour of a GTC which gives teachers responsibilities and which is expected to behave responsibly. Everything that has been said implies that. I am sure that is what the GTC will do. In any event, were it to spend huge sums of money on things that were not of interest to teachers, they would very soon complain and that would affect their future decisions and behaviour.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 12 [Qualifications of head teachers]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 20: Page 7, line 18, at end insert— ("() After subsection (1) there shall be inserted— (1A) The Secretary of State shall not make regulations under subsection (1)(ab) above until he is satisfied that a sufficient number of head teachers have obtained a professional headship qualification to meet the demand for head teachers so qualified that is likely to exist once such regulations have come into force."").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, again, I repeat at the outset that this is a measure with which we agree in principle but we are extremely concerned about its compulsory nature and the wholesale inflexibility as regards the way it will work. We tried to persuade the Minister to consider some flexibility and that was rejected. Therefore, it is important to reflect some of the concerns that teachers have about this particular measure.

As the Bill is well on its way through both Houses, perhaps the Minister could at this stage give us an outline prediction as to when this clause will in fact be implemented. In other words, can she say by what date it is likely that it would be a requirement for any teacher appointed to any school within the state system to have such a qualification?

There are a number of questions which have still not been properly answered and which concern teachers. For example, who will select the teachers for training and on what basis? What will be the geographical spread of teachers becoming available with the qualification? To what extent will the number of trainees—that is, the potential candidates—match the uneven turnover of heads around the country? Finally, when will the pool of teachers with this qualification be large enough to provide a healthy choice of applicants for all schools in the country?

If this qualification should become a requirement, there would be a danger of there not being enough people in the pool of teachers and, therefore, schools would have no choice. They would have to take teachers from a very inadequately qualified pool. As this becomes a requirement, it really will not be good enough not to recognise the fact that teachers will wish to see provision for cover at school. At present, it is a voluntary scheme. It is working quite well, although it is not without its problems. Indeed, it already shows that one of the tensions that has been manifest is that schools are reluctant to let teachers go to take up such training. Moreover, teachers are being invited to undertake such training at weekends. That is fine at present while it is a voluntary scheme. However, if it becomes a requirement that they must have such a qualification, then teachers will inevitably ask for cover; schools will expect such cover to be paid for by the local authority; and, indeed, teachers will be much more reluctant to undertake the training, which is a requirement under the law, so as to gain promotion to headships. They will, of course, be more reluctant to undertake such training in their own time.

6 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington

My Lords, I keep in touch with the Teacher Training Agency. Indeed, I have met the civil servants who are involved in the matter, and this is one of the points that I have raised. As the noble Baroness said, we are discussing a most important point. We cannot have teachers taking time off from school, especially when there are shortages, and so on. I believe that the noble Baroness recognised in her speech that we are actually talking about weekend training. I know that intentions may not always be followed up, but the intention is to keep it that way so that there will be an absolute minimum of disruption in the schools while teachers take such courses.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his remarks. That is indeed the case. However, I should point out to him that that will discriminate against those teachers who find it very difficult to get away at weekends. Some teachers simply cannot, over a period of one, two or three years—which is what we are talking about—undertake such training on a regular basis; therefore, those teachers who are free and who do not have family responsibilities because their children have grown up, will have an advantage over others who may be just as ambitious. It is just another of those issues about which I know the National Association of Head Teachers is concerned. Indeed, it is just another issue which needs to be resolved before this becomes a requirement, making it compulsory for all head teachers to have such a qualification before they can be made heads of schools.

As I have said, there is a world of difference between the scheme which is voluntary, which encourages participation and, indeed, which encourages people to give up their weekends and holidays in order to gain such a qualification and a scheme which is compulsory and has no flexibility. I believe that to be most unfortunate. When replying to the amendment, it would be helpful if the Minister were to hint that some flexibility in terms of the requirement could be considered on Third Reading, albeit the last stage in this House.

For all of those reasons, I believe that my amendment ought to be on the face of the Bill, if only because I believe it is what the Government will argue is the case; namely, that they are unlikely and it is not their intention—indeed, I would be most surprised if they said that it was—to bring this in as a requirement until they have an adequate pool of teachers to provide healthy choice for schools from which to choose their heads. If my amendment were on the face of the Bill, it would take up very little space. It would hold the Government to no more than I believe is their general intention. However, it would be a huge reassurance to potential candidates for headships for our schools. I beg to move.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I support the amendment. I entirely support the general principle of a professional qualification for head teachers. Indeed, when I was a Minister in the then DES I discussed this matter on several occasions. The points raised by my noble friend are most serious. I was interested in the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, regarding his discussions with the TTA.

