|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
I am also a bit concerned about some of the other posts that might be included in the Bill. Some of these posts are not well paid and the people applying for them may find it quite difficult to move or to go elsewhere to get those jobs. I do not accept the arguments that this is going to mean that thousands more teachers are going to be discriminated against. But we are nothing if not consistent on these Benches and when the School Standards and Framework Act came before Parliament in 1998, we sought to delete Sections 58 and 60, which brought in these quotas in the first place. We are against these quotas and we continue to be so. Just because this changes the quotas, that does not make them any more acceptable to these Benches.
Lord Adonis: My Lords, I appreciate the strength of feeling of my noble friends against faith schools generally. That is a perfectly proper view for them to hold and I respect it. With respect, however, I point out that they have hugely exaggerated the impact of
30 Oct 2006 : Column 58
Voluntary-controlled schools are religious schools. They are schools which are maintained almost entirely by the Church of England because of their faith character. The issue at stake is a legal uncertainty about whether the head teacher of schools that are already Church of England religious schools can or cannot be appointed with reference to a faith requirement. As the right reverend Prelate said, it appears that it is possible to do that at the moment but it is not absolutely clear. This amendment clarifies the fact that a Church of England voluntary-controlled school is actually able to appoint its head teacher to maintain the ethos of the school.
However, even under this amendment, and this is at the discretion of the governing bodyof course the governing body will make a decision about whether this is going to lead to a dearth of candidatesit is highly unlikely that a governing body is going to pass over an outstanding candidate because of the faith requirement if they believe that the need could be met in a different way. The amendment allows only heads to be reserved teachers, even in voluntary-controlled schools, where they also teach religious education, which particularly meets the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, who said she could accept that there would be a case for it where these teachers in question teach religious education, but not beyond.
It is specifically because of that factor that we allow these reserved posts to come about. The case which has been made to us particularly applies to primary schools because a large proportion of voluntary-controlled schools are primary schools. Not having this flexibility at the moment is making it difficult for small primary schools, which are a large proportion of voluntary-controlled schools, to adequately arrange their teaching staff to ensure that they have sufficient teachers who can maintain the ethos of the school and teach religious education in those schools.
To reiterate the point of the right reverend Prelate: if a school chooses to appoint the head teacher as a reserved teacher, this appointment will count towards the one-fifth of the teaching staff who are already permitted to be appointed as reserved teachers under the 1998 Act. I know the noble Baroness does not approve the 20 per cent requirement at the moment but this does not expand that requirement at all.
I believe that this is a modest amendment which clarifies the existing law in respect of faith schools. There is no great plot here to introduce faith requirements for the head teachers of other schools. I would also like to stress that our proposal will include transitional provisions in the commencement order for Clause 37 to provide that the change to Section 60(6) will not take effect for any non-teaching staff in post at the date of commencement. The unamended Section 60(6) will continue to apply to such staff, and also to head teachers who are in post at the moment.
The other amendments that I have tabled refer to staff other than teachers to whom it is now permissible to apply a faith test. The case for those amendments is very simple. Since the 1998 Act, particularly in the past two or three years, there has been substantial reform of the workforce in schools to provide for many more support staff and to encourage schools to diversify their workforce so that a wider range of staff can carry out the wider range of activities that we want to see. That includes, not least, the Every Child Matters type of agenda, which will require pastoral staff and all kinds of other support staff. We also need staff to carry out the clerical and administrative jobs that have hamstrung teachers for too long.
As those reforms have taken place, we have been concerned to ensure that voluntary-aided schools are not unduly restricted in their capacity to use a religious test in appointing support staff who have a pastoral mission directly related to the school ethos, in exactly the same way as they can appoint teachers.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, does the Minister not accept that schools can very easily implement the greater flexibilities of the workforce agreement without restricting such posts to members of staff of a particular faith?
Lord Adonis: No, my Lords, I will not. It is perfectly reasonable for a school to believe that pastoral duties should be conducted by a member of a particular faith, but under the law at the moment it can impose that requirement only if the member of staff is a qualified teacher and not support staff. That is ridiculous inflexibility because it does not restrict the right of faith schools to discriminate; it simply says that they can discriminate only in favour of teachers.
The amendments would enable voluntary-aided schools to take advantage of the wider workforce reforms that enable support staff to play a bigger role, and to apply the same test to them. But the crucial point is that schools must do so only where they believe there is a genuine occupational requirement.
Lord Peston: My Lords, the phrase genuine occupational requirement is precisely what I was asking the noble Lord about. Let me give an example. Regrettably, there is a need for remedial English teaching in some secondary schools, which will undoubtedly involve assistants. Will it be legal to bring to bear a persons faith in deciding whether to appoint them as an assistant? The noble Lord has not answered me with a straight yes or no.
