Previous Section Home Page

Column 651

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Mr. Robin Squire) : As usual, the hon. Gentleman is making an interestinspeech and I do not want to interrupt his flow. I agree with him on the importance of measuring progress. I should like him to develop the issue a little further, although that means taking him back to where he was in his speech two minutes ago. Surely the only way that we can satisfactorily measure progress is by regular testing at appropriate ages. If we do not test, against what measurement and achievement can we measure the children-- something that he and I agree that it is important to do ?

Mr. Rooker : I do not want to be diverted from the main subject. The issue raised by the Minister is for another day, but I do not want to run away from it. There is no dissension between my hon. Friends and me, or between Opposition and Conservative Members, but Conservative Members have chosen the wrong test--a narrow test. If we are to measure the distance that a child travels during the year or during his period at school, we must know where he originally started. We are not agreed on the way to do that. If we use only simple, narrow tests at one-off times, as under the Government arrangements, we shall not be able to measure the distance travelled by the child or the school. We can then look at output simply in terms of examinations, which pay no heed to the original state, which is crucial.

I represent a part of Birmingham that is setting a target under its excellent new chief education officer. Every school has to measure progress during the year ; every school has to do better. We have not set a target for the whole city, as that would be ludicrous for a city of 400 schools-- it would be bad in a city of only 40 schools. The target must be that every school must make progress every year, and woe betide it if it does not. There must be sanctions ; there must be a genuine investment of resources to enable the schools to achieve that progress.

It comes down to the question how one measures the distance travelled. I am happy to debate that issue in greater detail with Ministers on another occasion. We shall see what happens in the city of Birmingham in the next 18 months.

Professor Wragg, who is involved in teacher training, will return with his commission to measure what has happened in Birmingham since he wrote and published his report last year. He has put the city, the new education committee, the new leader of the council and the new chief education officer on trial. He presented his report and said that he would return to check on it in two years time.

His checks will involve looking at what has happened in schools and how they have gone about raising the performance of not only pupils, but teachers--the two go hand in hand. We can never have a good schools programme if everything is driven from the centre by the Department for Education. That was probably where our difficulties began.

Mr. Butler : I hope to make a helpful intervention by taking the hon. Gentleman back to the issue of each school improving magnificently each year. That is fine, and I agree that we need to know, assess and improve the value-added element on each pupil every year. In the real world post-school, that pupil will have to be measured against other pupils who have emerged into the world.

Column 652

Ultimately, he must be measured against absolutes of

achievement--what the hon. Gentleman describes as the output quota.

Mr. Rooker : At the end of school life--not educational life, as no one should ever opt out of education--on the other side of the barrier that we have assembled, when we cross from secondary to further or to higher education, there will be points of measurement. But yardsticks exist-- whether in the form of GCSEs, A-levels, results from the Business and Technician Education Council or the record of achievement--against which all pupils are measured on a "level playing field", a phrase that I hate to use. Our task is to bring pupils to that level.

We stand a better chance of bringing all pupils nearer to the yardstick tests if we insist that every pupil is measured in terms of the distance they travel educationally, and demand that every school should improve every year. That would be better than the current wide system, under which we operate the carrot-and-stick approach, and nothing is measured at school. Such a system would be welcome, although not perfect. It would provide a better test for pupils than exists under the present arrangements.

The last thing we want is teacher training to be organised and controlled by schools. Hon. Members have mentioned vested interests. Progress in any walk of life can be obtained only by challenging vested interests. We all have vested interests, no matter what sector we work in. People do not like change. Therefore, we must be aware of vested interests, which sometimes stare us in the face and we still fail to recognise them. Good, sweet arguments are made as to why no change is necessary, everything is fine and people can manage as they are. I do not accept that argument, whether it be made in terms of housing, industry or education

Mr. Pawsey : Trade unions ?

Mr. Rooker : I do not accept that argument in relation to trade unions. Massive progress has been made in trade unions in recent years, because members have challenged vested interests in them.

Mr. Pawsey : Will the hon. Gentleman give way ?

Mr. Rooker : I should not give way, because the hon. Gentleman intervened from a sedentary position, but I shall do so as he is such a decent, one-nation Tory who supports the Secretary of State.

Mr. Pawsey : I shall accept that, and any terms from the hon. Gentleman, because I can return the compliment. His integrity in the House is beyond all doubt. If he believes that the reform of the trade unions challenges vested interests, why did he not support the legislation introduced by my right hon. and hon. Friends challenging the vested interests of those unions ?