One has to be realistic about the life of a teacher. Let us take, for example, a teacher in a primary school. Of course, such teachers have their hours of teaching and they have their lessons to prepare. However, these days, teachers have endless parent meetings and, possibly, governors' meetings. There are also meetings regarding their professional qualifications and discussions as regards training days. My impression of teachers is that not only do they work all day but also that most of them work five evenings a week. Now we are asking them to work at the weekend.

Again, one has to be realistic. I do not quite know what age we are thinking about as regards those who will apply to take this course, but it is really quite difficult for women with families to give up weekends. Indeed, it would be impossible for them to do so. The matter needs to be thought through most carefully to ensure that we have a scheme that will work.

My argument is entirely based on my knowledge of the lives that young teachers lead today. We are probably talking about men and women in their late thirties who are thinking about promotion, with all the attendant pressures of family, and so on, that arise. The whole scheme needs to be thought through most carefully. I believe that the rather slower pace suggested by my noble friend as regards the introduction of the scheme to enable us to see how it will work out and whether there are suitable teachers available would be helpful and sensible. I very much hope that the Minister will consider that suggestion.

Lord Tope

My Lords, I believe that I made clear in Committee that we are perhaps a little more enthusiastic than the other Opposition party about the head teacher qualification and, indeed, compulsion in that respect. Indeed, I believe that it is long overdue and most necessary. Therefore, as I said, we support its compulsory nature. I give way.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am deeply grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to intervene. I should like to remind him that it was my party which introduced the professional qualification requirement for head teachers. Indeed, the pilot schemes that are running at present were implemented by my party when it was in office.

Lord Tope

My Lords, I recognise that fact. I was about to say that we certainly support this amendment and believe that it is necessary to introduce the compulsory nature of the scheme in order to make it work. Your Lordships may recall my suggesting in Committee that, over a proper period of time, it should also apply to people who currently hold headships. However, I have not returned to that issue today.

Nevertheless, I have much sympathy for the amendment. As I have said many times in this House, I happen to be married to a primary school teacher and can certainly endorse all that noble Baroness, Lady Young, said. I can assure her with, perhaps, greater personal knowledge that what she said applies not only to the evenings of the week but also to the weekends. Indeed, when I am working so is my wife. Therefore, I believe that those concerns are right and proper.

The amendment before us raises proper concerns and I say that from the point of view of an enthusiastic supporter of the scheme; indeed, it is one which I wish to see implemented as quickly as possible. As I said, this amendment raises proper concerns. However, I do not know whether it needs to be included on the face of the Bill. I accept the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that it will not take up much space, although I am not sure that that is the strongest argument I have ever heard for an amendment. This is an important issue. I shall listen with care to the Minister's reply. I hope that she will be able to give us the reassurances that we all seek.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, reiterated his support both for the professional qualification—I think all noble Lords support that—and the need to make it mandatory at some point. That is certainly the strategy of the Government. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that her comments did not quite reflect the substance of the amendment. Surely we should be talking about a sufficient number of potential applicants, not a sufficient number of head teachers. We wish to improve the supply of potential applicants who will in due course acquire this qualification.

My noble friend Lady Blackstone has already said on the record—this is contained in the note we have placed in the Library—that our intention is that, subject to further development, the NPQH will be the mandatory qualification. However, we still need some positive feedback from piloting. We shall give sufficient notice of our intention to designate NPQH in this way, and of the intended date for implementation of the qualification requirement. At this stage it is not sensible for us to give a precise date. However, we have indicated that we hope that this will become mandatory for applicants, as distinct from serving head teachers, during the course of this Parliament. But obviously we have to consider the effectiveness of the qualification and the supply in different types of school and different parts of the country.

We have no intention of introducing the requirement until we can be confident that we have a sufficient pool of qualified candidates from which employers can choose. We have taken practical steps to encourage potential aspiring heads to apply for the qualification. As there is a problem in relation to primary and special school heads, LEAs will be able to fund, in appropriate cases, supply cover to release those potential NPQH participants who wish to apply for headships. They will also have greater flexibility to fund supply cover in the case of secondary head candidates. I believe that that goes some way to meet the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, in relation to the impracticality of achieving this qualification through weekend study.

