HL Deb 20 January 1998 vol 584 cc1467-504

House again in Committee.

Clause 2 [Advisory functions of the Council]:

[Amendments Nos. 29 to 39 not moved.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 40: Page 2, line 38, at end insert— ("() The Secretary of State shall publish a response to published advice given by the Council under this section and shall give reasons if he intends not to act on that advice.").

The noble Baroness said: My noble friend Lord Pilkington is not here, but I know that he planned to say that he was disappointed with the Minister's reply on this point. It seems to us that if the Secretary of State responds to advice that he has either requested from the council or that the council has proffered, on a matter relating to teachers, the professional standards of teaching, or whatever, his response to that advice should be published. We accept the Minister's answer that it is likely that he would do so anyway, but it is not every Secretary of State who publishes every response. Because this is a body which is accountable to its membership, it is important that the membership at large, not just the council itself, should learn of the Secretary of State's response to it. We believe that there is an argument for the response to be published. So we would wish to press the amendment, but at a later stage. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone

I have nothing to add to what I have already said on this amendment.

Baroness Blatch

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 41 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3: [Registration of teachers]:

[Amendments Nos. 42 and 43 not moved.]

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 44: Page 3, line 6, at end insert (", and (c) has met any other requirements of eligibility for registration determined and published by the Council.").

The noble Baroness said: Amendments Nos. 44, 45 and 57 are included in this group of amendments. The purpose of Amendment No. 44 is to give the GTC the option of introducing additional criteria, with the agreement of its membership, which teachers must meet in order to be eligible for membership of that body. The GTC is, in the words of the Minister for School Standards, intended to give "a clear professional voice" to teachers who for too long have had too little say in determining the shape and future of their profession".

That is why the Bill gives the GTC advisory functions in respect of standards of teaching, standards of conduct, training, and career development. The amendment gives the GTC the option to introduce additional criteria for membership, as it develops a clear and considered view of teacher professionalism. Such criteria might include, for example, a requirement on members to undertake approved programmes of continuing professional development, or to abide by a code of professional conduct, devised and agreed by members.

I turn to Amendment No. 45, the purpose of which is to allow for a category of professional GTC membership for those who have successfully completed their initial teacher training education, but whose qualified teacher status is pending the successful completion of the induction period.

Clause 4(2)(e) already allows for the division of the register into separate parts. One possible use of such a provision is to allow for those serving their induction period to be granted a form of provisional professional membership. The creation of a category of membership for teachers in their induction period would have a number of advantages. First, it would be in keeping with the requirement that those employed as teachers in the maintained sector, as defined elsewhere in the Bill, must be members of the GTC register.

Secondly, it would clarify that the new induction arrangements propose, not the conferment but the confirmation of qualified teacher status at the end of a successfully completed period of professional practice. That is an important distinction for the maintenance of high national professional standards, because the successful completion of an accredited programme of initial teacher training education therefore remains the basis for the award of QTS. Newly qualified teachers would therefore receive confirmation of professional membership when their qualified teacher status had been confirmed.

Thirdly, it would secure the involvement of newly qualified teachers in the work of the GTC—that is important—covering a wide range of professional matters which have an impact on those serving their induction period—matters upon which those embarking upon their teaching careers deserve a voice. This is an important amendment. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to sympathise with it.

The next amendment to which my name is attached is Amendment No. 47, which is an amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington. It applies to Clause 4, "Regulations relating to registration", and deletes Clause 4(2)(c), which provides: the registration, on the establishment of the register, of persons who have not made such applications".

I want to know why we have that subsection in Clause 4.

My final amendment in the group is Amendment No. 57, which is slightly different. It is to clarify that those teachers working in a pupil referral unit, hospital teachers, and so on, are eligible for, or subject to the requirement to take up membership of the GTC. Pupils in the maintained sector, wherever they are learning, should be entitled to professional teaching. This probing amendment seeks clarification that teachers working in pupil referral units, hospital tuition, or other off-site education provision, will have the same relationship with the GTC as their counterparts in schools. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

I wish to refer to Amendment No. 47 and to the Question whether Clause 9 shall stand part of the Bill. There is an inconsistency in the wording of the Bill. Perhaps the Committee will look at Clause 3(2), which reads: The register shall contain the name of every person who is eligible for registration and applies to he registered in the register in accordance with regulations made under section 4". I assume that every person who is eligible for registration and who applies shall be registered. Therefore, if everyone has to register, that provision is superfluous. Can it be that there will be people who are eligible to register, who are required to register but who do not register? How does that fit with Clause 4(2)(c), which states: Regulations under this section may, in particular. make provision as to… the registration. on the establishment of the register, of persons who have not made such applications"? I am not sure how those two provisions fit together. On the one hand, we are saying that registration is compulsory. On the other hand, a register is being kept of people who do not make application: there is a requirement to record in a register the names of those who do not apply. Amendment No. 47 poses the question: is Clause 4(2)(c) superfluous, or is there a meaning that is deluding me? I should be grateful for clarification.

The Question of whether a clause shall stand part of the Bill is traditionally used in this House as a mechanism for eliciting more information. However, I am not entirely confident that we shall receive much more information. If the earlier part of our proceedings is any indication I shall probably go away empty handed. From all that I have read about the GTC, I understand that it will be set up as a body to advise only, with no powers of regulation over the teaching profession, and that membership will be compulsory.

Furthermore, from what the Minister has repeated several times today, I understand that one of the reasons why we have before us a Bill which gives us no detail whatever—detailed consultation will follow which may modify the Government's thinking about what to do, excluding the possibility of a body with powers—is that it is difficult to find a place in the legislative programme. As a former Minister I spent many hours trying to get our Bills into the programme but with no success.

However, the noble Baroness went on to say that the body would develop and over time become independent and receive powers of the kind codified in the amendments tabled today. That will be dealt with by primary legislation in the next Parliament. If the intention is that it will be the kind of body sought by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, and that there is to be a long process of consultation, would it not be better to abandon this skeletal outline Bill and go through the process of consultation? I and other Members who have received information from teachers about what they want from a GTC know that the teachers will say unequivocally to the Government that they want a body with powers. It is crazy to have a Bill with no detail, a consultation process followed by a great deal of disquiet about another body which will be set up and then another Bill before Parliament changing the nature of the body to coincide with what people want. That is one reason why I believe that Clause 9 must be called into question.

The noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, made the point about the body having no say over suspension and dismissals. That is extraordinary in the sense that if the GTC is to be set up with the idea that it should represent teachers and have a view about discipline, conduct, professionalism and standards without being able to advise on suspensions and dismissals, the teachers will question that body most strongly.

That leads me to my final point. How can it be that teachers are to be compelled to pay a subscription to fund a body which is to be merely an advisory body and a talking shop? If the Government intend to have two attempts at the legislation—one now and one later—I suggest that it would make more sense not to make membership compulsory in the first instance. However, when it receives powers in relation to entry to the profession, recruitment, promoting teaching as a profession and all the measures included in the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, only then would it be fair to compel teachers to pay a subscription to a body which will serve their interests. That will not be the case if the body is merely a talking shop.

Therefore, I am trying to elicit more information from the Minister as to why membership will be compulsory for teachers. They will not wish to pay for a body which will not do what they want it to do. The Government will not even accept amendments which provide that when the Secretary of State responds to the GTC's advice, that information should be published.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Whitty

There are a large number of amendments in this group. The amendments in the name of my noble friend Lady David are largely in line with our intentions but are, I would argue, unnecessary additions to the Bill. Other amendments would undermine the effectiveness of the registration. I believe all sides of the Committee, teachers and certainly most people in the world of education wish to see an effective system of registration.

Amendment No. 44 seeks to provide extra qualifications for registration. The criteria for registration are already rigorous. They are: first, having a qualified teacher status, with all that that implies under the Government's new requirements; secondly, not having been debarred; and thirdly, payment of a registration fee. We should not envisage that the council should have powers to extend those three central requirements. The new qualified teacher status requirements were the product of fairly wide consultation and have been broadly accepted. They cover matters ranging from the ability to establish and maintain discipline through to the qualifications for teaching subjects. Similarly, as the document which was placed in the Library makes clear, we intend that the standards for induction will be the subject of wide consultation with the GTC and others.

That does not mean that the GTC has nothing to say about those matters. It will have a say in how induction is operated. Once it is established, the GTC will offer advice on areas where the qualified teacher status standards should be further clarified or extended. That advice would certainly carry great weight. But that is within the existing three requirements. I do not believe that it is desirable to impose additional primary requirements beyond those already provided at this stage.

As regards Amendment No. 45 in the name of my noble friend Lady David, the regulations under Clause 4(2)(e) already allow for the division of a register into separate parts. It is the Government's intention, subject to whatever emerges from the consultation, that teachers undertaking an induction year should be entered into a separate part of the register. Therefore, we entirely share the intentions underlying that amendment and agree with much of what my noble friend said. However, we do not believe that that needs to be set out in primary legislation. The regulations will be drawn up in conjunction with those regulations which govern induction under Clause 13 of the Bill.

