HL Deb 10 March 1998 vol 587 cc107-28

3.4 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 1 [The General Teaching Council]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 10, leave out from ("corporate") to ("(in") in line 11 and insert ("which, subject to subsection (8), shall be known as the General Teaching Council for England").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I believe it is right that the title of the GTC should reflect its territorial responsibilities, so as to avoid any confusion between councils covering different parts of the United Kingdom.

During the debate at Report stage, I accepted in principle the amendment brought forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, which sought to set this out. I indicated, however, that the wording of her amendment did not make provision for the council to be known as the "GTC for England" once a separate "GTC for Wales" has been established under Clause 6, and undertook to bring forward government amendments to make the position clear. The raft of amendments in this group means that this body will be called the "GTC for England", but under the new subsection (8) it shall be known as the "GTC for England and Wales" until such a time as a separate GTC for Wales is established. We have tidied up and clarified those references which would ultimately apply to both the English and Welsh councils by referring simply to the "council".

I hope that the amendments will be welcomed by Members of your Lordships' House as making the territorial scope of each council clear from the outset. I beg to move.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for tabling these amendments. The House will understand now why, when I tabled one simple amendment, I recognised that it was not enough. It has taken 16 amendments to meet the case and I am grateful to the Minister for that.

The General Teaching Council for Scotland was relieved to see the amendment because, once the new general teaching council for England and Wales is set up, there will not be any confusion between the two. They will have different powers and it is important that the powers of the two councils are not muddled up.

Perhaps I can make one suggestion to the noble Baroness. From now on, with the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly coming over the horizon, the noble Baroness and her officials should take care, when speaking about policy or new bodies, to make it plain whether that policy or new body relates to the United Kingdom, England, Wales or Scotland. The Minister may even be able to persuade other Ministers in the Government to do the same. The House will find it much easier to understand. Having said that, I thank the noble Baroness for her assistance.

Lord Tope

My Lords, perhaps briefly I can welcome the amendments. We are about to make the speediest progress we have made thus far on the Bill, if we can clear these amendments in one go with just a few remarks. I welcome the amendment and congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, on her success in achieving those points. Will the Minister be able to say how long it will be before the GTC for Wales is brought into being?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, for the welcome that she has given to the amendment and for raising the issue in the first place. I am also fully aware of her concerns and those of other Members of your Lordships' House about the importance of making clear, in the context of devolution, to which parts of the United Kingdom any new legislation applies. I shall certainly take this suggestion back to my department. I cannot guarantee that other departments will be responsive in that respect, but I shall do my best to ensure that happens.

On the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, the consultation paper issued by the Welsh Office expressed a preference for a separate GTC for Wales. That was borne out by the responses to the consultation exercise. However, Wales is currently embarking on a major constitutional change with the creation of the national assembly which, subject to the appropriate legislation receiving parliamentary assent, will come into being in May 1999. At that time we envisage that all powers conferred on the Secretary of State in relation to the GTC for Wales will be transferred to the national assembly.

In deciding whether and when to establish a separate GTC for Wales, the Secretary of State or the national assembly will want to take account of current institutional arrangements and the need to ensure that there are no artificial impediments to cross-border flows of teachers developing and any current or emerging differences in Welsh educational and child protection issues. So I cannot give a precise date when this will be. In many ways it will be very much up to the national assembly at the time.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 11, leave out ("Chapter") and insert ("Act").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 2, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 26, 32 and 34. I said at Report stage that we saw a major role for the GTC, working with the Government and the Teacher Training Agency, in ensuring high standards of entry to the teaching profession, and I undertook to consider whether we could make our intentions clearer on this front. Amendments Nos. 26 and 34 both seek to make explicit the key role for the GTC in advising on standards of entry to the profession—both the standards required to be met at the end of initial training and the new standards to be met at the end of the statutory induction period. Amendment No. 26 requires the Secretary of State to consult the council before making any changes to the regulations and standards which govern qualified teacher status—the QTS standards.

The Teacher Training Agency played a central role in developing our new more demanding QTS standards which will bite for the first time on trainees completing courses from this May. We believe these represent a new quality bench-mark for entry to the teaching profession. But we believe it is right for the GTC, when established, to have a key role alongside the Teacher Training Agency in advising on any revision of these standards. That is the effect of Amendment No. 26.

Amendment No. 34 requires the Secretary of State to consult the GTC and/or the GTC for Wales, once established, before determining the standards against which teachers will be assessed at the end of the induction period. Your Lordships will be aware that the induction year standards will need to be determined before the GTC has been established since we intend that the new induction arrangements will come into force from September 1999—while the GTC will not be established until 2000. So this requirement will necessarily only take effect after the GTC has been established, and will relate only to changes to the standards. We intend to consult shortly on the detail of the new induction arrangements and our consultation document will include draft professional standards for the induction year, drawn up by the Teacher Training Agency, on which we shall be inviting comments. But we believe it is right for the GTC, when established, to be a key player in any further consideration of these standards.

I should emphasise that these amendments are not intended in any sense to take away from the present role of the Teacher Training Agency in advising the Secretary of State on standards for the profession. Looking ahead to Amendment No. 5, tabled in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, I should say that I am concerned to see again the suggestion that this role—which I believe the agency under its new chairman, Professor Clive Booth, has fulfilled so well—should be transferred immediately to the GTC. We believe it is right that the TTA should continue to advise on professional standards. We will continue to look to it to take on this role, and to forge and work in strong partnership with the GTC, when established.

