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The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Sarah Thatcher, Richard Ward, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee
When the Committee adjourned this morning, the Minister was responding to the debate on the amendments. Given the scope of the debate that we have already had, I am not minded to allow a debate on clause stand part.
I wish to return to Members’ concerns about young carers in relation to the clause. I agree with them that support for young carers is crucial. As I said this morning, there is already a legal requirement in the Education and Inspections Act 2006 that disciplinary penalties must be reasonable in all circumstances, and additional legislation would do little to help such children. The current requirement for 24 hours’ written notice does not guarantee that alternative arrangements can be made to cover their caring responsibilities. The key issue, as hon. Members have said, is that teachers are able to recognise which children are carers and make the necessary arrangements to support them in all aspects
Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): I accept that a responsible teacher would act in that way, but does the Minister agree that there is strong evidence that teachers in schools are not always fully aware of the home situation of young carers, and that at least if there were 24 hours’ notice, there would be a chance for the young carer to try to make some alternative arrangements with relatives and so on?
Mr Gibb: I understand that point, but we have to go further than that and ensure that we put in place strategies to enable schools to identify who the young carers are. It was only on Wednesday last week that Moira Fraser from the Princess Royal Trust for Carers said to me that until we know who the young carers are, we cannot do much to support them, which reflects the hon. Gentleman’s intervention.
Legislation is not the answer in this case. I urge those Members who raised the issue to look at the work that the Government have done and are doing on issues affecting young carers. The Government’s carers strategy, “Recognised, valued and supported: Next steps for the Carers Strategy”, encourages local authorities to consider adopting the memorandum of understanding, “Working together to support young carers”, which states that no care package should rely on a young person taking on inappropriate caring roles.
The Department for Education is working closely with the Department of Health to provide the National Young Carers Coalition with a healthy schools e-learning module that will help schools to identify and support young carers. The Government are also working closely with voluntary organisations such as the Princess Royal Trust for Carers and the Children’s Society which will receive funding over the next two years through my Department’s new voluntary and community sector grant programme.
I hope that hon. Members will agree, given the safeguards that are in place, that we should trust head teachers to make appropriate and reasonable decisions about notice to parents of a detention, taking account of all the relevant local circumstances. I therefore urge the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.
Kevin Brennan: I thank the Minister for his response. It is only fair that I should say at the outset that when a little piece of detailed policy suffers a little under intense scrutiny, there is often a temptation for a Minister to move into an unfocused, existential, generalist rant about something. I may have ranted at the beginning of this morning’s debate—
Kevin Brennan: I fully accept that Hansard will show whether that is true, but the Minister may have responded in kind with his implicit accusation that people on this side of the House do not care about behaviour and discipline in schools. Of course we do. In fact, the record shows quite clearly the measures that were taken
We have had a good debate, as you have said, Mr Williams. We are not convinced that the Government’s case is proven for the necessity of this measure, which repeals something introduced by a previous Conservative Government—not even a coalition Government.
Kevin Brennan: It is surprising that the Chair of the Select Committee says that we are more liberal now. I am not sure that this really qualifies as a liberal measure; I suppose it depends on which flexible definition of that term one chooses in order to define one’s philosophy. Not to prolong matters any further, I will not press amendments 40, 41, 42 and 44 to a vote, but I ask the Committee to join me in voting for amendment 43. I beg to ask leave to withdraw amendment 40.
Kevin Brennan: Clause 6 repeals the duty to enter into behaviour and attendance partnerships. If I were being unkind to the Minister, which I do not want to be—I assume that he is replying to this—I would launch into an existential rant at this point about the world going to hell in a handcart because of the way he is diluting the previous Government’s commitment to behaviour. The previous Government created a duty, as recommended by Sir Alan Steer in his independent report to the Government on behaviour, to enter into behaviour and attendance partnerships. I could also go down the route of accusing the Minister of being weak on behaviour, but he will be relieved to know that I shall not do so. Instead, I will focus on the detail of the proposal and our amendments.
The purpose of the amendment is to prevent the abolition and repeal taking effect—if the Government are absolutely intent on ramming the measure through using their majority in both Houses—until behaviour and attendance partnerships have had a chance to get up and running fully across the country. I recognise that partnership working by its very nature requires co-operation, but I also recognise that in order to kick-start productive partnership working a bit of stick is required. Sometimes a duty needs to be created to get something embedded thoroughly into the culture of a system. The amendment would ensure that behaviour and attendance partnerships become thoroughly embedded across the country and aims to avoid the risk of issues arising in areas without behaviour and attendance partnerships.
I recall the creation of grant-maintained schools back in the 1980s and 1990s, when a culture was created that meant schools were deeply in competition with each other, rather than being part of a family of schools, serving the children, young people and families of those communities. Often, that led to some extremely unhealthy outcomes in terms of behaviour policies, exclusions and so on. The advantage of behaviour and attendance partnerships is that there is a commitment on the part of all schools in an area to work together to tackle some of these issues. When that happens, schools become more empowered to deal with the issues. Unlike the Minister, I feel that a concern about making sure that we have good standards of behaviour and attendance in our schools is shared across the House. Instead of creating a fragmented system, the Government should be working hard to make sure that schools are working in partnership with each other and with other bodies best to meet the needs of local students, their families and the local community.
Partnerships create capacity by enabling groups of schools to employ specialist staff—whether that relates to the psychiatric support that might be required or to social workers, parent support workers and so on. Individual schools can struggle to do that on their own often because there is a lack of economy of scale—or, indeed, financial economies of scale—in the expertise that is required. That position is certainly supported by the National Union of Teachers, which told us that
“Behaviour partnerships have worked well in most areas…Partnership working between schools and alternative provision including short stay schools and special schools is a positive way in which staff can work more effectively together to support pupils in managing their own behaviour without recourse to exclusion…behaviour partnerships can enable schools to facilitate ‘managed moves’ with the least disruption to the pupil.”
For all those reasons, this kind of partnership is very important, particularly for small schools and primary schools. The clause exposes the fact that, in thinking about the matter, the Government have not given deep enough thought to the needs of the small primary schools for which this kind of partnership can be extremely important.
The clause exposes a lack of coherence in the Government’s thinking. On the one hand, for example, they say that they are trying to create academy chains of schools, which is to be welcomed. On the other hand, they are effectively downgrading—watering down and sending out a signal—about the concept of school partnerships. We need schools to be able to deal with their own problems, wherever that is humanly possible, but they should also ensure that structures are in place to get the support of other schools, should they need that.
The Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning (Mr John Hayes): The hon. Gentleman is rightly making a case for small schools, which many members of the Committee and I would support. The incoherence he describes surely lies at the heart of the Opposition perspective, which celebrates freedoms over matters such as governance. He will know that the former Secretaries of State, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett) and the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) have talked about academies having imaginative and innovative approaches to management, governance, teaching and curriculum. In all kinds of ways, previous Labour Secretaries of State have advocated that freedom and those differences. With respect, the incoherence is in not understanding that, with proper collaboration, such freedoms can be reconciled with the community, which the hon. Gentleman describes, and the relationships with other institutions. I do not understand why that is such a problem for him.
Kevin Brennan: I do not think that it is a problem. I do not have a problem with the freedoms that academies have, and that schools should have to manage their own affairs. But I know from experience that creating partnerships is important. Making sure that they are in place across the country is important in the interests of the school, the students and their families. There has to
“The behaviour and attendance partnerships provided an opportunity for stakeholder groups including parents and their representatives to be involved with these initiatives. This provision in the Bill reduces the opportunities for parents to be actively involved.”
The NASUWT was backed up by the NUT, which said that the requirement that maintained schools and academies must co-operate with each other—with at least one partner, anyway—for the purpose of promoting good behaviour and discipline among pupils was an important one.
The NAS was worried that the removal of the duty for a school to be involved in a behaviour and attendance partnership constituted a retrograde step and undermined a cohesive and co-operative approach to sharing responsibility for pupil behaviour. Its fear was that schools that acted in isolation from other schools to tackle issues of pupil indiscipline could adversely impact on local communities, because it would mean that there was not a joined-up approach to antisocial behaviour or to truancy. For that reason, it felt that the clause that the Government have introduced was not in the public interest.
Schools have a responsibility to the community. Most accept that and most behave well in trying to discharge that responsibility. However, sometimes it is not discharged well. I have certainly seen that happen in my professional career. Such a duty is important because, without it, the impact on schools, communities and pupils can be severe. Partnerships lead to schools establishing and following a code of conduct in the interests of all, and the amendment would ensure that those partnerships are well in place and working properly before the Government abolish the duty if they are intent on doing so. I commend it to the Committee.
Amendment 69 was tabled by the Chair of the Select Committee. It asks for the Secretary of State to commission a report within 24 months to evaluate the impact of eliminating the duty. It is a welcome proposal. If the Government remove the duty, it is important that we see the impact on behaviour.
Kevin Brennan: We do not know the answer to what is a fair question. We must remember that the duty was not something that the previous Government introduced lightly. I understand the concern of the Minister not to introduce over-bureaucratic burdens on schools and head teachers. It was a duty recommended by Sir Alan Steer as part of his work on behaviour and attendance. I visited his school while he was still a head teacher and saw his work on behaviour and attendance, and I must say how impressive it was. He certainly never gave up on anyone despite their difficult backgrounds and problems that they had experienced as young people, often leading them to achieve tremendous results. We did not introduce the duty to put a bureaucratic burden on schools, but because Sir Alan Steer asked us to introduce it. The duty has not really been given a chance to work by the Government, so it should not be taken away. However, if they insist on its removal, we must know the consequences, so we will be happy to support the hon. Gentleman’s amendment were it to be pressed to a Division.
In October 2010, the Government made the sensible decision to free schools from bureaucratic requirements and allowed them to decide how to allocate resources to support improved behaviour in schools. The general drift of giving greater trust, power and autonomy to head teachers on the front line is one that I and the cross-party Education Committee broadly support.
As the shadow Minister said, Sir Alan Steer who has worked a great deal in such areas has long been of the belief that behaviour and attendance partnerships have a vital part to play in ensuring that schools work together, when they might not naturally wish to do so. We need to remember that, although the Government are removing the requirement, they are not abolishing behaviour and attendance partnerships. They are not saying that schools should not co-operate. They are not saying that schools should not find common sense ways of working together, whether on managing moves or academy change. I guess that we will hear from the Minister on that.
The assessment is that the removal of the requirement to participate means that those schools for whom it is not appropriate—perhaps because they are part of a chain that takes care of themselves most effectively—are not forced to spend time in meetings with members of the partnership in order to tick the box to show that they are doing that, when in fact they are part of working together with other schools in some federated
The Education Committee’s “Behaviour and Discipline in Schools” report took evidence from various witnesses who, backing up what I have just said, confirmed that “working in partnership with other schools, local services and the wider community to draw on local expertise and resources”—
“even if you require people to participate in partnerships, they can be there in spirit but not in body and vice versa, so required partnership working tends to produce no better effects than voluntary…partnership working.”
[ Interruption. ] The shadow Minister suggests that some people who are press-ganged into attendance at Bill Committees do not always attend—they may be here in body, but they may not always be here in spirit. There may be some truth in that.
She was, if I recall, as mixed in her views as the overall balance of evidence, which suggested that there would be benefits to compulsion remaining, but that that compulsion was not all necessarily a good thing.
The schools White Paper proposed the piloting of a new approach to managing permanent exclusions, whereby schools would be held accountable for the pupils they exclude. We have discussed that already in the Committee, or we have discussed the possible incentives that that would create for schools to behave in positive ways and more negative ways. Of course, if that piloted approach were to be extended more widely, that would be likely to act as a disincentive to exclusion, but would perhaps encourage schools to work more in partnership together.
The shadow Minister gave a reasonable and balanced speech. If we created a framework that set up the right incentives for people to behave in the right way, and which, in general, led to that, then that would be a better situation than one in which we, sitting at this level of Government, prescribed precisely how people should behave. Therefore I hope—though I am by no means certain, which is why I tabled my amendment—that the Government will be able to correct that framework and have those positive outcomes, but my amendment suggests a review to find out, on the ground, whether that does deliver.
Mr Stuart: I just touched on one factor. Some people were very rude about the suggestion that schools should remain responsible for excluded pupils—extremely rude about it, as I recall, suggesting that it was entirely crazy. There are difficulties, but if the pilot were to become more general—we have discussed that already—then that continuing responsibility, and the fact that the cost of alternative provision is so high, would hopefully lead to very early intervention. I hope that that would lead schools to co-operate with other schools in the surrounding area. I hope that they would seek to maintain partnerships with nearby schools at which children might be more likely to be happy, well adjusted and able to learn.
