Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


"REQUIREMENTS TO BE REGISTERED
In section 134 of the 2002 Act (requirement upon teachers to be registered), in subsection (5)(a) leave out "or" at the end of the paragraph and after paragraph (b) insert—
"(c) an Academy,
(d) a city technology college, or
(e) a city college for the technology of the arts.""

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 12, which is grouped with this.

The purpose of the two amendments is to ensure that all teachers, including those in academies and CTCs are to be registered and regulated by the General Teaching Council in line with other teachers in the maintained sector. The amendments are similar to those tabled on Report, apart from removing the reference to pupil referral units, because we listened to the Minister when he said they were not necessary.

Under Section 134 of the Education Act 2002 the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales may by regulation provide that a specified activity may be carried out in an LEA-maintained school or a non-maintained special school by a qualified teacher only when that teacher is fully registered with the General Teaching Council for England or for Wales. A trainee teacher may undertake a specified course of training leading to qualified teacher status only if he or she is provisionally registered with the GTC. In addition provisional registration may be required of unqualified teachers undertaking specified work in schools.

The regulations do not apply to teachers working in schools such as academies, which are legally defined as independent and often referred to by the Government as independent state schools. I believe that professional registration is a vital safeguard for pupils and the public. The procedures for regulating teachers need to be transparent and open for scrutiny. To operate effectively teachers must have the trust and respect of pupils, parents and society as a whole. Public confidence in the system for regulating teachers is a prerequisite.

That was the guiding principle behind the creation of the General Teaching Council in 2001, putting teachers on a par with doctors and lawyers in having a self-regulatory body. As I mentioned on Report, at its January council meeting the members of the GTC for England expressed grave concern that currently the Government do not plan to bring teachers covered by my amendment within the scope of professional regulation. Stephen Twigg has offered to review the matter if it becomes "a significant issue".

6 p.m.

Organisations representing parents, governors, diocesan authorities and the teaching, head teacher
 
2 Mar 2005 : Column 281
 
and lecturer unions jointly signed a letter to the schools Minister urging him to bring teachers in academies into the scope of professional regulations. I have rarely seen an amendment supported by so many reputable organisations led by the NUT and the General Teaching Council.

In response to the GTC the schools Minister argued that many academies may require their teachers to register and that individual teachers may choose to register, even if not required to do so. In his response to the amendment tabled on Report, the Minister said something very similar. He also argued that,

Funding agreements with private hospitals that carry out operations for the NHS may well also set standards, but they do not allow doctors to opt out of GMC registration. The GTC has worked very hard in developing its regulatory function to set standards for the whole profession, akin to that of, say, the Law Society and the General Medical Council. Every solicitor, whether in private practice, in industry or in the public sector, is subject to the same statutory regulatory system of standards. It would not be suggested that that should apply selectively by reference to who happened to be the employer of such a solicitor. None of your Lordships would like to be treated by a doctor who is not registered with the General Medical Council. As we speak, all social workers are also registering or they will not be allowed to work. I really wonder whether the Government were serious when they set up the GTC if they are not now prepared to support it.

The GTC regulatory role is not simply one of disciplining teachers. Discipline is a response to a fault and that is a matter for the employer at the time when a teacher does something wrong. The GTC regulates by deciding whether, in consequence of conduct or lack of competence, a teacher is fit to continue working as a teacher in a state school. During the debate, the Minister also said,

I really must ask him why he supports multiple processes to achieve the same object. The GTC regulatory function is not to provide a means of checking the standards of a teacher's past performance—that is Ofsted's job—but it is to consider whether a teacher should continue to have the essential benefit of registration for the future. The issue of registration leads to a number of unhelpful anomalies.
 
2 Mar 2005 : Column 282
 

So questions arise. Does a newly qualified teacher, working in an academy, need to be registered with the GTC while undertaking induction? Does a teacher undergoing induction in an academy have a right of appeal to the GTC if he or she is deemed to have failed? If, following an appeal, the GTC judges that a teacher should not pass the induction, is that teacher able to continue to work at the academy?

The fact that there is no obligation to register raises all kinds of anomalies and questions and certainly indicates a lack of confidence and support for the General Teaching Council. The supporting organisations were dismayed by the Government's attitude to this amendment on Report. The GTC and its partners want to see a consistent approach to registration so that teachers moving between schools—maintained schools, the academies and the CTCs—do not slip out of the net of professional regulation, which, in the light of the Children Act 2004, is even more important than it was before. I beg to move.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, the sentiments behind the amendment are worthy, timely and just, but should it find a place in the Bill? My view is that it should because these academies are a new breed of school and the more they are seen to show the same collective disciplines as every other kind of school—in this case professional discipline regarding the teaching profession—the better.

