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Mr. Forman : With all the evidence to which the hon. Lady has just referred of support for voluntary partnership arrangements between higher education institutions and schools, why is she so afraid and why are her hon. Friends so afraid of the Bill ? It does not make partnership compulsory, as she would seek to do. It merely leaves open the opportunity for partnership, which she says has been taken in the majority of cases.
Mrs. Taylor : The Secretary of State says that I have a 1960s attitude. I must repeat what I said to his hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs), that, if he is to put teacher education into the hands of today's teachers, he will be putting it into the hands of those who were trained in the 1960s, which would not seem to fulfil his objectives. I do not understand why the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington, who supports the idea of partnership, does not want to enshrine the idea of partnership. Surely, if we are to build on best practice, we ought to be moving in that direction, rather than cutting off or allowing to be cut off those who will be responsible for teacher education in future.
Mr. Forman : I can give the hon. Lady the answer to that question. I trust the schools and the heads and the governing bodies to make sensible decisions, and in the vast majority of cases they will want to opt for partnership with higher education institutions.
Mrs. Taylor : The hon. Gentleman says that the vast majority of schools would make sensible decisions. The question must be asked : what if they do not ? What happens to the education of those children, which could go awry, if proper safeguards are not built in ? We are trying to build in safeguards so that the essential component of higher education is there and so that the best possible partnership
Column 615deal is made between schools and higher education. I believe that that is the way to produce the best for the future.
An OFSTED report, "The New Teacher", recommended strong and effective partnerships between schools and higher education. As the Secretary of State is keen to quote OFSTED reports when it suits him, he ought to be taking account of what his own advisers tell him on that issue. I believe that all teacher-training courses should be validated by higher education institutions. That is not only right in principle, but it also reflects best practice. Higher education institutions and schools have extensive experience of working well together. The best partnerships are created when we are building on them and are not seeking to divide and to destroy them.
The second problem that I would put to the Government
Mr. Pawsey : The hon. Lady referred to OFSTED a moment ago. Does she recall the answer that the Secretary of State gave me to a question that I put to him about reading ? He said that about 54 per cent. of students leaving training colleges did not feel sufficiently well equipped to teach reading. Given that statistic, does not she agree that there is a fundamental reason for reforming the way in which we teach and train our teachers ?
Mrs. Taylor : That is no reason for giving teacher education and training over to schools. I am concerned if that is the case, and, as I said earlier, there could be a constructive dialogue on such issues. The trouble is that the Government are not interested in anything like constructive dialogue to improve the situation. They are far more interested in confrontation and in making their own decisions regardless of evidence.
The second problem that I want to put to Ministers is that the Government's proposals seem to ignore the impact of school-based teacher training on the schools themselves. The Secretary of State retreated from his predecessor's plans to make all post-graduate trainee secondary teachers spend 8 per cent. of their time in school. The Secretary of State said that he considered that 24 weeks out of 36 spent in school would be more appropriate. That implied that the Secretary of State had some awareness of what trainee teachers required.
Unfortunately, that apparent awareness has not been reflected in the Bill. Many of those people who have been involved in school-based teacher education have commented on the difficulties that it can impose on a school. The head of St. Peter's high school in Gloucester said that the eight post-graduates in his school needed much support and advice from the staff and that an additional burden was placed upon teachers. Students who have been educated and trained in those circumstances have said things such as, "We want advice but we do not want to be a burden on teachers." We must balance the interests of children in schools and in so doing put their interests before the needs of trainee teachers.
School-based training puts pressures on schools if there is insufficient time available for teachers to teach teachers as well as children. There are pressures on funding. Clearly, extra arrangements have to be made. Many schools welcome some trainee teachers to their schools each year, but many schools feel that it is not a good idea
Column 616to have student teachers in school every year. Some pupils might find that a high proportion of their lessons were being taught by students. If we are to get the best of both worlds, we should understand the pressures and take measures to ensure that they do not overwhelm the schools that are accepting students on the present partnership arrangement.
Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West) : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Perhaps I should warn the Secretary of State that the hon. Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Evans) appears to be roaming round the Government Back Benches. We are unaware whether he is promoting his campaign for the Secretary of State to be sacked
Mrs. Taylor : I am sure that the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) was of great interest to the Secretary of State. I am sure that even now names are being taken.
