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Column 639hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North, I believe that teachers' pay is important, but it is not the only thing that affects teachers' status. That is why I raise again the question of some sort of professional body for teachers.
We need to ensure that teachers--whether school-based or college-based--are able to instruct their pupils in the basic skills to the very highest standards--the three Rs, or whatever one likes to call them. As an ex- physics teacher, I attach great importance to basic standards in English and mathematics. I also believe in high standards in academic subjects, for example, a language or a science. The Government have been right all along to speak out for high standards in the face of those who are always trying to "level down" and bring the mediocre into our schools. They have been right to strive for higher academic standards and higher standards generally and we also want teachers to teach vocational, technical and craft skills to the highest standards.
I am arguing for rigour in teaching and teacher training because there is a risk of a lack of rigour. The hon. Member for Bath was a physics teacher and I am sure that he will agree that there is a tendency for pupils to go for the easier option, the soft subject. I have made myself unpopular by referring to some degree courses that I regard as soft subjects, but there are many.
Mr. Thompson : What about social sciences for a start ? I shall not go any further because I am taking a grave risk. I know that members of all parties share the view that there is a need for rigour in education. Again, I must be careful when I say that those of us who follow the media and read the newspapers--far be it from me to criticise them--know that there is a great deal of shallow thinking about. The only way to put that right is to increase rigour in education.
I hope that the Bill will build on the Government's education reforms of the 1980s, which were a long-overdue revolution in the interests of children, parents and teachers. No doubt the wilder elements--I choose my words carefully--of the National Union of Teachers will continue to sing a lament for the trendy education nostrums, unstructured teaching and the low standards of attainment and discipline of the 1960s, but, fortunately, all that is now irrelevant. The task now is to build logically on what has been achieved since 1988. Evolution, not revolution, is the order of the day and the Bill must be part of that detailed evolutionary process. I hope that my colleagues will listen carefully to responsible voices in the teaching profession who want them to get it right. I support the Bill.
Ms Estelle Morris (Birmingham, Yardley) : I was about to say that the speech made by the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson) was a measured one but that was before his comment about social science degrees. As someone with such a degree, I shall refrain from saying what I had intended to say.
As the Secretary of State said, today is the 15th anniversary of the election of the 1979 Conservative Government. I had not woken up thinking about that this morning--it is not a date that I put in my diary--but it
Column 640reminds me that tomorrow must be the 15th anniversary of Mrs. Thatcher's famous speech made on the steps of No. 10 Downing street when she said :
"Where there is error, may we bring truth."
The Bill, introduced 15 years after the election of a Conservative Government, does nothing to bring truth but simply perpetuates error in the Government's education policy.
The right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) described some of the scenes that she saw in classrooms. She described students as pathetic creatures by virtue of the way in which they were being taught. I was left wondering why someone who had held ministerial office in the then Department of Education had not taken steps long ago to put right teacher training if she felt that it was that bad. I am inclined to believe that she was making a generalisation based on something that she had seen and of which she did not approve. The same fault can be attributed to a number of Conservative Members. Nothing is perfect is this life, and I am not the person to say that teacher training is perfect, but to take isolated examples and extrapolate from them a need for a new Bill is not worthy of Government.
The Bill owes its existence more to the Department for Education's obsession with legislation than to any need to change initial teacher training drastically. There is no doubt that in the past two decades since I did my teacher training there have been steady and significant improvements. There is now closer integration with the rest of higher education, a proposal that I believe emanated from the days when Baroness Thatcher was Secretary of State for Education, and from the James report. We have witnessed the introduction of an all-graduate profession, and there is greater emphasis on teacher trainers themselves having teaching experience. We no longer recruit teachers from the ranks of those who failed to get graduate degree places, and teaching has been put firmly where it belongs--in the mainstream of higher education.
