Committee (5th Day)
Relevant documents: 15th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 13th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
My Lords, I remind the Committee that if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting, the Committee will adjourn for 10 minutes from the sound of the Division Bell. I am asked to remind the Committee that it is liable to get a bit full in here. It does not look too full at the moment, but lest it should get fuller later, could we make sure that all the seats are occupied?
74: After Clause 13, insert the following new Clause—
“Physical contact between pupils and school staff
(1) The governing body of a school may adapt and promulgate rules on physical contact between pupils and school staff.
(2) Such rules may permit physical contact between pupils and staff in defined circumstances, including in particular contact required for teaching physical skills, providing first aid and comfort to pupils, and avoiding harm to people or equipment.
(3) Such rules may permit physical contact between pupils and staff when no other adult is present, and between a pupil and a member of staff of different genders.
(4) If a complaint concerning physical contact between a pupil and a member of staff is made to the head teacher of a school, and the head teacher considers that on the balance of probabilities the member of staff acted within school rules, the head teacher need take no action to suspend or otherwise restrict the member of staff concerned while investigation of the complaint is in progress.”
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 74 very briefly because apparently the Government have today come forward with some guidance on the subject, or at least a firm view, which I would very much like to hear before I take up a lot of your Lordships’ time telling you what my opinions are based on what the situation used to be.
I find it ridiculous that the schools I have used and been involved in will not put a plaster on a child’s knee when it has hurt itself and will not comfort a child who has been bereaved because they are frightened. I entirely understand why they are frightened. As soon as a complaint of any kind is made, the schools feel compelled to cast the teacher adrift, to throw them out to the local social workers. If they get on with them well, that is fine—then there is a pattern of dealing with the problem which is well understood. But in many cases they do not; in many cases there is not the necessary degree of trust and understanding, and under those circumstances schools choose to protect their teachers, which I entirely understand.
I understand that the Government have developed a position on this that they can tell us about and it might help us all if the Minister told us where they find themselves so that we can then have at them in the knowledge of where we are now rather than where we were yesterday. I beg to move.
My Lords, I want to raise an issue on the back of this amendment and ask the Minister to reply to it. More than a few members of the Committee were very concerned to see a report in the Telegraph this morning that the Government have issued what they call in their press release the,
“final, clearer guidance for teachers”,
on how they should deal with bad behaviour. This final, clearer guidance includes and enumerates all the issues that we debated not so long ago, upon which a vote has not been taken, as we are in Grand Committee. Therefore, I contend that there is as yet no final resolution of this House, nor of the other House, on these matters. I feel that this is precipitous in the extreme of the Government and quite discourteous to the House. I fail to see how final guidance can be issued which refers to matters that we have yet to decide upon.
My Lords, it may help the Committee if I speak at this stage. According to the news, this guidance appears to be coming out at the same time that we were discussing these matters in Grand Committee. But this consultation ended in May, so the guidance has been published on the back of that. It relates to the current law, not the legislation before us at the moment. Again, the timing seems curious, but it is a consequence of it referring to another law rather than the Bill.
Let me speak briefly about what is in the guidance. We will ensure that Members of the Committee are issued with the guidance which has come out today to help frame our further discussions.
I am grateful to my noble friend for giving us the opportunity for this debate. We agree with much of his amendment. Of course a teacher should be able to comfort a small child who has fallen over or show them how to hold a violin bow or a tennis racket. The notion of no contact seems to me to go against our instincts as humans and, indeed, as teachers. There is nothing in law to prevent it. When pupils are on school premises, or off site but under the lawful charge of the school, teachers and school staff are acting in loco parentis. This means that they are, in the eyes of the common law, effectively stepping into the shoes of a parent unless there are statutory provisions which specify otherwise. No parent would think twice about sticking on a plaster or showing a child how to hold a rounders bat, and a teacher should feel equally able to do these things. I would strongly encourage any head teacher to make this clear to his or her staff.
Our guidance on this issue is also clear and it is made clearer in the papers in the consultation that has come out today. The guidance states:
“It is not illegal to touch a pupil. There are occasions when physical contact … with a pupil is proper and necessary.
Examples of where touching a pupil might be proper or necessary: holding the hand of the child at the front/back of the line when going to assembly or when walking together around the school; when comforting a distressed pupil; when a pupil is being congratulated or praised; to demonstrate how to use a musical instrument; to demonstrate exercises or techniques during PE lessons or sports coaching; and to give first aid”.
Of course this is not an exhaustive list but I think it demonstrates our clear expectations.
We agree that teachers who are subject to a complaint that they have used inappropriate physical contact should not routinely be suspended. This is why our new guidance on behaviour, and the associated guidance on dealing with allegations of abuse against teachers and other staff, makes clear that employers should not automatically suspend a member of staff who has been accused of misconduct pending an investigation.
We agree that teachers should and do need to have contact with pupils on a day-to-day basis. The law already allows for such contact. Our guidance reinforces this message and encourages schools to take a common-sense approach to physical contact between teachers and pupils. I hope that that has set out the background to this consultation and that, in that light, my noble friend will not feel the need to press this amendment.
My Lords, from what I read of this guidance, it has a section on restraint of pupils who might be misbehaving. Last week I was in a useful meeting with the government adviser on behaviour, and he gave more than one example of having to restrain a child who needed to be physically touched to calm them down. The Minister has not mentioned issues of restraint, which could be quite dangerous for teachers and for pupils. Where does that fall in the guidance?
My Lords, we will be sending round guidance on that. My noble friend’s amendment includes different forms of physical contact between pupils and staff. The Government’s adviser on behaviour, Charlie Taylor, who gave us such an impressive presentation last week, brought out occasions when physical restraint would be necessary. It will be in the guidance which will be sent round to all Members of the Committee as soon as possible.
My noble friend mentioned guidance to staff. I want to put into her mind that it is necessary to talk to parents as well so that they realise how the children are going to be treated and will not take fright when the child comes back and says that he has been handled in a certain way.
My Lords, my name has also been put to the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Lucas. I am delighted with the first report of what the guidance says because it is very much what I had hoped we would hear—a very strong message to teachers that their normal, instinctive behaviour is not somehow criminalised or disapproved or a cause for complaint in any way.
Dealing with this particular issue leads me to say that, looking through the Hansard reports of the last two Committee sittings, I am genuinely concerned that the picture we seem to give of teachers is a wholly negative one, as if they needed to be controlled and regulated otherwise they would be aggressive or in some way behave improperly towards the pupils in their care. I have spent most of my life working with teachers. I have enormous respect for them—for the way in which they entered the profession because the wanted to make children’s lives better, the way in which they work sometimes very long hours in order to bring that about; for the care and the thought that they put into the preparation of their classes and their relationships with children. I worry about the way in which the Committee has been talking, as if there was a whole generation of vulnerable children who were under threat from teachers who were going to behave badly towards them. Anyone who doubts what I say should read back through some of the speeches in Hansard. I hope that we can correct that impression because I know that it is not one that, at heart, this Committee believes. We have all declared our respect for the teaching profession, but I think that we should begin to show it in the way that we deal with some of these amendments.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
My Lords, the 10 minutes have expired. Before we continue, the Committee has had a request from Hansard to the effect that it would be very helpful if noble Lords who have telephones out on the desk could please put them away because they are interfering with the recording equipment. I am sure that Members of the Committee would not wish their deathless prose to be improperly recorded as a result of their telephones being on the table. I make no comment as to who is being addressed.
My Lords I have no difficulty or disagreement with anything that anyone has said so far. I very much agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, said, shortly before the Division, and I did not disagree with what the Minister said.
My problem is that it is almost as if the Government have launched a press release saying, “No change”, and therefore expect change. It has always puzzled me what drives teacher behaviour or teacher perception. As the Minister said, this is not new legislation. It has never been illegal to put a sticking plaster on a child, hold on to a child’s arm to the front or rear of the queue, or to hold a child’s arm while practising the violin. My only criticism is that to table an amendment—I appreciate that it is a probing one—saying that we should have rules allowing you to do those things almost implies that we have rules saying that we cannot do those things.
I have two points. First, does the Minister believe that this guidance will change anything? I am not sure that it will. It is not the first time that the teaching profession has been given guidance and reassurances that it can do these things and that they are not against the law. What deeper understanding does the Minister have of what is driving teacher behaviour and public perception? It is not as if teachers have not had assurances in the past that they would not be hauled over the coals if they behaved in that way. There is a danger in putting together in guidance touching which is natural and instinctive and touching which could be totally wrong and a threat to children. The trouble is that we have not been successful in marking the difference between the two. I am not confident that the guidance being offered today will do anything more than the guidance that previous Governments gave out. Indeed, I may have given out some myself; I cannot remember, but it certainly had no impact.
Secondly, there is a lesson to be learnt. People who are not in government are sometimes tempted to give the impression that certain things are illegal and guidance says that you cannot do them. We ought not to play that game because we then become accomplices at creating a false impression. The problem is that there is a false impression out there that teachers cannot do these things. However, they have always been able to do them, and it is right that they should.
Will the Minister say something about the guidance? It could even be the same press release, who knows? How can we have any faith? I am not being critical because I did not solve the problem either, but what else can be done to get the message across?
My Lords, perhaps I may help the noble Baroness, which would be unusual from my position to hers. The Minister sent me a most useful document, Customer Voice Research: Behaviour and Discipline Powers in Schools, for which I thank him very much. It is extremely helpful to me in my arguments, I fear, in several places. As regards powers of discipline, a teacher commented that she was completely,
“unaware … of the ‘main powers’ available to teachers”.
Teachers say, for example, that the powers sound “really antiquated”. They have said, “I don’t understand it”, and,
“I don’t feel confident that the Head would back me up”,
if I was to do this. It seems to me that this is about knowledge, culture and leadership, and not about legislation. We should not be legislating for executive powers; we should be legislating for strategic options, the things which I have just mentioned.
My Lords, my friend in sport, my noble friend Lady Massey, will not be surprised to see me rise to address the subject of sport in the context of Amendment 74, particularly in respect of a brief but important issue.
In subsection (2) of the proposed new clause to be inserted by Amendment 74, my noble friend uses the phrase “for teaching physical skills”. As he knows, and as I am sure the Committee knows, physical skills cover cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, co-ordination, agility, speed, balance and—from memory—accuracy. However, I think that my noble friend is focusing on sport and recreation in schools. Sport requires participants to compete in physical activities and we should also cover recreation.
Standardising the language in legislation is extremely important. I hope that if my noble friend withdraws his amendment and brings it back later, he will focus on ensuring that, in this and in all contexts, we are talking about sport and recreation in schools. It is very important that recreation should be included to encourage dance, for example, among young people in schools, and not just competitive sport and the traditional sports. In that context, I simply offer that brief observation to my noble friend, who I hope will consider it when he is considering his reaction to the Government’s reply.
My Lords, I echo what the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, has said. My concern is that physical contact happens in schools, whether it is in music, sport or a whole range of things. If you try to codify it and say, “These are the areas in which you can have physical contact”, what about the other areas—for example, when a four or five year-old wants reassurance and wants to hold the teacher’s hand in the playground? If that is not in the guidance, does that mean that that should not happen? We need to be very thoughtful about this.
I support what has been said. It is a theme across children’s services that many practitioners feel inhibited—particularly with children who have had an upbringing where there has not been much demonstration of love—about giving a child a hug or comforting them. The theme there is that an environment of overall excellence is the best safeguard for children, as Sir William Utting said. The better the staff and the better they are supported, the more confident they will be to do the right thing for the child at the right time.