As regards Amendment No. 47, which was spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and my noble friend Lady David, there is a perhaps understandable bafflement in relation to what the clause is intended to provide. However, it is fairly simple. The intention is that it will enable all serving teachers in maintained schools and special non-maintained schools to be registered automatically with the GTC at the point where the register is established. Removal of that paragraph would place an enormous burden on the GTC as regards cost. It would also be a time-consuming exercise if we had to require the GTC to go out and seek applications from almost half a million existing qualified teachers. So teachers will be automatically registered; that is what the clause is intended to do. It may not be all that apparent from the wording, but that is the intention. I hope that Members of the Committee will appreciate that fact and realise that there is no need for amendment. As I said, removal would cause a major problem.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation thus far. However, in Clause 3(2) it actually says: The register shall contain the name of every person who is eligible for registration", so they are automatically registered, whether or not they apply. But Clause 4(2)(c) refers to,the registration, on the establishment of the register, of persons who have not made such applications". What is the distinction between the two?

Lord Whitty

As regards the first clause to which the noble Baroness referred, that relates to the objective of the register. It is supposed to include all those who are eligible for registration; that is to say, those who have applied for registration, and those who are already regarded as qualified teachers within the existing system who may or may not go through the application process. It is not the intention to trawl back over all the existing teachers. The distinction between the two clauses is: first, that Clause 3 relates to the objective of the register; and, secondly, Clause 4 refers to how the register will be compiled.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

It seems to me that there is a financial element involved. Obviously the point which has been made from this side of the Committee is the fact that many teachers might feel that a body which is only advisory is not one to which they would wish to belong. If you make it compulsory you get money. As the noble Baroness said, at the moment it is the Treasury which has to pay, but in future teachers will have to pay for it. What is worrying us is the prospect of forcing teachers to abandon their consciences as regards this body and obliging them to join it.

Lord Whitty

As regards the intention of the clause, I was perhaps being too generous to Members on the other side of the Committee. If the intention of the amendment is to delete the mandatory nature of the registration, clearly we have a principled opposition to it. Indeed, there is a distinction between the aims of my noble friend Lady David and those of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch.

We believe that all teachers should be on the register. Indeed, the whole objective of the Bill is to ensure that they are contributing to it via the fee. I understand the arguments put forward by the noble Baroness in her opposition to Clause 9 standing part of the Bill, but the technical reason for the clause is that existing qualified teachers will automatically be on the register.

As regards Amendment No. 57, which relates to pupil referral units, I should tell my noble friend Lady David that, although we sympathise with the aim of the amendment, it is unnecessary in terms of putting it on the face of the Bill. The Education Act 1996 makes clear that the definition of "school" referred to in the Bill from the 1988 Act already includes PRUs. Therefore, it would not be sensible to include such a provision in the Bill.

I am not entirely sure whether I am in order in replying now to the opposition of the noble Baroness to Clause 9 standing part of the Bill. However, I shall do so in order to save time later. If it is the intention of the noble Baroness. Lady Blatch, to oppose the Question, then clearly the intention is to remove a major and vitally important part of the Bill. If the intention is to make the registration entirely voluntary, that would negate a large part of the Bill's intention and the benefit that it will bring in improving the standard of teaching and of teacher placement. It would also be a recipe for ensuring that the GTC is exactly what the noble Baroness was hoping to save it from; namely, becoming a marginal body. Certainly the GTC under the Bill is primarily an advisory body. However, in addition, it is a body which will administer the register. That is a vitally important part of the way in which we propose to administer the teaching profession under the Bill.

If the element of compulsion on mandatory registration were to be removed, that whole objective of the Bill would be lost. This is pretty close to being a wrecking amendment as regards the central objective of this Bill. I ask the noble Baroness not to press her opposition to the Question that the clause stand part when we reach that point. If she does so, she must recognise precisely what she is doing. We shall vigorously oppose such action if it occurs. I ask for the other amendments to be withdrawn.

Baroness David

I thank the noble Lord for his response. I am satisfied for the most part. I was not sure about his response to Amendment No. 44. I am not sure that the noble Lord answered my point that the criteria might, for example, include a requirement on members to undertake approved programmes of continuing professional development. However, I am glad to say that I was completely satisfied by his response to Amendment No. 45. I was going to make the same point that the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, made; namely, that teachers might not want to pay the fee to join this body. However, I think that my noble friend has probably answered that point. I did not take part in the clause stand part discussion. On the whole, I am satisfied with the responses. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has made her point over and over again and I do not wish to reply to that.

Baroness Blatch

I make no apology for saying what I said over and over again because I speak on behalf of the teachers who have lobbied both the Government and Members on this side of the Committee. They have lobbied extremely hard. In the past the noble Baroness, Lady David, has spoken out strongly for groups outside this Chamber whom she wished to support. Therefore there is no reason why we should not relate the arguments of the teachers here and discuss them vigorously.

Baroness David

I think we have grasped the arguments by now, if I may say so.

Baroness Blatch

That is a good thing. That is the whole point of today's debate. I understand that the GTC, as it is to be established under the Bill, will be a creature of the Secretary of State. The point that my noble friend Lord Pilkington made is an important one; namely, it will not be the creature that the teachers want, yet they will be compelled to join it. Not only will they be compelled to join it, they will not even need to make an application, money will be sequestered from their salaries. I wonder whether they will be content with that.

Lord Parry

Before the noble Baroness sits down, will she withdraw the words "the teachers" as if every teacher in Britain holds the opinion that she says they do?

Baroness Blatch

I used that term generally and I shall withdraw it. However, I refer to the views of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the national association of school teachers and women teachers and many other organisations which represent teachers. I believe that those organisations represent a large cross-section of teachers, but of course I do not refer to every teacher in the land.

Lord Whitty

I wish to respond to Amendment No. 44 standing in the name of my noble friend Lady David and my noble friend Lord Peston. Other requirements on acquiring or maintaining qualified teacher training status—which may well include career development and continuing in-service training at a later stage—would come under the general heading of maintenance of qualified teacher status. Therefore we do not need another primary requirement as would be permitted by the provision that my noble friend proposes. In the light of that, I ask her to withdraw Amendment No. 44.

Baroness David

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 45 not moved.]

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Regulations relating to registration]:

[Amendments Nos. 46 to 51 not moved.]

Clause 4 agreed to.

9.30 p.m.

Clause 5 [Additional and ancillary functions]:

[Amendment No. 52 not moved.]

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [The General Teaching Council for Wales]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 53: Page 4, line 30, after ("as") insert ("Cyngor Addysgu Cyffredinol Cymru or").

The noble Baroness said: The addition of a Welsh language name for the GTC for Wales is a purely technical amendment.

All major public sector bodies in Wales offer services in English and Welsh and it is good practice, in line with the requirements of the Welsh Language Act 1993, for such bodies to have bilingual names. The Welsh name for the GTC is Cyngor Addysgu Cyffredinol Cymru. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 7 to 9 agreed to.

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

[Amendments Nos. 54 to 57 not moved.]

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Supply of information relating to teachers]:

Baroness Maddock moved Amendment No. 58: Page 6, line 34, leave out ("he considers") and insert ("the Councils consider").

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of the amendment is to switch to the general teaching council the power to decide what information it needs—for example, statistical analysis and such information—rather than leaving it to the Secretary of State to decide what he will tell the council. That is in line with the whole thrust underlying our thinking on the general teaching council: that the Minister is there to serve and enable the profession rather than the other way round. I beg to move.

Earl Russell

I am extremely glad that my noble friends have put down the amendment. The general purpose of the amendment is clear and necessary. When I think of the Secretary of State controlling the flow of information to the council, I am reminded of something my stepmother used to say. "Whenever anyone says, `We thought you ought to know', it is always bad news."

Lord Whitty

I understand the objective of the amendments but I believe that they are unnecessary. Clearly the Secretary of State will consult with the GTC before making any regulations which would require it to disclose any information to others. From the point of view of the Secretary of State and Government, it is also important that the council receives all the information that it requires.

It is essential that we maintain rigorous safeguards around who may or may not practise the profession of teaching, and this will ensure that these safeguards are not weakened by difficulties in transferring personal data. There are sensitive areas here, in particular where a person has been barred or where barring is being considered. It may, for example, become clear that the GTCs for England and Wales need to exchange information with their existing counterparts in Scotland and Wales. All that will be covered by regulations. We shall also be consulting the Data Protection Registrar on any proposed regulations.

I should like to emphasise that the clause expressly limits the supply of information between the GTCs and the Secretary of State to that which supports them in carrying out their respective functions. I must also emphasise that the GTCs and the Secretary of State would remain subject to data protection legislation.

I understand the concern that adequate information should be provided in both directions; but it is also important that sensitive information is not provided which would lead to access regarding individuals or the past careers of individuals. We therefore share the concern that information should not be transmitted more widely than is necessary. However, we will ensure that flows of information under the regulations will ensure that both the GTCs and the Secretary of State can carry out their functions.

Earl Russell

Before we leave this matter, Amendment No. 59 standing in my name is also in this group. Before turning to that amendment, is the effect of the clause as literal as it appears from the drafting—to forbid the general teaching council from gathering any information not supplied by the Secretary of State? I can hardly believe that that is literally the intention; or, if it were the intention, that it would be enforceable.

Amendment No. 59 bears on the second half of the clause: information which the principal may be required to supply to the Secretary of State. It puts a limit of relevance on such information—that such information shall be relevant to the organisation of the teaching profession and shall not infringe the privacy of any individual.

Information gathering is becoming one of the sicknesses of our society. We all know, especially when we are dealing with the press, that the press is capable of seeing a case for gathering practically any information under the sun. So also, on occasion, are those who gather information on behalf of the Security Services. There are two members of the present Government, incredible though it may seem, who have, I understand, been the subject of monitoring by the Security Services. It was entirely unjustified and totally absurd in both cases. But it does indicate that an appetite for official information may turn into all sorts of unlikely channels. If one looks at what has happened to the teaching profession in the United States, there may be all sorts of political, moral, religious and other inquisitions undertaken at some time in the future.

