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Session 2001- 02
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Standing Committee Debates
Education Bill

Education Bill

Standing Committee G

Thursday 13 December 2001


Mr. Win Griffiths

Education Bill

9.55 am

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): On a point of order, Mr. Griffiths. First may I welcome you to the Chair? I am sure that you will chair our proceedings with the same grace and wisdom as Mrs. Adams did on our first day. I am tempted also to welcome the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) who has arrived just in time.

My point of order relates to a housekeeping matter. We sat on Tuesday between 8 pm and 10 pm. I was about to respond to an intervention when we suspended and it would have been enormously helpful to me, and possibly to other hon. Members, if the Hansard for those proceedings had been available on time. I understand that it was prepared, but for some reason it is not available in the Committee Room. I should be grateful for your guidance on why that is the case and for any reassurance you can give us that that will not recur.

The Chairman: I thank the hon. Member for that point of order. We are trying to get copies of Hansard to the Committee as soon as possible. We do not know what the delay is, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the House officials are trying to ensure that we receive them as soon as possible. May I also draw the revised selection list to the Committee's attention? Schedule 1, to which no amendments have been tabled, was omitted from yesterday's version and that has now been corrected.

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest): On a point of order, Mr. Griffiths. The monitor has been showing that this Committee would start at 9.30 am. We had further information that it would start at 9.50 am. The correct time was 9.55 am. I merely raise the point so that it can be looked into somewhere along the line, as it was rather confusing. I know that we do not always know when we will end, but it helps to know when we start.

The Chairman: Yes, it was clearly confusing, if that is possible. I may have added to the confusion a little by arriving precisely on time. I had not intended to be so close to the wire.

Amendment proposed [11 December]: No. 11, in 4, line 25, leave out ''may'', and insert ''shall''.—[Mr. Brady.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Column Number: 108

The Chairman: I remind the Committee that with this we are taking the following amendments: No. 68, in page 4, line 26, leave out ''any curriculum provision'' and insert—

    ''any of such curriculum provisions as shall be prescribed by order approved under the affirmative resolution procedure''.

No. 44, in page 4, line 26, after second ''provision'', insert—

    ''or such other areas as the Secretary of State may determine following representations from a qualifying body or qualifying school''.

No. 12, in page 4, line 28, leave out subsections (1)(b) and (c) and insert—

    ''(b) designate the modifications of any curriculum provision or pay and conditions provision as being available as of right, and may—

    (c) designate any curriculum provision or pay and conditions provisions as attracting discretionary exemption''.

No. 45, in page 4, line 28, after second ''provision'', insert—

    ''or such other areas as the Secretary of State may determine following representations from a qualifying body or qualifying school''.

No. 46, in page 4, line 31, after ''provision'', insert—

    ''or such other areas as the Secretary of State may determine following representations from a qualifying body or qualifying school''.

No. 47, in page 4, line 33, after ''provision'', insert—

    ''or such other areas as the Secretary of State may determine following representations from a qualifying body or qualifying school''.

No. 35, in page 4, line 33, at end insert—

    ''except insofar as every school must demonstrate that the curriculum it offers remains consistent with the objectives of the national curriculum.''

No. 66, in page 5, line 9, at end insert—

    ''(f) provide for the manner in which statutory provisions in relation to the inspection of schools, and the publication of information relating to school performance shall be applied in relation to a school in respect of which an order under subsection 2 is made''.

No. 13, in page 5, line 13, leave out ''(1)(c)'', and insert ''(1)(b)''.

No. 14, in page 5, line 24, leave out ''(1)(b)'', and insert ''(1)(c)''.

No. 81, in page 5, line 30, at end insert—

    ''(6) In so far as regulations made under this section relate to a curriculum provision they shall, in addition to providing for an exemption or modification, require persons responsible for the delivery of the curriculum in any school to have regard to the need to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum in that school.''

Mr. Brady: I shall briefly conclude my remarks on amendment No. 66. As I said, I was not able to refresh my memory from the printed record about the intervention that came immediately before we suspended. However, my memory is almost equal to that of the elephant that we discussed at length. The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough had egged me on by saying that the amendment that I was minded not to press, after a very helpful reassurance from the Minister, was more important than I had realised. He raised important points about the value and the centrality, of school inspections and the reporting procedure. However, I was reassured by the Minister's earlier remarks that proper arrangements

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would be in place for inspection and reporting of performance data. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough): I beg to move amendment No. 33, in page 4, line 33, at end insert—

    '(1A) The Secretary of State shall exercise his powers under this section with regard to the desirability of maintaining an effective national framework of pay and conditions for school teachers, so that all maintained schools are able to recruit, retain and motivate sufficient teachers of the required quality'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 34, in page 4, line 33, at end insert—

    '(1A) The Secretary of State shall continue to exercise his powers under all provisions of this section so as to promote the professional development of teachers, including development in relation to standards determined by him in an order under section 118 as criteria for entry into a particular class of teachers for purposes of remuneration.'.