We have made clear our intention in the debate and in the documentation. We do not believe it is necessary to write on to the face of the Bill our intention that we shall ensure that there is a sufficient supply of applicants. I offer every assurance to the House and to the noble Baroness that we have no intention of introducing the requirement until we have a clear picture of the timetable, the effectiveness of the qualification and the feed-through of qualified candidates. It would be extremely shortsighted and foolish for us to impose a requirement which might risk limiting the supply of candidates. I can assure the noble Baroness that that is not our intention and it will not happen. I hope therefore that with those assurances she will not press her amendment.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, does he recall that on the previous occasion when teachers had to enhance their status through additional training—the Open University offered courses to teachers to acquire graduate status—they responded magnificently to that requirement and made enormous sacrifices and gave up their time to acquire graduate status? When teachers can see that the route to promotion and success in their profession lies in achieving this qualification, they are bound to respond with the greatest enthusiasm, and the timescale we are discussing will be much shorter than may have been suggested by some of the more pessimistic voices this afternoon.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I believe that contribution was out of order under the rules of the House. No one is arguing about the desirability of this aim. However, the Minister has talked of introducing the requirement within this Parliament. That emphasises the fears of those teachers who discussed this matter with me. They said their worst fear was that the Government would establish this requirement within this Parliament and there would be no flexibility. We know there is no flexibility in this regard by the way the matter is set out in the Bill. We know that this requirement will be implemented. We now know that it will probably be implemented within this Parliament.

This Bill will not complete all its parliamentary stages until the summer. The courses that are to be established are still not satisfactory; we know that from the evaluation report. We know that schools would like a good deal more money to cover the enormous future expansion of this scheme. At the moment it is a modest scheme but it will have to be expanded considerably. The noble Lord said nothing in response to my point about geographical areas. He did not respond either to the point that I made about unevenness of funding throughout the country; namely, in one part of the country there may be a high turnover of head teachers—for example, London—but in another part of the country—for example, Cumbria—the turnover of head teachers may be much smaller. That will result in uneven funding as between different local authorities.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I hope I may correct the noble Baroness. I referred to a sufficient pool of candidates with reference to different kinds of school and different geographical areas. We shall not set a date for the implementation of this provision until we are satisfied that there is a sufficient pool of applicants, taking account of those factors. I hope that we can set a date within this Parliament, but the key point is that we shall not do so until we are satisfied that there is a sufficient pool of candidates.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I continue, with the leave of the House. The noble Lord has not said how that geographical spread can be achieved, as one may have to select more teachers in one part of the country than in another part. At the moment local authorities have not received any instructions on that. As things stand, the provision applies to teachers from any part of the country who wish to aspire to headships. There are parts of the country where turnover may be low and teachers may not be selected for the training simply because the turnover of head teachers in their area is not high. However, they may wish to aspire to a headship and will want the training to enable them to be more mobile and to apply for headships in other parts of the country. London not only has a high turnover of head teachers but it also draws candidates for those headships from many other parts of the country.

The noble Lord said that the Government sought to impose this provision within this Parliament. Therefore an absolute guarantee is required that this part of the Bill will not be introduced as an inflexible requirement for all candidates who will have to acquire this qualification in order to gain a headship. All these points need to be met. I shall discuss that point on the next amendment too. If the noble Lord really means what he says, the next amendment ought to be accepted. For the moment I shall withdraw this amendment but I hope that the noble Lord can give us an assurance on this matter. If he does not do so, we shall return to this matter at Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Maddock moved Amendment No. 21: Page 7, line 30, at end insert— ("() Regulations under this section shall provide that the period of training for a professional headship qualification shall be of not less than one year's, and not more than three years', duration.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I make no apologies for moving a similar amendment to one that we discussed in Committee. I do so partly because of the reply that we received from the noble Lord, Lord Whitty—I believe that we were discussing the amendment rather late at night—at col. 1486 of Hansard. This amendment concerns the length of time that teachers take to achieve the head teachers' qualification. We are all agreed that that is an extremely important qualification, as the quality of a head in a school makes all the difference to what happens in that school.

When we discussed this matter previously I emphasised that we wanted to make sure that head teachers are not allowed to spend too many years trying to achieve this qualification. We are also concerned that this qualification should not be rushed and that people are not "parachuted in" from other professions, as we have seen happen in other walks of life.

When the Minister replied, he said: We wish to examine ways of fast tracking for headships potential candidates who have shown the kind of flair referred to in the earlier debate".—[Official Report, 20/1/98; col. 1486.] I hope that I am giving the Minister the opportunity to enlarge on that point, because it was last discussed late at night. It is precisely that kind of parachuting-in that concerns us, which is why we tabled the amendments.

I expect that other Members of your Lordships' House have, like me, had briefings from head teachers who are concerned about how the Government see headship qualifications. I do not imagine that they will understand the situation any better from the debate this afternoon and evening. I hope that the proposed amendment will give the Minister the opportunity to dispel our worst fears about individuals being allowed to attain a headship qualification without proper training.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I support most strongly the amendment, although it adds to the disquiet that I know teachers have. There is a loud rumour going through the teaching profession on the back of the reference to fast tracking—that the courses will be such that they will simply achieve the policy. The Government can say that teachers have the headship qualification but the quality of courses will not be so good, the qualification will be devalued as a result and, over time, the quality and improvement that the policy is deemed to bring about will not be achieved.