Amendment No. 2 is a technical amendment which extends the definition of the GTC as "the Council" to all of the teaching clauses in the Bill. I hope that noble Lords will welcome this further clarification.

When we debated Amendment No. 32 at Report stage my noble friend Lord Whitty made it clear that we intended the GTC to have a major role in the new induction arrangements. The amendments to which I have just spoken confirm that this is the case and make clear our intention that the GTC should have a key role in the arrangements governing entry to the teaching profession. However, Members of this House will recognise that there must be a limit to what we can or indeed should properly put into primary legislation. We have considered this amendment again very carefully and I have to tell the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that we do not see the case to incorporate in statute an advisory role for the GTC in respect of quality assurance. There is already provision in the Bill to allow the GTC to advise on the quality assurance arrangements for the new induction programme. Clause 2(2) of the Bill, in providing for the council to advise on standards of teaching and the training, career development and performance management of teachers, includes an advisory role for the GTC in relation to induction. We would of course be delighted if the GTC were to offer advice on quality assurance, and I can assure the House that we would take such advice very seriously indeed. However, I am not persuaded of the case to write this point into primary legislation.

We intend that Ofsted will exercise the lead quality assurance role in respect of the new induction arrangements as part of its regular inspection programme. I do not therefore see a case for providing for the quality assurance arrangements for induction to be determined after consultation with the GTC. I am clear that the chief inspector will want to take proper account of any views the council may have on the operation of the quality assurance arrangements in respect of induction. But I do not see a need to provide for that on the face of the Bill. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, will be persuaded not to press the amendment. But if he does, I would urge the House to resist it. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Baroness Maddock

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her comments with regard to Amendment No. 32 and I am grateful for the assurances we have had this afternoon. However, we believe that this should be on the face of the Bill and I shall spend a moment or two explaining why.

The purpose of Amendment No. 32 is to ensure that quality assurance arrangements for assessment of a newly-qualified teacher are included in the regulations under Clause 13(2). This is, as the Minister said, a reintroduction of an amendment that we put forward from these Benches at the Report stage. It seeks to ensure that the general teaching council will have a significant role in advising how quality assurance arrangements for the induction period are to be established. I emphasise that this is a separate point from the one covered by the very welcome amendment, Amendment No. 34, which the Government are also introducing today.

We believe that quality assurance regulations are needed to ensure that any established standards for teachers completing their induction period are delivered in the same way across the whole country. At Report stage the Minister indicated that normally head teachers will make a report on the teacher's induction period and that will be ratified by the appropriate body, probably the LEA. We are concerned that, while the general teaching council, the Teacher Training Agency and the Minister will have established standards, the arrangements for the assessments to be moderated need to be put in place now. Our amendment seeks to ensure that once such a system is set up the general teaching council shall be consulted over what these moderation arrangements should be.

At Report stage the Minister mentioned the difficulties surrounding this matter; namely, that there will be a gap between the making of the regulations and the establishment of a general teaching council. The Minister has today explained some of the Government's thinking on this matter, but we have something of a problem here. It is important that all those involved should understand exactly what might be forthcoming from the Government in this area.

In the interests of fairness to and equitable treatment of newly-qualified teachers, because they are particularly at risk of losing their right to practise by virtue of these arrangements, I hope that the Minister will reassure the House—to some extent she already has—and perhaps give us a clearer picture of how the quality assurance arrangements will be organised.

In the past many people felt that under the old arrangements for the probationary year head teachers did not always assess the suitability of new teachers rigorously enough. Some noble Lords will remember that I raised concerns about the assessment of my own probationary period some 30 years ago. I was never quite sure exactly how much the head mistress looked at what I had been doing over that year.

Concerns have been expressed not only by the Association of Teachers & Lecturers but also by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon that some newly qualified teachers have been treated unreasonably in their schools. Sometimes they are given unreasonably large classes; sometimes they have classes which have a disproportionate number of children with behavioural difficulties. Sometimes that leads to an unsatisfactory situation. There is a double assessment. It can result in the teacher losing the licence to practise.

We need to be very clear about this because we are concerned with the recruitment of teachers. If it is not clear to them that the procedure is satisfactory, it may be a disincentive to people coming forward into the profession. That is backed up by a briefing I received this week—I am sure other noble Lords have also received it—from the Association of Teachers & Lecturers. It outlines quite clearly the vulnerability of some of the newly qualified teachers.

The association had a meeting in London at the end of last month with about 20 newly qualified teachers. Although it said that they were very enthusiastic and committed, many of the newly qualified teachers were working part-time or on short-term contracts. That is not an easy situation in the probationary year. There was one particular young teacher who had followed a teaching scheme devised by the department. He questioned its adequacy. He was told that any problem was due to his inexperience and misunderstanding. The teacher then discovered during an Ofsted inspection that he had failed due to the very same inadequacies that he had queried.

In my days in teaching I can remember being in a very similar situation, but fortunately it was not during my probationary year. I did not stay in the school very long after that situation arose. I believe that I have highlighted why we on these Benches are so concerned about the situation surrounding new teachers entering the profession and how we deal with the induction year, in particular.