Some significant changes were made to the Bill in the other place. Not least there was the Government's late acceptance of the principle that school-centred courses should be restricted to graduates only. That is important. Graduate status, however, does not automatically confer a sound understanding of child development. That is why the Labour party promoted in the other place the amendment to which the Secretary of State has referred.
The Secretary of State has said that the amendment was technically deficient, but it was passed in the other place. The right hon. Gentleman may be right, but the principle enshrined in the amendment had the overwhelming support of the majority of those who spoke at all stages of the Bill's passage in the other place. Such is the antagonism to the concept of the Bill--that of separating teacher education from higher education--that the Bill would be in great difficulty if the Government tried to overturn that which ensued in the other place. The Opposition will certainly want to improve on the amendment passed in the other place if it is technically deficient. We believe that it is the key to minimising the dangers that the Bill could create. We believe also that the proposed partnership is fundamental.
We have heard about pilot schemes. The Secretary of State will not even wait for the results of those schemes. He is so anxious to push through his legislation that he will not seek the advice of those who have been involved in pilot schemes to learn what is right, what is appropriate and what is wrong. The right hon. Gentleman has adopted the same approach to every piece of legislation with which he has been involved. The years following his appointment have been ones of turmoil. They are years that have been costly to the education of our children. At the same time, the right hon. Gentleman has learnt little.
We agree that much needs to be done to improve teacher education. Unfortunately, that is not being suggested by the Secretary of State and the necessary provisions are not in the Bill. We are opposed to the Bill in principle, but in Committee we shall be concerned to lessen the damage that it could do to teacher education.
We are concerned to defend the amendments that were won in the other place and, where appropriate, to improve
Column 617upon them. There are many other failings that should be discussed in Committee, such as the need for a general teaching council. There is great concern outside the House about the impact of the Bill. It may not be the largest or the greatest Bill that the Government have introduced, but it is certainly causing much concern. Those involved in higher education do not want the Bill. Similarly, it is not wanted by teachers. By and large, schools do not want it. The information that I have received from the National Association of Governors and Managers makes it clear that, from the governors' point of view, there are many significant problems. The governors stress that the primary function of schools is to educate their pupils. They state that teachers have not been trained to educate adults. They list a series of factors that suggest that it is irresponsible of the Secretary of State to place new tasks and responsibilities on schools when the chances of success are somewhat remote.
The Secretary of State may continue with his bunker mentality. In other words, he may continue to refuse to listen. I am sorry that the House is wasting time on the Bill because it is not a constructive or purposeful measure in terms of improving education. It is a waste of parliamentary time when there are so many urgent issues that are in need of discussion. We could have used our time to discuss when the Government will do something about nursery education. When will the Government take on board the evidence that proves that, if all three and four-year-olds had access to nursery education, they would have a better start in education thereafter ?
I am always interested when Conservative Members feel that they are under pressure. Whenever we, the Opposition, mention nursery education and the record of Labour councils that provide places for three and four-year-olds- -the record shows that parents living in Labour council areas have three times the chance of getting their children into nursery education than parents who live in Tory-controlled areas--Conservative Members feel ruffled and defensive about what is happening. We keep hearing about glorious initiatives, but it is clear that not one new nursery place
Mr. Pawsey : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. As the hon. Lady is describing changes to nursery education, surely she should endeavour to put a cost on the changes that she is suggesting. Do you feel that that would be properly in order ?
Madam Deputy Speaker : I am concerned only with whether what is being said is relevant to the subject under consideration. I remind the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) that we are dealing with the Bill's Second Reading. The matters that she raises must relate to that.
Mrs. Taylor : The Bill is about teacher training, Madam Deputy Speaker. I think that teachers would find teaching far easier if all children received nursery education. The explanatory memorandum includes phrases that relate to connected purposes. Few things are more connected and more relevant to the Bill than nursery education. I cannot understand why Conservative Members are unable to bring themselves to realise that we as a society
Column 618are facing vast costs because we do not have nursery education for three and four-year-olds. Nursery education gives youngsters the best start in education. They settle into jobs more easily later in life, are more likely to have jobs when they leave school, are less likely to truant and are less likely to be involved in juvenile crime. The advantages to society of nursery education are such that it should be a priority. If Conservative councils were providing the level of nursery education that Labour councils are offering, we should be well on our way to meeting the target.
