|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I thank the Minister for explaining the draft regulations, which are concerned with school government. I reply on behalf of my noble friend Lady Blatch who is unable to be present this afternoon. My noble friend welcomes the purpose of the regulations, which is to clarify the distinctive roles of the head teacher and school governors. However, she remains concerned about the bureaucratic burden on governors and head teachers. At a time when the Government have pledged to cut the level of bureaucracy, the regulations add yet more through a requirement to produce a strategic framework, curriculum policy and performance management policy, all to a format which is centrally directed. Every additional burden which makes demands of time on head teachers means less time available to the daily and considerable task of running the school.
From the production of the regulations, it is obvious that the Government have not heeded the warning of the noble Lord, Lord Haskins. Clarification of roles is one thing, but additional tasks for governors and head teachers are not helpful. Have the Government costed the time needed to fulfil the additional duties and training required for governors and head teachers? Will schools receive any additional funding for these new tasks?
A point raised in another place, on which the Minister promised a written reply, is also of concern. At Third Reading of the Learning and Skills Bill, the Minister claimed that city academies would be subject to compliance with LEA policies on admissions, exclusions and acceptance of excluded pupils. Yet in debate on this regulation, the Minister said that city academies would not be subject to maintained sector governing body rules and will not, therefore, be subject to these regulations. Both statements cannot be correct. Will the Minister please clarify the point?
My noble friend Lady Blatch wishes me to register her disappointment that despite the best efforts of both the Printed Paper Office and the Library of the House she has been unable, in advance of this debate, to obtain a copy of the guidance for school government to which the Minister, Jacqui Smith, referred. To reduce the burden on schools it would be helpful if the Minister were able to be specific rather than to talk vaguely in percentages about the actual bureaucratic tasks and/or duties which are to be abolished.
While my noble friend remains concerned about the additional demands on schools, nevertheless she welcomes the clarification of roles and responsibilities for head teachers and governors. Therefore, on her behalf, I do not intend to oppose the regulations.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, from these Benches we, too, welcome the clear differentiations made in the regulation between the strategic role of governors and the hands-on management role of head teachers.
I have two questions and two areas of concern. First, do these regulations replace existing regulations setting out terms of reference for governors? Secondly, I assume that the concept of strategic planning incorporates the budget-setting role of governors and the monitoring of the budget which is currently among their responsibilities.
My first concern has been expressed by the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, conveyed by the noble Lord, Lord Astor; namely, the extra bureaucracy involved in schools. The Minister said that there should be no increase in the amount of bureaucracy involved because those are current responsibilities. Appraisal is a new responsibility which has emerged this year. It involves considerable amounts of time on the part of the head teacher and, in larger schools, of deputy head teachers and members of the governing board, in particular the chair of governors.
My experience as a governor is that much of the drawing up of strategic plans devolves to the head teacher. The responsibility for drawing up those plans and bringing them before the appropriate meetings of the governing bodies rests upon the head teacher and those who work in the office with him or her. The noble Lord, Lord Haskins, commented on the bureaucracy faced by head teachers, and I found it amazing and surprising that he should be so complacent about these extra responsibilities.
We very much agree with the concept involved in strategic planning, the process of target setting, monitoring and evaluation, but such activities are not insignificant. Those involved in governing bodies know just how much paperwork is involved in addition to the responsibility of fulfilling these tasks. I hope that the Government will ensure that enough administrative back-up is available to heads so that they can fulfil these functions. Such work is significant, detracts from other activities, and we all know that these days head teachers are extremely hard pressed.
I should also like to cast some doubt on the whole issue of performance-related pay. We entirely support division of function, the concept of strategic planning, the drawing up of activities and their monitoring, but we have always had reservations about the concept of performance-related pay. We believe that teaching is, in essence, a team activity, and that it is invidious for heads and deputies to have to differentiate between colleagues. It would have been preferable to use the resources available in this initiative to provide a general increase in pay, especially for the more senior teachers, and to improve average pupil/teacher ratios. But that, as the Minister knows, is a comment that we have made before. However, neither of my concerns will prevent us from agreeing with the regulations.
Baroness Blackstone : My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Astor and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for giving these regulations a general welcome. They both commented on bureaucracy. We do not want governors to become involved in too much detail. The regulations focus on what heads and governors need to do. Far from imposing additional burdens on them, the regulations and guidance will make clearer what is required of them.
The guidance encourages governing bodies to delegate where appropriate, having taken account of issues such as the head's experience, and whether or not he or she is being effectively supported. We consulted both heads and chairs of governors through
Apart from the performance management policy, these regulations do not place an obligation on governing bodies to prepare more policies or set more targets or objectives than they already have. Regulation 4 does not name a single new aim, objective, policy or target. The strategic framework is no more than the overarching plan. That will, of course, cover the general issues of budgeting for which governors are responsible.
The guidance explains that the plan will generally be the school development plan, improvement plan or post-Ofsted action plan which schools already have. These regulations will not start a new paper chase in our schools. They simply provide a framework within which governing bodies should operate. I hope that that explanation provides reassurance to both Front Benches.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, mentioned appraisal and performance-related pay. Appraisal is not the subject of these regulations; it is dealt with in separate regulations which have been laid. I am aware of the Liberal Democrat Party's reservations about performance-related pay, but the Government are convinced that it is right to reward good teaching. We want to give every teacher who reaches the threshold the opportunity of being appraised in order to benefit from the substantial increase--up to £2,000--which those who come through the appraisal and cross the threshold will receive. Furthermore, the regulations do not replace existing regulations. No existing regulations deal with terms of reference of governors and heads under the School Standards and Framework Act.
The noble Lord asked whether extra money would be available for the tasks which the regulations expect schools and governors to perform. We are providing additional funding for performance management via the Standards Fund. I hope that that answer is helpful.
The noble Lord also asked about city academies. Perhaps the most helpful course would be for me to send a copy of the letter which my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for School Standards sent to the Liberal Democrat spokesman in another place. I hope that that will be helpful. I shall set out clearly answers to the questions he raised.
We have not carried out particular costings of what is implied in the regulations, but the Government do not believe that a great deal of extra expenditure will be involved. Good heads and good governors are already involved in everything that is set out in the regulations. The Government are committed to reducing red tape and have already taken substantial steps to do so. I have mentioned that on other occasions in the House.