Amendment No. 32 and the government Amendment No. 34 are an important means of ensuring that the induction period is rigorous and fair from the very beginning. However, we welcome the amendment that the Government have put forward today, particularly as regards consultation with the GTC about professional qualifications before teachers reach the induction period. In view of the many reassurances given by the Minister this afternoon we do not intend to press the amendment today. I hope that there will be a little more clarity when the Bill moves to another place and that other questions will be raised in this area.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I would like to say a few words in support of my noble friend Lady Maddock. The Minister's reply on Amendment No. 32 was a little perfunctory. In effect she argued that the Government were satisfied with their own judgment. I am not particularly surprised to hear it: most of us are. But I am becoming increasingly worried by the Government's increasing belief that they can extend their own judgment into areas of specialist competence where they really have not the ability to do so. If this goes on they will be selecting our test team next.

A noble Lord

It might help!

A noble Lord

I would have thought that it would be a considerable improvement!

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am not sure that I should comment on that last remark. I am sorry if the noble Earl thought my introduction of our amendments, which are designed to take a step towards what the noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches want, was perfunctory. The Government certainly do not want to sit smugly and rely on their own judgment. On the contrary, we very much recognise the need for nationally established arrangements for moderating standards at the end of induction. These are just the kind of issues that we intend to cover in our consultation document. We intend to consult and to listen before finalising the arrangements.

The standards which new teachers will have to meet in the induction year will eventually be laid down by the Secretary of State. We intend to consult on a draft of those standards. It is very important that we ensure that the process is seen to be fair, robust and equitable for all concerned. One of the reasons why we are bringing forward new arrangements for induction is exactly the kind of reason the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, raised.

It is true that there have been some rather scandalous cases in the past of newly qualified teachers being thrown in at the deepest of deep ends. They have been asked to do more work than some of their more experienced colleagues. Sometimes they have been asked to teach the most difficult class of 15 year-olds in the school. That is exactly the kind of thing that we ought to avoid if we are to ensure that new teachers are given proper support, are able to make reasonable progress, complete the induction year and then become fully qualified and registered teachers.

However, I am encouraged by the reception the House has given to our proposals on induction generally. I am very grateful that the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, has decided that she will not press her amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 2, line 25, at end insert— ("(6A) Regulations under subsection (5) must be framed so as to secure that a majority of the members of the Council are registered teachers who—

  1. (a) either are for the time being employed or otherwise engaged to provide their services as teachers or have had such recent employment or engagement as teachers as may be prescribed; and
  2. (b) satisfy such other criteria as to eligibility for appointment or election to the Council as may be prescribed.
(6B) In relation to appointments made or elections held before a register is established under section 3, the reference in subsection (6A) to registered teachers is a reference to qualified teachers within the meaning of section 218(2) of the Education Reform Act 1988.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, as I have indicated in previous debates, it is very important that we get the composition of the GTC right. That is why we will be consulting on this issue so that we can be sure that we are proceeding on an agreed basis. I have also agreed that both Houses should have an opportunity to debate the regulations governing the composition of the council. We will therefore be able to have a full debate taking into account the results of the consultation exercise before the final arrangements are put in place.

During Report stage, I brought forward an amendment which would require that at least half the membership of the council should be serving and qualified teachers. This reflected the wording of an amendment brought forward by the noble Baronesses, Lady Young and Lady Maddock. I then withdrew that amendment in the light of an amendment brought forward by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and his colleagues which proposed that teachers should form a majority on the council. Although I do not believe that there is a great deal of difference between "at least half" and "a majority", I recognised that this was an important difference of emphasis and I agreed to look at my amendment again. I have done so and I am now returning with this new amendment.

I believe it is important that teachers who serve on the council should be teachers with recent experience of teaching so that it will benefit from their up-to-date classroom experience. I have carefully considered the points raised during the debate at Report stage by the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, about the valuable contribution that recently retired teachers might be able to make to the work of the council, particularly since they might be able to devote more time to the council's work. This amendment therefore enables regulations to provide for those who have had recent employment as teachers to be eligible for membership. We shall want to ask for views during our consultation exercise on precisely how recent that experience should be. I should not want to run the risk of the council members' knowledge being out of date and out of touch with the rapidly changing work of schools.

I also indicated during previous debate that the Government are committed to ensuring that the interests of denominational schools and teacher training institutions are properly represented on the council. We will be consulting on how this can best be achieved. I also agreed to consider whether we could bring forward an amendment which would make the Government's intentions clearer on the face of the Bill. Members of your Lordships' House will recall the previous debate about whether such an amendment should refer to religious interests or to denominational schools and teacher training institutions. We are still considering how any such amendment should be worded. If it is possible to draft an amendment which will make the Government's intentions clear, while allowing scope for our consultation exercise to ask questions about how those interests could be represented, my colleagues in another place will bring forward an amendment during the next stages.

It is also important that the consumers of education are represented on the council. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, brought forward an amendment at earlier stages of the Bill proposing that pupils in schools and parents of pupils in schools should be interests to which the Secretary of State should have regard when making regulations on the composition of the council. I agreed in principle with the amendment, although I indicated that I saw difficulties in how we could go about ensuring that the interests of pupils in schools were represented on the council other than through parent groups. We shall be consulting on how the interests of consumers can be represented on the council. I can, however, also say that my colleagues in another place will bring forward an amendment which will ensure that parents of pupils in schools will be represented on the council.

