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Baroness Golding: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that there can be no morality if people are deprived of their jobs without proper agreement that they should receive compensation? Does he not recall that there were many efforts to reach agreement before the Act became operative? What does he have to say about that?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the Government always accepted that there would need to be compensation; its range covered not only loss of profit but many changes to their business premises that fur farmers would have to implement. We felt—and still feel—that the structure of compensation that we put in place was fair. As I said, that has been and will continue to be a matter for the courts' judgment, but I certainly accept that compensation was appropriate at that time. We

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tried to reach agreement with fur farmers on the basis of that compensation, but we continue to argue that what we did was appropriate.

Lord Ackner: My Lords, will the Minister tell us what is the state of play with regard to the appeal? When does he anticipate it happening? Has any attempt been made to expedite it and, if not, why not?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, it is not really for the executive to determine the dates on which the judiciary take cases. As I said in my initial Answer, the date has been provisionally fixed between the end of October and the first week in November.

Teaching Assistants

3.8 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any proposals to change the regulations so as to permit unqualified classroom assistants to teach in schools.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, we are introducing the first ever regulations governing the role taken by teaching assistants in schools under Section 133 of the Education Act 2002. The regulations allow teaching assistants and other adults without qualified teacher status to undertake teaching activities under certain circumstances, including supervision by a qualified teacher. We are currently consulting for a second time on draft regulations under that section with the intention of bringing them into force by July 2003.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, it would be interesting to know what are the "certain circumstances" mentioned by my noble friend. Is she aware that, in what I understand is an increasing number of schools, classroom assistants are teaching either full-time or part-time? Does she not agree that it is a serious matter when unqualified people are teaching? Can she tell us how the Government collect the figures to show where classroom assistants are undertaking teaching duties? The shortage of teachers and the financial difficulties being faced by local authorities are giving rise to abuse, which must be resisted.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am not sure that I would agree entirely with my noble friend on the idea of abuse within our schooling system. However, as I stressed during the passage of the Education Bill, I wish to emphasise the need to be clear about the role of our professional qualified teachers and the roles of those who support them. Within that, those undertaking certain classroom work in a school must be doing so, first, to support the work of a qualified teacher, secondly, under the supervision of a qualified teacher, and, thirdly, with the knowledge of

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the head teacher that the assistant has suitable experience and qualifications and, as we move towards it, accreditation. Only under those circumstances would it be allowed.

I want to comment briefly on a further point made by my noble friend. Under some circumstances in our schools, we have people with, for example, linguistic skills or specialist knowledge of sport or other areas working with our children in a whole class. We believe that, under certain circumstances and in the appropriate conditions, teachers can leave the classroom but the person teaching the class on behalf of the teacher will be doing so under supervision and in support of a qualified teacher.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, does the Government agree that this is not a matter of retrenchment based on fear? The anomalies mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, should not be allowed to undermine the proper development of the teaching profession, supported by appropriate voluntary work, in changing times and circumstances.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I agree entirely with the right reverend Prelate and it is a pleasure to do so. This is part of the work being done under the national agreement, working with all the trade unions except for the National Union of Teachers, which was not prepared to come with us completely on this journey. It is also part of our efforts to ensure that we give our qualified teachers a better deal.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that those noble Lords who laboured with her on the Education Bill are still none the wiser? We do not know what is the definition of these teachers, and we do not know yet under what specific circumstances and situations they will work. Genuine fears have been expressed that they will be used as teachers on the cheap. Will the noble Baroness now make it absolutely clear whether teaching assistants, whoever and whatever they are—we do not yet even know what their qualifications are to be—will be taking classes when the teacher, for whom they are working and whom they are supporting, is not present or may even be away and not on the premises?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, to enlighten the noble Baroness and others, I shall describe the specified work. We have set out particular activities: first, the planning and preparation of lessons to enable our teaching assistants to participate in those tasks; secondly, under certain circumstances, delivering lessons to pupils, perhaps via use of computer links as well as by direct teaching; and, thirdly, assessing and recording the development, progress and attainment of pupils, as well as reporting on that development and attainment. In my previous response I described how it would be appropriate for someone with linguistic skills to become involved in the teaching of foreign languages.

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The people able to carry out this work will fall, in a sense, into one of three categories: those who are qualified teachers; teachers without qualified teacher status, such as student teachers, instructors and overseas-trained teachers; and support staff who can carry out, under the conditions I have described, work to support the qualified teacher, under the supervision of the qualified teacher and where the head teacher is satisfied. Noble Lords will recognise those categories. Under those circumstances, a teacher may not be in the classroom. I can envisage very few circumstances where the teacher would be entirely absent from the school. However, certain individual circumstances could arise where that would apply, but it is not the same as our proposals for cover when teachers are absent and where cover supervisors will be responsible for ensuring that classes are covered.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, as the Minister has made clear, the guidelines are currently being discussed with a view to implementation later in the year. Given that the National Association of Head Teachers, one of the unions that has agreed the workload agreement, puts the minimum cost of implementation for a primary school at 21,000 and that for a large secondary school as high as 900,000, can the Minister tell us from where the money to finance the workload agreement is to come and whether it is likely to be implemented later during this year, bearing in mind the financial difficulties currently being faced by schools?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, although I shall correct this if I am wrong, I understand that 19 changes are due to come into force in September. Most of those changes are administrative in nature and we are in no doubt that we shall be able to cope with them within current budgets. I am sure that noble Lords will be gratified to hear that.

As regards the other changes, as a part of all the negotiations that took place on this agreement the issue of how it was to be funded was dealt with. We are confident that, by 2005–06, when the agreement will be fully enacted, the money will be there.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, is the Minister aware that many would congratulate the Government if they were to encourage people to teach whose children are now grown up and who themselves had achieved good A-levels or a good degree, rather than teachers who have achieved perhaps two Es at A-level and the somewhat doubtful benefit of a teacher training degree, and who are yet to have the experience of bringing up children?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, our teaching workforce is made up of a whole variety of people who bring excellence, experience and expertise of different kinds. We are very fortunate in the quality of our teaching staff. If the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has any doubts about that, he has only to look at the

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annual report from the chief inspector of Ofsted, which states that we now have the best generation of teachers ever.

Disabled People: Law Reform Proposals

3.16 p.m.

Lord Ashley of Stoke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to implement the proposals for law reform suggested by the Disability Rights Commission.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): My Lords, our priority is to implement our manifesto commitment on extending rights and opportunities to disabled people. We have announced that we will publish a draft disability Bill later this year. On 8th May we laid draft regulations before Parliament to implement the disability provisions of the Article 13 employment directive. We shall consider the recommendations made by the Disability Rights Commission as we further develop our plans.

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