The Education Committee heard mixed evidence, so compulsion to participate may not be the right answer. The Government and the Minister need to send out a clear message that the measure is not a signal that we think every school should be atomistically fighting only for itself, and should put its head down and solve only its own problems. When it comes to behaviour and discipline, co-operation with other schools is a strength. Such co-operation should not only be between schools that are dealing with same cohort; secondary schools should work with primary schools, and they should have consistent policies. The great message from Alan Steer, and everyone else who has ever looked at behaviour and discipline, is that we need consistency. When we walk into a school, we should see on every classroom, board, and whiteboard: “This is how we do things here.”
We know that many children kick off when they move to secondary school and go into an alien environment. We should create consistency between primary and secondary schools, so that such transition is less challenging. The more we build co-operation and a smooth path for young people, the more we are likely to promote good behaviour, and thus learning and so on.
“The Government has decided to remove the requirement for schools to be part of a Behaviour and Attendance Partnership (BAP). However, the Government should monitor areas where voluntary partnerships do not exist ”—
The Government should not simply take an entrenched position and regard any change in policy as a reverse. They should say that, generally, evidence shows that voluntary participation, rather than compulsion, leads to better outcomes. I hope, however, that they accept that they cannot be certain that the voluntary approach will be enough to bring positive outcomes. They should be prepared, therefore, to consider holding a review after, say, two years, which would allow time for the measure to settle in.
In further response to the shadow Minister’s point, by sending signals today and in the framework and accountability mechanisms that they set in place for schools, the Government might be able to encourage the co-operation and participation of schools, so that compulsion is not required. I hope that both sides of the Committee accept that that will result in a better outcome than our prescribing precisely what schools should attend and telling them how they should do so.
Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op): I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness, who is starting to arrive at some of the same concerns that we have about some of the changes, and their implications in reality. There is a difference between arguing for what we would like to see happen and how we get there. If everyone agrees that partnership working and collaboration between schools is a good and helpful thing, duties to work in those sorts of ways are not restricting—they are empowering, because they ensure that everyone participates and every area benefits from the positive results of people working together.
I note that the Government believe that partnership is a good thing. I am sad to see that the amendment I have tabled is not in the group, because it relates to my experience on the ground of people working together, particularly on gang violence and gang behaviour, and the implications of those not only for schools, but for the wider community outside the school gates. From my experience, we cannot resolve such issues within a school alone, or even within a small partnership with a number of schools. In areas where there are several schools that face challenging issues in the locality, such partnerships allow people to get to grips with what happens inside the classroom as well as outside the school gates.
“All evidence and experience suggests stronger partnerships, greater integration of services and a shared purpose for all those working with and for children and families lead to better services for children, young people and families—especially the most vulnerable. The core principle of a shared commitment to improve the lives of children, young people and families—enshrined in the ‘duty to cooperate’ on local strategic bodies – remains as important as it ever was.”
That is why the clause and the repeal feel like an attempt at consistency on the basis of a philosophical principle, rather than an evidence-based approach to how good services could be created for young people. That is why Opposition Members urge caution in accepting the clause. My amendment reflected my experience of the impact of safer schools partnerships, particularly the role of schools working together and with the local police, youth services, health care services and social workers. That can make a real difference to some challenging problems.
One of my fears about the proposal and the idea that we will leave it to chance that people will work together to address the issues is that we will only see a willingness
The amendment continues our discussion on Tuesday about the—[ Interruption. ] If the hon. Member for North Cornwall shares our concerns about how we can best help deal with children who are being excluded, he should come to our side of the Committee. I am sure he would find it a welcoming environment.
Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall) (LD): I was somewhat distracted by the passing of articles around the Committee and was speculating about whether we would require 24 hours’ notice for you, Mr Williams, to extend the Committee’s sitting time.
Stella Creasy: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman agrees that 24 hours’ notice—telling the Chief Whip in this instance about someone’s behaviour—would be a merited intervention in encouraging good behaviour.
Our discussion on Tuesday was about how to deal with young people who have challenging backgrounds, who exhibit challenging behaviour in the classroom, and for whom teachers may find it difficult to find an appropriate learning environment. The danger is that the way in which the Bill approaches exclusions will be used increasingly as a way of dealing with those concerns, rather than looking for other ways of working with those children and understanding that, often, the child is not on their own and that there may be other impacts on, and other people involved in, their behaviour that need to be addressed and that may not be directly in the school environment.
By repealing behaviour and attendance partnerships, all of the things that we agreed on Tuesday about the importance of early intervention and of working with other services, and about being able to get schools to work in that way, are undermined. That is exactly what behaviour and attendance partnerships have started to do. They have started to bring people together to work in that whole-school and, indeed, whole-family approach—which is what the Government say they are concerned about—to look at how they might deal not only with challenging behaviour in the classroom, but with young people with special educational needs, and to look at schools and their environments in a locality and to see which would best suit them. I think that is why a wide range of people who work in education are expressing concern about the clause. I am mindful in particular of the comments of the NASUWT, which believes that it would be a retrograde step, particularly for those schools dealing with particularly challenging behaviour. I am afraid that I do not have the specific reference to hand and am sure that hon. Members are disappointed as a result.
I genuinely do not understand why the Government would want to act in any way that undermines the existence of behaviour and attendance partnerships,
Mr Stuart: I am sure that they do not mean to do so, but, at times, Opposition members of the Committee sound like a parody of themselves. It is as if they are saying, “If anything is identified as good, it must be legislated on and made compulsory.” Does the hon. Lady not realise that we have had years of prescription and micro-management? If she ever sat on a governing body—as I did under the previous Government—she will know there was a daily arrival of papers telling us more good things. We would probably agree with most of those things, but does she not see that letting go, concentrating on the framework and trusting the front line might deliver better results than those achieved during 13 long years of over-prescription?
Stella Creasy: I am sorry that having sat down and reflected on his own words about the importance of people working together, the hon. Gentleman has now decided against anything we do from the centre that might encourage or facilitate that and show the seriousness with which we treat such issues and think they might be done more effectively. This is not about a single school acting on its own. For every school that wants to work with others, there may be another school that will do that only once such actions are taken seriously and seen as a duty and something that should be prioritised. Many Labour Members feel that concern.
Sometimes, particularly in a locality, challenging behaviour cannot be dealt with by a single school. Even with the best will in the world and the most energetic and engaging head teacher, a school needs not only other schools but the local authority, social services, youth work services and police to help it and take its issues seriously. The duties reflect not an obligation but a seriousness about those kinds of relationships.
Stella Creasy: The hon. Gentleman wants a semantic argument. I would enjoy nothing more on a Thursday afternoon than a semantic argument, instead of talking about how we deal with challenging behaviour, which is what we are really concerned about.
Mr Stuart: My point is about compulsion and encouragement. Those are two different things, but perhaps it is impossible for a socialist to see that. I note only that Sue Bainbridge from the National Strategies programme said that,
“the strongest partnerships that we have seen across the country are in places such as Bradford…They have engaged in those partnerships because they wanted to and not because anyone told them to. They saw the benefits of working in partnership.”
She highlighted Tower Hamlets as another excellent case. No one told those schools to work together; they decided to work together. The point about compulsion may need to be revisited, but the idea that if something is good it must always be compelled is not necessarily the right approach, and it may not be in this case.
Stella Creasy: I thank the hon. Gentleman for calling me a socialist. I am sure being criticised in such a way will raise my stock with many people, and I revel in that title. I also think he should look a little more closely at his examples. He is talking about the oldest behaviour and attendance partnerships that exist, but all schools got involved in such partnerships only once that became a duty. That is what made them successful and it is important to understand why that makes a difference. The Minister wants to intervene—bring it on.
Mr Gibb: When does the hon. Lady think that duty came into force? I understand that it did not come into force, and that all schools that have joined a behaviour and attendance partnership did so voluntarily without any compulsion.
Pat Glass (North West Durham) (Lab): Behaviour partnerships have been in place since about 2000 and they have been voluntary. Bradford and Tower Hamlets were some of the oldest partnerships, but not all schools in those areas took part. It was only with compulsion in 2009 that all schools took part.
Stella Creasy: This goes to the nub of the issue. Good schools want to work within the communities that they serve and with other schools to be innovative and creative. If there are problems in a locality and some schools do not wish to work in that way, that can exacerbate the challenges faced by all schools. We will all benefit by making this a duty and stating that such a measure is important. The commitment to dealing with behaviour, and giving schools options other than exclusion for young people who express challenging behaviour in the classroom, is important. We will all benefit from such co-ordination. The hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness may be concerned about my socialist tendencies, but I want every young person to benefit from a school system that works in that way. We must work at a national level and say that this matters and that we want every school to be part of that process. Every pupil should be involved in a school that looks at behaviour in the classroom and takes it seriously.
I know that the Minister is deeply concerned about challenging behaviour in the classroom, but I caution him to look at where such partnerships have worked, learn from that and say that we want such a system for every young person and every school. The alternative is a patchy and varied system and the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness is right to say that there have been some mixed examples. That is an argument for reforming how the process works and for asking what best practice is and why it matters to have every school around the table. It is not an argument for saying, “Let’s just wait and see what happens”. That is why people are expressing concern. Having found the quote I wanted to refer to from Chris Keates from the NASUWT, I am sure the Committee will be delighted to hear it. She said:
“There is a real danger that revoking the requirement for behaviour partnerships risks increased classroom disruption, bullying, gang-related violence, and truancy. This will cost the taxpayer more in dealing with increased antisocial behaviour. The Government’s decision to revoke these statutory provisions is likely to mean that fewer schools will collaborate with others.”
Indeed, that is inherent in the proposal on the table. If you want and expect people to co-operate, why not make it a duty, since the amendment will inevitably raise the prospect of fewer schools co-operating, which will undermine the ability to work with a cross-school approach?
Stephen McPartland (Stevenage) (Con): Does the hon. Lady agree that, by removing compulsion, we create the opportunity to innovate? For example, in my constituency, Stevenage, head teachers of every primary and secondary school are now creating a charity called Stevenage Educational Trust in which all of those schools, none of which are an academy, have applied to become one and will co-operate fully across a whole range of different issues.
Stella Creasy: The hon. Gentleman has made a brilliant case for why our desire to see co-operation—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford sees co-operation as Stalinist. Does he take the same approach to safeguarding issues? There are some things that we take so seriously that we call for them to be duties. Does the hon. Gentleman apply the same cavalier attitude he does to co-operation to people involved in safeguarding issues, which may not be as funny to him?
For those of us who have dealt with gang issues in our local area in Walthamstow and Waltham Forest, the partnerships developed with the police and youth and social services are just the start of attempts to deal with very challenging problems. It would be a retrograde step to take schools out of the mix. I accept that good schools would want to be a part of that partnership, which is why they do not see such a duty as onerous. Hence why you are seeing genuine bewilderment, from people working with young people in the behaviour sector, about the Government putting at risk the work that has been done so far.
It is worth looking at the terms of reference for behaviour and attendance partnerships to see what they do, and ask coalition Members whether they really do not think that the issues are important. Those terms of reference include improving the overall standards of behaviour in schools; reducing rates of persistent absence; developing more positive pupil behaviour so that it can make a strong contribution to learning; reducing the number of permanent and multiple fixed-term exclusions and the incidence of differential rates of exclusion; and reducing persistent absence by pupils with special educational needs, looked-after children, and pupils from particular ethnic groups. If those are not important issues, and if it is not worth saying that we want schools to work together despite knowing that it will make a difference for them, I question the Government’s commitment to dealing with behaviour in schools and to those working with children with special educational needs.
We want to see across the country the kind of partnerships which the hon. Member for Stevenage mentions. Making it a duty means people taking it
I have read the Select Committee report and it is interesting that, while everybody says that they do not know whether the scheme needs to be voluntary, they all agree on its benefits. So it is perplexing to us that the Government would put at risk a scheme that people think is beneficial: that they would say, “We are sure it will happen anyway”, rather than making sure it happens since the benefits to the young people and schools involved far outweigh any concern about having to organise meetings. Why not get involved in reforming them and call for a review of what the practice is and say that we want to see it happening? [ Interruption. ] Sorry, I cannot quite hear. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene, I am very happy to take an intervention.
