Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Blatch: I was referring to cases of paedophilic behaviour which come before the courts.

17 Feb 2000 : Column 1406

Furthermore, I should like to say to the noble Lord that I did not raise Section 28 as a subject for discussion. It was referred to by the Minister in her response to this amendment. Indeed, it was also referred to in passing by the right reverend Prelate.

Lord Tope: I shall turn to what I want to say rather than what I have been provoked to say.

I welcome the words of the right reverend Prelate and pay tribute to the spirit in which he has moved the amendment. I welcome in particular his opening remarks when he said that, because legislation has changed since 1998, the inclusion of Section 28 in a local government Act--whatever one thinks of it; I believe that my views are clear to the Committee--is no longer relevant to this issue. The right reverend Prelate is therefore quite right to raise the matter in relation to an Education Bill and an Education Act.

As he rightly pointed out, for some time this has been a matter for school governors and headteachers. Whatever one thinks about the materials that are produced, their use in schools is a matter for headteachers and school governors. It is certainly not a matter for local authorities.

I welcome also the Government's response to the amendment. However, I have considerable doubts about whether this form of words will be appropriate in primary legislation. I shall quote the relevant section from the 1996 Act, to which this amendment seeks to add. It states:

    "to have due regard to moral considerations and the value of family life".

That is perfectly adequate and the right statement to make in primary legislation. It is included in an Act of Parliament passed only a few years ago by a Conservative government of which the noble Baroness was a member.

These are difficult and sensitive matters. I accept--not least because of the continuing debate on the subject--that teachers need guidance on these issues. The Government propose to introduce such guidance and I am sure that that is the right way to approach the matter. I shall wait to see the draft guidance itself before I will be sure that they have got it right, but I do not doubt that that is what is needed here.

I hope that the right reverend Prelate will feel that he has received on the record adequate assurances from the Minister as regards his amendment. I hope also that he will take comfort from the discussions he has already had and will continue to have with the Secretary of State. In that way, I hope we shall see guidance that will be helpful to teachers and which will deal with these important and sensitive matters in a calm and considered manner, reflecting what is already in the 1996 Education Act.

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: I am grateful to the Minister for her reply and her reassurances. I wish only to say that I believe that discussions on the implications of the repeal of Section 28 are going to continue. There is no doubt about that. It is on the parliamentary agenda and the issue will continue to be heard.

17 Feb 2000 : Column 1407

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, indicated that there is unfinished business so far as concerns schools. I believe that there is widespread misunderstanding about the implications of Section 28, which is, as the noble Lord rightly pointed out, directed towards local authorities, and the arrangements as regards schools in place under the 1996 Act. For that reason, I hope that we can build on that Act and find an appropriate framework which has, as far as possible, the consensus of the people of this country as to how sex and personal relationships education should be delivered.

Given the assurances of the noble Baroness, for the moment I am happy to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carter: I should like to intervene briefly on a matter of business management. I believe that seven groups of amendments remain to be discussed on the Bill. If the Committee feels that it is able to finish those discussions by around eight o'clock, we could cancel the dinner break and move straight through the remainder of our proceedings. However, I have no wish to curtail discussions on the Bill.

Clause 109 [Induction periods for teachers]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 236:

    Page 49, line 37, at end insert--

("(8) Induction providers shall ensure that all new teachers and other appropriate staff members have received preparation for working with people with learning difficulties or disabilities or both.
(9) The Learning and Skills Council and the National Council for Education and Training in Wales shall establish a programme of disability equality training for serving teachers within the further education sector who have not received such initial training as indicated in subsection (8) above, and as part of an ongoing process of staff development.").

The noble Baroness said: Before I speak to the amendment, I do not know whether the Committee has assented to the request of the Chief Whip. I do not believe that it will be possible to finish all that early because we need to address so many diverse amendments. It is difficult to say when we shall finish. I hope that the Chief Whip has not placed a constraint upon us that we must finish.

Amendment No. 236 addresses the important subject of the induction of teachers and other relevant staff members who have responsibility for working with people who have learning difficulties or disabilities. The group I have in mind are those to whom, over the years, we have come to refer as the "Warnock children"; the original Warnock report made the statement that around 20 per cent of all children require teaching provision in the classroom above the norm. That 20 per cent of children encompasses those with minor learning difficulties over and above the average of normal capabilities right through to the most severe learning difficulties.

I believe that coping with such children will inevitably be the experience of almost every teacher in the land during the course of his or her working life. For that reason, I believe that we need to see on the face of the Bill a proper obligation to ensure that relevant training is included in induction programmes.

17 Feb 2000 : Column 1408

Such a provision would ensure that all teachers and support workers who come into contact with this group of young people would receive appropriate training in this area.

The proposed new subsection (9) states:

    "The Learning and Skills Council and the National Council for Education and Training in Wales shall establish a programme of disability equality training for serving teachers within the further education sector who have not received such initial training as indicated in subsection (8)".

If my noble friend Lord Roberts were here today, I know he would agree with that sentiment. I should like to recommend strongly to the Committee this valuable extra provision. I beg to move.

Lord Addington: I intervene briefly to say that I believe a little agreement has broken out between these Benches and the Conservative Benches. I thank noble Lords for their chuckles.

We have been seeking an amendment along these lines for some time now. Appropriately trained teachers will be able to provide properly for those with moderate difficulties in the classroom. However, as the noble Baroness has pointed out, the Government wish to see the vast majority of the population move on into further education. Such young people will need continuing proper support in those institutions.