No. 79, in page 4, line 33, at end insert—

    '(1A) In so far as regulations made under this section relate to a pay or conditions provision they shall in addition to providing for an exemption or modification make provision also for the determination of the relevant pay or conditions by means of negotiation between relevant bodies and representatives of those to whom different pay and conditions are to be applied.'.

No. 52, in page 5, line 30, at end insert—

    '(6) Any order under subsection (2) must contain the following provisions of the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions document—

    (a) main pay scale,

    (b) threshold and

    (c) differentials between mainscale and leadership group and between headteacher and the rest of the leadership group.'.

Mr. Willis: Thank you, Mr. Griffiths. I welcome you to the Chair. Your reputation for fairness and decency precedes you and I am sure that we shall enjoy your chairmanship enormously. I apologise for being 30 seconds late. The reason was the confusion to which the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing) referred.

Mr. Brady: The hon. Gentleman has added to my confusion since when I arrived at the Committee at 9.30 am I noticed that he was not present.

Mr. Willis: I am delighted that we were unable to take this group of amendments at the end of Tuesday's sitting when Members were understandably tired after an exceptional debate on curricular issues. Hansard will show that it was indeed a good debate.

The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) does not appear to be as concerned about teachers' pay and conditions as my colleagues and I. This group of amendments is intended to probe the Government about where they see the disapplication of pay and conditions. We accept that the current national system of pay and conditions for teachers is not perfect. None of the teacher associations would accept that it is perfect. Each, if asked to redesign the system, would do so in a different way.

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We must also accept that since the introduction of the School Teachers' Pay Review Body—by the previous Government, working practices in our schools have changed. I say in good spirit to the Minister that pay and conditions should be considered extremely seriously. We believe that there should be a full inquiry into teachers' pay and conditions, including regional variations, as there was in Scotland. That would address the enormous problem of teacher recruitment and retention in some of the most difficult and challenging areas of the country. The way in which the Government are approaching a change to teachers' pay and conditions in the Bill is really quite insulting to the teaching profession. It has the potential to cause a great deal of damage nationally, locally and within individual schools.

Amendment No. 33 makes it clear that we do not want to see changes in teachers' pay and conditions approached by stealth. We believe that the provisions under this part of clause 6 are excessive. During the previous sitting, the Minister talked about innovation and earned autonomy in schools, which could apply to as many as 50 per cent. of schools bearing in mind the Government's target of schools with an average standard of five A to Cs, or as many as 75 per cent. if we take the Prime Minister's target in his statement on failing schools as being those which do not achieve 25 per cent. A to Cs.

If 75 per cent. of schools are able to opt out of the current arrangements for teachers' pay and conditions and set up their own, either as a school or with individual teachers, we will have to question the point of the STPRB and of the current legislation as individual schools will be able to override the will of Parliament and the STPRB. This probing amendment seeks the Government's response to those issues. Are the Government still committed to a national framework for teachers, pay and conditions?

Amendment No. 34 also raises an issue about teachers' professional development.The hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) is not in Committee today, but I am sure that he would agree that development was non-existent for many years. From the time I qualified in the 19th century to when I left the profession, there was no emphasis on developing me as an individual or a teacher. It was as if one became a good head teacher simply by being in a school for a long time. That is obviously nonsense. I compliment the previous Government and the current one for placing greater emphasis on the professional development of staff, which is important.

However, there is a contradiction in that raising standards involves raising the standard of teachers. One cannot happen without the other. There is often a divisive debate between producer and consumer interests, but they are the same. Patients are treated well if they have a good doctor. Nursing standards on wards increase if the nurses are good. The same applies to teachers. The more we invest in them, value what they do and develop their professional expertise, the better the deal for young people in the classroom.

Column Number: 111

In clause 118, which reinforces the 1991 Act, there is a clear Government statement that professional development is crucial to teachers, which we support. The Secretary of State established national standards for good teaching, and the previous Secretary of State introduced threshold arrangements. The Government appear to be committed to pursuing performance-related pay in schools and have introduced a category of teachers in advanced schools. That shows that they are committed to raising standards by setting standard targets and thresholds to which teachers can aspire. The Liberal Democrats support the general thrust of the measures, if not the mechanisms.

However, there is a contradiction in clause 6. It appears that individual schools can simply exempt themselves from those standards and pay teachers according to the market rate in schools in general. There is no reference to the maintenance of standards in the disapplication of teachers' pay and conditions. Amendment No. 34 probes the Government's commitment to access for all teachers to professional development, training and assessment that meet national professional standards. Will we go back to the bad old days when individual institutions were allowed autonomy in those matters and classes were left with teachers' sub-standard performances?

