HL Deb 28 May 2002 vol 635 cc1234-301

House again in Committee.

Baroness Seccombe

moved Amendment No. 305: After Clause 127, insert the following new clause— "AMENDMENT TO EDUCATION (NO. 2) ACT 1986 In section 49 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 (c. 61) (appraisal of performance of teachers) in subsection (2)(a)(i) after "establishments" there is inserted— (ia) to have regard to any guidance provided by the local education authority concerning matters to be taken into consideration in the appraisal of head teachers;". The noble Baroness said: While the Bill contains many provisions designed to help successful schools improve still further, it is more reticent in its attempt to protect the most vulnerable children. My motivation for the amendments are the horrific events that occurred during the dreadful short life of Lauren Wright. Most noble Lords have heard details of what happened to that tragic child, but some have not. I hope that I will be forgiven if I mention them again.

Lauren went to live with her father and stepmother after their marriage. She was subjected to what can only be described as torture. Lauren attended her local school, where her stepmother was a dinner helper. It was a two-teacher school, so Lauren must have been seen at close quarters on an almost daily basis. Apparently, she often appeared with bruises but they were always explained away. During that time, Lauren lost four stone in weight and her hair fell out. When Lauren died 16 months later, she weighed only two stone. She was six years old.

Lauren's stepmother and father were imprisoned after being convicted—which was important but did nothing to ensure that cruelty is recognised and dealt with at a very early stage. Nothing will bring Lauren back but we owe it to her to do all in our power to eliminate such terrible acts of cruelty to children who often suffer in silence.

During the period when my right honourable friend Mrs Gillian Shephard was Secretary of State for Education, the document Protecting Children from Abuse: The Role of the Education Service was circulated. Often referred to as Circular 10/95, it lays out a framework that schools should have in place for dealing with cases of abuse. The document outlines a school's responsibility for working with the local social services department and, most importantly, for designating a member of staff as being responsible for co-ordinating child protection. Tragically, those guidelines are not always followed.

I seek to give that circular the force and teeth that it requires by putting it on the face of the Bill. Amid all the other provisions for improvement and innovation, surely the protection of children deserves crucial consideration and should be a priority.

As a result of my right honourable friend's involvement, she has taken a great interest in all abuse cases and has been particularly involved in the Lauren Wright case. She and her Norfolk parliamentary colleagues have also given evidence to the Victoria Climbié inquiry. Studying the Lauren Wright report leads to only one conclusion—that guidance is not enough and statutory powers must be included in the Bill.

I was heartened to hear the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, say in relation to Clause 12 that by placing this clause in the Bill we want to clarify the position and put the matter beyond doubt".—[Official Report, 7/5/2002; col. 1116.] He went on to say that the existence of a specific statutory provision would reassure those who were more comfortable with written statutory powers. We would certainly be reassured if the amendment were made to the Bill so that the matter is plain, understandable and clear to everyone. I understand from the NSPCC that the circular is under review and out for consultation, but Amendment No. 361 covers any replacement circular, so that the point is dealt with.

Amendment No. 305 would concentrate the mind of head teachers and governors and ensure that child protection figured large in the everyday life of their school. Failure to ensure that would be a disciplinary offence. I acknowledge that child protection is a difficult issue and that decisions must be made in complex circumstances. Legislation may be necessary in other areas, but, today, we are dealing with the Education Bill. Heads should be accountable. It is not acceptable for people in authority who have children in their care for most of the day to appear unaware of ghastly events going on under their nose and to do nothing about them.

At every stage, little Lauren Wright was failed by a system designed to protect her. As a result, nobody could be held answerable for the tragedy. We must learn lessons from that and implement changes to ensure that our children are safeguarded. The Government can do that by agreeing to the amendment. I beg to move.

8.30 p.m.

Baroness Walmsley

I support Amendments Nos. 305 and 361. It is vital that a school's child protection policies are not optional but statutory. Putting the new clause in the Bill will call attention to the issue and focus the mind of heads and governing bodies on their responsibilities, of which they are, I am sure, already mindful.

We cannot hold teachers solely responsible for spotting child abuse problems, but they are in an excellent position to notice things going wrong because they know the children in their care well. In view of that, it is vital that the structures and lines of responsibility are in place and are clear and that appropriate resources are made available. A designated teacher in each school should be given appropriate training to carry out the lead role effectively. However, it is also important that all teachers and trainee teachers have at least some basic training in child abuse issues. That will entail a partnership approach between the LEA and the local area child protection committee and a team approach in schools. The quality of the training can be monitored by Ofsted.

There are other types of training from which teachers and their pupils could benefit, covering issues such as child welfare and emotional development. There is little time for that during the normal PGCE course, so it should be a key part of every teacher's professional development entitlement.

To back up teachers trying hard to support children with difficult backgrounds, the NSPCC, with whom I have a non-pecuniary association, would like to see better liaison with social services departments and the provision of better information by the social services to teachers. That would help the teachers better to understand a child's behaviour and to deal with it appropriately, in the interests of the child and the rest of the class, where the problem can result in disruptive behaviour. There is much scope for the designated child protection teacher to develop a deeper professional role in the school, taking the lead on issues relating to children in need and in foster care.

It is an important area, and the Bill gives us a great opportunity to do something positive in the light of our experience of the Lauren Wright and Victoria ClimbiéI hope that the Minister will give us a positive response to the amendment.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I listened carefully to the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, and, obviously, I am aware of the circumstances of the case of Lauren Wright, who was abused, tortured and killed by her stepmother, as noble Lords will know. In particular, I am aware of the failure of the agencies charged with protecting Lauren to prevent the tragedy.

Amendment No. 305 would go much further than simple child protection. It would require governing bodies to take into account guidance from local authorities on all aspects of head teacher appraisal. That would be on top of national guidance currently issued by the DfES and the advice given by accredited external advisers in person to governors carrying out the appraisal of a head teacher. Provisions are already in place for the LEA to be involved, if it has serious concerns about the performance of a head teacher.

I am greatly concerned that Lauren's school did not refer any concerns to the social services and did not follow my department's guidance, which all schools should have, on the procedures for protecting children from abuse. That is a vital part of all schools' responsibilities. Although their first priority is education, all schools must have appropriate arrangements in place to safeguard the welfare of their pupils. For that reason, I agree with the central aim of Amendment No. 361 that schools should have a duty to have regard to the department's guidance about arrangements for child protection. However, local education authorities also have a role to play in helping to draw up local procedures and training for staff in the area child protection committee forum and in monitoring and supporting schools in carrying out their responsibilities. We must reflect that in any new duty.

We accept the objective of the amendment. In addition to what I said about local education authorities, I can say that, on Report, we will propose a technically sound amendment to achieve that objective. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, and the right honourable lady Gillian Shephard for bringing the matter up. I shall do so again on Report, when we will propose our amendment. I hope that, on that basis, the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Seccombe

I am grateful to the Minister for her understanding and her obvious concern about the situation. I look forward to seeing the amendment: and would be grateful if she could let us see it as early as possible, so that we can make sure that it covers all the points that we wish to make. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 128 [Qualified teacher status]:

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

moved Amendment No. 306: Page 80, line 24, leave out subsection (3). The noble Baroness said: In moving the amendment, I shall speak to all the government amendments in the group. They are, essentially, technical amendments, but I shall try to cover them in some detail.

In these clauses, we seek to enable schools to adopt flexible models of staffing, clarify some legal grey areas and safeguard more clearly than before the central role of qualified teacher status in our system. The legislation to be replaced by the clauses served its purpose well when schools were, perhaps, simpler places, and the only adults who regularly worked in classrooms were teachers. However, other adults are now increasingly involved in schools in various ways, as teaching assistants and in other professional roles. In that context, there is a danger that the law as it stands will be unclear as to what is allowed and what is not. That carries two risks: first, that schools will be held back from introducing sensible, flexible arrangements; and secondly, that the concept of qualified teacher status could be undermined.

The Bill will avert both of those risks. At its heart is Clause 129, which enables us for the first time to say precisely what are the professional duties and activities for which QTS is required by law. II: also means that regulations can specify that a less qualified person may take on certain roles in the classroom only when working within a framework set by a person with QTS. Those are the central safeguards for standards. The clause also clarifies for the first time that a teaching assistant without QTS can, for example, take a small group of children out of the classroom to work on their literacy, within a framework set by the class teacher. Of course, that is sensible and already happens at many schools. The Bill will clarify that it is legal. Similarly, the clause will allow schools to bring in further education lecturers or real experts in highly specialised areas to lead lessons if that makes sense.

That brings me to Amendments Nos. 307, 309 and 310. It is essential that, in introducing the legislation, we do not disrupt the existing position of so-called unqualified teachers—in other words, overseas qualified teachers, instructors or teacher trainees on the graduate or registered teacher programme. None of those has QTS, but all are eligible under current regulations to teach in schools.

In the Bill as drafted, those people would not fit under Clause 129(1) because they do not have QTS, but they would not fit properly under Clause 129(2) either because they are currently undertaking the same work in schools as QTS teachers and in the same circumstances whereas Clause 129(2) was intended to deal with teaching assistants working under the supervision of a teacher with QTS. Therefore, Amendment No. 307 replaces the existing Clause 129(1) and (2) with a new more flexible subsection.

Amendment No. 310 is needed to ensure that that single regulation-making power is sufficiently broad and flexible to deal with all the cases that it will now cover: teachers with qualified teacher status, teaching assistants, and the unqualified teachers that I have described. Those regulations will ensure that all the current exceptions from the requirement to be qualified are preserved exactly as they are now.

Amendments Nos. 309 and 311 are purely drafting changes consequential on those amendments. As two regulation-making powers are replaced with a single one, it is necessary to adjust the cross-references accordingly.

Amendment No. 306 follows directly from the other amendments. The existing Clause 128(3) was intended to preserve the existing employment position of overseas qualified teachers who are eligible to teach in this country, but only for a restricted period. Those people will now be covered more transparently by the amended Clause 129 which allows for time limits under the new subsection (5A). So Clause 128(3) can be deleted.

I believe that I should speak to the entire group of amendments, including those in the names of other noble Lords.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

Would it not be more appropriate for us to speak to the amendments before the Minister gives answers?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

The advice that I am receiving is that they are all in the one group so I should speak to the group. I shall follow the advice given.

Lord Lucas

As this is Committee stage there can be no particular problems about the speaking order. When I was on the Benches opposite I let the Opposition speak first. It is difficult to answer a case that has not been made.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I agree. I am in your Lordships' hands. This is a new situation for me.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Lyell)

I have to advise the Committee that if Amendment No. 307 is agreed to I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 308A. If Amendment No. 308, in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Sharp of Guildford and Lady Walmsley, is agreed to, I would not be able to call Amendments Nos. 308A, 309, 310. I hope that clarifies the position.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

The easiest course is for me to speak to the amendments in this group standing in my name. It will be easier for the Minister to answer them. If the amendments fall, there will be no point in putting them forward.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

The strong advice that I am receiving is that I should speak to the amendments so as not to de-group them, which would lead to preemption.

Baroness Blatch

In that case the noble Baroness will have to assume what my amendment is about and what the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, are about. If the amendments are de-grouped we shall not have an opportunity to speak to them at all. The Government, with weight on their side, will vote in their amendments and our amendments will fall. We are not in a position to de-group because they are on the same subject. It appears to me that it would be more logical for us to put our cases and then for the Minister to respond to them.

Lord Davies of Oldham

The Minister has made her opening statement about her amendments. As this is Committee stage and we have an opportunity to intervene and to speak on more than one occasion, it may be appropriate for the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, to speak. In doing so she can refer to her amendments, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, can in due course, and then the Minister can reply.

8.45 p.m.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

That is a good solution to the problem. Having explained her amendments, the Minister does, to a certain extent, pre-empt some of the amendments standing in my name. I have two amendments in this group, Amendments Nos. 308 and 3I0A. I shall speak first to Amendment No. 310A which is the more substantive of the two.

The amendment was tabled for the NUT in order to probe further precisely what is intended in Clause 129 and in the clause as amended by the Minister's amendment. As a result of the government amendment, Clause 129 would read, Regulations may provide that specified work not be carried out by a person in a school unless he—

  1. (a) is a qualified teacher, or
  2. (b) satisfies specified requirements".
In reality that is little different from a better and more precise expression of what is already in Clause 129(1) and (2). The original formulation and the new formulation proposed by the Government allow the Secretary of State to set out in secondary legislation from time to time the activities to be performed only by qualified teachers and/or those who satisfy "specified requirements". The NUT believes that the discretion allowed to the Secretary of State by those subsections, both in their original form and in the amended form, is far too wide. The primary legislation should acknowledge that there are core activities that should be carried out only by qualified teachers and the Secretary of State should be bound by primary legislation to ensure the protection of those core activities.

Government Amendment No. 310 describes the kind of requirements that a person who is not a qualified teacher must satisfy in order to carry out specified work. It replaces the original Clause 129(5), which gives no indication of what requirements may be applied and fills the gap left by the removal of the original Clause 128(3) which, as the NUT has previously pointed out, was far too widely drawn to be acceptable.

The change meets the NUT's objections, but the rest of Amendment No. 310 remains problematic. The alternative amendment suggested by the NUT, which is the one we have tabled, further narrows the scope of the regulations to be authorised by Clause 129 in an effort to ensure that teacher core activities, if they may be carried out by persons who are not currently qualified teachers, are then undertaken only by persons who are on a route to qualified teacher status.

The department's claim is that the amendment is proposed to enable overseas teachers who have teaching qualifications, but who are not recognised as qualified teachers in England, and unqualified teachers to teach. They claim that the purpose of the regulations is to regularise the position of those two categories of unqualified teachers. If that is the sole purpose of what the Government propose, the further amendment suggested by the NUT should be accepted. It is sufficient to address the issue.

The Government's amendment has much wider implications for the remodelling agenda set out by the Secretary of State in her speech "Professionalism and Trust" and for the workload review that has now reached an important stage with the publication of the STRB report on teacher workload. The schools' workforce remodelling working party was set up by the Government to act as a single channel through which views of teachers' organisations, employers and their national agencies could be channelled on the future role of staff in schools. It was agreed by the DfES that everything would come through the working party and be considered by the representatives on the working party.

The Government's amendments under Clause 129 have not been put to the remodelling working party and their implications have not been considered. So the Government have not met their word on that.

The DfES has made great play of its determination to work in partnership with the teaching and support unions yet its agenda appears here to have veered away from that. By introducing amendments which appear to blur the role of the teaching assistants and teachers, the Government are in very real danger of undermining the expectations of all the unions and teacher associations on the remodelling working party. The amendments fly in the face of the views of both teacher and support staff unions and are also underhand in that there has been no discussion of them with the remodelling working party.

In her speech to the Social Market Foundation in November 2001, the Secretary of State set out four specific areas where she envisaged the key role of support staff: supervising classes that are undertaking work set by a teacher or working with small groups of pupils on reading practice; supervising lunchtime activities; invigilating tests; providing pastoral and other individual support to pupils covering for teacher absence.

All the evidence is that teachers appreciate the work of teaching assistants. That came through very clearly in the recent Ofsted report on teaching assistants in primary schools. In addition, the NUT has commissioned an in-depth study of teachers' views on the work of teaching assistants. This study, which was analysed by Warwick University, concluded that most teachers have a highly positive relationship with their teaching assistants. However, it raised cautions about the extension of teaching assistant recruitment to make up for shortfalls in teacher recruitment.

Importantly, the very large survey contained the views of respondents who had been teaching assistants before they became qualified teachers. Some of their comments are interesting. They say that teaching assistants are not lesser teachers. They have a very distinct and very different and valuable role to play. The role is supportive, positive and encouraging, but they are utterly different jobs.

What comes over from this survey is the enormous appreciation which teachers have for the work of teaching assistants in supporting their role as qualified teachers. However, teachers felt that they are different jobs and that teaching assistants should not be regarded as substitute teachers.

Finally, it is worth noting from the NUT survey and also from the Ofsted report that teaching assistants can greatly benefit learning and school standards. But what they do does not significantly reduce teacher workload. They change the nature of the work that teachers experience. There are very strong arguments for regularising the conditions, training and pay of support staff, including teaching assistants. Their pay and conditions are sometimes scandalous. Highly effective and trained support staff have no holiday pay and are often paid only on an hourly basis and at very low rates.

Blurring the roles of teachers and teaching assistants should not be the Government's main aim at the moment. Making sure that an excessive workload is removed from the shoulders of teachers and the pay, conditions and training of support staff are improved should be a top priority.