It would be much better if there were a provision equivalent to the public interest defence, a restriction of information to what is relevant to the serious purposes behind the Bill, to which I make no objection.

Lord Whitty

The noble Earl is perhaps conjuring up problems in relation to this clause which do not exist. As he acknowledges, the clause as it stands limits the flow of information to "relevant" information. Nowhere in that loop of information does it include the Security Services. I can assure him that there are certain Members of the Government who are extremely upset that they were never considered important enough to be under the surveillance of the Security Services. I do not think that those kinds of considerations are involved here. I believe the wording of the clause is tight enough. I will examine it again in the light of the issues raised, and will probably be reassured. I will take the precaution of looking at it again and, if necessary, come forward with a proposal at a later stage.

Baroness Maddock

I am very pleased to hear the answers to both my amendment and that of my noble friend. We may return to the matter at a later stage, and it may be that the Minister returns to it. If nothing is changed, I am afraid that only time will tell whether we are right to be concerned. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 59 not moved.]

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Qualifications of head teachers]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 60: Page 7, line 15, leave out ("requiring") and insert ("encouraging").

The noble Baroness said: There is widespread support for the principle of teachers being better trained and better prepared for headship. I do not want any of my remarks this evening to detract from the importance of that. I simply want to appeal to the Government on the issue of the compulsory nature of the qualification, at this stage, on the face of the Bill. I even appeal to the Government to consider the possibility of a two-stage approach—of leaving it as a voluntary matter for the time being until many of the problems that are being experienced at the moment have been dealt with. It has started very well, I think the noble Baroness will agree. There has been an evaluation and there are elements which are very promising, but there are also some worrying concerns. Perhaps I can refer to some which appear in the evaluation document.

Candidates expressed concern that the training was too academic—I would want to take issue with "academic"—and theoretical. They said that there should have been greater consistency and greater reliability between assessors. That is a very important issue when one is being assessed. Some candidates reported that they would have appreciated better guidance and help in forming their action plans as a result of the needs assessment. Again, there needs to be a real link there. It was said that training and development centres needed to take better account of action plans during training to cater for candidates' individual needs. In some regions a significant minority considered the organisation of training insufficiently well matched to ongoing individualised needs and phase interests.

The evaluation document goes on to say that, while others would have welcomed more support from their head teachers in schools, a number were not getting the support and were too nervous to ask for it because they were concerned about how busy their head teachers were. I have to say in parenthesis that no existing head teacher opposed his or her teachers going on these courses, but there was a tension about getting better support back at their home school. Candidates reported a need for support not just from their own head teacher at that time but for the duration of the course.

The final point I want to make on the evaluation so far is that some candidates commented that they experienced a negative effect when there was a lack of fit between their assessment tasks and school activities, and the training at weekends was a particular inhibitor for many people. It would be a great pity if good potential candidates for headships were inhibited from doing the training because they could not fit it in at weekends, as seems to be expected.

That is one reason why I believe that the compulsory nature of the training as set out in the Bill is worrying. The other reason is rather different. I use the Probation Service as an example here. Some noble Lords—there are not many here at the moment—may remember that when I was responsible for the Probation Service one of the reasons for re-organising the training for the service was that from time to time someone would come along who was so well qualified in almost every way but not completely consistent with the particular diploma that all members of the Probation Service were required to have. The irony of that situation was that it was a requirement for fully-fledged probation officers to have a social work diploma under CETSWA, yet fully-fledged social workers did not, under the law, have to have that particular qualification.

It must be possible for the teaching service itself to have sufficient confidence from time to time to be able to employ someone as a head teacher who is eminently qualified and a good person to appoint who will have no need to be sent off to do a course of training. We shall debate the duration of the course in subsequent amendments. I say this in the spirit of supporting the principle of better training and preparation. I should like to think that over time it will become the normal qualification, that people will take it in their stride as teachers come through and regard it as part of a progression from being a class teacher to being a head of department and then to becoming a head teacher. However, I think that to make it compulsory on the face of the Bill at this time is precipitate. I wonder whether the noble Baroness or the noble Lord would at least be sympathetic to the notion that it does not have to be absolutely compulsory and that there can be exemptions. I beg to move.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Hardy of Wath

I was particularly drawn to Amendment No. 61 which has been taken with Amendment No. 60. I do not seek to detain the Committee for long but I should like to make one or two pertinent remarks. I was greatly reassured before Christmas when, in answer to a supplementary question which 1 tabled regarding the need for other qualities and experience as well as the possession of a qualification, my noble friend Lady Blackstone offered an assurance which I welcomed, as did other Members of your Lordships' House.

I want to make two or three brief points based on fairly substantial and senior experience as a schoolmaster before I entered the Commons. It is a long time ago but still seems to be relatively fresh in mind. I recall two or three head teachers who were extremely competent in administration and organisation. One of them was so good that he got rid of all of his bad teachers, but did it by giving glowing testimonials. A certain amount of justice followed when the chairman of governors said to him one day, "You will be pleased to know that Mr. So-and-So"— I shall not mention the name, though I could—"applied for the position of deputy head. Given your glowing recommendation I am sure that the governors will all agree". That put him in rather an embarrassing position.

I taught for quite a long time in a senior position and met another extremely able headmaster. He was a marvellous administrator who was highly thought of. It was a difficult boys' secondary modern school. He would ring the bell at four o'clock, put on his hat and coat and be off the premises of the school before any boy left the classroom.

Other qualities are needed. Quite properly, a headmaster should have administrative competence. One of my anxieties in relation to teaching nowadays is that some extremely able teachers spend less time in the classroom and more than they ought fulfilling tasks which should and could be carried out at less cost by people with clerical skills. On the other hand, an aspiring young teacher needs administrative experience. But if he aspires to the higher levels of salary, he or she must be prepared to devote some of the time and preparation to the studies and occasional commitment of weekends to which the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, referred.

A good head teacher must be administratively competent. I see no reason why the Government should not go ahead with their policies rather than hesitate in the way that the noble Baroness suggests. However, the Government should understand—as teachers understand—that the head teacher needs to be not only a good administrator, but he also needs to be able to command the affection and respect of the pupils at the school and the respect and loyalty of the staff with whom he works. He must have and seek to maintain good relationships with the local education authority and be able to work with it rather than against it. I know that the last government were not keen on local education authorities but they are an essential aspect within education. Above all, a good head teacher must seek to maintain the affection and gratitude of the parents and the children.

All those matters are greatly assisted by administrative competence. But, simply because the head is good on paper, does not necessarily mean that he is good with children. That must be the major criteria. Unless the qualification is able to assist those who are good with children to be good as head teachers, then the system will not be as effective as many of us hope.

Baroness David

I am delighted to have had such an interesting and sensible contribution in support of my amendment, to which I have not yet spoken. I am delighted and thank my noble friend.

Amendment No. 61 is designed to clarify that a professional headship qualification will become a prerequisite for consideration for a headship, but that it can be neither a guarantee of fitness for headship nor a guarantee for the holder of a headship position. Responsibility for the appointment of a head teacher will still reside with the governing body of a school.

Research in the field of school improvement and effectiveness points consistently to the importance of leadership in raising educational standards. The proposal to introduce a mandatory requirement for aspiring head teachers to possess a professional headship qualification is therefore a welcome one. But there are concerns in the education service over the shortage of candidates for senior management posts in schools—I am sure we are very much aware of this—and over a tendency for deputy heads to be appointed automatically to the head teacher position as vacancies occur. When I was on the education committee of a local authority we were always terrified that people would propose the deputy for the head teacher appointment when the deputy was not suitable at all and when it would be a good thing to have a change.

It is appropriate that the contents of such a qualification are not fully prescribed in the legislation as the Teacher Training Agency's national postgraduate headship qualification is in its infancy and will require refinement on evaluation. It will also be important for the GTC, once established, to make a professional judgment as to the proper elements of preparation for headship. We are very much in support of training but we do not want it thought that it is essential for heads to have the qualification or if they get the qualification, that they should necessarily be appointed to a headship.

Lord Parry

The real problem in our schools is the absence from post of many heads who resigned because of the pressures in which they found themselves. We have far more vacancies for headships than we have the headmasters which were so finely described by my noble friend, with her vast experience of education.

Lord Whitty

Amendment No. 60 attacks the heart of the policy on headship training. We have ample evidence from the inspectors of the clear link between the leadership and management skills of heads and the standard of achievement of pupils in their schools. We also know that there is a serious problem of recruitment of heads, to which my noble friend Lord Parry has just referred, and of people who feel they are able to apply for headships.

The aim of the clause is to secure, not immediately but at some future date, that all prospective heads have a minimum requirement that is recognised throughout the profession. We believe that it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure the quality of heads in this way. We recognise that it will take some time for us to get there.

As I said at Second Reading, our intention is that the NPQH currently in trial will be subject to further development to prove its fitness for the purpose for which it is designed before it becomes a mandatory qualification. There are also problems of uptake and ability to attend courses which will also have to be addressed. Nevertheless, the aim must be to ensure that the minimum qualification of a head teacher meets this minimum standard professional qualification.