I hope that Members of your Lordships' House will welcome the amendment and the commitment I have given to look further at how the interests of denominational schools and teacher training institutions, as well as the parents of pupils in schools, can be represented on the council. I beg to move.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

My Lords, from this side of the House, I welcome the amendment. I am pleased that teachers will form the majority on the council. I am delighted that the Minister has taken note of the suggestion from the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, about the pressure of work on the council which will mean that it has to depend to some degree on recently retired teachers. However, I understand the Minister's worry that they must not be too long retired. I am also grateful that the Minister has given consideration to religious denominations and to the whole range of interests that should be represented on the council.

Having said all those nice things, I must now express a certain regret that the consultation is taking so long. From the correspondence I have received, it seems that the department could have done better. I do not blame the noble Baroness for that, but I believe that with greater acceleration more detail could have been put before us. We have more time in this House and given greater consideration could have been given to these issues. That might have been helpful to the consultation process. As I said at earlier stages, I have a mountain of material on the issue which the noble Baroness is welcome to see.

I welcome the amendment, but perhaps in her long period in office the noble Baroness can persuade the department to move a little more quickly. It is not a department that is noted for its haste.

Lord Tope

My Lords, I too give a warm welcome both to this amendment and to the Minister's promise of more to come. At previous stages we discussed the difficulties that this House has had in dealing with a Bill which was so skeletal during the consultation process. One result is that we are gradually filling in more and more of the detail as the Government see the outcome of the consultation process. Perhaps it is as well, however, that we are leaving Members of another place something to do in terms of putting more flesh on the bones of the GTC.

I particularly welcome the amendment because at every stage my colleagues and I have been pressing for the membership of the GTC to comprise a majority of teachers. That proposition has received wide support throughout the House. I am pleased that the Government have now accepted it. I am also pleased that the Minister has recognised that there is a difference between "at least half" and "a majority". The noble Baroness said on Report that that was an important difference of emphasis. That is correct. I commented then that in some circumstances, such as if a casting vote was required, the difference could be even more important than one of mere emphasis. That point has now been recognised and I am delighted with the outcome.

I am also pleased that the Government have taken on board the point, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, and again supported throughout the House, that recently retired teachers will often have more time, and sometimes more experience, to offer the GTC. I repeat the qualification that I made on Report that one becomes out of date very quickly in this day and age. I am pleased therefore that the amendment recognises that members of the GTC should be recently retired teachers. I know that the Government are consulting further on exactly what is meant by "recently", so I shall not press the Minister further. I hope that proper and careful consideration can be given to getting the best from retired teachers while recognising that, sadly but inevitably, over a period of time, as changes occur, what they are able to offer will become gradually less valuable. Some time limit will be needed. Five years might be appropriate; I leave that thought with the Minister. We welcome what the Minister said and particularly the amendment.

Lord Butterfield

My Lords, I hope that the Minister will not mind my intervening briefly to say how delighted will be those who have done so much work over the past five years to get the general teaching council set up and running to see it established under the Bill and to know, by this amendment, that the membership of the GTC will comprise a majority of teachers. I do not want the immense amount of work that has been put into the establishment of the GTC over the past four or five years to go unrecorded. I spoke up for a GTC in the middle of the night in, I think, 1962. We lost then, but it is now sailing. I wish the GTC well as it moves out of the harbour and into the open sea.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister will clarify one point. It is clear from the amendment that a majority of members of the council will either be in employment as teachers or will have been in recent employment. Once one is a registered teacher, can one continue to be on the register for as long as one likes after retirement or is there a point at which one comes off the register? That seems to me an interesting point in relation to the register, although perhaps not directly relevant to the amendment.

Lord Walton of Detchant

My Lords, perhaps I may comment on that last point. In medicine, so long as one is a registered medical practitioner one can retain that registration until the end of one's days. On the other hand, many qualifications relate to the extent to which one can continue to practise medicine in the National Health Service where there is an age limit. I believe that teachers can and should continue to be so registered.

When this issue was discussed on Report, I had some little doubt about whether it was proper to include in such an amendment the term "registered teacher" because until the general teaching council comes into operation there will be no register upon which individuals' names can be included. Nevertheless, I believe that the term "registered" is correct and I express my personal gratitude to the Minister for taking on board so many of the points made. I, too, greatly welcome the amendment.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords for what they have said. Indeed, I am delighted that Members of your Lordships' House have unanimously welcomed the amendment which will ensure that we have a council which truly commands respect for members of the teaching profession, but which also allows scope for others with an interest in high teaching standards to be represented on the council.

I am only sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, feels that we are taking too long with the consultation. The consultation process on the GTC has two stages. That might explain why we do not yet have the answers to all of the noble Lord's questions, but I am sure that he would be critical if we did not give people long enough to reflect on the issues and to come back to us with their views.