That is the case for Amendment No. 310A as distinct from Amendment No. 310 and the government amendments. I should like briefly to speak to Amendment No. 308, which is put forward by the Local Government Association. Clause 129 gives the Secretary of State additional power to make regulations and sets out what can be carried out by support staff. I believe I am right in saying that earlier today the Minister said that on this occasion they had regularised the situation and that in future it was clear that the role of support staff would be set, as it has been, by local government—that pay and conditions for support staff is a local government responsibility and that role is being retained for local government. However, teachers' pay and conditions are to be set at national level. Perhaps the Minister would be good enough to reiterate that position because that is the essence of Amendment No. 308. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

I rise to speak to my amendment in this group. The whole point of tabling my amendment is to try to elicit some honesty in policy and much greater clarification. We seek to remove regulations which provide a specification for work carried out in the classroom by a person not qualified to be a teacher.

What is the distinction between an existing classroom assistant and an assistant described under this part of the Bill? For example, could it be that under Clause 129 a teaching assistant could be employed alongside an assistant who works within distinct and different parameters? What is it that under this Bill a teaching assistant under this Bill can do that cannot be carried out by an assistant under the present statute?

The noble Baroness has already spoken to her amendments and has said absolutely nothing and described nothing that cannot be done by an existing teaching assistant. Teaching assistants can work with a single child and do, in the phraseology of the Minister in answer to me, "work of a teaching nature". That can be undertaken by a teaching assistant at this moment under the present regulations working with a single child, a group of children, taking a group of them outside the classroom and working outside.

I am going to press the Minister very hard to tell us today what it is that has elicited these clauses of the Bill. If the difference is that under the Bill an assistant will work within a framework set by a qualified teacher, then what in the framework will extend the use of a teaching assistant? At present teaching assistants work to qualified teachers. They perform tasks set by a qualified teacher and work under their supervision. Sometimes that is a formal process and sometimes it is more informal.

The reply to my first question as to what was the distinction was brief. It was that a classroom assistant, as envisaged under Clause 129 of the Education Bill, will be required to work under a framework set by a qualified teacher when work of a teaching nature is undertaken. In comparison with present arrangements that will add a clear assurance that adequate supervision is in place. Adequate supervision is in place now and therefore that cannot be the distinction that the noble Baroness is talking about.

I asked a further question as a result of the first answer I received. In a slightly fuller reply the noble Baroness said that Clause 129 provides for regulation where teaching assistants and others such as further education teachers who are not qualified as school teachers carry out specified work which could be described as work of a teaching nature. The principal teaching duties will be outlined in the regulations following consultation.

The Government must have in mind what they intend to put in that consultation paper. The answer continued by saying that regulations will also ensure that teaching assistants always operate under the supervision of a qualified teacher—that happens now—where supervision may include a qualified teacher being present in the classroom. That is the first hint that we are talking about assistants working in the classroom without a qualified teacher being present.

Any policy developments in relation to teaching assistants taking a full class on their own would first need to be the subject of public consultation. So it is the Government's intention to consult on the basis of a teaching assistant taking a class on their own. The reply continued by saying that the requirement that they operate under a qualified teacher's supervision would remain in place. But where would that teacher be? The teacher could be out of the school altogether.

Work of a teaching nature can already be carried out. Work with small groups of children or with a single child, or taking children out of the classroom and working to a task set by a qualified teacher do not require legislation. Whether one is for or against the principle of using assistants in the classroom under the new guise, it is important that if the Government intend them to take whole classes without qualified teachers being present, they should say so.

The only guide we have had to this policy is the policy statement. That has been helpful in giving some insight into the Government's thinking. Paragraph 2.1 of the policy statement states: It re-enacts with modifications provisions relating to initial teacher training in the repealed section 218 of the Education Reform Act 1988". I wish to know what modifications they are. Paragraph 2.2 states with reference to Clause 128: This is not a new power and there is no change to the current policy". Therefore, if it is not a new power and there is no change to current policy, why is it in the Bill?

Paragraph 2.3 provides: Although there are no plans to amend the regulations, new requirements made under the regulations are due to come in force shortly". What are they? Where are they codified? And where can I read about them?

Paragraph 3.2 states: Regulations made under clause 131 would require all schools to have a head teacher with qualified teacher status". But my understanding is that the law will require all head teachers not simply to have qualified teacher status, but to have a head teacher qualification. The Minister has already referred to that coming into effect. The paragraph goes on to state that: Other staff in schools would work within this framework. Clause 129(1) enables the Secretary of State to provide by regulations that specified work may be carried out in a school only by a qualified teacher". Paragraph 3.4 reads: The specified work would include aspects of teachers' professional duties in respect of which there is no statutory requirement for qualified teacher status". What does that mean? Can I have an explanation of it? The final sentence in paragraph 3.4 provides: Unqualified staff would also be able to assist qualified teachers in carrying out their professional duties, but the appropriate qualified teachers would take primary responsibility". They can do that now.

Paragraph 3.6 states: The key condition to be satisfied before unqualified staff may carry out certain professional duties would be the establishment of a management framework within which unqualified staff must work". Does that apply to assistants under Clause 129? What statute will the present teaching assistants come under? Will they carry on as before? What are "certain professional duties"? The final sentence in paragraph 3.6 reads: To take another example, the regulations will allow suitably trained classroom assistants to supervise pupils and to deliver scripted lessons, or to take small groups of pupils for reading practice, within a framework set by the classroom teachers". My goodness, that is a real revelation. They already take children for reading practice. In fact, not only do teaching assistants employed by the school do that, but parents come in to do that in the classroom. I am totally baffled by that part of the Bill.

Paragraph 4.4 provides: Regulations under clause 130 will depend on those made under clause 129. Their timing will be considered in consultation with the General Teaching Council for England". Again, can I have an explanation of what paragraph 4.4 means?

Paragraph 5.1 reads: The main effect of this clause is to provide regulation-making powers that will enable the Secretary of State to make it compulsory, for those coming new to headship, to hold a professional qualification". That is already on the statute book. We are told that that will come into effect shortly. It goes on in the same paragraph to state: There will he a wide consultation on the proposals and underpinning regulations, which is proposed for spring 2002". Unless I have my calendar wrong, spring 2002 has been and gone and we are now in summer 2002. It continues: It is not expected that any regulations will be laid before the autumn". We are on our way to the autumn now, so it would be helpful to know whether that was just a typing glitch. The last sentence provides: The detail of the attached illustrative regulations could well change after consultation". I have no detailed attached illustrative regulations. It would be helpful if I could have a copy of them.

Paragraph 5.2 states: Clause 131 also provides for the regulations to stipulate that a person will serve as a headteacher if they have qualified teacher status. This is consistent with previous and current policy". Can I ask for a final definition of the time by which that will be achieved?

Paragraph 6.1 reads: Clause 132 re-enacts from Section 218 of the Education Reform Act the power to make regulations requiring teachers in further education to have qualifications". For what reason is it being re-enacted? Is it either because there is a modification to it or is it simply a re-enactment for the sake of it? It would be helpful to know what that means.

Paragraph 8.1 states: Clause 134 re-enacts existing powers from Section 218, enabling regulations to be made to ensure that courses of initial teacher training for future education and for newly appointed FE principals are approved by the Secretary of State". Why re-enact if the powers already exist in law? I have been asking that question all day. All it does is to repeat existing law unless there is a modification that we are missing. Not only should it have been in this policy note, but it would certainly be helpful to know what the distinction is.

Paragraph 9.1 almost defies belief. With regard to Clause 140, it provides: This clause does not introduce a new power, nor does it change the current policy". So why is it there?

Paragraph 9.3 states: Paragraphs (1)(c) and (2) in Clause 140 provide for the Teacher Training Agency to continue to accredit teacher training courses and allocate the number of teacher training places to Higher Education Institutions". It continues: This clause also provides for the General Teaching Council to take over the Secretary of State's duty to approve QTS when this legislation comes into force". Again, why if they already have this power does it need to be repeated?

My final comment on the policy paper relates to paragraph 9.4. It provides: Clause 140 paragraph 3 provides the Secretary of State with the power to direct the TTA to achieve particular targets". How will that be done? It is only fair that all those teacher representatives—they have been referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp—the NUT and other teaching bodies, are told whether they are to be substitute teachers. If they are, then come clean and say so. If they are not, then please tell us what they will be able to do that a classroom assistant cannot do at the moment? This is an important group of amendments. It is important that we get some answers to our questions.

Lord Lucas

That is the kind of speech that a Minister, and the Box, longs to receive at five past nine of an evening. My questions are rather more general. I very much like the tenor of what the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, was saying. It is a good idea to make these regulations more flexible and to look for a way in which we can continue to make teaching an easier profession to enter.

It is still difficult. A friend of mine who is a senior civil servant has recently moved to a job in a secondary school—he is about my age. He could not stomach the difficulties of getting involved with the state system but was welcomed with open arms by the independent sector. It is still difficult for people with much experience and quality to enter teaching and, as it were, learn the bits that they do not know on the job. It seems to be assumed that they start as ignoramuses and must be treated as if they were fresh out of university, rather than being given real credit for their long experience.

Perhaps the situation has changed, but until a few months ago we had the idiocy of drama teachers being required to have mathematics GCSE. Some people just cannot learn maths. Maths is of no use whatsoever in teaching drama. Why is that hurdle there? I know of at least one good drama teacher who has had to stay out of school, as it were—I know that she would like to be a schoolteacher—because she has no hope of passing maths GCSE.

A common experience in schools is of good teachers retiring at 60. What is going on? If we look around this House, people just begin their working lives when they are 60 and go on until they are close to 80. Why are we allowing all that good talent to waste away? What is it about the structure of teaching qualifications and remuneration that allows that to happen?

I hope that those are the sort of questions that flexibility will allow us to address, because we could make a great difference to the quality of our teaching profession if we were more imaginative in who we allowed to enter it.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I shall start by referring to Amendment No. 310A, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. What she heard was correct: teaching assistants' pay and conditions will be sorted out locally, as now. I hope that that answer is helpful.

To dwell on that amendment for a moment, the small but significant changes that it proposes to the scope and effect of Clause 129 would be unduly restrictive. The use of the words, core activities of a teacher", is unhelpful. The term "specified work" is preferable, as it encompasses professional duties and responsibilities as well as activities and the circumstances in which they are carried out.

As I said, one essential purpose of Clause 129 is to provide a safeguard by allowing precise specifications of work, including by reference to circumstances. We intend that specified work to cover the planning and preparation of courses and lessons and the delivery of lessons, teaching, assessing, recording and reporting on the development, progress and performance of pupils, marking pupils' school work and feedback to pupils and parents on pupil progress and attainment. Of course, the details will be finalised in consultation.

So, for instance, regulations could allow certain teaching tasks and duties to be carried out by assistants only if they are working in a framework set by a qualified teacher. The amendments would prevent that, first, by making it a matter of dispute whether the task was a core activity of a teacher and, secondly, by making it impossible to identify specified work by reference to the circumstances in which it was carried out.

The amendment would reduce flexibility and make it harder to ensure that necessary safeguards were in place. It also limits the scope and effect of the clause in another way. New subsection (2)(b) would prevent us from maintaining the current position of overseas-trained teachers and instructors who are already working in schools. People in those groups may not be working towards QTS but for a long time have been carrying out a valuable role in schools. It would be a retrograde step to prevent them from continuing to do so.

I turn to the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. She asked why we were reenacting. We are doing so for several reasons. We have made significant changes in repealing Section 2(1)(a) of the Education Reform Act 1988. That has tidied up existing legislation, repealed a confusing clause, deleted unnecessary provisions and, we believe, modernised legislation. But in doing all that, important provisions must be retained. Those are the re-enactments. I understand that that is perfectly normal legislative procedure and practice.

The noble Baroness asked me a whole range of questions about the policy statement. I am keen to ensure that I give her as many of the answers as possible. I would just mention to the Committee that the policy statements have been available for some time. Had the noble Baroness written to me, I should have been able to give her much fuller answers. I could then have ensured that the Committee received the quality of response that it would desire. So I begin by saying that I shall do my best and will of course pick up any unanswered questions when I read back to ensure that I have covered them.

First, I refer to something that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said about the remodelling working party. Of course it will be invited to consider the practical and professional issues that will underpin the regulations. That will be an important part of it.

We are not creating a new category of assistants. There are two categories: those with QTS and those without. All those without QTS do specified work and will need to be under the supervision of someone with QTS. The legal position of teaching assistants is not as clear as suggested by the noble Baroness. It is not that I could not find examples of what is happening in schools to fit with all the examples that we have given in our policy statement, but in talking to schools it is clear that it is an area about which schools are unsure.

The Government are criticised, on the one hand, for perhaps putting too much into legislation or regulations to clarify matters and, on the other, for not being clear enough and for seeking to undermine the position of teachers by having teaching assistants. In the process of thinking about the school workforce, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said that one of the great things about our schools is that we have professional teachers who do a professional job. Some of the adults who work alongside them become teachers later, as the Warwick University research shows, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, referred, which is fantastic. They work alongside teachers and provide the right kind of support.

We are seeking to do two things. First, we want to recognise those people who play a vital and valuable role in the education of our children. Secondly, we want to ensure that we give schools and head teachers the flexibility that they need, while retaining our commitment to standards by making it absolutely clear what qualified teachers are doing and what assistants can do to support them. Although it may be thought unwise to consider within the range of propositions the possibility of a teaching assistant being in front of the class, there are circumstances when we might wish that to happen. We always seek to consult teachers and teaching assistants. Flexibility is important for headteachers to maintain standards.

The purpose behind these clauses is to enable us to use other adults whether they are teachers from further education, people who come in as teaching assistants or experts with a particular knowledge such as information technology. We want to use them wisely and well and to ensure that qualified teachers are in control and setting the framework—the way in which teaching assistants and other adults operate.

I hope that I have answered the questions on the policy statement that the noble Baroness was looking for. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said, we want to have national professional qualifications for headships. That is really important as we want to ensure that heads are given the professional qualifications and status to develop. I shall supply the illustrations that the noble Baroness seeks. It is important that we are linking up with the General Teaching Council and its role within that policy.

I hope that that is enough for the noble Baroness. Perhaps she can come back with other questions. Of course I shall write to her if I have been unable to answer any of her questions.

9.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful for the promise of a letter. I apologise for not writing in detail about this clause, hut we do not get the back-up that the Minister has in her office. The whole point is to air our concerns publicly so that people outside know that we are asking the Government for clarification. Letters between us in private do not do that.

With regard to Clause 131, the letter refers to all schools having a head teacher with qualified teacher status. But another part of the legislation says that they must have not only qualified teacher status but a head teacher qualification. Can the Minister clarify that issue?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

The issue is resolved by the national professional qualifications for headship, which will be compulsory for all those coming new to headship. I agree that the issue is not as clear as I should like and I shall write to the noble Baroness.

I recognise that the noble Baroness does not have the hack-up, but my point was that I would not wish her to think that I had given her an unsatisfactory answer. I shall be happy to put these matters in writing in the Library and I am sure that the noble Baroness will refer to them in our deliberations at a later stage.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 128, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 129 [Requirement to be qualified]:

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

moved Amendment No. 307: Page 80, line 39, leave out from second "may" to end of line 42 and insert "not be carried out by a person in a school unless he—

  1. (a) is a qualified teacher, or
  2. (b) satisfies specified requirements."
On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 308 to 308A not moved.]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

moved Amendments Nos. 309 and 310: Page 81, line 1, leave out "subsection (1) or (2)" and insert "this section Page 81, line 7, leave out subsection (5) and insert— (5) A requirement of regulations under this section may, in particular, relate to—

  1. (a) the possession of a specified qualification or experience of a specified kind;
  2. (b) participation in or completion of a specified programme or course of training;
  3. (c) compliance with a specified condition;
  4. (d) an exercise of discretion by the Secretary of State, the National Assembly for Wales, another specified person or another person of a specified description.
(5A) Regulations may limit the period of time during which work may be carried out by a person in reliance on subsection (1)(b). On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 310A not moved.]

Clause 129, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 130 [Requirement to be registered]:

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

moved Amendment No. 311: Page 81, line 19, leave out "129(2)" and insert "129(1)(b) On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 130, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 131 agreed to.

Clause 132 [Provision of education]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

moved Amendment No. 132: Page 82, line 13, at end insert— () Regulations made under subsection (1)—

  1. (a) shall not prohibit the provision of education by a person employed full-time who does not have a specified qualification for two years after taking up a first appointment in a further education institution, provided that person embarks on a course leading to such a qualification within that period;
  2. (b) shall not prohibit the provision of education by a person employed part-time who does not have a specified qualification for four years after taking up a first appointment in further education, provided that person has embarked upon a course of study leading to such a qualification within that period; and
  3. (c) may make different provisions as to the specified qualifications and other matters for those engaged in the provision of education on a part-time basis from those engaged full-time.
() In determining the qualifications to be specified under subsection (1), the Secretary of State shall have regard to the extent to which the qualifications match the standards laid down by any body recognised by her as being responsible for determining the competencies required for persons providing further education. The noble Baroness said: The amendment relates to Clause 132 which deals with the qualifications for teachers in further education. This is a probing amendment designed to establish the Government's intentions in regard, first, to the utilisation of the power to make regulations, which spell out the specifications mentioned in paragraph (a) of the current clause; and, secondly, the qualifications to be recognised.