Clearly, appointment boards have to take into consideration other aspects of the managerial and personal skills of potential heads. But this is a central and minimum requirement. It is also true, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, pointed out, that the evaluation trials of the NPQH have yielded a number of areas for improvement. That is perhaps not surprising as that is the purpose of running trials. Indeed, the areas to which she referred—procedures, assessment and consistency and the support provided for people going through the scheme—are points which have to be addressed. We shall be addressing them. A number of measures are already being taken.

The uptake of this qualification course needs to be the subject of further propaganda. Rather more people need to be encouraged to take it up. But once the qualification has been refined and recognised in the teaching profession and among prospective head teachers as the essential qualification, we believe that we should move towards making it a mandatory qualification. It would be absurd if, having something in the pipeline, we needed new primary legislation to achieve that mandatory requirement.

With that explanation and the undertaking that there will be time before the mandatory requirement is required, I ask that the amendments be withdrawn. With particular reference to Amendment No. 61, I repeat that it is clear that not only will the minimum qualification be required, but also an assessment of the character and performance of the applicant will need to be taken into account. In addition, I am advised that, as it stands, the noble Baroness's amendment is flawed, in that it does not explain what would happen as regards paragraphs (a) and (b) of the new subsection (2C). Therefore, we cannot accept the amendment as it stands. I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw that as well.

Baroness Blatch

I shall be withdrawing these amendments. I am grateful for what the noble Lord has said in response. Is it the intention that there will be absolutely no flexibility at all, even when this measure is implemented, for the head teacher who, perhaps on the initial assessment, requires no further training at all? Is the noble Lord saying that, especially if we build in a minimum requirement and length of course, the applicant has to possess the minimum qualification? Is he saying that there will be no flexibility whatsoever for someone who is eminently suited and for whom the course would be superfluous?

Lord Whitty

I believe that the noble Baroness is already aware that existing heads are not covered by this mandatory requirement, but only prospective heads. When this qualification is up and running, it would be surprising to find a candidate so superbly and absolutely suited to the job who had not gone for this particular qualification. The odd exception would have to be considered but, frankly, I believe that a mandatory requirement as close as could be obtained is what is envisaged here. I do not believe that the kind of circumstances to which the noble Baroness referred are likely to arise very often, if at all.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful for that. If the situation that I describe arose, the qualification which the noble Lord says will be as close as possible to being mandatory will either be mandatory or it will not. Is it to be absolutely and utterly rigid and will there be no exceptions whatsoever? I do mean to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Whitty

In the long run, when the provision is up and running, it is the intention that there will be no exceptions.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

It is rather a dangerous thing that the Government are doing. As it was pointed out, the business of becoming a headmaster is a very complicated matter if one is a teacher. There are people who have the talents. If one ties the matter down, very many good teachers who could become headmasters will not bother to acquire the qualification. It will become a rigid matter, which is directed by the employers deciding who are the candidates for advancement. Many of the most successful headmasters I have known were regarded by their original employers as too maverick. I hope the Minister realises that one might be restricting some of the greatest headmasters who have existed in the maintained and independent sector. There are dangers.

Lord Whitty

I believe that many of those historic, great headmasters—

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

Even the living ones!

Lord Whitty

—both past and present, in the circumstances that we have envisaged, would have decided, as part of their career, to engage in this course. The essential element is that teaching and head teachership is regarded as a professional calling. One would not expect the equivalent argument to be put forward in relation to doctors. There may well be a large number of doctors who have no medical qualification for performing a particular aspect of surgery, but I would not like to be treated by them. Likewise, we need to be sure who our head teachers are to be in future.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

May I ask the noble Lord whether there is a qualification for general secretaries of trade unions?

Lord Whitty

There are very definite qualifications, but they are far too complex and far-reaching for me to explain now.

Lord Hardy of Wath

Perhaps my noble friend will allow me to intervene. I hope that the noble Lord is not suggesting that the children should be balloted on who their headteacher should be. I should point out that I was not suggesting that the qualification was unnecessary. I believe that governing bodies or local education authorities—that is, those responsible for appointing a head—may well be happy that he or she has the qualification, but they need to assess whether an applicant can provide other necessary qualities.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Having listened to this discussion and having had much local authority experience of appointing headteachers, I must point out that the Government are forgetting that a great many heads start as deputy heads. Very often, the headteacher may have been unwell or away for some time, so the deputy head may have had a lot of opportunity to prove his ability and will therefore need only a small amount of "topping up", if any, in order to do the job of head. This discussion simply does not reflect the reality of local authority life. The Government should be very careful on this point.

Lord Whitty

I think that I have made our point, so in the light of my explanation, I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch

As I have said, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 61 not moved.]

10 p.m.

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 62: Page 7, line 25, leave out ("Secretary of State") and insert ("General Teaching Council").

The noble Lord said: In view of the hour, I did not join in the previous debate, but I should now like to say how very strongly we on the Liberal Democrat Benches support the Government with regard to the importance of the headteacher qualification. I very much agreed with the Minister's response. Indeed, it is remarkable that we have had to wait so long for there to be a recognised headteacher qualification. We believe that in the fullness of time such a qualification should be mandatory.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, that, whereas the qualification should be an essential requirement for a headteacher, it is not necessarily the only requirement. Indeed, for the reasons that have been very well put, it is not necessarily the most important requirement. Like any other good professional, a good headteacher needs many other qualities in addition to qualifications. I was pleased, but not surprised, to hear the Minister say exactly that in his reply.

In moving Amendment No. 62, I am speaking also to Amendments Nos. 65 and 68. The purpose of this group is to give greater strength to the GTC. Amendment No. 62 gives the GTC, rather than the Secretary of State, the responsibility for deciding what should be recognised as a professional headship qualification. I do not want to rehash our earlier discussions, but I believe that that is a proper role for a responsible GTC. I do not want to distract us at this stage, but in the fullness of time—here, I accept the evolutionary principle to which several noble Lords have referred—it may well be that the GTC should have responsibility for all professional qualifications for teachers. However, perhaps that is for the future.

Amendment No. 65 states our view that there should come a time—we are not necessarily prescriptive about the timescale—when all heads, including serving heads, should have been trained and qualified. I, too, have had some experience over the years of local education authorities. Indeed, I believe that probably all of us have had experience of heads who have been in post for a very long time. Sometimes they are superb; sometimes the governing body, the other teachers and the parents cannot wait for their retirement—and they are often the hardest to move because they will never get another post, even if they seek one. If we are to give this qualification the status that it deserves in the fullness of time, all heads should have it. I suspect that that also reflects the Government's thinking.

Amendment No. 68 ensures that a person awarded a professional head teacher qualification must already be a member of the teaching profession and accredited by the general teaching council. That may appear to be self-evident. It may be hard to imagine a head teacher who has not been a registered qualified teacher, but it can happen. Looking to the management aspects of the job, it is not too wild a fantasy to imagine, with the establishment of education action zones and so on, someone from industry with great experience of management being parachuted into a school. Sometimes there may be a case for it, but I believe that there is a much stronger case for saying that a head teacher should remember that the "teacher" part of it is extremely important and he should therefore have come from the teaching profession and be a registered teacher. That is the purpose of Amendment No. 68. I beg to move.

Lord Monkswell

I raised the subject of the minimum requirement for a head teacher's position at Second Reading as being that of a teacher. Because of family illness and other circumstances I apologise to the Committee for being unable to table an amendment in my name on this subject. I accept entirely what the noble Lord, Lord Tope, has said in speaking to Amendment No. 68, but I am not sure that it does the job that he intends. The implication of the amendment is that if a person has a general teaching council registration number effectively he will be a qualified teacher of good standing. I am not sure that that is a correct construction of the way in which the register will be compiled. I envisage that the register will have a section for people who have achieved the academic qualification of a teacher but have not yet completed their induction period. They will be allocated a number and will then get on to the register proper after serving their induction period. I can also envisage a situation in which a person may have a number even though he has been struck off or suspended from the register. There may be technical difficulties.

I hope that when my noble friend responds from the Front Bench he will reassure us that every future candidate for a head teacher's position will be a member of the teaching profession and of good standing before he can be considered. I do not need to rehearse the arguments raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, but I hope that that assurance will be forthcoming from the Government Front Bench this evening.

Baroness Blackstone

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, for his support for mandatory head teacher qualifications. I believe that we should refer to "head teachers" or "heads" in deference to the amazing qualities of so many great many women heads, rather than "headmasters". I am aware that there have been many great headmasters, but I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, will concede that there have been and still are many great women playing this role.

I recognise the widespread wish to see the general teaching council take on a wide range of responsibilities commensurate with its role. We have debated that extensively in Committee today. I have underlined our conviction that it is right for the general teaching council in its initial period to focus on the core responsibilities laid down earlier in the Bill. These amendments constitute further attempts to widen the general teaching council's responsibilities in three distinct ways. The first is by having the council rather than the Secretary of State designate the required professional qualification for all first-time heads under this clause. We are of course talking about first-time heads. I say to my noble friend Lord Monkswell that people coming forward to be heads need to be designated, properly qualified teachers.

The second is by obliging awarding bodies to supply the general teaching council registration number of successful candidates to the Secretary of State; and the third is by obliging the Secretary of State to consult the general teaching council in his decision about when the headship qualification should become mandatory.

My noble friend has already said on Second Reading—the note we have placed in the Library of this place makes this clear—that our intention is that, subject to further development and continued positive feedback from piloting—which of course is important, and I agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said earlier—the national professional qualification for headship will be the mandatory qualification.