Lord Adonis: My Lords, it is quite common for schools to appoint people with multiple responsibilities, as the noble Lord will know when he visits schools. However, to exercise this power, there must be a genuine occupational requirement.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked about consultation. We consulted our social partners some time ago through the workforce agreement monitoring group, which includes the NASUWT, the Association of School and College Leaders, the ATL, the PAT, the GMB, Unison and the T&G. The official who services that group sent me an account of its meeting last Thursday and the previous meeting during which it discussed the issue. I shall read it out so that the noble Lord can see that there has been full consultation:
Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response but I am not entirely happy about it, and other noble Lords have also raised questions. In particular, I cannot see why there seems to be an acceptance that it would be possible to exclude very good head teacher candidates on the basis that they were not of a particular faith. We want head teachers with ability and the necessary professional qualification rather than their necessarily always having the religious one. I am not convinced by the Ministers response that that would always be the case.
There is a great deal of legal uncertainty about the term genuine occupational requirement. It seems that in plenty of cases there would be a reclassification which would have to be tested at an employment tribunal, and perhaps beyond, because the individuals concerned would be relying on the EU non-discrimination requirements and so on. All that would impose on individuals a great deal of difficulty and expense.
I am surprised at the Ministers remarks about the unions. The information I have had over the weekend is that there is a great deal of concern about the amendments to Clause 37. I quoted the general-secretarys remark that there could well be a crisis situation because of a shortage of appropriate and suitably qualified applicants for head teacher posts. He asked whether the Government understood that the amendments to Clause 37 would make the situation that much more difficult. In addition, I understand that the GMB is very concerned about the pressure that will be exerted on non-teachers.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am pleased to bring these amendments to your Lordships House. At Report, in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and my noble friend Lady Morris, I undertook to consider further how we might address the role of schools in promoting pupil well-being. This includes, among other things, their responsibility to deal with bullying and other bad behaviour by members of the school community. When we first considered this amendment in Committee, we said that we were concerned about placing statutory duties where levers already exist. We argued that Ofsted already inspects schools, using a framework that requires consideration of the delivery of the five outcomes in Every Child Matters, and that school improvement partners would also support and challenge schools on their contribution to the five outcomes.
However, following the extremely productive debate we had on Report, with excellent contributions from many noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and my noble friend Lady Morris, I was persuaded that there is real value in sending a message to teachers and other professionals working with children that raising educational standards and promoting pupil well-being are mutually reinforcing. Stating unambiguously in primary legislation that school governing bodies have a clear duty to promote well-being will help to speed the delivery of the undoubted premium on school standards that arises from the improved well-being of pupils. For all those reasons, we are glad to bring these amendments forward. I beg to move.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I rise with great pleasure to welcome this pair of amendments, along with Amendment No. 7 which goes with them. At the risk of sounding a little ungracious, perhaps I may say that they have been a long time coming because they result not just from our debates on bullying and other issues related to well-being in the current Bill, but right back to the yawning gap left in the Children Act 2004 when Members on these Benches tried to ensure that schools were not just inspected on the extent to
30 Oct 2006 : Column 64
On Report, in hinting that he was about to bring these amendments forward, the Minister said that he felt they would meet my concerns on the issue of bullyingand they do to a great extent, but not completely. That is not to say that I do not welcome themI do. But I should like to explain what I mean.
The amendments refer to the well-being of children. In my speech on Report, I said that I felt that the references to bullying already set out in the Bill are not sufficient because they focus on the schools behaviour policies in relation only to children, but that what is needed is a set of policies that would affect the whole schools ethos and the whole school communityadults and children aliketo generate a climate of mutual respect between children and other children, adults and other adults, and adults and children.
There is an issue that I should like to bring to the Ministers attention concerning the modern technology that allows short video clips to be posted on the internet, particularly on a website called YouTube. I understand that it is being used to bully teachers. Children are bullying teachers by taking pictures of them without their permission, sometimes in not very flattering situations or when they are actually being abused by the children, and putting them up on the internet along with some very derogatory personal comments. This includes the homophobic bullying of teachers by children.
Although I warmly welcome this group of amendments and what they do in relation to children, they do not cover some of my concerns about adults who work in a school. If one adult bullies another adult, disciplinary measures may be taken concerning the standards of the adults behaviour. However, those professional disciplinary measures do not apply to a child. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us in responding to these concerns what might be done to encourage schools to generate a climate of mutual respect so that this sort of thing does not happen again. I am not asking the Minister to ban it. We can ban far too many things, and a ban on something to do with the internet is completely unworkable. But I would like to hear the Ministers thoughts on what can be done about this serious and important issue.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|