Many teachers in further education, both full-time and part-time, are recruited directly from employment in relevant manufacturing, service and other areas. Some of them have teaching qualifications, but others are without qualifications. Some of those teachers will have acquired a first level teaching or training qualification such as the City and Guilds 730 Further Education Teachers Certificate. At present, anyone moving into teaching without a qualification is often advised to take that certificate as a first step towards a teaching qualification.

In November 2000, the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, announced the Government's decision to introduce a requirement for training for further education staff. Recognising that it would not be feasible to introduce such a prior qualification requirement for all employees, the Government decided that individuals recruited to teach would be required to hold, or to work towards and achieve within a specified time, a recognised teaching qualification appropriate to their role.

Unqualified full-time and fractional teachers were to be required to gain a university Certificate of Education, or equivalent, within two to four years—two years for full-timers and longer for those on fractional contracts. Unqualified part-time teachers not on fractional contracts were to be required to achieve the City and Guilds certificate. All courses leading to a further education teaching qualification were to be based on what were then the Further Education National Training Organisation's (FENTO) standards, which will now be moved into the sector requirement.

As currently drafted, paragraph (a) of Clause 132 would appear to allow no exemptions from a requirement that teachers possess a specified qualification. Similarly, it is not clear that it allows the specification of different qualifications for different groups of staff. Although paragraph (c) appears to allow regulations containing different requirements, it is by no means clear why paragraph (a) is necessary if its provisions can be modified by regulations made under paragraph (c).

If paragraph (a) were to be implemented without modification, recruitment into further education of individuals with industrial, commercial or professional experience would become impossible in many instances, as few already employed in those areas would be able to undertake a part-time course leading to a teaching qualification while remaining in full-time employment. Even a Certificate of Education (FE) course might, typically, involve one day a week of study over two years or the equivalent, and there would be no incentive for a current employer to permit release; nor is it likely that many individuals would be willing to leave full-time employment to pursue a full-time course in order to become qualified. The flexibility to acquire qualifications in service is in consequence vital to maintaining the recruitment of the skills, knowledge and experience required to deliver the relevant high-quality learning in many technical and vocational areas.

Equally, paragraph (a) does not differentiate between full-time and part-time staff. For many colleges, part-time staff play a crucial role in providing skills in specialist areas where it would be uneconomic to employ a full-time teacher. For many individuals teaching is undertaken as an additional source of income or to widen experience and skills without necessarily any intention of making a career of teaching. Insistence on a full teaching qualification for such individuals would make it impossible to recruit in many of the areas of most importance to employers. As the Government previously recognised, a lower qualification, such as the City and Guilds, is in many respects more appropriate and an acceptable requirement for such staff.

In consequence the flexibility both to provide teacher training in service and different teaching qualifications for different groups of staff is vital if the range and variety of college provision is to be maintained. Clause 132 makes no reference to the agreed FENTO standards. It would permit the Secretary of State to recognise a range of qualifications which may bear no relationship to them. While the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, made clear the Government's intention to use the standards as the basis for defining qualifications, inclusion of a statutory commitment to take account of that work would provide reassurance that there would be no subsequent erosion of them.

Amendment No. 312 seeks an assurance that the policies previously announced, which took account of the sector's operational needs, can and will be reflected in the regulations made under the clause. The accompanying policy statement gives some indication that that is the case, but I would like reassurance from the Minister. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for moving the amendment, which she identified as a probing amendment on the thinking behind this important clause. I am also grateful for the way in which she identified the main outlines of the Government's proposals to improve the qualifications of staff in further education.

The thinking behind the clause is to provide adequate time for people employed in further education to achieve the required standards. The implication is that the timescales are for people at work in further education. Therefore opportunities for meeting—as the noble Baroness rightly said—the great demands of both work and study, can be accommodated within that framework rather than people being required to hit the standard before leaving their previous employment, which might be too arduous.

The noble Baroness will recognise that we are eager to raise standards in further education. She mentioned that there was no direct reference to the Further Education National Training Organisation, but I assure her that the timetables set out in the regulations were established on its advice, as the standard-setting body for further education. For a full-time teacher, the qualification must be obtained within two years of a place becoming available, and for a part-time teacher, within four years. That is the burden on part-time staff, particularly those with other current employment.

The problem with the amendment is that it would relax those requirements further. I recognise the noble Baroness's concern with the burdens on staff entering the profession. However, she will also recognise that the concern about the time-scale within which staff become adequately qualified must be balanced with the rights of the students to expect that the staff who are delivering education to them are properly qualified. Staff should be qualified in their own subjects and in teaching practice. It is reasonable to expect that staff who do not have such qualifications should become qualified at the earliest opportunity. I suppose that in tabling this probing amendment the noble Baroness is asking whether we have the time-scale right and of course I shall insist that we have.

We provide support from the Standards Fund through the Learning and Skills Council to cover the costs of teacher training and the staff-cover costs for the institutions involved. New staff can therefore be released from teaching duties in order to gain the qualification. I note in feedback from some colleges that new teachers may be under exceptionally heavy pressure in the first year of teaching. All who have ever been involved can remember the experience and how demanding the first year was. The dual demands of preparation for all classes from scratch, combined with the workload for the teaching qualification, can place a heavy burden on a new member of staff.

However, we believe that the remedy lies in the hands of the colleges. Good employment practice by employers would see reduced teaching hours for new further education staff, as for school teachers, so as to ease the burden of preparation in the critical first year of teaching. That is the kind of good management practice we would expect from any employment where managers are concerned to see that the staff perform ably and enhance their competencies. I confirm our intention that the existing regulations will continue in force, subject to minor modification for clarification purposes. At this stage, we do not plan significant changes to the time-scales.

I recognise and share the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, about the issue, but we want to improve the standards of teaching in further education where, as she will know, a high proportion of staff are unqualified in either their subject or in teaching practice. There is a major task to be undertaken. We cannot expect to produce dramatic changes overnight, but nor can we approach the situation in a tardy manner, resulting in students being taught by staff less qualified than we all expect and they have the right to demand. I hope that with that explanation I have reassured the noble Baroness.

Lord Lucas

Can the Minister assure me that if a college is helping a student through the burden of teaching and gaining the qualification, and is doing so by giving him a lesser teaching burden, it will be financially compensated for the reduced effectiveness of that teacher?

Lord Davies of Oldham

I can indeed reassure the noble Lord that we are providing resources. We recognise the costs on colleges which are employing newly arrived teachers who must teach fewer hours in order to prepare for the qualification. We are providing resources through the Standards Fund to meet exactly that need of the colleges.

Lord Lucas

It is my experience that many secondary schools, particularly as regards art, drama, French and other languages, have teachers with personal experience of such circumstances. I can think of schools whose teachers' work has hung in the Tate and who have entered as art teachers because they want to turn to teaching.

The principle in the clause of teachers being able to enter the profession and have time to gain a qualification is, in secondary schools with the broad curriculum we are debating, an appropriate way of going about things. Can the Minister assure me that the regulations we are able to make under the Bill will allow such a process to take place if it is considered appropriate?

Lord Davies of Oldham

The noble Lord will recognise that there are distinct differences between further education and secondary education. Further education, traditionally and throughout its existence, has made great use of staff, particularly part-time staff, with no formal teaching qualifications. Given the demands of students and the standards expected in the profession, and given our determined drive to see that standards improve, we have reached the stage where it is necessary for us to include this clause in the Bill to ensure that the opportunities are there.

So far as concerns schools, there are graduate and registered teaching programmes which are school based. Individuals receive a salary while they are training as teachers. We share the noble Lord's concerns about enticing into teaching all those who show an aptitude for it and a commitment to it but who may come, as the noble Lord rightly says, with mature experience of immense potential value to the class but lacking the formal qualifications. I entirely share the noble Lord's view, which he expressed in speaking to an earlier amendment, that we should recognise how much students value the contributions that can be made by those who have had wider experience than just the classroom in their previous occupation.

Lord Lucas

The Minister's words give hope to all those who will be thrown out of this House when the Government's plans come to fruition.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I do not know who is being thrown out, but anyone who is thrown out would certainly fit very well within the broad description that I gave of being an asset to any classroom.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

The noble Lord perhaps thinks that we should be training future legislators.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I am reassured that the extended timetable that was originally conceived in the further education training organisation provisions is in position.

The clause as it stands is rather bleak. It will prohibit anyone who does not have the qualifications. It must be borne in mind that the salaries available within the further education sector these days are not desperately attractive to those coming in from other occupations; and there is often an extreme shortage, particularly of people with vocational qualifications who seek to extend their career into teaching on the qualificational and professional side. The burden for such staff, having, in addition, to complete the qualification in teaching, is fairly considerable.

Nevertheless, the proposals were worked out after a considerable period of consultation with the further education sector. I am glad to have the Minister's reassurance that those proposals still stand rather than an indication that further acceleration of the timetable is envisaged. Given that reassurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 132 agreed to.

Clauses 133 and 134 agreed to.

Clause 135 [Wales: provision of higher education]:

On Question, Whether Clause 135 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Roberts of Conwy

This clause provides that: The National Assembly for Wales may by regulations … prohibit the provision by an institution ‖ of a course of higher education without the approval of the National Assembly". The provision referred to is clearly provision by further education colleges.

I raised this issue at Second Reading. The Government's declared policy is to increase access to higher education courses and to the degrees and diplomas that may flow from them. Further and higher education institutions in Wales have taken the Government at their word and have provided such courses by a commendable variety of means.

The University of Glamorgan, for example, is rightly proud of its record in this field. I have before me an article by Professor Sir Adrian Webb, the vice-chancellor of the university, about creating opportunities through initiatives in higher education. He refers to the compact programme and says, the compact programme is but one of many widening-access initiatives that the university is currently engaged in to achieve its goal of providing opportunities to all those who wish to participate in higher education. Other examples include providing higher education programmes in further education colleges across Wales, establishing outreach centres in the South Wales Valleys and involvement in the Community University of the Valleys". I think that that is enough to give the Committee a flavour of the type of activity pursued not only by the University of Glamorgan but by the University of Wales and its colleges. Yet here in Clause 135, as I said, we have dark hints of prohibition and restrictions on the numbers of young people who may participate in higher education courses at further education institutions in Wales. It all seems very contrary to the Government's declared policy. The Wales Office briefing tells us that, This is a safeguard against unplanned development of HE provision in FE institutions in Wales". I am not aware, and I have yet to meet anyone else who is aware, of such unplanned development. It is hard to believe that any of the institutions could be guilty of such anti-bureaucratic behaviour. What they perhaps are guilty of is excessive zeal in implementing government policy, and someone somewhere may be alarmed at their success. We certainly do wish to know about the clause and the reasoning behind it. I should particularly appreciate some facts.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

I join the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, in congratulating all those who are working on the issue of expanding opportunity. That is an extremely important point. This clause will enable the National Assembly for Wales to retain the power which it currently has under the Education Reform Act 1988 to make regulations relating to the provision of higher education by further education institutions. I think that that answers one of the basic premises underlying the fears of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. Schedule 22 to the Bill provides for the whole of Section 218 of the 1988 Act to be repealed, and the effect of Clause 135 will simply be to re-enact the provisions of Section 218(9)(d) and (10) in relation to Wales. I think that provides the detail of the assurance which the noble Lord seeks.

The retention of this power is considered necessary by the National Assembly as a safeguard against the unplanned development—the term which the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, picked up on—of HE provision in FE institutions in Wales. The Assembly wishes such provision to be the product of joint planning between the National Council for Education and Training for Wales, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the relevant institutions in response to assessments of learner needs in different parts of Wales.

The Assembly regards the regulation-making powers as a useful means to further encourage the councils to work more closely together to plan and provide the appropriate extent of higher education courses by FE institutions in Wales. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, will recognise that, because of the large amount of work under way, it is necessary to have the opportunity to plan together, to ensure that the courses required by some students are not duplicated while at the same time the needs of other students are missed. We require that overall attempt to plan and meet the needs of all potential students.

The clause is an important part of the National Assembly's plans to facilitate greater coherence in the provision of post—16 education in Wales. I say to the noble Lord that it is intended to retain, not impose, this power in order that the excellent work that has been done can be built upon and to ensure that the needs of an even wider range of students are met. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will agree that it should stand part of the Bill.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Roberts of Conwy

I am grateful for the noble Baroness's remarks. She is always reassuring, perhaps deceptively so. The fact is that the clause mentions prohibition of the supply of courses. However, I am happy to accept the noble Baroness's reassurance that it does not really mean what it says and that the intentions behind the clause are good.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

It does not mean any more than it said before.

Clause 135 agreed to.

Clause 136 agreed to.

Clause 137 [Health and fitness]:

Baroness Walmsley

moved Amendment No. 313: Page 84, line 16, after "kind" insert "for a local education authority or a governing body of a school or a further education institution The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 313, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 314. The purpose of these amendments is to ensure consistency in the Bill in relation to the fitness requirements of employees working for all employers in education. Currently, the wording of the Bill is inconsistent. Subsection (2) of Clause 137 allows for fitness requirements to be imposed on anyone employed at a school regardless of whether they are employed by the LEA or whoever else. Presumably, this includes staff under contract to an employment agency. However, the requirements in subsection (3), which refers to staff providing education at somewhere other than a school, and subsection (4), which refers to staff not providing education, extend only to those employed by LEAs or governing bodies. This seems to leave out staff recruited through employment agencies and businesses with no contractual relationship with the LEA or governing body. There seems no obvious reason for that inconsistency. I hope that the Minister will be kind enough either to commit to putting it right or to explain why it is necessary. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I rise to speak to government Amendments Nos. 315, 318 and 320 which are grouped with the two amendments to which the noble Baroness has just spoken. I shall, of course, address those amendments in due course.

However, I turn first to government Amendments Nos. 315 and 318. These are technical amendments to ensure that we have a consistent and accurate definition of education for these clauses. As the Committee will be aware, Clauses 137 and 138 are two of a number of clauses which replace and re—enact Section 218 of the Education Reform Act 1988. Clauses 137 and 138 apply to the provision of education in both further education institutions and schools. The amendments insert an extended definition of education into both Clauses 137 and 138 to incorporate the widest definition of education, (that used for further education), and to create maximum flexibility for the operation of the clauses. I hasten to add that that definition is also consistent with other Bill clauses. Therefore, I trust that the Committee will accept these technical improvements to the Bill.

Amendment No. 320 is a little bleaker as it seeks to correct an error in the Bill. Clause 140 is an overarching clause applicable only to the exercise of the Secretary of State's power in Clauses 128 to 136 to make provision by reference to specified qualifications, courses of education or training or specified programmes. The inclusion of Clause 137, which concerns the health and fitness of teachers, is a simple mistake. We apologise for that mistake and I hope that Members of the Committee agree that it should be corrected by Amendment No. 320.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 313 and 314, which were spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. Clause 137 is a wide—ranging provision and covers teachers, agency teachers, home tutors and support staff among others. They will include persons employed under a contract of employment or for services with local education authorities, governing bodies of schools or further education institutions.

Clause 137 as drafted provides for the increasing flexibility of the teaching workforce and that provision will apply to those providing education—I stress that—whatever their employment circumstances. The problem with Amendments Nos. 313 and 314 is that they would extend Clause 137 to a potentially unlimited group of persons and the Secretary of State would be unable to control, monitor and enforce the provisions. The amendments would, for example, extend the health and fitness requirements to gardeners, bus drivers and builders, and the Secretary of State would have no ability to enforce the provisions. It could also be argued that extending the provisions in that way would be unduly onerous for those sections of the community. We are always told of the burdens laid on people pursuing their legitimate livelihoods through existing red tape. The danger of the amendments is that they would extend to people we should not wish to bring within the framework of the clause's provisions. The amendments would take Clause 137 outside the scope of the Bill and into territory that may be entirely unrelated to education or the education environment. That is the principal reason why we oppose the amendments.

As Clause 137 stands, the Secretary of State can effectively impose the health and fitness requirements and ensure compliance by LEAs, schools and FE institutions under the existing legislative framework. Clause 137 is aimed at ensuring that those persons who have responsibility for children are fit for that task. The issue of who should have access to children is dealt with elsewhere. I reassure the Committee that the current provisions provide adequate protection for children and young people being educated under the auspices of the LEA, schools or further education institutions.

I recognise and share the concerns that the noble Baroness raised in relation to the amendment. However, I hope that she agrees that we should limit Clause 137 to those categories of persons who are involved in the education of young people in order to have a clear line of control—and clear powers—for the Secretary of State to monitor the whole process. I hope, therefore, that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Walmsley

I thank the Minister for that reply. If the consequences of the amendment would be as he described, that would perhaps be somewhat bizarre. I reserve the right to read Hansard, to study his remarks in detail and to decide what to do in the long term with these proposals. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 314 not moved.]