I was very grateful for the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry of Southwark, about reading the committee report and, if I understand her correctly, the impression that it might give teachers about our sense of how good a job they are doing and how professional they are. It is a helpful way to rebalance our discussion. Certainly, from my experience principally in the past year when I met head teachers of primary schools, I was very impressed by their experience, judgment and understanding of children. I am particularly concerned about children from environments where they have experienced a lack of love, parents who are alcoholic or misusing drugs, or parents who are just not available to their children, which might be one of the reasons for my perception. When these children go into school they bring with them their home environments and earlier experiences and difficulties can arise if teachers are not well supported in responding to them. The Government’s adviser, Charlie Taylor, highlighted that point last week at a meeting and said that in his special school for children with EBD he was careful to help teachers to reflect on what had happened with the children and help them to see that, however aggressive a child might seem to be, that behaviour did not constitute a personal attack on the teacher but probably had something to do with the child’s home experience. By perhaps emphasising that area too much, I may have inadvertently omitted to emphasise the fantastic job that many teachers do with children. This is not an issue for many children but concerns only a small minority. I hope that my comments are helpful and I look forward to the Minister’s response.
I, too, support what the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, said about the wonderful work that teachers do in school and how they use their gift of imparting education to make a difference to children’s lives. That is very evident in the many schools that I have visited. However, when I go into schools to give inspirational talks, many children automatically want to hug me. We need to be clear that this amendment is directed not just at teachers but at people like me who go into schools. We need to be sure that we are not committing a criminal act if a child hugs us and we want to hug that child back.
My Lords, I want to pick up the reference of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, to professionalism. Over the past 25 years since 1986 we have seen a whole torrent of legislation on schools, which has had a cumulative effect of undermining the professionalism of teachers. In many ways, I see the Government trying to reclaim that ground. It seems to me that fundamental to any guidance on this issue is that we start from the position that teachers are professionals and that they use their judgment. The rest is a case of trying to fill that out, as it were, rather than tackling the matter the other way round, which subtly undermines the very professionalism that should be at the heart of education. I hope that in due course that approach will result in fewer education Acts.
I wish to refer to a body of people who have not been mentioned in the debate thus far but are mentioned in the amendment. Since the thrust of the Bill as a whole seems to be pushing towards more free-standing governance of schools, we should consider what ought to be the remit of schools’ governing bodies in respect of this matter. We can all agree that we must pay tribute to teachers’ excellence and recognise the natural affinities that lead to physical contact at different times, which have been mentioned. However, if the governing body is to pick up tangible responsibility for interpreting and applying conduct in this area, not only must teachers be supported by senior members of staff and head teachers but the relationship with the governing body has to be addressed.
This can be a touchy business—sorry, that was not meant to be a pun—if there has been a recent incident in the locality and emotions can be highly charged. I have sat on governing bodies which have dealt not just with the case before us but with all the accumulated stuff that arises from a consideration, and often press reportage, of things that may have happened outside the remit of the school but in the locality. The systems devised in this Bill and in the previous Bill do not give enough attention to governing bodies. If we are to have more free-standing schools and academies, we must be sure that governance by the governing body is given adequate consideration.
I have been a governor for 30 years and am a chairman of trustees and know that even gathering the relevant skills round a table is difficult in the inner cities. Giving governors the remit and guidance on how to apply various aspects of their functions is difficult and will also be difficult in this area. To state on the face of the Bill that the governing body,
“may adapt and promulgate rules on physical contact”,
may be enough but governing bodies have to be equipped to apply that statement adequately and responsibly.
My Lords, perhaps I ought to say a brief word about that as president of the National Governors’ Association. Almost anything that we are discussing has a reference and an importance for governors. We have specific clauses later on where we can look at this in rather more detail but it is another illustration of the somewhat difficult sorting-out of whose responsibility everything will be in future.
I entirely confirm the brilliance of teachers, and everything else. I admire very much the skills that they possess and the attempts of the Government to get them even more skilled and better equipped. Nevertheless the whole business of who is responsible for which bits of it, and indeed of proper respect for each part of the establishment, needs quite a lot of examination. I hope we are going to be giving a lot of time to it a bit later. I am particularly glad to see that there is a growing number of people who have been governors, because under the previous Government there did not seem to be quite as many around who were available and wished to talk about the role and responsibility of governors, or indeed the composition of the governing body.
My Lords, I shall not respond to all the points made in this useful debate but I would draw out one particular aspect. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, spoke about previous guidance which did not seem to make much difference. One thing that has come out of this consultation was that previous guidance was over 600 pages long; this is 50 pages long. Equally, the guidance on the use of force has decreased from 30 pages to seven. There is an argument that this, much more succinct guidance might be more effective. We can only hope so.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Government. It is exactly the answer that I had hoped for and I look forward to it being applied in schools. I can think now of several that I shall be e-mailing when I get home to point out the URL of the new guidance. Perhaps I might say two things to the Minister. First, the brief advice given by my noble friend Lord Elton is absolutely crucial—parents should know what the school’s policy is. If my parents asked me what a week in school had been like, I can remember that I would say, “Well, I got slippered twice and my maths teacher hit me over the head with a slide rule and drew blood”, and that they would then ask, “Oh—what had you been doing wrong?”. In those days that was the policy. Parents will take what they have agreed to; it is if something happens by surprise that they get upset.
Secondly, when the Minister gets back to the department could she please give a long hug to whoever produced this guidance and say, “But you could have done even better if you had circulated this to the Committee when you published it”. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 74 withdrawn.
Amendments 75 and 75A not moved.
Schedule 4 agreed.
Clause 14 : Abolition of the Training and Development Agency for Schools
76: Clause 14, page 22, line 32, at end insert—
“( ) This section shall only come into force if its provisions have been approved, by a simple majority, in a vote of registered teachers.
( ) For such a vote to be valid, 50 per cent of registered teachers must have voted.”
My Lords, Amendment 76 repeats the amendment that we debated regarding the General Teaching Council for England, and I will not repeat at any length the arguments that were made then. As with the GTC, in this amendment we are looking to trust teachers, which seems to be a theme of the Committee. We are simply saying that if teachers value the TDA and the training and development it has been offering them, we can put it in their hands to decide whether it should continue.
I shall also speak to my Amendment 76ZA. It is no secret that I oppose the abolition of the TDA. I made it clear in the substantial part of my Second Reading speech that I think that the TDA has been doing a good job. People come from around the world to look at how successful we are at recruiting and retaining teachers. Prior to its formation, we missed our targets in teacher recruitment and under-recruited teachers quite chronically. In those days the Whitehall machine used to try to manage teacher recruitment and professional development from the centre. We have excellent civil servants in the Department for Education, but I am an advocate, at times, of putting some things at arms’ length from them, particularly—if we want to learn from history—with the attempts that we had in the past to recruit from the centre, which did not work. They did it so badly that they had to set up the TTA, the successor to today’s TDA, which we are debating.
The TDA is a success. It is still tough-going with the shortage subjects, but the agency has been doing well. It has met its target, even when it was as high as 40,000 teachers a year coming into the profession. That target has been reduced and is currently around 32,000 teachers a year. How did it do it? It did it with a mix of things including bursaries. In an earlier day in Committee, in an exchange with the government Whip who was at the Dispatch Box, I said that I felt that the proposals for bursaries in the document currently being consulted on, setting the maximum for secondary recruits at £20,000 compared with a maximum for primary recruits of £4,000, are sending a difficult signal to our best and brightest graduates about which section of the teaching workforce we value the most. I accept that we need to deal with the shortage subjects. However, we should look at the mix that the TDA uses, because it does not use only bursaries, it also uses proper integrated marketing—and not just TV adverts, although they have been extremely effective and successful and are memorable for those who have time to watch commercial television, but also billboards and proper cross-media advertising, including social media. When deployed, the marketing has always worked because of the professionalism and expertise of the agency working at arm’s length from Whitehall.
I am pretty shocked that there is no mention of marketing in the consultation document, Training our Next Generation of Outstanding Teachers, as if the department does not value it. Perhaps that is true. Perhaps Ministers do not like marketing. It is true that when the Government first came in they issued, I think, some kind of central diktat from the Cabinet Office saying that all government advertising was bad and they would not do any of it, and it was suspended for some time. I gather—it may be just rumour—that soon after the Secretary of State was appointed he went on a tour of the wonderful Sanctuary Buildings in Great Smith Street which included a visit to the eighth floor, at the top of the building, which is where the communications department’s staff hang out. Having checked out the press team and the speech writers, he stumbled across an assembly of desks bristling with awards and said, “What goes on here?”. The reply was “Marketing”. He replied, “I don’t like marketing”, and walked off. That is just what I am told, and it may or may not be true.
My noble friend says from a sedentary position that it does not sound like the Secretary of State, but it is also true that the Government have now closed down the COI. That also sends a signal about what they think about professional marketing and its importance. As a result of the advertising ban that we had once the Government took office, we have had a significant reduction in applications for people to be teachers, which also suggests that professional marketing works. I gather that we should just about scrape through in meeting the recruitment targets, but with applications 10 to 15 per cent down this year, that makes you question whether we will recruit the same quality, because we will be recruiting from a smaller pool of applicants.
The real problems will come next year because of the lag effect that we normally see around stimulated interest in teaching from people who are thinking about what jobs they will do once they graduate. I really worry about the effect on teacher recruitment for next year, especially in the shortage subjects, science and maths in particular, that we are so concerned about.
Hence the reason for tabling Amendment 76ZA. This repeats the clauses that established the TDA relevant to promoting careers in the school workforce. There were four main aims of the TDA when it was established in statute. I have simply repeated one of them: the aim of promoting careers in the school workforce. It is a probing amendment. I cannot pretend to be an expert parliamentary draftsperson and I cannot pretend to believe that the Minister—however reasonable a chap he might be—is suddenly going to cave in and allow this arm’s-length body to be created. However, the abolition of the Central Office of Information means that there is no other obvious capacity that I know of within government to do a professional job in running and procuring the integrated marketing campaigns to recruit teachers that we know from recent history are so effective in ensuring that we have the best quality recruits into the profession.
Therefore, the amendment proposes an arm’s-length body to perform this function to ensure that we sustain recruitment into teaching. If the Minister disagrees with my reasonable request to set up this arm’s-length body, I simply need him to give me a confident answer as to how this will be done as successfully as the TDA, and that he will ensure this marketing function is taken more seriously than in the current policy document. I beg to move.
COI is the Central Office of Information, a substantial agency that works across government in order to provide capacity around buying advertising, marketing and so on. It was announced a couple of weeks ago that it was going to close with the loss of a few hundred jobs. When the initial arm’s-length body review by the Cabinet Office took place soon after the Government came in, resulting in the Public Bodies Bill which is currently in the other place, the signal was that the COI would be retained but—as I said—the decision was made a few weeks ago. On the noble Earl’s Amendment 78, which is also in this group, his proposal to retain an advisory board to government has some attraction to me as a defender of the status quo in that it is a variant on the status quo; it allows the Government to have their way to some extent by taking functions in-house as part of the centralisation of functions that this Bill represents. I would like to see the specific aim around professionalising marketing. I am pretty flexible about this but I think that those functions need to be retained.
I rise to speak to Amendment 78, which is in my name, and to support Amendment 76, to which I have attached my name. As the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, said, Amendment 78 would simply replace a board. Perhaps we can retain the current board as a special advisory group for the Department for Education.
The amendments are partly in response to a meeting recently of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Skills. The new chair of that group, in post for one year, concluded the meeting by saying two things. First, he said that when he visited Finland and had a meeting with politicians from across the political spectrum, he was very impressed by the strong consensus on education policy. Secondly, he said that the more he learnt about this issue the more it seemed to him that if politics could stay out of education, the better it would be for education. By tabling my amendment, I hope to probe the Government about how one might encourage that position of distancing politics from education.
The noble Lord, Lord Knight, referred to the rather disappointing results in recruiting teachers. It seems to me that this is a golden opportunity to get hold of bright young graduates who might have gone into the City at other times, but who might now choose to go into social care and education. It is sad that we are not getting the cream of the crop. If the noble Lord’s concerns are correct, and this is to some degree to do with interference from the Government, perhaps this is a good illustration of how it is sometimes better for politicians to leave the professionals and experts to do the job. There is an important role for politicians in ensuring that the right experts are appointed and that the criticisms from people sitting in their armchairs are answered.