My only reservation about the amendment is what is meant by one year. We raised that point in the last debate. What is absolutely essential is the number of hours of study or the commitment to study. One can have a course lasting a year that requires attendance only one morning a month, or one can have a three-month attachment requiring more concentrated effort over a shorter period. What matters at the end of the day is quality. The point made by the noble Baroness's amendment is one that I strongly support. No attempt to fast track should result in the qualification being reduced in quality and its currency devalued.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Whitty said in Committee, in response to a similar amendment, that there is absolutely no merit in making prospective head teachers serve time for its own sake. The Teacher Training Agency has, in close consultation with the profession, developed the national standards for headship, which, together with information about headship training, have been available in the Library since Committee stage. I hope that information is reassuring. The Government well recognise the crucial importance of effective and well-trained teachers. The last thing we want is to devise head teacher training that in some way devalues the standards that ought to be required and the quality of the people trained, who are to take such important jobs as the headships of our schools.

The purpose of the National Professional Qualification for Headship—which is a modern, practical and professional preparation—is to bring all prospective head teachers up to rigorous standards. But as candidates may be starting from different points, their training needs will inevitably differ and there can be no one-for-all fit. The training that an individual aspiring head teacher undergoes must be tailored to his or her needs. That is consistent with the national vocational qualification system of work-based training that was developed under the previous Government in which the noble Baroness served.

Deputy heads, for example, who have extensive leadership experience—perhaps in a big school—and who may have completed relevant management qualifications at higher education institutions, will need less development than individuals newly promoted to middle or senior management posts. There will be people in the profession who already have a master's degree in school management and will obviously need less additional preparation than individuals who have no formal qualification other than their initial teacher qualification of years before.

At present the NPQH can take between two terms and three years, so it is already the case that the qualification can take less than one year. In recognising that some candidates may already be well qualified, the TTA is considering accelerated routes to the NPQH that may take less than two terms. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, recognises that the issue is not the length of additional training that candidates may need on the basis of individual assessments but the standards represented by the NPQH, which must be absolute and represent a clear benchmark for entry into headship in future.

I am sure your Lordships agree that there is absolutely no value in forcing already highly skilled people to leap unnecessary hurdles to demonstrate their fitness for headships. I am sure that the TTA would not want people who are asked to leap such hurdles to be allowed to go ahead on some fast track system. The proposal aims at securing training and development that is fit for the purpose in the case of each participant. For that reason, considerable emphasis has been placed on the initial process of needs assessment. There is no question of limiting the training available or of short cuts to headship. Equally, where someone is already close to the headship standard, that should be recognised. At no time will we be prepared to compromise the rigour or standards of the NPQH—and I know that would be the case for the TTA. In light of those assurances, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Maddock

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her full reply, which was rather more informative than the last debate on the issue. We all agree that the needs of teachers seeking a headship qualification will be different. Of concern is the possibility that people who have not been involved in education could come forward and somehow obtain a headship qualification. I believe that the Minister was reassuring me that that would not be the case. I feel certain that the important issue of a headship qualification will be discussed further as the Bill progresses. People are excited about it and believe in it, so getting it right will be important. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 22 not moved.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 23: After Clause 12, insert the following new clause—


(".—(1) Section 232 of the Education Reform Act 1988 (orders and regulations) shall be amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (3) there shall be inserted— (3A) A statutory instrument containing regulations made by the Secretary of State under section 218(1)(ab) shall be laid in draft before Parliament for approval by resolution of each House.

(3) In subsection (4)(b), after the word "216,", there shall be inserted the word "218(1)(ab),".").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall be brief. The debate that we have just concluded and that on my Amendment No. 20 at least placed on record a large number of our concerns about what is, at the end of the day, a good policy aim. It is therefore incumbent on the Government to use the affirmative resolution procedure by putting regulations before both Houses for approval, so that we may be absolutely certain that the arrangements made are consistent with the wishes of this House.

6.30 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I do not believe that our proposals are novel enough or contentious enough—despite what the noble Baroness said—to warrant the degree of parliamentary scrutiny that the affirmative resolution would involve. It may be helpful if I recap the important issues to be covered in regulations. The clause will enable the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring that head teachers taking up their first appointment in maintained schools and non-maintained special schools should hold a professional headship qualification. There is provision to make some exceptions to the requirement—such as for holders of the prospective Scottish headship qualification. I have already made clear in our earlier debates that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State would not wish to seek to bring the mandatory qualification into force until he can be certain that we shall have a sufficiently large pool of qualified candidates available. Moreover, we shall give good notice of the intention to bring this requirement into force.

