Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

The Chairman of Committees: As Amendment No. 78 has been spoken to, I remind the Committee that if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 79.

Baroness Blackstone: Amendment No. 75 seeks to limit the power of the chief inspector to ensure the quality of teacher training by excluding the inspection of in-service education and training. I am a little surprised to see the noble Baroness seeking to restrict inspection in this way given that it was the last government which expressly asked Ofsted to inspect in-service training of teachers through a formal letter

20 Jan 1998 : Column 1497

of assignment. This provision seeks simply to put that existing requirement on the face of primary legislation to underwrite that inspection.

In-service training and education is central to teachers' career development and as a result to pupils' development in the most crucial areas, including literacy, numeracy, information technology and of course in raising the skills of our future school leaders. Because that training is so important, it must be done well and it is essential that Ofsted is able to monitor the provision to see that it continues to be of high quality and that public money is well spent.

The quality assurance agency does not have the appropriate expertise to do that. I entirely accept and agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that we should avoid duplication, but I do not believe that the QAA would be involved in inspecting or even assessing the quality of in-service training provision for practising teachers. Given the importance of Ofsted inspection of this provision, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 76 seeks to establish a minimum period of notice of eight weeks before an inspection. I am advised that notice of Ofsted's inspection varies from half a term to over a year before the forthcoming inspection. It is certainly the case that the chief inspector aims to give as much notice as possible. I understand that Ofsted is currently in discussion with the CVCP and others about clear and agreed guidelines on notice of inspections. I strongly agree with the noble Baroness about the need for proper notice. I am happy to consider bringing forward an appropriate amendment providing for reasonable notice to institutions in relation to this clause, but prescribing a set eight weeks would unnecessarily constrain the discussions between individual institutions and Ofsted. However, I will consider this matter further and return to it at Report stage. I hope that is helpful.

I have listened to the concerns expressed in support of Amendments Nos. 77 and 80. Although I have considerable sympathy on the issue of documentation, I cannot accept Amendment No. 77 as currently drafted and I am not altogether convinced of the need for Amendment No. 80. But there is certainly no wish that Ofsted should inspect subject provision. It is also important that Ofsted should focus on those components of courses which are about preparing and training students to be teachers. However, once again I should like to take this away and consider it further but without making any commitments at this time. In the light of that, I hope the noble Baroness will be able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blatch: I am grateful to the noble Baroness because that was a helpful reply. I wonder whether in the gap between this and the next stage of the Bill she will discuss this issue with those in higher education--I am thinking particularly of the CVCP--who have expressed these concerns and who may well find that between them and the department they can find an accommodation or at least have their fears allayed that this duplication will not be a problem.

20 Jan 1998 : Column 1498

The noble Baroness said that she was surprised to see me remove this from the Bill. I was careful to say that I am not arguing the principle and the proposal that in-service training should be inspected, but perhaps I may give an example which is not an outrageous one. If one person goes to the Cranfield Institute to do some in-service training but everything else that goes on in the course he or she is doing has nothing to do with teacher in-service training, is it really necessary to send Ofsted along to inspect the course? What we are saying is that in the application of this policy--the problem is that when it is written on the face of the Bill it becomes a requirement--some sensible flexibility should be applied where teachers are doing one-off courses in the interests of furthering their professional development.

Baroness Blackstone: I can certainly reassure the noble Baroness that it would be ridiculous not to be flexible. To send Ofsted to inspect courses all over the country where teachers happen to have decided that this would be useful in terms of their career development would be patently ridiculous. The purpose of these clauses is to ensure that courses that are specifically designated as in-service training should be properly inspected. I think the noble Baroness has no problem in agreeing that that is important. Perhaps I may also reassure her that discussions are currently going on between the CVCP and Ofsted on the other matters that she raised. I am confident that before we reach the next stage of the Bill agreement will have been reached. But I shall also ask officials in my department to discuss this further with the CVCP. Indeed, if agreement cannot be reached, I shall be happy to have those discussions with the CVCP myself.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 76 to 80 not moved.]

Clause 14 agreed to.

11 p.m.

Clause 15 [Inspection of institutions training teachers for schools: Scotland]:

On Question, Whether Clause 15 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Unlike the remainder of Part I of the Bill, this clause applies to Scotland alone. I ask that it be omitted, having consulted the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals and the Association of University Teachers who feel very strongly about this. They suspect, and I agree with them, that this clause has been tacked onto the Bill to match the provision for England and Wales, which the Committee has just been discussing.

Unlike the previous clause, Clause 15 does not reflect the present situation. Up to a few years ago the inspectorate was involved in the inspection of teacher training, but the system has been abandoned because it was no longer appropriate. My intention is to probe this matter with the Minister. She has very kindly remained in London and, I believe, cancelled an engagement in

20 Jan 1998 : Column 1499

Scotland in order to help me in this matter. I do not intend to press it, but I shall listen to what she has to say and decide what I shall do at the next stage.

The inspectorate in Scotland has a very different role from that of the inspectorate south of the Border. It has a considerable influence on the development and delivery of schools' policy. Indeed, there are development officers who work to Her Majesty's inspectorate as their line managers, so they are not independent of what is happening in schools as are their English counterparts. The inspectorate used to be involved in the assessment of teacher training. But for those reasons, and for others, and with the advent of the Quality Assessment Authority, the system was changed.

Indeed, the Scottish principals of institutions were told in a letter dated 24th February 1994,

    "Colleges can be assured that statutory powers of inspection are not being continued under the guise of quality assessment".

I ask the Minister to say what has changed. No one in the system or outside of it would claim that there is no room for improvement in teacher training in Scotland. It is clear to everybody that higher education institutions are in no way opposed to the most rigorous scrutiny of their courses. But there are so many tests now that a course must pass that it seems strange that in Scotland's case the Government want to add yet another.

In Scotland initial courses for teachers must pass the following tests. They must conform to the Secretary of State for Scotland's guidelines for initial teacher training courses. I am told that those guidelines were last issued in January 1993 and they are currently being revised. The Secretary of State for Scotland has a statutory power to approve the duration, content and nature of initial training courses. All courses are subject to a validation process--as they would be, no doubt, in England and Wales--under the auspices of a university or a degree-awarding institution.

In Scotland all courses must be acceptable to the Scottish General Teaching Council as leading to registration as a primary or secondary teacher. The Scottish GTC has that power. All school experience must be jointly planned by the training institution, school and education authority. Minimum academic requirements for entry to courses are laid down in the memorandum on entry requirements for admission to courses of teacher training in Scotland, which is subject to annual review. As in England and Wales, the Quality Assurance Agency carries out the quality assurance of all courses leading to professional qualifications such as law, architecture, engineering or whatever it may be.

Teacher training courses must pass all those tests, but in addition there are considerable problems in sorting out those courses which relate particularly to teacher training. That is true especially with regard to secondary teacher training. It is difficult to sort out which courses are relevant to teacher training, and are thus subject to inspection, and which are subject courses mainly for students who have no intention of teaching and who plan to enter some other profession. Such courses are known as concurrent courses. They are attractive to those who are not sure whether they want to teach or to

20 Jan 1998 : Column 1500

enter another profession and, as was said earlier, they bring many new teachers into the profession. Surely the best way to assess concurrent courses, and others, is for the assessment authority to do so, as now.

I should be grateful if the Minister could explain precisely why the Government have included this clause and who are the other persons who might carry out the assessments along with members of the inspectorate. If the Government do not convince me that the clause is necessary or desirable, I shall, as I said previously, feel it necessary to return to it later.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page