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Mr. Patten : That matter is ultimately for governors to resolve. [Hon Members : "Oh."] That is the fact in law. Both sides of the House must welcome the fact that student teachers of various sorts and at various levels get good practice in the classroom, invariably under the supervision of a master or mentor teacher. That is most important.

It is a good thing for students to go into the lecture room from time to time. It may equally be a good thing for those who lecture to go into the classroom. I have been much impressed by one group of five schools in Kent that are already training postgraduate teachers. They have a good undertaking with the university of Cambridge, no less, to teach some of the things that student teachers must learn--but the university of Cambridge comes to Kent and students from Kent do not go to the university. That is probably a good idea.

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We should not be hidebound by traditional forms of education if, and only if, standards are high enough. The agency will only accredit courses that meet those standards. I hope that my hon. Friend will convey to Kingston university and its distinguished head of the department of education--who happens to be a constituent of mine--my best wishes and those reassurances.

Mr. David Jamieson (Plymouth, Devonport) : How does the Secretary of State envisage the Teacher Training Agency selecting those primary or secondary schools that are able and competent to undertake such training ?

Mr. Patten : Individual primary and secondary schools, often in groups, will come forward with proposals. They will be investigated by OFSTED, measured against the Secretary of State's and value-for-money criteria. Then, and only then, will the schools be accredited. Not every school or group of schools will be accredited, just as not every higher education institution will necessarily be accredited just because it is a higher education institution.

Mrs. Ann Taylor : Will the right hon. Gentleman give way ?

Mr. Patten : Of course I will give way to the hon. Lady, but thereafter I hope that I shall be able to plod on a bit faster. I have been giving way rather a lot.

Mrs. Taylor : What are the Secretary of State's long-term aims and plans for school-based teacher education ? He spoke about schools coming forward with ideas, but surely someone must make overall planning arrangements for the number of places in teacher education. Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to abdicate that responsibility ? Will he make no estimate of the number of teachers necessary ? Will he leave everything to schools ?

Mr. Patten : That is a gauleiter approach to education--that there must be a master plan in Whitehall for absolutely everything. I do not believe in that ; I believe in diversity and choice in an evolutionary framework--in exactly the same way that, over the past couple of years, we have seen a massive shift of attention from the lecture room to the classroom under reforms that we have already introduced.

My vision for the future of teacher education is to attract as many high- quality entrants as possible and to retain them, and to provide the highest possible standard of teacher education. The Teacher Training Agency will be there to do that.

I also value the role that schools can play. I want schools that wish to run courses--they will not be forced on any school--to be given that chance, so that postgraduate students can choose from a large number of different providers. Such choice and diversity will encourage high standards. Students will choose, and the agency will fund the best courses, wherever they are provided. No school or group of schools can be forced to do that. It will be a matter of freedom and choice.

The Labour party, as ever, is uncomfortable with the idea of trusting schools or students with greater choice. That aversion to choice lay behind one Opposition

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amendment that narrowly passed in another place. It certainly did not lead to clarification of the Bill--quite the reverse.

Is it too much to hope that the Opposition will one day table an amendment that actually has the effect that they intended ? I am fairly sure that the Opposition meant to provide in the amendments--wrong-headed as this would none the less have been--for a validating, not an accrediting, role for higher education. I am sure that the hon. Member for Dewsbury understands the difference. Accreditation secures the professional acceptability of a qualification. That is what the Teacher Training Agency will do in respect of higher education institutions, groups of schools and individual schools- -satisfying itself that any body wishing to offer teacher training has the necessary commitment to the Secretary of State's criteria and the ability to deliver high quality. That is done by civil servants in my Department at present. There is no sensible way of interpreting a requirement that higher education institutions must accredit as well as being accredited at the same time. That is illogical nonsense, and it will not work in practice. The Opposition in another place seemed to take the view earlier that it would be a simple matter for the Government to tidy up what had been left so as to meet the intentions of the other place. But may I commend to those who like a good read the Official Report of the Bill's Third Reading in another place ? It has all the makings of an excellent whodunnit--we are on tenterhooks to discover who will accredit whom throughout the debate.