I refer to the Youth Justice Board, which was an arm’s-length organisation. When there was a spate of thefts of mobile phones and muggings because of that, the Government responded by strengthening the laws around mobile phone theft. Unfortunately, one young man, Joseph Scholes, who had just begun at a children’s home, was out for the day with a group of young people. I understand that he was involved in the periphery of a mobile phone theft. Because of the response to the understandable and popular concern about mobile phone theft, when he was found guilty of being involved in this activity, he was placed in the secure estate, in a young offender institution, even though he was a very vulnerable young man. Unfortunately he hanged himself. The judge recognised that it was not appropriate for him to be placed in the YOI but that he should have been in a more sensitive environment.
Perhaps it is not a particularly good example, but it seems to me that the Youth Justice Board has a similar history to that described by the noble Lord, Lord Knight, which was that the Government despaired of being able to do the right thing in youth justice in 1998 or so. They were disappointed in the outcomes. We have had the highest level of children in custody in western Europe. The Youth Justice Board was set up with good positive outcomes. In the past three years the number of children in custody has reduced by 30 per cent. One sees positive outcomes. I am sorry to go on for so long and shall try to wind up as soon as possible. However, in Hackney, for example, politicians decided to give great authority to two very senior social workers. They challenged a culture in Hackney that had let down a lot of young people and children. After three years, they reduced by 30 per cent the number of children coming into care and saved the council a huge sum in doing so. They did this by putting in charge people who had a lifetime’s experience working in this area and by backing their work.
I think we will see best outcomes for our children if we give as much responsibility to people who have actually done the work, who are experienced professionals, and if we can keep politicians—who nevertheless have an important role—as far away as possible from such decisions. The TDA is a good example of a body which worked as a buffer between politicians and education and had good outcomes. I am looking for reassurance from the Minister that this will not have the adverse consequences that I fear.
My Lords, I will be brief and, I hope, to the point; I want to record my support for the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Knight. The TTA, followed by the TDA, were like a breath of fresh air in teacher recruitment. We have had a problem for many years and what they did—the figures bear this out—suggest that this amendment probes well and accurately.
A number of years ago, I took a group of Malaysian senior politicians and administrators to visit these organisations. It was embarrassing to see how much they appreciated what was being achieved in the agency—they were facing some of the same problems.
I have one question for the Minister. If this goes, would the Government be prepared to put down measures against which we can assess the impact of this policy? In other words, if the numbers of teachers drop, or the quality, will Ministers put their hands up and say, “We got this wrong”? But if there is a rise, fine—perhaps we will put our hands up and say, “Yes, we got it wrong”.
This will be a constant refrain from me, I am afraid. We need targets from the Government that change policies.
I have quite a lot of sympathy with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Knight. As others have said, the TDA has achieved a great deal. We changed its name from the TDA to the TTA about three or four years ago because it was to deal not just with teacher training but with continuing professional development. That is extremely important.
I worry about the degree to which the Department for Education can undertake all the tasks that it is taking unto itself. This is set up as an agency, to some extent at arm’s length from the Government; it has a very particular function to fulfil, and has fulfilled it very well. One of the areas where we as a coalition want to see expansion of recruitment is through Teach First. It has been doing a lot to bring in many extremely good young graduates into teaching. But it cannot do everything, and it does not propose to. We still need something like the TDA, and I worry that the department is being landed with so many tasks that it will not be able to take on this one as well.
My Lords, I echo a number of the points that have been made and emphasise the question back to the Minister. It appears as though the numbers of teachers being recruited has dipped. I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, that we need robust statistics in this area, but it also appears that there is a correlation with the stopping of intensive marketing. I will be very interested to hear the Minister’s analysis. Does he recognise that there is a correlation between those two facts? Where does he think that the impetus for the encouragement of that new generation of teachers will come from?
That brings me on to my second point. I do not understand where the demand for this change has come from. We had a very good and effective organisation that was delivering, yet it feels as if we have to be seen to be abandoning anything that happened before and starting again for the sake of it. I am sure that the Minister will have a different view, but it feels as if we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Thirdly, I am sure that the Minister will say that some elements of the TDA’s functions will be transferred to the new Teaching Agency, although my understanding is that the marketing element will not be. In his letter to us, he says that it is a complex task and requires sensitive handling. He has made himself an enormously big problem, which did not exist in the first place. I do not understand why such an upheaval is really necessary. Perhaps the Minister will answer that point as well.
My Lords, will the Minister clarify one further point? There is concern that the Government imposed a freeze on recruitment for a period, which may have contributed to some of the applicants becoming disillusioned and choosing not to apply to teacher training. I would appreciate it if he could tell me whether that is correct.
My Lords, I have never been accused of being Maoist and believing in permanent revolution before. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, I do not come to bury marketing but to praise it. I agree with a lot of his points about marketing and why one needs to have professional marketing. I know how much he did and I know the good job that the TDA has done. That is not in dispute and I completely accept that it has played a valuable part in raising the quality of our workforce, as many noble Lords have said.
Given my praise for the work that it has done, the question that may follow is: why are we proposing to bring those functions into the department? In a way, that links to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland. It is to increase accountability. I accept the noble Lord’s point that one of the consequences of bringing things closer to home is that Ministers will have accountability. If in the new arrangements the success of recruiting teachers is less than it has been before, that will be clear to see and it is clear whose responsibility that is. That is what lies behind the move and across the piece; namely, to deliver services, to increase accountability to Parliament and, by bringing services together, to make savings with back-office functions.
We are intending to transfer the key functions of the TDA, including recruitment and the promotion of teaching as a career, to the new executive agency, the Teaching Agency. It will continue to have the lead role in marketing, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, referred, the opportunities and attractions of teaching. We want to retain the expertise that exists to carry out that role. We in many cases, would want the roles and the people currently performing them to carry on at the agency. One would not want to lose that professionalism, to which the noble Lord, Lord Knight, rightly referred.
The noble Lord and the noble Earl asked questions about the marketing freeze across government. As we know, there was a freeze in marketing as we tried to get on top of the huge ballooning of expenditure on marketing in recent years. We have managed to save many hundreds of millions of pounds across government by doing that, which was a necessary step. In response to the noble Earl, I am glad to say that that freeze having happened, things have picked up. We are back to where we would have wanted to be. As regards acceptances, the proportion of places filled is in line with previous years. In fact, I am told that we are doing a little better in physics and maths than we were last year, but we obviously have to keep going.
The coalition Government set out in our Programme for Government our commitment to reduce the number and cost of arm’s-length bodies. The Cabinet Office set out the criteria to test when it is right to have an arm’s-length body performing functions and whether a body should continue to exist. When we made that decision, we discussed our intention with a range of interested groups, including teacher and head teacher unions. On the point raised by the noble Earl about the advisory board for the new Teaching Agency, as we said last week when we were discussing another body, we need to have arrangements in place so that the Teaching Agency can benefit from the knowledge and views of a wide range of interested parties. We want to put such arrangements in place. The Teaching Agency will be bringing in functions from four different existing organisations and we want to ensure that we get advice in relation to all the functions of the new agency. Any new group that we set up will have to ensure that it has appropriate representation across all the areas of interest of the new agency.
It might be that an advisory board of the sort suggested by the noble Earl will be what we eventually decide to have, but, as regards his amendment, it would be premature to restrict ourselves to a particular mechanism before we have had a chance to develop further the way in which the new Teaching Agency will operate. However, we will look to the boards of the four existing organisations, the GTCE, the CWDC, the QCDA and the TDA, to offer their views on what may provide the best way forward.
I accept the force of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Knight, about the importance of marketing. I have given my background in this funny world. He would not expect me to be a luddite on that issue. I accept the need for the provision to continue and to be delivered professionally. By bringing it in-house, we will have a cost-effective, streamlined and professional organisation. I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, just before he does, I thank the Minister for his reply, particularly for what he said about an advisory group in relation to the new arrangements. I hope your Lordships will agree that the meeting last week with Charlie Taylor was a success. Certainly, the group I was with was impressed by the Government’s choice of adviser. I have met Bernadette Cunningham, who the Government have chosen to advise them on early years care. Her work with the Coram Family is well respected. Therefore, the Government’s track record in choosing advisers is a very good one so far.
My Lords, the TDA has undertaken excellent work in raising equality in schools. Recruitment from BME groups is important to ensure that white and BME pupils benefit from a more balanced representation of society. The experience of teachers from diverse groups is important. Therefore, I hope that the Minister can confirm that this policy will continue under the new body.
My Lords, we have had a useful debate and I was pleased to hear the comment that the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, has just made. I listened carefully to the Minister’s reasonable tone in responding to it. I understand the argument that runs through the Bill about increasing ministerial accountability. He knows that I think the Government are being brave because we all know that there are periodic crises in education and Ministers will be a lot more accountable for those than they have been to date.
I say in passing that Ministers are not the only individuals accountable to Parliament. The Permanent Secretary is the accounting officer and is accountable to Parliament through the Public Accounts Committee. I worry who on earth will want to be the next Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education, not just because they will follow a class act in the form of David Bell but because they will be accountable for so much to the Public Accounts Committee. The TDA has a chief accounting officer in the form of the chief executive but the Permanent Secretary will replace the roles of five or six other accounting officers as well as being accountable for his own department. I think that permanent secretaries will also be taking a pay cut. It is going to be a tough task to recruit them. Perhaps the Government need to set up a recruitment agency for permanent secretaries.
Now that we have seen that dip in applicants, perhaps the Minister would be minded to write a letter to tell us how much was saved in the freeze on advertising in terms of the TDA in isolation. Given the current labour market conditions, which we know make teaching more attractive because there are not so many alternative graduate careers, it is extraordinary that we have had that dip. In the end, I did not hear an argument from the Minister which told me why the previous experience of things being run from Whitehall would be improved this time around. I cannot say that I am persuaded but being a co-operative sort of chap, I am happy to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 76 withdrawn.
Clause 14 agreed.
Amendment 76ZA not moved.
76ZB: After Clause 14, insert the following new Clause—
“First principle in funding teacher education
The Secretary of State shall exercise his powers with a view to ensuring all initial teacher education is accredited higher education.”
My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment 76A in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Walmsley. I am also supportive of Amendment 77 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rix. Internationally, the countries performing well in the PISA rankings recruit teachers from among the brightest graduates in their country. In Finland, prospective teachers must have achieved a first-class degree, and are regarded and treated as top professionals in their country with excellent pay which is considerably above the average for our teachers’ salaries in this country. Interestingly, they are also given total responsibility for the curriculum at a school level.
On the previous group, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, spoke about Finland and the lack of politics in education. I believe that that is partly because education is such a national priority that all parties do not regard it as a key issue over which they need to fight. Four years ago at an OECD conference, I spoke to Finnish colleagues in higher education. While they are not complacent, they know that their system works and produces excellent results. This Bill aims to trust our professional teachers more and I hope that we will move to a system more along the Finnish lines.
My Lords, when the noble Baroness met her friends from Finland, I wonder whether she had similar answers to the last time I met the Finnish Education Minister. I asked her why Finnish schools were so successful. She answered that it was because of a culture within the country that loves learning, which is demonstrated not only in the widespread membership of public libraries. She also told me that in Finland it used to be that you were not allowed to get married unless you could prove that you could read. Does the noble Baroness think that that is a good idea for us to copy from Finland?
I think that on the first part of the premise the noble Lord is absolutely right. Sadly, in this country, we have a back-street culture of not celebrating learning. Some of our language—for example, “too sharp for his own good”—absolutely illustrates that. I am sure that all Governments of recent years have been trying to overturn that, but we have not yet managed to get it into the culture of the country. I think that I would dispute the issue about marriage in terms of where we are in the 21st century and whether it is absolutely appropriate to push people who may or may not wish to get married to check on their qualifications but I am amused by the intervention.