There are other subjects that should concern us. When will the Government do something about our crumbling schools ? They have had 15 years in government and there is a £4,000 million backlog of repairs. Teachers should be teaching in decent circumstances. Instead, the Secretary of State spends his time on issues such as sex education, and not on important ones such as class size, which matters both to teachers and parents.
Mrs. Taylor : No. I have given way to the hon. Gentleman twice. I am sure that Conservative Members do not like to be reminded of the fact that the Audit Commission has said that class sizes are increasing, which is of great concern to parents, as is the quality of education of our teachers.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster) : I do not wish to stretch out the debate--that is the last thing that I want to do--but the hon. Lady should know that there is a difference between the size of classes and teacher-pupil ratios. How classes are organised is a matter for the headmaster or mistress, but the teacher-pupil ratio is going down.
Mrs. Taylor : I refer to the Audit Commission's report that states that class sizes are increasing because of the formula on the local management of schools. As teachers become more experienced, they command higher salaries, which leads to a rising claim on schools' budgets. That is not a Labour party report, but an Audit Commission report. The hon. Lady would do well to look at the evidence. Just before Christmas, the Prime Minister said that 15 per cent. of children in Britain received an education that was as good as education anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, he then went on to say that the rest did not. That is an incredible indictment of 15 years of Conservative government. The Bill will do nothing to improve education standards in this country and could even threaten them. We should be enhancing the quality of teaching by ensuring that all our teachers have the right level of experience.
The Secretary of State may not be in his present position for very long, but if he is to learn anything from his tenure of office, he should by now have learned to consult and to listen. The fact that he has failed to do so is shown by the tatty Bill now before the House. We shall oppose it today. It is a suitable swansong for the Secretary of State that his legislative signing-off should come in the form of such a potentially damaging Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has learned nothing during his two years' tenure of office. We will oppose the Bill today, but we will still try to amend and improve it in Committee.
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Sir Rhodes Boyson (Brent, North) : I support the Bill. Some of it will have to be amended and returned to the good health with which it started its life in the other place. The Bill is helpful to British education.
Bit by bit the powers of the National Union of Students to influence politically youth and other people in the country have been wiped out and are probably coming to an end. In terms of politics, the NUS has done more to damage the image of students in this country than any other organisation over the past 30 years. The grant system would have been more generous if people throughout the country had felt that students were going to university not to become anarchists and Stalinist infiltrators
Sir Rhodes Boyson : I would not say gay livers--sometimes they can be reformed better than others. The NUS has had a damaging influence on the students of this country, and the students' image will improve now that the NUS has less influence.
Nobody should be compelled to be a member of a certain body, except by their citizenship--and it is even possible for people to emigrate if they want. I do not like closed shops and I welcome the end of the last closed shop.
Mr. Don Foster rose
Mr. Foster : In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman said that, if passed, the legislation would enhance students' status and that the main reason why students had lost out in grant support was their low status, will he join us in the Lobby to try to increase financial support for students ?
Sir Rhodes Boyson : I must seek the defence of Madam Deputy Speaker, otherwise I shall have to make another speech. If I do that I shall talk too long and other hon. Members will not be able to contribute, which would make me unpopular in the House. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to discuss the subject with me at length on another occasion, I am sure that we can find a suitable time.
I am most concerned about teacher training. The key to educational advance is to have good teachers in the classrooms teaching the right subjects with discipline. Unless we have good teachers, it does not matter what curriculums or tests we have, there will be no advantage to this country. I have a long experience of teaching and I want to concentrate on teacher training.
Do we need training ? It was not until recently that teachers undertook long training sessions. Does that training improve student teachers ? Many public schools have been staffed by non-trained teachers and their pupils have won places at Oxford and Cambridge by sitting the same examinations as other students--and usually they play good rugby along the way. Sometimes, teachers return to university and take degrees later. I know many public school heads who have never done a day's training and who I would like to see at the head of any institution in this country.
The idea that everyone has to be trained should be
Column 620challenged. The Labour party never challenges orthodoxy--the thought of doing so horrifies it, which is why it still retains clause 4.
