Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
WEDNESDAY 9 JANUARY 2002
60. You think that there ought to be some recognition
of the smaller unitary LEAs in terms of future funding?
(Mr Parkin) Yes, I think there should.
61. I find that comment very interesting because,
and I do not know whether they are in your union or not, most
of the educational professionals that I talk to in my constituency
are very much in favour of taking control of the budgets for their
schools and buying back into the services that may be appropriate
to do the special needs or transport that a local education authority
can provide. Certainly my experience is not the same as yours.
(Ms Gemmell) I think it is because we are not wanting
to put the clock back and good LEAs, and I think I come from one
too, actually did devolve large amounts of the autonomy that comes
with money to their schools several years ago, as far back as
1990 in Nottinghamshire, which is where I come from. We are not
suggesting that we are getting messages that the clock should
be put back, not at all. You asked whether the balance was about
right at the moment and I am talking about the here and now. I
am not suggesting that schools want the LEAs to have more control.
One of the things
62. Forgive me for interrupting but I thought
you were saying that you felt the balance was about right and
there was no message coming through to you that the schools should
have more power than they do so at the moment.
(Ms Gemmell) I was not talking about power, I was
63. Control of the funds.
(Ms Gemmell) All I merely said was from our case workload
that comes into us we do not determine from that when we analyse
it that there is an antipathetic feel to the current status with
Chairman: David wants to come in on this, although,
Mark, from your education spokesman's recent speech in my own
constituency of Huddersfield, I am wondering which Conservative
policies are still being retained as he said he was not committed
to any of them.
Mr Simmonds: We are exploring everything, as
you well know.
64. Turning to the question of under-achievement
of Afro-Caribbean boys, you are saying that the problem lies with
black lone parents?
(Ms Gemmell) No. I am saying that there are other
statistics that need to be looked at before you draw a conclusion.
Nigel was saying
65. You said earlier that a factor was that
Afro-Caribbean boys tend to come from families with a lone parent.
(Ms Gemmell) That is from the perception of running
a school which was multicultural with 25 per cent from ethnic
minorities. We certainly gleaned that there was a connection between
the number of families that did not have an adult male role model
for the Afro-Caribbean boys and the difficulties that they got
into. Certainly I do not think the Race Relations Board have ever
correlated the statistic between families which do not have an
adult role model and exclusion. I think that there is a connection.
I cannot prove that.
66. Did you observe the same relationship between
middle class white families headed by lone parents?
(Ms Gemmell) No.
67. So it is an issue of class rather than lone
(Ms Gemmell) Sorry? An issue of?
68. If you are trying to argue that the lone
parent factor is a contributory factor in the under-achievement
of Afro-Caribbean boys that would only be valid if the lone parent
factor was present in other social groups, and if you did not
observe that amongst white families headed by lone parents or
middle class families headed by lone parents, presumably it does
(Ms Gemmell) I think there is a race issue. I did
say that I thought there was a race issue and when Nigel said
that there was not I did not agree with him. I think that the
absence of male role models is a contributory factor and we perceived
that was higher within the Afro-Caribbean group than it was within
the white Caucasian group.
69. Where there are lone parent white families,
is there a problem of under-achievement there in your experience?
(Ms Gemmell) I was talking about exclusion. There
are problems of under-achievement, which we have not discussed
at all. The under-achievement of some Asian girls is one of great
concern to some teachers but does not hit the headlines because
they do not misbehave and they do not get excluded. If you do
comparisons of their achievement compared with indigenous families
in terms of white background in this country, you either get Asian
girls who succeed incredibly highly or very poorly, there is not
Chairman: What is your explanation for that?
70. Do you have an explanation for that?
(Ms Gemmell) Yes, I do have an explanation for it
but, again, it is based on perception. This is not PAT policy
and I have no statistics, just that I was a head of a school with
a lot of Asian girls in it. The very able girls see academic success
as a way to continue their autonomy and to not have arranged marriages.