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

moved Amendment No. 315: Page 84, line 24, at end insert— "education" includes vocational, social, physical and recreational training, On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 137, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 138 [Prohibition from teaching, &c.]:

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

moved Amendment No. 316: Page 84, line 42, leave out paragraph (c) and insert— (c) providing education under a contract of employment or for services where the other party to the contract is a local education authority or a person exercising a function relating to the provision of education on behalf of a local education authority, and The noble Baroness said: The purpose of this group of amendments is to ensure that we have provided additional safeguards in our schools. Perhaps I may go through the amendments to explain what we are attempting to achieve with them.

Amendment No. 316 seeks to introduce a drafting change that clarifies the scope of the Secretary of State's powers as set out in Clause 138. It replaces the phrase "local authority contract" with an explanation of what is meant by that type of contract. The new words make it clear that the Secretary of State's power to bar applies to people who are employed to provide education by an organisation that exercises functions on behalf of a local education authority as well as people employed to provide education by the local education authority itself.

Amendment No. 317 simplifies and clarifies the definition of the type of work, in addition to providing education and managing an independent school, to which the Secretary of State's powers apply. The new definition makes it clear that her powers extend to any work, whether paid or voluntary, which is done for or on behalf of a local education authority or for a school or further education college and which involves regular contact with children.

Amendment No. 319 introduces a new clause that strengthens the arrangements for ensuring compliance with directions made under Clause 138. That clause gives the Secretary of State power to make directions that bar a person from providing education or doing any work that involves regular contact with children in the education service. It also gives her the power to put restrictions on such work that a person can undertake. As Clause 138 is drafted at present, LEAs, schools and further education institutions are required to ensure that they do not use the services of a person who is subject to a direction in a way that would contravene the terms of that direction. Consequently, local education authorities and those other establishments must check the new staff whom they take on to ensure that they are not barred.

However, not all staff are directly employed or appointed by local education authorities, schools or colleges. Teachers and other staff can be supplied in a variety of ways. Supply teachers may be employed by teacher employment agencies. Other staff may be employed by organisations that are contracted to provide services such as school meals. And, in some cases, staff may be supplied by voluntary organisations; for example, to assist pupils who have special needs.

We believe it is right that organisations that provide teachers and other staff have a responsibility to ensure that the people whom they propose to supply to local education authorities, schools and colleges are not barred from doing the work that they are being supplied to do. This new clause will ensure that by placing those organisations under a duty not to arrange for a person to undertake work if it would contravene the terms of a direction by the Secretary of State under Clause 138.

It will also enable the Secretary of State, or the National Assembly in relation to work in Wales, to take action to enforce the duty. For example, if the Secretary of State has reason to believe that an organisation is not making the checks that will enable it to determine whether the people whom it proposes to supply to work in schools are barred, she will be able to direct the organisation to undertake those checks. And, in the very unlikely event that an organisation did not heed a direction by the Secretary of State, she would be able to seek a mandatory order from the court requiring the organisation to comply.

I fully recognise that this is a "belt and braces" approach. But I believe that it is a worthwhile extra safeguard that will reduce even further the possibility that a person who has been barred might be able to obtain the kind of work that he or she has been barred from doing.

Amendment No. 329 is a technical amendment to Clause 164. Clause 138 prevents people from working in a school, including an independent school, or from taking part in the management of an independent school on grounds that make them unsuitable to work with children or relate to their misconduct or health.

Clause 164 provides for an independent school to be removed from the register if any person is working there in contravention of a direction under Clause 138. The amendment makes the description of persons to whom Clauses 138 and 164 apply consistent.

Amendment No. 330 is a consequence of Amendment No. 329 and avoids unnecessary repetition by removing words which Amendment No. 329 inserts earlier. Amendment No. 372 tidies up the new version of Section 15 of the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 which is put in place by the Bill. The amendment removes a definition of the term "child" that is redundant because that term is not used in this section.

Amendment No. 373 introduces a new section into the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 in order to strengthen the arrangements for reporting cases to the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales and the general teaching councils for England and Wales in circumstances where it may be appropriate for the Secretary of State to consider taking action to bar or restrict a person's employment or for the General Teaching Council to consider taking action under its disciplinary procedures.

Section 15 of the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998, as amended by the Bill, will place a duty on local education authorities, schools and further education colleges to make reports in appropriate circumstances, and gives the Secretary of State power to make regulations specifying to whom reports should be made in different circumstances. The amendment places a similar duty on organisations such as employment agencies and contractors that provide teachers and other staff to schools and colleges.

The effect is to ensure that such organisations—where they decide to terminate the arrangement whereby the teacher or worker with children is provided to a school or college, or decide that they may have terminated the arrangement had the teacher not ended it himself or they decide not to make new arrangements in respect of the teacher—are under a duty to make a report if the reason for that decision is one that would give the Secretary of State grounds for considering barring the person under Clause 138.

In most cases the report will be made under Section 15 by the LEA, school or college by the whom the person is employed. The amendment will ensure that reports will also be made by the body that arranged for the person to be employed by the LEA, school or college.

In some cases, the provision may result in separate organisations each having a duty to report. For example, if a school decides to cease to use the services of a supply teacher employed by an agency on grounds of misconduct and the agency also decides to cease to use that person's services, both the school and the agency will have a duty to report—the school under Section 15 and the agency under Section 15A. If an agency decides to remove a teacher from its books on grounds of misconduct at a time when the teacher was not working at a school, the duty would fall on the agency alone—but in all cases there will be a duty to report.

The new provision also gives power to enforce the duty to report. It provides for the Secretary of State or the National Assembly to direct a person to comply with their duty to make a report and if necessary, for those directions to be enforced by way of a mandatory order. Taken together, the amendments provide helpful additional safeguards and clarify the Bill. I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

I rise not to oppose the Minister because I believe that anyone working with young people should be fit for the purpose. Anything that can be done to ensure that is important. I will read carefully the Minister's complicated explanation. What are the Government doing about the log jam? There is an enormous backlog of applications for checks on potential recruits. I understand that valuable staff are being lost because it is taking so long to get a reply. If this part of the Bill is to work, something must be done quickly to deal with that backlog.

Lord Lucas

Am I correct in thinking that Clause 138(2)(f) would catch parents who volunteer to work at a school regularly by making them subject to checks? Current practice is that parents are asked to volunteer: "Who's available to go on this trip?". Presumably in future, all parent volunteers would have to be cleared in advance. If a parent who volunteered was barred, who will be entitled to know that information? Should it, as a matter of good practice, be spread among the staff or be restricted to the head teacher or an inner group? If so, what structure should be in place to make sure that happens?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I acknowledge the noble Baroness's point about checks and I am grateful for her support. My understanding is that the backlog is clearing quickly. I will write to the noble Baroness, and put a copy in the Library, if that is not the case. I understand that we have had some difficulties and that they are being resolved.

To whom in the school would this apply? We talked about the case of young Lauren not long ago: her stepmother worked at the school. We must enable schools to take the necessary precautions in respect of people coming into schools in whatever capacity. Schools must take care, even with people who work as volunteers, for reasons that will be obvious from our earlier discussion.

We would not expect the information to be well known among the staff, but the head teacher would need to be aware and would make judgments about who needed to know. If the person were not coming into the school, it might be argued that there would be no point in allowing the information to spread further. If I am wrong about that, I shall write to the noble Lord and clarify the position.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, raised a point about the criminal records bureau. That matter has been described as a teething problem. We are working to resolve it and have put in place interim arrangements to check that List 99 allows employers to make provisional appointments. As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, we classify all people in the same category if they work regularly in a school.

Lord Lucas

So it would be a matter of general practice for a school to compile and maintain a list of parents who were allowed to participate in the teaching of children or to go on school trips rather than just allowing whomever was available to do it.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I did not say that. I said that if someone were regularly asked to come into the school and work, we would expect appropriate controls to be in place. That would apply as a matter of course to a volunteer from a voluntary organisation, to anyone coming in regularly under a contract and to people in paid employment. That covers all the categories that the noble Lord mentioned.

Lord Northbourne

Would not that give rise to a situation in which people's reputations could be destroyed without their having the opportunity to defend themselves?

Lord Lucas

My question was specifically about parents doing what parents have always done, particularly in primary schools—coming in to help the children with reading. I certainly did it with my kids when they were in primary school, and many other parents have done it. It puts people in direct, regular contact with young children. Are such people not caught by Clause 138(2)(f)? Would they have to be cleared in advance? If so, what procedures should the school have relating specifically to the parents of children at the school?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

To the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, I say that the process involves the criminal records bureau; it is not about maligning reputations.

We must be careful not to fall into the trap of acting on rumour or innuendo, while making sure that we protect children sufficiently. Those who work regularly in schools—whether they are parents, volunteers, staff or agency employees—would be subject to checking. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that an adult coming into a school would not be an appropriate and proper person to be with the children. The noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, mentioned Lauren Wright's stepmother, who, in the process of abusing, torturing and murdering her stepchild, was also on school premises doing lunchtime supervision. We are trying to recognise that we must be extremely cautious and careful.

I shall try to pick up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. Clearly, I have not satisfied him. I shall write to him. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, that there is, of course, the possibility of appeal against barring to the care standards tribunal if people felt that barring had ruined their reputation.

Baroness Blatch

I shall read carefully what the Minister said. It is a complicated issue. My noble friend Lord Lucas raised the issue of data protection. If a school does a check and finds out some background information about a person whom it considers to be unfit to work with children, that person must know. A check has been carried out, and the person must be told that he or she is not allowed to work with children for the reasons exposed by the check. If that information is to imparted to other members of staff, however, there is an issue there.

I also foresee the issue of the human rights of a parent. A school may decide that it is not free to impart information to parents that someone is a fit and proper person. A person may have committed a crime a long time in the past or it may be the kind of crime that does not impact on a person's reputation and worthiness to work with children. However, does a parent have a right to know of any background information?

Another complication is that as the Bill is set out it concerns only those who regularly come into contact with children. What happens in relation to a person who does not work regularly with children? Someone may help on a week's trip away from the school and that may be the only time that such a person offers to help. He or she may be a really unsuitable person but would not be caught by this provision and no check would be undertaken. Paedophilic behaviour, for example, is very manipulative. They are the kind of people who may seek to go on a school camp with children, but they would be highly unsuitable people to work with children.

This is not an easy set of measures. I want to read what the Minister said. There are questions that need to be answered.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

The noble Baroness raises important points of human rights and data protection. My understanding is that teachers receive a copy of all information that is provided to schools by the department. The Secretary of State will receive information. The purpose of this measure is to ensure that in circumstances where people have been barred there is an understanding across the education system of who they are so that our children are better protected. Also, we ensure that the provisions comply with human rights legislation. I shall write to the noble Baroness before Report stage. I hope that I can resolve those issues for her.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

moved Amendments Nos. 317 and 318: Page 85, line 1, leave out paragraphs (e) and (f) and insert— () This section also applies to work of a kind which—

  1. (a) brings a person regularly into contact with children, and
  2. (b) is carried out at the request of or with the consent of a relevant employer (whether or not under a contract)."
Page 85, line 35, at end insert— "education" includes vocational, social, physical and recreational training, On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 138, as amended, agreed to.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

moved Amendment No. 319: After Clause 138, insert the following new clause— "DIRECTIONS UNDER SECTION 138: CONTRACTOR, AGENCY, &C. (1) A person shall not arrange for an individual who is subject to a direction under section 138 to carry out work in contravention of the direction. (2) If the Secretary of State thinks that a person is likely to fail to comply with the duty under this section in relation to work in England, the Secretary of State may direct the person to take or refrain from taking specified steps with a view to securing compliance with that duty. (3) If the National Assembly for Wales thinks that a person is likely to fail to comply with the duty under this section in relation to work in Wales, the National Assembly may direct the person to take or refrain from taking specified steps with a view to securing compliance with that duty. (4) A direction under subsection (2) shall be enforceable, on the application of the Secretary of State, by a mandatory order. (5) A direction under subsection (3) shall be enforceable, on the application of the National Assembly, by a mandatory order. On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 139 agreed to.

Clause 140 [Specification of qualification or course]:

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

moved Amendment No. 320: Page 36, line 33, leave out "137" and insert "136 On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 140, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 141 to 143 agreed to.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Lucas

moved Amendment No. 321: After Clause 143, insert the following new clause— "DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION After paragraph 1(3) of Schedule 2 to the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 (c. 30) (disciplinary powers of council) there is inserted— (3A) No person shall be charged with an offence under subparagraph (1) in respect of the disclosure of information or opinions to the Secretary of State, the Office for Standards in Education, a local education authority, an examination board or a local authority or any of their employees or agents. (3B) It shall be a defence to any charge under sub-paragraph (1) to show that the action or inaction in question was in the public interest." The noble Lord said: This matter arises from the first disciplinary case brought by the General Teaching Council. I shall not refer in any way to the circumstances or personalities in that case. I am concerned with the principle of the charges that were brought. Two of the four charges seemed to me to run directly against the principle that. I believed the Government established and that I would applaud: that those who bring wrongdoing or malpractice to the attention of the authorities or in certain circumstances to the attention of the general public should have protection. They are commonly called "whistle blowers". Both the charges brought against the gentleman in this case were of professional misconduct. The first is that he told Ofsted inspectors about something which had been going on in the school and, secondly, he told an examination board about something which was relevant to an examination which it had set.

I know nothing about the person involved. Even if he were the most undesirable, misbehaving and unworthy teacher in the world, telling Ofsted what went on in the school cannot under any circumstances be called professional misconduct. Telling an examination board of something which a teacher believes to be wrong in the way in which an examination was administered, cannot be professional misconduct. It may be all kinds of other things such as wrong-headed, pig-headed or misguided, but teachers have to be allowed to bring their case to the relevant authorities if they feel that that is what they must do. It is entirely wrong that charges of this nature should be brought. This new clause is intended to make sure that the General Teaching Council cannot charge a person with misconduct if what is concerned is bringing a matter to the notice of the proper authorities and that under any other circumstances of being charged with professional misconduct, they have the defence of public interest. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

I apologise for not having discussed this amendment with my noble friend. I simply wish to ask a question about it. I believe it is perfectly sensible to table this amendment and I support it.

But there is also the possibility of a vexatious case where an accusation or comment was made to Ofsted or to an examination board which was purely vexatious and could cause great distress to another member of staff. It seemed to me that there should be a test of what was in the public interest. If it was in the public interest, then my noble friend's amendment would apply. If it was not, and turned out to be vexatious, then that could also be dealt with.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I quite understand the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, in seeking to amend the Bill and I appreciate the way in which he has presented his amendment. I seek to emphasise to him that I consider the contribution by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, absolutely right. We have to take into account the possibility of a vexatious action. Therefore, the issue is whether we have got the balance right in terms of the procedures which are followed as regards, on the one hand, as the noble Lord would identify quite accurately, the necessary protection of the whistle-blower who draws to the attention of a public body an activity which is unacceptable and wrong, and, on the other hand, the right of all in the public service not to be slandered because of a vexatious case brought against them which does not stand up against any test, but which is the subject of malice or malevolence.

We are seeking to establish here the question of balance. It is quite right that the careers and reputations of individuals should be protected when they expose wrong-doing or malpractice in the organisation in which they work. The noble Lord has expressed that in an eloquent fashion in his contribution. It was in the interests of protecting such individuals that we brought forward the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 which protects employees, including teachers, from detrimental treatment by their employer arising from specified disclosures made in good faith.

However, I am unhappy about an amendment which would constrain the jurisdiction of the General Teaching Council by preventing the employers of teachers bringing forward allegations of unacceptable professional conduct to the GTC where these are based on the disclosure of information and opinions. After all, it would be possible for a teacher to give information and to voice opinions which are not in the public interest but just designed vexatiously to damage the school community.

It is for the General Teaching Council to determine whether the disclosures amount to unacceptable professional conduct in the light of all the circumstances. It is also important to bear in mind that all allegations of unacceptable professional conduct are considered first by an investigating committee of the GTC which can decide whether there is a case to answer. It can throw out a case at this preliminary stage. If the committee decides that there is a case to answer, the matter goes before the Professional Conduct Committee of the GTC. It is this committee's duty to give full and proper consideration to all the available evidence. Where a teacher against whom allegations of unacceptable professional conduct have been made gives the defence that his or her actions were in the public interest, the GTC's disciplinary committee must take account of that defence in reaching its decision. It is not necessary to write into the law that such a defence is permitted.

I also remind noble Lords that a teacher aggrieved by a decision of the GTC's conduct committee has a right of appeal to the High Court. The court may use its discretion to overturn the GTC's decision or to order a re-hearing. Those protections are essential, given that the career, livelihood and reputation of individuals may be at stake. So I share the noble Lord's reasoning behind his amendment and the probing which it has given him the chance to identify. But I hope that he recognises that we must strike a balance between the rights of the whistle blower and the protection of institutions against vexatious allegations. It is the General Teaching Council's responsibility to have procedures that ensure that these issues can be identified and dealt with in the appropriate manner. I hope that on the basis of that reply the noble Lord feels able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Lucas

I seek a little more comfort from the noble Lord. He talks about the whistle blower's Act. Can he assure me that that applies to a teacher in front of the GTC? I thought that it applied to a teacher only in relation to his employer—whoever that might be—and that as to GTC proceedings he was not protected under the Act.

