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Mr. Don Foster : The hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson) referred to the two Ministers on the Front Bench as Tweedledee and Tweedledum. I have a grudging affection for them--and for the Secretary of State, who may not be with us for much longer--but I thought that they looked more like the Flower Pot Men as
Column 408they watched the Secretary of State wandering in and out of the Chamber. "Bill and Ben, the Flower Pot Men. Flubberdub. Where did the Little Weed go ?"
The Bill is totally unnecessary and unwelcome. Nevertheless, our debate has brought some welcome developments. Members on both sides of the House have welcomed part II of the Bill, on which the Government have shown some willingness to listen to concerns expressed by people both inside and outside the House, despite the blandishments of the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick). It was also interesting to hear the Secretary of State apparently welcome the idea of an outside, non-partisan body that would look into some education issues. I am sure that he will join me in welcoming the fact that the Education Commission has secured some additional funding to continue the excellent work that it was doing. I also welcome the Government's admission that the parents charter was not all that it was cracked up to be. I particularly welcome the Minister's remark that one could not rely on a document like that. The vast majority of the damage will be done by part I, which fails to recognise the real problems in the education service. The Government would have done far better to deal with those problems than the issues which they have dealt with in part I. Their energy would have been put to better use in looking at the underfunding of the education service and giving even more impetus to increasing significantly the level of nursery education available to three and four-year-olds. They should have dealt with the desperate need to establish a general teaching council to raise the professional status of teachers rather than to reduce it, as part I does.
Part I is also dangerous. For example, it introduces into our education service yet another unelected, remote, undemocratic quango. More than 55 per cent. of all central Government expenditure on education is now through quangos. People are concerned about the denial of the democratic principle by those quangos, not least when they see that their membership is solely in the hands of the Secretary of State, who will appoint between eight and 12 faceless men and women who will meet in secret and not be answerable to Parliament. They could certainly never claim to represent an independent or credible organisation.
The Secretary of State assured us that the Bill would not give him any additional powers. He continually tells us that he has moved power from the hub of the wheel to the rim of the wheel, yet, as recently as today, he demonstrated effectively the way in which the Bill gives him significantly increased power.
The Secretary of State was pleased to be able to announce as recently as today a new initiative in respect of OFSTED, whereby he would use his powers under clause 7 of the Bill to dictate that OFSTED should be allowed to visit organisations and institutions and that, if they did not let it in, no funds would be available. The clause provides :
"The Secretary of State may make grants to the funding agencies of such amounts and subject to such terms and conditions as he may determine."
That two-line part of the clause shows the enormous power that the Secretary of State will gain from the Bill.
The Secretary of State also said, during his brief contribution, that he was perhaps sorry that he had not started reforms of teacher education sooner, but that one has to start somewhere. That belies all the changes that
Column 409have taken place in initial teacher education under the current Secretary of State and his predecessors in recent years, some of which I welcomed.
The Secretary of State rightly moved the initial teacher training so that more time has been spent in the classroom. Moves by the Secretary of State and the Conservative Government have ensured the establishment of worthwhile partnerships between schools and institutions of higher education. Those are welcome, but the proposals in the Bill, especially the drive towards school-centred initial teacher training, are, I believe, a move too far. That move will, in due course, remove opportunities for choice and diversity as more and more institutions drop out of providing initial teacher education.
The Secretary of State and his colleagues on the Government Bench have been able to provide no evidence of support for those proposals. They have been able to provide no evidence that the proposals will improve the quality of teacher training, and there has been no realisation by the Secretary of State or his colleagues of the distinction between training someone to join the profession of teaching and technician education.
The Bill--especially part I--will do a great disservice to the country's education service, and it will continue to lower the morale of the people working in the service. I very much hope that it will not be given a Third Reading.
Mr. Gunnell : In the past two or three weeks, my constituents have reminded me of the only aspect of education about which there has been agreement across the House as far as the Bill is concerned--we are anxious about the quality of education.