In picking out the improvements that have been made to teacher training, I give credit to the measures introduced by the Conservative Government. Their actions, and those introduced by a Labour Government, have brought about a steadier improvement than we saw in the 1950s and 1960s. However, the Bill is a backward step. It reflects the historic notion that teaching can be learnt in the workplace--the old monitorial system--and not the reality, which is that teaching is a complex and changing business.
The speech of the right hon. Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson), which many hon. Members found humorous, was sad. He offered us reminiscences through the history of education but, if he really believes that we can draw on that history and learn lessons for the future of teaching, he is sadly mistaken. He told us a story about a group of children of whom he had charge and who were excluded from the curriculum and sent out of school every day. He told us about the antics that he had to perform--for example, climbing drainpipes--in order to get the respect of those children. If he believes that such things are still happening in schools and that it what we are training teachers for, he is sadly out of touch with education in the 1990s.
Today, all children are part of the national curriculum. They should all be taking GCSEs and we have the highest expectations of every one of them. We want them to continue in education for as long as possible. There are no lessons to be learnt from the teachers of the 1950s and
Column 6411960s who were in the same position as the right hon. Member for Brent, North. We do not want those lessons. We want a realisation that teaching needs to be innovative and that it is complex and demanding. We are discussing training for that job, not training for the job that the right hon. Member did two, three and four decades ago.
The Bill's flaw is a serious misunderstanding of what is needed to make an effective teacher. Teaching is not only about a set of skills that one can practise until one has got it right. One cannot divide teaching into competencies that can be ticked when they have been mastered--one can or cannot hold the chalk, or one can or cannot write on the board. There is not a single body of knowledge that is the key to success. Most important, teaching is about understanding how children learn and how they succeed. It is about understanding that the way in which a school organises itself can affect whether a child can learn successfully, that what a child goes home to at night and what his family are like can affect whether he succeeds and that the environment and community in which his family live and in which the school operates determines whether he can be successful.
Ms Morris : Of course not. Labour Members have been saying that such things are taught by a combination of theory and practice. Conservatives Members are saying that teacher training can be solely school-based and left to the charge of schools. It is they who are seeking to divorce theory from practice, not Opposition Members. Before that interruption, I was referring to matters that are grounded in educational theory. Successful teacher education combines theory and practice and sees one reflected in the other.
Universities must work closely with schools. I am not in favour of isolating teachers in universities, but the Bill shifts the emphasis from universities to schools in a way that gets the relationship between the two wrong. The title of part I--"Teacher Training"--best sums up the misunderstanding of those who propose it. People cannot be trained to be teachers. Teachers are not technicians or apprentices learning a trade. They need to learn facts and processes. They have to be adaptable and innovative, but that will not be achieved if teacher education is divorced from the rest of higher education, as is being done here.
During my years in teaching, one of the things that I wanted most but did not happen--it still does not happen--was a period out of the classroom to reflect on what I had been doing. I wanted time out to reflect on the practice, to go back to the theory, the ideas--the ideology, if that is how some hon. Members want to think of it--and see how they mixed. I had such opportunities only when I was training to be a teacher. During the years of training, the opportunity to go into school and be the practitioner but also to talk, receive support and go over what one had done, adapting it and going back to the classroom and improving, was extremely valuable. We should be giving more teachers that opportunity, rather than taking it away from students who are training to be teachers.
One aspect of the Bill is the arrogant assumption that schools want to be, and can be, bases for school-centred courses. A school is primarily a place to teach children, not a place to teach teachers. Teachers are not trained to teach
Column 642teachers, although they have a valuable role to play. Most teachers are not trained even to teach adults. Why should our best teachers be taken away from the classroom to teach people who could be better taught elsewhere ? If we are not to perpetuate the inadequacies that still exist in some schools, the people who teach teachers in schools must be the best practitioners. Otherwise we shall fossilise poor teaching and fail to improve things. My choice is to have the best teachers teaching the pupils, and not the teachers. The Bill will, of necessity, draw those people away from that important and fundamental task.
Mr. Butler : I am grateful to the hon. Lady for allowing me to intervene, rather than interrupt, for a second time. She is quite correct to say that the best teachers should be in the classroom. Should not those seeking to emulate them be able to watch them, as is proposed in the Bill ?