We intend that the requirement to hold a mandatory headship qualification shall be brought into force by the end of this Parliament and we shall make an announcement of the intended date of introduction well in advance of that date in order to allow prospective headship candidates adequate time to plan and complete the training they need. We shall therefore need to make an announcement both about the designation of the appropriate qualification and about its becoming mandatory before the general teaching council is established in 2000.

I believe that Amendment No. 68 is a "detail too far" for primary legislation at this stage. Paragraph (b) of subsection (2F) of Clause 12 (3) states that the Secretary of State may prescribe in regulations such other information relating to a person gaining the headship qualification (as he may judge necessary). That is the kind of detail which is likely to be covered there, subject to the outcome of the further consultation on the general teaching council's registration arrangements. The background note on the general teaching council that was placed in the Library indicates the consultation that we intend to undertake.

But I can assure the Committee that, once it is established, we would certainly look to the general teaching council to advise on all aspects of the standards of headship, and the conduct and training, career development and performance management of heads. That I would regard as falling within the general advisory responsibilities set out in Clause 2(2) for the general teaching council.

Lord Tope

I am grateful to the Minister for her slightly encouraging reply. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, for what I think was support for the amendment, although with some reservations. I understand his concern. Perhaps I may refer him to Amendment No. 64, which we shall reach in a moment and which addresses the point that rightly worried him. Because of the grouping of the amendments, we are dealing with Amendment No. 68 before Amendment No. 64, but the two obviously relate to each other.

On Amendment No. 68, I heard the Minister say that it was a, "detail too far". I understood her to give an assurance, which is something for which we would be looking, that this is a point which is likely to be covered in the detailed arrangements when they are laid down. With that assurance now on record, I am content to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 63 not moved.]

Baroness Maddock moved Amendment No. 64: 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: We can now talk about Amendment No. 64. It would have been helpful if we could have done so earlier. It adds something to the discussion that we have had, because it proposes that we ensure that we do not have short, perfunctory courses being accredited, or allow trainees to spin out their training indefinitely. For the reasons my noble friend Lord Tope has already given, we have seen people from industry parachuted into all sorts of operations, because people thought that they could run them. I spoke at some length on Second Reading about the importance of good head teachers and the qualities that they need. I still hold to that. We on these Benches, and I believe also Members on the Government Benches, believe that head teachers need a proper, wide-ranging qualification for the job. In order to attain such a qualification, it is necessary to have a training period which is neither short nor allowed to spin over for too long. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Whitty

The Government accept much of what the noble Baroness has 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. We have asked the Teacher Training Agency to look at the possibilities. As part of the further development of the NPQH, we wish to ensure that appropriate recognition is given to candidates who can demonstrate that they already meet some of the elements. Perhaps that goes some way in reply to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington.

The outcome would be that every candidate must have the NPQH badge, whether or not they have been fast tracked. Therefore, most must go through the full course. I am sure that the Committee will agree with the noble Baroness that there is no merit in serving the time for its own sake. We seek to benchmark candidates against rigorous sets of standards and to award the qualification accordingly.

However, more flexibility is needed. The NPQH already includes needs assessment procedures designed to secure that training and development builds on candidates' prior experience and study. In that sense, I do not believe that the amendment is necessary. The objectives pointed out by the noble Baroness are those in the operation of the scheme.

Baroness Maddock

I thank the Minister for that reply. He talked about fast tracking and providing the criteria laid down. The fast tracking might be acceptable. However, I hear what the Minister says and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 65 and 66 not moved.]

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 67: Page 7, line 34, leave out ("unless") and insert ("whether or not").

The noble Lord said: Our view, which I believe is shared by the Government, is that in due course we expect all head teachers to have the appropriate qualification. Amendment No. 67 provides that even head teachers already in post should train and gain the professional head teachers' qualification. It is important that all the head teachers should undergo specific and appropriate professional training. We have talked about the excellent head teachers and I agree with the Minister that there are many who happen not to be headmasters.

However, we know that in some schools there are in post head teachers who are in their early 50s and waiting for retirement in 10 to 15 years' time. Numerous pupils will go through those schools during that time. It is too long to wait for a qualified head teacher to be appointed, so it is proper and appropriate that all head teachers, whether in post or not, should gain the qualification. That is what the amendment seeks to achieve. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

I can think of nothing more insulting to the most professional and best of our head teachers—men or women. There are some outstanding examples of such people. To make it a legal requirement that they should be packed off to do a professional headship course is wholly unacceptable and I should not support any such proposal.

There is now an inspection system which includes a rolling programme of schools being visited and revisited regularly over a number of years. If head teachers are not performing well, that should be picked up in the course of inspection. Governing bodies doing their job should also be vigilant in relation to making sure that head teachers are called to account for the performance of their schools. However, to make it a legal requirement that all head teachers in post should be required to do a course and achieve a qualification is frankly unacceptable.

Baroness Blackstone

On this occasion, I am closer to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, than I am to the noble Lord, Lord Tope. Clause 12 is intended to ensure that those coming new to headship will be appropriately skilled and knowledgeable to carry out their major responsibilities by requiring that they hold a designated headship qualification, intended to be the NPQH.

We certainly share the intention behind the amendment that all existing heads in our schools should be expected to have the highest possible skills of school leadership and professional competence and to raise the performance of their schools and pupils to that of the very best. However, I am sure that the Committee will agree that the best way to achieve that is not to expect all our head teachers—all 25,000 of them—to requalify for their jobs. That cannot be a sensible way in which to proceed.

Instead, as the note we placed in the Library makes clear, we have asked the Teacher Training Agency to develop a separate headship training programme based on the same professional standards for headship which underpin the NPQH for introduction from this September. That is the right way of catering for the training needs of existing heads rather than through accepting this amendment. I very much hope that, in the light of my explanation, the noble Lord, Lord Tope, will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Tope

Of course I shall withdraw the amendment. I am still not sure that I agree entirely with the Minister. I do not propose that by the year 2000 or some such similar near date all 25,000 head teachers should have qualified in the way I propose. That would be a practical impossibility even if it were desirable and I accept that it is not desirable over that timescale.

But rather than looking two or three years ahead, I am looking 10, 15 or even 20 years ahead. It is hoped that by that time most head teachers will have qualified in the way proposed in this Bill, but there will be some long in post who will not have qualified in that way. I believe that consideration needs to be given to the way in which to deal with that situation. It is not satisfactory simply to say that because they happened to be appointed—and that is not necessarily the same as being qualified—before the introduction of the requirement, they can carry on for ever in that role. I hope and believe that that is something to which in due course the General Teaching Council will return. Nevertheless, for the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 68 not moved.]

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 [Requirement to serve induction period]:

Baroness Maddock moved Amendment No. 69: Page 8, line 15, after ("a") insert ("maintained").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 71. This is a simple amendment which is about ensuring that newly trained teachers will do their induction year in a state school. In recent years we have seen that there are a number of graduates who do a PGCE course at the state's expense who do not have any intention of going anywhere near a state school. We have trained them at the state's expense. I hope that the Minister will look favourably on this amendment.

Amendment No. 71 relates to a provision which we believe should be on the face of the Bill; namely, that the induction period for new teachers should be a minimum of one year. On Second Reading the Government indicated that it normally would be for one year. However, unless the Government can give us very compelling reasons why someone should be allowed to complete his or her induction period sooner, I can see no objection to the provision being put on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

In my view, this is an unfortunate amendment. Again, returning to the whole idea of building bridges with the independent sector—and I know that the Government genuinely mean to do so—this amendment would not help in that respect. There are people who come out of teacher training college and go into the private sector or teach in non-maintained schools. They later come into the state system, bringing with them that gathered expertise. The idea that all the experience that they have gained counts for nothing in the maintained sector is most unfortunate.

I was quite worried when the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, referred rather disparagingly to the state having spent money on someone who takes a PGCE course and does not actually use it—or, indeed, does not use it at all in terms of going into teaching—and does not necessarily come into state teaching choosing instead, perhaps, to go into the private sector. Higher education has, hitherto, been a case of educating all sorts of people at the state's expense. Those people may gain a qualification and may use it in the private sector. They go into industry, commerce, law firms or, indeed, manufacturing. The idea that because the state has met that cost and those people have not come back to work for a public authority is somehow not quite right is, I believe, unfortunate.

I hope that the amendment will not be accepted. As long as the period of induction takes place within teaching, and as long as the teacher training qualification itself is bona fide and has been gained on a fully accredited course, I do not see that anything can be gained by actually placing such a requirement on someone who has trained and undergone an induction period in the independent sector.

Lord Whitty

The amendments cover two points: one regarding the location of the induction period, and the other regarding its length. So far as concerns the question of location, while I find myself in some sympathy with the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, and while it is certainly not the intention in general that anyone should have their induction outside the maintained sector, we need, nevertheless, some flexibility in the matter. That applies particularly to the amendment as it stands as it would exclude an induction period in special non-maintained schools, some of which provide the opportunity for induction for newly-qualified teachers. We would not wish to exclude them.

More broadly, the clause at present does not permit newly qualified teachers to undertake their statutory induction period in an independent school. However, during the consultation period we shall, in an improved relationship with the independent sector, be looking at the possibility that we may in certain circumstances decide to allow independent schools to provide such an induction period. That would allow those teachers to move to the maintained sector at a later stage in their career, without having to undertake the statutory induction arrangements. That is a possibility and one that we may attain through reasonable agreement with the private sector. It is not a certainty, but we would certainly not wish to limit that possibility on the face of the Bill.