Mr Stuart: I am at risk of repeating myself, which would encourage the hon. Lady to further repeat herself, and nobody wants that. Because it is a good does not mean that we must compel it. I am repeating myself, but I think that philosophically the hon. Lady cannot conceive of a good—she wants laws saying that everyone must do this because it looks good from here. Perhaps we should trust people and have incentives in the framework. Get that right, and maybe it will be done, and done better, than if we send out guidance telling people what to do. It is possible.
Stella Creasy: I am saddened that the hon. Member feels that—a Member who I feel has always learned so much from Shelley’s grandmother about the capacity to communicate about educational policy. I feel as though I am learning from him this afternoon. I see that there is a genuine philosophical disagreement about whether a duty is empowering or onerous. I urge Opposition Members to learn from the words of Alan Steer, who said in his evidence to us,
“What troubles me, and I think that it is a mistake that will need to be revisited—I mentioned earlier that I thought it was incoherent—is the abolition of the behaviour and attendance partnerships.”––[Official Report, Education Public Bill Committee, 1 March 2011; c. 56, Q110.]
The evidence tells us that those partnerships benefit education. Many of us who are concerned about inequalities in education are fearful that if the commitment is taken away, schools that do not wish to participate or accept responsibility for challenging behaviour will not take part. It will then be harder for schools and local authorities to support those young people. I know that the Member for Grantham and Stamford does not find this interesting; I invite him to come to Walthamstow and see for himself the challenges that we have been dealing with, in terms of gangs, and the roles played by safer schools partnerships and the police in schools. He would see the difference that that has made. Then perhaps he will understand why it is so important to us Labour Members to make sure that every young person has the benefit of learning in the kind of environment that I am talking about.
Pat Glass: I come back to the same question: why? I cannot understand why, when there is evidence that something is working, we would repeal it. The only answer that I have been given is that repealing it reduces bureaucracy, but I think that is partly because Opposition Members do not understand how behaviour partnerships work. In my experience, we are not talking about a roomful of people, or every school, having to turn out. It is not a bureaucratic burden on schools that takes up time. In my experience, the only people for whom it is compulsory are specialists from the local authority, child and adolescent mental health services, or social care. School head teachers told us in the Select Committee that when there is a crisis, they are desperate to get those people in the room.
Mr Gibb: These behaviour and attendance partnerships have never been compulsory. They were due to be made compulsory on 1 September 2010, and the Government decided not to implement that duty, so the marvellous examples that the hon. Lady and other members of this Committee have cited have all occurred due to the voluntary arrangements made between schools.
Pat Glass: Oh, they did not introduce it. Nevertheless, the partnerships are not an onerous bureaucratic burden on schools. Most behaviour partnerships have a rota, and head teachers turn up according to that rota, if they wish to. Those head teachers who are desperately in need of support and help will turn up because they have a crisis. Most schools are very keen to get involved. Nevertheless, as we saw earlier, even with partnerships that work very well, there have been occasions when schools have not been keen to be involved and have not turned up. In most cases, those are the schools that are excluding the most.
Kevin Brennan: The Minister is absolutely correct: the commencement of the order in question was revoked by a statutory instrument in September last year. The duty was introduced, on the recommendation of Sir Alan Steer, because the partnerships, which the previous Government had encouraged through exhortation and positive policy, had broadly reached a stage of acceptance across the piece. Sir Alan Steer felt that creating a duty would ensure that everybody participated, and that the practice was embedded in the system. Does my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham agree that that shows that we are not talking about an onerous duty, but one which would complete a reform?
Pat Glass: I absolutely agree. I come back to the question: why? My experience is that most head teachers see the value of the work that behaviour and attendance partnerships do; they are supportive and helpful. I have no experience of head teachers looking for the duty to be repealed.
Mr Stuart: The hon. Lady will remember that she was at the Education Committee on 27 October, when we heard from Gillian Allcroft from the National Governors Association; Mike Griffiths, the head of Northampton School for Boys and a representative of the Association
“Even if you require people to participate in partnerships, they can be there in spirit but not in body and vice versa, so required partnership working tends to produce no better effects than voluntary ground partnership working.”
Mike Griffiths said: “I agree 100%.” Gillian Allcroft said: “I agree.” Charlie Taylor said: “I agree, too.” That was the most telling evidence that we had on the subject in the Education Committee. All were in agreement, from the NGA to head teachers at various schools. The hon. Lady must surely remember that.
Pat Glass: I do, and no one disagrees that everyone agrees that if people can work together, that is better than compulsion; I do not disagree with that at all. My argument is that there are still schools that do not do their fair share of heavy lifting when it comes to children with challenging behaviour. They need to be compelled.
Stephen McPartland: Does the hon. Lady agree that refocusing Ofsted so that behaviour is one of the key components will encourage head teachers in the schools that she mentioned to focus on improving behaviour, so that educational standards are improved?
Behaviour partnerships were introduced as a result of a crisis. There were rising numbers of exclusions. In the early part of the 21st century, we faced a real crisis. I remember being placed in a local authority—“placed” is the operative word; I did not go there voluntarily—with many challenges. Shortly after I arrived, it had its 149th permanent exclusion—and a person could spit from one end of the authority to the other. The situation was out of control. Behaviour partnerships came out of schools and local authorities. They did not come from Alan Steer; they came from looking at good practice. The first thing we had to do was analyse those permanent exclusions and look at where they came from. We then invited the head teachers and chairs of governors from the three highest excluding schools to come and meet us. It was an interesting meeting, because they took very different approaches to it. One head teacher came in with huge piles of paper; he was determined to convince us that every permanent exclusion was justified. I remember saying to him, “I don’t for one second disagree that the incident that led to the permanent exclusion was justified. I am interested in what you did that led up to that, and what you did to prevent that happening.” Other head teachers came in and simply said, “We need help. We accept that it is out of control, and we do not know what to do.”
The local authority was not doing what it needed to do, and the schools were not doing what they needed to do. The obvious thing was to bring them together, which is where the behaviour partnership came from. It is clearly in everyone’s interest to have that, but even then, there were schools in that authority—the highest
My concern is that if we do not have compulsion, we will have schools that simply do not take their fair share. There is an issue around compulsion, but I do not know what the problem is. Would we suggest that, because we have come so far, we no longer need measures such as the sex or race equality legislation? The low number of women in this place is an absolutely shocking national scandal; I did not realise until I came here how few there are. In those areas, compulsion, in the form of legislation, came first and culture followed, so I am not sure about the philosophical argument on compulsion.
My concern is that we might go back to where we were. If we take our foot off the pedal and tell schools that they are not compelled to take part, those that have been most reluctant to take part will go off and do their own thing. They will go back to where they were, and we will be back to having London boroughs with 149 permanent exclusions—that is, 149 ruined lives. We know what that means because, as we have discussed over the past couple of days, exclusions are disproportionately high among children who have special educational needs or are disadvantaged. I do not understand why the Government are taking away the duty to comply in the face of the evidence that behaviour partnerships work. I ask the Minister again: why?
Mr Gibb: We have had a good, interesting debate. It has, however, been based on the false premise that the duty has been in existence since 2009 and, as a consequence, that a large number of schools have entered into behaviour and attendance partnerships that would not otherwise have done so. That is not the case; the duty was not due to come in until September 2010 and, as the shadow Minister correctly said, we introduced a statutory instrument to prevent the duty from coming into force in September. The purpose of the clause is to remove the duty altogether.
Kevin Brennan: As someone whose grandmother’s marriage was contracted over the sale of a pig in west Cork, I am reluctant to get involved in the debate on how partnerships are formed. May I ask the Minister whether, in the light of what he has said, he would regard it as a failure if, as a result of the repeal, fewer schools were involved in behaviour and attendance partnerships in the next few years?
Mr Gibb: No, because it is not for us in this Committee Room, or indeed for those of us in Sanctuary Buildings, to have a model of how we think schools should operate and co-operate together. Schools may have far more innovative approaches, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey said. There may be many alternative approaches to how schools work together, and it is not right for us to have such a measure in mind. The Government will look at how children perform and how well educated they are as the measures of the success or otherwise of the reform. We will not, and should not, measure the inputs, and the measures taken on the way to achieving that.
Stella Creasy: By that logic, if there is an increase in exclusions or instances of challenging behaviour across a number of schools in a local area, how will the Minister judge whether there is evidence to show that they could have benefited from working in a partnership but chose not to because they did not want to acknowledge partnership working and had the freedom not to? Will he look for clusters, or will he simply judge a school individually without understanding the context in which it is operating?
Mr Gibb: Again, the hon. Lady tries to lead me down the path of prescribing a method of working, but that is not the Government’s approach. Our approach is to trust professionals to run their schools as they see fit, which will be through partnership and co-operation with other schools if they wish. Ofsted will be the judge of how effectively those professionals carry out their duties. A number of witnesses in the evidence sessions agreed. Dr Moynihan, chief executive of the Harris Federation, said:
“On behaviour and attendance partnerships, most schools work with other schools to improve behaviour. It is much better if schools can determine whom they work with, rather than having a local authority dictate it for them.”––[Official Report, Education Public Bill Committee, 1 March 2011; c. 19, Q36.]
The hon. Member for North West Durham was concerned about sharing challenging pupils and ensuring that some schools are not busy saying, “I do not think this school is appropriate for your child.” All schools are obliged by the admissions code to be part of the fair access protocols. That duty will still exist, separate from the duty on behaviour and attendance partnerships. Repealing the duty will not abolish existing partnerships or stop new ones from forming. Behaviour and attendance partnerships appear to have flourished without being mandatory. I refer to Sue Bainbridge, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness; Sue Bainbridge cited partnership working in Tower Hamlets as a “really good example”. She continued:
Mr Gibb: Local authorities tell me that they do not have powers over schools, so while they may well have facilitated, encouraged and incentivised schools, the schools worked in partnership voluntarily.
“Even if you require people to participate in partnerships, they can be there in spirit but not in body and vice versa, so required partnership working tends to produce no better effects than voluntary ground partnership working.”
Stella Creasy: If some people would be there only in body, not in mind, if the partnerships were compulsory, what assessment has the Minister made of their willingness to co-operate if they become voluntary?
Mr Gibb: I have not done an assessment, but my instinct as a member of the human race is that if someone is forced to do something against their will, they tend to do it as a tick-box exercise to complete the duty. It would not be entered into in the spirit intended, so in theory, it would not have the beneficial effects that one would expect from partnership. Evidence gathered by the National Audit Office in 2009 indicates that Government policy may not be the most important factor in schools establishing attainment partnerships. It found that school partnerships had most commonly developed in response to local needs.
The hon. Member for Cardiff West said that schools will not be able to co-operate in pooling budgets, but a feature of behaviour and attendance partnerships that already exist voluntarily is that schools pool resources to buy in specialist resources, including, for example, special educational needs provision. There is no reason why that should not continue after the clause is agreed
I turn briefly to amendments 45 and 46, which would delay the repeal of the requirement to form behaviour and attendance partnerships until September 2013 and only repeal it after Ofsted had reported that voluntary partnerships on behaviour and attendance were working in all authorities. If we measure the existence and effectiveness of partnerships in all local authorities, that assumes that creating formal partnerships will be a necessity for every school to improve behaviour. Furthermore, recording the existence and effectiveness of partnerships and measuring whether a particular structure is in place is the wrong focus for inspection. Ofsted should focus on schools’ outcomes, including how good behaviour is in each school.
The previous Government clearly recognised that it was not sensible to monitor local partnerships. No arrangements were planned to monitor or enforce the duty on schools to form partnerships and no resources were allocated to schools to help them with the administrative burden that it would have been imposed. Had the requirement on schools to join partnerships commenced, some schools would have paid lip service to those partnership arrangements, and that would have led simply to a culture of compliance, rather than the culture of innovation referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness. That would have shown, once again, why it is simply not necessary or practical for central Government to issue detailed instructions.
The revised Ofsted school inspection framework will give more attention to behaviour. If poor behaviour and attendance is identified as a key issue for a school, it will have to prioritise it and take appropriate action. Asking Ofsted to report on partnerships in each local authority is not practical or proportionate; it would only add to the bureaucracy in the school system, and I ask the hon. Member for Cardiff West to withdraw his amendment.
Amendment 69 would require the Secretary of State to commission a report within 24 months of eliminating the duty. That follows from the Education Committee report that recommends that the Government be prepared to reverse their decision on behaviour and attendance partnerships if voluntary partnership working fails to deliver behavioural improvements; I hope that I can give my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness some comfort on that point.
