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Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield): Does my right hon. Friend agree that many electors will be bemused and many teachers frustrated by the delay in introducing performance-related pay, which, I was told in my constituency on Friday evening, many teachers have provisionally spent? There is great disappointment about the delay, but I take it from her remarks that that will be sorted as quickly as possible for all those who believe, as I do, that performance-related pay will ensure that better teachers--that means the bulk of teachers--are rewarded. However, will she warn my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State not to compete with a former Conservative Secretary of State? The House lost count of the number of High Court judgments that found that he had acted illegally. Off the top of my head, I think that the total was 20, but I am happy to be corrected on the exact number.
Ms Morris: I am sure that my right hon. Friend will read my hon. Friend's comments and take them to heart. The NUT is the first trade union in the history of the movement to go to court to block a £2,000 pay increase for some of its members. I share his view that many teachers in the staff room today will wonder why their union has acted in that manner, particularly as the matter was not raised until 22 June.
Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam): The Minister has grossly caricatured the NUT's position. It went to court to defend the principle that it should be consulted when significant changes are made to teachers' contracts. Does she accept that the Government had plenty of warning of the problem? The application was made in March and, although it did not concern the specifics, it still posed general questions about the scheme. The Government will also be aware that early-day motion 628, which was tabled in April and signed by 70 Members of all parties, highlighted exactly the problems that led to Friday's judgment.
Does the Minister accept that the Government have left teachers in an appalling situation as they head off for their summer holidays? Will she offer them certain guarantees? Will she guarantee that no teacher will have to reapply for the scheme, and that those who would have been successful under the current system will be able to go through without making further applications? Will she guarantee that payments will be made in September, as teachers had a right to expect before the Government made a cock-up of the system?
Will the Minister say under which Act the consultation will now take place, and what the mechanism will be for consulting the Welsh Assembly? Can she guarantee that there will be a debate on the subject and will she indicate when she expects that to take place? Finally, will she offer an apology to civil servants and teachers for what has occurred, which is the Government's fault and which cannot be laid at the feet of a trade union that is simply doing its job?
The hon. Gentleman is not right about the NUT seeking only to defend its members' interests in the process of judicial review. It went for judicial review for two reasons when it first made a submission. The first issue that it took to judicial review was a challenge to our wish to make line managers responsible for assisting heads in the proper assessment of teachers.
I am happy to defend the proposition that it is right that departmental managers should assist heads in proper assessment. As a former teacher, I would want the manager most closely knowledgeable about my performance to be involved in assessment, as well as the head teacher.
The second issue on which the NUT went for judicial review involved matters concerning the Welsh Assembly, which it did not pursue. The matter which is now causing difficulty is not one on which it has spent months defending its members. It was added to the brief by its lawyers on 22 June. If the issue was so important that it struggled to talk to us about it during the 18 months of consultation, one might imagine that it would have drawn it to our attention before 22 June.
I am unable to give the assurances that the hon. Gentleman seeks. Timing is now in the hands of the STRB. We shall endeavour to ensure that there is as much expedition as possible within a proper consultation framework. We cannot say that payments will be made in September. Let it be clear that this is the effect of NUT action. The money will not be paid in September. There will be a delay, but within the framework of proper consultation we will do what we can to make it as easy as possible for the teachers who are eligible to get the pay rise that they deserve. I can promise that it will be backdated to 1 September.
Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow): Will the Minister confirm that there is no effective appraisal system anywhere that does not involve the recommendations and views of line managers? In that respect, the NUT was fundamentally wrong. Will my hon. Friend confirm also that the judge did not rule in favour of the NUT when dealing with the principle raised by that issue?
I met two teachers in my constituency yesterday who have applied to go through the threshold and are extremely concerned at the delay that the NUT's action will cause. Will my hon. Friend use all available means to resolve this issue as quickly as possible, even if that involves introducing legislation? That would have the merit of getting pay increases implemented as quickly as possible and of putting the Conservative party on the spot, by making it clear that it fundamentally opposes additional pay for teachers who deserve it.
Ms Morris: I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments. He is right about performance management. Indeed, many schools have no performance management system. That shows how successful the previous Government's system of appraisal was: it has withered on the vine through lack of financial support. We wanted to implement a system of performance management that could properly value teachers' skills, lead to professional development opportunities for teachers and provide a proper assessment of their performance.
It is right and it makes sense that departmental heads and line managers should be involved in appraisal and performance management. I assure my hon. Friend that on Friday the judgment did not criticise either the responsibility of line managers or the standards: it concerned a technicality on the consultation process. I well understand the actions and words of the two constituents whom my hon. Friend met, and the confusion as a result of this action that there must be in many staff rooms as the end of term approaches.
As I said, letters are going out tonight to head teachers making the position clear. I have today spoken to teachers' representatives, who will do their best to make the position clear. We shall continue to update teachers, head teachers and others. We shall write again next week, and post up-to-date information on the DFEE website from the end of this week. We shall do all we can to put this process back in order and back on the road.
Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury): I think the Minister and many people agree that the National Union of Teachers has scored a luddite own goal. Will she confirm a point that was raised earlier, but which she did not deal with? Many teachers have spent a lot of time filling in the forms to apply for the extra money to which they are doubtless entitled. Will she confirm that they will not have to go through that exercise again? If they have filled in the paperwork, they may have to be a little more patient, but they should not have to go through that exercise all over again.
Ms Morris: Yes. The list of luddites includes the hon. Members for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) and for Cotswold, and the NUT. They are strange bedfellows, but we have seen that combination of personnel on the Opposition Benches already this year. I too hope that teachers will not have to fill in another form. If after proper consultation the standards remain the same, it is entirely likely that no more forms will have to be filled in, because the assessment will be made against the same standards. If it is decided to change the standards, quite honestly it is a different ball game.