If the GTC disciplinary committee reaches a conclusion and the teacher takes the matter to the High Court, is the defence of public interest a valid defence? Can a court consider that matter or is it prevented under the rules by which it is bound? In other words, if I as a teacher said, "Yes, I did these things, but it was in the public interest", can the court freely consider that matter or not?

Baroness Blatch

Before the Minister replies, can I make it absolutely clear that I believe that there should be a test to prove whether or not the issue is in the public interest, but that if the matter is vexatious it should be dealt with. If it is proven to be in the public interest that should be a defence. That is why I support my noble friend.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I understood the noble Baroness to have expressed exactly that viewpoint. That is the reason why I contrasted her position with that of the noble Lord as to the balance and how the procedures should work.

The noble Lord has asked a legal question of one of the minority non-lawyers in this House. So I should struggle in replying to him immediately. But I shall of course be happy to write to him on those points in good time for him, if necessary, to raise the issue again on Report.

Lord Lucas

I am most grateful to the noble Lord. If he receives any sudden information, I am happy that he should rise again, but on the assumption that he would prefer to write, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 12 [The General Teaching Councils for England and Wales]:

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount Simon)

Before calling Amendment No. 322 in Schedule 12, I would advise the Committee that if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 323 because of pre-emption.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

moved Amendment No. 322: Page 164, leave out lines 40 and 41 and insert— (1) The Council may undertake activities designed to promote the professional status of teaching. The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 322, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 323. The amendments are more or less the same. They are aimed at ensuring that the General Teaching Council fulfils its role for teachers in holding the profession of teachers rather than just a GTC of teachers. They are aimed at promoting and ensuring the positive working relationship of the GTC with the teacher organisations.

From these Benches, we have argued for a long time that such a council was necessary in order to promote teaching as a profession, just as the General Medical Council has been the professional organisation for doctors. It ensures consistency of professional qualifications; it can help to ensure that professional development becomes an entitlement for teachers; and it can help to secure effective support for newly qualified teachers.

Yet at present, by its very composition, the GTC is not a general council for teachers. It is not made up of independently elected and nominated teachers; just under half of the council consists of nominees of the Secretary of State and of non-teaching organisations. Teaching unions, especially the National Union of Teachers, which has lobbied us on the matter, believe that the composition of the council should be amended to provide for teachers to form a majority of members sufficient to guarantee its independence and representative nature and to justify its description as a council for teachers. The amendment is intended to probe the Government's intention in that regard. I beg to move.

Lord Northbourne

I oppose the amendment. The General Teaching Council is intended to be a council to improve the standard of teaching and learning in this country. Indeed, an amendment to that effect was included in the Bill. The council is not solely for the benefit of teachers.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

As the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said, Amendment No. 322—and Amendment No. 323—would change the wording of one of the new functions of the General Teaching Council. The Bill already achieves what I believe the noble Baroness seeks. The new promotional role is one of a number of additions in the Bill to the functions of the General Teaching Council as set out in the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998. I know that noble Lords took a special interest in the establishment of the General Teaching Council during the passage of the founding legislation.

I shall take a little time—but only a little time—to remind the Committee of the core features of the Act. The principal aims of the General Teaching Council are to contribute to improving the standards of teaching and the quality of learning and to maintain and improve standards of professional conduct among teachers in the interests of the public. Its key function under the Act is to regulate the profession through maintenance of a register of qualified teachers and through the exercise of disciplinary functions and to advise the Secretary of State on that and a range of other professional matters. The Committee will know that those include standards of teaching, standards of conduct for teachers, the role of the profession and recruitment.

Our intention in introducing the new function of promoting the standing of the teaching profession is to put beyond doubt the role of the GTC in speaking up for the teaching profession and thereby raising its status, morale and public standards. There are 44 teachers on the General Teaching Council out of 64 members in total. As the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne said, the new function is to be about the role and standards of teachers and to promote teaching. It is important to ensure that a balance of people serve on the council. It is entirely consistent with the public interest that the GTC should promote the standing of the teaching profession. I am therefore doubtful that the amendment would add anything to the Bill and I hope that the noble Baroness will agree to withdraw it.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I thank the Minister for her reply. The concept of regulation here is of course one of self-regulation, just as the GMC is a self-regulatory organisation in the medical profession. That is why it is important that there should be a substantial number of those from within the profession on the council. I am reassured by the fact that the Minister told us that they now comprise 44 of the 64 members. That is approaching a better balance.

If the GTC is to secure the wholehearted support of the members of the profession, it is extremely important that it is seen as a body that raises the professional status of teaching. That is really the import of the amendment, but, as the Minister suggests, it is in a sense semantic. Her reassurance is helpful. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 323 not moved.]

Schedule 12 agreed to.

Clauses 144 and 145 agreed to.

10.30 p.m.

Clause 146 [Childcare functions of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector and National Assembly for Wales]:

Lord Roberts of Conwy

moved Amendment No. 324: Page 89, line 37, leave out "have" and insert "by order specify The noble Lord said: Subsection (2) of Clause 146 reads awkwardly and my amendments are simply an effort to improve the drafting. I hope that they will achieve the same objective.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton

Childcare and early years functions of both Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England and the National Assembly in Wales are confined to those set out in the Children Act 1989, as amended by the Care Standards Act 2000. This means that those bodies can only regulate childcare providers covered by those Acts. Parents who use those forms of childcare and whose income otherwise makes them eligible can claim childcare tax credit to help pay for the cost of that childcare.

Clause 146 would allow HMCI and the National Assembly's functions to be extended to approve providers who fall outside the Children Act confines and in doing so would allow parents who used those providers to receive childcare tax credit support. As work patterns and family circumstances change over time, we need to be flexible and ensure that support arrangements, such as childcare, can adapt accordingly. That is why we need to allow for those national bodies responsible for regulating mainstream childcare services to be able to take on new functions, if they are necessary, to approve additional providers.

I am advised that the current wording of Clause 146 needs to be maintained for two reasons. First, the amendment does not specify on whom the functions are to be imposed. Even if we were to resolve that, we would need a new amendment to do so. Secondly, Clause 146(2), as drafted, gives the Assembly power to confer functions on itself. The effect of the proposed amendment would mean that the Assembly would be under a duty to specify additional functions. The Secretary of State would be under no such duty in respect of England. By placing the Assembly under such a duty, it would work against a fundamental and important principle of devolution that the Assembly should have choice in such matters.

For those reasons, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Roberts of Conwy

Once again I am reassured by the explanation of the noble Baroness, but I still think that the wording of subsection (2) is unnecessarily complex. I wish that it were simplified and perhaps it can be looked at further. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 325 not moved.]

Clause 146 agreed to.

Lord Northbourne

moved Amendment No. 325A: After Clause 146, insert the following new clause— "AMENDMENT OF SECTION 79A OF THE CHILDREN ACT 1989 (1) Section 79A of the Children Act 1989 (c. 41) is amended as follows. (2) In subsection (2), after "premises" there is inserted "or other suitable premises". (3) After subsection (6), there is inserted— (6A) "Other suitable premises" means any premises other than domestic premises which are suitable to be registered for childcare.". The noble Lord said: The amendment is tabled to address a dilemma that has arisen out of the change of the inspecting authority for childcare registration from the local authority to Ofsted.

Ofsted has formed the opinion that certain family centres are operating childcare illegally because the Children Act 1989, as amended by the Care Standards Act 2000, now provides that childminders may only be registered if they are operating from "domestic premises".

A particular case in point is the Soho family centre which has provided suitable accommodation, training and support to selected childminders as part of its wider services to parents in Soho since 1986. Westminster social services department recognised the quality of the work being done by childminders at the centre and was prepared to designate the premises as "domestic premises". Ofsted would not.

At the national level it is strange that childminders may operate only from domestic premises. Surely there can be advantages under certain circumstances if childminding takes place in premises designed and equipped for the purpose. Is it not important that childminding should be available in areas where most of the residential accommodation is in units that are too small or too crowded to provide proper space for childcare? Are there not significant advantages in having specialist training and supervision of childminders on site?

Looking at the broader canvas of our developing society, is it not important that affordable childcare, including care of very young children, should be available at or near the mother's place of work? I shall say no more at this stage as I understand that the Minister may be helpful on this amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

I support the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, in his amendment. I referred earlier to childminders, and their registration. Like playgroups, they are now very vulnerable because of some of the measures that have recently been put in place. However well intentioned they are, such measures could work against the supply of childminders, and the ability of some of these organisations to exist—very often in places where they are most needed.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote

I support the amendment. It certainly seems strange to me that premises of this kind, with all the support that they are able to provide for individual minders—and, indeed, for the families who leave their children at such premises—are no longer to be regarded as acceptable. It does not make any real sense. One gathers that such organisations are unable to recruit new replacement minders, all of whom would have the benefit of being supervised and trained, as well as benefiting from the mutual inter-action with one another. The parents would also have the benefit of knowing that their children were under, as it were, dual supervision. Some explanation is required as to why this has not been dealt with; and, indeed, cannot be dealt with under the Bill. I hope that the Minister will be able to explain why this type of establishment is not now acceptable.

Baroness Walmsley

I rise briefly to support the amendment. It seems to me that the Government need to do everything that they can to increase the pool from which childminders can be drawn, while paying attention to appropriate quality at all times. Clearly, a great deal of benefit can be gained from the mutual group support that minders in such a situation can obtain. Moreover, this provides employment opportunities, and the chance to increase skills and qualifications among a group of people who may not otherwise have such opportunities. There would also be further benefits for their own families, as well as for the children whom they mind.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

As the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, said, Section 79A(2) of the Children Act 1989 clearly defines childminding for reward as taking place on domestic premises, and other forms of day care as taking place on non-domestic premises. I acknowledge that there are childcare facilities—I believe that the Soho family centre will have been in touch with noble Lords, as, indeed, it has been with me—that wish to operate on non-domestic premises and that seek to offer the kind of service for parents, children, and the local community normally associated with childminding.

I recognise that childminding is an attractive option for some people who, for different reasons, may not wish to work in their own home. We have been in touch with Ofsted, and we are assured that such arrangements can be accommodated under existing group day care registration requirements with little or no impact on the service to parents and children. Ofsted has also advised that it stands ready to consider favourably an application from the Soho family centre on this basis. I can tell the Committee that there is no question of such a valuable local facility being closed clown if such an application is made. As I said previously, the head of Ofsted's Early Years section, Maggie Smith, is making a courtesy visit on 11th June. I use the word "courtesy", because this will not be an inspection. I hope that that issue will be quickly resolved.

The point about the proposed amendment is that it would make a fundamental change in the legislation. Although I accept the reasons behind the amendment, there are wider implications involved. I do not believe that I should accept the latter without consulting within the childcare profession by talking to childminders, the National Childminders' Association, the Daycare Trust, and others, with whom I launched "National Childcare Month" today. As the noble Baroness, Lady Walsmley, will be aware, I did so specifically to continue to increase the pool of childminders available to us. With those reassurances, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

I have been worrying for some hours about the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, on the ratio of one teacher to every 10 children in a playgroup. It did not ring any bells with me, so I took the trouble of asking the department to send the figures over to me, as it is important for those who will read the debate in Hansard, and indeed for the playgroups about which the noble Baroness is concerned. The target is that by 2004 all settings delivering a foundation-stage curriculum should have access to input and advice from a qualified teacher. The target ratio for involvement is one teacher to every 10 non-maintained settings. We are seeking that for every 10 playgroups or settings there should be one qualified teacher available to offer advice and support for those delivering the curriculum.

I hope that that will change the nature of the issue and that Members of the Committee will be reassured.

Lord Northbourne

Before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may ask a question. Will the alternative form of registration, which I understand is proposed for the Soho family centre and other similar centres, increase the cost of the provision?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

That would have an impact on parents. I am assured that this measure can be carried out without an impact on parents. It is my assumption—I would certainly want to know the reason if it were to have that effect—that there will be no increased cost. If that is incorrect, the noble Lord will wish to return to the issue on Report. In the meantime, I will have written to him if my assumption is incorrect.

Lord Northbourne

I am most grateful. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 147 agreed to.

Schedule 13 agreed to.

Clauses 148 to 150 agreed to.

Schedule 14 [Inspection of nursery education]:

Baroness Blatch

moved Amendment No. 326: Page 170, line 37, at end insert—

"Rights of entry

In paragraph 18 of Schedule 26 to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (c. 31) (rights of entry), in sub-paragraph 2(b) for "which he requires" there is substituted "which he reasonably requires".

The noble Baroness said: There are two reasons why the amendment is important. First, by referring the Minister to paragraph 18 of Schedule 26 to the 1998 Act I hope I may raise her awareness of the Gothic horror of bureaucracy which has been allowed to grow since 1997, under which schools, teachers and governors now labour.

Something needs to be done about that regulatory nightmare. I hope it will be addressed positively, well before Report. The Minister should not underestimate the importance the professional world of teaching attaches to getting a grip on the department's bureaucracy.

Secondly, the amendment adds a further test of reasonableness to the behaviour of inspectors. Nursery schools are typically small, local affairs, run by dedicated teachers and managers. They should not be borne down by bureaucracy, yet wherever one goes in the nursery world one hears tales of endless and endlessly changing demands for paperwork that have little or nothing to do with the mission of teaching.

I know schools where papers, policy documents and reports demanded by inspectors for just one inspection fill many boxes. There should be a test of reasonableness in the quantity and the nature of the material demanded by inspectors, particularly when schools can be rendered guilty of a criminal offence for non-compliance.

If the Minister were to agree to insert a defence of reasonableness, it would be a positive signal to nursery schools up and down the land. It would be even better if she were to clamp down on the misplaced zeal of paperchasers everywhere. I can think of no sensible reason why the amendment should be resisted. If it is, I promise the Minister that it will result in great disappointment throughout the nursery education sector—and we wouldn't want that to happen, would we? I beg to move.

10.45 p.m.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

I have no evidence to suggest that the early years sector would be disappointed. I will resist the amendment because it is unnecessary. I take on what the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is saying about making sure that we do not overburden schools. The department has been looking at the issue and has cut back on the amount of paper and work sent to schools. However, we are always looking to ensure that we give schools the right kind of information for there is, as ever, a balance to be struck.

Paragraph 18(2)(b) of Schedule 26 to the School Standards and Framework Act already makes it clear that a nursery education inspector or a member of the inspectorate monitoring inspection should copy only documents that are required for the purposes of conducting or monitoring the inspection. And in exercising statutory functions under the School Standards and Framework Act, the chief inspector must in any case act reasonably according to the normal principles of administrative law. There is of course an official complaints procedure for any provider who believes that Ofsted acted unreasonably.

The inspection framework governing nursery education is not designed to be onerous and burdensome. Inspections of nursery education are carried our every two to four years except where there are concerns or where weaknesses have been identified. In those cases, a subsequent inspection is carried out within one to two years. In addition, Ofsted has recently reviewed the inspection framework for funded nursery education. As a result, combining nursery education inspections with the annual Children Act inspections will produce a more streamlined service for providers. I am sure that that will be welcomed by the noble Baroness.

I believe that the addition of the word "reasonable" is therefore unnecessary and on that basis I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blatch

There appear to be two worlds: that of the department and the real world in which schools exist. The schools in the real world are experiencing over-zealous demands for paperwork and preparation for inspections. The Minister says that there is nothing to worry about, that it does not happen and that many safeguards are in place. However, the truth is that it is happening in reality and it is being experienced in particular by the small nursery schools which are now subject to inspection.

I cannot see what is wrong with the word "reasonable". Its inclusion will send out a message that at least there is a test of reasonableness to be applied. It would cost nothing and it would be so comforting to a sector of education which the Government want to cherish and nurture. It is a mean-spirited rejection and I am sorry it has happened so late at night. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment but I shall return to it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 14 agreed to.

Clause 151 [Meaning of "nursery school" and "primary education']:

Baroness Walmsley moved Amendment No. 326A: Page 91, leave out lines 3 to 5. The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 326A has been suggested by the charity, the Pre-school Learning Alliance, which is concerned about the implications of the Bill as it stands for very young children in preschool settings. The solution proposed by this amendment is to remove from the definitions of "primary education" the section that refers to, full-time or part-time education suitable to the requirements of children who have attained the age of two but are under compulsory school age". It seems to us, from the inclusion of this age group in the Bill, that the Government are including two to five year-olds in the definition of "primary education".

Officials at the DFES have suggested that the purpose of the clause is to tidy up an anomaly to reflect current practice and to raise the status of early years education. Those who are concerned about the quality of early years education are more concerned about its appropriateness than its status and this clause calls that into question.