In direct response to the challenge about the direction of travel signalled by the clause, I point out that it does not promote the philosophy that every school is an island entire of itself. In fact the White Paper “The Importance of Teaching” is replete with references to the importance of schools working together, and to promoting best practice and peer-to-peer support through national and local leaders in education. It insists, for example, that academy converters—outstanding schools that become
I understand the thinking of my hon. Friend, but I am concerned that evaluating the effect of the Government’s proposed repeal will be rather difficult, given that the partnerships have never been mandatory and no previous formal evaluation has been undertaken. I believe that the best way to achieve improvements in behaviour and other matters is to give schools as much freedom as possible to make their own decisions, including the freedom to choose the partnerships that they form, while holding schools accountable for the outcomes that they achieve for their pupils. With those few words, I urge the hon. Member for Cardiff West to withdraw the amendment.
Kevin Brennan: I thank the Minister for his response to the debate, which has been interesting. We have ranged rather far and wide. I know that it was not intended, but it devalues our debates if “Stalin” or such words are mentioned. Stalin was a monster. We are talking about a narrow range of views along a spectrum and when it is appropriate for the Government to compel something, and when it is appropriate to take a laissez faire approach. This is a philosophical debate. We could say that it was an ideological debate because philosophical on our part is ideological on the part of those on the Government Benches. However, such debates occur from time to time and the pendulum swings backwards and forwards. No doubt it will continue to do so as the dialectic goes on for many years to come.
What we are saying about behaviour and attendance partnerships is, in a sense, somewhat ironic because attendance partnerships are created because we compel children to attend school. In the eternal debate along the philosophical-ideological continuum, I can imagine a similar debate taking place probably in this very room in the 1870s about compelling children to go to school. We can see the faces of those on the Government Benches, many of them perhaps saying what an outrage it would be to compel families to send their children to school and how disgraceful it is for the state to interfere in family life.
Mr Stuart: The shadow Minister should know that no such compulsion was ever introduced in the 19th century, although given the authoritarian tendencies of his party, it is understandable that he did not. There has never been a compulsion in this country to send one’s child to school; there has been a compulsion to give one’s child an education. It was the institutionally based biased and narrow focus that led to the near victimisation that was fortunately averted at the last minute thanks to the efforts of my Front Bench, which stopped the stigmatisation, licensing and oppression of home educators throughout this land. However, the hon. Gentleman has learnt nothing from that experience.
Is it not ironical that, if an attendance partnership is about making sure that children—who are compelled to attend, if they are enrolled in the school—turn up to school and that it is compulsory for them to do so in such circumstances, we do not compel the schools themselves to bother to turn up at the attendance partnerships in which they are discussing the importance of children attending if they are enrolled and not being home educated, which is what the hon. Gentleman’s tirade was about?
The Minister rightly pointed out that the duty was not commenced by the Government last September through the statutory instrument. That is correct, but the duty has not been given a chance by the Government to see whether it can make a difference to entrenching and embedding the reforms to behaviour and attendance that were introduced by the previous Government. The hon. Gentleman really wants to strangle it at birth probably for ideological or philosophical reasons rather than to give it a fair chance. That is a shame.
Mr Gibb: The proposal is neither philosophical nor ideological, but in line with the general direction of travel of the Government, which is to trust professionals. It is part and parcel of that mantra rather than any ideology or philosophy.
Kevin Brennan: I am not a fellow traveller in that direction, but I think that there is an ideology behind it. All I am saying is that the Government have not given the duty a chance to work because they are being unpragmatic and a little ideological. Not only is the Minister intent on strangling the duty at birth, but he is not even willing to compromise on amendments that would examine the impact of the decision to do so. The reasonable amendment from the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness, which he may withdraw in a minute, would have the Government commission a report to evaluate the impact of this decision. What is wrong with that? It is surely sensible and good practice for any Government to look at the evidence of the consequences of their decisions. The Minister is not even willing to do that.
Dan Rogerson: What I would take from the debate that we have just had is that it is absolutely right that the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness has suggested that such a report might be a good idea. It would, however, be unusual to make that a feature of legislation by putting it into the Bill. We would hope to see it happen anyway, although I accept that it is in line with the philosophical direction of the hon. Member for Cardiff West to seek to compel Ministers to undertake such a thing. I have no doubt that the Minister will have taken note of that. Perhaps, on that basis, we can move on.
Kevin Brennan: It is not my amendment; it was tabled by the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness. He is the one who seeks to put it in the Bill and to compel the Minister to do it. It is not an example of compulsion, however; it is a sensible holding of the Government to account for the consequences of their decision making. There is nothing unreasonable or wrong about trying to do that. It is not ideological; it is just a sensible and pragmatic way of looking at how the Government work, based on the evidence.
Similarly, our amendments, which have been debated, do not seek completely to overturn what the Government are doing in the repeal under clause 6. The amendments would delay the effect of that repeal until behaviour and attendance partnerships are up and running across the country, so that there would be an opportunity for them to become embedded as a duty and so that there would then be a duty for the inspectorate to report on how the voluntary partnerships are working across the country. That was the purpose of the amendments. We will register our concern about this policy by pressing both amendments 45 and 46 to a vote, so that it is clear to those outside what we are voting on.
Mr Stuart: We have had an extremely interesting debate on the amendments to clause 6. It is interesting to see whether this divide, between compulsion and a belief in a more liberal trusting of the front line, is philosophical or ideological. I would like to say that it was a left-right thing, and that the left were always into compulsion. Perhaps I suggested that earlier. The cynic might add that those in opposition are always in favour of greater freedom and liberalisation, while those in government tend over time to become ever more authoritarian, and as they become frustrated, they get more interested in compulsion. It is interesting that the Opposition, so freshly out of power, are still hanging on to their habits, but moving in a liberal direction. It will be interesting to see whether the coalition can stay true to its Conservative-Liberal instincts. As Ministers become frustrated by the failure of the front line to deliver what they want to see, they may be tempted to bring in more and more provisions. That will be interesting to see over time. We may have the amusing sight of a reversal of political positions.
The Minister has set out clearly that he favours co-operation between schools. That is in line with the Government’s view that we should not over-prescribe from the centre and tell people what to do. We should allow freedom on the ground. There is plenty of evidence from the main head teachers’ unions—both of them—suggesting that compulsion does not offer a great deal of benefit. Others, such as Alan Steer, took a different view. I believe that we should look at the position on co-operation on behaviour and discipline in a year and a half or two years’ time.
As my hon. Friend the Minister rightly suggests, it is not that we never put such things in a Bill, although we have rarely done so. I hope that the Minister will take on board the points that have been made today. I know he will. I hope that the Minister will go on to be one of our longest serving Ministers. I am sure he will certainly be the most distinguished Minister with responsibility for schools that we have seen in many a long year. I know that he is a listening Minister and self-confident enough to change tack if the evidence were to so suggest.
Kevin Brennan: I sense that the hon. Gentleman does not intend to press his amendment to a Division. From the comments that the Minister has made, is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that he will get his report, even if it is not in the Bill?
Mr Stuart: I had hoped that the Minister might have found it possible to go a little further in reassuring the Committee that the Government, though confident of their course, were prepared to review the provision
I hope that the Government, with their resources, will keep an open mind on the matter. Even if such a review were to come about, and even if it was decided that things were not as good as they should be, it might not be that compulsion was regarded as the right option. It might be that further changes to the accountability mechanisms that apply to schools, and other changes in the framework in which schools operate, might be more appropriate in order not to stifle the freedom of schools to co-operate to best serve their pupils rather than to fit some bureaucratic fiat sent out from this place, which the previous Government all too often issued. Despite his reasonableness, the hon. Gentleman was in the Government that did that.
Clause 7 will abolish the General Teaching Council for England. I appreciate that the GTCE will go to its grave largely unmourned, but it would be a shame if some of its good work was lost in the rush to abolish it. I am concerned at the speed at which it is being abolished—it is too quick and happening without due consultation and consideration of the consequences. I am also concerned that it would leave the teaching profession without the kind of regulatory body that other professions have.
The GTCE was established by the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998. I had looked the proceedings of the Committee that considered that Bill, and serving as a Back Bencher on the Committee was a thrusting young buck, the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings, who is no longer in his place. I do not want to mislead the Committee in any way, but I can, now that is not here. He seemed to be quite keen on the principle of the GTCE. The Lib Dem spokesman at the
The purpose of the GTC was to be the independent professional body for teaching in England and to give teaching the same status as other self-regulating professions such as nursing. The functions of the council, as set out in section 1 of the 1998 Act, were twofold:
I think the Committee would agree that it remains crucial that improving standards of teaching, quality of learning and professional conduct in the teaching profession should be a key part of the Government’s education policy.
However, since then, there has been precious little detail about how that would be undertaken, including in the Bill. This group of amendments therefore probes the Government to provide further details as to how those functions will continue. On that basis, amendments 47 and 48 seek to delay the abolition of the GTCE until arrangements have been introduced on teacher registration and maintaining standards of teacher professionalism to the satisfaction of Parliament. The proposals would ensure that when the GTCE is abolished, there will be ongoing arrangements for a number of matters. First,
I shall focus on two of those aspects, which are particularly important. First, will the Minister confirm that there will continue to be a code of conduct and practice for registered teachers? The GTCE code of practice was established under section 5 of the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998, and is currently used in regulatory hearings.
The White Paper states that there will be a review the GTCE’s code of conduct and practice, which will be led by head teachers and teachers. Can the Minister provide more detail on that? Does he recognise that the GTCE has recently conducted an extensive public consultation on a new code of conduct and practice for registered teachers? I understand that more than 3,000 respondents took part, and the new code came into use in October 2009. Given the Government’s direction of travel, they will presumably hold another consultation for the revised code of practice. Will doing so be an appropriate use of resources, considering that there was a consultation and a revised code only a matter of months ago? Secondly,
Subsection (6)(c) in amendment 48 proposes maintaining a register of all people who have been granted qualified teacher status. In getting rid of a comprehensive register for the teaching profession, the Bill has significant and serious omission. As it stands, it allows for a database of barred teachers only. In its response to the Committee, ASCL stated:
“We strongly believe that there is a need for an online database of all qualified teachers which is accessible by schools to replace the GTCE register. To remove the database will create additional red tape and threaten streamlined procedures for recruitment. We would like to see a clause inserted into the bill which puts a duty on the Department for Education or one of the proposed executive agencies to do so”.
“by abolishing the GTCE and not having a suitable replacement to the GTCE register the Bill effectively removes the public’s guarantee that all registered teachers are eligible, suitable, properly qualified and of good standing”.
“Whilst the proposed legislation addresses the transfer of the GTCE’s regulatory functions, it does not appear to cover the functions relating to the registration of teachers, as set out in section 3 of the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998. Clarification is needed, in particular, about whether the Secretary of State would take responsibility for the award of qualified teacher status and whether a registry of all qualified teachers, trainees, overseas trained teachers, etc. would continue to be maintained. Much work has been done in recent years by the GTCE on the latter, as previously there was no definitive national list of registered teachers—it would be a waste of the resources that went into establishing the GTCE’s register if this work was abandoned now.”
“The Bill proposes moving from a Register of all those teachers who are entitled to teach in maintained schools, non-maintained special schools and pupil referral units. Instead, a single, publicly accessible, list will be published by the Secretary of State of those who have been prohibited from teaching for conduct that has fallen below an acceptable standard or who failed to prove their competence at the end of the induction period. This change holds potential risks to the public interest.”
“the GTCE Register has been the public’s guarantee that registered teachers are eligible, suitable, properly qualified and of good standing. It has been an important part of the professional accountability framework for teaching because every teacher working in maintained schools, non-maintained special schools and pupil referral units (PRUs) has been required to be registered”.
The present situation regarding registration of teachers provides transparency and reassurance to the public. It is value for money, because it streamlines recruitment procedures as well. It is being used more and more—the GTCE’s annual report for last year says there was a 63% rise in its usage for that year. In those circumstances, can the Minister outline his thinking regarding not having such a comprehensive register?
Mr Wright: It was evident from the feedback after the publication of the White Paper and of the Bill that stakeholders questioned the possible value of the GTCE. As I said, that is a real shame because in many respects it has produced good work. I mentioned the register, which is being increasingly used, and provides reassurance. There are things that have improved standards and teacher quality. When the Minister responds to my amendments and those of my hon. Friend, I hope he will outline his thinking as to why, after what tended to be universal consensus of the need for a general teaching council, the outcome has been disappointing.
