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Column 360except that in the case of training specialist teachers of pupils with special educational needs eligibility for funding shall be limited to institutions of higher education offering courses in collaboration with relevant schools and services.'.
and to the quality of provision by such institution of training to equip teachers to meet the requirements of the Code of Practice on the identification and assessment of special educational needs.'. No. 19, in page 4, line 13, at end insert
and to the quality of provision by such institution of training to enable teachers to meet the requirements of section 241 of the Education Act 1993 (sex education).'.
Amendment No. 16 has been tabled principally to elicit from the Minister an assurance that under the Bill the Government have no intention of going beyond initial teacher training in terms of providing school-centred courses. Opposition Members and those people involved in special education are concerned that the Bill could be used to allow schools on their own to provide the more detailed postgraduate and specialist training of teachers of children with severe learning difficulties, hearing impairment and visual impairment. We want to ensure that there is no question that such specialist courses could be left to school-centred training and that, as is essential, institutions of higher education will be involved. I hope that the Government will be prepared to accept either amendment No. 17 or the spirit of the issues that I wish to raise. During the debate on new clause 2, the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) referred to the politicisation of education and how he would like such politicisation to be removed, even though he then made a highly political speech. In our desire to have the requirements of the code of practice enshrined in the Bill, we are promoting what has probably been the Government's most successful effort at achieving a consensus among all those people involved in education and the truly bipartisan approach which, sadly, the debate on education has so far been lacking.
The code of practice represents a revolution in education practice. What may have been the aspirations of all those involved in education and schools have, under the code of practice, become specific requirements. It would be fair to say that the code institutes a revolution in the skills expected of teachers. It makes new and specific demands on all teachers, so it is important that initial teacher education should take account of the code, which was not in existence when the Bill was drafted.
The code of practice demands that teachers are not just competent professionals, but classroom superstars. In footballing terms, they are goalkeepers, defenders, midfield players and strikers all in one. That is what the code demands. Already, very limited time is available in initial teacher education to meet all the demands that the code places on teachers. There is a need, therefore, for all initial teacher education courses to have at their heart the requirements of the code of practice.
The code of practice puts in question whether school-centred initial teacher training can be carried out without the partnership of an institution of higher education. Any hon. Member who considers the
Column 361requirements in the code from paragraph 2.70 to paragraph 2.84 will be convinced that it is vital that the Bill requires teachers to have knowledge and understanding of the factors determining a pupil's educational achievement and personal development, including the educational, psychological, medical and social services assessments and reports. I hope that the Minister will respond positively to that.
In principle, we accept amendment No. 19 because we believe that training teachers for sex education should be a vital part of their education, given the levels of sensitivity and skill required to engage children in ways that are appropriate to their understanding and development and in a positive moral framework. We hope that the Government will accept the spirit of the amendments and perhaps even embrace them in the Bill.
Mr. Alan Howarth : I should like to say a few words about amendments Nos. 16 and 17. I have considerable sympathy with their purpose, which is, as I understand it, to ensure that higher education is appropriately involved in the training of teachers of children with special educational needs. I associate myself with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Members for Birmingham, Yardley (Ms Morris) and for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) that it is a sad thing if hon. Members assume that because ideas come from the other side they must be nonsense and mischievously intended to boot.
There is a major training task implied by the new code of practice. It is an excellent document, but it makes it clear that all teachers must be involved in the delivery of education for special needs if the necessary whole-school approach is to be achieved. In addition, there will be a need for more specialised training through in-service education and training, ranging from the wide range of skills and knowledge required of the special educational needs co-ordinators to the more sharply focused needs of, say, specialist teachers of severely dyslexic children.
I believe that all teacher training institutions should be required to effect a proper introduction to special educational needs for all their initial teacher trainees. That simple principle should be more than a matter for guidance. Guidance can then establish the nature of the contribution made.