Mr. Rooker : I am not going to be diverted, and I shall not be challenged on my ability to face up to vested interests in the House in any way, shape or form.

Vested interests must be challenged. The Department for Education has a vested interest in education. Local authorities have a vested interest. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) has made clear on other occasions, nothing in those organisations commands the confidence and trust of those working in education or those interested in the subject.

Column 653

We should check on the performance of the schools of education in our higher education institutions. For one moment earlier today, I thought that I was back in the mid-1970s, when I sat on the other side of the Chamber and listened to the then Shirley Williams talk about teacher training colleges. I do not know what a teacher training college is. Such colleges disappeared decades ago and do not exist in the form that hon. Members have described them.

When discussing education, it is dangerous for any hon. Member or policy former to use his own experience as a pupil or a teacher, in higher or further education, 20 or 30 years ago, to form policy today. I cannot impress firmly enough on hon. Members the danger of doing that. It causes major problems because things have changed so much. It is highly dangerous, and damages the system, if we make quick visits to institutions or schools and then say that they are not as good as they were, so we must devise a new policy. We must be able to measure performance. There is a case for better performance checks in schools of education in the higher education institutions. By and large, Ministers have spent a good deal of their time denigrating teachers and educationists in the past few years. I know that there has been a slight amelioration of that today, but over a period more time has been spent denigrating educationists than applauding them. They are not the people to do it through the quango, because it will not command confidence. If there is scope for a standing commission or something for the advancement of education, it is certainly not the Department for Education.

My hon. Friends realise that all is not well in education as it is structured at present. It is not right that education is as highly centralised and in the grasp of Ministers as it is at present. I know that my hon. Friends on the Front Bench do not want the powers that the Secretary of State has taken unto himself recently, because it is not the way in which education should be run.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South) : The hon. Gentleman said that he does not believe in control from a distance. I suggest that, in a large number of schools, parents and governors are realising that the best way of running them is to do it themselves. That is why grant-maintained status has been so successful. The real problem is control by local education authorities, especially those run by the hon. Gentleman's party.

Mr. Rooker : I will not go down that road, because the idea that local education authorities are controlling schools is a fallacy. Schools control at least 85 per cent. of their own financial resources. I am aware of the inability of local education authorities to act in some areas. I wish that LEAs could act in some areas, but they say that they cannot do so because they do not have any control--it is down to the governors. Sometimes, governors are not fully seized of the responsibility that the House has thrust on them. A major change has taken place out there.

I speak as a member of a further education corporation--I have been so for more than 20 years. I am aware of the extra responsibilities that incorporation has placed on it. However, in terms of schools, governors are only just becoming aware of the great responsibility that they have for what happens in their schools. In some areas, that is making it difficult to find replacement governors ; people realise that they cannot give the time and effort to their

Column 654

duties and responsibilities. It is not all plain sailing and sweetness and light, as the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) imagines.

If we are to take education seriously--I do not think that the Bill does-- we must stop messing about with it. For example, if there is a superficially attractive case for hypothecated taxes for the national health service, there is an overwhelming case for a special tax for education, whether it be through income tax, value added tax or education bonds. The fact is that we must examine different ways of funding education, because education covers the whole gamut, whether it is teacher training, running schools or training teachers in higher education institutions.

We need all the levers possible to ensure value for money. However, we should spend and raise what is required to do the job, because as a nation we cannot afford not to. That means to say yes. As a nation, we must assess what is needed to do the job in education, whether it be pre-school education, school education, further education or higher education. We must then make the resources available to do the job. That does not mean that we are not interested in value for money--I am as interested in that as any other hon. Member. I do not think that we as a generation have a right to restrict the educational advancement of a younger generation, but that is what we do by not making resources available. We have a moral duty to push that generation to work and study harder with the resources required to make it available. That includes teachers, trainee teachers and pupils of every age.

I shall finish by referring briefly to a point made earlier.--indeed, the Secretary of State made the point in an intervention--about adults turning from industry to teaching, which they had never done. I applaud that. It is not easy for people to make that transition. People enter the higher education system to train as teachers. While I do not want to go down the road in detail, I do not think that we fund higher education properly. It is extremely difficult for people to move over. People may move over, having reassessed their lives. It may not be a conscious decision to leave the boardroom or the shop floor one day and to enter education. It does not happen like that. People have a period of reflection which usually comes about when they have moved from one job to another or when they have lost a job.