Additionally, regulations will set out the nature of the professional headship qualification. I have already placed on the record our intention that, subject to further development and continued positive feedback, we intend that NPQH should be the mandatory qualification; and we have placed a wealth of background information in the Library of the House. So we anticipate that there will be nothing new to debate when we come to confirm that decision in regulations.

Nonetheless, the Secretary of State will be consulting widely before laying regulations on the mandatory qualification for headship. We shall consider carefully the issues which arise during consultation with a view to reaching a clear consensus before we proceed. All the key interest groups will have an opportunity at that stage to comment on the provisions.

We have accepted the case for following the affirmative resolution procedure in relation to other significant parts of the Bill in order to allow the House fully to debate significant details underpinning policy implementation. I cannot agree that there is sufficient further detail to be prescribed in regulations under Clause 12 to justify this. I hope that the noble Baroness will be prepared to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, again, the noble Baroness believes that if it is not contentious in her book, it is not contentious in anyone's book. I regard the definition of contention to be when people are concerned about the issue. Having spoken to many teachers, they think that the aim is laudable; that it is a good practical policy; and that it will be materially important in raising the standards of head teachers in our schools which in turn will raise the standard of education in our schools. However, there is much disquiet about the way in which it will be introduced. If the provision is brought in too quickly, if attempts are made to take shortcuts in order artificially to boost numbers where they are needed, it will be understood that the Government are doing so for all the wrong reasons.

There is disquiet about the matter. It is an issue to which I shall return. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 [Requirement to serve induction period]:

Baroness Maddock moved Amendment No. 24: Page 8, line 17, at end insert (", which shall not be less than one year in total").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I hope that the Government will be helpful. The amendment answers a problem raised in Committee. We were told that our amendment could not be accepted at Committee stage because the training of a teacher might be suspended through part of a year. The insertion of the phrase "in total" overcomes the criticism made of the original amendment. I need say no more. In the light of that, I hope that the Minister will be able to accept the amendment.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, when we debated the length of the induction period in Committee I made clear that it was our intention that the period should normally be one academic year. Amendment No. 24 as drafted would imply a full 12-month calendar year induction period. But no doubt the noble Baroness's intention is the same as the Government's. So there is, I think, nothing between us. I argued in Committee that given our intention to consult on the detailed operation of the new induction arrangements it would not be appropriate to prescribe the intended length of the induction period on the face of the Bill. But having listened to the noble Baroness today we are prepared to agree to bring forward a government amendment making clear that the induction period should not be less than one academic year. However, I do not accept the precise wording of the amendment. I hope that the noble Baroness will be prepared to withdraw the amendment. I hope that I can bring forward the government amendment during proceedings in this House.

I was not entirely clear whether the noble Baroness also referred to Amendment No. 25. Perhaps she will clarify that.

Baroness Maddock

My Lords, no, I did not. I was so carried away by the fact that there was no reason why the Minister could not agree to the amendment that I forgot to speak to Amendment No. 25. I apologise.

On Amendment No. 24, while it is not good practice to talk about what one did in another place, the situation reminds me of the many times I have spent in committees in another place. People will do anything but accept an amendment. They will take away one word, and reword the provision. Nevertheless, I am grateful that the Minister recognises the point we make. That is the most important consideration.

Before withdrawing the amendment, perhaps I may speak briefly to Amendment No. 25. We are not clear what "the appropriate body" means at line 24 on page 8. It could refer to Ofsted, the local education authority, or the Department for Education. If it referred to the school there might be considerable variation on the standard when deciding who had completed the induction year satisfactorily. If the general teaching council has the right to monitor the position we shall have a satisfactory standard across the board. That is in line with what we have said about the role of the general teaching council.

I may have messed up the procedure by speaking to Amendment No. 25, and I may need to give the Minister time to reply to that amendment before I withdraw Amendment No. 24.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon

My Lords, I wish to raise two points on Amendment No. 25. I hope that the Minister will be able to answer them.

The noble Baroness has already raised the matter of the appropriate body. I had understood that the TTA might be an appropriate body. I do not think she referred to it. If there were some tension between the TTA and the GTC, it would bring us back to matters we discussed previously.

What weight will be given to the recommendation of the head teacher in reaching any assessment? If a poor assessment is received, the head teacher may be part of the context within which the teacher undergoing the induction period may be performing badly. Practical factors could include the size of classes or the number of difficult pupils within a class. Those matters within a head teacher's control may affect a teacher's induction performance. More generally, the ethos of the school—the support given in the staff room and by the head teacher—may determine the outcome of the induction period. What weight is to be given to the recommendation of the head teacher?

