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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 6 February 2007

Communities and Local Government

Council Elections

The Minister for Local Government (Mr. Phil Woolas): Our local government White Paper, “Strong and prosperous communities”, proposed that a move to whole council elections should be a matter for local discretion. We have now included provision to give effect to this in the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill, which received its second reading on 22 January. District councils will in future, subject to the Bill receiving Royal Assent, be able to move to whole council elections after passing a resolution to that effect and for that change to take place in the usual year for whole council elections for that type of authority.

In these circumstances, we believe that it is no longer appropriate for the Secretary of State to make orders under section 7 of the Local Government Act 1972 to effect changes to electoral cycles, should she be requested to do so by shire district councils in accordance with the procedures in that section.

Constitutional Affairs

Mental Capacity Act 2005 (Court of Protection)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Vera Baird): My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, has made the following written ministerial statement.

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Education and Skills

School Teachers' Review Body (Recommendations)

The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Alan Johnson): The 16th report of the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) is being published today. It covers a range of matters referred to the STRB in May 2006. Copies are available in the Vote Office, the Printed Paper Office and the Libraries of the House and at http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/pay.

In making its recommendations, the STRB was required to have regard to the matters set out in the remit letter of 17 May 2006. The16th STRB report does not include a pay award as we are currently in the middle of a multi-year award, but it does deal with some very important matters affecting teachers’ pay and conditions, and I am most grateful for the careful and detailed attention the STRB has given to these matters. The STRB recommendations are set out below followed in each case by my response.

I am seeking consultation comments on the report and my response by 5 March 2007.

Mathematics, science and other priority subjects

The STRB has recommended the following:

We recommend that:

I note that the STRB considers that existing recruitment and retention incentives are the most flexible tool available for addressing teacher shortages, and that a programme of action is required to secure a significant increase in the use of them. We will need to consider with partners where support for local managers will help them to do this. We will also consider the best way to raise awareness and provide better information to help school management to use the flexibilities as an active management tool.

The STRB also said we should investigate the points about budgets made by consultees and take appropriate action. We shall consider the points raised, but note at the outset that the context of this issue is that schools are free, within the existing statutory framework, to spend their budgets in accordance with their own priorities for school improvement, and that includes the existing recruitment and retention incentives and benefits.

The STRB recommended that teachers receive a financial incentive for completion of accredited courses in priority subjects. We welcome the agreement that
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incentives should be payable, and will consider the most appropriate mechanism and how to pilot their implementation.

Special educational needs allowances

The STRB has recommended the following:

We recommend that:

I welcome the issues which the STRB has identified in relation to special educational needs allowances. I agree that this is a complex and sensitive matter and that it deserves careful review. I therefore propose to accept the recommendation that the Department should gather additional evidence on a range of matters relevant to this, in preparation for further consideration by the STRB.

Having reflected carefully on the STRB’s proposals for further evidence, and taking into account the need for this matter to be considered further by interested parties, I propose to work on the basis that the question of potential review of SEN allowances be included in the 2008 STRB remit.

Excellent teacher scheme (ETS)

The STRB has recommended the following:

We recommend that:

The remit to the STRB invited it to make recommendations on what framework may be appropriate to enable relevant bodies to set a spot salary for excellent teachers, within the ranges recommended in its 15th Report; and whether, and on what basis, the spot salary may be reviewed. I am grateful to the STRB for its advice.

The excellent teacher scheme is a distinctive and attractive career option for experienced teachers who are excellent classroom practitioners. To help schools make sound decisions about the appropriate spot rate on the range for excellent teachers, the STRB has suggested that the pay document should set broad, high-level criteria with local flexibility. The STRB has agreed with the two factors proposed by the Rewards and Incentives Group in its evidence—the nature of the work to be undertaken and the degree of challenge of the role—and has added that schools should be able to set any additional criteria they consider appropriate.

