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Lord Henley: My Lords, half a million pounds might be peanuts to some people but I accept that it is a large amount of money for the Home Office, especially when it is setting up such a scheme. However, can the Minister tell the House just how much compensation is due to those who are entitled to it under the Firearms Act, how much has actually been paid and when the
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, there are two components to the noble Lord's question. The first relates to the compensation scheme and I can readily update him in that respect. Up until 19th January the FCS (the compensation scheme) had received 40,021 claims and, by the same date, 26,341 payments had been made. Turning to the specifics which derive from the Question, we hope that the scheme will be in existence, both efficiently and properly researched, by the end of the year. For the reasons that I have already outlined, I cannot be any more specific.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, can the Minister inform the House whether I am right in thinking that, under the terms of the Scotland Bill, the Scottish Parliament will be able to decide, first, to opt out of a central national register for firearms; and, secondly, that it will be able to set its own licence terms, which could be either weaker or stronger than those which exist in the rest of the United Kingdom?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to take specific advice on that question and write to him as soon as may be possible. The short answer to that question is that I do not know the answer to either A or B.
The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, the supply of an adequate number of well-trained and motivated teachers is central to delivery of the Government's plans to raise standards. To ensure this supply, we must raise the status of teachers and standards in the teaching profession. The Government are aware of the challenge that they face on this complex issue, with a particular challenge in the recruitment of secondary teachers of maths, modern languages and technology, where recruitment to training courses has fallen short of targets for several years. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment is reflecting on the proposals put forward in report of the Education Select Committee in the other place and will shortly be publishing the Government's response to that report.
Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that reply. Will she accept that there has been a disappointing response to the recent very extensive advertising campaign for teachers? Does my noble friend agree that there are two aspects of the problem: first, in the short term, this must include--and I hope my noble friend will agree--higher salaries for teachers? In that respect, will my noble friend consider the abolition of tuition fees for all trainee teachers? Secondly, in the long term, will my noble friend also agree that there must be improved conditions and opportunities, which would certainly include help in the classroom, a reduction in the workload and better career flexibility?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, my noble friend raises several questions. Those Members of your Lordships' House who have seen the advertising campaign of the Teacher Training Agency carrying the message that "No one forgets a good teacher" will agree that that is very powerful; indeed, it is one that I believe is bearing fruit. Therefore, I cannot agree with my noble friend that there has been a disappointing response to the campaign. It is perhaps rather too early to judge what the effects will be. However, there has been an increase in the number of applicants for places to study for the PGCE this year. That suggests that the campaign may well be paying off.
So far as concerns teachers' salaries, that is a matter for the school teachers' review body which will shortly be making recommendations to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State. As regards tuition fees for teachers in training, the Government are introducing a bursary scheme for PGCE students. The real shortages are to be found at the secondary rather than at the primary stage. Something like 80 per cent. of secondary teachers are trained through the PGCE. My noble friend also spoke of improvements in the classroom. Yes, of course, there are a number of things which need to be done to support teachers, including a reduction in the amount of unnecessary bureaucracy which denies teachers time to teach.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, does the Minister consider that it is fair to provide a bursary for teachers who take a three-year degree followed by a one-year PGCE, while a young person taking a Bachelor of Education course over four years will have to pay £1,000 in tuition fees for each of the four years? Does the Minister agree that, by and large, that is an advantage to those who teach in secondary schools but a serious disadvantage to those who teach in primary schools?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, just to clarify the position, I should point out that teachers who take a B.Ed. may do so on a three-year or a four-year course. It is, of course, only on the four-year course that they will have to pay the £1,000 tuition fee if their parents can afford to do so. That applies only in that fourth year. We should be absolutely clear about that. PGCE students will get a bursary. The reason for that is that the B.Ed. courses for primary teachers are heavily oversubscribed. There is no shortage of people coming
Lord Hunt of King's Heath: My Lords, does not my noble friend agree that while recruitment and the remuneration of teachers is important, it is equally important to raise the status of teachers in the minds of the general population? Does she agree that, while it is important that we continue to root out poor performance, we need to give much more attention to the success achieved by so many of our teachers?
Baroness Blackstone: Yes, my Lords, I strongly agree with what my noble friend has said. It is extremely important that we all recognise the enormous value of good teaching in our schools and the good job that the vast majority of our teachers do, often in difficult circumstances. They should be praised for that. It is also important that we introduce new developments such as a new grade of advanced skills teachers to offer a career option to excellent classroom practitioners who do not want to become head teachers. That, again, will raise the status of the ordinary classroom teacher. The Government hope that the establishment of a general teaching council to act as a voice for the profession--which we shall discuss in Committee later this afternoon--will also help.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, it is, of course, important that anyone who works in either a primary or a secondary school is adequately trained. Where possible encouragement is given to people who have taken early retirement and want to enter the teaching profession, provided they become qualified. The numbers of people available to do that are perhaps slightly less great than those who might like to help in a school on a voluntary basis. The Government are considering whether more use can be made of people who would like to support teachers in the classroom on a voluntary basis.
Lord Glenamara: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, despite what she has said about bursaries for post-graduate certificate students, in future approximately half of newly qualified teachers will leave college with a debt of between £10,000 and £12,000? Does she feel that this will encourage people to enter teaching?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, anyone who enters higher education can expect to earn substantially more as a result of becoming a graduate. Many teachers, particularly if they are successful and rise up the profession, will earn substantial sums of money. Those who stay at the lowest levels of pay will, of course, not be required to pay back their loan until they reach those categories of pay that require repayment. The system is an income contingent one. It is important to remember that.
Lord Carter: My Lords, as many of your Lordships will be aware, proceedings on the Report stage of the Human Rights Bill were not completed last night. It was agreed through the usual channels that further consideration on Report should be taken on Thursday, 29th January after the Report stage of the Greater London Authority (Referendum) Bill. This date was originally set down for the Third Reading of the Human Rights Bill and therefore I hope that the change will prove convenient for those of your Lordships interested in the Bill. A further date for Third Reading of the Bill will be agreed through the usual channels and announced in the normal way.
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