On the general question of the respective roles of schools and higher education institutions in initial teacher training, at the risk of banality I must say that it seems to me that we need an effective partnership between the two. Admittedly, the partnerships that we have are not always effective, but there are a great many courses in which they are, so I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will not throw any babies out with the bath water. The Government should ensure that there is partnership, spell out what is required of the partners and take steps, through funding and quality control, to ensure that the requirements are met. Otherwise, I fear that financial and time pressures on schools will lead all too many to economise on their training, and as a result they will fall short of the Government's admirable aspirations as set out in the code.
There is some truth in the view that higher education institutions have tended to deskill schools and teachers in
Column 362terms of the school's role in preparing new teachers for their professional careers. Schools should certainly do much more than simply help out the training institutions through teaching practice. Over several years that view has clearly gained much ground, and schools are now widely seen as having an essential role and as sharing the ownership of the process. We now need to ensure that all courses of initial teacher training embody that principle and carry it out.
The contribution of institutions of higher education should be to provide a close awareness of research, practice and policy both in this country and abroad. The multidisciplinary staffs of higher education institutions should be able to add depth and width to professional training, which schools alone could not furnish. I know that some of my hon. Friends are worried about educational theory, and no doubt a certain amount of it has been nonsensical from time to time. However, good educational theory is not disconnected from the real world of teaching and learning, but is a clarification of the principles of good teaching and learning and provides a considered framework for teacher education.
If there is a view that specialised training in special educational needs-- for example, training teachers to teach sight-impaired or hearing-impaired children--could function properly without central, substantial and guaranteed contributions from institutions of higher education, that view is unrealistic. I do not think that the process can be divorced from the research and theoretical knowledge that it is not realistic or appropriate to expect schools of themselves to have.
Ring-fenced funding will be needed to preserve the capacity of education departments in institutions of higher education to continue to provide that training. If that is not put in place, there is a real danger that vital centres of expertise will wither. I am not arguing for a monopoly for institutions of higher education ; I believe that local education authorities, charitable foundations, research foundations and private sector providers can all contribute. Nor do I suggest that there should not be stringent quality control, but I hope that Ministers will be able to assure me that it is no part of their intention to provide any opportunity for the removal of the contribution that institutions of higher education can make to the training of teachers who will teach children with special educational needs.
I ask the House to consider my amendment No. 19, to clause 5, in connection with the welcome amendment to clause 1 tabled by my right hon. and noble Friends in another place, whereby the Teacher Training Agency is to ensure that teachers are
"well fitted and trained to promote the spiritual, moral, social . . . development of pupils and to prepare pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life."
My amendment supplements that general statement with some specificity in one important area. It would require the Teacher Training Agency, in disbursing funds, to have regard to the need for teachers to receive training in sex education. That could be taken to be implicit in the more general wording of clause 1 as amended, but I am not aware of the Government's having committed themselves to ensuring that teachers, especially student teachers, receive such training.
The importance of teachers being appropriately trained in sex education is highlighted in Julia Hirst's research entitled "Not in Front of the Grown- Ups--A Study of the
Column 363Social and Sexual Lives of 15 and 16 Year Olds", recently published by the health research institute of Sheffield Hallam university. I suggest that Ministers and other hon. Members concerned for the well-being of our young people should read and reflect on the report with the greatest care. Its findings are sad, and are a reproach to us, but it also offers better ways forward. Certainly it highlights the need for better sex education and for training to teach the subject.
The report demonstrates the vulnerability of the 15 and 16-year-olds surveyed to HIV infection, ill health and pregnancy through unsafe sex and alcohol and drug misuse. It paints a picture of confused and unsure young people having sex, often unprotected, as a commonplace conclusion to an evening's drinking. The summary of findings says that Ms Hirst found that the majority of the group that she surveyed
"lead secret lives of which their parents are unaware . . . For the majority, socialising involves sex and drinking alcohol . . . They are having unsafe sex without any real acknowledgement of the consequences. They are non-monogamous and share partners . . . the majority of their sexual activity occurred outdoors, usually in a local park . . . Most sexual activity occurs under the influence of alcohol . . . Few group members have clear knowledge of HIV or AIDS and make no distinction between the two. They are considerably misinformed on unsafe behaviours. All appear complacent about their risk-taking, believing that HIV has little to do with them." The young people demonstrated a poignant indifference to the risks that they were taking. One of them said :
"We don't really think about it. We have a joke about who's catching it, and all that. Why worry ? If you get it, you're dead, aren't you ?'"