Mr. Patrick Thompson : Does my right hon. Friend recall the reference made by the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) to non- graduate teachers ? Whatever the future may hold, with his experience of teaching, will my right hon. Friend confirm that in the past many excellent teachers in the classroom did not hold professional university degrees ? That is probably true of current teachers as well.
Sir Rhodes Boyson : That is correct. I employed such teachers in schools and they were particularly good--what mattered was what they could do inside the classroom. I trust that teacher training helps, but in many cases non-teacher trainees had better control of their classrooms than teachers with degrees and other qualifications behind them. Not so long ago anyone with a degree could be taken on as a secondary school teacher in the state sector. I think that there used to be a better intake of teachers then than there is now. Potential teachers tried teaching ; they disappeared after a month or two if they could not cope.
I have been told that the present calibre of potential teachers--judged by the percentage of those with lower-class degrees--is worse than in any other profession. I should like to check that statistic. That was certainly not the case in the past, when graduates with first-class honours degrees tried teaching to see whether they could do it--some of them obtained training after they had gained some experience of teaching. The idea that training has always been with us, which is why we have always had a good educational system, is wrong.
Mr. Patten : I can help my right hon. Friend with his earlier question. It is a sad but true statistic that OFSTED, the independent inspectorate, recently reported that, in its view, about one in 10 of the output of teachers from teacher training higher education institutions were not fit to be teachers. That sad statistic must be put right, which is why we are introducing the reforms.
Sir Rhodes Boyson : That is why the Bill is before the House. I sometimes think that training for teachers--certainly at sixth form level-- is a restrictive lower-middle class practice that should be considered by us at some stage.
Some 20 per cent. of teachers do not need training. They are simply born to teach and are only spoilt when they go away to train. Whatever we do, some 20 per cent. of teachers will always remain at the bottom of the pile, unable to cope. They will have a riot with a dead rabbit whenever they enter a classroom. The 60 per cent. of teachers in the middle will show some degree of improvement along the way. I am an agnostic or even an atheist when it comes to the idea that we must worship training.
If we are to have training, what do we do about it and where should it take place ? I must put it on the record that I am trained as a teacher. I am trained to teach in primary schools, particularly in phonics. Originally, I was a specialist in reading, which few people in the country know. I trained under Professor Oliver, who was a great philosopher. I shall refer later to part of his philosophy that
Column 621was not very applicable in the classroom. It will be a treat for the House when I come to that near the end of my speech.
The best teachers that I have ever met were trained in one of two ways. Many of them have now disappeared. The first were student teachers. They took the equivalent of the A levels and were then given free training in schools, and they then had free training after that. When I was a head, my first deputy head was trained in that way. He was a teacher to his fingertips in everything that he did. Student teachers were trained entirely in the school and they had to attend lectures outside. They were marvellous--they were some of the best teachers that we have ever had in this country.
The second best group of teachers, of which there is no equivalent now, were the emergency trained teachers who were trained after the second world war when we were short of teachers. They were mature men and women who had served in the forces, many of them for six years. They came back and were trained in 13 months. How were they trained ? That is what matters to us today. They were trained in emergency training colleges by heads and deputy heads who were on one and two-year secondments. They were taught by people who knew what was happening in the classroom. They were not taught highfalutin' theories which had no relation even to a rabbit hutch ; they were taught how to get children under control and how to teach them reading and writing. They were the best. Without them, the school-leaving age would not have been raised. The age was raised during my first year of teaching. Schools were carried by emergency-trained teachers. Many people up to the age of 30 were trained by teachers.
Trainee teachers should not be sent to higher education institutions--they could be ruined there. They would be bored stiff and be contaminated with the wrong ideas.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : Does my right hon. Friend accept that one of the finest teachers whom I ever met at one of our secondary schools was trained in precisely that way ? Does he also accept that those who came after and who are now in our schools realise how much they depended on those who had the discipline of that sort of training and of serving in the forces ?
Sir Rhodes Boyson : There should be teaching schools--that is, schools where teachers are trained totally inside them. Such schools would need special staffing. We need teaching schools like our teaching hospitals. Medics are not trained to be general practitioners by taking them miles away. Those who will be operating surgeons are trained by operating surgeons doing the job. That is the only way to train teachers. Doctors walk alongside the students and see the operations taking place. That is what we want. We want teaching schools like our teaching hospitals. It seems that Labour wants more higher education--or probably longer education. I sometimes doubt whether it is even higher education. Labour wants higher education, instead of doing something for the person who matters the most--the child in the classroom.