Constituents have come to me, expressing a great deal of anxiety about the fact that their children had not been able to obtain, or they thought that their children would not be able to obtain, places in schools in Morley, which is half of my constituency, because so many people were coming in from outside the constituency--and indeed from outside Leeds--under the Greenwich judgments. Indeed, the authority originally allocated their children to schools that they felt were of lesser quality.
That brought it home to me that the three high schools in Morley are all schools where the quality of the education is good, and the quality is good because the head teachers and staff are good, as are the relationships that exist in the schools. Those are all schools that I have been in at the time that I was involved in teacher training, and they are all schools that have a great deal to commend them. It was not surprising, therefore, that my constituents felt aggrieved that their children were placed in schools that they considered to be of lesser quality.
It has been the view of the Government that they are bringing forward a Bill that improves the quality of education because it improves the quality of teaching. I find that they have not made their case.
The Bill has no merit from beginning to end. It is notable that my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) has already gone on record as saying that she would get rid of the Teacher Training Agency if she were Secretary of State. That is a commitment that I very much hope and expect she will fulfil. It is the only fit thing to do.
Column 410The Bill is based on myths. We know what they are because those of us who served on the Committee were given the briefings that were given to Conservative Members. Each of those briefings starts with one of the myths.
The briefing for part I of the Bill talks of political correctness. It states that higher education institutions, particularly teacher training institutions, are more concerned with political correctness than education. We heard that in Committee, we heard it from the hon. Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste) and, of course, we heard it from the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick), who is very concerned about political correctness.
All the examples given--most of them from Lancaster--were to be found in the briefing given to Conservative Members. It was not quite respectable enough to have come from central office, but it came with some guarantee from the Ministers. It consisted of various myths about the worst things that were thought to happen in teacher training institutions.
With part II of the Bill came another book of myths of the dreadful things done by student unions. We heard that again today from the hon. Members for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) and for Colne Valley. Once the hon. Member for Colne Valley sees the word "union" on a piece of paper, it affects him in a certain way. I wonder whether, if I look at the Huddersfield District Chronicle, I shall find that the hon. Gentleman has been attacking the Mothers Union or the Band of Hope Union. As soon as he sees anything about unions he responds in a particular way.
The fact that part II of the Bill exists is a tribute to the hon. Member for Colne Valley. The Lords made it clear that part II, as originally envisaged by the Government, was nonsense. Part II contains the longest clause in the Bill--a clause which does nothing and which the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals rightly said was otiose and unworkable. Otiose means idle--the clause is idle, as is that part of the Bill, because it does nothing and does not contain legislation of any value. All it does is make it possible for people who are not student union members to ensure that they can get their drinks at the union bar--that was always going to be the case. Part II is a complete waste of time. It is not particularly dangerous and only becomes so if many people opt out of unions and the unions find it hard to fulfil their welfare functions.
Part I is based on the myth that what happens in higher education is politically correct. Part I is dangerous. We must consider the likely consequences if the Teacher Training Agency remains in existence for very long. It will reduce the quality of teaching. Because of my own background I am particularly concerned about the quality of science teaching. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) is concerned about the quality of chemistry students. I accept that sometimes chemists may have greater difficulty in coming to terms with the subject in which my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth specialises than he would in coming to terms with theirs.
We must be concerned about the quality of science teachers because we must be concerned about the number of science graduates--we know that there will be a shortage.
There are particular difficulties in training science graduates for work in secondary schools because there is disharmony between the concept of a university degree in science and what we now ask of science teachers in
Column 411secondary schools. The best students still very much aim for a single-subject honours degree. Fortunately, there are now some degrees that encompass two or even three subjects, but they are relatively few.
When the teacher with an honours degree in physics or chemistry goes to a secondary school, he will be expected to teach not just physics or chemistry but across the whole range of sciences. Quite rightly, we have moved towards integrated science to give students an understanding of the fundamental principles of science as a whole. That means that that teacher must have academic retraining or he will spend a great deal of time teaching a subject in which his academic background is weak.