Ms Morris : I do not know when the hon. Gentleman was last in a school or last went to a teacher education course. In the teaching experience part of university courses, the first thing that one does is to sit in and watch teachers taking lessons. There is a great difference between that situation, in which the student remains the responsibility of the lecturer, and the student being the responsibility of the teacher. The latter puts on teachers an onus that is burdensome and prevents them from doing their work with the pupils.
Lady Olga Maitland : The hon. Lady may have missed the point about the whole principle of a trainee teacher going into schools. For years, trainee teachers have been complaining that their courses are so bound up in theory that they never learn the art of classroom management. [Interruption.] Hon. Members are wrong. Trainee teachers complain bitterly that they have not been getting experience that they badly need. If Opposition Members want an example, let me refer them to a teacher called Maria Foster, who, at St. Peter's high school in Gloucester, was involved in one of these teacher-based courses. She gave great credit for the chance to be in the classroom, where she felt that she would benefit most.
Ms Morris : It is quite clear-- [Interruption.] The hon. Lady, from whom we have just had a very long intervention, should have the courtesy to listen to the answer. That is perhaps the best example of the fact that we still have error rather than truth. If the hon. Lady knows of one educational institution that trains teachers without putting them in the classroom, she ought to report it immediately to the Secretary of State for Education. Any institution doing so would be acting without the law. Being in schools is experience of teaching. I do not know anyone who has followed a course accrediting him or her to be a teacher without having had practice in the classroom. If the hon. Lady does, she ought to do something about it.
Mr. Jamieson : Does my hon. Friend agree that if the "mums' army" proposal had not been thrown out, quite rightly, by the House of Lords, potential teachers could have found themselves being taught by people who were themselves barely qualified ?
Column 643I want to return to what is wrong about putting the emphasis on placing teacher training in schools. Not only does that disrupt the work of schools and of good teachers, but--this is more
important--schools may not be able to provide the necessary consistency and coherence. A recent OFSTED report on articled teachers--a school-based teacher training scheme--discovered "The degree of inconsistency was more evident than in conventional PGCE courses. Schools and teachers varied in the nature and quality of support they provided. Weaknesses also arose from poor school placements, badly designed courses and inefficient management." Those comments could well be the verdict on the school-based teacher education that might be introduced as a result of the Bill. At present, the Further Education Funding Council provides the quality control and assurance. The Bill will remove teacher education from that successful structure.
The current link between higher education and schools is good not only for students but for schools. Students and teacher trainers bring to schools new ideas and materials. Indeed, the link between schools and higher education that is part of the current arrangements can contribute to a school's professional development.
The Bill is so unnecessary that one must assume that there is more to it than meets the eye. An intervention by the hon. Member for-- [Interruption.] --Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) confirmed my worst fears. For a moment I forgot what constituency the hon. Lady represents but was helped out by one of my hon. Friends. How I forgot I do not know. The Bill reflects the Government's deep prejudice against what they see as the educational establishment. We have heard from various Secretaries of State--most recently last week from the Home Secretary-- expressions of suspicion that teachers educated in so-called left-wing trendy universities are responsible for lowering standards and corrupting our youth.
Once again, having identified the wrong problem, the Government, through the Bill, have come up with the same old solution, much loved and readily grasped by them, "Let's give power to the Secretary of State and let's appoint a quango." The Govenrnment now suffer from a serious malady-- "quangoitis" or what my hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Mr. Pope) called quango mania. The Secretary of State has given us two quangos in two years. In fact, he has more power to hand out jobs than do some jobcentres.