Will the induction period be a once only opportunity? Let us suppose that a teacher fails an induction period. Will there be a further opportunity? I am thinking of similar arrangements in the Church of England for training periods for clergy. We have a year in which clergy are ordained deacons, at the end of which a recommendation is made about whether they should be ordained priests. Very often, if there is under-performance on the part of clergy in that preparatory period, it is as a result of the poor relationship between vicar and curate—in other words between the person doing the training and the person being trained. Sometimes, taking a person out of that context and putting him into a different one produces a different kind of outcome. Will it be the case that those who may fail a particular induction period will be given a second opportunity?

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

My Lords, the weakness of Clause 13 is that the only mention of the general teaching council is to say that it should be told after the event who has passed the induction year. For a body whose principal aims include, in the words of Amendment No. 2 to Clause 1, contributing to, improving the standards of teaching", that seems to me a little bit strange. For that reason, I support the amendment.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, we are to engage in a further period of consultation on the whole process of induction. We shall produce a consultation document which will set out many of these arrangements and the options. In relation to both the question of an "appropriate body" and the role of the headmaster—I am sorry, I should say head teacher; I am falling into the habits of the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington—we envisage that the head teacher of the school where the new teacher is employed will be required at the end of the induction period to make a recommendation to the appropriate body as to whether the new teacher has met the standards; and it will be for the appropriate body to make the final decision, though the head teacher's view will be very important. We are still consulting on this matter, but we envisage that the local education authority will normally act as the appropriate body for staff in maintained schools.

Regarding the idea of a further opportunity when a person has failed an induction period, again it is a matter for consultation. However, we should not normally be looking at a second approach unless there were a serious reason in terms of illness or some other factor accounting for failure the first time.

On the question of consultation with the GTC, there is a problem of respective timings. Our intention is that the new induction arrangements will start in September 1999; and of course the council will not be established until the year 2000. Therefore it would not in the first stage be practicable to consult with the GTC before determining these arrangements. We shall expect to look to the council in future as to its view on the effective operation of those induction arrangements. I hope that in the light of that response the noble Baroness will be able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Maddock

My Lords, I do not think it is appropriate for me to say anything else, having messed up the procedure, other than that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 25 not moved.]

6.45 p.m.

Clause 14 [Inspection of institutions training teachers for schools]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 26: Page 9, line 9, after ("so") insert ("by the Secretary of State").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 28, 29, 30, 31 and 32.

In Committee I undertook to consider bringing forward government amendments to address the various issues raised by the debate. These amendments fulfil that commitment and further clarify the Government's intentions. These amendments have been discussed in outline with representatives of the HE sector and I am pleased to say they have broadly welcomed the action we have taken.

I shall take the amendments in turn. Amendment No. 26 makes clear what was already implicit; namely, that it is the Secretary of State who may ask the chief inspector to give advice to the Secretary of State on teacher training matters falling within this clause of the Bill and to carry out inspections.

Amendment No. 28 concerns HMCI's rights to inspect and take copies of documents under this clause. We believed it was implicit in the wording of subsection (5) of the clause that, when it referred to the chief inspector exercising his functions, it meant only his functions under this clause. Nonetheless, the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, was concerned at the width of the powers conferred on the chief inspector and wanted to ensure that institutions will have to provide only such documentation as is relevant to the inspection. Amendment No. 28 makes explicit that the chief inspector's right to inspect and take copies of any records and documents under subsection (5) relates to the chief inspector's functions under this clause only; namely, the inspection of any initial training of teachers, or of specialist teaching assistants for schools, or any in-service training of such teachers or assistants which is provided by a relevant institution.

The question of documentation needed for inspection is currently being discussed at the joint Ofsted/HE sector working group on inspection costs and procedures with a view to producing an agreed list of relevant documents. I believe that that is the right way to handle such issues rather than by seeking to write in amendments to the general powers and duties set out on the face of the Bill.

Amendment No. 29 is similar to Amendment No. 28. It seeks to make explicit that the institution's duty to provide assistance under subsection (6) relates to the chief inspector's functions under this clause only.

I undertook to consider the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that a period of notice should be given to institutions before an inspection of teacher training provisions takes place. Amendment No. 30 requires the chief inspector to give an institution at least eight weeks' written notice of his intention to inspect its teacher training. This requirement will apply to the inspection of in-service training as well as initial teacher training carried out at the chief inspector's instigation. The Secretary of State will have the power to ask the chief inspector to carry out an inspection at shorter notice. We believe it appropriate to retain that power. It may be exercised, for example, where an institution is causing particular concern, although I very much hope that it would never have to be used.