Mr Stuart: One argument could be—and I wonder if this is the hon. Member’s view—that the professional standards for teachers are toothless. Another argument is that it was a lack of application by the last Government to impose more effective performance standards for which the GTCE could have been a more effective watchdog that has contributed to a sense that those who are not performing as well as they should are not challenged and that the GTCE itself is superfluous.
Mr Wright: I know that the Chairman of the Select Committee takes this point very seriously. It is a personal priority of his. We might come to that later, certainly in respect to clause 8. I think we will have an interesting debate on clause 8 about this matter of teacher competence, and whether, say, it is the culture of the education environment that colleagues want to go down the path of questioning the competence of a colleague. I do not want to pre-empt the discussions that we might have on clause 8. However, I recognise the hon. Member’s point. We put in place good points, but there is always room for improvement. I know it is a particular concern of his. Before I move on, I would like to give way to my hon. Friend.
Kevin Brennan: As someone who is a qualified but not a registered teacher, I have a distant interest at a personal level. Does my hon. Friend feel that the Minister should explain, in abolishing the GTCE, how we are nevertheless to build upon the important recognition in recent years of the professionalism of teachers, which has reached a stage where there is a higher respect for teachers than there was many years ago?
Mr Wright: My hon. Friend is exactly right. The standing of teachers in terms of their status and their professionalism is higher than it has ever been. Independent observers conclude that the quality of teaching in this country is at an unprecedentedly high level. In terms of the recruitment of the brightest and best of our country who want to go into teaching as a vocation and a profession, that is to be welcomed.
Before the interventions, I was about to speak about amendments 49 and 50. They relate to clause 8, but are in this group of amendments because they cover the same issues and principles about resources and expertise.
It is unclear from the points made by the Government, since the publication of the White Paper and the Bill, whether the 200-odd staff of the GTCE, who are currently involved in carrying out functions that will be retained, might be transferred—under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 and 2006 or other arrangements—to the Department for Education, so that their experience and expertise of handling hearings can still be used. Under the new remit, that might be on a more limited basis, but it would be helpful if the Minister could give us an idea of what will happen.
Given that uncertainty, the amendment would provide the safeguard that Parliament had to be satisfied that the Secretary of State is demonstrably capable of taking on the misconduct functions before they are transferred to him. If he takes them on without the necessary resources and expertise, he risks repeating some of the experiences of previous Secretaries of State of both complexions—whether Labour or Conservative—when people who should not have worked with children were not banned from schools.
I hope the Ministers will take this in the spirit in which it is intended, as I like and respect them enormously, but there is a real question about the administrative capability and capacity of the Secretary of State and the ministerial team at the Department for Education. We have recently seen that in the handling of correspondence. This week, I raised a point of order on the Floor of the House about 563 unanswered questions. Only 10% of named day written questions have been answered, and only 20% of correspondence from hon. Members has been answered. There are real issues about hon. Members being able to hold the Government to account and to pass on their constituents’ cases.
One of the Bill’s themes is to centralise powers, duties and functions with the Secretary of State. Frankly, does he have the capability and the capacity to be able to handle that? Individual teachers and the profession more widely must have confidence that the Secretary of State will be capable of, and competent in, carrying out the GTCE’s functions. On correspondence, the record of the Secretary of State and his ministerial team is disappointing, but on wider policies—such as Building Schools for the Future or the school sport partnerships—it is fair to say that the Secretary of State has so far failed to inspire confidence in the teaching profession. He is good at making speeches and he is good at telling gags but, I do not want Peter Kay running education policy in this country. Interestingly, when he wears his glasses, the Secretary of State looks like a very young Eric Morecambe, but if I pursue that point I think you will rule me out of order, Mr Williams.
On a serious note, it is important for the teaching profession and the wider country that the Minister gives greater detail about when the GTCE is to be abolished—transferred in-house to the Department—and whether the resources, the expertise and the capability will exist. I ask him to say something about that matter, which the amendment has attempted to probe.
Mr Stuart: As the shadow Minister has said, the GTCE will probably be little mourned, but its abolition leaves open many questions, and I hope that the Minister will fill us in on them during this debate. One question, which was pretty much put by the shadow Minister, is how will getting rid of the GTCE help improve the professionalism of teachers. That is a central question. Those of us interested in education—as everyone in this room is—know that, as the White Paper rightly put it, the importance of teaching is pre-eminent. The quality of teaching—attracting, retaining and motivating the best-quality people in teaching—is the most important factor.
The ugly corollary of that is having to face up to those who are not able to contribute in the classroom. Most teachers who struggle, like most of us who struggle in our jobs at times, do not need to be removed or stigmatised, but need to be supported and helped, and to have a plan put in place to allow them to come up to acceptable standards and to contribute. With the GTCE, there was the idea of having a central database, and during the last Parliament there was talk of having a licence to teach. This is very much the idea of the teacher as a professional. I do not know whether teachers are currently held in the highest esteem ever in this country, though I slightly doubt it, but there has been an increase in teachers’ professionalism in recent years and in the perception thereof. If the Government are going to improve educational standards, they must build on that progress and further improve the standing of teachers as professionals. We therefore need to understand how the abolition of the GTCE fits into that.
I recognise the desire to move away from unnecessary central databases and bureaucracies. On the other hand, there may be benefits in maintaining an existing and paid for database of all teachers and professionals who have the qualification. I am delighted, Mr Williams, that following a campaign by various people—including myself when I secured a debate last year, supported by my predecessor, as Chairman of the Education Committee—calling for further education teachers and lecturers to be able to teach in schools, the Government have acceded to it following the Wolf report. I hope that the Minister may be able to say something about the benefits of retaining the database.
I have spoken to the Minister and know that he is taking it seriously, but I hope that this is an opportunity to put on the record that the closure of a number of non-departmental public bodies by the Department is being carried out in as thoughtful a fashion as possible to make sure, Mr Williams, that any babies who may be sitting in the bathwater of those organisations are not flushed away and that there is careful thought. Like bureaucracy, databases can be good or bad—it depends who they belong to before you like or dislike them. But there are databases that are expensive to create and maintain and we need to ensure that all useful and valuable information and data held in these non-departmental public bodies is retained, transferred to the Department and not lost. It would be a great shame, not least for this Government who are so committed to applying common sense and good financial judgment to the management of public finances, if we were to throw away things that currently exist, only to recreate them later at vast additional cost to the public purse.
It may be going a little wider, but could the Minister spell out who stands between the Government and individual teachers? England is a large education system. In McKinsey’s work on education systems and on appropriate interventions at different times in such systems’ development, it does not talk about national systems but smaller ones. England is very large and so may not be an individual system at all. Yet, with the GTCE going and the reduction in the role of local authorities, how does the Minister sees what stands, in this quite large country, between the Secretary of State and the individual teacher in the classroom, who may or not be held on a database? How can this relationship be mediated so that we have a system that supports the teacher to the greatest effect, instils public confidence in his or her professionalism, and makes sure that, in each staff room nationwide, we have the best possible people doing a job where they are supported and celebrated, but if necessary, Mr Williams, challenged where they are not delivering as expected?
Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): I will speak briefly about the retention of the register. We could look back in history, with teachers having their teaching numbers held by the Department for Education, or whatever it was called in those various past emanations of the Department, going forward into the GTCE. It is very useful to have that information held centrally and where it is accessible. I can say, as a former governor of schools, that it is very useful in the recruitment of staff to know that there is verification that someone being interviewed is registered as a qualified teacher without having to go through all sorts of other vetting procedures.
There is another, wider purpose to having a list of qualified teachers. I was talking to the Minister yesterday about the numbers of men teaching in primary schools. One advantage of a central register is being able to look at how many teachers are in different phases of education; what is their gender; what is their ethnicity. We can then look to see how we can improve recruitment into certain phases, how we can ensure that there are men teaching in primary and women teaching in secondary and that there are black and ethnic minority teachers teaching in our schools. It seems to me that there is a good purpose to holding a central register of qualified people—it is not just about recruitment, it is also about monitoring the profession and targeting recruitment at different times. I urge the Minister to maintain a list of qualified teachers, not just the list of people who are barred.
Dan Rogerson: I am aware that members of the Committee will want to make progress so I will not detain them too long, but I will just respond to the hon. Gentleman on the position that my noble Friend Lord Willis took at about the time of the creation of the General Teaching Council. We have heard across the Committee that, at the time of its creation, there was a feeling that this might add value and make a useful contribution. However, unlike some of the other provisions that we have already debated, where there has been a range of views in the evidence presented to us, there has not been a huge support out there for the continuation of this body, notwithstanding the issues hon. Members have raised about the value of its work.
We can have a debate about where that work should sit and who should carry it out, but I note in passing that, as a constituency MP, I have become less and less
Pat Glass: I will be very quick. I have a series of questions that I would like to ask the Minister. Post-GTC, who will award qualified teacher status? Will the Department continue to maintain a register and will that include teachers from overseas? That is really important in parts of London. Will the code of practice remain in place? My reading of the Bill is that employers must consider referring cases of misconduct, when there is currently a requirement. Is this a change and, if it is, will the Minister explain what the change is? Will the Secretary of State continue to collect statistics on equality and diversity to support recruitment and retention?
The Chair: I am of the opinion that we have had a broad debate on the principle of this clause in which the matters arising have been examined. I am therefore not minded to permit a separate debate on clause 7 stand part.
Mr Gibb: The hon. Member for Hartlepool started his remarks by saying that the GTCE will go to the grave largely unmourned, a comment reflected by my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall. That carries resonance with the profession. Chris Keates said that
“I have frequently said that if the GTCE was abolished tomorrow, few would notice and even less would care…Too much time, energy and resource has been frittered away on pursuing projects and issues which duplicated the work of other bodies and did little or nothing to enhance the status of the profession.”
With those few introductory remarks, I would like to consider amendments 47 to 50. I understand that they are designed to seek greater detail about the Government’s plans for the future regulation of the teaching profession
Amendments 47 and 48 would subject the abolition of the GTCE to an additional commitment to lay a detailed report before Parliament. The suggested content of the report covers considerations regarding the content of the new arrangements and regulation. I will say a few words about each of the issues set out in proposed new paragraphs (a) to (d) in the amendment.
Proposed new paragraph (a) refers to maintaining the standards of professionalism and conduct through a code of conduct and practice for registered teachers. We announced in the White Paper that we will review existing measures of teacher performance and conduct, referred to by the hon. Member for Hartlepool, including the current professional standards for teachers and the GTCE code of conduct to establish a single set of clear and unequivocal standards. That will be an independent review led by some of our best teaching professionals. I am delighted that Sally Coates, the principal of Burlington Danes academy, has agreed to chair the review. We expect it to help develop clear standards, which will help schools make judgments about teacher conduct and competence. We also expect it to result in new standards, which will replace both the framework of professional standards for teachers of the Training and Development Agency for Schools’ and the GTCE code of conduct and practice.
Mr Wright: I mentioned in my opening remarks a comprehensive consultation on the code of practice, which was carried out no more than 18 months ago. Does the Minister think that the new arrangements in the White Paper are an unnecessary duplication, given the huge consultation exercise less than two years ago?
Mr Gibb: No, I do not, I am afraid. I do not think that that code of conduct had huge support among the unions. We need to clarify such issues. Sally Coates and her committee will make the teaching standards clear and comprehensible. At the moment, they are less than clear, and there are many of them. There are also 117 pages of guidance, and the whole approach will be to clarify and simplify the professional standards and the code of conduct. More details are set out in the code that I circulated. It is stated that prior
Mr Wright: One of the criticisms levelled at us by the Conservatives when we were in Government was that we did not allow teachers to teach, that we were providing them with unnecessary guidance and bureaucracy, and that all that was needed was to free up their time to allow them to teach in a classroom. Will not the teachers be thinking, “Haven’t we just done this? Haven’t we just been consulted about standards and the code of practice? Can’t they leave us alone to allow us to teach and to allow that code of practice to embed?”, because the guidance has been subject to consultation and has been shortened considerably as a result of teacher involvement?
It was not particularly well received by the teaching profession. Having met Sally Coates several times at her school, I am confident that she will be sensible and proportionate in drawing up the new standards.
Mr Stuart: I hope that this Government, unlike the previous Government, will not allow the teaching unions to have a right of veto over the process of professional standards because that might contribute to the fact that they are so incoherent and weak as they stand.
Mr Gibb: No one has a right of veto in such matters, but we are consulting widely with the profession. A distinguished team of teaching professionals on Sally Coates’s committee will do a thorough and professional job in revising the new standards.