People ask themselves whether they are doing the right thing. What do they want to do with the rest of their lives ? What opportunities are available for them to make a contribution ? How best can they use their previous experience to benefit themselves, their families and their communities ? Such questions cause people to consider offering their experience to the world of education.

It is extremely difficult for people who have become unemployed and who are highly motivated to enter the world of education, simply because the way in which higher education is structured means that there are unfair distinctions between full-time and part-time. That distinction should be abolished. It would enable us to have a decent funding system, and it would enable more people to train to become teachers on a part-time or modular basis, rather than having to go the whole hog into a full-time position. Probably for the first time in their lives, they are applying for a mandatory grant, and they then find that they

Column 655

may lose free school meals for their children, housing benefits and all the other things that would keep them going while they are undertaking teacher training.

Our present system does not allow for lifelong learning involvement or continuity in education. Recently, there has been a phenomenal expansion, which cannot be denied. I only wish that more people knew about it, because they would then ask serious, intelligent questions about funding, instead of resorting to one-liners about restoring grants or abolishing loans, which means either billions of pounds of public expenditure or a massive cut in existing student numbers. That is the consequence of such one- liners.

Students should be decently funded. If Madam Speaker had selected my reasoned amendment--I make no criticism about that ; in some ways, I would have been horrified if she had selected it--we could have raised some of the issues that I raised in it.

Some of today's students, some of whom are training to be teachers, are queuing up for their refectory meals or collecting one meal and three plates to divide it by three because there is not enough money to go round. In some colleges, lecturers are sharing their lunch boxes with students, because the students do not have enough money to buy food to eat during the week.

By and large, they are not the ones who may be getting the full grant and taking out the full loan ; it is those who may not be getting the extra contributions that they should get from their parents, or it is the part- timers who are not being properly funded and assisted by the system. There is no problem with students putting something back into the kitty when they are doing well later, but it is certainly not possible under the present unfair system. It is sad that we have not got it right. We know that Ministers will claim that we have the best-funded student support system anywhere in Europe.

Mr. Patten : Correct.

Mr. Rooker : I am not denying that, when one looks at the global figure. But if it is so good, why do we have abject student poverty in pockets in every college and university in the country ? At the same time, we are making money available, frankly, to those who do not need it. I pointed that out in my reasoned amendment, and I do not wish to go into that in further detail.

Generally, education and social policies are synonymous with social justice. I do not think that we have social justice in education in Britain, either for trainee teachers or for anyone else, and the Bill will not bring it about. If the Secretary of State had come forward with a programme based on a good schools programme with equity funding, he would have found a great deal of support across the House. He would probably have been astonished by the areas in which he found support. I am sad that he has not taken the opportunity to do that. I am gratified that he accepted the compromise reached in the House of Lords on part II.

I was the first to respond to the Secretary of State's original statement on 1 July last year. He told me that I put the "R" back into "rant" when I pointed out that his programme and proposals for student unions would not work. If it was worth a rant, it worked, and for that I am grateful.

Column 656

7.49 pm

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth) : May I at once declare an interest as an adviser to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers ?

I reassure the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) that to the best of my knowledge none of my right hon. or hon. Friends has ever attacked or denigrated teachers. They have gone out of their way on numerous occasions, all of which are on the record in Hansard , to applaud teachers and to thank them for their excellent work with the nation's children. Unlike the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), I served on the Committee examining the education Bill to which she referred and I well recall the tone and language of Opposition Members in opposing some of our measures, which included the national curriculum and OFSTED.

Mr. Win Griffiths : We supported the principle of the national curriculum and the principle of local management of schools, which many Labour authorities pioneered. We wanted a better inspection system and we said that the way in which the Government introduced those measures was wrong and that they were ahead of the pilot schemes. The whole of the Dearing review shows how much we were right and how much the Secretary of State was wrong.

Mr. Pawsey : The hon. Gentleman confirms that what I said was right. He says that the Government were wrong. The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues opposed the Bill in Committee.

The hon. Member for Dewsbury failed to answer the question about the cost of nursery schools. I appreciate that I may be intruding on private grief but it would be helpful if the hon. Lady could bring herself to say that it will cost £500 million or £800 million or whatever the figure is. She must have some idea, and if she wishes to intervene I shall willingly give way.

Mrs. Ann Taylor : I can tell the hon. Gentleman how much nursery education will cost if he can tell me how much progress Tory councils will make. How is it that Labour councils can manage to afford nursery places for 40 per cent. of their three and four-year-olds while Tory councils manage to find places for only 13 per cent. ? If the Government made that a priority, they could find resources. I wrote to the Secretary of State some time ago about surplus places, requesting that before any such places were identified and taken out of the system the scope for developing nursery education in those areas should be examined. The Secretary of State has not even had the courtesy to reply.

