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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I listened carefully to the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, and, obviously, I am aware of the circumstances of the case of Lauren Wright, who was abused, tortured and killed by her stepmother, as noble Lords will know. In particular, I am aware of the failure of the agencies charged with protecting Lauren to prevent the tragedy.
Amendment No. 305 would go much further than simple child protection. It would require governing bodies to take into account guidance from local authorities on all aspects of head teacher appraisal. That would be on top of national guidance currently issued by the DfES and the advice given by accredited external advisers in person to governors carrying out the appraisal of a head teacher. Provisions are already in place for the LEA to be involved, if it has serious concerns about the performance of a head teacher.
I am greatly concerned that Lauren's school did not refer any concerns to the social services and did not follow my department's guidance, which all schools should have, on the procedures for protecting children from abuse. That is a vital part of all schools' responsibilities. Although their first priority is education, all schools must have appropriate arrangements in place to safeguard the welfare of their pupils. For that reason, I agree with the central aim of Amendment No. 361 that schools should have a duty to have regard to the department's guidance about arrangements for child protection. However, local education authorities also have a role to play in helping to draw up local procedures and training for staff in the area child protection committee forum and in monitoring and supporting schools in carrying out their responsibilities. We must reflect that in any new duty.
We accept the objective of the amendment. In addition to what I said about local education authorities, I can say that, on Report, we will propose a technically sound amendment to achieve that objective. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, and the right honourable lady Gillian Shephard for bringing the matter up. I shall do so again on Report, when we will propose our amendment. I hope that, on that basis, the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Seccombe: I am grateful to the Minister for her understanding and her obvious concern about the situation. I look forward to seeing the amendment and would be grateful if she could let us see it as early as possible, so that we can make sure that it covers all the points that we wish to make. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: In moving the amendment, I shall speak to all the government amendments in the group. They are, essentially, technical amendments, but I shall try to cover them in some detail.
In these clauses, we seek to enable schools to adopt flexible models of staffing, clarify some legal grey areas and safeguard more clearly than before the central role of qualified teacher status in our system. The legislation to be replaced by the clauses served its purpose well when schools were, perhaps, simpler places, and the only adults who regularly worked in classrooms were teachers. However, other adults are now increasingly involved in schools in various ways, as teaching assistants and in other professional roles. In that context, there is a danger that the law as it stands will be unclear as to what is allowed and what is not. That carries two risks: first, that schools will be held back from introducing sensible, flexible arrangements; and secondly, that the concept of qualified teacher status could be undermined.
The Bill will avert both of those risks. At its heart is Clause 129, which enables us for the first time to say precisely what are the professional duties and activities for which QTS is required by law. It also means that regulations can specify that a less qualified person may take on certain roles in the classroom only when working within a framework set by a person with QTS. Those are the central safeguards for standards. The clause also clarifies for the first time that a teaching assistant without QTS can, for example, take a small group of children out of the classroom to work on their literacy, within a framework set by the class teacher. Of course, that is sensible and already happens at many schools. The Bill will clarify that it is legal. Similarly, the clause will allow schools to bring in further education lecturers or real experts in highly specialised areas to lead lessons if that makes sense.
That brings me to Amendments Nos. 307, 309 and 310. It is essential that, in introducing the legislation, we do not disrupt the existing position of so-called unqualified teachersin other words, overseas qualified teachers, instructors or teacher trainees on the graduate or registered teacher programme. None of those has QTS, but all are eligible under current regulations to teach in schools.
In the Bill as drafted, those people would not fit under Clause 129(1) because they do not have QTS, but they would not fit properly under Clause 129(2) either because they are currently undertaking the same work in schools as QTS teachers and in the same circumstances whereas Clause 129(2) was intended to deal with teaching assistants working under the supervision of a teacher with QTS. Therefore, Amendment No. 307 replaces the existing Clause 129(1) and (2) with a new more flexible subsection.
Amendment No. 310 is needed to ensure that that single regulation-making power is sufficiently broad and flexible to deal with all the cases that it will now cover: teachers with qualified teacher status, teaching assistants, and the unqualified teachers that I have described. Those regulations will ensure that all the current exceptions from the requirement to be qualified are preserved exactly as they are now.
Amendments Nos. 309 and 311 are purely drafting changes consequential on those amendments. As two regulation-making powers are replaced with a single one, it is necessary to adjust the cross-references accordingly.
Amendment No. 306 follows directly from the other amendments. The existing Clause 128(3) was intended to preserve the existing employment position of overseas qualified teachers who are eligible to teach in this country, but only for a restricted period. Those people will now be covered more transparently by the amended Clause 129 which allows for time limits under the new subsection (5A). So Clause 128(3) can be deleted.
Lord Lucas: As this is Committee stage there can be no particular problems about the speaking order. When I was on the Benches opposite I let the Opposition speak first. It is difficult to answer a case that has not been made.
The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Lyell): I have to advise the Committee that if Amendment No. 307 is agreed to I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 308A. If Amendment No. 308, in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Sharp of Guildford and Lady Walmsley, is agreed to, I would not be able to call Amendments Nos. 308A, 309, 310. I hope that clarifies the position.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: The easiest course is for me to speak to the amendments in this group standing in my name. It will be easier for the Minister to answer them. If the amendments fall, there will be no point in putting them forward.