The noble Baroness has alluded to the organisations that support this move. The Church of England education division is on record as taking this line in relation to Church of England academies. It would be consistent to extend such a move further. Therefore, I hope that the amendment will find support in your Lordships' House. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for riding the hobby horse of our academies in such a creative way here.

Lord Filkin: My Lords, as we know from previous discussions on various parts of the Bill, academies are registered independent schools. Like all independent schools, they are not bound by the legislative framework that applies to maintained schools. Instead they have their own legislative framework, which includes inspection by Ofsted to obtain registration, which ensures a high standard of professionalism and propriety within the independent sector.

Seeking to bring academies back into all the regulatory constraints, burdens and bureaucracy of the maintained sector is, as we have said previously, to fetter a crucial experiment before it has had the chance and freedom to demonstrate whether it can succeed where so many others have failed before: that is, in turning around some of the most seriously failing schools in our society, which, as a consequence, has meant that very many children have suffered. Therefore, for the reasons that I have given now and before, we do not believe that it is right to change in this respect.
 
2 Mar 2005 : Column 283
 

The existence of legally independent schools within the state sector requires the right balance to be struck between safeguards in the form of conditions set by central Government and the freedoms from red tape needed to tackle deep-seated problems of deprivation and underachievement. The Government believe that they have struck the right balance and do not believe that there are the risks or harm that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley is right to probe.

I shall try to illustrate that point. Paragraph 17 of the model funding agreement between the Secretary of State and an academy reads:

Not only does that require academies to employ as teachers only persons with qualified teacher status, but it also backs up that requirement with a very powerful enforcement mechanism, in the form of the contractual agreement, which was mentioned earlier, and the sanctions that are embedded in that.

On Report, the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, described registration with the GTCE as "probably the best" mechanism that we have for ensuring the quality of a member of the teaching staff. Reflecting on that, earlier this week my officials took the trouble to seek the advice of a number of head teachers of maintained schools about what happens in the real world and how they would assure themselves of the suitability and competence of a prospective member of staff. That has considerable relevance to this debate.

Head teachers confirm, as one might expect, that they would insist on the usual Criminal Records Bureau check. They would also insist on checking List 99, which has sometimes loosely been called the register of barred teachers who are found, as a result of disciplinary action, to be unsuitable to have care of children; for example, because they have committed child abuse of one dreadful form or another. That is how head teachers behave.

They were then asked how they would verify a candidate's professional competence as a teacher. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, implied that the primary source of that information would be the GTCE, a source of information that would not be open to the head of an academy. But that is not what the heads of maintained schools told us. In every case, they said they would rely first and foremost on the reference they would seek from a candidate's previous employer.

That is for good reason. A teacher would normally be referred to the GTCE on competence grounds only as a result of having already been disciplined by their employer. That would catch only a very small proportion of cases that would be seen as warranting a referral to the GTCE. Therefore, a head is utterly sensible not to have multiple sources but to go to the reference from the previous school or schools and to ask them. It would capture what would have been registered with the GTCE if the teacher was so registered, but, more importantly, would also capture the far wider range of circumstances where aspects of that teacher's behaviour might be
 
2 Mar 2005 : Column 284
 
germane to an honest reference on whether they were suitable. Heads are not daft in seeing the reference, rather than the GTCE, as their source of information.

I could buttress that by indicating, for example, that on List 99 there are some 3,000-plus teachers registered. Since June 2001 the GTCE has issued only two prohibition orders on the grounds of incompetence. I am not having a poke at the GTCE, but we must not kid ourselves that this is the central way in which a head—whether of an academy or not—validates whether they should employ someone.

The GTCE has a function, a role, but the risks of not forcing academies to say that everybody must be with the GTCE have been talked up. Some trust governing bodies do so, but the risks are not there, for the reasons I have given.

The Criminal Records Bureau, List 99 and the reference cover all these issues. There is no need to add additional burdens. For fundamental reasons, we should minimise the burdens on academies, otherwise they will not have the scope to deliver the improvement that we need of them.

I hope that that has been helpful, if not totally comforting, to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page