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Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 128:

Page 173, line 6, leave out ("and") and insert ("or").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Maddock moved Amendment No. 129:

Page 173, line 46, after ("(5)") insert ("for a period of more than four months").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 129 and speak also to Amendments Nos. 130 and 137. Perhaps I may first refer to another part of the Bill. Schedule 16, paragraph 4(5), introduces a new provision which enables the governing body to engage a person supplied by an agency as acting head. The amendment seeks to place a limit of four months for the duration of such an engagement.

Supply teachers have been a feature of our education system for some time, but the concept of supply head teachers is new. Acting heads appointed under the schedule would be self-employed under contract to an agency and the contractual duties of head teachers under the pay and conditions document would not necessarily apply to them. Therefore, it is unclear whether the many statutory duties of head teachers would be applicable or enforceable.

Some head teachers are concerned that the new provision is a knee-jerk reaction to the current head teacher recruitment crisis and is a little short-sighted. We would all agree that an acting head must be seen only as a temporary solution.

Paragraph 10(1)(a) of Schedule 16 limits the appointment of an agency supply teacher to a period of not more than four months. This amendment merely places the same limit on the appointment of a supply head teacher. I suggest that the issue is important. I realise that it may take longer to appoint a head

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teacher, and I do not underestimate that, but head teachers are rightly concerned that there should be a similar limitation.

Amendments Nos. 130 and 137 are concerned with the dismissal of head teachers. The amendments are the same, but apply to different schedules. They would ensure that where a governing body determines that it wishes to dismiss a head teacher, that head teacher has the right to have an independent member who has voting rights appointed to any committee that is established to hear the appeal against the governing body's decision.

I suggest that the amendments are fair. The matter was discussed at the conference of the National Association of Head Teachers by the Minister for School Standards, Stephen Byers. He was sympathetic to having an independent member on the appeals panel. He expressed the view that it might be a little too late and that perhaps something should have been done a little earlier. It will be interesting to hear the Government's current thinking. The amendments are self-explanatory and I shall hold the House up no longer.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Baroness's zeal for battle was undermined by her noble friend Lord Tope, but I accept that it was not totally undermined. It is perfectly proper that we should respond. I am fascinated by her explanation of the amendment. We made some assumptions about the intention of Amendment No. 129 which we thought were different from its effect. If I speak to both the effect and the intention, perhaps one or other will prove to be apposite.

Amendment No. 129 would have the effect of allowing the governing body of a community or voluntary controlled school to engage for up to four months an unqualified person as acting head teacher or acting deputy head teacher while it was considering a substantive appointment to such a post. This would also have the effect of allowing such schools to engage teachers who have been barred by the Secretary of State on misconduct or medical grounds.

That is what the amendment provides, but I do not think that is intended. It would not be acceptable. Any person engaged as an acting head or deputy head teacher should meet all the staff qualification requirements applicable to the post, regardless of the length of time he or she is engaged in such a capacity. I need hardly add that it is unacceptable to allow people in schools who have been barred.

It seems, however, that the intention of the amendment may not be to disapply the qualification requirements for a period of four months but to restrict engagements for persons to provide their services as acting heads or deputy heads to a period of four months, an engagement in this context being to provide services otherwise than under a contract of employment with the local education authority.

If this is the intention of the amendment--from what the noble Baroness said, I believe that it is--then it is also unacceptable. It would place an additional administrative burden on the governors by making them reconsider acting heads or deputies if they are not able

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to conclude their consideration of the substantive appointment within four months. This could lead to the undesirable outcome of a school going through a number of acting heads or deputies before a substantive appointment is made. This would be unnecessarily burdensome for the governors and disruptive to the school.

The important point is to ensure that the governing body is able to acquire the best available acting head or deputy head while it is considering the substantive appointment. But this is a temporary arrangement and will last only for as long as is necessary for the substantive appointment to be made. In addition we would expect the governing body to pursue its duty to appoint a substantive head or deputy as soon as possible. I am sure that were we not at the Report stage the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, would agree that such a restriction on a governing body would not be very desirable.

The teacher employment market has changed in recent years, as we have been reminded forcefully by the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington. There are now a number of ways to meet short notice staffing needs beyond that provided by the LEAs. Schools need to be able to get the best available local support and I appreciate the noble Baroness's reservation about using teacher supply agencies. Very often it is possible to cover short absences or gaps by using, for example, recently retired staff, and there are many good retired teachers who are able to help schools in this way, including retired heads and deputies.

If the intention of the noble Baroness is to restrict engagements of acting heads and deputies to four months in the same way as this time restriction applies to engagements of classroom teachers, then I should point out that the circumstances of acting heads and deputies are not comparable to those of classroom teachers. Decisions are made on an acting head or deputy where the governing body is unable to make a substantive appointment before the date when the post falls vacant, and such an acting post is temporary until such time as the substantive decision is put into effect. This will be extended in the Bill to cover absences of heads and deputies, but the main purpose is to make provision for acting appointments to cover vacant senior posts while substantive replacements are being considered.

Amendments Nos. 130 and 137 are not a matter for inclusion in this part of the Bill. It is a matter for the school government regulations which will be made under Schedule 11. I see no need to include such amendments on the face of the Bill.

The Government have said in another place that they are willing to give more thought to the matter of an independent member on appeal panels for head teacher dismissals, and that we have the option of including something on this in the regulations made under Schedule 11.

The noble Baroness is quite right. Stephen Byers said in his speech at the recent annual conference of the National Association of Head Teachers, that he is open to the idea of having some form of independent element

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in the head teacher dismissal process for schools in the new framework, although not at the expense of our commitment to speedy but fair dismissals. He also pointed out that an independent element might be more appropriate at the staff committee hearing which decides whether to dismiss, rather than the appeal stage. By the time of the appeal the relationship between the head and governors has probably broken down anyway to such an extent that it cannot be repaired. But all of this is a matter for the school government regulations on which we will be consulting in due course. I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that it would not be appropriate to provide for those on the face of the Bill before consultation on the regulations. I ask the noble Baroness not to press these amendments.

7 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask him to cast his mind back to my amendments to Schedule 17. Paragraph 7(5) of my Amendment No. 133A states:

    "Where a vacancy in the post of deputy head teacher has not been filled, or it appears to the governing body that the post will not be filled by appointment made in accordance with the preceding provisions of this Schedule before the date it falls vacant, the governing body may, pending the appointment of a deputy head teacher, appoint a person as acting deputy head teacher".

Earlier the noble Lord or the noble Baroness argued against my amendments and yet somehow the noble Lord appeared to imply that that flexibility exists. That is not the case under Schedule 17. Perhaps the noble Lord will explain how what he has just said fits with Schedule 17.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, there are two kinds of amendment in this group of amendments. The second one deals with an independent person at the appeal and I assume that the noble Baroness is not talking about that.

Amendment No. 129 moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, deals with the length of time that an unqualified person may serve as an acting head teacher or acting deputy head teacher. I do not see any conflict between that and what I have just said.

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