To deal with the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, qualified teachers will be eligible to register until the end of their days as long as they have not been barred. I believe that that is also highly desirable.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 4: Page 2, line 26, at end insert— ("(8) At any time before the date mentioned in subsection (3)(a), the Council shall be known as the General Teaching Council for England and Wales; and—

  1. (a) in relation to any time before that date, references to the Council in any enactment shall accordingly be construed as references to the General Teaching Council for England and Wales, and
  2. (b) any reference to the Council by that name in an instrument or document made before that date shall be construed on or after that date as a reference to the General Teaching Council for England.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 5: Before Clause 2, insert the following new clause— FUNCTIONS OF THE COUNCIL (" .—(1) The Council shall be responsible for determining the following matters—

  1. (a) standards of teaching;
  2. (b) standards of conduct for teachers; and
  3. (c) medical fitness to teach.
(2) The Council may be required to seek advice from—
  1. (a) the Secretary of State; or
  2. (b) such other persons or bodies that he may from time to time designate,
on matters falling within subsection (1).
(3) This section has effect in relation to regulations made under subsections (2), (3) and (6) of section 218 of the Education Reform Act 1988 (regulations relating to schools, etc.) as they apply to teachers at schools. (4) The Secretary of State shall make provision in such regulations for a determination or direction under those regulations to be made by the Council.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, before dealing with this amendment I too should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, for the amendments that she has tabled and those that are to come. I did not intervene earlier, but I am grateful that she has accepted so many of the suggestions that have been made about the composition of the council. I am sure that that will be very beneficial.

I return to the amendment. When I moved it on Report and in Committee I was most grateful for the strong support that I received from all parts of the House. I did not then press the amendment because I wanted to consider fully what the noble Lord, Lord Whiny, had said. He made a number of suggestions, one of which is the subject of a later amendment, although I may have misunderstood. However, when I looked at the matter I did not think that it went far enough. I shall not repeat all of the arguments because they have already been dealt with, but the issue quite simply is what kind of general teaching council we want. The body proposed is an advisory council, or we could have one that is the equivalent of other professional bodies. I have no doubt that if we are to have a general teaching council it should be equivalent to other professional bodies. It is very important that it should attract the right kind of people. I believe that it would then do its work well. We know that those who belong to it will have to pay a compulsory subscription. If they are to do that they must subscribe to a body that has real purpose and the power to take decisions. That is the issue at point. I beg to move.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I wholeheartedly support this amendment. The Minister said that now that the general teaching council would be composed of a majority of teachers she believed it would command the respect of the profession. That will help. However, whether a general teaching council with so few powers and such a limited role will command the respect of teachers and they will feel it is worth paying for it is a very big question. The evidence in Scotland is that it is likely to be a very big disappointment.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Walton of Detchant

My Lords, I support the amendment. I believe that the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and colleagues have moved a long way towards meeting many of the concerns that have been expressed in your Lordships' House about the constitution and powers of the general teaching council. But the single issue that remains is what authority this council will have over the education and training of members of the teaching profession and issues such as professional conduct and discipline and the register. The issue relating to the register will arise under a later amendment to be moved by the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, and others.

At the end of the day, what authority is this council to have? The answer is that it will have very little indeed. As the Bill now stands it is to be purely an advisory body. The answer to all of the important questions that may be raised relating to standards of practice and conduct and the retention of names on the register is ultimately vested in the Secretary of State, but not the council itself. Although on Report the noble Baroness said it was intended that in all probability the council would ultimately be given those powers under amending legislation, we all know how difficult it is to achieve amending legislation and primary legislation in the constantly crowded parliamentary timetable.

The question is whether the Government will bite the bullet from the beginning and give this council the powers that all other regulatory authorities for various other professions possess over standards of practice and education and conduct. It is true that the Teacher Training Agency under the chairmanship of Professor Clive Booth is an admirable body that is doing excellent work. However, I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I give yet another analogy relating to the work of the General Medical Council. The ultimate authority over medical education is vested in the General Medical Council's Education Committee. That committee has responsibility for achieving and maintaining high standards of medical education and co-ordinating all stages of it. That council, through its professional conduct committee, has authority to deal with all matters to do with conduct and discipline within the profession. The Secretary of State has no authority in that particular regard.

Is the general teaching council simply to maintain an advisory role? In medicine there are many other bodies such as the Royal colleges and a great number of professional associations that give advice on training, conduct and discipline, but the ultimate authority rests with the General Medical Council. That is also true of the General Dental Council and the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting. Why do we not take this opportunity to give such authority to the general teaching council since without that authority it will be emasculated? I believe it is right that this task should be undertaken now and not left to amending legislation at a much later date.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, I should like to support this amendment. With this amendment, or something like it, this body will become a true general teaching council. Without the amendment it is not a general teaching council but simply an advisory body. The country is coming apart with advisory bodies and we do not need any more. The situation is particularly acute when a question is raised as to an individual's fitness to continue to teach. The Government refuse to give the council power to make such a decision. The Secretary of State will retain that power.

The Secretary of State is a splendid gentleman, and he is also a friend of mine. Nine months ago he was a layman who knew nothing at all about education, but he is to be given the power to decide whether or not an individual is to be allowed to teach. A general teaching council drawn from the whole of the teaching profession and lots of other people will not be allowed to make this decision. It is crazy. What are the Government thinking of? It is not a general teaching council unless it is given this power. I have already said that without power over the ingress to the profession and egress from it this body will not be a general teaching council. I hope that noble Lords from all parties will support this amendment.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Walton and Lord Glenamara, for spelling out the issues with such great clarity. I said at an earlier stage of the Bill that governments must allow their legislative offspring to grow up. The amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, does not merely pass that test, it allows the legislative offspring to come of age. I congratulate her on it.

