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Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North) : The hon. Gentleman seems to assume that all is well in higher education institutions. That is certainly not the case. There is enormous dissatisfaction with diploma of education courses and others. That is fundamental to the pressure for change, and the hon. Gentleman should know that.
Mr. Pickthall : I did not imply even remotely that everything was perfect in existing teacher education institutions--that would be foolish. Of course we need continual change and improvement. If such institutions are as appalling as the hon. Gentleman suggests, why are Ministers constantly concerned to tell us that they are only tinkering with a corner of the postgraduate certificate of education courses and leaving all the rest of them alone ? If matters were as appalling as the hon. Gentleman says, they would wipe the lot out and start again. Some Conservative Back- Bench Members would like to see that happen. I have seen no evidence in any quantity to suggest that dissatisfaction with the present teacher education arrangements in colleges and universities is as widespread as the hon. Gentleman suggests.
Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South) : Does the hon. Gentleman regard it as an indictment of the training of teachers that so many school leavers are illiterate after 11 full years of compulsory state education ? Is not that an indictment in some way of teaching training ?
Mr. Pickthall : No, it is an indictment of 15 years of Conservative control of the education system. The hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) cannot have it both ways. His Government have been in charge of the education system for 15 years, and presided over a period when the education standards to which he refers fell.
Mr. Hawkins : If the hon. Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Pickthall) is suggesting that the figure for the literacy of school leavers was significantly better in 1979, he is entirely mistaken. I suggest that he looks at the statistics.
Local education authorities also need time to adjust because the impact of consortia on local education authority networks will be considerable, depending on the concentration of them. They will have an impact on special educational needs provision, reading support services, the existing cluster arrangements and the existing feeder school arrangements. All that adds up to a compelling case for delay and for proper assessment of what is going on at present, much of which we approve of and want to support.
The Bill is going through on hope and guess. There is no disagreement about partnerships, which should be given more time to demonstrate that they can deliver better education. There is no disagreement about the need to continue to improve teacher education and to refine the increased class- based training. But those working in
Column 340schools and colleges express deep concern about the likely outcome. They deserve to be reassured by proper assessments. We must get it right first time ; otherwise, the Government essentially could be conducting an experiment on school pupils and students which is likely to fail.
Mr. David Evennett (Erith and Crayford) : I want to make a brief contribution to the debate on new clause 1, not only as a former teacher from the 1970s but as someone who is married to a teacher. I shall begin by commending the work on the Bill by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and the Ministers on the Front Bench, my hon. Friends the Members for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) and for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire). It is pioneer work and should be supported by the House.
We all want better teachers. We want better trained teachers. We all want better standards in the classroom. We all want academic excellence, good vocational courses and good basic education. For all those things, we need well-trained, well-motivated teachers. I am disappointed that the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) said that we should put off the reforms for 12 months. Many of us feel that reform is long overdue because teacher training has been too academic ; it has not looked enough at the chalk face of what is going on in schools, and it has been based too much in an ivory tower.
In the Bill, we have an innovative approach to providing better and more relevant teacher training so that teachers can do a better job, parents can be happier with the teaching in our schools and all pupils can be better educated. We all know that the majority of teachers in our schools do a good job. They have a difficult and demanding job and we must ensure that they have the tools to be able to do that job to the best of their ability. If we come along, as we have in this Bill, with considerable reform to try to improve teacher training, why should we wait ? What is the benefit of saying that we want reforms and improvements but we want to wait ?
Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South) rose
Mr. Gunnell : I am struck by the fact that the hon. Gentleman has told us that the majority of teachers are good. He said that the majority of teachers have the skills. Almost all of them have been through the present training system, and they have acquired those skills from that system. Why is the hon. Gentleman confident that these changes will result in all teachers having those skills ? What evidence does he have that there will be an improvement ? We think that the whole thing is rubbish and will not help at all.
Mr. Evennett : That is the voice of unenlightened self-interest--the voice of teacher training colleges and lecturers. What I am saying is that teaching changes. We are in a different world now. We are on this side of the House because Labour are still living in the 1960s. Ms Estelle Morris (Birmingham, Yardley) rose
All I am saying is that we have come forward in the Bill with reforms that are necessary to deal with teacher training today to ensure that we can educate the children of
Column 341today and tomorrow. The hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Gunnell) is looking back. There are some good teachers but they need retraining. More importantly, we want teachers to train our children for today and tomorrow so that they can compete in the world. As we all know, it is a competitive world out there. We want the best teachers. We want them trained so that they can get the best out of our nation's children. That is what the measure is about. We must therefore reject the new clause.
Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth) rose
Mr. Evennett : I will not give way. The hon. Gentleman can make his own contribution in a moment ; I know that he wants to do so. What I am saying is that we must reject the new clause. We want the Bill implemented now for the interests of our children, the parents and, ultimately, the teachers. Teachers want to be well trained so that they can enable our future citizens to make a good contribution to and fight for this country with the skills that they need to take on the world in industry, commerce and so on. Without good, well-trained teachers, we cannot have well- educated children. Therefore, we must reject the new clause and get the Bill on the statute book as soon as possible, in the interests of education and in the interests of the people of this country.
Mr. Don Foster (Bath) : It is extremely difficult to make a speech following the one by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Evennett). The hon. Gentleman said that he wants to see high-quality teaching in our schools from well-trained and highly motivated teachers. No hon. Member would disagree with that. The problem is that the hon. Gentleman has failed to give an example of one element of the Bill which will lead to the improvements that he wants to see.
Mr. Foster : I should point out to the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald) that I am not bought and paid for by the union for higher education. I would be interested to know the union to which the hon. Gentleman is referring. As he is well aware, and as I have declared on many occasions in the House, I am supported by two teachers' unions. That has been regularly declared, as the Secretary of State will recognise. [Interruption.] I am sure that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would rule me out of order if I went into the question of how much, which would lead me to ask the Secretary of State how much he has been paid recently for a number of his activities.
If the new clause moved by the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) is accepted by the House, it will give the Government the opportunity to stop and think and, in doing so, to reflect on the Bill, especially part I. If we are lucky, they will realise the error of their ways.
Column 342The Secretary of State has claimed that the Bill is the last piece in the jigsaw of education reform. I hope that he will recognise that all the recent pieces that have been put in the jigsaw have been hastily introduced, have had little consultation and, following their introduction, have often had to be changed. For example, reference has already been made to the national curriculum and procedures for testing and assessment.
I hope that the Secretary of State will recognise those constant changes in higher education, to which he wants to add. In a recent speech he referred to the "pell-mell pace" of change. I also hope that he will recognise that many of our teachers are suffering from what can only be described as innovation fatigue. I suspect that the difficulties that have been caused by those rapidly introduced bits of the education jigsaw--ill-thought-out and poorly consulted on--together with what might generously be described as some insensitivity, might lead to the Secretary of State's downfall in the forthcoming Cabinet reshuffle.
Hon. Members may wish to remember that, on Second Reading, the Secretary of State said :
"When I eventually leave my post in a good number of years' time".--[ Official Report , 3 May 1994 ; Vol. 242, c. 597.] I think that his prediction is wrong. If he were willing to undergo a last-minute conversion and to accept the new clause and amendments, he might just save himself, although I suspect not. If he accepted the new clause, it would give him time to question why such legislation and such a body as the Teacher Training Agency are so important for England, but are not yet necessary for Wales or Scotland. It would give him time to consider whether it is right for the Secretary of State for Education to take on yet more powers. He already has more powers than any Cabinet Minister, other than the Prime Minister.
If the Secretary of State accepted the new clause and the amendments, it would give him an opportunity to reflect on whether it is right to establish yet another objectionable, costly and superfluous quango, whose membership is to be determined solely by him, thereby undermining any possibility of it being seen as independent or credible.
Is it not the case that he opposes school-based initial teacher training ? If that is so, why does he want to introduce it in one years' time ? Why the shilly-shallying ? Is it because he does not want to nail his colours to the mast in case the changes succeed ? Will he answer the question that I put to him in Committee ? Does he support such training, or is it the usual Liberal compromise ?
Mr. Foster : I shall answer the hon. Gentleman as clearly and unequivocally as I did in Committee. I am opposed to the introduction of entirely school-centred initial teacher training. I should have thought that he would have understood why I support the new clause, if he had been listening. It will create some time for the Secretary of State and his Front-Bench colleagues to reflect on the errors contained in this legislation and will possibly allow them to introduce further legislation that would prevent those moves from taking place.