I am very grateful to the Minister for responding at Second Reading to my question about the role of higher education in teacher qualifications, given the emphasis in the Bill on training, rather than teacher education. Our two probing amendments are to draw out more detail on the Government’s thoughts on teacher training, especially that taking place mainly in school. Both the induction year and ITT happen away from the close supervision of a higher education institution and school placement that we know from the more traditional routes of PGCE or BEd. A worry has been expressed that qualified teacher status, which will be the preferred route as funding for PGCE is reduced, as has been highlighted in the HE White Paper, Students at the Heart of the System, might compromise that. In addition, the recent paper Training our Next Generation of Outstanding Teachers recognises the importance of the formal HE qualifications, but also allows that where a trainee works at an undergraduate level towards a bachelor’s degree and QTS it generally attracts lower quality applicants than a PG ITT.
Will the Minister clarify that, regardless of entry qualifications or QTS student teachers, the course that they will follow must at the very least be a formal HE qualification to ensure that we protect and hopefully improve the standards of teachers, and therefore—if we believe the example of Finland and South Korea—increase the attainment of students and pupils in the system? The paper says that 11 per cent of trainees choose the QTS route. The TDA website says that entry requirements are three GCSEs and a degree, but that degree can be a foundation degree sitting below a bachelor’s degree. I believe most people would expect a degree to mean a bachelor’s degree as a minimum, preferably an honours degree with many, many teachers moving on towards a postgraduate qualification.
I am very supportive of foundation degrees in their own right, but if we are moving towards a teaching profession principally of upper-level bachelor’s degrees as minimum and preferably a postgraduate qualification, a foundation degree is not where we should be aspiring for proper HE qualifications.
Additionally, the White Paper on teaching training talks about “providers” and it is this terminology that has caused us to lay down our probing Amendment 76A. It is essential that we protect the quality of teacher training and the evidence already shows that the quality of teaching and learning for teacher training is of a higher standard than that found in our schools. I therefore ask the Minister to clarify whether the training for trainee teachers will be provided by higher education institutions under the regulation of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education within its constituent subject benchmark statements.
Amendment 77, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Rix, also supports the case made in our two probing amendments. The issues with special educational needs that today’s teachers need to understand are complex and high level and I believe that they must be taught at a degree level. Accordingly, I beg to move Amendment 76ZB.
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 77 in my name, which is also concerned with teacher training. First, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for being such a gracious and excellent understudy for moving my Amendments 34 and 42 last Thursday week. If I was back in my old profession I fear that she might grab hold of my trousers and take over my part. I am very grateful to her.
The current teacher training programme provides inadequate provision in special educational needs. It is thought that on a typical teacher training course the voluntary module of SEN is provided for less than one day. I do not believe that the Bill builds confidence that the aspirations of the SEN Green Paper will be met. The proposal in the Bill to allow outstanding schools—as judged by Ofsted—to become training hubs is inadequate. This judgment does not factor in a requirement that there be outstanding provision of SEN teaching in such schools.
I had a meeting last week with the Minister of State for Children and Families, Sarah Teather, at which I sought assurances that all teachers in all schools will have access to quality training in SEN issues. I seek similar guarantees here today. I suggest that the proposal in my amendment for a minimum of 20 hours’ training in SEN is still a fairly modest target. For this to encourage effective training, I believe that a 20-hour requirement should be integrated within the newly qualified teacher training framework and that it should seek to transcend all aspects of the training curriculum so that newly qualified teachers have the skills and confidence to adapt all aspects of teaching in order to increase the educational outcomes of children with SEN. The identification and subsequent delivery of a child’s support needs is vital. To achieve this, teachers and other educational professionals need the right skills in place to know when a child is displaying SEN and not bad behaviour so that they can respond appropriately. I hope that the Minister, too, will respond appropriately and assure the Committee that teachers will receive the necessary level of training to meet the educational needs of all students, including those with SEN.
My Lords, I question all three amendments. I do so because this is a thread running throughout the Bill. This is a Bill that is all about structures and yet more structures, without looking at the fundamental reason why we are having an Education Bill, which is to improve the lot of our young people, particularly those with the greatest needs.
In terms of SEN, we are moving back from what I thought was the direction of travel which occurred over the past two decades of having schools as inclusive organisations where all members of staff are continually engaged in training in order to meet the needs of children. My worry about these three amendments is that by simply ticking a box which says you have, say, eight or 20 hours of training, somehow that makes you an effective teacher of children with special educational needs. It does not. It might give you some of the rudimentary elements, and for that these amendments are certainly a welcome direction of travel. But in reality I am looking for the Minister to say what the Government intend to do who encounter children with special educational needs in every one of our schools—not simply our special schools and not simply those children who have a statement of special needs—to ensure that all teachers have a required level of teaching and engagement, the like of which, quite frankly, we have never seen in our schools sufficient to meet the needs of those children. That is what we should really be looking for in terms of amendments to the Bill.
I hope that the Minister will give some satisfaction not only to those who tabled the amendments but to the whole of the Committee in order that we can feel satisfied that after the Bill is passed, our children with special educational needs get a better deal than the one they are getting in the vast majority of our schools today.
My Lords, I hesitate to speak, but the amendments raise very important issues about the teaching profession and the future professionalism of teaching. Will the Minister keep in mind what happened to social work? At one time it was a highly respected profession with high thresholds of entry, but those thresholds were lowered for various reasons. A short while ago one could get on to a social work course with a couple of Ds as qualification. The result has been a highly variable quality in social workers.
While I wish to be as flexible as possible to recruit the right people into teaching, it would be a backward step if we were to lower standards trying to do so. I look to the Minister for reassurance that that will not happen.
My Lords, this is a timely debate—only the week before last the department published its strategy for initial teacher training. That set out a vision for raising the quality of teachers, which I hope will address some of the concerns of my noble friend Lord Willis about how we might move forward. It also set out our plans to give schools more involvement in training. The reason for that is that schools are employers of teachers as well as places where trainees can learn from outstanding teachers. So we are keen that schools should form an important part of the mix of our system for recruiting and training new teachers. In saying that, and responding to my noble friend Lady Brinton, I assure noble Lords that the Government’s intention is certainly not to remove universities from teacher training. As the Training our Next Generation of Outstanding Teachers document says:
“There is an important role for universities in any future ITT system. They provide trainees with a solid grounding in teaching, and space to reflect on their school experiences”.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
As I was saying, the Training our Next Generation of Outstanding Teachers document says:
“There is an important role for universities in any future ITT system. They provide trainees with a solid grounding in teaching, and space to reflect on their school experiences. We expect universities to continue to be involved in most teacher training, responding to the demands of schools for high quality training to supplement school-based practical experience”.
Our proposals for teacher training are part of our broader efforts to put schools at the heart of our drive to improve educational standards. In most cases, we expect this to be in strong partnerships with successful universities and we have set out a series of proposals to achieve this. The Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers, whose members are universities that provide teacher training, has welcomed the publication of the Government’s strategy.
My noble friend Lady Brinton asked for reassurance on a couple of points. First, do all new teachers need to be graduates? The answer to that is yes. Undergraduates can gain a degree through their course and other trainees must hold a degree before entering ITT. Her second question was about accredited ITT providers and the Quality Assurance Agency process. ITT providers that are HE institutions will be covered by these arrangements and be accredited by the TDA and, in future, by the Teaching Agency. As now, school-based ITT is also accredited by the TDA. Both are inspected by Ofsted.
On the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rix, our proposals for teacher training will ensure that teachers have practical teacher training experience of supporting pupils with additional needs, including SEN. Indeed, we want there to be a stronger focus on support for children with special educational needs. Initial teacher training courses that prepare trainees to meet the qualified teacher status standards currently ensure that teachers are able to differentiate their teaching to meet the needs of each pupil, including those with special educational needs. The White Paper stated that the revised standards should, among other things, provide a stronger focus on responding to pupils with additional needs, including those with special educational needs. An interim report of that review is expected to be submitted in the coming week.
In addition, our Green Paper sets out a range of measures designed to enhance the knowledge, skills and understanding of teachers in relation to teaching children with special educational needs and disabilities. These include: making it easier for more trainees to conduct some, though not all, of their training placements in special settings, including special schools and mainstream schools with specially resourced SEN provision; commissioning a range of free training resources for serving teachers to support children with a range of specific special educational needs; funding a scholarship for teachers’ higher-level professional development to improve their practice, where half of the funding available will be for supporting disabled children and children with special educational needs; and ensuring that networks of new teaching schools will help schools to share practice and resources in meeting the needs of disabled pupils and those with special educational needs.
I am grateful for the Minister’s patience with me. I am interested in his view of the bachelor of education. Having a training over years rather than a single year or—in the case of Teach First, of which I am an enthusiast—a few weeks, allows, particularly primary school teachers, not only training across the range of subjects that are taught in primary schools, but to drill down in more detail into special educational needs. The feeling out there is that the Government are not as keen on the bachelor of education as postgraduate routes from other subjects. Can the Minister give us some reassurance on that from the Dispatch Box?
As the noble Lord knows, we are keen to encourage people into teaching via a variety of routes, whether through Teach First or through PGCE. In due course, if we can, we want to build on initiatives such as Teach First to see if we can get people who have been successful in other professions to come into teaching. We are keen to make sure that there is a variety of ways. It is true that in terms of the financial support which we announced in the initial teacher training strategy that we published a couple of weeks ago, the focus of the funding that we are making available is on those who have high-quality university degrees in shortage subjects. However, we want to see a range of provision.
I have already written to a number of noble Lords who spoke at Second Reading about teacher training to draw their attention to the publication of our strategy and to invite them to meet the Minister of State for Schools. As the document we published is a discussion document rather than a statement of final policy, I encourage noble Lords with an interest to read it and to let us know what they think. I would be very happy for those who have an interest—I am thinking of my noble friend Lady Brinton and, given his remarks, probably my noble friend Lord Willis as well—to organise a meeting with the Minister of State with responsibility for these important areas so that we can discuss this further with him.
I hope that I have been able to reassure my noble friend Lady Brinton about our continued commitment to high-quality teacher training and the essential role of universities. I also hope that given the range of measures which we are planning to put in place in relation to special educational needs, the noble Lord, Lord Rix, will agree that we do not need this prescription. I ask my noble friend Lady Brinton to withdraw her amendment.
I thank the Minister for his helpful response. My starting point in response is to pick up the comments made by my noble friend Lord Willis of Knaresborough. From the amendment’s perspective, the HE qualification is a starting point. The amendment does not signify the beginning and end of training. I applaud his comments about continuing professional development, which is essential, at whatever level. I would hate there to be any misunderstanding on that point.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, talked about the lowering of standards. The motivation behind the amendment was concern that they might be loosening because of the different use of language between the various White Papers and Bills that we have seen. Standards must be consistent.
I am grateful for the Minister’s response and I look forward to the further review of the publication on special educational needs training. My noble friend Lord Rix has had to give his apologies, but I am sure that he would be similarly reassured by that point. I am sure that he would be grateful for the list of points made by the Minister, particularly the one on the scholarship for specialist training. However, I think that my noble friend would still want to make the point that every teacher—
I shall not speak for my noble friend any further. We are back in Whitehall farce territory. I apologise to my noble friend.
The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Knight, about the bachelor of education is important, but the key point of the amendment is to make sure that that base-line graduate qualification plus postgraduate and continuing professional development means that we have an excellent teaching workforce, and I am grateful to the Minister for his response.
Amendment 76ZB withdrawn.
Clause 15 : Training the school workforce: powers of Secretary of State and Welsh Ministers
Amendment 76A not moved.
Clause 15 agreed.
Clause 16 agreed.
Schedule 5 agreed.
Clause 17 : Abolition of the TDA: transfer schemes
77: Clause 17, page 25, line 23, at end insert—
“( ) The Secretary of State shall monitor the teacher training provided by lead schools to ensure training includes at least 20 hours in special educational needs.”
Amendment 77 not moved.
Clause 17 agreed.
Amendment 78 not moved.
Schedule 6 agreed.