I do not know the views of the Secretary of State, but there should be staff colleges like those in the services. Once again, people should not be brought in from universities and all that other crap. [Interruption.] Madam Deputy Speaker, you must excuse me--I got carried away
Column 622and I did not hear what I was saying. That is rare in the House. If it was an unparliamentary expression, it is one that none of us heard.
Sir Rhodes Boyson : I am grateful to my hon. Friend--it was crafts. I turn to the question of qualifications. The qualifications for teachers in this country are different from those elsewhere. In most of the continent, teachers are qualified to teach one or two subjects only in certain age groups--they cannot teach outside that. The odd thing is that, unlike the masters certificate in the merchant navy or a licence for driving, a British teaching certificate enables a teacher to teach anywhere. I gained from that.
As I said, I trained for primary schools and I applied for jobs in primary schools. At that time, there was a surplus of teachers and I was not appointed. One day when I came out, the deputy education officer for Lancashire touched me on the shoulder and asked whether I would like to start tomorrow as a head of department in a secondary school. I said yes. That is what the Secretary of State should do with the Bill. [Interruption.] Madam Deputy Speaker, you must protect me from having conversations with my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman).
The teaching certificate should say whether it is for primary or secondary, and the subjects to be taught. One of the worst aspects of British education is that timetables are often filled by people who have no interest or qualifications in a subject but no one else wants to teach it. Games, religious education and other subjects were ruined because of that. The subjects should be specified. If people think that training is so important, for goodness sake, training that is done in an institution must relate to what one does afterwards ; otherwise, teaching by osmosis seems to be strange.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster referred to the calibre of teachers, but I must not bring her in again. What matters in schools is the calibre of teachers, not the number. More schools in the country would be better run by two thirds of the staff and the rest of the money should be used to increase their salaries. Unless we do that, we will not improve the calibre of teachers coming in. That is the important thing. We have one of the smallest teacher-pupil ratios in the world ; it is half that of the Japanese and the Israelis. If the NUT campaigned for fewer teachers on higher salaries, that would do more for education than is being done at present.
I shall move on quickly because I do not want to take too long. There is something wrong with standards. I know that we have been in office for 15 years and I know what happened before. One is glad to see signs of sensibility coming back to the Labour party. Obviously, it will take another 10 years before sensibility returns completely, but there is some coming in now. The national curriculum has been taken on board, as have other things. It is interesting that we have had to fight for every reform. People must know that they owe nothing to the Labour party for the reforms. Ten years later, Labour Members catch up. In 10 years' time, they will be advocating what I am saying now if we give them time. If we give them pep pills in between, the process may be quicker. People owe Labour nothing. In Committee, we fought for every reform--I was on Standing Committees for four years--and others here
Column 623fought in the House. Of course, it is all sweetness and light now. In another five or 10 years' time, Labour will be saying the same as we are saying now.
There are two important things in teaching, apart from the natural calibre of teachers. One is proper training. That means watching a master teacher teach. It does not mean being in a group of 500 listening to a lecture from someone who has views on education which have never been put into practice- -and never will be--inside a classroom. In my last headship, I had a head of remedial who was fantastic. I would not say that I am of the same calibre as him--I have never seen anyone like him. I used to put staff alongside him for three months before they went into the main school. They learnt things. To pay that man an extra £5,000 or £10,000 to train teachers, let us try that in our schools. The status of the profession would be raised if teachers trained themselves.
I mentioned Professor Oliver. The school leaving age was raised in my first year of teaching. That reform was not greeted with enthusiasm by those who had to stay at school another year instead of getting a job, nor was it acclaimed by teachers who had to control those pupils in the classroom. The second raising of the school leaving age occurred in my last year of teaching.
Sir Rhodes Boyson : Yes, and that is why the hon. Gentleman is here now. This is our escape. We must have a drink together afterwards. I was given class 3c because there was not a 3z. Those pupils, some of whom are still my friends, were the most awkward characters that I had ever met, and their big concern was to get out of school. The headmaster's job was similar to mine--to get them to a technical college three miles away driving there in the morning, returning in the afternoon. I was allowed a full curriculum, anything that I wanted as long as those pupils did not return to school. They nearly drove me out of teaching. After my first two months I decided that I could not control one of them.