This is because the clause raises the possibility of an inappropriate formalisation of early years education. All the experts in early years agree that children will benefit most from the commencement of formal education, first, when they are ready for it and, secondly, when it is built on secure foundation skills, abilities and attitudes. When a child has developed good language skills, he or she will be able to learn to read and write readily. When he or she has learnt social skills, he or she will be able to work and play happily as part of a group in a classroom. When children have developed their physical co-ordination, they will be able to use equipment to continue their learning and explore the world. And so on with emotional development and so forth.

Already there is widespread concern about the age at which children start primary schooling. Doing so at four years of age is much younger than in similar developed countries. There are considerable anomalies within the system. A four year-old in a play group or nursery setting will benefit from a much lower adult/ pupil ratio than a similar four year-old in the reception class of a primary school. There are concerns among early years educators that this may be positively harmful. The environment of the reception class, according to Tomorrow's Children, an independent report on pre-schools commissioned by the department in 1999, may not be able to reflect the broader needs of young children. Indeed, very young children—four year-olds—may well be intimidated by an earlier start to their schooling and may experience distress.

Ministers are rightly concerned about family poverty and raising school standards. This imperative makes it all the more important that the experience that children have in pre-school settings is appropriate and lays the right foundation so that they will be able to benefit fully from their formal education when the time comes.

We are concerned also that, by deeming primary education to start at two, the clause would devalue the Government's own early learning goals, which emphasise the acquisition of literacy and numeracy through structured play and within the context of the child's overall development. The goals are linked to the concept of the foundation stage, which is useful in that it distinguishes nursery education from compulsory schooling. However, the inclusion of this clause blurs the boundaries again.

There are other confusions about the foundation stage, since it is defined at starting at three and finishing at the end of the reception year, which may he at any age from almost five to almost six—a disparity of a whole year, which is a long time in the life of a small child. The clause compounds that confusion.

Will the Minister please clarify the Government's intentions? Does the foundation stage now begin at two? Should two year-olds be working towards the early learning goals? Is there a plan to introduce a curriculum for the under-threes? I beg to move.

Lord Northbourne

I should like to add, in the light of my earlier amendments, that we seem to be in a terrible muddle. The foundation stage starts at three and runs from three to five. I have suggested that learning in the years before that is quite a different kind of learning; namely, family learning. Here, we now suddenly have primary education starting at two. Surely we ought to try to have some sort of co-ordination and recognise the need for learning before school, learning in school supported by family, and then learning in primary school. Whatever the ages should be, they should be the same in both parts of the legislation.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland

The paragraph that the amendment seeks to delete from the Bill helps to develop and to refine the existing definition of primary education in the Education Act 1996. It updates that definition to reflect current practice, as we move towards universal provision of nursery education for all three year-olds, which we have already achieved for four year-olds. The new definition recognises the distinctiveness of nursery education in a way that the previous definition did not.

I should like to offer my reassurances that this clause is not designed to change the way in which nursery education is provided. I know that many noble Lords are concerned about the potential for very young children to be pushed into an overly formal approach to learning when they are too young, particularly if they are in a primary school environment. This clause is simply about definitions, and not about the institutions in which children learn. Nor does it change the curriculum, where the guidance on the foundation stage has been so well received by practitioners in the early years field.

Nursery education has always been a sub-set of the definition of primary education. This clause makes the distinctive nature of that stage much clearer—particularly that it is normally provided part time. The existing definition refers only to full-time education for pupils below the age of 10 and a half. The Bill introduces a more distinct definition of nursery education which: recognises the practice in nursery schools of offering children either a morning or an afternoon session; and that the nursery phase of primary education is intended for children between the ages of two and compulsory school age.

We are seeking to develop legislation to reflect practice. It is also our intention to introduce greater clarity and distinctiveness to legislation which bears on this important phase of children's education and development.

I hope that, with that clarification, the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, will be able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Walmsley

I thank the Minister for her response. Those in early years education will read her remarks in Hansard with great care.I shall take advice, and we may possibly return to the matter on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 151 agreed to.

Clauses 152 to 157 agreed to.

Clause 158 [Power to inspect registered schools]:

Lord Lucas

moved Amendment No. 327: Page 94, line 22, leave out "if the registration authority so requires, The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 328.

There are ways of publishing information to make it accessible and ways of publishing it to make it inaccessible. Ofsted is the guiding light in this matter. Ofsted publishes in full all its inspection reports on the Internet. It also employs a URL address which makes schools instantly identifiable if one knows the identification number. Consequently, in my role as the person who runs the Good Schools Guide, I can—like many other websites—directly access Ofsted reports. Furthermore, anyone running anything resembling a website concerned with education can offer visitors instant access to the Ofsted reports on schools. I do not think that the Government could find a better example of good practice in making information as widely available as possible.

Conversely, independent schools have for a long time not published their inspection reports on the Internet. One had to apply to the school for a report, but, if it so wished, it might provide only a summary. One could sometimes get the full report out of an independent school, but the report would only be in printed form. One certainly had no right to publish the report or make it available to others on the Internet. Some independent schools have recently adopted the practice of publishing reports on the Internet. However, they do so in a manner that makes access difficult. As far as I can see, they use random URLs so that there is no way of telling at which URL the report on a given school is located. They also do not allow third parties to link directly to reports. So although the reports are available on the Internet, they are not, unlike Ofsted reports, easily accessible to the general public. That is inconvenient to me, but it is also an inconvenience for the general public.

Clause 158 provides a power to arrange, if the registration authority so requires … for the publication of the report in the prescribed manner". My Amendment No. 327 would remove, if the registration so requires", to make publication compulsory. My Amendment No. 328 would add the words, "and in particular on the internet", to ensure that publication occurs in that way.

What I would really like is for the Government to require that these reports are as easily and publicly accessible as Ofsted reports. If the Minister can tell me that that is what the provision is intended to do, I shall be content.

Lord Davies of Oldham

Although I shall give the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, an encouraging reply, I have learned from long experience of debating these issues with him that unless the reply is 100 per cent to his satisfaction, he will come back at me with a further request. I anticipate that this reply will not satisfy him totally, but I shall go as far as I possibly can.

Amendment No. 327 seeks to ensure that every inspection report on an independent school is published. We accept that parents of all pupils in independent schools should have access to published reports on their child's school. We also propose that every report following the regular six-year cycle of inspections will be published. However—and this is where I know I shall disappoint the noble Lord—we believe that there may be occasions when we request a rather limited inspection to be undertaken against just one of the standards we have set out in Clause 152 and the policy statement or seek interim reports as part of a follow-up to a previous inspection. In these circumstances, we wish to retain the freedom to decide whether to require each individual report to be published. However, I hope that the noble Lord recognises that we accept his case in relation to the substantial inspection reports on independent schools.

I shall not go all the way with the noble Lord in relation to his second amendment either. However, I hope that I shall go far enough. It is our intention that reports of inspections of independent schools will be published on the appropriate inspection body's website, as the noble Lord suggested. But we intend that this requirement should not be set out on the face of the Bill in primary legislation; we shall do it through secondary legislation. However, the objective which the noble Lord seeks in the two amendments—that is, that full inspection reports which tell the public where a school is at in terms of its performance as regards the six-yearly cycle of the inspections—will be published and will be available on the Internet.

11 p.m.

Lord Lucas

I find those replies entirely satisfactory. I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he said. I shall do him the further courtesy of writing to him to set out exactly what I hope that he will require in regulations. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 328 not moved.]

Clause 158 agreed to.

Clauses 159 to 163 agreed to.

Clause 164 [Unsuitable proprietors and employees]:

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendment No. 329: Page 99, line 6, leave out from "that" to end of line 7 and insert "any person who, in relation to the school, carries out any work to which section 138 applies On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendment No. 330: Page 99, line 8, leave out from "out" to "in" in line 9 and insert "that work On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 164, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 165 to 170 agreed to.

Clause 171 [Training and education provided in the workplace for 14 to 16 year olds]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

moved Amendment No. 331: Page 101, line 29, at end insert— () In section 6 (financial resources: conditions), after subsection (6) there is inserted— (7) Regulations may be made under this section making provision requiring any person to whom resources are provided under section 5(1)(ea) to satisfy conditions relating to any matter referred to in subsections (3), (4) or (5) of this section or to any other matter as the Secretary of State may consider appropriate." The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 331, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 332. The amendments deal with slightly different issues, although they are connected. Amendment No. 331 is aimed at improving the quality of work-based experience. Section 5 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 allows the Learning and Skills Council to fund education or training for pupils in the last two years of compulsory schooling. Clause 171 extends that to enable funded provision at the premises of the employer.

The purpose of Amendment No. 331 is to help ensure that any such provision is properly resourced and of sufficient quality. Any employer seeking to provide education or training for pupils in the last two years of compulsory schooling must satisfy the conditions laid out in regulations. The experience of the modern apprenticeship programme is not necessarily reassuring. The Cassels report, The Way to Work, found modern apprenticeships to be peripheral to education and training. Young people do not choose apprenticeships; parents do not see them as a worthwhile route; careers advisers see them as a last resort; and employers do not notice them at all. Worse still, completion rates are poor. Current attainment rates, defined as gaining the associated NVQ, are 49 per cent for advanced and 41 per cent for foundation apprenticeships. Far too many of those who start apprenticeship courses get a minimum acquaintance with what they are supposed to be doing and then leave the course for paid employment. That is not satisfactory.

The introduction of inspections in 1998 highlighted problems with work-based training such as weak initial assessment and induction, poor tackling of key skills, a rather hit and miss attitude to off-the-job training and poor monitoring rates. Interestingly enough, the programmes that were inspected and found to be wanting also recorded a substantial increase in performance once they had been inspected. Some 90 per cent of those were able to put things right by the time they were re-inspected. That shows that it is important to monitor and inspect.

The point of the amendment is that where we propose to provide work based training for 14 to 16 year-olds who are still in compulsory education, it is vitally important that we make sure that those employers who participate in it know what their obligations are and provide the proper basis for training so that they do not put the young people off or, preferably, that they actually help them—as the proposals for 14 to 19 year-olds want us to do—forward towards a proper vocational qualification.

Amendment No. 332 is about inspection. It would ensure that schools were not over-inspected. Clause 171 will extend the age range for Ofsted/adult learning inspectorate area inspections from the 16 to 19 group to the 14 to 19 group. The adult learning inspectorate would be able to inspect those work-based schemes. In its recent consultation document, Improving Inspections, Improving Schools, Ofsted stated that it was keen to reduce the burden of inspections on schools and set out a number of proposals to ensure that schools were not over-inspected. The amendment places such a safeguard in the Bill.

Ofsted has proposed that primary schools that were subject to a Schedule 10 inspection should be exempt from other inspections, evaluations or surveys for a period of at least nine months. It is unclear why the exemption is not being applied to other schools. That is particularly necessary when there are overlapping responsibilities, as there may be in this case between Ofsted and ALI when pupils in the 14 to 16 group are subject to Ofsted in relation to their school work and to ALI in relation to their work-based programme. The idea therefore is that, once inspected, there should be an interval between inspections of at least 18 months. That is the purpose of the amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

I support much of what the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said. We predicted that there would be confusion and some duplication. The last thing that we want now is duplication. Over-inspection will kill the enthusiasm of schools to comply and get on with the work that they do best. The rationality that we were promised has not entirely come to fruition.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth

I support the amendment, particularly Amendment No. 331, which involves a subject that has been close to my heart for a long time. It involves a realistic way of ensuring that the approach reaches a successful reality.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I have to say that we do not believe that the amendment is necessary. The section of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 that the amendment seeks to change gives the LSC the power to ensure proper accountability for the public funding that the council disburses each year. The mechanism for that involves conditions that the LSC may attach to its funding—to ensure, for instance, that it can recover money that is not used for its intended purpose.

In passing the 2000 Act, Parliament considered that an LSC condition-making power was the right requirement for the funding of every college, every sixth form and every training provider that receives LSC funding. That involves billions of pounds of funding for thousands of providers—all are covered by the LSC conditions. Yet the amendment suggests that in the case of the very small amount of funding that the LSC may decide to put into workplace training for 14 to 16 year-olds the full weight of regulation by the Secretary of State is necessary. We do not consider that to be the case.

The Secretary of State has all the levers required to ensure that the LSC acts in accordance with the Government's policy priorities—for instance, through the annual grant letter and other forms of guidance. That could be backed up by directions from the Secretary of State under the Learning and Skills Act to the LSC relating to the achievement of objectives.

Ensuring that any funding given to training providers is used properly and in accordance with those priorities is clearly the job of the LSC to secure through conditions of grant that the 2000 Act already allows. I do not see any circumstances in which the Secretary of State might lack the levers needed to ensure that funding for workplace learning for 14 to 16 year-olds was used effectively and properly and that it complemented the vast bulk of provision for 14 to 16 year-olds that is funded by LEAs. That is why I hope that the noble Baroness recognises that the amendment is not acceptable, although we recognise the importance of proper accountability for public funds.

On Amendment No. 332, I wish to echo the sentiments expressed by my honourable friend the Minister of State for School Standards during the debate on this amendment in another place. The aim which underpins this amendment is, of course, a sound one and one which the Government and Ofsted share.

Under the leadership of the former chief inspector, Mike Tomlinson, significant progress was made in reducing the burdens associated with inspection, including the introduction of guaranteed periods of exemption following Section 10 inspections. There are also provisions elsewhere in the Bill which will reduce the number of inspection visits. I believe that that was the burden of the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy of Knayth. The current minimum exemption period for secondary schools is 12 weeks, but for most schools the interval between inspections will of course be considerably longer.

It is for the new inspector, David Bell, to take this important work forward and, in particular, to explore the possibilities of linking some secondary school inspections to the programme of area-wide inspections. The extension of the scope of area inspections to cover provision across the 14 to 19 age range must not, and will not, result in a significant increase in the overall inspection burden on secondary schools. I take seriously the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, about the pressure on schools to undergo inspection. I want to reiterate the assurances made by the Minister of State that: Schools will be visited during area inspections only where it is necessary to enable inspectors to obtain the evidence they need, and that would not otherwise be available to them. Those visits will be as brief as possible, and certainly much shorter than the full Section 10 inspection". There is a problem in relation to the amendment which the Minister of State in another place recognised and explained. The amendment would have the unfortunate consequence of constraining the ability of inspectors to do their job efficiently. Perhaps I may give an illustration. Tower Hamlets was subject to an area inspection in the spring of 2000. In the following term—the summer term—a secondary school, Stepney Green, was found in a Section 10 inspection to require special measures. Had there been an 18-month interval between the inspections, there would have been almost a year's delay in triggering the action necessary to ensure that the school's pupils received at least a satisfactory standard of education.

I understand the intention to ensure that inspections are properly spaced out. But I believe that the above case illustrates why it would be wrong for us to have a statutory 18-month separation period. That would mean that effective and immediate action in difficult circumstances could not be taken. Therefore, on the basis of that argument, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I thank the Minister for his reply. In relation to Amendment No. 331, what worries us somewhat about the current situation is that, under the new arrangements, the aim is for the transition between compulsory school age work-based learning into apprenticeships to be very easy. We are anxious to see more people moving into apprenticeships and it is, of course, extremely important that the quality of provision is high.

The LSC and its inspection regime of such workplaces is still in a relatively early phase, and I believe that we need to monitor the situation carefully in order to ensure that it is working. I shall withdraw the amendment. Nevertheless, I hope very much that we shall keep a wary eye on that situation.

In relation to the second amendment, I see the point that the Minister is making and I understand that that is the case. Again, I believe that we need to be wary lest there is over-inspection. We have entered a situation in which we are inclined to think that the answer to all our problems is to have an inspection, but I believe it is important that we do not react in that way. However, I accept the Minister's assurances on the matter and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 332 not moved.]

Clause 171 agreed to.

Clauses 172 and 173 agreed to.

Clause 174 [Allowances in respect of education or training]:

11.15 p.m.

Baroness David

moved Amendment No. 333: Page 105, line 36, leave out "may" and insert "shall The noble Baroness said: Amendments Nos. 333, 334 and 335 are to clarify the Government's intentions regarding the future development of education maintenance allowances, which are currently being piloted in 56 areas, and whether the scheme will be extended nationally.

EMAs give financial support to enable students age 16 to 19 of limited means to continue in sixth form or a college of further education. The 1974 to 1979 Labour Government were the first to see the need to provide additional support for young people to stay in education. The 1979 Labour manifesto declared: We will remove financial barriers which prevent young people with low incomes from continuing their education after 16. We will introduce legislation for income-related mandatory awards to all 16 to 18-year-olds on all full-time courses". I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, is not in her place because she piloted the scheme in 1978 and obtained funds to expand it in 1979. The awful gap between 16 and 18, when young people's expenditure is not covered, may force them out of education.