Baroness Blatch: In that case the noble Baroness will have to assume what my amendment is about and what the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, are about. If the amendments are de-grouped we shall not have an opportunity to speak to them at all. The Government, with weight on their side, will vote in their amendments and our amendments will
Lord Davies of Oldham: The Minister has made her opening statement about her amendments. As this is Committee stage and we have an opportunity to intervene and to speak on more than one occasion, it may be appropriate for the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, to speak. In doing so she can refer to her amendments, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, can in due course, and then the Minister can reply.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: That is a good solution to the problem. Having explained her amendments, the Minister does, to a certain extent, pre-empt some of the amendments standing in my name. I have two amendments in this group, Amendments Nos. 308 and 310A. I shall speak first to Amendment No. 310A which is the more substantive of the two.
The amendment was tabled for the NUT in order to probe further precisely what is intended in Clause 129 and in the clause as amended by the Minister's amendment. As a result of the government amendment, Clause 129 would read,
Government Amendment No. 310 describes the kind of requirements that a person who is not a qualified teacher must satisfy in order to carry out specified work. It replaces the original Clause 129(5), which gives no indication of what requirements may be applied and fills the gap left by the removal of the original Clause 128(3) which, as the NUT has previously pointed out, was far too widely drawn to be acceptable.
The change meets the NUT's objections, but the rest of Amendment No. 310 remains problematic. The alternative amendment suggested by the NUT, which is the one we have tabled, further narrows the scope of the regulations to be authorised by Clause 129 in an effort to ensure that teacher core activities, if they may be carried out by persons who are not currently qualified teachers, are then undertaken only by persons who are on a route to qualified teacher status.
The department's claim is that the amendment is proposed to enable overseas teachers who have teaching qualifications, but who are not recognised as qualified teachers in England, and unqualified teachers to teach. They claim that the purpose of the regulations is to regularise the position of those two categories of unqualified teachers. If that is the sole purpose of what the Government propose, the further amendment suggested by the NUT should be accepted. It is sufficient to address the issue.
The Government's amendment has much wider implications for the remodelling agenda set out by the Secretary of State in her speech "Professionalism and Trust" and for the workload review that has now reached an important stage with the publication of the STRB report on teacher workload. The schools' workforce remodelling working party was set up by the Government to act as a single channel through which views of teachers' organisations, employers and their national agencies could be channelled on the future role of staff in schools. It was agreed by the DfES that everything would come through the working party and be considered by the representatives on the working party.
The DfES has made great play of its determination to work in partnership with the teaching and support unions yet its agenda appears here to have veered away from that. By introducing amendments which appear to blur the role of the teaching assistants and teachers, the Government are in very real danger of undermining the expectations of all the unions and teacher associations on the remodelling working party. The amendments fly in the face of the views of both teacher and support staff unions and are also underhand in that there has been no discussion of them with the remodelling working party.
In her speech to the Social Market Foundation in November 2001, the Secretary of State set out four specific areas where she envisaged the key role of support staff: supervising classes that are undertaking work set by a teacher or working with small groups of pupils on reading practice; supervising lunchtime activities; invigilating tests; providing pastoral and other individual support to pupils covering for teacher absence.
All the evidence is that teachers appreciate the work of teaching assistants. That came through very clearly in the recent Ofsted report on teaching assistants in primary schools. In addition, the NUT has commissioned an in-depth study of teachers' views on the work of teaching assistants. This study, which was analysed by Warwick University, concluded that most teachers have a highly positive relationship with their teaching assistants. However, it raised cautions about the extension of teaching assistant recruitment to make up for shortfalls in teacher recruitment.
What comes over from this survey is the enormous appreciation which teachers have for the work of teaching assistants in supporting their role as qualified teachers. However, teachers felt that they are different jobs and that teaching assistants should not be regarded as substitute teachers.
Finally, it is worth noting from the NUT survey and also from the Ofsted report that teaching assistants can greatly benefit learning and school standards. But what they do does not significantly reduce teacher workload. They change the nature of the work that teachers experience. There are very strong arguments for regularising the conditions, training and pay of support staff, including teaching assistants. Their pay and conditions are sometimes scandalous. Highly effective and trained support staff have no holiday pay and are often paid only on an hourly basis and at very low rates.
Blurring the roles of teachers and teaching assistants should not be the Government's main aim at the moment. Making sure that an excessive workload is removed from the shoulders of teachers and the pay, conditions and training of support staff are improved should be a top priority.
That is the case for Amendment No. 310A as distinct from Amendment No. 310 and the government amendments. I should like briefly to speak to Amendment No. 308, which is put forward by the Local Government Association. Clause 129 gives the Secretary of State additional power to make regulations and sets out what can be carried out by support staff. I believe I am right in saying that earlier today the Minister said that on this occasion they had regularised the situation and that in future it was clear that the role of support staff would be set, as it has been, by local governmentthat pay and conditions for support staff is a local government responsibility and that role is being retained for local government. However, teachers' pay and conditions are to be set at national level. Perhaps the Minister would be good enough to reiterate that position because that is the essence of Amendment No. 308. I beg to move.
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