That year the first snow came in November to Ramsbottom, from where Albert came and was eaten by the lion. At that time, his was the only name on the honours board of that school. I had to teach the class in a laboratory and the gas and water taps added to the excitement. I blew the whistle for the class to come in but nobody appeared and when I went out the pupils were pointing not to the Archangel Gabriel, but to the second-floor roof on which was a boy whom I called "C", and he was the most difficult boy in the class. They said, "What are you going to do about him, sir ?". Fortunately I had been trained in the navy and I climbed the drainpipe all the way. This is all public knowledge because I have written it up. I got hold of the boy and brought him down, kicking him as we came. There was no corporal punishment, of course. When we got to the bottom there was a great cheer and the class said, "Good old sir. That was good, sir." They ran in like a set of whippets and I had no more trouble with them. One must pay attention to great philosophy, but one must also be sure that one can climb the rigging.
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Mr. Greg Pope (Hyndburn) : I am not sure that I can follow the exploits of the right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) who seems to be the Whacko of the current Parliament. When asked which is the best football team in the land, the right hon. Gentleman usually gives the right answer, but when asked about education policy, he seems to become more eccentric as the days go by. I hope that he will forgive me for saying that.
I was intrigued by his idea that, if teaching standards are not high enough, the answer is to abolish teacher education. Of course, what the right hon. Gentleman says today the Secretary of State will say tomorrow, and no doubt in Committee the Minister will move amendments to that effect.
Given the massive divergence between the Bill and the Secretary of State's original proposals, I am surprised that he is even prepared to give it a second glance, never mind a Second Reading. I hope that the Bill will fall, but I guess that it will arrive on the statute book at about the same time as an ungrateful Prime Minister dispatches the Secretary of State to the Back Benches. Even executive members of the 1922 Committee are on the BBC openly calling for the Secretary of State to be sacked. It is not often that the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) speaks for the whole House, but on this occasion there will be no discord.
The Bill is a massive humiliation for the Secretary of State. Throughout 1992 and 1993, we heard much about what became known as the mums' army--the idea that allowing under-qualified and under-trained people into our classrooms would in some way raise teaching standards. That is not in the Bill, because the Secretary of State finally discovered what everybody else in education knew in the first place--that the proposals were unworkable and unsound, and would lead to a lowering of teaching standards. Throughout that time, the Secretary of State managed to convey the impression that his vision of education amounted to advertisements which said, "Vacancy, teacher required, no experience necessary."
Another damaging proposal, to divorce teacher training from higher education institutions, appeared in the Bill when it was published in November, but that was radically amended in the other place. I understand that the Government intend to overturn that amendment in Committee, and the Secretary of State said as much in his speech. I urge the Government to exercise caution on that. I hope that everyone agrees that teachers need a theoretical as well as a practical background. Information on issues such as special needs, child development and classroom management need to be imparted to potential teachers before they go in at the deep end in classrooms. Schools are under increasing pressure because of constant changes to the curriculum and on testing, and should not be expected to take the lead role in teacher education. Higher education institutions provide recognised qualifications for teachers with which all schools can identify, and it is unlikely that qualifications which are accredited by schools alone would carry quite the same weight.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Further and Higher Education (Mr. Tim Boswell) : I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument with interest. Does he accept that it is for schools and their teachers and governors to decide whether to participate in school
Column 625teacher training ? Secondly, does he accept that the accreditation of these courses would not be by schools alone but by the agency that would be established by the legislation ?
Mr. Pope : The problem is that, at almost every stage, the Government seek to abdicate responsibility. The questions that were asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) were not answered by the Secretary of State who will be responsible for determining the total number of teacher training places. What will happen if the schools that are given responsibility for teacher training do not come up to scratch ? Such questions have not been answered. It seems that, as ever, the Government are saying, "It has nothing to do with us."