Mr. Pawsey : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is able to say that in his view the cost of introducing universal nursery education would be about £800 million. If he can put a figure on it, why cannot the hon. Lady ?

Mrs. Taylor : It is because the Secretary of State has made many assumptions. I could assume that local authorities have sufficient money to fund nursery places at the Labour average rate. I cannot understand why Tory councils fail to make the provision that Labour councils are making.

Mr. Pawsey : I understand the hon. Lady's clear reluctance to put a figure on it. I suspect that she has been hauled over the coals by her hon. Friends, who have successfully gagged her. Perhaps I could draw her on

Column 657

another matter. The hon. Lady opposes grant- maintained schools, grammar schools, the independent sector and city technology colleges. Do Her Majesty's principal Opposition have any discernible policy in education ?

Mrs. Taylor : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will eventually get to the Bill. Before he does, perhaps I may recommend Labour's Green Paper on education, "Opening Doors to a Learning Society," and suggest that our objective that the education of everyone really matters must be the way forward. I remind the hon. Gentleman that before Christmas the Prime Minister said that 15 per cent. of our children get an education that is as good as anywhere in the world. He went on to say that unfortunately the rest do not. Giving a decent education to 15 per cent. is inadequate. Britain has no future as a low-skill, low-wage economy, but that is the direction in which the Government are taking us. When more children passed examinations, as happened a couple of years ago with the GCSE, the Secretary of State complained that too many were passing--what an indictment that is.

Mr. Pawsey : We have still not had a detailed exposition of what the Opposition would do if they came to office. My concern is shared by The Independent , which stated :

"Mrs. Taylor has offered two bundles of rehashed reflection liberally laced with out of date waffle. Her papers are so palely green they are virtually translucent. Mrs. Taylor should be fired." I welcome the Bill and I welcome the Secretary of State's remark that this is the last piece in the education jigsaw. I share that view. A missing piece distorts and spoils the picture, but we can now visualise the scene when the jigsaw is complete.The Bill is the final step that is needed to transform education in British schools. I shall confine my speech to one aspect of the Bill-- part I on teacher training. My concentration on part I should not be taken as a sign that I am disenchanted or in disagreement with part II. It is simply that I wish to concentrate on teaching and schools. As my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) said, many hon. Members wish to speak about part II, which deals specifically with student unions.

The Government's stated intention is to raise the standards of education for every child, and that prize is well within our grasp. For a long time I have believed that our nation has an almost infinite capacity to denigrate our institutions and achievements. That point was recently made by my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary. We concentrate on the defects and seldom seem to lift our eyes to our general and genuine national achievements. The Government's education reforms, which started principally in 1988, are at last beginning to bear fruit. The national curriculum and testing are increasingly accepted as a means of improving the quality and standard of state education by which the majority of the nation's children are educated.

OFSTED is doing much to improve the nation's schools. So far, it has produced reports on more than 350 schools and, additionally, has undertaken more than 3,000 inspection visits. I was disappointed to hear the Secretary of State refer to what was taking place in East Anglia, where it appears that OFSTED is still being fought by the Liberals. I was dismayed because it shows that the Liberals have failed to grasp what OFSTED is about. The justification for OFSTED can be found in its substantial contribution, through those inspections, to raising standards. OFSTED is another of the Government's

Column 658

success stories. It is worth remembering that it was yet another reforming measure that was opposed by the short- sighted Opposition. On its introduction, it was derided by Labour and Liberal spokesmen. We were then told that it would be the end of education as we knew it.

OFSTED has a particular relevance to the Bill and it would be helpful if I quote Professor Sutherland :

"I was struck by the consistency with which inspections show how close, at all stages of education, is the statistical relationship between the standards and quality of learning, on the one hand, and the quality of teaching on the other".

Here, then, is the justification for the Bill, which in part I sets out the method by which teacher training will be improved. The Bill will ensure that student teachers spend more time in schools learning from good practising teachers, and that teachers will be able to play a major part in designing the courses to be followed by the student.

The training for primary teachers will include more time on maths, English and science, with greater emphasis on the basic skills of reading and arithmetic. The Bill will set up a new Teacher Training Agency, and I am delighted to have the support of my hon. Friend for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson). Although I was not surprised, as I know of his interest in these matters, it is always good to hear him speaking in support. The Bill will set up a new Teacher Training Agency which will bring together the various training strands, to the benefit of school children generally.