The Secretary of State will know that many people recruited in times of teacher shortage do not have the academic background to teach science in secondary schools. That problem will be compounded by a system that takes the initial training of teachers away from higher education. University departments of education have a range of science expertise that can help individual students. They also have a range of equipment that simply is not available in individual schools.
I have visited many schools that are hesitant about laboratory work because of the cost of materials. Therefore, when training teachers they cannot encourage them to experiment. Everyone knows that, when conducting an experiment for the first time, we are likely not to have it right so it does not work. Any one in science teaching has had that experience. We have to learn to deal with that, but it is better to do so within a university setting than in a school in front of a class of 30 to 40 pupils. I believe that not just in science, but more widely, there will be a reduction in quality as a result of removing teacher training from higher education institutions. A second factor is that, over time, many schools--my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson) cited Harrow--will drop out of initial teacher training. Ilkley grammar school has said that it can no longer take teacher training students because there is a fundamental conflict between its job of educating children and the job it is being increasingly asked to do of training teachers, even in partnership with higher education institutions.
That conflict means that schools that want to concentrate on pupils and on what happens in the classroom are increasingly reducing the amount of contact between student teachers and pupils. They feel that that is important if they are to maintain their positions in the league and their examination results. There will be a reduction in the number of schools involved in teacher training.
The future under the Bill and the Teacher Training Agency will be one of a diminishing number of higher education institutions and schools involved in teacher training. I agree with the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) that some of the measures that the Government have taken in previous years have led to more contact with schools and have been beneficial to the system, but the Bill's provisions in respect of the Teacher Training Agency will weaken teacher training. The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) said earlier that he was concerned about intellectual rigour in education. It is a great pity that the Secretary of State for Education and his Ministers are not concerned about
Column 412intellectual rigour in teacher training ; they are, in fact, diminishing it. They believe that education theory can be taught by people who have retired from the
It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business),
That, at this day's sitting, the Education Bill [ Lords ] may be proceeded with, through opposed, until any hour.-- [Mr. Wood.] Question agreed to.
Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
As the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) said, concern about intellectual rigour in education seemed to make the hon. Member for Buckingham melancholic. He might well be melancholic about the lack of intellectual rigour in the proposals, which are made on the basis of that what happens at the chalk face and what happens in the ivory cocoon are completely separate. We believe in a teacher training system where the practical experience in schools is fully consonant with a theoretical base in which there is an understanding of education.
The core of the impulse behind the Bill is the assumed inefficiency and political undesirability of teacher education in the higher education sector. The Government's target has shifted in the past few years. Formerly, they said that teachers were responsible for all the ills of society, for not providing sufficiently trained pupils to fulfil the needs of business and commerce or young people sufficiently trained to be quiet citizens. The changes made in successive Education Acts were accompanied by a barrage of scorn that Conservative Members directed at teachers. Unfortunately for the Government, the experience of the population vis-a- vis their schools did not coincide with that, and the Secretary of State for Education succeeded in uniting almost all sections of education in resisting the Government's general attitude towards teachers.
In the past year or two, therefore, the Government have shifted their target--it is now teacher educators in universities and colleges. Conservative Back Benchers, if not co-Ministers, as they refer to themselves, have poured contempt on those people who are involved in teacher education. That has been obvious tonight. The hon. Members for Ealing, South (Mr. Greenway) and for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) make blanket condemnations of teacher education in colleges and universities. Throughout Committee, their argument was based on a painfully compiled booklet that contains a mixture of anecdotes, apocryphal details, exaggerations and generalisations about the dealings of teacher education departments and faculties. It was somewhat equivalent to the urban myth that we have read about in the newspapers.
The Secretary of State--we quoted this many times--said clearly in public that the school-centred initial teacher training schemes are all about bypassing higher education,
Column 413although, if I may get in a plug, the college where I used to teach in my constituency is the only one in the country that was judged "excellent" for its PGCE courses last year.