The ranks of the Tory faithful must again be expectant at the prospect of even more appointments coming their way by gift of the Secretary of State for Education. The right hon. Gentleman already controls what is taught and how it is assessed. Now he wants to control how the teachers are taught and which courses should be funded. Never has there been a Secretary of State for Education who has striven so successfully to achieve political correctness. No one is saying that initial teacher training is perfect. There are real difficulties. There are real problems to be overcome. There are difficulties in combining theory and practice effectively. For example, how can we teach young teachers to motivate children who come from homes that place little or no value on education, or to exert effective discipline over 40 small children ? How can we constantly
Column 644remind teachers to place firmly within their ideology the fact that their expectations of a child will be a crucial element in that child's success ? Those difficulties must at the very least be described as a challenge for those who have to address the issue of teacher training.
However, the Bill will not help to meet that challenge. By isolating student teachers from other graduates, by failing to realise that effective teachers master the process that links theory with practice and by placing a burden on schools that will detract from their main purpose, the Bill fails to meet the only criterion by which it can be judged--whether it will improve effective teaching and learning in our schools. The Bill makes no contribution to that task, which is the task of all of us. For those reasons, it does not deserve the support of the House.
I was slightly concerned to hear my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State say that the Bill represents the last piece of the jigsaw. I believe that there is still more work to be done. We need to complete the process of freeing educational institutions from the control of local education authorities. We started the process with the polytechnics--the universities already had their freedom--and we continued it with sixth form and further education colleges. It is now time that we did the same with all secondary schools. My right hon. Friend may remember--although he probably does not-- that on Second Reading of the Education Bill of 1993 I argued that we should turn all secondary schools into grant-maintained schools.
I believe that we should turn all secondary schools into grant-maintained schools, so that effectively they would compete as autonomous schools, albeit within the state sector. I think that education policy is going down that route anyway. The benefits to be obtained from grant-maintained status are now well known, and it will be difficult for the Labour party to argue at the next general election that it would abolish all grant-maintained schools. As for the speech delivered from the Opposition Front Bench, it was interesting to hear the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) wriggling so tremendously when challenged about her position on the National Union of Teachers' boycott of tests. Now that Sir Ron Dearing has made appropriate changes, I see no excuse for such behaviour by any of the teaching unions. Yet the hon. Member for Dewsbury refused to condemn the test boycotts proposed by the NUT. She should be ashamed of herself ; her refusal to condemn the NUT was disgraceful. It is pathetic, and an indictment of the Labour party, that it feels unable to condemn a teaching union that recommends such disreputable action. It shows, I suppose, that the Labour party is still in the pocket of the trade unions.
Most of the speeches in the debate so far have concentrated on the teacher- training aspects of the Bill, so I shall concentrate on the second part of the Bill, which relates to student unions. [Hon. Members :-- "Surprise,
Column 645surprise."] I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be delighted to hear that. He may remember that I initiated an Adjournment debate on the subject in June 1992.
Last December I had the pleasure of speaking to Conservative students at Hull university. Before the meeting I went into the student union shop to buy a newspaper, only to find that The Sun and The Daily Star were banned on the ground that they were sexist. [Interruption.] That censorship had been ordered by the student union executive, and Opposition Members may be interested to know that it was supported by the Labour students. Indeed, I heard one or two hon. Members shout, "Hear, hear," when I said that The Sun and The Daily Star had been banned for being sexist.
Mr. Enright : Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the pictures displayed on page 3 of The Sun and The Daily Star are the sort of thing that we should put before our children ? Or does he agree with the students that we should set a moral tone, and that such perversion should not be thrust into our homes ?
Mr. Riddick : I am interested to hear that the hon. Gentleman is in favour of censorship. I am not sure that students would be altogether pleased by his referring to them as children. I should have thought that once they are beyond the age of 18 they are old enough to decide for themselves whether to read those newspapers. Indeed, if they are offended by such pictures, they do not have to look at them. It is as easy as that. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman never looks at the offending pictures, does he ?
Mr. Riddick : My hon. Friend makes an interesting suggestion, but I do not believe in censorship, so I want to see The Sun on sale, despite any reservations that I may have about it now. Incidentally, my hon. Friends may be interested to know that at Hull university I would have been able to buy a copy of a rag called Socialist Worker , which was on sale at the entrance to the student union when I went in.