Column 343and not introduce the change in a years' time. That is shilly-shallying in case it succeeds--then the Liberal Democrats will change their tune.
The time that would be created, and might give the Secretary of State the opportunity to change his ways, would also enable him to consider whether it is right to fragment higher education, which is what the Bill will do, by separating the education of teachers from all other aspects of higher education and thereby diminishing the already fragile professional status of teachers.
The Secretary of State would also have time to reflect on why so many organisations oppose the proposals and so few accept them. On Second Reading he said :
"The success of all our reforms depends on teachers working hard to put them into effect."--[ Official Report , 3 May 1994 ; Vol. 242, c. 600.]
If that is so, would it not be a good idea to ensure that those, or any new proposals, are widely accepted before they are implemented ? The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Evennett) said that he wanted well- motivated teachers, but the introduction of one piece of legislation after another with which they disagree is hardly the best way to motivate teachers.
Because of the time allowed in the new clause, the Government will be able to reflect on whether it is appropriate to have yet more changes in initial teacher training, on top of the many changes that have already taken place in recent years and which the hon. Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Pickthall) so rightly described. There would also be time to reflect once more on the advisability of moves towards skill-centred initial teacher training.
The hon. Member for Lancashire, West was not certain whether the Bill intended such a move. I believe that the Government intend to push hard towards school-centred initial teacher training.
If one wants evidence, one needs only to read the Secretary of State's words on Second Reading, when he said :
"We are taking training closer to the chalk face and out of the ivory silo."--[ Official Report , 3 May 1994 ; Vol. 242, c. 600.] Much more convincing evidence comes from the 1994 Conservative party campaign guide, which stated :
"The Education Bill currently before Parliament will give effect to the clear and distinctive Conservative view of teacher training--based on the belief that schools themselves should play the principal role in devising, and running, teacher training courses. Students should spend time in the classroom gaining practical experience and less time in higher education institutions learning (often left-wing) educational theory."
That is the principle that underlies the Government's move. As other hon. Members have asked, is it not foolish to move towards school-based initial teacher training before the results of the pilot schemes have been evaluated ?
One final matter on which the Secretary of State and Ministers may wish to reflect is that, if the measures go ahead, there is a danger that the number of institutions that participate in initial teacher training will decline markedly during the next few years. If that is the case, the very choice and diversity that Conservative Members are keen on providing will not be available.
Column 344I hope that the House will accept the new clause and the amendments, as they will give us time to reflect on the appalling proposals contained in the Bill and, having reflected, allow us ultimately to throw it out in its entirety.
As a former teacher, the son of a teacher and a university don and, most importantly, as a parent governor in a state junior school for some years, I was appalled by the low calibre of some people coming from teacher training colleges. There are many fine teachers and I pay tribute to their work, but when teachers leaving training colleges cannot spell properly, subtract, add up, or do simple mathematics, how are they supposed to pass on the required skills ? Mr. Enright rose
I speak for parents and children, who deserve better-quality teachers. That is what the Teacher Training Agency will provide and that is why we should reject the Opposition's new clause. We want full support for the Government's proposals.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Mr. Robin Squire) : The amendments moved by the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs.Taylor) and supported by Opposition Members are misguided. They attempt to go back over the same ground which was trodden earlier in Committee, except that this set of amendments is rather worse constructed than the earlier amendment covering the same issue. I shall come to the technical aspects later.
The intention of the amendments is clear. The Opposition do not want to see the Teacher Training Agency up and running for another year, if at all. They do not want to see one body with an overview of teacher training bringing together the key functions of giving information to potential students and promoting teaching as a career, ensuring that all courses meet national standards, encouraging diversity in provision and offering choice to students, and allocating funds in pursuit of the statutory objective of raising the standards of teaching.
That is what the Teacher Training Agency will do and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) reminded us, it is something which the Government are firmly pledged to carry through. The House sees a compelling case for the agency, and voted accordingly on Second Reading.
I have yet to hear a compelling reason why the implementation of the new arrangements should be subject to an arbitrary and unnecessary delay. My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Evennett) commented on it with wise words, and I agree with him completely. I accept that changes to the new arrangements for funding and accreditation will need careful planning. Contrary to
Column 345the allegations of the hon. Member for Dewsbury, the changes will be phased in. Delaying the setting up of the agency will militate against sensible transition.