Conservative Members still talk about teacher training colleges--they referred to them again today--but they have not existed for a decade and a half. A huge change has taken place in colleges and universities and-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I do not know what hon. Members on both sides of the House are talking about, but I do know that I cannot hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying. I hope that the House will settle down a little.
A huge change has taken place, and is still taking place, in partnerships between colleges and schools. Most people, including hon. Members on both sides of the House, agree that partnerships are the right way forward, and that despite their many problems they are producing, and will produce, the goods. That was, and is, the change.
The Minister has accused us of being "conservatives" in the matter, but we are not ; we are living through and, I hope, helping with a crucial change. But leapfrogging over that change comes another change--the school-centred initial teacher training scheme. Throughout Committee stage and today, the Opposition have tried to explore what the education experience of a trainee teacher should be.
Certainly that experience should be practical and school-based to a large extent, but it should also be theoretical. Throughout our proceedings on the Bill, we have heard Conservative Members throwing out lampoons about theory in education. Students are required to know about the foundations of knowledge and skills, and how they are acquired. Of course, that involves some sociology and psychology ; some legal knowledge--that can be a minefield--and knowledge of the structures of education systems and of comparative studies, as well as sex education, which the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) discussed, special educational needs and a host of other things.
Training also involves constant discussion and collaboration with other students, which the Bill seeks at least to water down. It also involves subject knowledge, which higher education can provide and schools cannot, to the same level. Teacher education involves the use of libraries and technologies, which universities and colleges can provide. Most of all, it involves the neutral role of a tutor, who is not involved in the particular politics and circumstances of the school.
Tonight we have again tried to explore the reality of the impact of those changes on the schools that will be directly affected. In all cases, Ministers' replies to us have largely avoided the central issues that we have tried to raise. We have tried to build in safeguards with our amendments, and to alert parents to the tremendous changes that SCITT schools will undergo. Again, all that has fallen on stony ground. Any impartial observer would have thought that the vast number of amendments proposed in Committee by the Labour party and by the Liberal Democratic party spokesman, the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) were constructive, neutral and certainly free of ideology. Yet Ministers brushed them all aside.
Column 414Ministers have tried to assure us throughout the Bill's passage that higher education, including that part of higher education concerned with teacher education, is in no danger from the Bill. But they have only to listen to their own Back-Bench colleagues, especially the hon. Member for Ealing, North, to realise what their real intentions are.
In conclusion-- [Hon. Members :-- "Hear, hear."] I shall go on for another 10 minutes in that case. In conclusion, I should like to make a small bet with the Minister ; perhaps he will respond to it when he sums up. The chairman of the Teacher Training Agency has been announced, and I should like to make a small wager that the name of Sheila Lawlor will figure, at least on the short list, for the post of its chief executive. I believe that we all have a fairly clear idea of her views on higher education, teacher education and even nursery schools.
Finally, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gunnell) that the Bill is intellectually disreputable and will do great damage to teacher education and to the future of our schools.
Mr. Bryan Davies : It is not often that one has the pleasure of seeing the House fill with hon. Members in eager anticipation of one's contribution, so I feel it incumbent on me to sum up the major issues arising from the Bill in a conspicuous effort to persuade Conservative Members, even at this late stage, to realise that it would be folly to give a Third Reading to such a bedraggled measure. For those hon. Members who have been so busy elsewhere that they have not been able fully to follow the detailed development of the measure, it may help to refresh their memories if I remind them that the Bill started life as a most aggressive measure from the Secretary of State, with which he meant to achieve two aims. First, he was to achieve a new dawn for teacher education and the training of teachers in this country and, secondly, he would demolish the student unions, especially the National Union of Students--a source of such grievance to certain members of the Conservative party, but not to those who take an interest in educational matters.
The Bill was introduced in the other place and it was dismantled--not by the Labour Opposition, although our case was presented by our colleagues with their usual forcefulness and accuracy, but, in fact, by Conservative Members ; right-wing Conservative Members, who knew something about education and thought that the Bill was nonsense. They thought that it was such nonsense that the Minister in the other place had the good sense to take the Bill away for several months and cogitate on its problems in some hope that, when it eventually returned, it would have a safe passage through the House.