The research describes an incredibly dangerous situation. Those young people feel that they cannot find advice or support from their parents or their teachers, although they desperately want to be able to do so.
Julia Hirst stresses the fact that
"The group are unanimously dissatisfied with the sex education they receive at school and home . . . They are afraid to ask questions and perceive adults as disapproving and unhelpful. The embarrassment of adults is perceived by them as the main factor in demotivating parents and teachers from addressing the issues more realistically".
I do not say that the experiences of those young people are universal or normal. I am not asking the House to get the issue out of proportion-- certainly it would be good if for once the tabloids were to refrain from exploiting a sad story of unhappiness--but I fear that what Julia Hirst found is all too typical of the experience of too many of our young people.
The report reconfirms the case--irresistibly, to my mind--for sex education within the national curriculum. Children want it. If sex education is marginalised, even as a compulsory subject, it is much more likely to be inadequately taught.
Mr. Don Foster : I have much sympathy with many of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. Does he agree that, in view of the sort of comments that he is making, a system in which parents may allow their children to opt out of sex education lessons is inappropriate ?
Mr. Howarth : I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman. I argued that case a year ago when the House took the unfortunate decision that it did. Far from parents being able to opt out of sex education as a separate subject outside the national curriculum, it ought to be integrated
Column 364into a number of areas of study within the national
curriculum--including, obviously, science, English, and personal and social education.
It is plainly essential--indeed, it is a matter of life or death--that education about HIV and AIDS is reliably and responsibly provided. The findings of Julia Hirst's research support the view that sex education should begin early and be developed through the spiral curriculum. The research reinforces the view that the better the sex education and the earlier it begins, the higher the age at which teenagers will first have sex. I stress that good sex education is not, of course, merely about mechanics, but teaches the importance of good relationships, respect, responsibility and love.
I hope that the Department for Education and the Department of Health will absorb the findings of the research and will act with determination and in close co-operation over them as, of course, I hope that they will do with the findings of the Alan Guttmacher Institute quoted by Miss Hirst. As my hon. Friends know, it studied teenage pregnancy in 37 countries and found that the countries "with the lower rates of pregnancy were those countries with a high degree of acceptance of teenage sexuality, good-quality education about sexual matters and high-quality, user-friendly clinical services for young people."
Those factors apply all too seldom in Britain. It is the opposite of coincidence that, in Britain, we have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe.
All this implies large and difficult responsibilities for teachers, who deserve and need better support and training than we have so far given them.
As I have said, it is a year since we debated the issue in the House and I am more than ever saddened and dismayed at the decision to take teaching about HIV and AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases out of the national curriculum and to restrict sex education in the national curriculum to the physiological aspects of puberty and reproduction, divorced from consideration of values. With the present levels of support and all the competing pressures on teachers, I find it hard to be optimistic about the scope and quality of sex education outside the national curriculum.
I was pleased, at any rate, that the guidance in circular 5/94 made clear the need for skilled and sensitive teaching of sex education appropriate for different ages. But those high expectations of teachers have not yet been matched, to my knowledge, by a commitment to provide them with the training that they will need if they are to meet them. My understanding is that the Government expect sex education to be taught by experienced teachers, who may or may not receive in-service training for it. I fear that that approach under-estimates the needs. It matters very much that all teachers receive good, appropriate training in sex education during their initial training.
A survey in 1992 found that two thirds of local education authorities identified teachers' lack of confidence in teaching sex education as the main barrier to effective provision. Training would build their confidence. The National Foundation for Educational Research's 1993 research for the Health Education Authority found that schools are having difficulty in recruiting specialist teachers of personal and social education. The foundation also found that, where INSET funding was not specifically allocated to health or sex education, it was unlikely that
Column 365money would be spent in those areas because of the demand for INSET funding for training in national curriculum subjects.