I am concerned that allowing schools to determine additional local criteria, as the STRB suggests, might be too open-ended for schools to manage and there is a risk that factors unrelated to the excellent teacher role could be added. I also think that allowing schools to set additional local criteria could undermine the sense of a national benchmark for the scheme. The concept of a
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spot salary i.e. a salary with no progression is new to the teaching profession and it is paramount that schools have a clear basis for reaching fair and consistent decisions on the salary levels they set. Before I decide whether or not to accept the ‘additional criteria’ I would like to invite views on whether such a framework would be workable and, if so, what help schools might need to enable them to make these decisions.

The STRB has proposed that the basis for review of an excellent teacher’s salary should be if there are significant changes in the nature of the work, the degree of challenge of the role and any additional factor the school considers appropriate. ETS salaries could also be looked at as part of any wider review of salaries. I accept this recommendation in principle, but I want to make clear my view that the review should only be in relation to changes in the criteria established at the outset (including whatever might specifically be set under the additional criteria category) or a wider review of salaries.

Part-time teachers

The STRB has recommended the following:

We recommend that:

I warmly welcome the STRB’s recommendations with regard to pay for part-time teachers as they will ensure that pay for these teachers will be calculated equitably and transparently. I am therefore happy to accept their recommendations and we will work with partners to develop the provisions that they have identified, with the intention being to incorporate these into the STPCD from September 2008. We recognise that in doing so we will be increasing cost pressures on some schools, which we will need to take into account in the context of the full range of school funding issues for 2008 and beyond, and which will be one of the considerations for the STRB in their next report.

Teachers’ performance and pay progression

The STRB has recommended the following:

We recommend that:

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I am grateful to the STRB for their careful consideration of this complex matter and I warmly welcome the Review Body’s reaffirmation of the principle that there should be a formal link between performance management reviews and pay progression. I am also grateful for its advice on how this might be reflected in amendments to the STPCD.

I will want to give careful consideration to the specific nature of these amendments to ensure that any changes to the STPCD are consistent with the requirements of the School Teacher Performance Management (England) Regulations (2006) and the School Teacher Appraisal (Wales) Regulations 2002and enable a proper statutory correlation between the performance management and pay processes which aids clarity, reduces duplication and improves practice on the ground. I accept that the STPCD should be amended to clarify that teachers on the main pay scale and unqualified teachers should complete performance management reviews. I am not proposing any change in the current pay progression arrangements.

On the final point that the Department require schools and services to include details in their pay policy about how performance management is assessed for pay purposes as indicated in my previous response to the STRB’s 15th Report, I am not minded to accept this. The content of schools’ and services’ pay policies should be for them to determine taking into account relevant statutory requirements.

Approaches to pay in England and Wales

The STRB has not made a recommendation, but said the following:

I am grateful to the STRB for its consideration of this issue and am content to accept that the existing framework should continue to apply without the need for modification to reflect England and Wales issues. I will certainly want to keep this under review and would expect the Review Body in carrying out future remits, as well as partners and other consultees, to draw to the attention of my Department and/or the Welsh Assembly Government, as appropriate, any significant developments that might call into question these arrangements.

Teachers’ professional responsibilities

The STRB has recommended the following:

We recommend that:

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The STRB has provided a helpful set of criteria for the preparation of new statements of teachers’ professional roles and responsibilities. I am grateful to the STRB for the work that it did in preparation for this report to survey consultees’ views on the need for and place of duties in teachers’ statutory conditions framework. That process generated a broad consensus that they were needed, but that the time had come to consider changes. I agree with that analysis and am happy to accept the recommendation made by the Review Body that we should develop new statements along the lines they suggest and I look forward to developing these statements with partners.

The STRB is absolutely right to flag the need for statements of teachers’ roles and responsibilities to be coherent with the other elements of the statutory pay and conditions framework and, importantly, with any changes arising from the current deliberations on the leadership group. It would be wrong for statements of roles and responsibilities to be finalised in advance of decisions on any relevant changes that may emerge in relation to the leadership group or indeed to fail to take account of the other developments mentioned in the recommendation. However it does seem to me that we should be looking to take forward these developments in parallel, so that the impact of each area on the other can be considered.

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