I had also visited Hull students union the year before ; my speech cannot have been all that bad, because I was invited back the following year to speak to the Conservative students again. The first year, I was threatened with physical violence because I had had the temerity to point out in my speech--I suppose it was a slightly provocative or controversial speech-- that the implementation of socialism by the communists in eastern Europe, China, Africa and Asia had caused more misery, poverty and death than the Nazis under Hitler ever managed to achieve. A small minority of left-wing students did not like my message, so they threatened me with violence. Such unrepresentative behaviour gives students as a whole a bad name, and that is most unfortunate.
There are many examples of abuses perpetrated by student unions and the NUS. Innumerable left-wing causes have been supported, anti-abortionists have been victimised, and even the IRA has received support from within the student union movement.
Mr. Pope : I am sorry to hear that the hon. Gentleman was threatened at Hull university--the university that I attended--but does he accept that he was threatened or intimidated, not by the student union itself, but by members of it ? It is important to draw that distinction.
My next example comes from somewhere not far from the hon. Gentleman's constituency. The Conservative association at Lancaster university was fined £400 by the students union there because it had the nerve to suggest that the student union's commercial activities could be organised in a more orderly and effective way.
So far as I am concerned, individual students can say or do whatever they wish. However, I object when a small number of students do and say extreme or absurd things in the name of all students, and at the taxpayer's expense. I also object to the fact that young people who go to study in institutions of higher education find that they have to belong to the local student union. The fact that they have no choice is a shocking state of affairs. I do not suppose that it is a state of affairs about which Opposition Members care very much, but I think that it is a serious matter.
Many students have complained to me about the student closed shop. More than 200 Members of Parliament signed an early-day motion calling for the student closed shop to be abolished, and 50 or so Members attended the Adjournment debate, which was an indication of the interest and concern felt in the House about abuses in the student union closed shop. Students should have the freedom to decide for themselves whether they wish to belong to their local student union. We have abolished the trade union closed shop ; it is time to abolish the student union closed shop as well. That is what the Bill, albeit in its truncated form, is intended to do.
The Bills's original intention of splitting the political and campaigning activities from the provision of services was the right approach. It would have given individual students the right to opt into the political aspects of student union activities, while, at the same time, allowing all students to enjoy the benefits currently provided by student unions. It would certainly have maximised choice. Unfortunately, the dinosaur defenders of the status quo have managed to blunt the original intention.
First, the officials in the Department for Education produced proposals, which, in my view, were too complicated and too bureaucratic. Of course, it is fair to point out that the officials in that same Department were also responsible for producing proposals in relation to the implementation of the national curriculum, which were too complicated and too bureaucratic. It is time that the officials in the Department learnt their lesson from that. Secondly, the vice-chancellors and others in the House of Lords
Mr. Patten : I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. His is one of the best speeches that I have heard all evening. It is only Ministers who decide and only Ministers who are responsible. So, if my hon. Friend has strictures, his lash must be aimed at my back or at the back of my predecessors and not at my splendid officials at the Department for Education.
Mr. Riddick : I do not want to be one of those who is having a go at my right hon. Friend. I have-- [Interruption.] I have a great deal of respect for him and I like him very much. I, for one, think that he is doing a jolly good job. [ Laughter .] Perhaps improvements in the Bill concerning student unions could be made. None the less, I stand by what I have just said.
I was talking about dinosaur defenders. The vice-chancellors and others in the House of Lords who represent the vested interests of the higher education establishment did their best to deny their students more choice. From their ivory towers, they were unable to recognise the important principle of freedom of association that was being made available to students. I regret that the protection of vested interests has become more important in the House of Lords in recent years than the offering of expert advice and opinion. The Bill, as amended, will in practice, I fear, change very little in the world of student unions, but at least it embodies the principle that students can choose whether they wish to belong to the student union. My understanding is that, with the Bill as it is drafted, those choosing not to join a student union will not be able to use the current facilities provided. Such students will not even have a proportion of fees paid on their behalf to the union returned to them. Making such a payment to individual students who opt out is something that should be considered by my right hon. and hon. Friends, and perhaps we could consider it in Committee.