These probing amendments are designed to identify how far, 20 years later, the Government have moved towards meeting Labour's 1979 manifesto commitment. Clause 174 is welcome because it paves the way for a general extension of support for 16 to 19year-olds using EMAs but as drafted, that is a power rather than a duty. Amendment No. 333 would turn that power to a duty and as such, there would be a guarantee that young people in all areas of the country will have equitable access to a national system of support.

To meet national targets for young people's achievements, it is important to do everything possible to increase the number of young people who continue in full-time education after 16. That particularly applies to students from low-income households who might benefit greatly from staying on at school or college but are deterred by financial worries.

The EMA scheme was introduced in pilot form to establish whether regular financial support would help the target group to stay in full-time education. A Government study, published in March 2002 as DFES Research Report 333, concluded that the scheme had an impact. EMAs have enabled more young people from low-income households to continue in education. The learning agreements signed as part of the scheme have helped them to be good attenders and diligent in their work. In pilot areas, EMAs are becoming well established as part of the local community's expectations.

Originally there were 15 pilot LEAs, but now 56 are involved—roughly one third of the whole country. Pilots were important, to try out different variants. EMAs have grown and spread well beyond a small number of local experiments. They have become an established expectation in one third of the country and it is time to ask whether there will be national coverage.

Unjustifiable variations in the educational opportunities available to young people have always caused concern. The scale of variations and their long-term effects on achievement and quality of life become more acute as young people move beyond compulsory schooling. The current pattern of EMA provision means that whether or not young people in identical circumstances can afford to stay in full-time education may depend on whether they live on one side of the street or the other—and whether or not their LEA has a pilot scheme. Could the Government clarify their intentions for the future of EMAs? When do they expect to achieve national coverage? It is an important matter, and I hope that the Minister can give me a satisfactory reply. I beg to move.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I support the amendment. The educational maintenance awards, as the noble Baroness, Lady David, said, have been piloted for some time now and have proved to be extraordinarily successful in helping to keep some of those who, traditionally, have dropped out of full-time education after 16. In the light of the Government's aim of increasing participation in higher education, especially among those from lower social classes, the awards are an important mechanism for enabling such pupils to get the qualifications they require.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I support the concept behind the amendment and I appreciate the force with which my noble friend Lady David argued the case. Although, as my noble friend said, the origins of EMAs go back as far back as 1978, she knows that the real step forward was the launch of the pilot schemes in 1999. They now cover a third of the country—56 local education authorities. The enthusiasm of my noble friend and of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, is backed up by the people most directly involved—students, schools and colleges. College principals and teachers have recognised the value of the EMA scheme. We are conscious of the fact that pilot schemes cannot last for ever. In any case, a pilot scheme that covers a third of the country is fairly advanced. However, we do not think it appropriate to put a commitment to EMAs into the Bill. The development of EMAs is a spending issue, and any decision must be taken within the framework of the summer spending review. We must consider EMAs alongside all other expenditure priorities and come to a view about whether and when to move to a national scheme.

My noble friend joins a wide phalanx of supporters of EMAs whose enthusiasm is based on substantial evidence that they hit specified targets. My noble friend will recognise that the amendment would not be entirely acceptable even if we intended to make such a change. I am sure that she did not intend that legislation passed here would break the devolution model and insist that Wales follow exactly the same pattern of provision as England. The National Assembly for Wales has the right to make its own decision on any scheme and the way it would operate.

I recognise that my noble friend has taken the opportunity to table a probing amendment to advance the cause of EMAs. We recognise that the pilot stage is at an end and that any decision must be taken in the context of the spending review.

Baroness David

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for her support and I thank the Minister for his partial support. I believe he realises the point and has shown some enthusiasm for it, if not total commitment to it. The spending review will have to take account of a good many demands. In the light of the Government's enthusiasm for 50 per cent of young people to go to university, it is essential, if they do not have the support of their families between the ages of 16 and 18, that they are properly funded. I hope that the Minister will encourage the Government to promote the pilot scheme across the country, including in Wales. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 334 and 335 not moved.]

Clause 174 agreed to.

Clauses 175 to 178 agreed to.

Clause 179 [Student loans]:

Baroness Blatch

moved Amendment No. 336: Page 109, line 38, at end insert ", according to criteria which may include the nature of employment undertaken by a person, or that person's income, but not the type of school within which a person is employed The noble Baroness said: Given the crisis in the recruitment and the retention of teachers, should the aim be to encourage trainees in the shortage subjects irrespective of where they will teach eventually? As the Minister knows, teachers move in and out of the state and the independent sectors and some straddle both sectors. Clause 179 allows the Government to implement plans to pay off student loans for newly qualified teachers in shortage subjects in maintained schools or in the further education sector. That provides the opportunity to argue that the Government should remove all inequities between students who take undergraduate teacher training courses and those who take postgraduate courses. Both sets of students should be entitled equally to the benefit of any government scheme to provide incentives to enter teaching including the payment of training bursaries.

The future of three and four-year B.Ed courses has been in jeopardy since the Government have paid training bursaries to postgraduate trainees, but cutting off that route into the profession is short-sighted in terms of establishing a diverse and stable teaching force. Although the new financial incentives for postgraduate courses are welcome, they compound the existing inequity whereby B.Ed students must pay tuition fees, while postgraduate students do not.

The Bachelor of Education courses, as the Minister knows, are four-year courses and predominantly serve teachers for primary schools. Teachers in primary schools are almost always generalists, sometimes with a strength in a particular subject area, but they are not recruited exclusively as subject specialists. Therefore, they would be disadvantaged under the concessions announced by the Government. Education in the country as a whole benefits from a highly qualified teaching force. Nurses and doctors on finishing training are not subject to such discrimination as some newly trained teachers will be under this scheme.

I notice in paragraph 6.1 of the policy note that the subjects for teachers in schools and sixth-form colleges include maths, science, design and technology, information and communications technology, modern languages (including Welsh) and English (including drama). They do not include the well-known shortage subjects of religious education and music. On what basis are those two subjects excluded from the list? It is well known that schools up and down the land are desperately looking for music specialists. It is a subject in the curriculum that has enormous educational spin-offs for many other subjects. That list of subjects appears to be very arbitrary. To include information and communications technology appears to me to be incomprehensible when genuine shortage subjects, for which there is scientific evidence, are not included. I beg to move.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham

As the Committee will be aware, many maintained schools and colleges, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, identified, are facing significant difficulties in recruiting high-quality teachers and lecturers to teach in shortage subject areas. The scheme is designed both to help recruit high quality teachers of shortage subjects to maintained schools and further education and to keep them there.

I am sure that Members of the Committee will agree that success in recruiting and retaining such teachers is critical to the educational prospects and subsequent life chances of thousands of young people. It is also vital to the country's economic success that we improve educational levels in this country.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has argued in the same manner as her colleagues did in another place that we should consider extending the scheme to those who teach in the private sector. I can confirm that we have every intention that the scheme should include teachers in non-maintained schools which receive current funding from the public purse; that is to say, non-maintained special schools, city technology colleges and city academies. That is fully in line with our policy of putting such institutions on an equal footing with maintained schools.

However, it surely would not be the appropriate use of taxpayers' money to fund this kind of recruitment and retention incentive for teachers in the wider independent sector. After all, the Government are not responsible for the pay and conditions of the staff in that sector. They are entirely matters for the schools concerned. It is open to them to make arrangements to help their staff to repay outstanding loans if they wish to do so. Extending our proposed scheme to such teachers would reduce the funds available to finance this and other incentives to those we need to attract in maintained schools and colleges. That cannot be right.

While we recognise the contribution made by independent schools, our priority must be to ensure that there are enough good teachers in the right subjects in the maintained sector to deliver the transformation in education to which this Government are committed. If someone works part-time—say 50 per cent in a shortage subject—that person receives a pro-rata write-off of the loans which they have taken out. We cover the part-time teacher within the framework as well.

We are not sure that the noble Baroness is right when she states that RE and music are shortage subjects. Schools can always deploy more music teachers. One could always seek to improve ratios even down to the level of individual music tuition, which is necessary at some stages. But that is different from saying that it fits into the pattern of shortage subjects where we are in danger of being unable to provide significant core subjects for courses which students need to pursue in order to advance their careers either in the wider world or into further and higher education. There are insufficient numbers of specialist teachers in such areas. We know that when we speak about mathematicians and physicists we are in a situation where in a number of schools the staff teaching these subjects do not have specialist qualifications in those areas. That is a situation which we intend to remedy.

This scheme is designed, entirely appropriately, to seek to meet a defined and clear need to which the noble Baroness draws attention quite often, not least in Parliamentary Questions in this Chamber regarding teacher shortage. That is what this scheme is designed to do. We do not believe that it is appropriate that the scheme should be extended to the independent sector.

Baroness Blatch

I am not sure where the noble Lord has been living since being involved with the education department because for some time there has been a shortage of specialist RE teachers. There is a shortage of full-time music specialists teaching music across the curriculum. I am not talking about teachers who take individual musical instrument tuition. Therefore, I am really talking about class-based music teachers and certainly heads of music departments. I should like the noble Lord to think again about the matter and to perhaps bring some statistics forward on Report.

The Minister also referred to the subjects as non-core subjects. Design and technology is a foundation subject, but not a non-core subject; RE is a compulsory subject; and music is a foundation subject. Information and communications technology is not a core subject; it is a foundation subject.

Can the noble Lord tell me why there is no distinction for and no discrimination against medics, whether they work in the private health sector or the National Health Service, and yet there is discrimination against teachers?

Lord Davies of Oldham

I am concerned at this time with the Education Bill and not health matters. Therefore, I have not looked up the position with regard to medics. So far as concerns the independent education sector, given that in many areas significant fees are charged of students, it seems a little odd that the noble Baroness should ask for a state subsidy to ensure that there are sufficient teachers. The independent sector in many areas is well resourced and has the responsibility of ensuring that it is properly staffed. It is not a matter for the state.

Baroness Blatch

The noble Lord may be concerned only with education, I am concerned with consistency of policy across government. I am also concerned with a level playing field. I am not special pleading in that sense. I just think that there is no level playing field here between being a medic receiving a concessionary bursary, irrespective of where he works. We are talking about when medics are students in training and teachers when they are students in training and the debts that they build up. I am talking about a level playing field and consistency of government policy. But the noble Lord is unable to defend the consistency of government policy. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 179 agreed to.

Clause 180 [Education action zones]:

On Question, Whether Clause 180 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Blatch

I use the mechanism of seeking to take this clause out of the Bill in order to raise with the Minister one or two areas of concern about education action zones. EAZs, as the noble Lord knows, were set up in 1998 to allow local partnerships using private investment to raise standards in disadvantaged urban and rural areas. The total cost of the project was £155 million between 1998 and 2002.

Despite hoping to raise up to 25 per cent of the value of the Government's grant, a report by the National Audit Office found that by 1998–99 the total value of business contributions received by the zones amounted to only half of what the Government expected.

Education action zones were also criticised for failing to have any effect on standards in secondary schools. The Ofsted press release of 5th March 2001 stated that, the work of the zones has had no significant impact on standards in secondary schools". We welcome the aim to improve standards and achievement in some of our most difficult schools. But to have any lasting impact on pupils' futures these initiatives must be shown to have had a tangible effect. Far from being successful, education action zones have proved to be a severe disappointment, both in getting businesses involved and in bringing innovation into the classroom.

Large sums of public money have been spent on these expensive schemes without any proper positive evaluation of whether the zones have any effect on our schools. There is a question mark over whether the zones have really achieved all that was expected of them.

The first 25 of the 73 existing education action zones were established by the Secretary of State for Education and Employment in 1998–99. The Comptroller and Auditor General stated in paragraph 2 of his report: The Department have developed a strategy to assess what impact the Zones are having on local education standards, and are required to report progress and achievements to the Secretary of State in December of each year". What is that strategy? Who performs the assessments? Why can we not have the reports? We were told that there would be a report each December. We are now in the fourth year and I have yet to see a single annual report. Paragraph 8 of the report states: in the early days of the their existence, some Zones were spending large sums of public money before they had sound financial controls in place, creating risks of poor accounting, impropriety or poor value for money. In addition some Zones experienced difficulty in raising the expected level of business contributions. Further, there were some instances where Forum members did not even know or did not understand their role and responsibilities". It is true that the report finds that, The Department responded positively to those issues". However, it goes on to state: The Department and the Zones will need to remain vigilant to ensure that risks to financial control and corporate governance are well managed to avoid irregularities or improprieties that could detract from the Zones' educational achievements". The report identified the following issues: Forum members must have a basic understanding of accounting disciplines and procedures and, where appropriate, access to qualified professional advice". Do they have that? Each Zone should have procedures to ensure that their purchasing decisions are competitive and that business partners do not gain any commercial advantage through their position on the Action Forum". Do we know whether that has been effective? Zones should attach conditions to the grants that they award". Are they now doing that?

The report continues: We consider that there are a number of wider lessons that can be learned from the establishment of the Zones that can be applied to other government programmes involving the setting up of innovative new bodies". I think that I have said enough to demonstrate that there are real concerns. There was a rocky start. The involvement of businesses has not been as the Government predicted. It would be helpful to know what happened to those annual reports and whether we can see them.

Lord Davies of Oldham

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, advances trenchant criticisms of education action zones. But as she knows, they are under contract to continue for another two-and-a-half years in some cases. The intention behind the Bill is to seek to effect improvements against a background in which the noble Baroness has identified some legitimate criticisms of how the zones have operated, although in some areas she has been more than a little harsh.

The noble Baroness will have noticed that primary school standards have risen in inner city areas where the education action zones have been effective. She must also recognise that her criticisms may be valid against some education action zones but are not such as to justify a general onslaught on them. In any case, she must recognise that our intention is to create a framework in the Bill in which we can learn from past mistakes and improve the operation of the zones.

The noble Baroness asked one or two specific questions. She asked: do the zones now have professional advice? The answer is yes. There are conditions on all grants to education action zones. Zones themselves attach conditions to the grants that they make. I confess that I am a little perplexed by her statement that she has not seen an annual report. The annual report was issued last year and is a public document. I shall ensure that she is sent a copy. Another report is due for the coming year and for the further years during which the zones continue.

The noble Baroness has presented a bleak picture of education action zones. Some have had considerable success. There is no doubt that educational standards are rising in a number of specific areas and education action zones have played their part. The clause is in the Bill to give us a framework within which we can learn from the original conception of the zones. We seek to improve any weaknesses against that background.

I hope that I have given the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, an assurance that she can have the information that she referred to earlier. We do not share every aspect of her criticism, but we recognise when such criticism is justified and have suggested a framework for improvement.

11.45 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

The noble Lord accuses me of presenting a bleak picture. I have referred only to the Comptroller and Auditor General's report, which is an official report from which I read verbatim. The noble Lord appears to have an advantage over me as he has seen the annual reports and I have not. I am referring not just to the outstanding annual report. I want to see all three reports. Presumably a fourth will be added very soon, so it would be nice to see all four reports.

I am a regular writer of Questions for Written Answer on this issue and I am usually told that the Answers are coming, but then so is Christmas. The noble Lord says that education action zones are under contract and that their intention is to improve. He also doubted my statement about standards in secondary schools. I was quoting verbatim from the Ofsted report. It would be helpful to know what information the Government have to refute Ofsted and the Comptroller and Auditor General's report.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I quoted the junior school improvements, not those for secondary schools.

Baroness Blatch

That is an interesting ploy. I did not mention primary schools. I was referring to secondary schools and I would expect the noble Lord to answer the specific points that I raised, not those that I did not raise.

It would be helpful to know between now and Report stage what is the strategy referred to in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report. Who does the assessment? Where are the reports and why have we not received them? I withdraw my opposition to the Question that Clause 180 should stand part of the Bill.

Clause 180 agreed to.

Schedule 15 agreed to.

Clause 181 agreed to.

Schedule 16 [Amendments of School Inspections Act 1996]:

Baroness Walmsley

moved Amendment No. 337: Page 174, line 22, at end insert— In section 2(7) of that Act after paragraph (a) there is inserted— (b) shall at least once in each period of five years commencing upon the coming into effect of this Act, carry out a review of the system and framework of inspection and report thereon to the Secretary of State who shall lay a copy of that report before each House of Parliament;". The noble Baroness said: This amendment seeks to ensure a five yearly review of the working of Ofsted. If the DFES and Ofsted consider that four or five yearly inspections of schools help them to become dynamic organisations, responsive to a changing world, surely the same can be said about Ofsted itself. The more important one considers the work of Ofsted to be, the more important it is to enhance its public accountability by a regular review by Parliament of how it is working. That is what the proposed wording of paragraph (b) would do.

The Government have recently allowed a review of Ofsted, although not as radical a review as some would have wished. However, this amendment would put such a regular review on the face of the Bill and ensure the benefits of self-evaluation and the informed advice of so-called critical friends for Ofsted itself.

