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Lord Whitty: I think that I have made our point, so in the light of my explanation, I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch: As I have said, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 61 not moved.]

20 Jan 1998 : Column 1483

10 p.m.

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 62:

Page 7, line 25, leave out ("Secretary of State") and insert ("General Teaching Council").

The noble Lord said: In view of the hour, I did not join in the previous debate, but I should now like to say how very strongly we on the Liberal Democrat Benches support the Government with regard to the importance of the headteacher qualification. I very much agreed with the Minister's response. Indeed, it is remarkable that we have had to wait so long for there to be a recognised headteacher qualification. We believe that in the fullness of time such a qualification should be mandatory.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hardy, that, whereas the qualification should be an essential requirement for a headteacher, it is not necessarily the only requirement. Indeed, for the reasons that have been very well put, it is not necessarily the most important requirement. Like any other good professional, a good headteacher needs many other qualities in addition to qualifications. I was pleased, but not surprised, to hear the Minister say exactly that in his reply.

In moving Amendment No. 62, I am speaking also to Amendments Nos. 65 and 68. The purpose of this group is to give greater strength to the GTC. Amendment No. 62 gives the GTC, rather than the Secretary of State, the responsibility for deciding what should be recognised as a professional headship qualification. I do not want to rehash our earlier discussions, but I believe that that is a proper role for a responsible GTC. I do not want to distract us at this stage, but in the fullness of time--here, I accept the evolutionary principle to which several noble Lords have referred--it may well be that the GTC should have responsibility for all professional qualifications for teachers. However, perhaps that is for the future.

Amendment No. 65 states our view that there should come a time--we are not necessarily prescriptive about the timescale--when all heads, including serving heads, should have been trained and qualified. I, too, have had some experience over the years of local education authorities. Indeed, I believe that probably all of us have had experience of heads who have been in post for a very long time. Sometimes they are superb; sometimes the governing body, the other teachers and the parents cannot wait for their retirement--and they are often the hardest to move because they will never get another post, even if they seek one. If we are to give this qualification the status that it deserves in the fullness of time, all heads should have it. I suspect that that also reflects the Government's thinking.

Amendment No. 68 ensures that a person awarded a professional head teacher qualification must already be a member of the teaching profession and accredited by the general teaching council. That may appear to be self-evident. It may be hard to imagine a head teacher who has not been a registered qualified teacher, but it can happen. Looking to the management aspects of the job, it is not too wild a fantasy to imagine, with the establishment of education action zones and so on, someone from industry with great experience of

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management being parachuted into a school. Sometimes there may be a case for it, but I believe that there is a much stronger case for saying that a head teacher should remember that the "teacher" part of it is extremely important and he should therefore have come from the teaching profession and be a registered teacher. That is the purpose of Amendment No. 68. I beg to move.

Lord Monkswell: I raised the subject of the minimum requirement for a head teacher's position at Second Reading as being that of a teacher. Because of family illness and other circumstances I apologise to the Committee for being unable to table an amendment in my name on this subject. I accept entirely what the noble Lord, Lord Tope, has said in speaking to Amendment No. 68, but I am not sure that it does the job that he intends. The implication of the amendment is that if a person has a general teaching council registration number effectively he will be a qualified teacher of good standing. I am not sure that that is a correct construction of the way in which the register will be compiled. I envisage that the register will have a section for people who have achieved the academic qualification of a teacher but have not yet completed their induction period. They will be allocated a number and will then get on to the register proper after serving their induction period. I can also envisage a situation in which a person may have a number even though he has been struck off or suspended from the register. There may be technical difficulties.

I hope that when my noble friend responds from the Front Bench he will reassure us that every future candidate for a head teacher's position will be a member of the teaching profession and of good standing before he can be considered. I do not need to rehearse the arguments raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, but I hope that that assurance will be forthcoming from the Government Front Bench this evening.

Baroness Blackstone: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, for his support for mandatory head teacher qualifications. I believe that we should refer to "head teachers" or "heads" in deference to the amazing qualities of so many great many women heads, rather than "headmasters". I am aware that there have been many great headmasters, but I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, will concede that there have been and still are many great women playing this role.

I recognise the widespread wish to see the general teaching council take on a wide range of responsibilities commensurate with its role. We have debated that extensively in Committee today. I have underlined our conviction that it is right for the general teaching council in its initial period to focus on the core responsibilities laid down earlier in the Bill. These amendments constitute further attempts to widen the general teaching council's responsibilities in three distinct ways. The first is by having the council rather than the Secretary of State designate the required professional qualification

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for all first-time heads under this clause. We are of course talking about first-time heads. I say to my noble friend Lord Monkswell that people coming forward to be heads need to be designated, properly qualified teachers.

The second is by obliging awarding bodies to supply the general teaching council registration number of successful candidates to the Secretary of State; and the third is by obliging the Secretary of State to consult the general teaching council in his decision about when the headship qualification should become mandatory.

My noble friend has already said on Second Reading--the note we have placed in the Library of this place makes this clear--that our intention is that, subject to further development and continued positive feedback from piloting--which of course is important, and I agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said earlier--the national professional qualification for headship will be the mandatory qualification.

We intend that the requirement to hold a mandatory headship qualification shall be brought into force by the end of this Parliament and we shall make an announcement of the intended date of introduction well in advance of that date in order to allow prospective headship candidates adequate time to plan and complete the training they need. We shall therefore need to make an announcement both about the designation of the appropriate qualification and about its becoming mandatory before the general teaching council is established in 2000.

I believe that Amendment No. 68 is a "detail too far" for primary legislation at this stage. Paragraph (b) of subsection (2F) of Clause 12 (3) states that the Secretary of State may prescribe in regulations such other information relating to a person gaining the headship qualification (as he may judge necessary). That is the kind of detail which is likely to be covered there, subject to the outcome of the further consultation on the general teaching council's registration arrangements. The background note on the general teaching council that was placed in the Library indicates the consultation that we intend to undertake.

But I can assure the Committee that, once it is established, we would certainly look to the general teaching council to advise on all aspects of the standards of headship, and the conduct and training, career development and performance management of heads. That I would regard as falling within the general advisory responsibilities set out in Clause 2(2) for the general teaching council.

Lord Tope: I am grateful to the Minister for her slightly encouraging reply. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, for what I think was support for the amendment, although with some reservations. I understand his concern. Perhaps I may refer him to Amendment No. 64, which we shall reach in a moment and which addresses the point that rightly worried him. Because of the grouping of the amendments, we are dealing with Amendment No. 68 before Amendment No. 64, but the two obviously relate to each other.

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On Amendment No. 68, I heard the Minister say that it was a, "detail too far". I understood her to give an assurance, which is something for which we would be looking, that this is a point which is likely to be covered in the detailed arrangements when they are laid down. With that assurance now on record, I am content to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 63 not moved.]

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