Arrangements favoured by the Opposition are absolutely blindingly unclear. There is no final page with the answer to that question. I am sure that the hon. Member for Dewsbury will give us an answer. But, whatever she does, she cannot cite the support of those in another place, who left no clear answer.

This is not simply a matter for a harmless bit of mid-afternoon amusement at the Opposition's expense. As well as being defective and confused, the amendments are wrong in principle, because they reflect the concern of the Labour party to preserve the vested interests and producer interests at all costs all the way down the line. Groups of schools that want to work with higher education, and have their courses validated, must have the power to do so. The Bill provides for that. Most current school-based schemes have chosen that option, but the issue is whether we make that an absolute legal requirement.

Although that will doubtless be debated in Committee, we are clear that schools should have the freedom to choose whether they work with higher education partners as long as they meet the necessary standards as judged by the Teacher Training Agency, which will monitor both the higher education institutions and the schools. Judging by the evidence of the other place, the Labour party--we shall hear what it has to say this afternoon--seems to want to keep schools firmly and for ever in the junior role, regardless of the quality of their courses and the new teachers they train. I will not accept such a restriction on choice, and therefore must tell the House that we will table amendments in Committee to overturn the amendments and consequential amendments to clauses 12 and 14, and thereby reintroduce the measure of choice, which, under our policies, schools and students are enjoying--not in some theoretical future, but in a real and

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valuable present in Birmingham, Kent and other parts of the country. I am sure that no Conservative Member would wish to prevent schools from enjoying just that.

I shall deal with student unions in part II of the Bill.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington) : On teacher training, it would seem that much of my right hon. Friend's argument, with which I agree, about the advisability of introducing the TTA is based on the idea that we are abolishing the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. I thoroughly applaud him for doing that, but can he convince me and the House how the new agency will perform better than CATE, because CATE's record left a lot to be desired ?

Mr. Patten : My hon. Friend laboured in this vineyard for a while as a distinguished higher education Minister, and contributed a lot to the Department's thinking. CATE was an advisory body and, like all such bodies, its advice could sometimes be set aside by Ministers--I think it thought, sometimes wrongly.

The advisory function of CATE will be rolled forward into the TTA with a statutory life, and with a substantial and independent role to advise Ministers. The TTA will continue to be able to seek the advice of Her Majesty's inspectorate and OFSTED, and its sole criteria, which will be laid down by the Secretary of State, as they are laid down now, will be to judge whether a course should be put forward for student teachers to enter, enjoy and flourish in.

All the best aspects of CATE will be rolled forward, and I pay tribute to it for what it has done, just as much as I welcome my hon. Friend's welcome for the reforms that we are introducing.

Dr. Tony Wright (Cannock and Burntwood) : The Secretary of State described the new settlement that he is hoping to create. Having lost the arguments in the other place on this crucial part of the Bill, particularly in relation to the notion of partnership between schools and higher education institutions, does he really think that he is able to create a new settlement if the first thing that he does is use a whipped majority in this House to defeat votes that he lost in the other place ?

Mr. Patten : All the issues will be discussed in detail in Committee. The hon. Gentleman's description of the Government's single defeat was a little over-ripe ; some of their Lordships thought that it was not cricket to call two votes so early in the afternoon.

We are convinced on policy grounds that ours is the correct course. I am all in favour of partnerships between higher education institutions and schools, if those concerned want them : I have said that two or three times this afternoon, once in answer to an intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey). I value the opportunities presented by good-quality higher education institutions ; equally, I think that we should all value the opportunities that the Bill gives schools to provide a wider choice for students.

The question of student unions, which is dealt with in part II, was the subject of some lively debate in another place. The Bill implements our undertakings to reform student unions. It puts into effect the principle of voluntary membership : for the first time, all students will be able to choose whether to belong to a union. It also lists a series of tough requirements to be observed in student unions, and provides for the new standards to be open for all to see.