The reason why the Bill will continue to have difficulty--I hope that it will have difficulty this evening, too--is quite clear. First, it is not the case that anybody sets out to defend higher education as such. We all seek to defend quality performance by higher education, but, we are not prepared to tolerate--nor are those who thought about the issue in the other place--a significant erosion of teacher training on the basis of an experiment which is only part-way through and the results of which are unproven.
It seems reasonable, in education at least, that we should have some regard for scientific methodology and some respect for the fact that, if the Government are carrying out
Column 415an experiment in the consortia of schools which conduct teacher education, that experiment should run its course and a true evaluation should be made before legislation is passed. It is far from that. I appeal to reasonable Conservative Members to recognise that they are being asked to vote on giving the Bill a Third Reading when we have no evidence of the success of the experiment, except hearsay.
We know that the experiment will certainly lead to a considerable erosion of the quality of teacher education for the following reasons. The development of teacher education in schools will be fraught with difficulties. Conservative Members must know that schools are under strain. All Conservative Members with experience of governing bodies and of representations from parents will recognise that the convulsions which schools have undergone in recent years has put them under great pressure. If results are to be published and the Government's much-vaunted league tables are to be the measure of school performance, schools, rightly, will concentrate on those measures of success identified by the Government.
I ask Conservative Members whether they would, as members of a governing body, therefore take lightly an assumption that the school should devote significant resources to teacher education, to untrained students being before the classes in significant numbers to promote their education, but not, of course, being able to provide the same, experienced teaching to the students in their charge ? Would they be certain that the resources were forthcoming in that scenario, when schools recognise that the pressure on resources at the present time is intense ?
The experiment will erode teacher education, because, as the Government know, university departments of education--and especially university governing bodies and senates--will be watching the position with great concern. Those governing bodies now see that the work of university departments could be reduced because the governing bodies no longer control the resource flow to the departments, since it comes under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State's quango -- yet another of the unelected organisations set up by the Secretary of State to operate in education. Is it any wonder that there are great anxieties about the supply of teachers for the future, great worries about the strains and stresses on our schools and great concern about the quality of performance of the new scheme that the Government are thrusting upon us ?
The second part of the Bill is now so truncated as to be scarcely worth Conservative Members bothering to participate in debates upon it. We had the rather undignified spectacle this evening of two or three Conservative Back-Bench Members, in place of the 50 or 60 hard ideologues of their party, out to wreck the National Union of Students, seeking to ensure that, if a student contracted out of his £1.20 a year payment to the union, he should receive a 40p rebate on the ground that he had not had full value for money. That was the absurdity to which we were reduced.
In effect, the Bill tells students--an increasingly large range of students with a significant number of votes, and an increasing number of part-time and mature students--and their representative institutions that the Government want to create the nanny state. It will place universities in a position in which they will have to supervise every move, every piece of expenditure and every action made and taken by students unions. We are talking of students who
Column 416are supposed to be being educated for a democracy. As I have said, many of them are fully participating members of that democracy. I warn the Government that when students get the chance next time to participate fully in the democratic process, the Conservative party will get short shrift on the basis of the Bill.
Question put , That the Bill be now read the Third time : The House divided : Ayes 284, Noes 249.
Division No. 289] [10.16 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)
Banks, Matthew (Southport)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Beresford, Sir Paul
Biffen, Rt Hon John
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Bowden, Sir Andrew
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Browning, Mrs. Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Carlisle, John (Luton North)
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Davis, David (Boothferry)
Deva, Nirj Joseph
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Durant, Sir Anthony
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Fenner, Dame Peggy
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Fry, Sir Peter
Gardiner, Sir George
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gorst, Sir John
Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Grylls, Sir Michael
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hampson, Dr Keith
Hannam, Sir John
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)