The girls who are not so successful do not actually see the need
to have a work ethic to maximise their potential because they
do not perceive that they are going to have to have careers.
71. Is that not to do with class structure within
the Asian community?
(Ms Gemmell) I think that it is, yes, but it is not
something that we talk about very much.
72. Can I conclude. The last question I want
to ask you is one that seemed to get some reaction from previous
colleagues and that is what is your feeling about the Government's
enthusiasm about faith schools? I am asking you particularly because
I was watching your face when I asked that question, so this is
why I am pushing you on that.
(Ms Gemmell) I do think the timing of the issue was
an unfortunate one in world events. I do not see how one can possibly
talk about having the possibility of private sector initiatives
setting up schools or putting forward proposals for thethe
latest phrase has gone out of my head, what are the new city colleges
are going to be called?
(Ms Gemmell) Yes, that is the one. I do not see how
you can, on the one hand, say that is possible and, on the other
hand, not make it possible for that private body to be a faith
group. It seems to me that either there is the possibility for
private sector initiative to establish education or there is not.
It seems to me that a faith school that might be initiated by,
I do not know, the board of synagogue or whatever, is no different
from a school that is initiated by perhaps IBM. It seems to me
that logic says you cannot have the one without the other. Certainly
the only faith schools that I am acquainted with, which are few
and in a particular geographical locality, do have in them children
that are not of that faith and although they do promote the faith
in terms of the children who follow it, they do not proselytise
to my knowledge.
74. You did not have much chance on this but
the last question I want to ask you is if there was a wish list
of what the Government should now be doing in the educational
sector, if you could have that power over the Secretary of State,
what would you wish for?
(Ms Gemmell) We had a wish list that we actually sent
to all of the parties at the time of the election. If I could
read it to you.
75. As long as it is not too long.
(Ms Gemmell) No, it is very short. This was our wish
list then. We wanted performance management and threshold to be
linked together so that it was seamless, so you did not have to
fill in forms and so if you were successful the guaranteed funding
would be there. Because at that time it was part of the DfEE as
it then was, we wanted a national register of child carers. We
think it is appalling that nannies do not have to be registered,
we think that is highly dangerous. We want a universal entitlement
to funding for nursery education for three year olds, and there
has in the new Bill been moves towards that, which we are glad
about. We want a commitment to improved working conditions for
all in child care and education. Hopefully the Pricewaterhouse
review is actually going to help push that forward if in the funding
review there is sufficient money for that Pricewaterhouse review
to be implemented. We want a rationalisation of salaries and training
for the whole team in education, that is head teachers, teachers,
teaching assistants and other support staff. We think that there
is not a need for a gulf, we think there is the possibility of
it being one single whole team system. We want guaranteed non-contact
time for classroom teachers. We have not been pushing 35 hours,
many of our members cannot see how that would ever work. We want
funding to be provided to maintain staff to pupil ratios. Interestingly,
we note that they are now referred to as adult to pupil ratios.
There is an interesting question there that if you are going to
have adults working in schools, how that sits comfortably with
the recent statutory implementation of the General Teaching Council
to have all teachers having to be registered with their professional
body, which we wanted for years, at a time when there is the possibility
of having people contributing in a way which is almost indistinguishable
from teaching in schools when they cannot be part of that register
because they have no qualification. We want the ratios to be maintained
and we want continuous staff developments and links within the
Training Agency to be maintained. We want curriculum issues to
be funded because of the number of times when you read a curriculum
document and at the bottom it says it is funding neutral and very
few things are ever funding neutral because at least the paper
on which they are written costs a lot of money. We certainly want,
which none of the other unions have mentioned, consideration of
the effects of constant repetitive assessment on the pupils themselves.
Chairman: Thank you, Jean, for that and thank
you, Philip, for your contribution. I am sorry you had to wait
until last but I think you have had a fairly good spread of time
at the end. Thank you.