Pat Glass: The Minister keeps referring to the same names over and again. I am sure that Sally Coates is a very good head teacher, but she has been mentioned at least five times in the past five minutes. If the hon. Gentleman would like me to introduce him to other head teachers who might disagree with his position, I should be happy to do so.
The new standards for teachers will be in place, we hope, by September 2012. Prior to that, the new arrangements for teacher regulation will continue to use existing guidance, including the current code of practice held by the GTCE and the current professional standards for teachers.
We have already announced our intention to make it easier for schools to tackle poor performance through streamlining and simplifying the performance management and capability arrangements. We shall be consulting shortly on the proposed revisions to performance management regulations and on a short and optional model policy, which is consistent with the ACAS code of practice. We expect that to assist employers to tackle performance effectively and we also expect the review of teacher standards, which I have just mentioned, to provide clear, national benchmarks for performance
We recognise the potential benefits of providing that. As set out by my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness and other hon. Members in this debate, there are potential benefits in providing head teachers and employers with access to a central record of those who hold qualified teacher status. Although we are clear that we do not want to replicate the GTCE’s current register of teachers, we are exploring further what central records and data will still be needed in the future. We want to consult on that further with the teacher and head teacher unions. We will look closely at the demand for the service alongside value-for-money considerations. I expect to confirm our plans to the House during the later stages of the Bill’s passage through Parliament.
Mr Gibb: There is a difference between a register and a database. A register requires a £33 or £36 subscription from teachers and a huge amount of information. We want to ensure—we have had representations from the head teacher unions on this—that when a school wants to employ someone, they have a quick, simple and cost-effective way to check that the teacher has qualified teacher status. There will be other data that list those people who are not suitable to be working with children.
Mr Wright: I apologise for intervening, but given that you, Mr Williams, have rightly said that we are not having a clause stand part debate, because we have already had an extensive debate on the amendments, will the Minister pass comment on the possible variation between the various nations of the United Kingdom? As I understand it, the provisions in the Bill maintain the GTC for Wales. Given the abolition of the council in England, what happens if a teacher from England goes to Wales, or vice versa? Will that not cause unnecessary, and possibly avoidable, bureaucracy in the case of, for example, head teachers in Wales checking up on English teachers or vice versa? What will happen on that situation between the nations?
Mr Gibb: The current arrangements of sharing important data, as each of those regulatory bodies do, will continue. If I have not got that right, I will correct it. It is my understanding that those arrangements will remain in place. It is just that in England, it will not be a registration system, as there is in the devolved Administrations.
I will just refer to two other points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness. We are carrying out a methodical and thorough check of
I agree with the need for us to be clear on the implications of abolishing the GTCE and the need for us to provide information about the specifics of the new system relating to teacher regulation in the future. I refer the hon. Member for Hartlepool to the detailed policy statement that I circulated at 17.18 pm last Thursday. I hope that that provides the reassurance that he seeks.
Amendments 49 and 50 would require that before the Secretary of State exercises his new regulatory functions for the teaching profession, he would need to provide Parliament with a report to demonstrate that he has put in place arrangements with sufficient resources and expertise to carry out these functions. I understand hon. Members’ concerns that we must ensure that robust arrangements are in place for the delivery of a new system, prior to the abolition of the GTCE and the commencement of the new arrangements. I want to reassure hon. Members that we are already working very closely with colleagues at the GTCE, as I mentioned earlier, to ensure that expertise is retained and that smooth transition plans are developed and delivered. There is already a transition board, which includes the GTCE chief executive and members of the GTCE senior management team, as well as officials from the Department who are managing the transitional arrangements. We will continue to work closely with the GTCE to learn from its experience as well as the experience of other regulators.
Mr Gibb: We are consulting with the GTCE on the transfer of functions of the staff. I am not able to give an estimate. Detailed discussions are happening. They are obviously very sensitive, because we are talking about people’s careers and futures, but we are consulting closely with the unions and the GTEC.
Mr Wright: I acknowledge that the Minister might not have the details at his fingertips, but I recall that the impact assessment says that there will be a net saving of around £8 million. I think the GTCE has an income of £16 million, which is almost universally derived from
Mr Gibb: These issues are obviously more complicated than simply redundancies. We are making savings across Whitehall and within the Department. There is clearly a reduction in the number of functions carried out by the GTCE, but what happens to individuals who are working for the GTCE and their future within the state sector is a matter for sensitive negotiations. I do not want to be drawn any further on those matters. It would be wrong for me to do so.
I will move on and finish speaking to the amendments. In practice, the new system of regulation will be undertaken by a new work force agency, which will be an executive agency of the Department. Where functions that the GTCE currently undertakes are transferring to the new agency, it is likely that the GTCE staff working on those functions will have the option of transferring with them. I can assure hon. Members that transfers of staff will be managed according to relevant legislation and Cabinet Office guidance. I hope that that provides some reassurance.
Within the new system of regulation we propose that the investigations of disciplinary cases will be able to draw on a range of expertise as required, including, for example, from the teaching profession and legal and medical expertise. Only the most serious cases will proceed to a hearing panel, which will decide whether the person may need to be barred from teaching. Hearing panels will include expertise from the teaching profession, and lay person representation and panels will be able to seek further professional expertise as appropriate to the case.
In summary, I hope that I have been able to reassure the Committee that we are putting arrangements in place to ensure the smooth delivery of the new regulatory arrangements, and that we have plans in place to address the wider concerns raised in the amendment. Given those plans, I hope that the Committee will concede that a requirement in law to report to Parliament on this matter will not be necessary. I therefore urge the hon. Members to withdraw their amendments.
Mr Wright: I thank the Minister for his response and I thank hon. Members who have contributed to the debate. There was a degree of consensus on some aspects of the debate. I want to cover a number of things. I am pleased to see that 17.18 is the new 4.34, but we are getting later, which is a concern. The Chair of the Education Committee made what I thought was a pertinent point about registration being an effective use of resources. It is being designed and built now, and knocking it down and starting again would be a gross misuse of public money. Any reassurances from the Minister are welcome.
On the potential £8 million of savings identified in the impact assessment, I reiterate my request that the Minister write to the Committee with further details. I realise that matters regarding people’s careers, professions and lives are sensitive. However, 96% or 97% of the GTCE’s money comes from the £36 subscriptions from
Mr Gibb: I give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that we will write to him with more details—it is only fair that we should do so. I will write to him as soon as I can; I have, so far, written to him fairly swiftly.
I do not want to detain the Committee much longer, but I am concerned about the profession. We want teaching to be seen as the profession of choice for our brightest and best. It is a huge vocation, yet it seems that the Government are creating a curious situation in which the teaching profession is not trusted with any degree of self-regulation—they want to bring it in-house. A curious comparison would be if the Department of Health were regulating the nursing profession. I cannot see why the Government want to go down this route.
Through different stakeholders, there might be a recognition that the GTCE has not performed as we would have all wished, but surely there has to be—to use the Chair of the Education Committee’s word—a buffer between the Secretary of State who is responsible for education policy in England, which is a large country in these terms, and the teaching profession. If there is a problem, why must the solution be abolition and not reform or replacement? Why does the responsibility have to be centralised to the Secretary of State?
I am concerned about incoherent and inconsistent regulation and variable interpretations of regulation, but I understand what the Minister has said. I do not want to press the amendment to a vote, because I do not want to test the Committee’s opinion. I may want to return to the matter on Report, however, after I receive the information that the Minister will provide. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Mr Stuart: The amendments would include teachers who had displayed “sustained professional incompetence” in the list of individuals whom the Secretary of State may investigate for unacceptable conduct. Such conduct relates to those who bring the teaching profession into disrepute and those who have been convicted of a relevant offence.
The amendments are probing—I might as well say that now—and they aim to continue the discussion that the Minister has begun on how we regulate the teaching profession. As I have said, one of the key factors in improving education lies in enhancing the quality of our teachers, which the Government acknowledge. Parents remain, perhaps, the single most important people in the educational life of a child, but quality of teaching is the next most important factor.
On Second Reading, I expressed disappointment that the Bill did not contain more to improve the quality of teaching further. The White Paper, which came as the John the Baptist to the Bill, was called, “The Importance of Teaching”, and I had hoped that there would be more in the Bill on that topic.
However, I am pleased to say that I ended that criticism of the Bill by managing to mention that the performance and management systems for teachers at the moment are toothless, that too much was conceded by the previous Government to the teaching unions and that the systems have contributed to the perception that those who were not up to scratch were not sufficiently challenged. I asked the Secretary of State when will he
Mr Stuart: I have the letter and its date. I do not have the exact time, and I apologise. If I had been in the spirit of the Committee, I would have ensured that that was shared with the Committee. Perhaps I can bring it in later.
The Secretary of State let me and the Education Committee know about the teacher standards review that I had called for on Second Reading and his appointment, as the Minister has said, of Sally Coates to lead that. The Secretary of State mentions that, as he set out in the White Paper,
“raising the quality of our teachers is the most vital reform if our education system is to become truly world-class. We need to free up teachers to make the right decisions based on their professional judgment. In order to do that, we must have a simple and clear set of standards they must meet.”
“Over the past decade, the proliferation of teacher standards has been confusing. It has been difficult for teachers to map their own professional development and even more difficult for schools to manage performance properly…I have asked Mrs Coates to submit an interim report to me by July 2011 making recommendations about the QTS and core standards, and to report in full recommendations for the full suite of teaching of teaching standards by the autumn term.”
A question remains, which I hope the Minister will be able to answer, although perhaps he will not be able to do so because the review is happening. It seems odd that the Bill says that those guilty of offences and gross misconduct will be included on this astonishing central list to be held by the Secretary of State, but those who show sustained incompetence will not be. That is what I wanted to tease out. It is also rather odd that schools have to consider whether they refer someone. There are various figures available, but I think everyone would accept that fewer than 20 teachers have been struck off in the last decade. If there are as few as that on the central list, it will be quite a big thing to be on it for the individuals concerned, with implications not only for their professional lives, as they will no longer be able to teach, but potentially in other areas. It is therefore slightly odd that it is up to the school to consider whether it refers them or not, which may lead to a bit of a lottery as to whether someone finds their name on there, and it may not be related to what they have done.
According to “Panorama” last year, only 18 UK teachers have been struck off for incompetence in the past 40 years. That seems extraordinarily unlikely, but if people are aware of other figures, they struggle to come up with the numbers. That is despite estimates that some 17,000 teachers may not be up to the job. I know from personal experience of what tends to happen in a struggling school that has struggling teachers. We move in to provide support for those whom we think we can bring up to standard, but we lean on the others, one way or another, and they have a tendency to move on. They tend not to leave teaching, but to move to another school. All too often, teachers who are showing sustained incompetence move to another school, and there is not a great deal of incentive for schools to do something about it. It is possible that there will be even less incentive to do anything about it when it is necessary to report all the way to the Secretary of State about their behaviour. That would, of course, be an argument against my amendments, but I would like to know whether the Minister has any thoughts about how we are going to create a system in which those who are failing young people are better held to account.
“As I go round the country, heads tell me how difficult it is to get rid of weak teachers. They say they start the procedure and they might be 18 months down the line and the teacher will move...we need to be thinking of ways of preventing that”.
That is the chief inspector of schools. The current situation that this coalition Government have inherited is not a good enough one and does not give the confidence to parents that they deserve and are entitled to expect.
That was in November of last year. In almost half of local authorities almost nobody had been removed from teaching. I am sure that you would agree, Mr Williams, that in politics—indeed, in the House of Commons, even with its requirement for thousands of people to vote for you in order to get here—a sizeable number of people, regardless of politics, are fundamentally incompetent. Fortunately, none is on this Committee: well, one hopes not. We recognise that happens in any profession.
I would hate to be misinterpreted. I think that the role of teachers in our society is fantastic; I want to celebrate it, I want to reinforce it, I want them to have the status and preferably, if money ever allows, I would like the pay of teachers to be raised, because what could be more important than shaping the childhood of somebody so that they can progress in life and, hopefully, enjoy the day that they are being educated as well? There is no more important profession in this country than teaching and we owe it to those teachers who put such effort into giving a high performance to make sure that their staff room does not have people in it who have clearly either lost the will, or never had the ability, to contribute in the way that the best do to the betterment of the children in their classes. That is why we need to hear from the Government, while we discuss a Bill which follows a White Paper called “The Importance of Teaching”, how precisely the Minister for schools thinks we can improve the current situation, which is not acceptable.