I listened to the hon. Member Lancashire, West (Mr. Pickthall)--as I did in Committee--talk about his fears and concerns about change and the possible risk. I accept that we are requiring a change in teacher training, but the change is designed to improve performance. We do not underestimate the importance of getting in the new arrangements properly with the co- operation of higher education and schools. The Teacher Training Agency will be well placed to oversee and monitor that process and adjust the funding and other arrangements as necessary.
Those, I submit, are arguments in favour of a specialist body and are scarcely arguments against. After all, only when the agency is up and running with members and officers can it start to take a view on the important issues. Not having an agency until this time next year will simply freeze the position for 12 months, and that will not help the agency at all. It appears that one single issue has blinded the Opposition to the range of important work that the agency will be doing and co-ordinating.
Mr. Foster : I was trying to catch the Minister's eye just before he moved on from that point. He said that the Teacher Training Agency will be making vital decisions affecting teaching. Will the meetings of the TTA be held in public, following the advice given by Baroness Blatch to the Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education, as the agency is making vital decisions on one aspect of teaching ?
Mr. Squire : The meetings will not be held in public, but the hon. Gentleman knows from the points raised in Committee that the general code of openness will apply to the proceedings and deliberations of the agency. It will not have open meetings as such.
The key issue from the Opposition's comments both here and in Committee has been the question of school-centred initial teacher training. Delaying the Bill would not prevent progress with school-centred training under existing legislation, which would carry on and be funded directly by the Department on pioneer courses. It would mean that, rather than the agency looking across all teacher training--in the light of all the evidence--and making judgments about the balance to strike between school-centred and other courses, that balance would remain for my right hon. Friend to determine for another year.
In the light of the comments of the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), that is scarcely an example of more power being taken by the Secretary of State. On the contrary, the Bill is another example of my right hon. Friend passing up powers.
I accept all that has been said about the importance of the Ofsted evaluation of school-centred training, and I say the same about all Ofsted evaluations. The agency will be
Column 346well placed to take account of the emerging messages in the decisions which it takes on funding or courses during the academic year 1995-96.
Mr. Greg Pope (Hyndburn) : Does the Minister agree with the disgraceful comments made by the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) that many newly qualified teachers are of a low calibre ? If he does agree with his hon. Friend, why does the Minister think that those low -calibre teachers are the people best placed to train the next generation of teachers ?
Mr. Squire : The hon. Gentleman is trying to lead me down avenues which I am not particularly willing to go down. I am happy to tell him that, on the basis of several visits both to school-centred training and higher education teacher training, the calibre in general of new teachers is very good. [Interruption.] But I would think that it would not be a matter for argument across the Chamber that teaching in general needs ever higher standards to match the demands being made on schools by the world outside. I hope that that is not controversial. We are trying to ensure that there is a better chance of higher-calibre teachers emerging in the future.
Ms Estelle Morris : If the Bill becomes law, will the Government continue to make larger grants available to students sitting their teacher training course in a SCITT than to those sitting their course at another institution ?
Mr. Squire : The hon. Lady is, in effect, referring to one of the many decisions that the Teacher Training Agency will need to take. That will be linked with the value for money which we have stressed throughout the proceedings. The agency will be looking for quality in courses and will also look for value for money. In very broad terms, the sums of money that school-centred initial teacher training courses will get will be similar to that which goes at present to higher education.
Ms Morris : The specific point about which I wished to talk was the grant being made available to students sitting their initial teacher training course. I think that I am right in saying that at the moment students get a greater grant when they are on a SCITT course than if they do the same training in another institution. Will the Government say whether that will continue, or will they allocate resources and grants equally to all students who are studying initial teacher training, whatever way they choose to do so ?
Mr. Squire : I believe that I am right in saying that the intention is that students will be treated in the same way under whichever form of training they are going to be receiving, whether it is higher education- dominated and school-based or school-centred. If that is not true, I shall return to the point during our proceedings this afternoon. That is certainly my understanding of the matter. I mentioned at the outset certain technical deficiencies, and I shall not spend too long on them. Amendment No. 11 removes the commencement provisions of the Bill. While new clause 1 would at least enable part I to be started--although late--it would not enable parts II and III to be started. That would not allow essential student union reforms and would leave much of part I ineffective without the general provisions of part III.