The Government have made it clear in their circular, and I acknowledge with pleasure, that the scope of in-service training eligible for funding through GEST--grants for education support and training--includes training in sex education. Unless my right hon. Friend can assure me otherwise, I do not think that the Department has provided any concomitant increase in the funding available for this training and no GEST funding is specifically ring-fenced for it. I wish it would be. But, for the reasons that I have given, even then it would not be sufficient.
The report of the working party of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on unplanned pregnancy in 1991 stated :
"Attitudes in schools to sex education would be improved if initial teacher training courses had health education as a compulsory component. That would include relationships, sexuality and contraception."
I am sure that that was right. I am sure that more needs to be done to provide well-balanced and comprehensive support for teachers in training in this area so that they can help the kind of children described in Julia Hirst's research, and so, indeed, that they can help all our children, for whom this aspect of their lives is so very important.
Mr. Robin Squire : This has been a fairly short and concise debate on at least two important issues. I welcome the way in which the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) moved his amendment and, obviously, I listened with care to my long-term hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on- Avon (Mr. Howarth). Clearly, we shall think long on many of his comments, to the extent that I shall not respond to them separately in my--I trust-- equally concise response. I hope to be able to reassure the hon. Member for Bridgend on his key amendment No. 16, but for reasons that I shall briefly explain, I consider all three amendments unnecessary.
Amendment No. 16 covers the funding of courses for specialist teachers of special educational needs. I made it clear that that is not an initial teacher training issue. Government policy is that all teachers should train for and work in ordinary schools and classes in the first instance and that specialist training, of course, comes later. I assume that the amendment is intended to refer to long in-service courses for those intending to teach in special schools and those are currently funded by GEST provision. However, we have said that we shall consider the case made by special needs groups for asking the Teacher Training Agency to fund such courses in future. There has been no decision as yet. Agencies will certainly have the power to fund such courses under the provisions of the Bill, but there is nothing in the Bill which alters the power to provide such courses. There are no new powers for schools to offer in-service training under clause 12. That is limited specifically to initial training. Providing one-year full- time INSET courses, like one-year full-time initial training courses, would require new powers which schools do not have. They will not receive those powers in this Bill. I hope that, on that specific point, the hon. Gentleman is reassured.
Column 366Amendments Nos. 17 and 19 do not have the same practical drawback, but raise an important issue of principle. We see a fundamental distinction between matters of general principle covering the agency's work to be set out on the face of the Bill and the specific content of courses, which is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's criteria. Not mentioning detailed content issues on the face of the Bill--whether national curriculum, special needs code of practice, sex education or behaviour and discipline--does not imply in any way that they are unimportant issues.
I very much take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford- on-Avon, in particular, about the importance of sex education, but detailed requirements are set out in published criteria and may be adjusted as necessary from time to time and used as a test against which quality judgments can be made. Quality must then, of course, feed into funding, as set out in clause 5.
Mr. Squire : I can certainly reassure the hon. Gentleman that-- subject to consultation, of course, which will go out on the draft criteria --we would expect to take into account the code of practice to which he has rightly referred.
Clause 1 refers to course content. It ensures that the agency directs its efforts towards fitting teachers to carry forward the central aims of education. The words are fairly well known to hon. Members, especially those who served on the Committee. We were happy to add that reference in another place to set the agency's work in context. It would not be right to weight it towards one area of education only, however important that area may be. All ITT courses must equip newly qualified teachers with the necessary foundation to develop skills in SEN issues. That is made clear in current DFE circulars which set out my right hon. Friend's criteria. Such criteria have been and will, in future, be subject to consultation. They currently include references to special needs, which have been generally welcomed.
Of course, the House listened with interest to the issues raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon on amendment No. 19, which stands in his name. Some of the matters that he raised undoubtedly struck chords with my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench. He reiterated some matters that he first raised a year ago, and he knows that there is a division of opinion between us on some of them. Teachers must be able to teach in accordance with statutory requirements that govern their subjects. That goes for sex education as for all other subjects. I submit again that it would not be right to bring one item of content of training, however important it is--the House is united on the importance of good sex education--into prominence in the Bill, with the implication that other areas of training are less important.