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, I wish to return briefly to a point that I made at an earlier stage: throughout the discussions on the Bill we have referred continually to the profession of teaching as though teaching were a profession. Part of the definition of a profession is that it should be self-regulating. The amendment moves in that direction. Without self-regulation, and this amendment, teaching is not a profession. To call it a profession is merely a sop, and a sop is not adequate.

If we wish teaching to be a profession, we must give it the powers of self-regulation which are part of the definition of a profession. I sincerely hope that my noble friends on the Front Bench will accept the amendment or, at any rate, that they accept the intention and will return to something similar at a later stage.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

My Lords, I must confess that I am perplexed by the Government's position on this issue. As the Minister knows, I supported her at the beginning on an evolutionary approach. Since the Government have taken large delegated powers in the Bill, they could easily have introduced a ratchet effect with, during the process of the Bill, the Secretary of State handing over powers to the GTC.

However, the Government chose to go for primary legislation which, as has been admitted on all sides of the House—the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, was right—it is highly unlikely would come before the next Parliament. The Minister said that herself. Even then, it would be problematical. Therefore, as the noble Lord, Lord Howie, said, the GTC cannot be described as a professional body. It is therefore flawed from the beginning. In other words, it has within it the makings of a large mess.

This is a Bill that has been rushed into. Consultation could have taken place before the Bill came before the House. The consultation would have said what has been said from all sides of the House. The noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, is right: teachers will feel that their professional competence has been denied since the GTC remains an advisory council until the end of this Parliament. It will only be granted powers at the will of whoever the next government are. It is deplorable that the Government cannot give ground on this matter. It would be easy to do so. They should at least give the GTC control of the register. That is a small matter, but it would meet the wishes of us all. I have enormous sympathy with my noble friend's amendment.

Lord Tope

My Lords, I add the warm support of the Liberal Democrat Benches for the amendment. At an earlier stage, my noble friends and I moved an amendment which went into greater detail about the powers and functions of the GTC. If I remember rightly, the amendment began with the same words as the amendment moved by the noble Baroness. We debated the amendment on that occasion and I was content to withdraw it. Today, I am pleased to be able to support this amendment.

The points have been made well and clearly today. I am sure that the Government have noted that the strong and articulate support for the amendment has come from all Benches, including their own. I hope that the Minister is about to say that the Government have recognised that and will accept the amendment. We on these Benches will be supporting it.

Lord Annan

My Lords, on the theory of this amendment, there is no question about it, the speeches in favour of it have carried the day. What makes me hesitate is that ever since the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, opened the debate on education as a whole some years ago, we have known that there has been a division of opinion within the profession about how teachers should be trained and how they should teach.

It is a deep division which Mr. Woodward has been doing his best to resolve, but against a good deal of opposition. I wonder whether it is wise, just at this moment, to hand the training of teachers, and all that that implies—the theory of how one teaches someone to teach—entirely to another body, which would leave the Secretary of State with no way in which he or she could intervene.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, before I comment upon the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, I should like to speak to the amendments which stand in the name of my noble friend the Minister, which are grouped with these amendments. I do not believe that they will be too contentious.

Amendment No. 10 fulfils a commitment that I made at Report stage in responding to an amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. We undertook to consider whether Clause 2 gives the GTC sufficient latitude in how it fulfils its advisory role.

The clause as drafted already allows for the council to initiate advice as it sees fit—there is no question of the council having to wait for a request from the Secretary of State or anyone else. However, on further reflection, we acknowledge that Clause 2 might have been seen as too restrictive in terms of to whom the council may offer advice. It is entirely right for the GTC to decide which persons or bodies it wishes to offer its advice to. The council may, for example, wish to offer advice to local education authorities, the Teacher Training Agency, and other national bodies. But that will be for the council to decide. The amendment reflects that.

Amendment No. 11 makes a consequential technical amendment to extend the council's power to publish its advice.

Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 then serve to clarify and tidy up Clause 2. Amendment No. 9 makes it clear that the GTC's advice on the topics listed in subsection (2) should be of a general nature applying to the profession as a whole or elements within it, but not to individual teachers. Amendment No. 10 makes clearer the distinction between general advice under subsection (2) and advice on cases concerning individual teachers under subsection (4).

I turn now to Amendments Nos. 12, 24, 35 and 36 which are all technical amendments. Amendment No. 24 removes the definition of "employed" from Clause 10 because the word does not appear in that clause. Amendments Nos. 12, 35 and 36 are all necessary to reflect the wider definition of employment which now appears in Section 218 of the Education Reform Act. The 1997 Education Act amended Section 218 so that the Secretary of State's powers governing the requirement to be a qualified teacher and governing the barring regime could apply to agency and supply teachers or in the legal wording: persons engaged to provide their services". Amendment No. 12 ensures that the reference to barring in Clause 3 reflects those powers. I hope that there will be no dispute about those relatively technical amendments.

I turn therefore to the substance of the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. As noble Lords have said, these amendments are virtually identical to those which were pursued in Committee. The Government will oppose those amendments. It may be some slight consolation to noble Lords that we will have something more positive to say to an amendment that arises later in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley.

I shall have to repeat some of what I said at an earlier stage. The essential points are that we believe that the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness have serious drawbacks. There is no difference between us in principle. Our difficulties, as noble Lords have hinted, relate to timing. We believe that the amendments would undermine our new qualified teacher standards. They would undermine the valuable work of the Teacher Training Agency, to which the noble Lord, Lord Annan, referred, but which has not been mentioned in the debate. As I made clear in Committee, they would fragment what is currently a coherent child protection system.