Amendment No. 4 adds little to the overall effect of amendment No. 11 and new clause 1. It would simply prevent the agency and the Higher Education Funding
Column 347Council for Wales from funding institutions under the Bill until the financial year 1996-97. Since the agency would not exist until 1995, that could hardly be described as a further bar as it could scarcely do otherwise.
The Government have no intention of agreeing to the amendment, or the others in the group. There is no reason to delay, and the case for the agency is clear cut and accepted by the House. The amendments are wrong in principle and in practice. They would create uncertainty and confusion, and I ask the House to resist them.
Mrs. Ann Taylor : The debate has been much longer than I expected when I moved the new clause. The Minister was correct in one point--the Opposition do not want to see the Teacher Training Agency established. We have consistently opposed the Bill in principle, and we are seeking with the new clause to give the Government time to reconsider and look at the evidence which is not yet available because the pilots have not been completed.
The Minister's responses to many of the questions show that there are still many points which need to be decided, such as the critical point which he was not able to answer with regard to student support.
One of the most interesting comments was made by the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald), who said that the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) opposed the Bill in case it succeeded. If Conservative Members are speaking in such terms, they are clearly not convinced that it will succeed. The hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Hawkins) expressed concern about children ; his first concern should be to stop the experimentation that has so disrupted the quality of education recently.
The Minister did not tell us why the Government were adopting inconsistent attitudes to Northern Ireland, Scotland and England and Wales. Perhaps we can return to that on another occasion. I accept that the new clause and amendments may be technically deficient. I do not want to waste time ; we have other important matters to discuss. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion. Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn .
-- .--(1) Her Majesty's Chief Inspectors of Schools may cause any institution which provides initial training for school teachers to be inspected, as regards the provision of such training, by one or more of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools (in this section referred to as "Inspectors").
(2) An Inspector shall for the purpose of inspecting an institution under this section have at all reasonable times
(a) a right of entry to the premises of the institution ; (b) a right to inspect, and take copies of, any records kept by the institution, and any other documents containing information relating to the institution, which he considers relevant to the discharge of his function.
(3) It is an offence wilfully to obstruct an Inspector in the exercise of any of his functions under this section.
(4) A person guilty of such an offence is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.'.-- [Mr. Pawsey.]
Column 348Brought up, and read the First time.
This is principally a probing new clause, designed to develop the case made in Committee for inspection of colleges providing initial teacher training. Those who served on the Committee will recall that I tabled amendments that would have given OFSTED a prominent role in the control of such training. Sadly, when the lead amendment was called I was taking a delegation to meet my hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside ; as I obviously could not be in two places at once, I was unable to move the amendment. I am therefore anxious to raise the important issue of quality assessment in ITT and HMI's role in its improvement.
I was pleased that the amendments that I tabled in Committee received some support, and I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for his courtesy in responding so fully and agreeing to consider them further. I note that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has tabled amendments to clause 5 which deal with the first point that I made in Committee, and I am grateful to him. I believe that my right hon. Friend is a listening Secretary of State-- [Interruption.] It is no good Opposition Members making funny noises. My right hon. Friend listens to arguments, and if they have substance he acts. HMI's role should be clearly specified in the Bill. It has an important part to play in the work of the Teacher Training Agency, and no one would dispute that an objective and professional assessment of training would greatly assist decisions about the way in which money should be allocated. If the concept of "to the best, the most" is too elitist, at least we can ensure that colleges whose standards are lower receive less money.
In a newsletter dated April 1994, the Campaign for Real Education states :
"Educational reform will never succeed without radical improvements to the cultural attitudes prevalent in the teaching profession . . . Perhaps the first priority of the new agency should be an urgent review of the way trainee teachers are taught to teach reading ? Improvements to this crucial part of teacher training could raise national standards more quickly than anything else. And may we look forward"
this is the nub of the new clause
"to careful checks on all teacher training courses, coupled with the withdrawal of funding for those where good practice' based on ideological beliefs takes precedence over proven teaching methods supported by research ?"
The new clause will allow discussion about whether teacher training should be more closely associated with HMI's statutory duties. It may be considered slightly outside the mainstream of OFSTED's functions as set out in the Education (Schools) Act 1992, but we are now establishing a new statutory basis for initial teacher training, and I consider it entirely logical to set out a new statutory basis for its inspection.
I understand that HMI currently has the right to inspect schools, but--and it is an important but--no right to inspect higher education and teacher training. The new