Currently, the situation is complex because those involved with teacher training include the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, the Department for Education, and the teaching as a career unit. The Bill enables a new and independent body to be established, dedicated to teacher training. The importance of teacher training can scarcely be overstated. I was interested but not particularly surprised that, according to the Campaign for Real Education :

"Teacher training institutions are the engine rooms of progressive education."

I suspect that not many Conservative Members would disagree with that description, but the campaign is not alone in its view. The point was particularly well underlined by the leading article in The Sunday Times on 10 April this year. It referred to the National Union of Teachers conference in Scarborough :

"A procession of militants trooped to the rostrum to proclaim the enduring validity of all the loony-left nostrums from the 1960s and 1970s that have done so much to condemn huge chunks of a generation to illiteracy and falling numeracy."

It continued :

"Their main concern was to oppose the regular testing of pupils and the compilation of league tables based on such tests". It went on to refer to grant-maintained schools and said that they were bringing in higher standards

"by opting out of the often dead hand of local authority control". That is one answer to the hon. Member for Perry Barr. So frequently the local education authority is a dead hand.

The leader went on--I am not in total agreement with all this : "The barbarians are no longer at the gate ; they are inside our classrooms."

The Bill will certainly help to reduce the number of barbarians and should make life easier for the ordinary teachers who form the strong and splendid backbone of the teacher force in the United Kingdom.

Column 659

As I said earlier, the Bill completes the schools picture. It builds on what has gone before--the national curriculum and tests, local management of schools and grant-maintained schools. It consolidates OFSTED and emphasises the need for performance tables. Anyone who doubts that a success story in education is now emerging need only look for proof to advanced education, where student numbers have increased to well over 1 million.

Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South) : I was glad to hear the hon. Gentleman's last phrase and I thank him for giving way. Is he aware that, in terms of graduate applicants to teacher training courses this year as compared with last year, there has been a 40 per cent. drop in physics graduates, a 23 per cent. drop in mathematics graduates and also falls in the numbers of other graduates--a significant percentage in chemistry and a smaller percentage in biology ? There is an enormous shortfall in applications from science graduates in comparison with last year. If the hon. Gentleman is so convinced that this is the last piece of the jigsaw, can he explain why, with all the other pieces in place, there is such a drop at the present time, and how he thinks that the Bill--which I consider irrelevant--will have anything to do with getting the numbers that we need to teach science effectively in our schools ?

Mr. Pawsey : I recognise the sincerity with which the hon. Gentleman speaks. Perhaps he will agree with me that science graduates are not coming forward because of the greater employment opportunities that now exist. Unemployment is falling, thank God, and as it falls there is greater competition for the well-trained science graduates to whom the hon. Gentleman refers.

Mr. Gunnell : If the hon. Gentleman is saying that we can attract science graduates only when there is nothing else for them to do, is that not an indictment of the opportunities in teaching that we are offering if we cannot compete with the outside world ?

Mr. Pawsey : Let me give the hon. Gentleman an alternative view. If I were a science graduate and I saw what was taking place at Scarborough when the NUT was at the rostrum with the remarkable procession of teachers repeatedly attacking their own profession and what it seeks to do, I wonder whether I would choose to join their ranks. That, I suspect, is the real and direct answer to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Patrick Thompson : As a science graduate, I am sure that my hon. Friend will be pleased for me to support his argument. If we take measures to improve the professional status of teachers, as the Bill is designed to do, it will surely attract science graduates into the teaching profession, so the point is irrelevant to the Bill.

Mr. Pawsey : My hon. Friend speaks with his usual knowledge and wisdom. When we came to office in 1979, only one in eight of the target group was in advanced education ; the figure is now one in three. That confirms at least two things : first, the additional funding has been made available to advanced education ; secondly, and perhaps more importantly, there is a growing number of

Column 660

young people sufficiently well educated in the nation's mainstream schools to take advantage of the new opportunities which now exist in our universities.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of Statre and his predecessors, but particularly my right hon. Friend, can take pride in the Government's achievements, which are often denigrated by Opposition Members for nothing more than cheap political advantage. The Bill will do much to ensure that students have a much better grasp of what takes place within the classroom, with less time being spent on theory and more on the practicalities of teaching and the imparting of knowledge.