The amendment also sets out how the notice may be given and to whom. It provides that where the training is being provided by a partnership or association of eligible institutions, notice need only be given to one of those institutions. For example, in the case of school-centred initial teacher training, if the training is provided by a group of schools the notice need only be given to one of those schools; in the case of initial teacher training provided by a higher education institution in which partner schools provide teaching practice, notice need only be given, for example, to the higher education institution.

Amendment No. 31 explicitly limits the powers of the chief inspector to inspect only those elements of a course dealing with teacher training. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, was concerned that the clause as drafted might be taken to allow Ofsted to inspect general higher education courses; for example, French lectures given to students who were studying for a French degree, simply because students undertaking an initial teacher training course and majoring in French would also be in attendance. Amendment No. 31 makes clear that this clause does not relate to instruction given wholly or mainly for purposes other than are set out in subsection (1).

We intend to bring forward a similar government amendment at a later date in relation to Clause 15 of the Bill on the arrangements for the inspection of teacher training in Scotland.

Amendment No. 32 addresses another concern of the noble Baroness. The amendment clarifies that the chief inspector's right to inspect teacher training extends only to bodies which are in receipt of public funding in respect of the provision of that training. The amendment will prevent Ofsted from inspecting private training institutions or in-service training providers who are not in receipt of public funds and which teachers are paying for from their own resources. I beg to move.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, the noble Baroness told us the glad news that the Government are paying attention to Scotland in this respect as well and intend to bring forward, as it were, an amendment replicating Amendment No. 31 to Clause 15. Is that correct? Is the Minister also referring to Clause 30? Do the Government intend to amend Clause 15 in relation to Clause 30?

Baroness Blackstone

No, my Lords.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I am informed by the noble Lord the Minister that the circumstances in Scotland are somewhat different in respect of giving notice of inspection. He tells me that there is no problem about that. Until I am advised otherwise by somebody, I shall of course accept what the Minister says on that point. Perhaps when we debate Clause 15 I may, with the leave of the House, return to the matter and ask the Scottish Office Minister a further question.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for coming back with those amendments. They will be welcomed. There remains some disquiet among higher education personnel who are still concerned about the documentation which could be made available for inspection. For some reason the universities are still disquieted by the possibility of misinterpretation of this clause, even with the new wording contained in Amendment No. 28.

Is the Minister prepared to continue discussions, in particular with CVCP, to find ways of refining the matter until it is beyond doubt? No one questions the intention of the Government to meet the anxieties, but I hope that that work between the higher education interests and the noble Baroness could continue until the clause is sufficiently defined to put all fears to rest. Otherwise, I am grateful for what the noble Baroness has done.

Lord Tope

My Lords, I too give a general welcome to this group of amendments. Amendment No. 30 is welcome, but it is very prescriptive about how the notice should be given, when, and the length of time. I began to wonder whether the chief inspector might be planning dawn raids on schools.

I am being waved at furiously from the Government Bench. I am not entirely sure whether I should wave back.

My other point concerns Amendment No. 26, which makes clear that the Secretary of State may ask the Chief Inspector for advice. I would have been happier if it had said "the General Teaching Council and/or the Secretary of State" because that is a power I would like the GTC to have also. Subject to those comments, and the gestures from the Front Bench which were less than clear to me, I give the amendment a general welcome.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am grateful for the general welcome that these amendments have received. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that discussions are going on between Ofsted and the higher education sector on the issues that she mentioned, and I am sure that they will be resolved.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 27: Page 9, line 27, at end insert— ("() The Chief Inspector, in carrying out his inspection and making his report, shall have proper regard to the demands made on teacher training institutions by changes to the curriculum.").

The noble Lord said: We are in confusion on this Bench. My noble friend Lady Maddock and I both thought that the other was moving the amendment. Under those circumstances all I can do is formally move the amendment and hear what the Minister will say about what one of us would have said. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, the problem is that I am also in some confusion as to what the noble Lord means and whether the curriculum he mentions refers to initial teacher training or primary schools. Either way, this issue is under discussion between Ofsted, the Teacher Training Agency and the higher education sector. Assuming that it is the primary curriculum, we would not wish to do anything unreasonable. Any change in the burden on teacher training institutions would need to be taken into account in the ongoing discussions between the three parties. Certainly it is the intention of the department and Ofsted that that should be so. I hope, in the light of that, that whoever is moving the amendment will withdraw it.