I welcome the opportunity provided by the amendments for a brief and non- partisan debate on issues of common concern. I hope that in the light of my comments the hon. Member for Bridgend will feel able to seek leave to withdraw the amendment.
Column 367Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
in partnership with an appropriate institution of higher education,'.
course validated by an appropriate institution of higher education and provided by a school or schools or by a partnership or association of such schools or by a body established by such a school or institutions consisting wholly of such schools.'.
No. 6, in clause 12, page 6, line 24, leave out --(a)'. No. 7, in page 6, line 24, leave out from teachers' to end of line 27 and insert
in partnership with, and validated by, an institution of higher education.'.
No. 10, in clause 14, page 8, line 3, at end insert
to ensure that all courses which involve schools in the initial training of school teachers shall be validated by an appropriate institution of higher education.".'.
No. 14, in schedule 2, page 22, line 9, leave out a funding agency under Part 1 of the Education Act 1994 or the governing body of an institution receiving financial support under that Part' and insert the Teacher Training Agency.'.
No. 15, in page 22, line 12, leave out from (2)' to end of line 18 and insert after paragraph (a) insert
"(aa) with respect to studies relating to the Teacher Training Agency, the agency.".'.
Mr. Davies : The amendments seek to ensure that postgraduate courses of initial teacher education are provided in partnership with, and validated by, an institution of higher education. They must, therefore, go to the heart of the Bill.
I remind the House of the Minister's words in Committee. He said : "there is . . . the need for a structured consideration of pedagogy and the theory of education. That is not an issue."--[ Official Report , Standing Committee E , 14 June, c. 261.]
I agree with the Minister. We cannot prepare people for entry into a profession without giving them a theoretical understanding of the nature of the tasks that they will have to perform. That should be common currency in the Chamber.
The real issue that divides the two sides of the Chamber is whether institutions of higher education are to be essential partners in the framing, delivery and validation of courses. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) said, there are divided counsels within the Government on these issues.
The Bill seeks to remove the necessary partnership of higher education in ITT courses. In Northern Ireland, however, the Minister for education, speaking admittedly at the Old Inn at Crawfordsburn on 1 June, but doubtless quite sober and not in his cups, said that he thought that the planning and implementation of initial teacher training in Northern Ireland will necessitate the strongest possible partnership between the ITT providers and schools. It is clear that he recognised that there is an essential link.
Yet Ministers at Westminster are seeking to sustain an argument that the higher education contribution is not necessary. On Second Reading and in Committee the Government have sought to discredit the principle of a higher education involvement in ITT courses. They argued that Opposition amendments--they were accepted in
Column 368another place--were technically flawed. Accordingly, in Committee, they removed them from the Bill, apparently on that basis alone. There was no substantive argument advanced that the quality of initial teacher education would be improved by removing the involvement of HE. That is no surprise, because such an argument would not stand up to scrutiny.
The Government are saying now that the accreditation of courses of initial teacher education by the new quango known as the Teacher Training Agency will be enough to ensure that they are of sufficient quality. Validation by HE institutions has gone. It has been erased from the Government's political vocabulary. An essential quality assurance mechanism has therefore been removed. Everything will now depend upon the schools where the school-centred courses operate. The Secretary of State should have said to his hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden), when he was challenged about the theoretical issues at stake and the quality of teacher education, "I deny your premise that these issues are theoretical. I deny that we need to have a debate about the nature of the education that we provide for our children. I do so because I know what is right. I will ensure that the present practitioners are vested with the necessary power and that higher education should have no contribution and no standing." That would have been a franker response, but it would have been a denial of the thoughtful contribution of the hon. Member for Buckingham. Instead, the right hon. Gentleman blustered about the way in which he was bringing inspectors into this area of education.
The Government, logically, are now saying that it is solely for the schools to come to a decision on the validation of courses. At the same time, the pilot schemes--they were designed to underpin the proposed legislation-- contain elements of validation by HE institutions. Four of the five consortia have returned to higher education for support and validation. It is clear that the teaching profession regards that as a valuable contribution.