Recently Peter Smith, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, drew attention to the professionalism of teachers, and he was right to do so. I have said many times in the House over a considerable number of years that in my view the overwhelming majority of the nation's teachers are dedicated both to their profession and to the children in their charge. The Bill will ensure that those dedicated teachers will be able to impart their own hard-won skills and knowledge to newcomers.

I must emphasise that neither the Government nor the new Teacher Training Agency will force schools to accept additional responsibilities. It will be purely a voluntary step. I am grateful for the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman).

Mr. Colin Pickthall (Lancashire, West) : If the hon. Gentleman is so convinced that the measures proposed in the Bill will do exactly what he envisages, how does he reconcile that with the voluntary principle that he is now praising so highly ?

Mr. Pawsey : I reconcile it in the same way as I reconcile the voluntary principle for grant-maintained schools. Both are equally good. I look forward to schools taking up the challenge posed by the Bill, as I am sure that they will, in just the same way as I look forward to more and more schools receiving grant-maintained status. The Bill emphasises the importance of the teacher and the school. The Government have already acknowledged those two factors by substantially increasing average teachers' pay by some 46 per cent. in real terms, since 1979. The Government have acknowledged the importance of the school by increasing spending per pupil by some 47 per cent., again in real terms since 1979. The Government have made the funds available, but the extra funding has not been reflected in an equivalent increase in standards--hence the Bill and the emphasis that it places on the good training of teachers. I stress that the Government have not hestitated to make money available for education. Significantly, overall spending on education has risen by 50 per cent. since 1979.

Mr. Dunn : Hear, hear.

Mr. Pawsey : I am obliged to my hon. Friend for his support. He is a man well known for his expertise in education.

Earlier, I referred to the new Teacher Training Agency and I found clause 13 to be of particular significance. Clearly, it will not be an unlucky number. It will give the new agency a statutory role in the accreditation of institutions. A new agency will ensure that those providing teacher training will be able to deliver quality courses, and all courses will be subject to inspection by OFSTED.

Column 661

Needless to say, the new agency will be able to withdraw accreditation if an institution fails to produce a course of sufficient quality.

Mr. Hawkins : Does my hon. Friend agree that that is precisely the importance of the measure in the eyes of parents and governors ? My hon. Friend will be aware that having campaigned for about 15 years for the reform of teacher training, long before I came to the House, I particularly welcome this part of the Bill. It is essential that parents and governors be given the confidence that teachers will be trained properly and that failing institutions will be disqualified from training teachers.

Mr. Pawsey : My hon. Friend makes a formidable point and he is right to do so.

It is worth while restating the fact that higher education will continue to provide teacher training and that teacher training will remain part of higher education, but the schools will rightly have a much greater part to play. One of the things that I find genuinely surprising is that in the past the very schools where teachers work have not been properly involved in the training of teachers. Clause 4 ensures that initial training will continue and enables funds to be made available to support in-service training. The agency will be able to fund existing schemes for licensed and overseas-trained teachers.

Earlier, I referred to the NUT. The House will be interested in a recent article in The Daily Telegraph which said :

"The NUT claims to oppose the national curriculum tests be cause they are educationally flawed'. This is rich coming from a union whose madly anti- learning philosophy has softened the brains of a generation. One flaw'"

according to the NUT

"is that the tests focus on real skills and real knowledge--in the case of English, for example, on comprehension, spelling and grammar . . . They see literacy as a tool of oppression and prefer to focus (in the words of Labour spokeswoman Ann Taylor) on how relationships develop in a school'."

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dewsbury is not in her place, but I remind her of a piece written by David Woodhead, the Independent Schools Information Service's national director, which, interestingly, was headed, "Taylor-made to depress." It said : "Mrs. Taylor gives an impression of impatience with the concept of parental choice. The consequence of this for the state and independent sectors if she became Education Secretary would be serious."

I put it to my hon. Friends that that is an understatement. I come now to a point made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State during the course of his remarks

Mr. Dunn : I apologise for not being here to listen to all my hon. Friend's speech, but given his knowledge of both Conservative and Opposition education policy, does he think that the Opposition parties have learnt anything about education in the 15 years that we have been in the House ? Or are they still committed to neighbourhood comprehensive schools, social engineering, NUT policies and all the things that we came into Government to stop ?

Mr. Pawsey : Sadly, I have naught for my hon. Friend's reassurance. As I understand the Labour party's policy, inasmuch as it has one, it seems to have learnt nothing. [Interruption.] Yes, as my hon. Friend says from a sedentary position, it would continue with its policy of abolishing the grammar schools.

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) : Bourbons.

Next Section

  Home Page