We agree with noble Lords that the intention behind the amendments is admirable. However, at this stage, we do not believe that we should move in that direction. As regards entry to the profession, we agree that the GTC must and will have a major role. We have already debated government amendments which give the council a statutory right to be consulted on standards for qualified teacher training and teacher status. We shall also deal with the new induction year. We believe that to go further would undermine the new standards that we have set for qualified teacher status. They come into full effect for the first time on 1st May this year.

To go further would also undermine the Teacher Training Agency. The noble Baroness paid tribute to its work. We believe that the balance of responsibilities between the general teaching council, the Teacher Training Agency and the Secretary of State are broadly right for the time being.

I must repeat the position which we took on exclusion because of its cross-relationship with child protection. The teaching profession differs from other professions in being almost wholly composed of people whose jobs involve them in regular contact with children. In the past few years, the scope of barring has gone beyond teachers to include other people who have contact with children. It also extends to independent schools, FE colleges and maintained schools. In that context, the Government firmly believe that it would be wrong and possibly dangerous to fragment the child protection system in the way envisaged in the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. Under her proposals, the GTC would be responsible for barring teachers at schools. The council would not, and indeed could not, have the scope to bar people from being classroom assistants, volunteers in schools or taxi drivers. We believe that there would have to be two separate processes; one before the GTC and one before the Secretary of State. There would otherwise be room for inconsistency of judgment and for claims of double jeopardy by the people accused.

We consider that the present system, by and large, works well and that in issues of child protection it is right for the Secretary of State to continue to make the final decision. We have always envisaged that once the council has established a track record in the field by advising the Secretary of State on individual cases we should consider further primary legislation in order to extend the powers of the GTC in this direction.

People accept, on the one hand, that we are taking an evolutionary approach, but, on the other hand, they expect us to legislate now, although the GTC will not come into full operation before the year 2000. It will be into the next Parliament before we can reasonably make a judgment on whether the GTC is able to take on such additional responsibilities—

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

My Lords, perhaps I may make my position clear because I accept what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Annan. I suggest that the Government concede that they can take delegated powers during the time of this Parliament to respond to the criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and see how the situation develops, rather than wait for primary legislation in the next Parliament. In other words, the Government should allow the Secretary of State to hand over power to the body. That would resolve the dilemma in which the Minister finds himself.

Lord Howell

My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for giving way. If the body is set up in the future—and I have grave doubts—would it not remove parliamentary accountability in areas of professionalism; for example, misconduct? I believe that as regards the standards of teaching and professional conduct, the Secretary of State must be answerable to Parliament and I am anxious to discover the Government's view on that.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, issues of parliamentary accountability are involved, not as regards entry to the profession in the longer term but in relation to exclusion, in particular on grounds of misconduct of the kind to which I referred and which regrettably arises in relation to schools. We must think long and hard about whether we remove the Secretary of State's ultimate responsibility for that.

We are at one in considering that at a later stage the GTC will have some control over entry to the profession, but that must be assessed in the light of its performance and the views of those in the profession and others dealing with education. I understand the technique spelt out by the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington; namely, that we would effectively provide a trigger mechanism for the Secretary of State at some later stage. However, we believe that the matter is so important that it requires primary legislation. Our timetable is such that a trigger mechanism would not be adopted until well into the next Parliament. It would be misleading for us to include that power in the Bill at this stage.

We have always said in this Chamber and elsewhere that we regard this to be an important measure of self-government for the teaching profession, but we need to move on a step-by-step basis. We need to establish the legitimacy of the GTC within the profession and to move to greater scope for the GTC over time. Despite what was said by my noble friend Lord Glenamara and others, that view has found support within the profession. Indeed, the largest teacher union, the NUT, takes a similar view on the step-by-step approach.

The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, speaks in one breath of not rushing things but in another of putting the provision on the face of the Bill. We should not rush such an important issue; Parliament must make a further assessment. I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment on the understanding that we are moving in the same direction, albeit at a slower pace than some of your Lordships would wish.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask him about Amendment No. 10 which he skated over rather quickly. Subsection (4B) provides that advice, shall be advice of a general nature". That seems very unspecific. Does it mean, for example, that the GTC could not raise comment on a single aspect of the standards of qualified teacher status, or on a single subject area of the national curriculum for initial teacher training?

Lord Whitty

My Lords, no. The distinction I am making is between giving general advice which could apply to a specific area, qualification or subject, and the achievement or otherwise of qualifications by an individual teacher, or misconduct by an individual teacher.

Baroness Young

My Lords, once again, I thank all noble Lords from all parts of the House who have expressed support for the amendment. I spoke briefly in introducing it because I advanced the arguments in great detail in Committee and on Report and I did not wish to go over the ground again. However, I thank sincerely colleagues in the House who have supported me. I refer to my noble friend Lady Carnegy, and the noble Lord, Lord Walton. There has been strong support from the noble Lords, Lord Glenamara and Lord Howie of Troon; and, on the Liberal Democrat Benches, from the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell. It is striking that the support has remained steady throughout all stages.