In the decade since Ofsted was established the arrangements for school inspections have evolved considerably. And yet, at the end of 2000, many policy makers and influencers, including the chief inspector, made statements which led many of us to expect a more radical shake-up of the system. It is no bad thing that that should happen to this large organisation every five years. After all, if education itself is changing in response to a changing world, it is reasonable to expect that the system of its inspection should do so too.

One of the most fundamental changes has been the move towards more on-going self-evaluation. We on these Benches hope that this will contribute to improvements in schools and teacher morale. However, the old saying, "What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander" might apply here. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

The noble Baroness will recognise that the chief inspector already has a statutory duty to keep the system of regular school inspection under review. There is no doubting the fact that there has been considerable development of that system since Ofsted's inception in 1992. Indeed, the inspection framework has been subject to regular review and amendment, to reflect the changing legislative and educational environment in which Ofsted operates.

Developments, such as a reduction in the notice period before an inspection, the introduction of more flexible arrangements in which the interval between inspections varies according to the particular circumstances and performance of schools, and shorter inspections for the most effective schools—to name a few—demonstrate that today's system has evolved significantly over the 10 years of Ofsted's existence. The current arrangements have not hindered that development; in fact, they have enabled valuable changes to be implemented as part of a continuous process of reflection and adjustment to changing circumstances.

As I am sure noble Lords are aware, Ofsted has recently conducted a wholesale review of the inspection system, and has consulted widely on a range of proposals to make inspection more responsive to the different circumstances and priorities of schools; more supportive of school improvement; better informed about the views of stakeholders; and better co-ordinated with other inspection and monitoring activity. The consultation document was sent to every school in the country, and the proposals have received widespread support. Ofsted intends to implement the changes from 2003.

Her Majesty's chief inspector is the head of a non-ministerial government department and is, therefore, directly accountable to Parliament for the management of Ofsted, and for the public funds that it administers. In practice, parliamentary scrutiny operates principally through the Education Select Committee in another place. As noble Lords will be aware, that committee has taken a close interest in Ofsted's operations; for example, in 1999 it undertook a very detailed review of Ofsted, and produced an equally detailed report on Ofsted's work. The committee has since established arrangements whereby the chief inspector appears before the committee at least twice a year, providing an opportunity for regular parliamentary scrutiny.

The new chief inspector, David Bell, who took office on the 1st May, has already appeared before the Select Committee—an indication, I am sure noble Lords will agree, of the seriousness with which the committee undertakes its responsibilities to hold Ofsted to account. During that session, David Bell recognised that the inspection system had evolved significantly during the past 10 years; and he confirmed his commitment to further evolutionary change.

Our aim, and that of Her Majesty's chief inspector, is to ensure that school inspections continue to provide a rigorous external check on schools' performance, and achieve the best possible value for money. I can offer the noble Baroness an assurance that we shall continue to work with HM chief inspector to ensure that inspection remains relevant to the needs of schools and parents. I hope, therefore, that the noble Baroness will accept this assurance. I also hope that she will recognise that the current arrangements, which include a statutory duty to keep the inspection system under review, foster a process of continual review and development and, therefore, are more appropriate to the ever-changing educational landscape than any five-year review could conceivably be.

As for parliamentary accountability, I am sure that the noble Baroness will recognise the value of the Select Committee in another place, and its determination to hold Ofsted to account. On the basis of my reply, I trust that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Walmsley

The increase in scrutiny of Ofsted over the years is most welcome; particularly the scrutiny by the Select Committee. Evolution and constant improvement are also welcome. The idea of a five-yearly review was not to replace, but to complement that scrutiny. It is sometimes a good idea to do some spring cleaning and take a radical root-and-branch look at a system and the way its structure is working. Although I believe that it is still a good idea, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 16 agreed to.

Clause 182 agreed to.

Schedule 17 [Amendments of Part 5 of Education Act 1997]:

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendment No. 338: Page 176, line 5, at end insert— A1 (1) Section 23 of the Education Act 1997 (c. 44) (functions of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in relation to curriculum and assessment) is amended as follows. (2) In subsection (1) for the words from "with respect to" to the end there is substituted "with respect to—

  1. (a) pupils at maintained schools in England who have not ceased to be of compulsory school age,
  2. (b) pupils at maintained nursery schools in England, and
  3. (c) children for whom funded nursery education is provided in England otherwise than at a maintained school or maintained nursery school."
(3) In subsection (2)—
  1. (a) in paragraph (a), for "such schools" there is substituted "maintained schools or maintained nursery schools", and
  2. (b) paragraph (f) and the word "and" immediately preceding it are omitted.
(4) After subsection (2) there is inserted— (2A) In subsection (2) references to the curriculum for a maintained nursery school include references to the curriculum for any funded nursery education provided as mentioned in subsection (1)(b); and references to assessment in schools include references to assessment in funded nursery education. (5) Subsections (3) and (4) are omitted. (6) In subsection (5), after "test;" there is inserted— "funded nursery education" has the meaning given by section 73 of the Education Act 2002;". The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 338 I shall speak also to government Amendments Nos. 340, 375, 378 and 380. They are technical amendments and consequential repeals rectifying an overlap of powers in the education legislation. These relate to the foundation stage and the functions of the Qualifications Curriculum Authority—QCA—for England and the Qualifications, Curriculum and Assessment Authority—ACCAC—for Wales as set out in Sections 23 and 29 of the Education Act 1997.

They seek to provide consistent roles for QCA and ACCAC so that their functions in relation to children below compulsory school age in foundation stage settings are brought into line with their functions in relation to children who have reached compulsory school age.

I turn to the more substantive government Amendments Nos. 339, 341 and 342. Recent events have revealed that the regulatory authorities' current powers need to be improved if they are to safeguard the effective delivery of qualifications where there has been a failure or there is a serious risk of failure. Currently, if an awarding body is not delivering qualifications satisfactorily, the regulatory authority may make recommendations for improvement. If the awarding body does not co-operate, the authority may withdraw accreditation, and the Secretary of State's approval, from the qualifications concerned. However, that is of no help where learners have begun a course of study leading to a qualification and so withdrawal of accreditation would be impractical. Amendments Nos. 339 and 341 will fill that gap in relation to England and Wales.

We expect those powers to be used as a last resort, in circumstances where there is a risk that significant harm will be done if timely and appropriate action is not taken and where there is evidence that the awarding body cannot or will not take sufficient remedial measures. Indeed, the threat of a direction might be sufficient in itself to initiate appropriate action. The power is not limited to key school qualifications offered by the three English unitary bodies, but may be applied in the context of any accredited qualification.

The power will enable the regulatory authorities to direct an awarding body either to take or to refrain from taking specified steps. Any decision is likely to be a question of balanced judgment based on the facts of the case and it will need to be perceived as having been reached independently. We believe that the regulatory authorities are in a unique position of being both independent and having the relevant professional expertise. As a matter of public law they are of course required to act rationally, and are themselves subject to the jurisdiction of the courts.

It is vital that the regulatory authorities should have a power to be able to enforce a direction if necessary. QCA and ACCAC will have separate powers to direct in their respective areas. That is consistent with their separate powers to accredit qualifications. We would expect them to work together where students in both areas are affected. Amendment No. 342 is a consequential amendment to the 1997 Act, extending the new power for QCA to give directions to Northern Ireland in respect of NVQs. That is consistent with QCA's other powers in relation to NVQs in Northern Ireland.

The attainment of qualifications is of great importance to our economic growth, and is of growing importance to the life chances of individuals. It is vital that reasonable measures can be taken to protect the interests of learners and retain confidence in the qualifications system. We believe these amendments will provide that protection.

Amendments Nos. 370 and 371 are technical amendments to Clauses 290(2) and (3) concerning commencements respectively in England and Wales to take account of the introduction of the new amendments to the Education Act 1997 contained in Schedule 17, concerning the responsibilities of QCA and ACCAC.

I turn finally to Amendments Nos. 338A and 338B and reiterate that we are not seeking to be overly prescriptive in setting out the learning areas and the early learning goals for the foundation stage. The Bill already ensures that publicly funded Montessori schools are able to retain current levels of flexibility in the way in which they deliver the foundation stage curriculum. The six areas of learning of the foundation stage curriculum were arrived at after widespread consultation by QCA with the full range of providers of nursery education, including those of Montessori education.

Introduction to the foundation stage has been almost universally welcomed across the sector. The curriculum is not prescriptive in its principles and teaching methods and it is already applied across a range of settings. We would not wish to make it inoperable for any of the practitioners who deliver it.

I recognise that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, will want to deploy substantial arguments in respect of the Montessori position, but I wanted to indicate the outline of the Government's response. I am conscious of the lateness of the hour, but she will recognise that we are seeking to work in co-operation of the providers of that tradition of education. On that basis, I beg to move.


Baroness Blatch

moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 338, Amendment No. 338A: Line 23, at end insert— (2B) In the case of maintained nursery schools or of funded nursery schools which are designated as Montessori Schools, and where the principal or at least two senior teachers are holders of recognised qualifications from Montessori awarding bodies, the authority, in carrying out its functions under this section, shall do nothing that will require or advise schools or teachers to depart from principles and teaching methods that are appropriate to Montessori education and shall not insist on anything that is inappropriate to Montessori education. The noble Baroness said: I am delighted because it sounds as though the Minister is in a co-operative mood and therefore he will have no difficulty with my amendments. Both are designed to explore the same issue. Amendment No. 338A probes whether all those who have Montessori qualifications and who practise Montessori education will be free from pressure to abide by teaching methods that are not in keeping with the Montessori system.

Amendment No. 338B, which I must make clear is intended to apply only to nursery education, probes whether the department, Ofsted and the QCA are prepared to recognise the Montessori qualification as a full and proper qualification appropriate for Montessori education or whether they will require dedicated and experienced teachers and managers in nursery schools to requalify with some other award.

The Montessori system of education is a much valued and widely practised system of education which is recognised fully in dozens of countries world-wide. The Montessori qualification diploma is awarded to those students who complete a minimum of 200 taught hours, undertake a final written and practical exam and participate in 400 hours of supervised and assessed teaching practice in a Montessori setting. It is not something one can pull off a wall; it is a level four qualification.

In the UK, Montessori diplomas are awarded by training providers, or by larger bodies which are both awarding bodies and trainers. There are currently nine awarding bodies, although four are very small.

Montessori schools number about 400 and make up 6 per cent of the trained early years workforce. This is not some eccentric fringe activity indulged in by the middle classes as some ideologues pretend.

Montessori Education (UK), a registered charity, is the national standards body for education in the UK. It has been trying for the past five years, working with the Department for Education and Skills and the QCA, to achieve official status for the Montessori diploma. It is also working with the awarding bodies to agree minimum standards of assessment and course accreditation.

The Montessori bodies—and this is the essence of the argument behind Amendment No. 338A—believe that it would not be appropriate for them to be placed on the National Qualifications Framework by a non-Montessori awarding body because fulfilling all requirements should lead to the essence of Montessori training being lost. Does the Minister accept that? Is that understood by Ofsted and the QCA?

On the other hand, the Montessori sector is too small to set up an awarding body capable of meeting all the Government's many requirements, so it is being driven towards what it describes as the "depressing conclusion" that Montessori training, level four, may have to be expanded to include a further qualification from the framework that already exists. These are level three qualifications only. Students wanting to teach in Montessori schools would be forced to spend extra time taking a qualification at a lower level which was in many senses not relevant to Montessori education and possibly methodologically opposed to the Montessori approach.

That cannot be right. Those now attracted to train as Montessori teachers would be discouraged by having to take not one, but two, qualifications. As suggested in Amendment No. 338B, some experienced Montessori teachers and managers are being told that they must retrain to fit the new framework. There is even talk of intimidation. Last year, one qualified Montessori teacher was told that she could not set up a day nursery unless she too had an NVQ level three—an inferior and irrelevant qualification. It is no wonder that she said she felt insulted. Understandably, teachers like her feel that hard won and tested qualifications are not respected by government or their agencies. They feel that their schools and their professionalism are regarded as second rate. In a climate of shortage of early years practitioners, it seems short-sighted to undermine the standing of those who are teaching, or to discourage those who wish to do so. I hope that the Minister can reassure them, and reassure me. In his reference to the amendments so far, he has certainly not done so.

By accepting my amendments, or something like them, the Minister can assure Montessori schools, and the many tens of thousands of parents, that the Montessori diploma will be recognised for all Montessori purposes by the department, by Ofsted and by the QCA. So far, there is no evidence that the department is taking seriously the important differences of process through which Montessori schools work and through which they achieve the same, or better, outcomes as other nursery schools.

Surely the best approach would be to recognise existing Montessori diplomas, to give a firm undertaking—as Amendment No. 338A requires—not to undermine Montessori methods in Montessori schools, and to work for genuine parity. I am talking about Montessori qualifications for teaching only in Montessori schools. This could be achieved if the common elements of what constitutes a licence to teach were clearly identified and offered as a stand-alone entity on the national qualifications framework—one which could be grafted on to existing training offered by Montessori training bodies without imposing a double burden or undermining the Montessori method. This would also ensure equality of opportunity by enabling students to access public funding, at least for the licence-to-practice part of their qualification.

I hope that the Minister will give personal attention to this matter, which is causing a great deal of avoidable anxiety. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham

As I indicated in my opening remarks, I want to make it clear that the Government value highly the work of Montessori. There is no question of our doing anything to affect its continuing role. None of that is at issue.

What is at issue is whether all 15 Montessori bodies should separately have qualifications accredited by the QCA as part of the national framework. At present, none has presented qualifications for accreditation, but they are in discussion with the QCA on how best to do so. I believe that that is the way forward. I am sure that we shall reach a satisfactory conclusion.

The reason for wanting to avoid a proliferation of qualifications is that employers, service users and those seeking qualifications will find those qualifications more transparent and easier to understand. Too many qualifications will mean that the framework is incomprehensible to those who wish to use it.

In relation to the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, we believe it is vital that the QCA should be able to exercise its responsibilities even- handedly in respect of all awarding bodies seeking accreditation for external qualification. The amendment would mean that the QCA would not be able to consider the soundness of Montessori qualifications, or whether it is necessary or helpful for qualifications from all 15 organisations to be accredited. Nor could they seek improvement to their quality before accreditation. This would put the Montessori organisations in a unique position among more than 100 awarding bodies that may each consider, as probably all do, that they have special characteristics. I believe it would be inappropriate to make an exception of any awarding body in this way in primary legislation.

I emphasise to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that this is not about one size fitting all. Where there are genuine and important differences between qualifications, that will of course be respected. While there may in the long term be a move towards requiring providers to hold qualifications within the national framework, we know, first, that this is a matter for the long and not the short term; and, secondly, that we would never put the Montessori contribution to early education at risk.

Of course parents expect staff to be properly qualified. In setting requirements, it has been important to strike a balance between minimum standards that give parents confidence and the need for flexibility to respect different traditions. We fully recognise the distinctiveness of the Montessori tradition, as we recognise the arguments that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has put forward, but we do not think that accrediting qualifications without applying the usual processes would be an appropriate reflection of this distinctiveness.

As no Montessori qualification has ever been submitted to QCA for accreditation, it cannot be said at this time to be a level 4 qualification. The term level 4 relates solely to the national framework. There are also some very small awarding bodies. With 15 Montessori organisations currently providing qualifications, it seems very unlikely that they cannot muster a suitable awarding body. I reiterate to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that we respect the Montessori tradition. We do not seek to do anything other than to ensure that it continues to play the valuable part that it does. However, we do not think that it would be right to make exceptions in primary legislation for one body when there are so many others that would seek to claim equity in these terms. Nevertheless, I assure her that proposals for movement towards the requirements in the legislation will be gradual and made with due consultation and a long-term perspective.

Baroness Blatch

That is a very confusing answer. I also detected the departmental bias against Montessori in some of the Minister's answers, all confused up with the empathetic and sympathetic noises he was making. He said that the requirements will not put Montessori education at risk. I believe that if Montessori organisations are forced to abandon Montessori qualifications for Montessori education and come within a framework that does not apply to Montessori education, Montessori education will certainly be put at risk. That would give the lie to the Minister's comment about the Government's wish to work with Montessori and for Montessori to continue to flourish. Given that there is choice and diversity in every other form of education, choice and diversity should also be allowed to flourish at nursery level. The Government should be engaged in measuring the outcomes of Montessori education, just as they should measure the outcomes of all other forms of nursery education.

The Minister promises me that discussions are going on with QCA. He also said that no qualification has been submitted to QCA for evaluation. I ask him to write to me on that, as I shall not prolong this debate, and let me know whether such an evaluation has ever been requested. If so, has it ever been refused by the Montessori people? We shall return to this on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 338A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 338, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment No. 338 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 338B not moved.]

12.15 a.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham

moved Amendments Nos. 339 to 342: Page 176, line 32, at end insert— 2A After section 26 of the Education Act 1997 (c. 44) there is inserted—