Clause 18 : Abolition of the School Support Staff Negotiating Body
78A: Clause 18, page 25, line 26, at beginning insert “Subject to subsection (3),”
I shall speak also to Amendment 78B. Clause 18 abolishes the School Support Staff Negotiating Body. These amendments together amount to a commencement clause of in the region of 15 months by the time the Bill goes through Parliament. This body was in the process of negotiating agreements on pay, grading, working time and conditions of service for school support staff, but the staff of the body, who were seconded, have already stopped and gone on to other things. I shall make three brief points about this.
First, roles in schools have changed immeasurably with a greater number of support staff taking on a wider range of more complex responsibilities, so the picture of the employees who work in school, other than the teachers, is becoming more complex by the year. Therefore, there was an important job for the SSSNB to do. Secondly, it was not opposed by any party when it was introduced by the Labour Government in the ASCL Act 2009. It was doing a good and useful job. Thirdly, the Secretary of State has suggested that in place of the SSSNB, employers and unions should enter into voluntary agreements, but this may not deliver fairness, consistency and transparency akin to that enjoyed by teachers, who are, of course, subject to the School Teachers’ Review Body. I am proposing that we delay abolition by about 18 months so that the organisation can complete the role profiles and pass them to the local government employers. This would assist employers in coming to fair agreements about terms and conditions with school support staff, and it would be consistent with the requirement to have fairness, consistency and transparency in the system, which is bang on when it come to the coalition agreement.
The staff who were doing this job are still around and are doing other jobs, so it would be very easy for the Government to ask them to come back and finish that part of the job. After that, the organisation could be abolished, leaving employers with a very useful tool with which to go forward with their future negotiations. I beg to move.
My Lords, I rise to speak to our opposition to the Question that Clause 18 stand part of the Bill. While we welcome the initiative of those who tabled Amendments 78A and 78B, regrettably we do not feel that they have gone far enough in maintaining a national framework of pay and conditions for support staff.
Perhaps I should also make it clear at this stage that I am an ex-UNISON employee, and spent many years observing in schools how the distinctions between teaching and non-teaching staffs have, quite rightly, been breaking down over the years. Support staff are increasingly playing a professional role. They make up a range of functions crucial to the whole school learning environment as teaching assistants, welfare support staff and specialist and technical staff. They make a huge contribution to improving learning outcomes, which was confirmed by Ofsted in its fifth report.
As we have heard, since its establishment the SSSNB has been playing a crucial role in preparing core documents setting out the wide range of non-teaching roles being carried out in schools. As the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, rightly pointed out, when it was established it was not opposed by any party. Since then it has received widespread support from teachers, heads, governors and parents. There was certainly no chorus of concern calling for its abolition. Importantly, its remit when it was established was to combine national consistency and local flexibility in pay and conditions, and it was working to deliver that model. However, when the clause was debated in the Commons the Minister argued that retaining it would involve,
“creating and imposing additional rigidity on schools” .—[Official Report, Commons, Education Bill Committee, 22/3/11; col. 595.]
But that argument fails to recognise that the SSSNB was not like other negotiating bodies. It has the power only to recommend, not prescribe, and as such the local flexibility and autonomy is maintained.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, rightly identified, in abolishing the SSSNB now, the Government are scrapping it before it has had time to finish delivering the job profiles that it was set up to produce. That is wasting good work. Already more than 100 support staff roles have been profiled and were being tested by schools; a school-based job evaluation scheme was being designed; and a pay and conditions model was being developed. Given that these job descriptions would have been recommendations, not prescriptions, it is hard to see how they would have hindered schools going forward. On the contrary, having job profiles could have been used as benchmarks, which would have cut the time and cost. Self-governing schools would otherwise have to use their own time to create their own job descriptions. Apart from the more general use for those benchmark job descriptions, schools and local authorities would then have a greater chance of avoiding being subject to equal pay challenges.
In addition, without the work of the SSSNB, there is a risk—perhaps even a likelihood—that the status of support staff in a largely female workforce will be undermined and that over time their terms and conditions will become less favourable in some schools than is currently the case. Ofsted itself identified that,
“members of the wider workforce and their managers were confused and uncertain about pay and conditions attached to the increasingly diverse roles that have developed as a result of workforce reform”.
It went on to urge the Government to provide more detailed guidance on pay and conditions. This is exactly what was happening. In the Commons Committee stage the Minister said:
“The Secretary of State has made it clear to trade unions and support staff employee organisations that he believes that there is a clear argument for completing some elements of the work begun by the SSSNB, on the basis that the outputs might be of some use to employers and schools”.
He went on to say:
“Those elements include the set of support staff job profiles, for example, and the associated job evaluation scheme. Should trade unions and employers deem that it would be a useful way to proceed with support staff pay and conditions to continue with that development work independently of the Government, I believe that that would be a positive outcome”.—[Official Report, Commons, Education Bill Committee, 22/3/11; col. 596.]
Once again, we seem to be playing the game of dismantling a perfectly good mechanism for dealing with a need in education only to have to assemble it in a different form. That point was made by a number of noble Lords on Second Reading. The Bill seems to be focused on structures rather than on improving educational outcomes, which we are all trying to grapple with. Can the Minister confirm whether those elements will be in place to continue the work that was established by the SSSNB; what organisation they have in mind to continue them; and by when? Interestingly, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, the people who have been working on the job profiles have not gone away; they have simply been absorbed back into the Office of Manpower Economics, and are therefore available to carry on with the work where they left off, so there is no great saving to be had by abolishing the SSSNB.
Finally, I hope that I will be forgiven if I mention another injustice to support staff arising from the abolition of the SSSNB. Last year when the Chancellor announced a two-year pay freeze in the public sector, he promised that all staff earning less than £21,000 would receive at least £250 in each year. But the Secretary of State for Education says that he has no way of delivering this to school support staff despite having the power to direct it because the SSSNB has been unable to clarify who would qualify. As well as the indirect difficulties that this clause will cause support staff, it makes them all £250 a year worse off. We still believe that school support staff are entitled to fair pay and conditions. The SSSNB would have delivered a framework to make this happen and we believe that it is worth maintaining it to deliver that programme.
My Lords, I very much want to speak against Clause 18 stand part, and I will talk to the other amendments in due course. I guess that it is just an occupational hazard of being an ex-Minister that when a new Government take over you hold your head in your hands as you watch some of the things that you slaved over to create for many hours, days, weeks and months being abolished at a stroke. There were quite a few in the first few months of this Government, but this is one that I found really hard when I heard that the School Support Staff Negotiating Body was to be scrapped before it really had had a chance to get going.
To some extent, that reflects a view—I am sorry to say a default view in Sanctuary Buildings—that you start thinking about schools in respect of secondary schools and secondary schools in London. You then start thinking about the workforce by thinking simply about teachers. We saw that in earlier clauses, such as Clause 13 which we discussed at some length in Committee, on false allegations being made against teachers not being extended to support staff. That reflects an attitude of mind. We heard in the excellent speech of my noble friend Lady Jones about the importance of support staff. They perform a vital range of functions in schools. An additional 130,000-plus since 1997 are working in schools, performing roles not just in classrooms as high-level teaching assistants. Many of the people in classrooms work one-to-one supporting those with special educational needs. There are also non-classroom roles, from school business managers and those assisting them in the school office, through to caretakers, crossing patrols, dinner ladies—or is it catering assistants? I cannot remember the correct term but dinner ladies will do.
A really important range of roles is performed and valued by schools and those in the school community, such as parents, pupils and staff. I have taken quite an interest in reflecting back on how we should improve schools in the future and the underachievement of white working-class boys, in particular. I have visited and talked to those who are running some of the particularly successful academies doing work in that area. The Richard Rose Federation in Carlisle in Cumbria has turned round a very difficult circumstance. The North Liverpool Academy in, as the name suggests, Liverpool, is within sight of both Anfield and Goodison Park football grounds in a very tough environment for schools to succeed. What was interesting was that, in both circumstances, they are now doing really well in narrowing attainment gaps for white working-class boys. When I asked them how they did it, one of the keys was the deployment of support staff and how they were using learning assistants and others to engage the home.
As I have said before, the single most important determinant of an individual child’s success in their education is the support that they get at home and the engagement of their parents in their learning. The schools that I have been visiting are finding that where they deploy their support staff to build personal relationships with parents at home—to get them more engaged, involved and interested in what is going on in school, which many of those parents did not have great experiences of in their time—they have been having really good effects. That is just one example of the importance of support staff. The abolition of their new negotiating body is a very negative signal to send them about their worth, alongside the noble Baroness’s point about not even giving them the extra money promised in the Budget. I reinforce what she said about vulnerability to equal pay claims.
I had the job of trying to persuade my colleagues in government that we should set up the School Support Staff Negotiating Body, which was not an easy job. There were those—the Committee will be amazed to know that they were in the Treasury—who liked to say no and came up with all sorts of reasons why this was a bad idea. One key way in which I was able to persuade a Chief Secretary who was perhaps somewhat more amenable than her officials was on the vulnerability of equal pay claims, because we in government really did not want to see schools getting bogged down in expensive litigation. In the end, we also wanted to do the right thing on equal pay for school support staff. I laboured long hours internally within government and in meeting with the support staff, the unions—I pay particular tribute to the GMB, UNISON and Unite—and the employers in getting them all to agree that a negotiating body was a good thing.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, when this found its legislative form in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009, there was no political opposition to it so I felt that it had a fair wind and that this was a sensible thing to do. In respect of her amendment delaying its abolition—so that it can do some really important initial work that it has been doing on job profiling and so on—I would simply say that it was such a painful process to put it together and to get that agreement. As we develop more of these non-teaching roles within our schools, we will in the end need this body. Just to give in and allow it to be abolished, even if it is being delayed a bit, is the wrong call because we will have to find the legislative route to do it all over again, sooner or later, so why not keep the perfectly fine legislation that we secured in 2009?
My Lords, I also speak in favour of the comments made by my noble friend Lady Jones. Perhaps I might do a bit of history even more ancient than that used by my noble friend Lord Knight. This broader teaching workforce in schools originated right back with the 1998 Act and the previous Government's first Green Paper on teacher reform. As we took that forward, I remember the good will that there was among non-teaching staff about managing that change in the teaching workforce, which is probably one of the most important changes of the past 15 years. It has transformed the culture in schools and not only helped individuals but made the job of teachers more professional, because for the first time in a long time they have a proper support infrastructure around them in the way that other professions do.
I remember trying to negotiate that way back in the 1990s. At that time, the thing the unions wanted was a negotiating body. We got to a point when we were in danger of an impasse. We did not have a negotiating body, so how could we take forward these reforms? It was asking that group of workers to do a lot of extra things and to embark on change without any change in pay or promises about conditions or about paying the rate for the job. They fairly readily agreed to do the negotiating first and make the changes first. My noble friend is right that it was not easy to get it through the Treasury. They made the changes and got high-level teaching assistants and bursars in place without having a negotiating body going alongside that.
I thought it was a great tribute to the workforce and to their representatives to change before they had the protection that went alongside that, so when my noble friend managed to secure that negotiating body, for me, that was like closing a circle. I breathed a sigh of relief because it was right that a proper negotiating body went alongside that change. There had almost always been an understanding that the two were necessary but, for once, the workforce changed before they got their protection. It is a great tribute to them, but I would not underestimate how important it was in bringing about cultural change in school. That is why I am now sorry that half of the deal has been broken. I readily accept that the present Government were not part of that deal, but I do not remember objections to that clause in the Bill when it went through. I do not think you can separate asking part of a workforce to change and wanting them to continue to change but taking away their support body.
Secondly, I meet a lot of people who have the incredibly important role of school bursar. That role originates from the 1998 Green Paper. They have done brilliant jobs and are real agents for good and for change. They support heads and governors and are in leadership positions. I often speak at the conference where they train. It is always a conference of two stories. There are bursars who work with heads and governing bodies who understand what their qualification means and what they are meant to do. They talk about their leadership role in school. They are often on the leadership board and feel they are partners in the school. More important than that, they feel as though their qualifications and skills are being used.