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Those are important reforms. It must be said that there have been abuses, and I think that it will be known where those abuses occurred. In one instance, a student club--a Conservative association, as it happens, but it could have been Liberal or Labour--dared to query union policy in an election broadsheet ; the student union punished the club by imposing a substantial fine. That simply does not represent the free interplay of ideas that we should cherish in our seats of learning. Student unions that are substantially financed by the taxpayer to serve students should never be used as political platforms.

In another recent case, a union resolved to campaign against aspects of Israeli policy on the West bank. Certainly students are entitled to hold opinions on such issues, but they must never spend taxpayers' money to prosecute their political views.

In both those cases, the unions' policies were eventually reversed, although in one case the intervention of the courts was needed. Things should never have gone that far : it should never be necessary for a student to go single-handed to the High Court.

I have not named the two institutions concerned ; the point is that such abuses could have occurred anywhere, and that is what worries me as a legislator. At present, nothing in student union constitutions and practices prevents them from happening. They can be prevented only through the vigilance of ordinary students, who then have to go to court, which strikes me as wrong.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham) : I whole-heartedly agree with my right hon. Friend, but he could go further. The case involving the university of Greenwich showed that student unions could not even use non-taxpayers' money for political purposes that contravened their charitable status.

Mr. Patten : My hon. Friend has advertently named the second of the two cases to which I referred. Indeed, charity law is very strict in that regard, and the code of practice on the face of the Bill will ensure that the facts are drawn to the attention of students. Students should not be obliged to seek an injunction through the courts when they see something wrong. Our reforms ensure that the voice of the ordinary student can be heard more clearly. We should remember that--much to my pleasure--since last September the majority of new university students have been mature students rather than school leavers.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr) : Will the Secretary of State give way ?

Mr. Patten : I was about to say no, but of course I will give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Rooker : I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I remember the day when he made a statement in the House launching this aspect of the Bill. Does he accept, however, that students--through their organisations in our universities and colleges--have been at the forefront of trying to stop the infiltration of extremists peddling fascist and anti-semitic views ? They have been at the forefront of seeking to end that nonsense and close the organisations involved, and for that they deserve all our thanks.

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Mr. Patten : As I hope the hon. Gentleman knows, I deplore fascism and anti-semitism just as much as he does. I am happy to condemn out of hand any anti-semitic activities engaged in by any person. A key theme running through this part of the Bill is transparency. There is a code of practice, and the constraints that charity law imposes on student unions will be brought to student attention. The requirements of the 1986 legislation about freedom of speech--which my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford played a notable part in introducing--will have to be drawn to the attention of every student. Affiliations must be subject to scrutiny, and the rules for distributing grants to clubs must be open.

The Bill will also ensure that officers are elected properly--an issue which I know concerns my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman)--that financial reports are published, and that there is an accessible and independent complaints machinery. The Bill recognises the rights of students who are not union members. When students exercise their new freedom under the Bill, it is vital that they are not victimised over access to the services. University and college funds will not be affected by the Bill, and they will be expected to maintain services for students who are not union members.

Despite some changes in another place, the principles driving our reform-- choice, democracy and accountability--remain unchanged. I think that we have arrived at a pretty effective machinery for putting these principles into action. They give students the power of information, the power of choice and the power of the ballot box. In future, universities and colleges will also have to take proper responsibility for the conduct of their student unions. Many do that now, but not all, as my hon. Friends have recognised.

I have spoken for some time, largely because I gave way to almost everyone who wished to intervene. The Bill is not large by the standards of education Bills in recent years--such as the Education Reform Act 1988 or the Education Act 1993, for that matter--but it is very important. We have already opened up much of education to the positive effects of greater choice and increased accountability. It is now time to put the last pieces of the jigsaw in place, as we do the same thing for teacher training and student unions.