The amendment is sensible and addresses a valuable provision. We should be encouraging further help for those already moving through the system. I do not know how the Minister intends to reply, but I am sure that teachers and support workers need the tools of appropriate training to do their jobs well.

Baroness David: My name too is down to this amendment. I believe it is an extremely important amendment and I hope the Minister will be able to look on it favourably.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: I also support this amendment. It is obvious that the quality of training of teachers will have an impact on the quality of learning and on the general development of learners. Certainly, Tomlinson bore this out. In 1996 a report produced by SKILL called Student Voices led people to believe that there was quite a long way to go to ensure that teachers in FE colleges were really good at dealing with students with disabilities.

Lord Bach: I start by setting out what this clause is designed to do. Last September, the Government introduced a statutory induction programme for newly-qualified school teachers serving in maintained schools. Since that time, we have listened to the views of, in particular, sixth-form colleges and have agreed to enable certain FE sector institutions to participate in the induction programme. Those institutions will employ teachers who are qualified to teach children in maintained schools and will offer a suitable teaching environment. The regulation-making powers set out in this clause will enable us to do that.

17 Feb 2000 : Column 1409

We expect that most sixth-form colleges will take the opportunity to participate in the induction programme. Other FE sector institutions may be interested if they wish to recruit newly-qualified school teachers specifically to teach students under the age of 19 and would like to offer them an opportunity to undergo the professional induction.

Amendment No. 236 is motivated by a quite understandable concern that teachers, both in maintained schools and in further education, should have appropriate preparation for working with students with disabilities or learning difficulties or both. Provision already exists to meet that laudable aim in respect of school teachers, and currently we are consulting on how best to achieve the same in respect of FE teachers.

The standards for qualified teacher status require that initial teacher training trainees must be able to demonstrate the following: first, that they establish a safe environment which supports learning and in which pupils feel secure and confident; secondly, that they use teaching methods which set high expectations of all pupils and which keep them engaged through the use of approaches appropriate to the pupils being taught; and, thirdly, that they understand their professional responsibilities in relation to school policies and practices, including those concerned with pastoral and personal safety matters.

Those standards are currently being reviewed by the Teacher Training Agency. As part of that review, the Teacher Training Agency will consider whether there is a case for making explicit reference in the standards to appreciating and accommodating the needs of disabled pupils.

The induction standards for determining whether an induction period has been completed satisfactorily require newly-qualified teachers to be able to demonstrate that they plan effectively to meet the needs of pupils with special education needs and that, in collaboration with their SEN co-ordinator, they contribute to the preparation, implementation and upkeep of individual education plans.

Therefore, the principle that school teachers should be able to recognise and seek to meet all pupils' needs is fundamental to the standards for qualified teacher status and induction. Everyone who successfully completes initial teacher training and the induction programme will have been prepared to work with children who have learning difficulties and/or disabilities, and the carers of such children.

I turn to the same question in respect of FE teachers. The Department for Education and Employment recently launched a consultation paper on the introduction of compulsory teaching qualifications for FE teachers. That paper sought views on a wide range of issues, including possible requirements for FE teachers to be trained to teach people with learning difficulties or disabilities. Indeed, as the paper made clear, the Further Education National Training Organisation is,

17 Feb 2000 : Column 1410

    "looking at developing standards for teaching students with learning difficulties or disabilities. Some teachers will want to specialise in this area, so there is a need for a detailed set of standards to accommodate their needs. Also, all further education teacher training courses should include the skills needed to teach such students. This indicates a need for 'core' and 'option' routes in these additional standards".

The consultation paper is being distributed widely among interested parties, including the Disability Consortium on Post-16 Education and Training, with which, of course, many noble Lords are well acquainted.

The Government support the principle that all teaching staff in schools or in the FE sector should have an appropriate awareness of issues relating to disabilities or learning difficulties. However, I hope that I shall not disappoint noble Lords when I say that the Government intend to resist this particular amendment for two reasons, sympathetic though we are to the idea behind it.

First, it would be quite wrong to pre-empt the outcome of the consultation exercise, which is already in hand, through which we shall determine how best to ensure that FE teachers have an appropriate awareness of the needs of students with disabilities or learning difficulties or both. Secondly, and perhaps not so significantly, we do not believe that this amendment is appropriate to the clause that we are debating. As I set out at the beginning of my comments, Clause 109 is in the Bill to enable us to allow FE institutions to take part in the statutory induction programme for newly-qualified school teachers--those who represent, of course, only a very small part of the FE workforce.

I hope that, during the course of what I have said, I have given some assurances that will be received sympathetically by those who are interested in the amendments. Of course, we hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment, given the assurances that have been made on behalf of the Government.

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: Quite a lot of what the noble Lord has said has been reassuring, but it will be necessary for me to read in much more detail what he has said in order to understand its full import. However, I am puzzled as to why he believes that Clause 109 is not the appropriate place for the amendment. It opens with Section 19 of the Teaching and Higher Education Act. It is referred to as an induction period for teachers. If induction periods and the nature of induction are to be referred to at all, I cannot think of another clause in the Bill where that subject would fit. That is certainly not an argument to use against the amendment. If the noble Lord believes that there is a more appropriate place in the Bill, then we should like to give that some consideration. However, my understanding is that Clause 109 is about induction and makes quite specific reference to FE and HE. The noble Lord has said quite a lot on this matter. I shall read what he has said in order to reassure myself.

17 Feb 2000 : Column 1411

I want to raise one issue. I am not sure that there is a system in place which is sufficiently comprehensive to ensure that the relevant people receive induction periods during the course of their professional careers which will help them to deal more effectively with teaching young people with learning disabilities and physical disabilities. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 109 agreed to.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page