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Lord Lucas: That is the kind of speech that a Minister, and the Box, longs to receive at five past nine of an evening. My questions are rather more general. I very much like the tenor of what the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, was saying. It is a good idea to make these regulations more flexible and to look for a way in which we can continue to make teaching an easier profession to enter.
It is still difficult. A friend of mine who is a senior civil servant has recently moved to a job in a secondary schoolhe is about my age. He could not stomach the difficulties of getting involved with the state system but was welcomed with open arms by the independent sector. It is still difficult for people with much experience and quality to enter teaching and, as it were, learn the bits that they do not know on the job. It seems to be assumed that they start as ignoramuses and must be treated as if they were fresh out of university, rather than being given real credit for their long experience.
Perhaps the situation has changed, but until a few months ago we had the idiocy of drama teachers being required to have mathematics GCSE. Some people just cannot learn maths. Maths is of no use whatsoever in teaching drama. Why is that hurdle there? I know of at least one good drama teacher who has had to stay out of school, as it wereI know that she would like to be a schoolteacherbecause she has no hope of passing maths GCSE.
A common experience in schools is of good teachers retiring at 60. What is going on? If we look around this House, people just begin their working lives when they are 60 and go on until they are close to 80. Why are we allowing all that good talent to waste away? What is it about the structure of teaching qualifications and remuneration that allows that to happen?
I hope that those are the sort of questions that flexibility will allow us to address, because we could make a great difference to the quality of our teaching profession if we were more imaginative in who we allowed to enter it.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I shall start by referring to Amendment No. 310A, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. What she heard was correct: teaching assistants' pay and conditions will be sorted out locally, as now. I hope that that answer is helpful.
As I said, one essential purpose of Clause 129 is to provide a safeguard by allowing precise specifications of work, including by reference to circumstances. We intend that specified work to cover the planning and preparation of courses and lessons and the delivery of lessons, teaching, assessing, recording and reporting on the development, progress and performance of pupils, marking pupils' school work and feedback to pupils and parents on pupil progress and attainment. Of course, the details will be finalised in consultation.
So, for instance, regulations could allow certain teaching tasks and duties to be carried out by assistants only if they are working in a framework set by a qualified teacher. The amendments would prevent that, first, by making it a matter of dispute whether the task was a core activity of a teacher and, secondly, by making it impossible to identify specified work by reference to the circumstances in which it was carried out.
The amendment would reduce flexibility and make it harder to ensure that necessary safeguards were in place. It also limits the scope and effect of the clause in another way. New subsection (2)(b) would prevent us from maintaining the current position of overseas-trained teachers and instructors who are already working in schools. People in those groups may not be working towards QTS but for a long time have been carrying out a valuable role in schools. It would be a retrograde step to prevent them from continuing to do so.
I turn to the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. She asked why we were re-enacting. We are doing so for several reasons. We have made significant changes in repealing Section 2(1)(a) of the Education Reform Act 1988. That has tidied up existing legislation, repealed a confusing clause, deleted unnecessary provisions and, we believe, modernised legislation. But in doing all that,
The noble Baroness asked me a whole range of questions about the policy statement. I am keen to ensure that I give her as many of the answers as possible. I would just mention to the Committee that the policy statements have been available for some time. Had the noble Baroness written to me, I should have been able to give her much fuller answers. I could then have ensured that the Committee received the quality of response that it would desire. So I begin by saying that I shall do my best and will of course pick up any unanswered questions when I read back to ensure that I have covered them.
First, I refer to something that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said about the remodelling working party. Of course it will be invited to consider the practical and professional issues that will underpin the regulations. That will be an important part of it.
We are not creating a new category of assistants. There are two categories: those with QTS and those without. All those without QTS do specified work and will need to be under the supervision of someone with QTS. The legal position of teaching assistants is not as clear as suggested by the noble Baroness. It is not that I could not find examples of what is happening in schools to fit with all the examples that we have given in our policy statement, but in talking to schools it is clear that it is an area about which schools are unsure.
The Government are criticised, on the one hand, for perhaps putting too much into legislation or regulations to clarify matters and, on the other, for not being clear enough and for seeking to undermine the position of teachers by having teaching assistants. In the process of thinking about the school workforce, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said that one of the great things about our schools is that we have professional teachers who do a professional job. Some of the adults who work alongside them become teachers later, as the Warwick University research shows, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, referred, which is fantastic. They work alongside teachers and provide the right kind of support.
We are seeking to do two things. First, we want to recognise those people who play a vital and valuable role in the education of our children. Secondly, we want to ensure that we give schools and head teachers the flexibility that they need, while retaining our commitment to standards by making it absolutely clear what qualified teachers are doing and what assistants can do to support them. Although it may be thought unwise to consider within the range of propositions the possibility of a teaching assistant being in front of the class, there are circumstances when we might wish that to happen. We always seek to consult teachers and teaching assistants. Flexibility is important for headteachers to maintain standards.
The purpose behind these clauses is to enable us to use other adults whether they are teachers from further education, people who come in as teaching assistants or experts with a particular knowledge such as
I hope that I have answered the questions on the policy statement that the noble Baroness was looking for. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said, we want to have national professional qualifications for headships. That is really important as we want to ensure that heads are given the professional qualifications and status to develop. I shall supply the illustrations that the noble Baroness seeks. It is important that we are linking up with the General Teaching Council and its role within that policy.
Baroness Blatch: I am grateful for the promise of a letter. I apologise for not writing in detail about this clause, but we do not get the back-up that the Minister has in her office. The whole point is to air our concerns publicly so that people outside know that we are asking the Government for clarification. Letters between us in private do not do that.
With regard to Clause 131, the letter refers to all schools having a head teacher with qualified teacher status. But another part of the legislation says that they must have not only qualified teacher status but a head teacher qualification. Can the Minister clarify that issue?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: The issue is resolved by the national professional qualifications for headship, which will be compulsory for all those coming new to headship. I agree that the issue is not as clear as I should like and I shall write to the noble Baroness.
I recognise that the noble Baroness does not have the back-up, but my point was that I would not wish her to think that I had given her an unsatisfactory answer. I shall be happy to put these matters in writing in the Library and I am sure that the noble Baroness will refer to them in our deliberations at a later stage.