Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the report says that,

We are very concerned about that. We plan to ensure by April that the majority of juveniles in custody have access to 30 hours of learning opportunities a week. That compares to the current 15 hours a week which most receive.

Noble Lords will not be surprised to learn that many offenders have learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Yet we know that there is widespread lack of proper assessment for special needs. We are working in partnership with prisons and young offender institutions on that issue. The plan is to set up a multi-agency working group to develop an action plan. We are also working with the adult basic skills strategy unit to review basic skills targets so that they better reflect the needs of prisoners.

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, this is a good and encouraging report. I ask the Minister how she proposes with the help of all of us—because we are all engaged in this—to convey the good news to the teachers. What we need now in our society is encouragement and appreciation for the teaching force. Somehow the Government must find a way—it is difficult because it is a very subtle thing—to change the culture of parents and others into appreciating what they are actually getting.

5 Feb 2002 : Column 545

If these reported comments are fact—and I believe that they are—then somehow we must convey this matter and change the whole thrust from what I call, in Church terms, the half-empty to the half-full, or, in this case, the three-quarters full. That is the first point. Secondly, I want to pay tribute to Mike Tomlinson, but really through him to a kind of change that I detect as I go around schools. I visit many schools—community as well as church schools. It is about the approach of inspectors. There is a new culture of inspectors who are sympathetic as to what the teachers are about. In the early days inspectors went in with a kind of—as they saw it—public remit to change things, without really having a clue about what it was like to teach in a school. I think that that change is very important.

There are two or three other comments that I want to make. The first is to emphasise the business of trust. I am sure that the matter will come up in the later debate. I do not know whether the Minister can comment on the question of what one might call "stability". Good things are now happening but teachers are constantly in fear of new changes being placed upon them without being given time to assimilate them and work through what they are already trying to do. If things are improving, we need to help them and not to lose our sense of positive critical involvement and concern. Somehow the Government and the department, through the messages that they send out, must convey this.

I want to associate myself very much with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, about value added. It is very important that, if we publish tables—whether league or performance—somehow we indicate what goes in as well as judging what is the end product.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his comments about not only Tomlinson but the inspectors. The way that he has shaped the new inspection has made a difference. Many teachers would agree that this has created perhaps a more positive working relationship.

I also agree with the right reverend Prelate on the important issue of stability. We are very mindful of that. It gives me a chance to mention bureaucracy, which was raised earlier. It is crucial that we make sure that teachers are not inundated. We are rigorous in the department to ensure that we send as little as possible to them; although I have discovered that it is surprising how many times one wants to communicate.

In terms of how we make changes, one of the key parts of the key stage 3 strategy is concerned with continuing professional development. It is about developing our teachers and not telling them what they should be doing differently. That is a really important part of the way that we need to approach the issue.

Finally, on value added, we know that schools that are working well with children of all abilities in an individualised way are achieving fantastically well. That may not be reflected in the simplistic way that we

5 Feb 2002 : Column 546

show how schools are doing. I do not think that anyone is suggesting that we get rid of that system. Many people would say that there is now an opportunity to enhance it and make it of more value. That we want to do.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, in what must be an encouraging report from what I have seen just glimpsing through it, there is one important criticism on page 87. It relates to the help that local education authorities give to new head teachers. The business of recruiting and retaining teachers depends so much on the satisfaction that the teacher can get from what is now a really very difficult job.

It is unfashionable to talk about leadership in a school. But in fact that is what a school and what teachers need. It is quite significant that Mr Tomlinson says on page 87:

    "The support programme offered by local education authorities for new head teachers is characterised by inconsistency, with no local education authority having good practice in all aspects and one-quarter of LEAs providing unsatisfactory support".

If there is one place where pressure could be brought to help in the retention of teachers and in their job satisfaction, it is in helping new head teachers develop their leadership skills in the schools. We are not just talking about new teachers so it may or may not come into the debate today, in which I unfortunately cannot join. However, this issue interested me very much. Perhaps the Minister can say something about it. Further, do the Government feel that they can enable local education authorities to do more about the issue and, indeed, give help to other schools which are not their responsibility?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. It may be unfashionable but it is crucial to talk about leadership. Indeed, in our department it is not unfashionable at all; it is considered to be at the forefront of new thinking.

Elsewhere in the report there is an interesting reference to the fact that leadership and management of our schools continue to improve, being good or better in some three-quarters of primary, special and secondary schools.

Noble Lords should be aware that we have established the National College for School Leadership and have brought in a professional qualification for headship. We want to see a constant move towards leadership within schools. We know that it is through that leadership that schools will improve, teachers will be supported by their head teachers and that the school will be able to innovate and move forward in its thinking.

We want to make sure that we have new and good systems of support. We have asked the National College for School Leadership, which runs the leadership and management programme for new heads, to review that programme in order to maximise the support given to heads as they take up their first headship post. It is of course important to work with

5 Feb 2002 : Column 547

local education authorities. We would expect that within their education development plans they will take note of the need to support their head teachers.

Lord Puttnam: My Lords, perhaps I may briefly declare an interest as chairman of the General Teaching Council. I apologise to my noble friend for the fact that I listened to the Statement in another place.

I identify with just about everything said by the right reverend Prelate. But I want to amplify a little on the issue of Mike Tomlinson's extraordinary contribution, not just to this report, but to the change in ethos that has been achieved at Ofsted. It is quite remarkable.

Ofsted has returned to what teachers always wanted, which is a critical friend. Teachers were never ever nervous of criticism; it was the manner in which that criticism was sometimes couched. He has remarkably achieved in a very short time a movement from the "SS" to the "SAS", and that is no mean achievement.

From the teachers' perspective, I hope that the fact that that acknowledgement of their extraordinary work comes from a neutral source and at a time when public services have come in for something of a beating does not go unnoticed by members of the press. He actually said that teaching has never, ever been better. That is an extraordinary compliment to a large group of extraordinarily dedicated public servants.

I shall touch on two further points with which I think that the House will entirely agree. Truancy is a significant worry, but the House should remember that 80 per cent of all truancy in the UK is with parental compliance. That is a societal problem, not a schools problem. Recently, I visited a school where the deputy head spends most mornings of the week going out into the local housing estate, literally knocking on doors to try to encourage parents to send their child to school. That is a societal problem, not a departmental problem. I hope that Members on all sides of the House will help to correct that misperception.

Lastly, the report mentions the extraordinary work being done and the improvement being achieved in special needs education. The nicest single part of my job is visiting special needs schools. Special needs education is the really tough end of the job. The fact that it is successful against the odds—that although more children probably need special education than ever before, we are pulling that off—is a great national achievement.

The reason that teachers will welcome the report is that it offers trust back to them and tells them that they are doing a good job and deserve our respect. I, for one, have been enormously encouraged by all the comments—even the criticisms—that have been made in the House this afternoon.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page