The other tale from those conferences is of bursars who work in schools where the head still does not understand and realise what their training and qualifications have given them. They tell stories of personal frustration and of their skills not being used for the good of the school. I understand how heads get to that position: they have a lot on their plate and the truth is that up to the present time they have not been able properly to understand what the job of the bursar should be and what their role in school might be. That is where we will end up. Without those guidelines, job descriptions and framework, some schools, especially those that lack confidence, could take two or three decades to get in place a system for valuing and using their skills. I cannot stress enough that they are the best thing, and I am pleased that this Government appreciate that and will take this forward. Having a broad skill set within schools that can support the crucial role of teacher will enable teachers to teach more effectively and children to learn more effectively and at a higher level.
I ask the Minister to reflect on how taking away this negotiating body will help that broader, more diversified workforce do its job better. I do not think it will. If we get rid of this body, it will wind back 10 to 15 years of progress in having a more effective workforce in schools.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, and the noble Lord, Lord Knight, have both spoken cogently and persuasively about the importance of school support staff. I hope there is no one in this room who does not recognise the immensely important job they do and the status they have within every school. However, this clause and these amendments are not about the status, standing and job descriptions of support staff—they are simply about their national negotiating body. Although I have listened carefully to what has been said, I have not heard anything which has convinced me that the national negotiating body over pay and conditions is anything to do with the standing and status within individual schools of the splendid support staff who work there.
I strongly argue that each school has—and has a right—to develop the individual job descriptions, relationships and the jobs assigned to their support staff. Every school has its own requirements and needs, and it deploys its staff and support staff in ways that meet those needs. I believe it gives greater status to the support staff when they have a position within the school, which is recognised within the school and has been negotiated within the school, and a job which is assigned to them. So although I endorse entirely everything that has been said about the importance of support staff, I have heard nothing that convinces me concerning the national negotiating body over pay and conditions. Though of course such bodies are dear to trade unionists—you have more clout as a trade union if you have a national negotiating body—this only damages the trade union body which supported it. It does not damage the standing and status of individual support staff in individual schools.
My Lords, it is clear that everyone is agreed on the important contribution that school support staff make, a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Knight, my noble friend Lady Perry and others. Whether we are talking about teaching assistants, caretakers or catering staff, schools cannot function without them. That is not at issue, nor is it at issue how much we value them. The question is whether, like the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, we think there needs to be a single national pay and conditions framework backed up by statute or whether, as my noble friend Lady Perry argued, employers should be able to continue setting local pay more flexibly to account for local conditions. As the noble Baroness would expect, the Government favour greater local autonomy and flexibility because we know that is a feature of the most successful school systems in the world.
Let me give one concrete example. The first matters on which the SSSNB was working to reach agreement would have been a set of national role profiles and an associated job evaluation scheme. To implement the scheme would have required every one of more than 500,000 school support staff in England to have their roles re-evaluated. According to the impact assessment for the ASCL Bill this would require in excess of 200,000 hours of time from head teachers or senior leadership.
There is already a national framework in place in relation to pay and conditions for the majority of support staff working in community and voluntary-controlled schools in the form of the National Joint Council for Local Government Services agreement. It is a voluntary agreement known as the Green Book. It was negotiated by the local government employers, UNISON, GMB and Unite and is used by all except three local authorities. In making our decision to end the SSSNB, we asked the views of those most closely involved—its membership, which includes trade unions and employers—and its independent chair. The trade unions were in favour of retaining the SSSNB but the support staff employer organisations took a different view. The local government group, which incorporates the Local Government Association and draws its members from Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour and independent political parties, reaffirmed those views recently to the Minister of State for schools.
My noble friend Lady Walmsley argued for a delay to the abolition of the SSSNB, arguing that it should have an opportunity to complete its work and be judged on that basis. Certainly we would be happy for the SSSNB member organisations to decide to work together independently of government to complete the work on the job role profiles. I believe that that is being considered by trade unions and the employers. However, we want to allow schools and local authorities to choose whether to use the materials being developed rather than being required to do so by law.
I believe that the Government’s decision is not based on a premature judgment of the quality of the work of the SSSNB. It is based rather on our view that schools should have greater rather than less autonomy in matters of staffing. Given that, I fear that delaying the abolition would leave the SSSNB member organisations working in vain on a framework that the Government would not in the end support and that employers have made clear that they do not want.
The suggestion has also been made today to allow the SSSNB to develop materials that schools could choose to use rather than being legally required to do so. I understand that that is not possible under the relevant legislation because the ASCL Act 2009 allows for agreements reached by the SSSNB to be implemented only through statutory guidance or by order of the Secretary of State. But, as I have said, it would absolutely be possible for the trade unions and employers to continue to work together independently and to develop that guidance for schools.
At heart, this issue boils down to a difference of approach between the Government and the party opposite. I accept that the Government are committed to greater local flexibility. We believe that schools and employers benefit from that and we want them to retain it. I understand the arguments that have been made. But in the light of that position, I would ask my noble friend Lady Walmsley to withdraw her amendment.
If things happen as have just been described and responsibility for working out these arrangements passes, as in the most successful schools in the world, to local bodies, to schools, who exactly are we talking about? Is it school heads and human resources people within schools who devise, buy in, outsource or whatever, job descriptions and all the rest of it and then apply them? Who will form the checks and balances against inappropriate practice or perhaps deficient practice in that area? Will it be the governing board, about which I am terribly concerned? The skills and competences around our table are hard enough to put together already. Where will the staff come from? Who will do the controlling if it is passed to a local level? Our local authorities are being diminished and sidelined. More responsibilities are coming on the governing board. Are we now going to be in a position where we have to check on the way things like this are being settled in the workplace?
Perhaps I may respond to that point because we want to get on. We are proposing the perpetuation of the current situation. The people who are currently responsible, the local authorities and other bodies, would continue as now to be responsible. The legislative regulatory framework in terms of employment law, equality law and everything else remains in place. It is not the case that the proposed abolition of the SSSNB would change what we currently have going on. The change would have been if the SSSNB had gone ahead.
With the change in role and the scope of responsibility being exercised by the local authority being radically revised, it will not be the same local authority that we will have to deal with and to which we will have to look. Where I live, we now have other bodies providing what has been provided in the past. Consequently, it is not just a return to the status quo. If this Bill goes through, the status quo is no more. In fact, it is not a status quo at all.
My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate and to the Minister for his assurance that, as he understands it, a lot of this important work will continue. In the interest of making progress, I did not express my appreciation for the work done by support staff in schools but I certainly feel exactly that.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, said, this is not about the good work that is done by the school support staff. It is all about their terms and conditions and the way in which that is negotiated. I had felt that allowing the organisation to continue and to finish some of its work would prove to be useful to employers. I, too, am very keen on flexibility and autonomy locally. I must admit I had not realised that the ASCL Act did not allow employers to take on board the relevant information. That is a pity as it reduces their flexibility. I accept what the Government have said. I hope that the work goes forward without a lot of equal pay cases being brought because I hope that there will be no need for them. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 78A withdrawn.
Amendment 78B not moved.
Clause 18 agreed.
79: After Clause 18, insert the following new Clause—
“Nursery staff development
Where nurseries admit children of two years old, staff with direct responsibility for children are entitled to—
(a) two hours of one-to-one supervision with their managers, and(b) 10 hours of continual professional development,each month.”
In moving my Amendment 79, I wish to speak also to my Amendments 80 and 81. They are fairly self-explanatory and concern staff development in nurseries, nursery staff qualifications and nursery manager qualifications. We have already debated this area but I wish to impress on the Minister and Members of the Committee how vital it is for vulnerable children to have as much stability as possible in their early lives.
We are extending this entitlement to families, particularly disadvantaged families, and encouraging them to place their children in group settings at the age of two. Therefore, we need to think how we can ensure that that environment is stable and that their carers are as reliable and regular as possible. According to the 2008 child workforce paper, staff turnover was 16 per cent in daycare settings and 5 per cent in settings within primary schools. We do not have details—at least, I am not aware of them—of how much variation there is from that 16 per cent level. Sixteen per cent seems high to me, but some places may have staff turnover levels of 20 per cent or more. It seems to me that if staff were offered more training and development, we could prevent such a high turnover. The difficulty we find ourselves in—certainly this has been the case in the past—is that high levels of vacancies in nurseries make it difficult for these businesses to make a go of it. The chief costs to these businesses arise from staff training and development and staff pay. If they want to save money to stay in business and keep the service going, they have to target staff training and development.
In addition, the current economic climate is very challenging for all enterprises. My concern is that the training and development of these staff might be undermined. I know that even in these difficult financial circumstances much effort has been put into ensuring that that does not happen. However, I would like the Minister to give an undertaking that he will monitor where these two year-olds are going—whether they are going to satisfactory, good or outstanding settings—and publish that information. Could we be given better data on staff sickness absence rates and turnover rates in these settings so that we can better understand what is going on and the consequences for children’s stability? Perhaps Members of the Committee who are interested in this area and the government adviser, Bernadette Cunningham, could meet with the relevant person in Ofsted to discuss these issues with them.
Finally, I would like some information, if possible, from the Minister on whether he expects many of the leaders and managers in these settings to opt out from this graduate requirement. Can we expect most of these settings to continue to be graduate-led settings? I look forward to his response. I beg to move.
My Lords, briefly, I support the broad thrust of my noble friend's amendments because this is quite clearly an important stage of children's development. We have just had the second Frank Field report The Foundation Years: Preventing Poor Children Becoming Poor Adults, where again he emphasises that:
“The strategy should include a commitment that all disadvantaged children should have access to affordable full-time, graduate-led childcare from age two”.
I relate that also to the encouragement that the Government are, in my view, rightly making to encourage single parents and parents who have not been in work before to get into work—an additional need.
I of course accept that the exact number of hours may not be a possibility, but this is nevertheless an important area. It takes me back so many years to the beginning of nursery education. I always think of the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, who was very unkindly known always as “Mrs Thatcher, milk snatcher” when she was in fact responsible, much more importantly, for the abolition of the Act that stopped local authorities opening nursery schools and classes. I remember being one of a group going to lobby her about that, all those years ago, but even in those pre-school playgroup days there was that argument about the extent to which people ought to train and be trained. I was not always entirely on the side of the belief that everyone should be trained. You were learning so much within the process, with the help of experts in this field, that many of that generation went on to be very involved in dealing in their children's education.
I make that as a background comment in view of the enthusiasms of all these people who have been commissioned. There is Frank Field, Graham Allen, who is doing yet another report, and I have forgotten the name of the woman—
My Lords, like the noble Earl, we are committed to a diverse and high-quality early years sector. The department will be publishing its foundation years policy statement later this summer and, as we discussed earlier today, it is currently consulting on a revised EYFS framework following Dame Clare’s review, which will set out our proposals to build on existing requirements relating to qualifications and training for childcare providers. The early years foundation stage, we think, outlines staff qualification requirements that are proportionate and encourage suitably qualified staff into the early years sector. Nursery managers, for example, require at least a full and relevant level 3 qualification, equivalent to A-level, and at least two years’ experience of managing an early years setting or other suitable experience of working with children. We have seen steady progress in recent years in the skills of the early education and childcare workforce, with over 70 per cent now qualified to level 3.
In her report, however, Dame Clare Tickell noted the need to reduce the complexity and burdens of the existing framework, and to recognise the sector’s growing capacity to take on more responsibility for its own quality and standards. It is ultimately employers who have the strongest interest in ensuring the best possible skills and qualifications among their staff and in ensuring that the most effective arrangements are in place. I am sure that many noble Lords would agree that improving the quality of early education and childcare is not just about the level of staff qualifications because it is also supported by the wealth of dedicated, experienced staff in the sector with on-the-job experience, which in some roles can be as important as formal qualifications.
The Government agree that there should be opportunities for professional development to improve practitioners’ confidence and enable them to acquire specialist skills and knowledge. The EYFS is very clear that all settings should provide their staff with opportunities for continuing professional development. We will be saying more in the foundation years statement which I referred to earlier. So far as the noble Earl’s point about supervision is concerned, Dame Clare highlighted in her review that we need to be clearer about what supervision means in practice. We have reflected this in the revised EYFS framework which was published for consultation on 6 July.