Amendment No. 79 relates to the retention of negotiating rights in schools with earned autonomy and goes to the heart of the new powers that the Secretary of State envisages for such schools. I would have though that a Labour Government would feel strongly about that, given the performance of the previous Tory Government and Labour Members' vitriolic attacks on them during the establishment of grant-maintained status. Like many members of the Committee, I remember when the previous Government unilaterally removed teachers' negotiating rights from them. The School Teachers' Pay Review Body, was set up as a deliberate way to circumvent direct negotiations between teachers and their employers; there is now an intermediary body. The shadow Secretaries of State waxed lyrical in opposition to that proposal at the time, yet the Government not only do nothing about it but propose to go even further in removing teachers' negotiating rights.

I do not argue that schools will necessarily give teachers worse pay or conditions, as that is highly unlikely given the market situation and the shortage of teachers in most parts of the country. However, the need to recruit and retain teachers will mean that some schools, with their new-found freedom and their additional £500,00 or other pots of money for having specialist status, will be able to offer attractive packages to recruit and retain teachers, which will distort the local marketplace. Does the Minister want a free for all in the market for teachers? If so, my point on Second Reading must be addressed. How do those schools that do not get the additional resources for specialist school status, which are often in the poorest parts of the country—across the road in Lambeth, for example——attract the teachers they need? The Secretary of State made it clear that only half the

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schools in Britain will have specialist status by 2005. How do the rest of them retain teachers when they have to compete with schools that can disapply terms and conditions and offer enhanced packages?

I visited a primary school in Lambeth last week, where a significant number of the staff were not professional teachers in the terms of the Department for Education and Science regulations but young people who had been brought over from Australia and New Zealand. They were doing a fantastic job, but they were the only staff that the head teacher could attract to the area. However, in Harrogate, for example, it is relatively easy to attract high-quality teachers because of the environment, the nature of the schools and the living conditions in my constituency.

A newly qualified teacher in a school in Westminster has a starting salary of £17,001, a recruitment and retention bonus of £5,085, and £3,000 inner London weighting, a total of £25,086, which is a good starting salary and a reasonable market rate. However, a teacher in the same school, who has been teaching for five years and is on point 7 of the scale, gets the inner London weighting of £3,000 but ends up on the lower salary of £25,035. The Minister must address that issue, because it causes division in the staff room; the school must try to retain the teacher who has been working in the school for five years. A teacher in Westminster who has been teaching for three years, who is on point 5 on the scale, with a management point for additional responsibilities, would end up with a salary of £24,060, £1,000 less than a newly qualified teacher with no experience starting at the same school.

The Minister must come clean on the Government's thinking on this part of the Bill. One problem that we all recognise is the retention of teachers after three years. The drop out at that time is massive. If the proposals will make that worse, the Minister must think carefully about how he applies the regulations pertaining to the clause.

10.15 am

The golden hellos and shortage bonuses that some teachers receive give them an advantage over those who completed their postgraduate training two or three years ago, or took the bachelor of education route. That is not a political point; hon. Members are aware that those inequities cause problems in staff rooms.

The clause allows an application without considering its consequences. It will not prevent a teacher negotiating with his or her agents on non-statutory aspects of pay and conditions. Amendment No. 79 would ensure that bargaining must be collective. We would prefer clearer guidance in the national framework. If the Minister insists on advancing the Bill, we urge him to insert the right of the whole staff, rather than individuals, to engage in negotiations. That would fulfil the Government's commitment in its White Paper, ''Schools Achieving Success''. Paragraph 5.18 states:

    ''We will allow schools flexibility over some elements of teachers' pay and conditions, for example to provide even greater recruitment and retention incentives, or to allow schools to agree

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    with their staff a more flexible working day or year in return for some reward. But important elements of teachers' pay and conditions will remain common to all teachers: this will not lead to individual contracts.''

Will the Minister explain why that commitment does not match the provisions?

Disapplying terms and conditions has not worked. Four years ago, the Government created education action zones, which the Minister has conveniently buried. He will know, although he was not in the Department at the time, that one of the huge problems facing EAZs—out of which interesting ideas emerged—was disapplying pay and conditions. The vast majority did not do that. Their first negotiation with the local education authority—which remained the employer—and teacher associations was to retain pay and conditions agreements. They recognised how divisive disapplying would be.

The previous Government introduced a disapplying proposal for grant-maintained schools, for which they provided extra money. One of the aims at that time was to break the teaching unions and break their control over pay and conditions bargaining. Of the 1,000 schools that opted out under grant-maintained legislation, only three used the provisions. That was with a Government who actively supported them in the teeth of opposition from professional associations.


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Prepared 13 December 2001