I fully appreciate that we are all looking to the same end; we want a good general teaching council. I am reminded that such a teaching council exists in Scotland. I have never been clear why it can work satisfactorily in Scotland but not be allowed to work in England and Wales. We have not had an answer to that.

I recognise the important issue of debarring teachers and the great responsibility we have when talking about the concerns of children who are in the care of teachers while at school. However, I believe that when it comes to debarring, teachers would probably be tougher on teachers than would an outsider. That is not a concern of mine; I am much more concerned about the timetabling aspect. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, carefully explained that if all goes well the Government intend to introduce further legislation.

However, I remind myself of what the noble Lord, Lord Walton, said on an earlier occasion; that is, that a number of the professional medical bodies have been looking for legislative opportunities to correct things that had gone wrong and failed to find them for many years. Experience of parliament has taught me that to rely on finding a legislative slot in which to fit this in the future is simply asking for trouble. Such a slot will not be available. It will not be achieved through Private Member's legislation and to expect government time to be found is the triumph of hope over experience.

If we have a general teaching council, it is extremely important that it should command not only the respect of the teaching profession but, as I said before, also the respect of parents and people in other professions. I am afraid that if we have only an advisory body, it will be seen to be second-class. Whether or not it is, that is how it will be seen. It will start off on the wrong footing. We owe it to teachers, in relation to the responsibilities which they carry, to have something with authority. Under those circumstances, I feel that I must test the opinion of the House on this matter.

4.11 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 5) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 137; Not-Contents, 112.

Division No. 1
Addington, L. Flowers, L.
Ailsa, M. Freyberg, L.
Aldington, L. Gainford, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Alport, L. Geraint, L.
Ampthill, L. Glenamara, L.
Astor, V. Goodhart,L.
Avebury, L. Gray, L.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Halsbury, E.
Bath and Wells, Bp. Hampton, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Bellwin, L. Hayhoe, L.
Beloff, L. Holderness, L.
Berners, B. Hood, V.
Bethell, L. Hylton, L.
Blatch, B. Ilchester, E.
Braine of Wheatley, L. Inglewood, L.
Brentford, V. James of Holland Park, B.
Bridges, L. Kintore, E.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Knight of Collingtree, B.
Butterfield, L. Lane of Horsell, L.
Butterworth, L. Lauderdale, E.
Cadman, L. Lawrence, L.
Calverley, L. Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Lewis of Newnham, L.
Carlisle, E. Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Lyell, L.
Chalfont, L. McConnell, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Cochrane of Cults, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Cork and Orrery, E. McNair, L.
Cross, V. McNally, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Maddock, B.
Cumberlege, B. Malmesbury, E.
Darcy de Knayth, B. Mar and Kellie, E.
Davidson, V. Marlesford, L.
De Freyne, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Denham, L. Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Dholakia, L. Meston, L.
Dundee, E. Methuen, L.
Elles, B. Middleton, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Ezra, L. Mottistone, L.
Falkland, V. Moyne, L.
Napier and Ettrick, L. Ryder of Wensum, L.
Nelson, E. Sainsbury, L.
Newby, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Nicholson of Winterbourne, B. Sandys, L.
Norfolk, D. Southwell, Bp.
Oliver of Aylmerton, L. Stafford, L.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B. Strafford, E.
Park of Monmouth, B. Strathcarron, L.
Pender, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Perry of Southwark, B. Suffield, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L. Swansea, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L. Thomas of Gresford, L.
Platt of Writtle, B Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Porter of Luddenham, L. Thurso, V.
Pym, L. Tope, L. [Teller.]
Redesdale, L. Tordoff, L.
Rees, L. Waddington, L.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L. Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Renton of Mount Harry, L. Walton of Detchant, L.
Ritchie of Dundee, L. Wharton, B.
Rochester, L. Williams of Crosby, B.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L. Wynford, L.
Russell, E. Young, B. [Teller.]
Acton, L. Hughes, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Hughes of Woodside, L.
Amos, B. Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Annan, L. Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L. Janner of Braunstone, L.
Barnett, L. Jay of Paddington, B.
Berkeley, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Blackstone, B. Judd, L.
Blease, L. Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Borrie, L. Kilbracken, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L. Kirkhill, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Levy, L.
Burlison, L. Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L. Longford, E.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Carter, L. [Teller] McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Mallalieu, B.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Mason of Bamsley, L.
Currie of Marylebone, L. Merlyn-Rees, L.
David, B. Milner of Leeds, L.
Davies of Coity, L. Mishcon, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. Molloy, L.
Desai, L. Monkswell, L.
Diamond, L. Montague of Oxford, L.
Donoughue, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Nicol, B.
Eatwell, L. Northbourne, L.
Elis-Thomas, L. Onslow, E.
Ewing of Kirkford, L. Paul, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Peston, L.
Gallacher, L. Plant of Highfield, L.
Gilbert, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Quirk, L.
Grantchester, L. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Grenfell, L. Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Hardie, L. Rendell of Babergh, B.
Hardy of Wath, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Haskel, L. Serota, B.
Hayman, B. Sewel, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Shepherd, L.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L. Shore of Stepney, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Simon, V.
Howell, L. Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Hoyle, L. Stallard, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L. Walker of Doncaster, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Strabolgi, L. Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B. Wedderburn of Charlton, L
Taylor of Blackburn, L. Whitty, L.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Turner of Camden, B. Williams of Mostyn, L.
Varley, L. Winston, L.
Vinson, L. Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

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