I do not ask the House to rally to the twin causes of choice and accountability for their own sake--although they are principles which, as a democrat, I hold dear, as do many hon. Members opposite. I ask the House to support the Bill because it is good for standards. It is good for the highest possible standards of teacher training. The Teacher Training Agency will bring together responsibility for quality, funding and information so that each reinforces the rest. I also think that it will be good for standards of probity and equity in the conduct of student unions, which will in future have to act under the spotlight of better information and no longer have a captive membership to command. In both respects, the Bill is necessary and overdue. I commend it to the House.

4.26 pm

Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury) : I am sorry that the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) was not present to hear the speech of the Secretary of State because I think that he would have felt vindicated in making his comments yesterday.

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We have seen a typical performance from the Secretary of State today--one that we see on every occasion that he appears at the Dispatch Box. Time and time again he comes to the Dispatch Box to announce more chopping and changing and more experimentation in education-- more change for change's sake--as if the whole education world were not already suffering from a great deal of fatigue owing to the weight and frequency of legislation in recent years. The Secretary of State began by mentioning some of the changes which have taken place in recent years. He mentioned several areas in which there was no party political disagreement on the principle of the changes--although he likes to pretend that there are differences of opinion. He mentioned the national curriculum, local management of schools and inspection. There was never a vote against them on principle in Committee when the legislation was passed in 1988.

Mr. Pawsey : The hon. Lady has something of a selective memory. I served on the Committee which examined those Bills, as did certain Opposition hon. Members, and I can well remember Opposition Members making impassioned speeches over and over again opposing the reforms.

Mrs. Taylor : The hon. Gentleman seems to have a very selective memory. If he checks Hansard --I suggest that the Secretary of State does so as well ; although he does not like serving on Committees, he could perhaps do the House the courtesy of reading the Committee Hansard --he will see that on no occasion did we vote against the local management of schools, the national curriculum or inspection.

Dame Angela Rumbold (Mitcham and Morden) : I was the Minister responsible in the main for taking through the Education Reform Act 1988 and the national curriculum proposals in particular. I remember that many Opposition Members disagreed fundamentally with the proposals for the national curriculum, and I hope that the hon. Lady will acknowledge that fact.

Mrs. Taylor : The right hon. Lady seems to be confirming what I was saying. We did not vote against those ideas. We regard them in principle as changes for the better, but we were, and are, anxious to make them work properly in practice. Had Ministers listened to what my colleagues who served on that Committee suggested, and had they introduced the national curriculum and assessment arrangements after proper consultation, we should not have had the difficulties of a prescriptive national syllabus and inappropriate tests. Many of those who served on the Committee would recognise that that was the case.

Mr. Gyles Brandreth (City of Chester) : Is the hon. Lady aware that a recent opinion poll revealed that some 77 per cent. of people are in favour of testing and of the publication of the results of tests ? Will she make clear her position with regard to the National Union of Teachers' boycott of testing ? Is she in favour of it or is she against it ? It would be helpful if she were to make that clear.

Mrs. Taylor : For my part, I am surprised that only 77 per cent. of parents want their children to be tested regularly. I should have thought that all parents and teachers recognised that testing and assessment were an

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essential part of education. However, we want tests which are purposeful and useful and which give us as parents genuine information.

The Secretary of State said that the Bill was not the largest piece of education legislation, and that is so. However, I remind him of some of the similarities between his speech today and what he was saying more than 12 months ago. When he introduced the previous Bill, which became law less than 12 months ago, he said that it would be the last piece in the jigsaw. He used the same phrase today. I wonder what other changes he has in mind and whether he has any long-term concept of where education is going.

The right hon. Gentleman then went on to insult the memory of Rab Butler by comparing his achievement in the previous Bill with that of 1944. History will judge, and its judgment of the Secretary of State may come rather sooner than he thinks.

The Bill, like many of its predecessors, is the product of the collected ideas of a small group of apparently small-minded, right-wing advisers who seem to be the only people to have the ear of the Secretary of State. Rapid change in education is again being forced through by arrogant Ministers who pay lip service to consultation and take pride in insulting those who disagree with them, be they parents, teachers or education officers.