Mr Gibb: It is a pleasure to respond to the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness. To take up his first challenge, about why there is not more in the Bill regarding the quality of teachers, the fact is that we are not in the business of putting declaratory sections and clauses into legislation. That was a slight habit of the previous Administration and we are keen to legislate only when we need to, because every piece of legislation complicates the statute book. In fact, most of these Bills will amend other pieces of education legislation and we are keen to legislate only when necessary.
The effects of amendments 70, 71 and 72 would be to require that allegations of both professional incompetence and misconduct are considered at the national level, which would replicate the current GTCE arrangements. Amendment 70 would mean extending the new national system of regulation to cover cases of sustained professional incompetence as cases of misconduct. Amendment 71 would require employers to consider whether to refer cases of sustained professional incompetence as well as serious misconduct cases. Amendment 72 would require supply agencies to consider whether to refer cases of sustained professional incompetence as well as serious misconduct.
The single most important factor in ensuring a good education for every child is, as my hon. Friend so ably said, that they have a good teacher. I remember my favourite teacher, Brian Rogers, who taught me A-level economics. He was from the left, which is probably one reason why I became a Tory. He was a very good economics teacher, and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for what I believe is my good understanding of economics, although it does not come anywhere near the understanding of the Chancellor or the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
Teachers are our greatest asset, and we want to help them to do their job even better by encouraging schools to provide them with the support and professional development that they need to fulfil their potential and to help their pupils do so, too. The White Paper, “The Importance of Teaching”, has set out our approach to achieving that, including our plans to make it easier for schools to address teachers’ poor performance. The majority of our teachers are highly competent professionals, but where poor performance occurs it is critical that that is tackled, as my hon. Friend said.
As drafted, the Bill proposes that only cases of misconduct will be considered by a national regulator. I would like to reassure my hon. Friend that I share his concerns about the need to tackle poorly performing teachers, and to ensure that poor teachers are not recycled or transferred around the system. The question is how we can best address those concerns. It is clear that the current system of considering cases of incompetence at the national level is not working. As my hon. Friend said, since the GTCE was formed in 2000, nearly two thirds of local authorities have never referred a case of incompetence to it, despite employers being under a duty to do so. From 2001 to the end of January this year, the GTCE concluded only 82 competence hearings and struck off only 14 teachers for incompetence. Although the majority of our teachers are highly competent professionals, I, like my hon. Friend, simply cannot believe that in the past 10 years there have been only 14 incompetent teachers. That can be said about the members of no other profession.
The National Centre for Social Research undertook a comprehensive study into low referral rates to the GTCE for incompetence. It was published last year, and revealed that employers were reluctant to make referrals to the GTCE on the basis of poor performance. It found that that was because they felt either that the GTCE “has no teeth” and that there was no point, or that striking a person off the register for a performance issue was too severe an action, and one for which they did not want to be responsible. As I quoted in the debate on the previous group of amendments, the report stated that
There was a clear sense from employers that referring a case of incompetence to the GTCE meant a “duplication of local procedures”. The research also found that employers expressed the view that performance can be contextual—that is, an individual whose performance is in question in one context may perform to standard in another. Moving schools might therefore transform the individual’s performance ability.
It is evident that the arrangements for teacher regulation under the GTCE have not been effective, partly because the duty to refer acted as a disincentive to a head
Employers are best placed to make decisions about the skills and competence of their work force, and we are introducing a package of measures to empower and support them to do so. I have already referred to, and will not repeat again, the fact that we have asked Sally Coates to review teaching standards. We will shortly consult on similar arrangements for performance management and tackling poor capability, which will streamline the system and remove the current duplication that employers have found to be a barrier to tackling such issues.
Mr Stuart: On a more positive note of rewarding good performance, the threshold—I am not sure if it is still called that—was supposed to be based on higher performance. It was supposed to be a hurdle that the best performing teachers would get over, but the perception was that over time it became something that people were just given through service rather than on the basis of quality. Does my hon. Friend have any thoughts on how we incentivise high performance and recognise where it exists, and do not have a system that morphs into paying out money on a time of service basis?
Mr Gibb: My hon. Friend makes a good point. Such a perception is out there. It is certainly important, and we shall return to it in due course when we have the revised teacher standards from Sally Coates’ committee, because those standards will determine whether a teacher is a leading teacher or an excellent teacher and so on, which will then determine their pay spine and remuneration.
One final point that I have not yet mentioned is that we are not legislating for everything. As well as the issues of the commission, teaching standards and so on, we are strengthening the training and support available to school leaders so that head teachers and aspiring heads are better prepared for their management role through a revised national professional qualification for headships. Serving heads will be able to access information and advice.
In conclusion, it is only through empowering and supporting employers to play their role in properly addressing performance issues that we can begin to tackle the issue of poor teachers being recycled around the system. We already know that employers are reluctant to make referrals to a national regulator on the basis of competence and the revised regulatory arrangements seek to learn from that. The new arrangements for regulations proposed under the Bill, combined with our plans to empower and support employers to tackle poor performance, will ensure a less bureaucratic system that can better ensure the quality and high standards of our teaching profession. On that basis, I urge my hon. Friend to stick to his guns that the amendment was a probing amendment, and to withdraw it.
Mr Wright: I beg to move amendment 52, in clause 8, page 11, line 20, at end insert ‘, or a reprimand, conditional registration, or suspension, which have the same meanings as in schedule 2 to THEA 1998.’.
The purpose of the amendment is straightforward and simple. It would make the sanctions available to the Secretary of State match those currently available to the GTCE. Under current arrangements, if a teacher were found guilty by a professional competence committee, they can be punished in several ways: by a reprimand, which is kept on record for two years; a suspension, which can stop the teacher from working for up to two years; or a prohibition order, which bans teachers from the profession. In some cases, teachers who have faced a prohibition order can reapply for teacher registration after two years.
Under the Bill, the Secretary of State has only two proposed judgments for cases coming before him: barred or not barred. Those prohibition orders would be very blunt instruments to use in often quite complex cases. The GTCE had a variety of judgments at its disposal, which could take into account individual circumstances, and I cannot understand the rationale behind the Minister moving from what is a targeted and individual way of providing sanctions and punishment towards a somewhat blunt tool.
a point that has been made eloquently by the Chair of the Select Committee. Can the Minister explain why he is moving away from those different types of sanctions towards a more blunt tool of punishment? I note that the Bill mentions an interim prohibition order. Will the hon. Gentleman outline what that means and say in what circumstances it would be applied?
Amendment 52 would give the Secretary of State more options to deal with teachers’ disciplinary matters, would mean that more appropriate judgments will be made, would raise standards in teaching and hopefully mean that more teachers are retained in teaching, but to a higher quality. I hope that the Minister will look at our amendment favourably, provide us with a response and an explanation, and hopefully accept the amendment.
Mr Stuart: The shadow Minister makes a good point. The Minister is considering whether the full list should be retained, if there is a way of keeping it going administratively in a simple and cost-effective way, which would allow a more graduated set of measures to be recorded. I am not sure why the whole list, as opposed to a small list, would necessarily help, but if there was a thinking that it needed to be kept as simple as possible, that was one of the reasons for having what the shadow Minister called a blunt instrument. I would tend to
Julie Hilling: I want to add my support to this amendment. If we think about other professional bodies and other professions, such as the medical profession, we have more options than just barring people for life. There needs to be something that is proportionate and, in some cases, remedial. We share a concern that previous cases have not been referred to the GTC when they should have been. Going forward, we share a concern that cases may not be referred to the Secretary of State when they should be. People may see that barring someone for life, for what could be a poor decision or practice at that point in time, but from which they could learn, is extreme, when they could retrain or be barred for a period of time.
I urge the Minister to look at whether there should be other sanctions. If we want to ensure that teachers are referred and that we deal with incompetence and those who should not be teaching unless remedial action is taken, unless we look at other sanctions that can be taken, we will be in a situation where teachers are not being referred to the Secretary of State. I urge the Minister to add alternatives to the ban for life.
Mr Gibb: In essence, in responding to the hon. Member for Bolton West and my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness, the purpose of the new arrangements is that teachers should be referred to the panel only if people want the teacher to be banned. The issue to be referred has to be of such seriousness that those referring a teacher would expect that to be the consequence. Amendment 52 would allow the Secretary of State to issue a teacher with a reprimand, a conditional registration or a suspension, as well as the prohibition order. In essence, that would reinstate the range of intermediate sanctions that the GTCE currently has at its disposal when considering a disciplinary case. That is not what we want to achieve with this Bill.
We do not believe that the GTCE system was successful. I have already pointed out that over the past decade, there were only 14 cases of teachers being barred for incompetence. Where there are concerns about a teacher’s performance or conduct, those should be addressed by the school. We are trying to develop a serious relationship with schools. We want to trust professionals to tackle those issues of competence and conduct effectively. Only the most serious cases will lead to a dismissal at the school level. Only cases of gross misconduct should be referred to the national level. We think that that is the right approach.
Mr Gibb: It is difficult to say. Only gross misconduct will be referred to the Secretary of State, who will then refer it to the hearing panel, so there will be fewer. I think 150 cases were referred on the grounds of incompetence. Those will not be referred in future. We want to see those dealt with at the school level. That is why we put in place and are reforming issues of competence and capability procedures. That is why we are reforming teaching standards and the national professional qualification for headship. All that is intended to assist and enable professionals at the school level to tackle performance issues there. It seems rather absurd that one of the GTCE’s recommendations should be for a teacher go on a course. These are not matters that should be dealt with by a national regulatory body. They should be dealt with at the school level by professional head teachers. That is the kind of arrangement that we want to have in place in future.
Julie Hilling: One of the problems is that teachers are being recycled. They may leave a school because they have taken a compromise deal and not been sacked by the school. They are eased out, but are then able to seek employment at other schools, either within the same authority, a neighbouring authority or at the other end of the country. That problem is recognised by all members of the Committee. I am not saying that there are vast numbers of incompetent teachers, but we know that some teachers do not provide a good service for young people, so surely we should be asking how we can improve the situation to ensure that teachers who are incompetent and who have committed undesirable acts cannot then simply be recycled through the education system. If we are simply to have a banning, fewer people will be referred. How will the Minister deal with the recycling?
Mr Gibb: The hon. Lady raises an important and serious point that is of concern to all members of the Committee. We know that having a national regulatory body—with competence being referred to the GTCE—is not successful. We know that it does not work because of the figures that have been cited—two thirds of local authorities have never referred a teacher for incompetence, and only 14 teachers have been barred from teaching on the grounds of incompetence. That does not work, so we have to find another way. It is difficult, because we are talking about human beings who train to be teachers and who want to continue teaching. They may find it difficult to do anything else, but it might be that by going to a new school or going on a course recommended by a head teacher, they may be able to improve their teaching ability.
In a new environment, such teachers may flourish. They may not have flourished in a comprehensive but may flourish in a grammar school. They may not have flourished in the independent sector but may decide to move into the maintained sector and do well. It is difficult for us to know. We are trying to make it easier for head teachers to exercise their professional judgment and management skills, and be enabled either to help teachers become better teachers or to manage them out of the school. Too often, they tend to give very good references to teachers in the hope that they simply go on their merry way. It may be that the capability or performance management procedures are so complicated and lengthy
We are trying a range of measures to bring into our schools some of the approaches to managing professionals that exist in other professions. That is what we hope to achieve. That will not eliminate the problem—it cannot be eliminated. In every field, whether accountancy, medicine or the law, people recruit and make mistakes, but what we are trying to do will minimise that because it will reduce the incentive to produce flattering references. Schools should take up references when they recruit a new teacher, and we want to try to put in place systems that decrease the incentive for providing an inflated reference when one is sought. Head teachers need to give far more honest references.
The hon. Member for Hartlepool asked why the Secretary of State had an interim power to prevent a teacher from teaching—he wanted to know what that was about. If there is an allegation of serious misconduct, we believe that there should be a power to prevent the person from teaching while their case is being considered. Protecting the safety of children has to be our prime concern. The GTCE had previously called for such a power, and it has also been recommended by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, which provides best practice advice on regulations. In fact, the majority of other regulators already possess this kind of power. We expect it to be used for only the most serious cases, and, if it is used, that the case will be concluded as swiftly as possible. With those few remarks, I hope that I have managed to reassure the hon. Gentlemen, and that the amendment can be withdrawn.