The EYFS already requires staff who are managers or leaders to have a level 3 qualification and at least half of all other staff working with a group of children must also have a level 2 qualification that is five GCSEs or equivalent. We are retaining those requirements in that consultation. We are particularly keen that employers should support their staff to gain qualifications designed for those working with children; for example, the new level 2 certificate and the level 3 diploma in early learning and care. The noble Earl asked about monitoring, and I will ask Ofsted, which is responsible for monitoring childcare providers, to contact him. Perhaps we can, through Ofsted, follow up the points that were raised.
I hope that those comments give the noble Earl some reassurance about our plans which, like many things we have been discussing in this Committee, are moving on outside the Bill on a number of fronts. I agree with him about the importance of the arguments he makes. In the light of that, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Amendment 79 withdrawn.
Amendments 80 and 81 not moved.
Clause 19 agreed.
82: After Clause 19, insert the following new Clause—
(1) If the head teacher of a school considers that the teaching performance of any teacher is poor, the head teacher shall—
(a) give written notice of that conclusion to the teacher,(b) not permit that teacher to teach without such support as is required for the experience of pupils to be at least satisfactory,(c) provide a programme of support and continuing professional development designed to improve that teacher’s performance.(2) If after six months the head teacher considers that the teacher’s teaching performance is still poor, the head teacher must support the teacher in finding a post more suited to the teacher’s abilities.
(3) If after a further six months the teacher remains in his or her original post, and his teaching (in the opinion of the head teacher) remains poor, the teacher may be given a full term’s notice of dismissal on the grounds of poor teaching.
(4) Any teacher subject to such proceedings may appeal at any time to a committee of the governing body against any relevant decision or proposal of the head teacher.”
My Lords, again the Government have pre-empted me by sending me this morning a very helpful e-mail describing their proposals for what are still called disciplinary proceedings, but I do not think that is the right phrase to use for these things. They are much more to do with performance, and we should try to get the word discipline out of this because it implies that the teacher has done something wrong rather than that the teacher is just in the wrong place. If it is a matter of a teacher having done something wrong, of course it is discipline, but this is about a performance review, and the consequences of a performance review.
It is crucial for children that they have good teachers. There are always inevitably going to be teachers in the system who are not up to scratch. The first response of the system ought to be to try to support them, to try to find ways of improving their performance, for their colleagues to help them, for them to go on courses if necessary and whatever needs to be done to encourage them back to a position where they are doing as well as their pupils deserve them to be doing. However, at present, certainly to judge from conversations with head teachers, they find the whole process of dealing with teachers who are not up to scratch so difficult and slow that many of them just give up and put up with substandard teaching. I do not think that that is a satisfactory position.
I do not know whether the e-mail sent to me was more widely circulated around the Committee. I think it perhaps should have been. I think that applies generally to messages going round in response to amendments. As I am sure my noble friend has seen, the interest in each question is pretty general around here, even if it has been proposed by just one or two of us. However, it seems to me that the Government are having a go at tackling this and are proposing quite interestingly simplified guidance that ought to enable this process to improve from both a teacher’s point of view and from the point of view of pupils and schools.
May I ask a few detailed questions? Is it possible under the new scheme for pupils to be involved in these proceedings? Pupils’ views on how good teachers are are often quite accurate. Is it envisaged that there will be some way of feeding that back into the system? I see that support is given to teachers throughout the process, which I thoroughly approve of. Is it proposed that once the point has been reached where it has been decided that a teacher should leave a school, there should be support for the teacher in making their next move, in whatever direction that is? It does not seem to me unreasonable that a teacher, having been supported all the way through the process, should not just be pushed off the edge at the end of it.
I note that a teacher who appeals successfully can be reinstated. That seems to me a good principle to apply to pupils too. I very much hope that, having set this new system in place, the Government will take an interest in how it is going and in a year or two will look to see how it needs adjusting and improving. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have not seen the guidance, letter or e-mail, but I am grateful that this measure has been tabled because it concentrates our minds on a number of issues. A pupil, child or student cannot repeat a year, so if they have a teacher who is not up to the mark they have lost that year and that opportunity. Over several days of our discussion a constant theme has emerged that the most important thing in education is not the amount of equipment available or the quality of the buildings but rather the quality of the teachers and support staff. If you have quality teachers, you will have education at its best.
I do not have the relevant figures readily available but only a handful of teachers have been asked to leave over the past few years because of their inadequacies as teachers. I ask myself why that is the case. Then I reflect on how difficult it is to ask a teacher who is not performing well and is not good enough to leave the school. We have had debates about the quality of training and of the first year’s experience in school being the best that we can possibly provide. We have talked about the quality of support in school and in-service or CPD provision in schools. We have a performance management system in schools whereby every teacher is set performance targets every year. Those targets are monitored and evaluated and lessons are watched. If a teacher fails their performance management, it is a bureaucratic nightmare to try to do something about it. Frankly, does even the most experienced head teacher really want to go through that bureaucratic process which may involve teacher associations and will certainly involve a plethora of appeals and systems? They do not. The teacher concerned knows that he or she is not up to the job. Perhaps there could be a simplified system which would give them the support they need. I have seen teachers who, perhaps because of personal circumstances, have been struggling, have been given support and have come back up for the job again. I look forward to seeing a simplified way of dealing with this important issue.
My Lords, I was going to make some comments on the content of the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, but I am struggling, as I gather are other noble Lords. I know that we got rather a lot of e-mails this morning in rather a hurry but I do not believe that I have seen the e-mail referred to by the noble Lord. This raises a wider question. Here we are trying to scrutinise legislation properly, but how on earth can we get involved in a debate when we are debating blind assurances that the noble Lord has been given that we do not appear to have seen? Forgive me if it is somewhere in the ether and I should have received the e-mail by now.
The comment that I should like to make—and which this infamous e-mail might answer—is that the amendment is very stark. I suppose that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Storey, that teachers do not go into teaching to fail. The onus should be concentrated far more on identifying what has gone wrong and identifying support mechanisms than on simply setting out provisions such as those in the amendment for the disciplinary measures to be taken against an individual. Somehow the context is missing, although it may be that the Government have now provided it.
My only other point is that, as I said, teachers do not go into teaching to fail, but there should be a requirement on all teachers, not just those who are struggling, to get involved in continuous professional development. Under this amendment, if all else fails, we will get them to do some extra training. It should be a requirement for all teachers at all times to update their skill-set. Those are my only comments, but it would be interesting to see this e-mail. Perhaps we can have the opportunity to come back and make further comments when we have seen it.
My Lords, I want to comment briefly and probably will be told off by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, in his summing up, but I do not know why we are debating this at all. If I was sitting on one of my boards I would be saying that this is an executive matter and not a governance or policy matter. If I look at the amendment and think about the number of disciplinary procedures that I have had to write, and the number of development programmes in which I have had to be involved, I can see all the difficulties and loopholes that this would lead to in terms of the present HR legislation and the difficulties that people would face trying to implement it. Not having seen the famous e-mail, I do not know whether it answers these questions. However, I would respectfully say to my colleagues that these sorts of issues are much better not dealt with in legislation.
My Lords, I apologise for the lack of the e-mail going round the entire Committee. Perhaps I may indicate that it refers to a consultation that we began in May on a set of proposals designed to make it easier for schools to tackle performance issues. Those proposals have been on the website since May. Obviously we should have drawn noble Lords’ attention to the website, for those who have access to it, before the debate, but the e-mail will be circulated to Members of the Committee.
The evidence on the importance of teachers is clear. We entirely agree with my noble friend that the current arrangements for tackling poor teacher performance do not work as well as they might. They do not help teachers or the children in their care. The performance management arrangements and capability procedures were developed separately. They are complex, prescriptive and overlap, which we believe contributes to making some head teachers and governing bodies reluctant to take action, as we have heard from noble Lords today.
Our proposals have much in common with my noble friend’s amendment. They include: a duty on schools to give teachers a written appraisal of their performance against their objectives, which is a feature of the current regulations; a requirement that, as now, schools should identify teachers’ development needs and how they will be addressed; guidance that addresses the issue of support and monitoring for underperforming teachers—a school’s first response to underperformance should be to provide support to help teachers to improve, but where a teacher’s performance remains poor and does not improve after support has been provided, schools must take action quickly, effectively and fairly; and a model performance management policy incorporating capability procedures, where necessary, and an appeal stage, which is much simpler than the two policies it is designed to replace and is consistent with the ACAS Code of Practice—Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.
Our approach has been to retain only the essentials, removing as much prescription as possible. In this approach we differ somewhat from my noble friend. We think that school leaders are currently too constrained by the arrangements and that they have too little freedom to exercise their professional judgment when tackling performance issues. I think that this summary shows how much our proposals are aligned with those of my noble friend Lord Lucas. We agree that teacher performance is vital and that schools need to take effective action to tackle underperformance where it occurs. However, I hope that my noble friend will agree that it would be more appropriate to address this issue by amending the current regulations and guidance than through primary legislation. I think that the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, was linked in with that.
The noble Lord asked two questions, the first of which was whether a teacher should be supported to find another post. That would be a matter for individual schools. Secondly, he asked whether reviews by pupils should be part of the system. There is nothing specific in the proposals to suggest that pupils should have a part. Once again, that would be up to schools to decide what evidence was appropriate when evaluating teacher performance. I hope that he and other noble Lords will look at the proposals on which we are currently consulting and give detailed comments on them. The consultation will continue until August. My noble friend the Minister, officials and I would be delighted to meet him and other noble Lords to talk over any suggestions or concerns. I hope in light of that, my noble friend will feel free to withdraw his amendment.
I am grateful to my noble friend. I agree entirely with the noble Baroness, Lady Howells. This does not belong in legislation but this is the way in which we get a chance to talk about it. Secondary legislation and guidance can all flow past us without having a chance to stick a pin in it. I am delighted that my noble friend is thinking along the same lines as me. This is one of the difficulties in making schools good, which ought to be cleared out of the way. I am very cheered that something is being done about it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 82 withdrawn.
83: Before Clause 20, insert the following new Clause—
The Secretary of State shall ensure that, in maintained schools, city colleges and Academies, all pupils shall be entitled to a balanced curriculum which includes sport, the arts, information technology, diversity of cultures, and of faiths and of no faith and personal, social and health education.”
My Lords, I salute schools which provide a broad and balanced curriculum and teachers who teach it. But before they can do that they need a curriculum. I do not mind what a school is called or calls itself, but I am passionate about all children and young people receiving an education that equips them not only to survive but to be productive in society. I am also concerned that there should be independent evaluation of whether they are providing that education. Schools can change rapidly.
We hear from senior managers in companies that for them an important issue is that young people should be able to read and that they are numerate. They also say that young people should have the ability to be socially adept, to organise and manage themselves, to work in teams and to present well. Many young people will do that anyway, but many will not. I fear that with an increasing narrowing of the curriculum and emphasis on academic success, many young people will miss out. Schools may be forced to cut down on the disciplines listed in my amendment because of time or cash constraints. Many primary schools already complain about having to teach to pass aptitude tests, and I have witnessed that. Of course academic learning is important, but so is the broader curriculum. What is sometimes forgotten is that the broader curriculum supports academic learning, discipline and attendance. Children do better with access to many forms of learning. Confidence in one area, for example music, can support confidence in other areas, such as mathematics. I have concerns about certain types of schooling encouraged by the Government which may narrow the options for young people.
We will be coming on to PSHE later in the rather lengthy amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and I, but I shall say a word now about its importance. If young people have an opportunity to discuss with other pupils and responsible adults issues that concern them, such as relationships, sexual and otherwise, alcohol, drugs, transmitted diseases, diet, safety and so on, they will gain two things: knowledge and information about the issue; and the ability to communicate with others, to learn with others and perhaps to manage conflict. Those are very important skills. Recent research shows that the vast majority of parents want pupils to have these skills.