What other grounds exist for promoting school-centred initial teacher education if it is not to improve quality ? It can hardly be argued that there will be cost savings, because the Secretary of State has given repeated assurances that there will be adequate resources for the schools to undertake ITT work. That is necessary against the background of anxiety among parents, children at school and governing bodies that an additional burden is being placed on them without the necessary resources to fulfil their obligations. There are certain contributions made by universities that schools will be unable to replicate. I have in mind the support services that benefit university students. Those benefits will not be available to students undergoing ITT within schools. Presumably the schools will have to buy in those benefits. Where is economy of scale in that concept ?
Let us consider the design of ITT courses. Ministers must be worried about at least one instance of plagiarism of an existing course in higher education by a consortium. That reflects the limitations faced by practising teachers in developing themselves the standards to which higher education has been accustomed.
Does the Bill promote choice and diversity, as the Secretary of State and other Ministers have claimed ? Unfortunately not. Schools may decide to run courses in the short term--probably on the offer of substantial cash--only to find that they cannot cope. They will then
Column 369withdraw. It is abundantly clear that the Government's measures are causing university education departments to consider their position. In due course, they will no doubt wither on the vine. That may be the Government's intention. Nothing is explicit, but that may be the hidden agenda.
It is clear, however, that HE departments concerned with teacher education will be cut off from the HE funding councils. They will not be in the same bidding ring as other university departments. They may find that judgments will be made. At least one university has already decided, admittedly on the basis of a course about which there were many doubts, that it intends to pull out of teacher training. It has made that clear.
In due course, the result will be more limited choice, not extended choice. The courses available for students who wish to become teachers will increasingly be available only in schools. Recent research at Warwick university has made it clear that in the secondary sector teachers do not have the time to engage in the colossal burden of work that the Government have decided will fall on them.
It is clear that the Government are asking hard-pressed teachers--we all know of the increasing demands that are made of them through the national curriculum--to become trainers in full of the next generation of teachers. That may well be a burden too far. Without a shadow of a doubt, children will suffer if schools have to teach teachers, and governing bodies of schools are likely to express their reservations and anxieties about those developments.
For every instance in Committee when Ministers and Conservative Back Benchers produced Central Office handouts of anecdotes about what was wrong with teacher education in the universities, we already have comparable anecdotal evidence of what is wrong with school-based courses.
Hearsay will not do. However, the House is not being allowed the benefit of the fulfilment of an experiment to examine what has happened in the development of such courses. The House is being asked to legislate on the basis of a half-rushed-through operation, which is far from finished.
The Minister must recognise the Opposition's anxieties about the international validity of these courses. We are now in the European Community in a professional sense. In every respect, we will see increased mobility of labour. If teachers are to carry qualifications which are provided not by a recognised university, but by a consortium of schools, from a school which no one elsewhere has heard of, how will they compete with graduates from other universities in other countries for jobs that they expect to secure ?
The Government should think yet again and recognise the validity of the amendments. They must accept what was said in the other place, what was moved and passed in the other place and what has been expressed continually in Committee and in the House today : only a partnership between schools and higher education can provide the essential qualifications which our teachers need and our students deserve.
Column 370hat and arguments which were much rehearsed in Committee and in another place. He added very little to that old hat, except perhaps some new trimmings which were as objectionable as those that preceded them and which, in certain cases, were even perverse.
For example, the hon. Member did not have the heart to refer to the amendments relating to the Audit Commission which would have reversed the trend of the argument that the Opposition deployed at an earlier stage of the Bill's proceedings.
However, we can at least be grateful that the Opposition have added a little variety. In particular, they have added the magical ingredient of the word "appropriate" in several of the amendments. That, in itself, exemplifies some of the difficulties of the Opposition's approach. It is interesting to wonder what "appropriate" means. Is it for the school to decide an appropriate partnership ? Will it be for the courts to decide ?
Mr. Don Foster : Given that the Minister is having difficulty understanding the meaning of "appropriate", could he perhaps define the meaning of "appropriate" in clause 6(1)(a) which refers to the need for
"establishing and maintaining in relation to courses for initial training of school teachers an appropriate balance between school-centred courses and other courses ;".
What is "appropriate" in that context ?