So far as concerns the length of the induction period, again, we should not be too prescriptive here. I am happy to confirm what I said on Second Reading; namely, that it is our intention that the standard induction period should normally be one academic year. Indeed, it is certainly not our intention that it should be less. However, we intend to consult further on the detailed operation of the induction arrangements before prescribing them in detail. For example, we need to establish specific circumstances in which, for individual reasons, the induction period needs to be extended beyond one year.

Also we may need to establish how the arrangements will apply to those new teachers who undertake their induction period on a part-time basis. That is important. We hope to attract more teachers into doing that on a part-time basis. It is therefore important that the Bill is not unduly prescriptive in order to allow for that kind of flexibility. I hope that in the light of that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendments.

10.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

Before the noble Baroness replies to those comments I should say that I did not speak to Amendment No. 70 and I shall not speak at greater length because the matter of the duration of the course has been well covered. The Minister has just said that the Government do not intend it to be less than a year but a document that I received only a couple of days ago states that a period of between two terms and a year is being contemplated. The National Association of Head Teachers is concerned about this. The association members say that if there is to be a course they want it to be a proper course and they want it to be one of substance. Are we talking about a full-time course? If it is to be telescoped into, say, one or two terms, will it be full-time if it is done in such a short time, and then perhaps followed by a day a week or so many hours a week? What are we talking about in terms of hours of study as opposed to a period of a year, two years or three years? As I understand the position at the moment, the period could be up to three years. As I said, the document I have received refers to a period of only two terms.

Lord Tope

Before the Minister responds, I hope I may add a few further points. I am sure I heard the Minister say that the Government did not envisage that the induction period would be less than one year. Presumably, by implication, there might be circumstances where it would be more than one year. If he did say that—I am sure he did—I do not understand what the objection is to Amendment No. 71 standing in my name and that of my noble friend which states that the period, shall not be less than one year". I thought those were almost exactly the words that the noble Lord used in replying to the measure. I am puzzled as to why he feels that that is unacceptable or unnecessarily prescriptive. I should have thought it was quite appropriate to include that in the Bill.

Lord Whitty

It is certainly the current intention of the Government that the induction period should not last less than one year, but there could well be special circumstances in which that may be variable. We are, of course, still in the process of consulting. But it is certainly our current intention that that should be the minimum period. Given that we are consulting about varied circumstances both for individuals and schools, I do not think this should be laid down on the face of the Bill. Our intention has now been repeated several times, but we also have to consider the results of the consultation.

Lord Tope

I shall not pursue this much longer but it would be helpful to have some example of what these special circumstances might be. The Government have said many times that they do not envisage the period to be less than one year. Are we not to put it in the Bill simply because once again we are waiting for the consultation before we can legislate? We are here and we are legislating. The Government have stated many times that what Amendment No. 71 states is their intention. Why cannot we now put it in the Bill? Why cannot the Government make clear to those whom they are consulting that that is their intention? What are the special circumstances that could arise that would make that inappropriate?

Lord Whitty

Many different special circumstances may well occur. I can think of one immediately. Someone who is returning to teaching may not have completed an induction year at an earlier stage through no fault of his own. However, that person has already had some experience. I am not sure whether in those circumstances one would wish to insist on a full induction year. The answer may well be that we would wish to do so, but we need some further feedback on this before we lay it down rigidly in legislation.

Baroness Maddock

I return briefly to Amendment No. 69. Dare I say that I am pleased that a little bit of Old Labour lives on in the noble Lord, Lord Whitty? I would have been disappointed if he had not had some sympathy with the point that I made. In my career in politics I have come across quite a few members of Old Labour whom I think would support this amendment. I understand the points that have been made. This matter may arise again when we consider the Bill at another stage.

I refer to Amendment No. 71. At a later stage, on reflection and having listened to the consultation, I wonder whether the Minister will conclude that there is no earthly reason why we cannot have this provision on the face of the Bill. Every utterance has indicated that this is the correct time. If no one outside the Chamber puts forward objections to it, I hope that that provision will be part of the Bill.

In view of the lateness of the hour, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 70 and 71 not moved.]

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 72: Page 8, line 20, leave out ("Secretary of State-) and insert ("General Teaching Council").

The noble Lord said: The amendment relates to the debate which has dominated much of the discussion today. The purpose of the amendment is to authorise the general teaching councils rather than the Secretary of State to determine the standards against which a person employed as a teacher at a school is to be assessed for the purpose of deciding whether he or she has satisfactorily completed his or her induction period. It relates again to the point we have been making consistently throughout the Bill: that that responsibility needs to be with the GTC rather than the Secretary of State. We believe that it is right that the GTC should be given the power to determine the standards against which a teacher's competence during an induction period is assessed. I beg to move.

Baroness David

My amendment, Amendment No. 73, is linked with Amendment No. 72. The only reason for my amendment to delete subsection (3) is to find out what is meant by "the appropriate body"—who will be there as part of it.

Earl Russell

I wish to say a few words in support of Amendment No. 72. The Secretary of State is taking so many of the powers which are being exercised through the general teaching council that I rather wonder why he wants the council. When he looks at the general teaching council he will find that it is a little like looking in the mirror. But the trouble with looking in the mirror is that one does it at the wrong time of day: and the Secretary of State may not like what he sees.

Baroness Blackstone

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, for raising an important issue. Perhaps I may say this to the noble Earl, Lord Russell. The Secretary of State already lays down the required standards for qualified teacher status. It is right that he should also determine the standards against which teachers should be assessed for the purposes of deciding whether they have satisfactorily completed the induction period.

As the note we have placed in the Library makes clear, we intend to consult fully on the new professional standards for induction to ensure that they have the full support of all interested parties. We intend to build on the existing qualified teacher status standards, which are themselves the product of wide consultation already by the Teacher Training Agency. We would certainly take into account any advice from the GTC when it is established on the content and operation of the new induction standards. Indeed, we have included provision in Clause 2(2) of the Bill to allow the GTC to advise on standards of teaching. But to wait until the GTC is established, in the year 2000, to take its advice would mean an unacceptable delay in introducing the new standards, which we envisage should start from September 1999, and the system will need clear notice some time before then of the standards new teachers will be required to meet.

As the note placed in the Library indicates, we also intend to consult next month to establish effective, unbureaucratic and robust arrangements for the assessment of teachers during their induction period which have the confidence of everyone in the system. As the note indicates, we shall in particular wish to establish the appropriate roles of the new teacher's line manager who is likely to be overseeing and supporting the inductee on a day-to-day basis, the possible role of any advanced skills teacher in that school as a mentor to the new teacher and the role of the head teacher and the appropriate body. With regard to the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lady David on the appropriate body, it may very well be, indeed is highly likely to be, the local education authority which finally fulfils the role and functions of that body. However, I see no value in seeking to prescribe which organisation should fulfil the role of the appropriate body on the face of the Bill as that would pre-empt the terms of our forthcoming consultation on these issues.

Earl Russell

I had of course understood that it was at present the Secretary of State who laid down the standards. I thought this Government believed in devolution, but I see here only a monstrous regiment of reserved powers. I am very sorry.

Baroness Blackstone

As I have already made clear, the existing qualified teacher status standards are themselves the product of wide consultation by the Teacher Training Agency. It is indeed that agency that has taken an absolutely up-front role in trying to decide what these standards should be. So I cannot accept what the noble Earl says on this matter.

Baroness David

I am grateful for what my noble friend the Minister said. She has given me the reassurance that I needed.

Lord Tope

I, too, am grateful to the Minister for her reply, which I shall examine. I still hope that in due course, when the GTC is established, the responsibility will pass there. However, for the time being I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 73 not moved.]

Clause 13 agreed to.

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

Baroness Maddock moved Amendment No. 74: Page 9, line 3. after ("may") insert (", of his own volition or at the request of the appropriate General Teaching Council,").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment makes it possible for the general teaching council to ask the chief inspector to inquire into any institution or any course which trains teachers or assistants. This is in line with the theme throughout the Committee that we wish to enable the general teaching council to be a body that can take its own initiatives on very important areas to do with the management of its own profession. We should all be concerned that teachers themselves are fully engaged in ensuring that they have the very highest standards in their profession. That is the substance of this amendment.

Lord Whitty

I see that the noble Baroness is moving three amendments. The first, which gives the general teaching councils the powers to request the chief inspector to undertake particular inspections, runs the danger of inspection overload and a conflict between the GTC's priorities and the priorities of the department.

I am of course clear that where the councils can demonstrate that they need particular information from the chief inspector, he will take that into account in designing his own priorities. Indeed, Clause 14(3) already applies in those circumstances. However, it would not be sensible to give the GTCs the direct role of requiring a chief inspector to carry out particular inspections.

Turning to the other two amendments which I understand the noble Baroness is to move, I have slightly more sympathy. We believe that it is implicit in the current wording of the clause that the inspectorate's right to inspect and copy records relates specifically to the records that relate to teacher training. However, for the avoidance of doubt, and recognising that there are certain anxieties in some institutions on this front, I am prepared to recognise the principle behind these amendments and undertake to come forward with some amendments at a later stage, in order, I hope, to allay those anxieties. I trust that in the light of those commitments the noble Baroness will be prepared to withdraw the amendments.

Baroness Maddock

I am grateful to the noble Lord, but one of the amendments is not in fact mine. Amendment No. 78 stands in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. However, I hear what he says. I think he was a little confused about the intention of the amendment, which was not to take away the power of the Secretary of State and replace it with a power of the general teaching council, but that the general teaching council could also be involved when it had concerns about training courses. It was an extra rather than an alternative. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blatch moved amendment No. 75: Page 9, leave out line 7.