The Secretary of State was recently reported in The Times as saying that change in education should be evolutionary, not revolutionary. That is a bit rich, even by the right hon. Gentleman's standards. He does not seem to know the meaning of the word "evolutionary" any more than he knows the meaning of the word "consultation". It is perhaps significant that he has not published the results of the consultation on the Bill. The representations have been so overwhelmingly against him that he is embarrassed to reveal the extent of the opposition before he forces through the measure.

Mr. Patrick Thompson : The hon. Lady referred to The Times , but has she had the opportunity to read the leading article in today's edition of that newspaper which makes it perfectly clear in a non-partisan way why the Secretary of State's proposals should proceed ?

Mrs. Taylor : I have yet to see the Secretary of State do anything in a non-partisan way.

This Bill is another example of unwarranted changes where advice given to Ministers has been ignored and where only the determination of Members of another place made the Government see sense and bow to the inevitable pressures by watering down their proposals. The first thing of which the House ought to be reminded--the Secretary of State was strangely reluctant to remind us of it--is that the Bill we are discussing today is not the one that the right hon. Gentleman published last November. The changes imposed by the House of Lords are very significant. However, they are not sufficient to make the Bill--especially part I--acceptable. To date, we have seen the success of a damage-limitation exercise only. But there is just so much improvement that can be made to a bad Bill.

Before turning to the main content of the measure, which I regard as being the part dealing with teacher education, I want to say a word about part II, which deals with student unions. For the Secretary of State this must be the most humiliating aspect of the whole sorry saga. It

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really is a climb-down of magnificent proportions, and it is a tribute to the responsible and very effective tactics of the National Union of Students and of the Committee of Vice- Chancellors and Principals. I--like other Members on both sides of the House, I am sure--recall the spirited but very inaccurate attacks on student unions that the Secretary of State made at the Conservative party conference last year and, indeed, at the previous year's conference.

Mr. Patten : A very good speech.

Mrs. Taylor : The right hon. Gentleman says that it was a very good speech. It was high on hype about the evils of students unions and on how the right hon. Gentleman would smash them once and for all. I believe that it was the only occasion on which he received anything like a cheer at his party's conference.

Following the climb-down on student unions and the humiliation of the withdrawal of the right hon. Gentleman's proposals--the climb-down was such that the Bill had to be delayed in the House of Lords for two months so that the new deal could be struck--it would be rather enjoyable to see the right hon. Gentleman try, at this year's party conference, to defend what he has done.

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend) : He will not be there.

Mrs. Taylor : As my hon. Friend says, it does not look as if the right hon. Gentleman will be there. Thus we shall be denied the pleasure.

Originally, the Secretary of State decided that he would divide student union services into core services, to be publicly funded, and non-core services, to be available by voluntary subscription. This distinction was derided as being unnecessary and unworkable, and the Government's proposals met a torrent of hostility from all quarters. Indeed, Members of another place, such as Lord Beloff, who could hardly be described as left-wing, said that the proposals had "united the entire university community from the most reactionary vice-chancellor to the most Left-wing"-- [ Official Report , House of Lords, 7 December 1993 ; Vol. 550, c. 839.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but I must point out that it is not in order to quote except from the words of a Minister in the current Session.

Mrs. Taylor : Having earlier advised one of my hon. Friends of exactly this rule, I am now myself getting carried away.

As Lord Beloff pointed out, the Secretary of State has to his credit the remarkable achievement of uniting the most right-wing vice-chancellor-- unnamed, of course--and the most left-wing and with-it students. That was a very considerable achievement, but it was a response resulting from the fact that the Secretary of State was so unwilling to listen to all the advice that he was getting, even from Conservative Members.

I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) is in the Chamber as he has on other occasions pointed out that campus unions are not pre-entry closed shops in the usual sense of the term. The hon. Gentleman has gone on record as saying that the Government are getting things wrong in respect of student unions.

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Mr. Forman : As the hon. Lady is citing the record, I make clear to her and to the House my belief that the current compromise on student unions is sensible and will work.