Mr Wright: With the greatest respect for the Minister, I do not think that he has adequately explained the situation. In order to make progress, I will not press the amendment to a Division, but I do not think that he has explained how the provisions in clause 8 will improve the situation. If one accepts the notion that there is incompetence and gross misconduct in the teaching profession, as in every other profession, it is not appropriate to move away from the more proportionate and graduated response that we have under the GTCE towards a blunt one—you are barred or you are not barred. The notion that was put forward by the Chairman of the Select Committee that people are put off because of that will not be dealt with under the provisions of the Bill. They exacerbate the problem of inflated references and recycling, which was a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West.
I fully accept the Minister’s point that having to resort to an outside body is not the greatest way of doing things—of course it is not. Disputes and questions about competence and misconduct should be dealt with at a local level by the manager in charge, but often that cannot be done.
I give notice that I want to come back to this on Report. The response at present in schedule 2 of the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998—the four different sanctions that are available—is far more appropriate than this blunt response. I will not press the
Mr Stuart: Amendment 73 follows the point that was made earlier about the Government acceding to those with QTLS—qualified teacher learning and skills—qualifications in the further education sector being able to teach vocational courses in schools, which, as I said, I entirely welcome. The aim of the amendment is to highlight that issue further and ensure that we have a consistent system so that schools know that, when they look at this list, they can find those with a QTLS who are barred from teaching in the same way that they can for those with a QTS. I hope that it is straightforward and I will be interested to hear from the Minister about it.
Amendment 79 touches on information held on such persons by the Independent Safeguarding Authority. Again, I will be interested to hear from the Minister whether he considers that to be a useful addition.
Amendment 53 picks up the point I made earlier, as to whether it is appropriate, given, as the Minister has said, that the aim of this list is that only the most serious offences are referred. I think it is therefore odd that the legislation suggests that schools should consider whether to refer. The implications for the individuals are huge, and if the legislation is designed to do what the Minister says, every school should be obliged to refer to the Secretary of State. He could then make his judgment, with the current set of powers, which might need to be varied from the all or nothing situation we have at the moment.
However, if the circumstances are as the Minister described, we would expect everyone to be referred. I am particularly interested to hear how the Minister would feel were he to be guilty under this provision— I know it is impossible to imagine this of the Minister, he is such an upstanding individual and so professional,
When a severe penalty is at stake, normal principles of justice would suggest that those guilty of the same offence should be treated in the same way. It should not be down to the decision of a body that is not ideally constituted to make that decision. Governing bodies and head teachers are not primarily in place because they know how to make these kinds of judgments; they are there to help run schools. So I am sympathetic to those amendments, and hope to hear from the Minister that there is a sensible rationale for what on the face of it is the possibility of two people doing exactly the same thing, but one of them faces a higher penalty than the other, as a result of a decision by a governing body which may make that decision for reasons hard to divine from the outside, particularly if one is the person being referred.
Stella Creasy: I think he understands some of the concerns I have. The hon. Gentleman should cast the stone out of his own eye, not the splinter out of mine. This is a genuine concern. We have tabled these probing amendments to try and understand how these changes will work with the changes that are also proposed to the Independent Safeguarding Authority; the changes in the way information will be collated in that proposal; who will have access to that information; and possible contradictions within these proposals. It sounded earlier as though the idea of any sort of central co-ordination might be amiss, but central co-ordination is needed to get safeguarding right—[Interruption . ] I would welcome the evidence and experience of a number of coalition Members. I am sure that even with the stern looks of the Whips, it would not take long to go through some of the issues with them. Having worked in child protection in the voluntary sector, I am concerned about how the information on the previous register was used, where that was translated to child protection and safeguarding, where there might have been cross-over with information that schools have access to and how that might have been used within broader child protection and vice versa.
The amendments recognise that under the previous system, the organisation that information was referred to was either the GTC or the ISA. There needs to be clarity for all concerned about what information needs to be passed on, to whom and in what circumstances, and about what information will be held about people on the small list—and about how those two connect together. I hope that the Department has been involved
Amendment 79 would clarify how the information that the Secretary of State will hold on an individual will meet the information held by the Independent Safeguarding Authority, and how that will be shared with the public and people who are interested in safety in schools. Amendment 53 refers to the point raised by the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness regarding who would do the considering, and would provide clarity by saying that all information, in issues of serious misconduct, should be passed on.
Amendment 81 is about joining up the two different bodies and ensuring that information that will be passed to the Secretary of State by schools will also be passed to the ISA, so that where there are serious concerns about an individual, their conduct and their access to children, information is shared with the ISA and any other organisation that may access the ISA database. From a voluntary sector perspective, I suggest that people who are inappropriate to be involved in schools should also not be involved in youth organisations or work with vulnerable people. It is important that the proposals mesh together as the changes take place—I think such proposals are being discussed in another Committee Room—from an education perspective.
Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab/Co-op): I do not have a great deal to add to what the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness and my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow said. In the past, the GTCE has worked closely with the Independent Safeguarding Authority and has developed particular ways of working around cases that are not necessarily clear-cut, where issues might be relevant to one situation but not to another. Close working relationships were developed to deal effectively with such situations. I therefore want to use the amendments to probe the Minister about that.
Amendment 80 is particularly important because it deals with the supply of information by contractors and agencies. The hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness has set out clearly the issues about consistency. However, it is not just about that, but about ensuring that we are not creating new loopholes. We know that the danger has gone the other way, and that the vetting and barring scheme had to be reviewed because it had gone over the top. However, if we leave a loophole, something will inevitably slip through, and we will be back to the cycle of kneejerk responses and again creating something that is not fit for purpose. The amendments try to be helpful and probe the Minister’s intentions. I hope that he will respond to our genuine concerns.
Mr Wright: I rise to support my hon. Friends for Walthamstow and for Sheffield, Heeley on amendments 79 and 81. In the past few days, I read the last annual report of the GTCE which noted that there have been more referrals to its competency committee—more than in any other year. It put that down to much closer working relationships with the ISA; the amendments tabled by my hon. Friends would help to consolidate the good work that is going on in the new regime.
Predominantly, I want to talk to amendments 53 and 59 in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West, although the Chair of the Select Committee put the argument far more eloquently than I could with regards to amendment 53. In discussing the last group of amendments, the Minister explained the matter of referral to the Secretary of State and of barring or non-barring in relation to the most serious cases of misconduct. Surely following on from that, logically, the employer must provide the information about the teacher to the Secretary of State. I would like the Minister to outline why there seems to be some inconsistency between his earlier remarks and the rationale behind the current group of amendments.
I would also like the Minister to comment on the point that was made by Brian Lightman from ASCL in the evidence sessions we had a couple of weeks ago. I shall paraphrase Mr Lightman’s remarks. He essentially said that head teachers—employers—will not want to follow the proposed procedures because although they might think a teacher is terrible and that they do not want them near their particular institution, they do not want to wreck that person’s career. An element of that culture still persists. How does the Minister wish to address that?
What does the Minister think are the implications of the clause in terms of safeguards when teachers are found guilty of serious misconduct? Under the clause, what does he think would happen if a teacher had done something for which they would ordinarily be struck off, but the employer did not provide the information to the Secretary of State? Again, that point was made by the Chair of the Select Committee. Does the Minister think that, in certain circumstances, the employer must provide such information because of the gravity of the situation? Will he outline some such circumstances? Will he provide any information or guidance to employers to help them determine whether to provide the information to the Secretary of State, or will the onus always be on the employer to determine whether it should be provided? Through amendment 53, we essentially want to probe the Government’s thinking on that matter and whether, given his earlier comments, all information on the grounds of misconduct should be provided.
I will speak briefly to amendment 59, the purpose of which is to probe the Minister’s intentions behind removing the requirement that only registered teachers may carry out specified duties. Under his proposals, a teacher must still be qualified to carry out the specified duties or qualified teacher status can no longer be demonstrated through registration with the General Teaching Council for England. It is not clear from the Bill what the implications of the clause are in relation to teacher qualifications, although he has touched on that in his earlier remarks. I ask the Minister to set out his intentions in relation to the wider point about qualifications and QTS. Again, I know that he has referred to that briefly in earlier remarks, but it would be useful to get a bit more detail. By tabling amendment 59, we are seeking to probe the Government’s intentions about the qualification levels they expect from teachers.
I shall speak to all the amendments, which relate to aspects of the teacher regulation system operated by the GTCE and the regulatory system we are putting in place. That has been debated at some length this afternoon. I shall try not to replicate some of the earlier debate, but to address the specific points in the amendments. Let me first deal with amendment 59. As has been said, that amendment would retain a system of registration for teachers in England. Although I share hon. Members’ view that the current system has elements that would be useful, it is my contention that the process of registration is not necessary to maintain the supply of effective teachers in our schools for reasons I shall go on to highlight.
As colleagues have said, the GTCE collected myriad detailed information on teachers, ranging from personal data and qualifications through to information on the types of posts held in previous employment. The point was made earlier that teachers’ social profile and their history could be useful for good public policy. For that reason, I want to remind myself of the data that we already collect. The Department collects an enormous amount of data on the work force, and has access to data collected by other bodies, such as the Training Development Agency for Schools. It is always my aim to reassure the Committee, and the Department is looking at all its data collection requirements, and the data needed by the new work force agency to support schools in the exercise of their legitimate business. It is right to collect data, the Department does so, and that data could be used for the very purposes that were mentioned earlier to gain profile information about the character of the teaching work force.
However, the current arrangements are time-consuming and expensive, and I am not sure that they are necessary to ensure that we have an effective teaching force in our schools. I do not consider it essential in making sure that employers and the public are able to determine which teachers have been barred from working in England that we maintain the current arrangements. That is clearly an objective that all responsible members of the Committee—all members of it are responsible—would want to secure, but I am not sure that we need the existing arrangements, with all their costs and bureaucracy, to do so. Instead, we will set up a list of teachers who have been barred from working in schools in England, and employers and the public will be able to access that list.
That is not an unprecedented principle. It is sensible always to err on the side of making a list of those people who are prohibited, rather than making a list of everyone, because that is a much simpler, more cost-effective and clearer exercise of our responsibilities. Our view, as my hon. Friend the Minister articulated with extraordinary elegance and eloquence—
Mr Hayes: And resonance. Employers are more than capable of ensuring that teachers have the necessary qualifications, experience, skills, and other attributes appropriate to their school without the need for a costly
We recognise the central benefits of providing head teachers and employers with access to a central record of who holds qualified teacher status. We will explore whether and how to provide that in future. We want to consider the demand for such a service alongside the need to minimise burdens on teachers and schools while delivering value for money to taxpayers. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the current registration system costs taxpayers around £2 million a year, and requires employers and teachers to update their records at least three times a year. I am not convinced that that represents good value for money.
Amendment 59 was referred to earlier. Against the background of what I have said, I am pleased to say that the head teachers associations have already offered to work with us on the matter, and I look forward to a constructive dialogue with them on how to take forward the commitments that I have just made.
As all members of the Committee know, we are a listening Government, and a responsive Government. We want to take the profession, schools, governors, parents, and all Committee members with us on this journey to raise standards for the future generation, for whom we are responsible.
Amendments 53 and 80 relate to the duty to refer all cases of misconduct, for which the hon. Member for Hartlepool and others have made a case. I understand that the intention behind the amendments is to place a duty on employers to refer all cases of serious misconduct where teachers have been dismissed, or would have been had they not resigned first. Our measure proposes that we respect the professionalism and judgment of employers, and give them the autonomy to decide for themselves which cases of serious misconduct to refer to the national regulator. We have debated that matter at some length.
Currently, as has been said, all cases of misconduct must be referred to the GTCE. My hon. Friend the Minister has drawn our attention to evidence that suggests that the effect of that practice has not been as robust or reliable as was originally intended. The approach has not ensured that all cases of misconduct are referred, which is well illustrated by the different patterns of referral across the country. For example, the Policy Exchange research that was published in 2008 revealed that 27 local authorities had never made a referral for misconduct; yet three authorities had made between 19 and 27. Such patterns suggest that the system, as I have said, is not consistent, robust or reliable in delivering its original intention.
Members of the Committee have raised the perfectly proper concern that misconduct is a matter to be taken seriously, which, of course, it is. I believe, however, that something of a gap is growing between the two sides. I do not want to exaggerate the point, but it seems that Government Members in Committee have a powerful
Mr Hayes: I will happily do so. Perhaps I can move speedily on the amendments without in any way abridging my commitment to the teaching force of this country. Every great civilisation—Persia, China, Greece and Rome—has revered teachers and elevated the role of the educator. When we diminish that role, we diminish our civilisation. I believe in our teachers and head teachers and make no apology for doing so. I will continue to advocate their cause for as long as I am a Minister and a Member of this House.
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