The noble Baroness said: If it is helpful to the House, I shall scoop up all of my remaining amendments: that is, Amendments Nos. 75, 76, 77, 78 and 80. These are all probing amendments; there is no question of pressing them. Their intention is to seek more information.

The amendments refer to concerns that are widespread throughout the university and higher education sector. The noble Baroness will remember that at Second Reading I had no difficulty with the Government's proposals that teacher training should be inspected. In fact, I believe that there was universal agreement in the Chamber about that. But the noble Baroness will also know that a developed inspection system already operates in higher education under the Quality Assurance Agency. The difficulty we have in practice with regard to how this will work on the ground is the way in which the two systems will dovetail one with the other.

Where there is a free-standing teacher training establishment there is not a problem. Where on a higher education campus there is a free-standing, ring-fenced provision for teacher training, again there is not a problem; it is a very defined area. Where there are courses which are properly identified and funded by the TTA, there is less of a problem. Nevertheless, a great deal of integrated training takes place in the higher education sector.

To take Amendment No. 75 first, my proposal is to take in-service training out of the requirement for inspection. That is not to say that inspecting in-service training is not a good thing, but in-service training takes many forms. Some people do it on their own, of their own volition; they will do distance-learning, work alone or undertake private courses. Some of it is very organised within local education authorities. Some is more formal, when people will go away, funded by their schools or their local education authorities, to recognised courses. It is the variety of in-service training that makes it difficult to have a blanket requirement that it should be inspected. Therefore one would like to see the principle of inspection accepted, but the notion of flexibility would be very important. Higher education bodies, including the CVCP, feel strongly that they would like to see duplication avoided where possible. As the Minister knows, the courses funded by the Teacher Training Agency, for example, may be inspected by Ofsted, as is already written into the current funding agreements between the TTA and higher education institutions. Many in-service programmes are designed to appeal to a wider clientele than serving teachers. The modular structures of many higher education programmes also make it increasingly difficult to single out provision for teachers in this way.

Amendment No. 76 asks for a period of notice. When schools are inspected, they know when it is to happen and they are given time to prepare. There is a great deal of preparation: bringing together all the right materials, making sure that people are available to meet with the inspectors, and so on. The proposal is that any procedural regulations or rules should at least contain the principle that a period of notice should be given. It is important to ensure that institutions are given notice. As initial teacher training is provided in partnership with schools, and sometimes the linking arrangements with schools are complex, time is needed to make the necessary arrangements, not just at the higher education level but at school level, too. Similarly, if universities are to be required to make documentation and records available, they will require time in which to do so.

Amendment No. 78 refers to documents. There is concern at the width of the powers conferred on chief inspectors, in particular with regard to the access that they will have to university data and records. The principle that they should have access to records is a good one, but the amendment seeks to ensure that institutions only have to provide documentation which is relevant to the inspection and that it should not be a free-for-all to raid university documents and records.

The final amendment, Amendment No. 80, seeks to limit the powers of the chief inspector to inspect only those elements of a course which deal with teaching. This is the problem to which I referred at the beginning; that is, the difficulty of dovetailing in with the higher education inspection system as well. Increasingly, higher education institutions are developing modular courses where students combine an academic subject or subjects with education to qualify for registration as a teacher. It is difficult to distinguish which elements of a course are teaching and which are subject-specific. There is a real fear among many that inspectors will become involved in courses where the majority of students are not potential teachers at all, but are simply students studying other subjects. I had always thought that the quality and extent of subject-specific teaching was fundamental to teaching ability.

I notice the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, who is a product of higher education, disagrees. He will be talking about this in a moment as it relates to Scotland, but many people in higher education are concerned about duplication of effort. Duplication of effort is not a good thing. It wastes time, money and resources and that is not good for anybody. I am speaking for England and Wales but CVCP again believes that the Bill, as it stands, would result in unnecessary duplication. The academic component of programmes will in any case be assessed by the quality assurance agency under the appropriate processes for higher education. CVCP also argued that it believes that the interests of the chief inspector should lie with those components of the course which relate to preparing trainees to be effective teachers to teach children.

As I say, the rationale behind the amendment is to make sure that the two inspection systems eliminate duplication but nevertheless meet the objectives both of inspecting higher education generally and inspecting teacher training specifically. I beg to move.

The Chairman of Committees

As Amendment No. 78 has been spoken to, I remind the Committee that if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 79.

Baroness Blackstone

Amendment No. 75 seeks to limit the power of the chief inspector to ensure the quality of teacher training by excluding the inspection of in-service education and training. I am a little surprised to see the noble Baroness seeking to restrict inspection in this way given that it was the last government which expressly asked Ofsted to inspect in-service training of teachers through a formal letter of assignment. This provision seeks simply to put that existing requirement on the face of primary legislation to underwrite that inspection.

In-service training and education is central to teachers' career development and as a result to pupils' development in the most crucial areas, including literacy, numeracy, information technology and of course in raising the skills of our future school leaders. Because that training is so important, it must be done well and it is essential that Ofsted is able to monitor the provision to see that it continues to be of high quality and that public money is well spent.

The quality assurance agency does not have the appropriate expertise to do that. I entirely accept and agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that we should avoid duplication, but I do not believe that the QAA would be involved in inspecting or even assessing the quality of in-service training provision for practising teachers. Given the importance of Ofsted inspection of this provision, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 76 seeks to establish a minimum period of notice of eight weeks before an inspection. I am advised that notice of Ofsted's inspection varies from half a term to over a year before the forthcoming inspection. It is certainly the case that the chief inspector aims to give as much notice as possible. I understand that Ofsted is currently in discussion with the CVCP and others about clear and agreed guidelines on notice of inspections. I strongly agree with the noble Baroness about the need for proper notice. I am happy to consider bringing forward an appropriate amendment providing for reasonable notice to institutions in relation to this clause, but prescribing a set eight weeks would unnecessarily constrain the discussions between individual institutions and Ofsted. However, I will consider this matter further and return to it at Report stage. I hope that is helpful.

I have listened to the concerns expressed in support of Amendments Nos. 77 and 80. Although I have considerable sympathy on the issue of documentation, I cannot accept Amendment No. 77 as currently drafted and I am not altogether convinced of the need for Amendment No. 80. But there is certainly no wish that Ofsted should inspect subject provision. It is also important that Ofsted should focus on those components of courses which are about preparing and training students to be teachers. However, once again I should like to take this away and consider it further but without making any commitments at this time. In the light of that, I hope the noble Baroness will be able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful to the noble Baroness because that was a helpful reply. I wonder whether in the gap between this and the next stage of the Bill she will discuss this issue with those in higher education-1 am thinking particularly of the CVCP—who have expressed these concerns and who may well find that between them and the department they can find an accommodation or at least have their fears allayed that this duplication will not be a problem.

The noble Baroness said that she was surprised to see me remove this from the Bill. I was careful to say that I am not arguing the principle and the proposal that in-service training should be inspected, but perhaps I may give an example which is not an outrageous one. If one person goes to the Cranfield Institute to do some in-service training but everything else that goes on in the course he or she is doing has nothing to do with teacher in-service training, is it really necessary to send Ofsted along to inspect the course? What we are saying is that in the application of this policy—the problem is that when it is written on the face of the Bill it becomes a requirement—some sensible flexibility should be applied where teachers are doing one-off courses in the interests of furthering their professional development.

Baroness Blackstone

I can certainly reassure the noble Baroness that it would be ridiculous not to be flexible. To send Ofsted to inspect courses all over the country where teachers happen to have decided that this would be useful in terms of their career development would be patently ridiculous. The purpose of these clauses is to ensure that courses that are specifically designated as in-service training should be properly inspected. I think the noble Baroness has no problem in agreeing that that is important. Perhaps I may also reassure her that discussions are currently going on between the CVCP and Ofsted on the other matters that she raised. I am confident that before we reach the next stage of the Bill agreement will have been reached. But I shall also ask officials in my department to discuss this further with the CVCP. Indeed, if agreement cannot be reached, I shall be happy to have those discussions with the CVCP myself.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 76 to 80 not moved.]

Clause 14 agreed to.

11 p.m.

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

On Question, Whether Clause 15 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Unlike the remainder of Part I of the Bill, this clause applies to Scotland alone. I ask that it be omitted, having consulted the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals and the Association of University Teachers who feel very strongly about this. They suspect, and I agree with them, that this clause has been tacked onto the Bill to match the provision for England and Wales, which the Committee has just been discussing.

Unlike the previous clause, Clause 15 does not reflect the present situation. Up to a few years ago the inspectorate was involved in the inspection of teacher training, but the system has been abandoned because it was no longer appropriate. My intention is to probe this matter with the Minister. She has very kindly remained in London and. I believe, cancelled an engagement in Scotland in order to help me in this matter. I do not intend to press it, but I shall listen to what she has to say and decide what I shall do at the next stage.

The inspectorate in Scotland has a very different role from that of the inspectorate south of the Border. It has a considerable influence on the development and delivery of schools' policy. Indeed, there are development officers who work to Her Majesty's inspectorate as their line managers, so they are not independent of what is happening in schools as are their English counterparts. The inspectorate used to be involved in the assessment of teacher training. But for those reasons, and for others, and with the advent of the Quality Assessment Authority, the system was changed.