Mrs. Taylor : Yes, and it is a pity that the Secretary of State did not listen to the hon. Gentleman earlier. The whole student union movement, as well as the vice-chancellors, has welcomed the Government's climb-down on the Bill.

The NUS has welcomed what it describes as a wave of common sense from the Government, saying that the new proposals closely monitor its ideas and suggestions. The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) is looking sceptically at me as I describe the NUS support for the Government's climb- down. He has been outspoken about the Government's proposals, and what they are doing with that part of the Bill. I hope that he, too, has accepted their climb-down, and that he and those few of his colleagues who may not be happy with the concessions will not try to change the Bill or to damage the new proposals, which are acceptable to most people outside the House. Lady Olga Maitland rose

Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley) rose

Mrs. Taylor : I had better give way to the hon. Member for Colne Valley.

Mr. Riddick : I had indeed thought that I might make one or two helpful suggestions during the passage of the Bill--but I hope that the hon. Lady is not trying to sow dissent within the parliamentary Conservative party. I must deny any such suggestion.

Mrs. Taylor : It is not my job to sow dissent in the parliamentary Conservative party when it has such experts on that subject within its own ranks.

Now I shall give way to the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland).

Lady Olga Maitland : I fail to understand what the hon. Lady said about student unions. Does she or does she not agree that there has been serious abuse of taxpayers' money by the NUS for political ends ? And does she agree that the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) has said that he regards the NUS as a useful training ground for Labour politicians, and therefore justified ?

Mrs. Taylor : To find examples of massive abuse of taxpayers' money, we have only to look at the budgets that the Government give their Departments for propaganda, and the way in which those have increased over recent years. Furthermore, as has been said already by a Conservative Member, and as has always been the case, charity law can take care of any abuse within the NUS. The fact that the NUS can welcome those provisions in the Bill more or less as they now stand proves that the Government have been forced to climb down. The most serious part of the Bill, and the part that concerns me most, is part I, on teacher education. Everyone must agree that there has been much rapid change in education over recent years, and that it has taken place at a rate that few professions have experienced. Yet it is the professionalism and dedication of teachers that have prevented the service from breaking down under the strain of all the changes.

The impact on many teachers has been devastating, and

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the overall impact has been demoralising. Unfortunately, many good teachers have left the profession because of the pace and direction of change. The Opposition are happy to give credit to the teachers who have had to cope with the massive changes. We are desperately worried that, rather than enhancing teacher education, the Bill will damage it and thereby threaten the quality of education in the classroom, which should be our first concern.

It is worth stressing the simple truth that improving teacher education should have one ultimate goal--improving the quality of education for all our children. Teachers are at the heart of all the learning that takes place in our schools. They have a critical role. They should not be technicians, delivering the national syllabus. Yet at times that seems to be what Ministers want. Teachers are professionals, and should be treated as such.

The education and training of teachers must be of the highest possible quality if our children are to get the best. Children are not objects on a conveyor belt, learning a block of facts.

Mr. Brandreth : I think that most of us would agree with what the hon. Lady has just said--that it is the teachers who count. We respect and value teachers' professionalism. That is why we want new teachers to be trained with the best existing teachers within the school environment, in partnership and balance with professional education within the colleges. Surely the hon. Lady endorses the broad thrust of the Bill.

Mrs. Taylor : I advise the hon. Gentleman to read the Bill, because that is not the effect that it will have. Indeed, it will damage those objectives.

We must make it clear that, although the curriculum matters, and school buildings matter, parents know that above all else the quality of teaching matters, and that there is no substitute for it. Unfortunately, regardless of whether the Government share the objectives that I have outlined, they have again sought confrontation rather than co-operation, on that as on so many other issues. It should be possible to reach agreement on constructive suggestions to improve teacher education, to build on the undoubted good practice that already exists, and to discuss issues such as a core curriculum for teacher education, possible means of improving the induction of new teachers and, as has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Stratford -on-Avon (Mr. Howarth), the requirement for special needs awareness on the part of all teachers. Those are all important issues that we should be discussing calmly to secure improvements--but that is not Ministers' approach. Instead they have tried to impose their decisions, which is why they were defeated in the House of Lords. The Government have been forced to climb down because they have been so stubborn on so many of the fundamentals in the Bill.

