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Lord Mishcon: My Lords, in regard to the observations made by my noble friend the Minister about Amendment No. 5A, could she bear in mind the rather more embracing phrase of "religious denominations" rather than the word "Churches"?

Baroness Perry of Southwark: My Lords, Amendment No. 5A is tabled in my name. I am grateful to the Minister for her reassuring words about the Government's intentions in that regard. I know that the consultation that she and her colleagues have given to the Churches during the passage of this Bill, and that which is passing through the other place, has been most welcome.

Nevertheless, I am slightly nervous about accepting that the consultation and the regulations would be the only guarantee of the interests of the Churches being represented on the GTC. I am sure that I do not need to

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rehearse in this House the enormous importance of the contribution of the Churches to the development of education historically in this country; indeed, not only historically but, today, I believe that it is the case that about one-quarter of all teachers teaching in our schools were trained in one of the Churches' colleges. So their contribution as teacher trainers is still very substantial and that also applies as regards their role as providers of education in the Church schools. As the Minister has acknowledged, the standards that the Churches have set are very high and very popular with parents.

Therefore, I should very much like to see on the face of the Bill a permanent assurance that future Secretaries of State--not only the present Secretary of State--would bear in mind the interests of the Churches in appointments to the GTC. I have no intention of pressing my amendment today. Nevertheless, when we reach the Third Reading stage, I hope that we shall have some assurance that the interests of the Churches as trainers of teachers will remain on the face of the Bill.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the co-operative style of today's debate and for the way in which she has approached our many worries. Indeed, in view of the storms of the past, we have moved into pastoral idylls--and long may it remain so! I am glad to note that the Minister agrees to affirmative resolutions for when these regulations and the composition of the council is decided. However, I would fail in my duty, standing at this Dispatch Box for Her Majesty's Opposition, if I did not say that, although these details are helpful and I welcome the co-operation, I should like a little more flesh on the bones before the legislation goes to the other place.

Perhaps I may give the House one example. A rather important point is that the different styles of school should be represented. By that I mean, primary, junior, comprehensive, grammar and, indeed, some from the independent sector. I support my noble friend's views about the importance of Church representation. In the constructive mode in which we have begun our debates this afternoon, I should say that I believe the passage of the Bill would be helped in the other place if the department could find it in its heart to give those further details and even go as far as to outline some methods of selection that it is suggesting.

I know that the Minister is just as aware as I am that the consultation has very nearly reached the end of its process. Indeed, the amount of documentation that I have received, and the amount which must have gone to the Minister, makes the Koran and the Bible look like novelettes. To make the passage of the Bill easier and to ease the controversy which inevitably arises--as, indeed, happened during the discussions on the composition of a general teaching council which were bedevilled by such controversy in the early 1980s--the more detail the Government can give the more helpful it will be to them. Therefore, what the Minister has said is welcome, but I should like the Government to make the carcass a little fatter.

Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, I, too, should like to express my pleasure and gratitude to the Minister

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for introducing Amendment No. 79, which I believe is welcomed by all sides of the House. In the light of her comments about the council having a majority of qualified teachers among its membership, I imagine that it is likely that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and others may decide not to move Amendment No. 4.

However, before that issue arises, perhaps I may point out to the House an aspect of the wording in Amendment No. 6, which the Minister confirmed, by way of the assurances that she gave, she will now modify. The amendment refers to persons,

    "appointed or elected to the Council as qualified teachers within the meaning of section 218(2) of the Education Reform Act 1988, who are employed, or otherwise engaged to provide their services, as teachers".

I raised this important point on Second Reading. I believe that that wording would preclude the employment of teachers--qualified, senior and experienced--who have recently retired from employment. Past experience with other regulatory authorities has shown that the demands upon members of such bodies become extremely arduous at times.

It has proved to be a great advantage in, for example, the General Medical Council and the General Dental Council, and other bodies, to have as members some of those who may have taken retirement at the age of 60 or thereabouts but who are still well within the age limits prescribed and who could in fact make a very effective contribution. Hence, if I may say so, I believe that it would be right to suggest that the wording of the amendment should be modified to refer to persons,

    "who are employed, or who have recently been employed, as qualified teachers".

That is an important issue relating to future membership.

4 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I express my gratitude to the noble Baroness for Amendment No. 5, which I believe will be the first reference in this Bill to persons with special educational needs. The reason there are no amendments to this Bill concerning such persons is that we had a constructive meeting with the Minister, Estelle Morris, on 21st January, attended by my noble friend Lady Blatch and Dr. Berry, Member of Parliament and chairman of the all-party disability group--the meeting was supported by all sides of this House--concerning what is to be done about children with special educational needs. The two main issues concerned whether the rights of the child, which were removed by the 1993 Act, should be restored, and whether the SEN regulations should be amended so as to ensure that the child had a right to be heard or represented. As I said, it was a most constructive discussion. On that basis, no amendments were sought to be tabled to this Bill, but the hope is that in due course--nothing can be done at once--when parliamentary time is available, these matters will receive attention in another Bill. I reiterate my gratitude

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to the noble Baroness for having at least recognised in this Bill the existence of persons with special educational needs.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon: My Lords, I support Amendment No. 5A of the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, and apologise to the Minister for not being present when she began her speech. I was in consultation with one of her ministerial colleagues. I shall read what she has said in Hansard with great interest. Having listened to the debate since then, and having gathered that, after consultation, the membership of the GTC will be reflected in regulations, I support the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry.

As we commented in Committee, the involvement of the Churches in the whole educational system is huge. It would be surprising--whatever form the general teaching council takes--if there were not representatives of the Churches on the council under one or more heads, probably that of teachers, employers, and many of the other categories that are mentioned. Nevertheless there is no explicit mention of the Churches. The amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, refers to,

    "those Churches which provide training for teachers".

There are 19 colleges which belong to the Church and Associated Colleges Group, and almost all of those are church related colleges. They are now colleges of higher education rather than teacher training colleges, but they still provide a large number of teachers. The most recent figure I have been given of those who are at present being prepared for initial teacher training in the primary sector and who are trained in such colleges is 27 per cent. This, of course, reflects also the massive involvement of those Churches at the school level and not just at the initial teacher training level. I hope that the Minister will be able to give positive encouragement to those of us who feel that somewhere on the face of the Bill there needs to be recognition of this huge involvement of the Churches. This needs to be reflected in the membership of the GTC.

Baroness Young: My Lords, I wish to intervene briefly. First, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, for what she has said about Amendment No. 6. I recognise that she will withdraw it, but the important point about qualified teachers has been taken by the Government and I am grateful for that. I support what the noble Lord, Lord Walton, has said. He made a practical and realistic suggestion. The idea that teachers could give up much time during the course of a term to work on the council seems to me to be rather unrealistic. That is a point that needs to be considered.

I also support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Perry. I declare an interest as a governor of Westminster College, Oxford. The comments of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon are quite right. I think that we all believe in the dual system of education. We know the major role that the Churches play in the provision of education, which has been so much a part of the educational world right from the early 19th century. It was established by statute in 1944. There ought to be some provision on the face of the Bill to recognise that. However, we may be told that

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the wording of the provision is not quite right. Nevertheless I believe, from her remarks, that the Minister was sympathetic to this point. Such a provision on the face of the Bill would give a real assurance that this major part of the educational system is recognised.

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