If the Government had wanted to improve and enhance the professional standing of teachers, they could have used the Bill to create a general teaching council--a proposal that is supported by many people in education. The proposed Teacher Training Agency will be yet another quango. The Government suffer from that terrible affliction, quangomania. One glance at the Secretary of State's most recent quango creation, the Funding Agency for Schools, leads us to believe that the Teacher Training Agency would be packed with the Government's dwindling band of supporters. Teachers deserve better than that.
Part II represents the Secretary of State's deepest humiliation. The original proposals, which were published last July in a consultation paper, suggested dividing student union activities between core and non-core services. The Secretary of State was told at the time--I was one of those who told him, as the Official Report will show--that the proposals were not just damaging, but half-baked and unworkable. They do not now appear in the Bill.
The Secretary of State told the House that the proposals by the National Union of Students on opting out did not go far enough, and that he wanted students to have to opt in to student unions. He has been forced to back down on that as well. In its original form, the Bill contained sweeping powers that would have allowed the Secretary of State to intervene in the affairs of universities and academic institutions. The proposals were met in almost equal part with ridicule and outrage by the people involved in running those institutions. It is no surprise that the Government were forced to withdraw them during the Bill's passage through the other place. The Secretary of State told last year's Tory party conference that he would end the scandal of taxpayers' money being spent on political campaigns by student unions. At the Tory party conference he said, "Promises made, promises kept." How they must have cheered back in October, but a more apt description would have been : daft promises made, daft promises broken.
Leaving aside the vast amounts of taxpayers' money that the Secretary of State wastes on political campaigns, such as the outrageous amount that was spent on propping up the failed policy of opted-out schools by taking out adverts in our national newspapers, the Secretary of State must have known when he made those comments that student unions spend less than 1 per cent. of their funds on campaigning.
If he knew that when he made that speech to the Tory party conference, why did he say what he did, other than to get cheap applause at the conference itself ? If he did not
Column 626know it, that is more serious. Why did he not know it ? After all, those figures came from a survey commissioned by his own Department. The Secretary of State also said that he would end the National Union of Students' closed shop. There are times when it is hard to determine which the Secretary of State knows least about--student unions or employment law. They are not closed shops, and that has been accepted not only by the European Court of Human Rights but by previous Conservative Education Ministers.
Back in June 1992, the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman), who was then an Education Minister, told the House that student unions were not closed shops. He also said that the NUS differed from a closed shop in that individual unions themselves determine whether or not to affiliate. Students are not employees, and the NUS is not a trade union. Therefore, under previous employment legislation, it cannot operate a closed shop. By omitting any reference to the term "closed shop", the Bill tacitly accepts that.
All that humiliation for the Secretary of State would have been avoidable and unnecessary if only he had listened--something that the Government seem incapable of doing. If, a year ago, the Secretary of State and his Ministers had listened to the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals or to the National Union of Students instead of the more neanderthal elements on the Conservative Back Benches who are in their places this evening, he would not be in the sorry mess he is in today.
Part II is now so watered down that it is effectively sunk. It bears little resemblance to the Bill as published in November, and even less to the original proposals published last July. Part II as it stands could almost be mistaken for the NUS proposals. Perhaps this is the Secretary of State's new image : the student unions' friend, the champion of the NUS in Parliament. I hope so, because the National Union of Students deserves a great deal of credit for the way in which it has opposed the more outlandish proposals contained in the consultation document and the original Bill.
There are still concerns about part II of the Bill, in particular the procedures relating to the triggering of ballots on external affiliations. Particularly in small colleges, a tiny number of students could trigger a ballot year on year, even though those ballots produced overwhelming majorities in favour of continuing affiliation to external organisations such as the National Union of Students. The triggering of such ballots and the consequent expense is not a sensible use of public funds.
There are also problems relating to provisions for
non-members--those who choose to take up the conscience clause and opt out of NUS or local student union membership. There is still some work to be done on that. It is interesting that the NUS wishes to be constructive in helping the Government to implement the proposals. I hope that, in Committee, the Government take the NUS up on that offer, so that those who have opted out of NUS membership have access to union services.
There is little to disagree with in part II, so complete has been the Secretary of State's humiliation. It is now an unnecessary piece of legislation. The same ends that now appear in part II could easily have been achieved through discussions with the interested bodies last year.
The only reason why part II exists and we are debating it this afternoon is that it would have been one humiliation too far for the Secretary of State to withdraw it. It exists