Some time ago the Government suggested that teaching should no longer be an all-graduate profession, and that a mums' army should come into the classroom. Fortunately, because of overwhelming pressure, they had to drop that barmy idea, but no one should be misled into thinking that the threat to the quality of teacher education has abated simply because that one idea has been dropped. In part I there is a serious threat to the quality of teacher education. That is why we oppose the Bill. We oppose the creation of yet another quango--the Teacher Training Agency--and especially the attempt to separate teacher

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education from the rest of higher education. The Opposition have no hesitation in saying that we shall abolish the agency, because we believe that the existing framework for initial teacher training is far better than anything that the Government propose.

We are not surprised that the Government are putting more powers into the hands of a quango.

Lady Olga Maitland : The hon. Lady seems to be saying that the Opposition are satisfied with the present arrangements for teacher training. Does she not agree that the way in which teacher-training colleges today imbue their students with political indoctrination, which is passed on so that they can manipulate children, is an absolute scandal ? We have to clear that out and get back to real standards.

Mrs. Taylor : If the Government take seriously remarks such as those, it shows why they are running into such difficulty. I seem to recall that the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam said on a radio programme some time ago that she had not been to a department of teacher education. If that is still the case, I am not surprised that she makes such comments. As I have already said, a great deal concerning teacher education could be constructively discussed. We are not complacent about the quality of teacher education. I have already outlined half a dozen issues on which there could be and should be constructive discussions, but the Government are not interested in that. All they are interested in is imposing their will regardless of the realities.

Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest) : Apart from the political issues that the hon. Lady has just mentioned, would she have some concern at least for a recent survey--of about two years ago--that showed that 84 per cent. of teachers surveyed did less than five hours training in teacher-training colleges on teaching children to learn to read ? Does not she believe that that is something that needs

rectification--and urgently ? Does not she understand that the Bill will go a long way to ensuring that such a problem is solved ?

Mrs. Taylor : I shall make two points on that. The first is that the very teachers that the hon. Gentleman is criticising are those that the Government are going to entrust with the education of future teachers. The second is to point out that, yes, I am concerned if that statistic is correct ; but what have the Government been doing about it for the past 15 years ?

The Bill extends the functions of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, which retains its central role in teacher education. There seems to be, therefore, no reason why the role should not be afforded to the Higher Education Funding Council for England. However, that is not the approach of Ministers. They are intent on splitting the teaching profession from higher education and that is dangerous and bureaucratic and will lead to many problems. In another place, issues such as the importance of research and its place in future were discussed and a compromise solution was suggested by many people. However, there can be no complete solution to issues such as where educational research should lie, as the problem exists simply because the whole concept behind the Bill is flawed--the concept of separating teacher education and higher education.

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Much of the discussion that we shall want to have in Committee and, indeed, at later stages will centre on the proposal to promote wholly school-centred training. Those provisions are very difficult to justify and they undermine the partnership between the academic and professional components of teacher education. Indeed, on occasions, Ministers have praised that partnership and said how important it is. There is a need for partnership between higher education and schools if we are to get the best of both worlds for our teachers in future. I am worried about the burden of school-based training on schools and I am also worried because the Government are yet again making decisions before their own pilot schemes have been evaluated. That is not the way to proceed.

The support for partnership between teacher education and higher education is well rehearsed and was concentrated on in the House of Lords. Many people have submitted evidence that that partnership is essential if we are to get the best education for our teachers in future. Michael McCrum, master of Corpus Christi college, Cambridge, said :

"We need to build on existing successful partnerships between universities and schools . . . We need more school-based training, but not so much as to threaten the quality of children's education." He went on to say :

"We need to cut out bureaucracy, not extend it."

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