Students who opt out are likely to do so because they do not wish the student union to campaign or make political statements on their behalf. They may, however, wish to use the bar or the cafeteria or the student welfare facilities. At the moment, they will not necessarily be able to do so. Therefore, I believe that the Bill needs to be amended so that all students, regardless of membership of the union, have access to the facilities. Indeed, we should be considering how we can strip away the political and campaigning activities of student unions so that those students who wish to be involved in such activities have to take a positive decision to join the appropriate body, separate from the student union, and use their own money, not taxpayers' money. Theoretically, of course, the charitable status of student unions means that they should not be involved in political activity. In practice, many student unions are involved. Therefore, the Bill should stress the responsibility of governing bodies to ensure that the charity laws are complied with in general and that political activity is not permitted in particular.
Mr. Don Foster : Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House what funds he believes that institutions of higher education should use to pay for their membership of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals ?
Mr. Riddick : I am not quite sure of the relevance of that point. It is-- [Interruption.] I suppose that it is typical that one hears an intervention which is of no interest--[ Laughter. ]--which contributes nothing to the debate.
Mr. Enright : I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I shall try to speak in simple words. Does the hon. Gentleman consider that the position of the NUT and testing is more a part of the debate than he considered the subject on which the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) has just asked him a question to be part of the debate ?
Mr. Riddick : You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may be interested to know that, in Yorkshire, there is a television programme that goes out on the BBC every Sunday afternoon called--I think--"North of Westminster". The hon. Gentleman was putting in his bid to get on that programme this Sunday. We all know that he is a bit of a smart Alec, but he is not being very smart in this case. I should have thought that he would recognise that I was making two very different points. At the beginning of my speech, I made reference to the point to which he has just referred, but the part of my speech that I am currently addressing relates to student unions. The hon. Member for Bath raised a completely separate issue, and I hope that the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) was able to understand that point. We should be considering the possibility of establishing a student ombudsman. At the moment, when abuses occur, if charitable law is broken, concerned students have to go to the courts to put a stop to the abuse. It would be extremely useful for students to be able to appeal to an impartial individual who would not be in any way involved with the institution where abuses had occurred. We could set up a post for an individual along the lines of those of the commissioner for trade union rights. Alternatively, a more appropriate approach may be to ensure that an official in the Charity Commission is designated as responsible for student union issues. I wish to make a point concerning external organisations. We need to consider the donations and commercial payments that some student unions make to outside organisations, because some of them are often disguised affiliations to or means of support for political or other organisations. The NUS is certainly the most obvious example of that. We should not forget that at the last election the NUS targeted 70 marginal seats with the clear intention of helping the Labour party. The NUS has announced its intention of becoming a charity. We have not heard much about that in recent months, and I look forward to hearing more about it. Indeed, I look forward to the day when the NUS is a charity.
I am pleased that we shall have the opportunity of debating the Bill in Committee. I am sorry that it is not as it was when it was presented to the other place, but as it provides for voluntary membership of student unions, I am happy to support it.
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Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr) : In some respects, I am happy to take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick). Having read his biographical details, I understand that he was once a student at one of the universities at which I was a student. I do not know which department he was in at Warwick or what degree he obtained there, but it is clear that something bad happened to him there that left him with a festering discontent with higher education, the vice-chancellors and student unions--the whole lot. Something happened in the hon. Gentleman's past that led to his fetish about student unions.
The Secretary of State said in an intervention that the hon. Gentleman's speech was the best contribution that he had heard to the debate. Nevertheless, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will stand firm and support what has happened in the other place. The Bill is a compromise, and life is all about compromise. Progress is made only by compromise. I hope that we can all support the compromise that is before us. I think that most Conservative Members who have spoken would be of that opinion. The Secretary of State is right to take that view.