Indeed, the Scottish principals of institutions were told in a letter dated 24th February 1994, Colleges can be assured that statutory powers of inspection are not being continued under the guise of quality assessment". I ask the Minister to say what has changed. No one in the system or outside of it would claim that there is no room for improvement in teacher training in Scotland. It is clear to everybody that higher education institutions are in no way opposed to the most rigorous scrutiny of their courses. But there are so many tests now that a course must pass that it seems strange that in Scotland's case the Government want to add yet another.

In Scotland initial courses for teachers must pass the following tests. They must conform to the Secretary of State for Scotland's guidelines for initial teacher training courses. I am told that those guidelines were last issued in January 1993 and they are currently being revised. The Secretary of State for Scotland has a statutory power to approve the duration, content and nature of initial training courses. All courses are subject to a validation process—as they would be, no doubt, in England and Wales—under the auspices of a university or a degree-awarding institution.

In Scotland all courses must be acceptable to the Scottish General Teaching Council as leading to registration as a primary or secondary teacher. The Scottish GTC has that power. All school experience must be jointly planned by the training institution, school and education authority. Minimum academic requirements for entry to courses are laid down in the memorandum on entry requirements for admission to courses of teacher training in Scotland, which is subject to annual review. As in England and Wales, the Quality Assurance Agency carries out the quality assurance of all courses leading to professional qualifications such as law, architecture, engineering or whatever it may be.

Teacher training courses must pass all those tests, but in addition there are considerable problems in sorting out those courses which relate particularly to teacher training. That is true especially with regard to secondary teacher training. It is difficult to sort out which courses are relevant to teacher training, and are thus subject to inspection, and which are subject courses mainly for students who have no intention of teaching and who plan to enter some other profession. Such courses are known as concurrent courses. They are attractive to those who are not sure whether they want to teach or to enter another profession and, as was said earlier, they bring many new teachers into the profession. Surely the best way to assess concurrent courses, and others, is for the assessment authority to do so, as now.

I should be grateful if the Minister could explain precisely why the Government have included this clause and who are the other persons who might carry out the assessments along with members of the inspectorate. If the Government do not convince me that the clause is necessary or desirable, I shall, as I said previously, feel it necessary to return to it later.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I am sorry to come at this at such a late hour but, if it is any consolation to the Minister, who looks a bit grey, I have no intention of trying to beat some of my record performances for time, as in the past.

My noble friend has clearly outlined some aspects which require explanation from the Minister. I shall not go over them again. My noble friend outlined the existing position, which does not seem to leave much of a role for inspection of the kind mentioned. That must be particularly true with regard to concurrent courses. They have developed since I left the teaching profession. Many, if not all, teacher training colleges are now part of universities. That is why there are now concurrent courses. They certainly did not happen in my time, which I accept is probably prehistoric—at least from the point of view of teaching. It is a seriously good step forward that many teachers in training receive their subject tuition in classes which are not specifically designed for teachers and where they can mix with others and hear a wider appreciation of the subject. There does not seem to be much of a role there for the kind of inspection mentioned.

Will the Minister confirm that, as I assume, this issue will be totally devolved to the Scottish parliament? If I am right, why can it not be left to the Scottish parliament? Why must the provision be added to this Bill?

I got my final point from a quick reading of the introductory part of the Bill. I notice that there are no manpower implications. If that is so, I come to one of two conclusions. Either, there will not be many inspections or, alternatively, there are a lot of under-employed inspectors. Which is it?

Earl Russell

Not for the first time I follow "marathon man" into the debate, and I am very happy to do so. I am glad that the noble Baroness has persisted with her opposition to this clause. She has given a persuasive account of the differences between the Scottish and English positions, but I would not wish to imply, by not having raised the English clause, that is not a matter of concern. I thought that it was an infernally complicated issue for this time of night. I shall not go into it now.

I should like to comment on two points made by the noble Baroness. First, when dealing with the authority of the Scottish General Teaching Council in this matter she described the way in which I hope in future matters might proceed in England. Secondly, she said that higher education institutions had no objection to the most rigorous inspection of their courses. I am happy to confirm that, but it must be inspection by those who have both the competence and authority to do it. The proposition that Ofsted has that is not self-evident to me, and that we shall have to debate on another occasion.

Lord Sewel

I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy. She is for ever watchful in matters affecting Scotland and does this House a great service in making sure that any legislation that affects Scotland is properly debated and scrutinised.

In reply to one point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, this will be a general matter devolved to the Scottish parliament. He asks: why do it now? The simple answer is that the programme of the Government does not stop. We do not have a hiatus until 2000 when the Scottish parliament is up and running. We are determined to maintain the momentum of reform and improvement.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

In that case, why do the Government not take advantage of the two idle Standing Committees in the other place that do not have anything to do in this parliamentary Session on Scottish legislation?

Lord Sewel

The Government make use of all the legislative opportunities that present themselves to pursue their programme of reform and improvement in Scotland. That is a clear and unassailable fact.

As the debate has clearly underlined, the Government have a special responsibility for assuring standards in education and quality. A key element of that is the training of teachers and the need to ensure that prospective teachers who emerge from the training institutions are, in the words of the day, fit for the purpose. That is a key responsibility of the Government which they cannot duck. Clause 15 provides for the reinstatement of powers for Her Majesty's inspectors of schools to inspect pre-service and in-service teacher education and training in higher education institutions in Scotland. Basically, it re-establishes the situation prior to the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish—which is a fair one—is that there has been an institutional shift over the period. Whereas in 1992 teacher training was carried out by distinct and separate colleges of education, in about half the cases those colleges have merged with universities, but I do not believe that that affects the principle of the need to establish proper processes of inspection.

The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, rightly listed the inspection and quality checks in the system at the moment and in effect asked what had changed and why something new and additional had to be done. Despite those processes, which I readily agree lead to a degree of duplication—that is a concern—there is no effective mechanism to ensure that teacher education reflects government priorities and addresses problems in the teaching and learning experienced in schools. I have no difficulty in making that point strongly. The Government have a responsibility to ensure that their basic and fundamental priorities in driving up standards are being followed right the way through the system, right into the schools via the production of teachers through the training institutions.

I have made it clear that we are committed to raising standards in schools. It should be beyond dispute that a key element in that is that teachers are prepared properly for their jobs. We are not saying that teacher education in Scotland is poor, rather that there is a gap in the system. We approve all courses against our guidelines before they start, as the noble Baroness said, but we cannot go on to check whether new teachers are being prepared properly for their role in maintaining and raising standards in Scotland's schools. That is the gap. We have come forward with this proposal to fill that vital, missing element.

The noble Baroness asked who the "other persons" could be. It is a provision that exists already in the general requirements covering HM inspectors. They can involve other persons in the inspection of schools. It is designed to give an opportunity to have a multi-disciplinary inspection, led by the inspectorate, but bringing in successful head teachers and fellow professionals in the area who can make a major contribution to the inspection of a training institution. The other persons are not part of some dark, nebulous group; they are people actively involved in education who can make a contribution to the inspection of a training institution, based on their own experience.

The inspectorate is made up of the right people to take the lead responsibility for that task, because only they have the breadth of information and experience necessary to ensure that teacher education takes account not just of best practices in schools but areas of difficulty or weakness and that they are being addressed quickly. It is that breadth and depth of experience that is necessary to deliver a high quality inspection—a good product.

The inspectorate is at that important interface between policy implementation and school practice. It is that experience that also enhances the value of an inspectorate-led inspection of training institutions.

The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, and the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, made the point about concurrent courses. Let me make it clear that in the inspection process there we are interested in the initial teacher education. It is those courses, or parts of courses, which lead to a teaching qualification which will be the subject of inspection. The academic element will not. I appreciate that there is a need for consultation and discussion here. That will be covered in HMI's discussions with institutions about the framework for inspections. That is something that needs to be worked on and clarified in the light of arrangements on the ground.

We are trying to—this is an important step towards achieving the objective—put into place an inspections system throughout the entire school system (the schools and the training institutions) that builds in quality; that enables us to have confidence that we are making progress towards enhancing standards; and doing so in a way which is professionally based and which draws upon the depth and breadth of the experience of the inspectorate. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her objection.

Earl Russell

The Minister spoke powerfully about driving up standards. Can he tell the Committee whether he has a driving licence and by whose authority it is conferred?

Lord Sewel

The answer to the first part of the question is yes. The answer to the second part of the question is that I shall write to the noble Earl.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

The Minister gave a very interesting reply. I believe that the universities in Scotland, which will soon have responsibility for all teacher training—few colleges will not be merged—will be fascinated by it. The Minister will be the first to know how fascinated they will be because he was a distinguished vice-principal of Aberdeen University, which is in negotiations with Northern College to merge. He will know what the problems are, but he had the job of explaining the clause and he did that ably.

The universities will be most interested to hear that the Government do not believe that the quality assurance agency can do this job and that the involvement of the inspectorate, which has two roles and is deeply involved in developing schools' policy in universities, is appropriate. It seems to me to be a most extraordinary thing for the Government to be doing in Scotland. I can understand that they are reflecting the situation in England, but they are not doing that in Scotland. The proposal was discarded with everyone's agreement and pleasure. There is no reason to believe that the system will not improve greatly under the universities as they exist.

I shall read exactly what he said, as I am sure will members of the Association of University Teachers, who will be most interested in it. They will let me know precisely what they think about it, as will the principals. I beg leave to withdraw my opposition to the clause, but I shall be likely to return to it.

Clause 15 agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at twenty-three minutes past eleven o'clock.