Lord Tope

My Lords, with that assurance and under the circumstances I am only too happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 28: Page 9, line 36, at end insert ("under this section").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 29: Page 9, line 45, after ("functions") insert ("under this section").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 30: Page 10, line 2, at end insert— ("(6A) The Chief Inspector shall not carry out any inspection under subsection (1) unless—

  1. (a) at least eight weeks previously, he has given notice of his intention to carry out the inspection—
    1. (i) to the relevant institution concerned, or
    2. (ii) where that institution is a partnership or association of eligible institutions, to one of those institutions; or
  2. (b) with the agreement of that institution or (as the case may be) one of those institutions, he has given it shorter notice of that intention.
(6B) Any notice under subsection (6A)—
  1. (a) shall be given in writing, and
  2. (b) may be sent by post; and any such notice may (without prejudice to any other lawful method of giving it) be addressed to an institution at any address which the institution has notified to a funding agency as its address.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 31: Page 10, line 3, leave out subsection (7) and insert— ("(7) Nothing in this section confers any right or imposes any duty, whether as regards the carrying out of any inspection or otherwise, in relation to any course which consists of instruction given wholly or mainly for purposes other than training falling within subsection (1)(a) or (b).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 32: Page 10, line 18, after first ("or) insert ("public").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 15 [Inspection of institutions training teachers for schools: Scotland]:

[Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Baroness Carnegy of Lour moved Amendment No. 35: Page 10, line 39, leave out from ("made") to end of line 41 and insert ("only by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education or by persons with substantial experience in higher education."").

The noble Baroness said: At Committee stage I raised the question of whether the arrangements for the inspection of higher education courses in Scotland, as outlined in Clause 15, are appropriate.

Clause 15 mirrors the type of inspection proposed in Clause 14 for England and Wales, yet the circumstances and the role of Her Majesty's Inspectorate are very different in Scotland. I shall not reiterate the differences, but the short debate we had on this clause is recorded at columns 1498 to 1504 of the Official Report for 20th January.

At that time the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, the Scottish Office Minister, gave a full and helpful reply, for which I was very grateful. Having discussed the matter again with the Association of University Teachers in Scotland, I have put down this further amendment in order to seek additional clarification.

The AUT still has two anxieties about this clause. One of those is addressed by this amendment. The association feels strongly that quality assessment of teacher training in Scotland should be led by people qualified in the area of teacher education. Amendment No. 35 would achieve that.

There would be no objection to Her Majesty's Inspectorate having an input in filling the gap which the Government perceive to exist in their ability to ensure that their ends are being fulfilled in this area of higher education institutions. Nor would there be any objection to the other professionals mentioned in the Bill having an input.

Can the Minister tell us whether the Government are firm in their intention to place this lead role on Her Majesty's Inspectorate or whether they have reconsidered the matter, and can she elucidate further than the noble Lord did in Committee on who the other professionals will be?

That is one anxiety. I mentioned the other anxiety when we discussed Clause 14, and I welcome the news that the noble Baroness gave us. I had laid down amendments to attempt to limit the scope of inspections in Scottish higher education institutions in the way that the noble Baroness intends. I have withdrawn those, but I should be grateful if the Minister could enlarge slightly on the Government's intentions. I beg to move.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel)

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her contribution this evening. Amendment No. 35, as it is presently worded, would remove Her Majesty's Inspectorate as the instrument of inspection and substitute the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. That is fundamentally flawed and ill conceived. It ignores the expertise of Her Majesty's Inspectorate and suggests that the Quality Assurance Agency is capable of acting as an instrument of inspection. By definition it cannot because the QAA is a private body, owned by the higher education institutions, and therefore the Secretary of State would be unable to direct it to inspect teacher education on his behalf. The link between the Secretary of State and the inspection would be broken, and that is an ill-conceived development.

I firmly believe that only Her Majesty's Inspectorate has the information and expertise necessary to ensure that teacher education produces the teachers that Scotland's schools need and it would not be appropriate to ask a body or person whose primary focus was higher education, not school education, to carry out this particular line. That is why we are persisting with our position.

On the business of the other professionals, perhaps I may indicate that the other professionals involved in the inspection could well be, for example, senior and experienced teachers and head teachers and they would benefit enormously from the inspection process, in addition to the members of the inspectorate.

On the second point raised by the noble Baroness, I repeat what my noble friend Lady Blackstone said. It is our intention to move amendments to the clause either at a later stage or in another place which will have the effect of putting the position in Scotland on the limitation of the inspection on all fours with the case in England and Wales. I hope that I have said sufficient to enable the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

7 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. The Association of University Teachers will be grateful for the trouble the Minister has taken in responding to their pleas. The amendments to be introduced will be welcomed by them and by the universities in Scotland. They will clarify matters and greatly improve the Bill. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carter

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

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Lord Carter

My Lords, as consideration on the Bill has now been concluded, the Unstarred Question is no longer restricted to the one hour that would have been allowed in the Dinner Break. The one-and-a-half hour limit now applies. That will allow all speakers 12 minutes each rather than the seven minutes specified on the Speakers' List. As not all noble Lords who wish to take part in the debate are present, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn until 7.30 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.2 to 7.30 p.m.]