All teachers these days have been students. Some members of student unions go on to teach. Why do they bother to train to teach ? The answer lies in the spirit of education. A child--we have not talked too much about children this afternoon--who is deprived of even an adequate education will not stand a chance of succeeding in life. That matters a great deal to everyone, irrespective of whether he or she is a parent.
We must ensure that teachers are trained. In turn, they must ensure that the children in their charge try hard at school. Teachers must make children work hard at school. It is crucial that children are pushed to the limit.
We are told in the Bill that its enactment will lead to no net cost. Whenever I read that statement in a Bill, I am suspicious. There is a draft Bill in my name on an unrelated matter that contains the same statement. There are gross costs around somewhere, and I am sure that they will be found when the Bill's provisions are implemented.
When it comes to education, there is no anti-tax mood among the British people, irrespective of the party to which they belong. Any party that sought to tap into such an anti-tax mood would be in for a nasty shock. I think that education is underfunded as a whole within the Government's expenditure programme. More resources should be put into it. Many take that view but, whether inside or outside the House, there is no unanimity when it comes to priorities.
My priorities would be smaller classes and increased pre-school provision before extra salaries for teachers, for trained teachers or better trained teachers. That is my personal view. I do not deny that higher salaries would lead to higher pupil achievement, but they would have to be tied to specific programmes and policies. We must attract the best graduates into teaching, and no doubt higher salaries would have a part in that. So would staff development, a properly funded mentor teaching programme, properly funded bilingual teacher training, and improved maths and science teacher training. Such developments would all cost money, but they are all part of the overall programme.
We must acknowledge the importance of retaining experienced teachers in difficult or disadvantaged areas.
Column 650There are good schools in such areas, but we would be naive not to realise that special help is needed to retain experienced staff and maintain a good level of specialist support in difficult schools in deprived areas. In other words, across-the-board pay increases would not do in a nation as diverse and unequal as ours in terms of education and social progress.
It is vital that we create a good schools programme for teachers. Unfortunately, the Bill will not take us to that. Having succeeded in getting his hand on the legislative lever this year, the Secretary of State could have embarked on that course. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Ms Morris) said, if the root of all evil in 1979 was perceived to be what had gone wrong with teachers in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, why are we only starting in 1994 to put things right ? In that sense, the Bill is a missed opportunity. My response would have been different if the Secretary of State had produced a good schools programme and said, "We shall have a learning guarantee and ensure that teachers are trained to deliver it. We shall ensure that all our schools improve their performance every year in a measurable way because our teachers will be better trained. Better training will ensure that every school improves its performance in a measurable way each year."
Having better trained teachers--intelligent people--would lead us to say that simplistic and inaccurate league tables are not the right approach. Instead, we would construct a system to measure the education distance travelled by pupils each year within a school. That is how the progress of a school should be measured.
I would have no compunction in arguing that the distance travelled in those terms could trigger extra cash for a school. That could be used as a trigger mechanism. I make no bones about that. I could not say to better trained teachers that we would continue with simplistic and inaccurate league tables.
Parents are extremely interested in these matters. Unlike national health service consultants' merit pay, a school's entire performance must be known to the entire community. It will get through to the Secretary of State one day that he has taken the wrong course. There is an alternative approach that could result in cross-party support and support from parents and teachers, and that means finding a way of measuring the distance travelled in education terms by pupils, and therefore by schools, over a year. People want the best for their community, for their school and above all, as individuals and families, the best for their children.
I see no problem in advancing the cause of fixed-term, well-paid contracts for some head teachers, or all heads. We should not rule out that approach in the search for policy progress. We must take education seriously, and search for the right motivators. I know that that may cause problems among some head teachers, but I would have no compunction about doing it. Ultimately, we rely on the head teachers to ensure that teachers perform.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Yardley described so well, we rely on head teachers under the existing system. Judging by their existing input into teacher training, anyone would think that schools, heads and teachers were not involved in teacher training, but they are. It seems that the refusal of Ministers to admit that has led them to introduce this misguided Bill.