As for the arts, they are important in themselves. Knowing something about literature, drama, music and fine art may inspire a lifelong love of any one of those forms. It may even inspire a child to go on to seek a career in one of them. How will they know their talents and interests if they do not get a feel of them at school? Many children will not have parents who have an interest in the arts or who can afford private tuition or to take them to the theatre or to art galleries. Art education can also be therapeutic and can enhance social skills. Every child should do some form of sport or exercise. It is proven to enhance well-being and improve health. The sport may or may not be team sport. I happen to be very keen on team sports, which involve interaction with others, collaboration, discipline and respect for rules as well as fitness. I also recognise that team sport is not everybody’s bag—but some exercise will be, whether it is dance, movement, yoga, gymnastics and so on. Every child should have the opportunity to participate. Where are the guarantees for sport in government policy? Will initiatives for the inner cities such as cricket’s Chance to Shine continue to be supported? What imaginative schemes not about team sport will be encouraged?
Last Saturday I spoke at a speech day at a prep school in Derbyshire. It is an excellent school with top academic ratings and excellent facilities and has the advantage of being set in the wonderful Derbyshire dales. This school has prizes for art, music and IT as well as for academic subjects. There was a cup for sport, a cup for citizenship and a shield for the hand of friendship for helping others. If that school did not offer music, art, sport and other broad-based opportunities, the parents would be incandescent. They would be incandescent if there were no inspections—the school is inspected by two bodies—and they would be apoplectic if the teacher was not qualified. I fear that what we could see through government policy is an increase in unregulated and unaccountable maintained schools. What sort of inequality might we perpetuate by narrowing the curriculum for children at maintained schools, by even thinking about no inspections for some and by having unqualified teachers? I will move on.
Information technology is an essential skill for young people and most of them are better at it than—certainly—I am, but every child does not have a computer at home and children also need to learn about the downsides of technology, such as spending too much time at it, and the potential dangers, such as online grooming.
Noble Lords may come from different perspectives on faith, and I have specific amendments tabled later on as a humanist, but I am not talking about detail, I am talking about a child’s right to education for life in this country and in this century. I am worried that some schools will not be balanced about faith or no-faith education or about cultural diversity. I have no problem with schools having a particular ethos but I do have a problem with indoctrination masquerading as education. I have a problem with schools being allowed to teach what they like, possibly with unqualified teachers and without inspections. What about the pupils in those schools? What skills and knowledge will they end up with? All children deserve a broad education. All children will be living in a diverse society. They, too, will need skills for employment. They, too, have the right to knowledge on which to base choices. We often hear about how wonderful Chinese academic results are. I looked at this, not in China but in the Library here and found that China, indeed, has higher success rates. If one looks at their curriculum, they have provision for sport, art and music. They also have provision for daily group work and other interactive time on the curriculum—I think it is 10 minutes a day. I am not sure what this time means but the point is that the Chinese curriculum is not just founded on academic subjects.
What this amendment seeks to do is to guarantee that all children have access to balance and breadth in the curriculum in schools. Will the Minister say what the terms of reference are for the curriculum review that is being carried out? What terms of reference are there for the PSHE review, which I believe has not yet started? Who is carrying out the reviews and when will they report to us? Parents should have choice about where their children are educated. Schools should have choice about how that education is carried out, but not at the expense of denying some children the right to experience the wonders of education in its wider sense, both when they are at school and as preparation for when they mature. I beg to move.
My Lords, I speak in support of this proposed new clause, which I have also put my name to. It is a pleasure to follow on from my noble friend Lady Massey who made the case extremely well. I am sure those who are worried about time would ask what more have I to add. There are a few things. I have not reminded the Committee, although I did at Second Reading, of my interest in respect of education, which some of this discussion may stray into. I advise Apple on education matters, I do some work for TSL Education and I have a number of other education clients overseas.
This amendment, as we have heard, seeks to ensure we have balance in the curriculum. At its heart, the importance of that is ensuring that we give every child the chance to realise their talents. Some of us are not particularly right-brained, some of us are not particularly left-brained. That means that some of us are not desperately academic and some of us might be more creative. We need to ensure that we have a curriculum that can bring out those talents, use them and foster them, so that every child can be a success in later life.
At the root of my support for this amendment are my concerns about some of the changes that Government are making that I think will narrow the curriculum rather than giving it more breadth. I hate to keep harping back to my time but it informs my view. I sought to reduce the amount of prescription in the national curriculum at secondary with a review—perhaps I should have gone further. When instigating the independent review of the primary curriculum by Sir Jim Rose, we also sought to include a lot of balance in the new primary curriculum but unfortunately that has now been abandoned. In both cases, the question is: how do we get every child to want to get up in the morning and go to school? It means making sure that there are things in the day that will motivate them and, in part, what is in the national curriculum informs that.
The other part is the accountability measure that drives and motivates schools. Certainly, successive Ministers will always use an accountability measure as a way of driving behaviour among head teachers, governors and teachers. I am worried not only by the abandonment of the new primary curriculum in favour of an understandably dogged focus on particular forms of synthetic phonics in reading and a reading test, but because that focus is particularly narrow—I do not think anyone could argue that it is not. It is very important that we get children to read and I am mindful of the report of the all-party parliamentary group for education, published last week, which argued that we need to have more than just the one tool in the box to ensure that every child can be engaged with reading, and that teachers have all of those tools to use.
At secondary, I am also really worried about the implications of the English baccalaureate because it takes five academic measures but does not include sport or any creative or practical subjects. To me, that says that we are going to be driving those schools which are worried—particularly those worried about their performance and about the effects of choice, and which might be worried today by the public service reform story in the Guardian that schools will be allowed to fail and close—to make sure that they are performing as best as they can on the preferred measure of success for secondary schools. That is: how are you doing in terms of the numbers getting A* to C in English, maths, science, a foreign language and a humanity? What would happen if we included sport? Some would say that is not fair as not everyone is good at sport, to which I say: precisely—not everyone is good at academic subjects either, but it is a good idea to motivate people to do sport and to do creative learning.
It is also not just about engaging every child and giving them a chance but about equipping young people for the current labour market and for the future. I refer noble Lords to an excellent article by the head of the OECD Education Directorate, Andreas Schleicher. I know that the Government are very keen on the OECD’s performance measure and I hope that they are just as keen on what the head of that directorate has to say. I quote a little of it, as he puts the argument better than I can:
“What we learn, the way we learn it, and how we are taught is changing. This has implications for schools and higher level education, as well as for lifelong learning. For most of the last century, the widespread belief among policymakers was that you had to get the basics right in education before you could turn to broader skills. It's as though schools needed to be boring and dominated by rote learning before deeper, more invigorating learning could flourish. Those that hold on to this view should not be surprised if students lose interest or drop out of schools because they cannot relate what is going on in school to their real lives. If you were running a supermarket instead of a school and saw that 30 out of 100 customers each day left your shop without buying anything, you would think about changing your inventory. But that does not happen easily in schools because of deeply rooted, even if scientifically unsupported, beliefs that learning can only occur in a particular way”.
I hope that the Minister of State for schools in the other place is listening. Schleicher goes on:
“Education today is much more about ways of thinking which involve creative and critical approaches to problem-solving and decision-making. It is also about ways of working, including communication and collaboration, as well as the tools they require, such as the capacity to recognise and exploit the potential of new technologies, or indeed, to avert their risks. And last but not least, education is about the capacity to live in a multi-faceted world as an active and engaged citizen. These citizens influence what they … learn and how they want to learn it, and it is this that shapes the role of educators”.
I could not say it better myself. That is why we need a broad curriculum. I continue to visit schools. I mentioned the North Liverpool Academy earlier. That academy deals with probably the most deprived ward in the country, and the children from that ward who need educating, and uses the creative arts strategically. Every child takes part in performing arts, in part to give them more emotional literacy so that they can then deal with some of the issues that they face outside school.
I also visited the excellent secondary school in Corsham, Wiltshire recently. I visited the North Liverpool Academy because it was at the top of the contextual value added league of secondary schools in this country for the second year running. I visited Corsham because of the extraordinary A-level results it is achieving across the academic range. The root of its success is, again, creative learning. It has a “doing” room where it employs two full-time artists in residence, so that anyone across the curriculum if they want to come and do stuff and make stuff can engage with these artists and bring the curriculum to life. The school is also using the AQA Bacc qualification post-16 to do extended projects which again engage young people in very creative ways, and makes them love going to school—because that is at the heart of it. Do you want to go to school? Do you want to get out of your duvet every morning?
We can say the same about sport being used strategically in schools. At the root of a lot of the success of some of our finest independent schools is how they use sport to motivate pupils. We have seen the success of schools sports partnerships. We have even seen the Australians coming to this country to find out how we do school sport so well, although that was threatened by some ill thought out decisions by the Secretary of State on which he had partially to back track. Some of my most inspirational visits to schools have been with Olympians and Paralympians as part of trying to encourage schools to think about how to make the most of the Olympics coming to this country next year. The Paralympians particularly motivated young people because they could relate to them overcoming some of the challenges that they had faced and going on to achieve the best that they could. That was hugely motivating for young people.
Mention was made of China and the Chinese results. Confucian cultures inspire a great culture of learning in the home and parents driving forward learning in the home. However, it is worth noting that as jobs are now moving in part from China to Africa, in the pursuit of cheap labour, the Chinese are coming over to this country to find out how we do creativity, make people inquisitive and make them entrepreneurs. However, we do not design that into our school system. At the heart of this amendment lies a desire to be less prescriptive about the curriculum. We should not introduce measures such as the English baccalaureate, which works against a broad and balanced curriculum.
My Lords, I would like to make very brief comments as I intend to say more about the curriculum when we come to Amendments 86 and 88. This amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, is very non-prescriptive. That should recommend it to the Government. I absolutely agree with her about the importance of balance and particularly about the importance of the arts. Only the other day, I heard of a school that had had its academic results transformed through its participation in the In Harmony music programme. Such participation supports other kinds of learning.
The Secretary of State is very keen on the education system in Singapore. I have been looking at the curriculum in Singapore. The Committee might be interested to know that right at the heart of the curriculum design in Singapore are core values and life skills. Therefore, the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, about life skills are demonstrated in the highly effective education system in Singapore. I think the noble Baroness would be reassured if she read, as I have, the remit of the expert group advising the Secretary of State on the curriculum review because it allows it to come to conclusions about the national curriculum which perhaps she and I would welcome. I hope it does that.
When we are looking at the curriculum, we have to bear it in mind that the national curriculum does not take up 100 per cent of children’s time in schools. It is up to the school to design the school curriculum, and part of it is prescribed and part of it is not. This leads me to say something about teacher training. Unless we have highly trained teachers who understand pedagogy and the reasons why they do what they do and have deep subject knowledge, they are not going to be in a position to design a school curriculum which provides children with everything that they will need in their future lives and careers. The professionalism of teachers is an issue that we need to bear in mind when we are talking about the curriculum. We must not forget that it is not just the national curriculum. It is up to schools, teachers and heads to design the rest of the curriculum that they deliver to their children. It must be appropriate to the needs of their children. They cannot do that without good quality training.
My Lords, I thoroughly support the idea of balance in schools and education, but there is a difference between a balanced education and an attempt to produce a balanced curriculum. I agree with the idea of a national curriculum. It was a very important innovation and has had very positive results over the years. However, this is tempered by my experience of sitting in and watching my good friend Ron Dearing, as he was then, trying to chair a meeting of the national curriculum advisory group. It was basically a Mecca for every lobbyist in the business. In addition to the topics we have listed here, which come after literacy, numeracy, understanding of science and exposure to languages and before the ones that are not mentioned: parental education, financial education—many of us would think that important—and emergency life skills, which we are going to see proposed as part of an essential curriculum. This is a road to indigestion and madness. It will not work in that form. A national curriculum, yes, and it has to be a core curriculum but if core subjects are inevitably boring—I say this with all respect to my colleague and noble friend Lord Knight—we might as well give up now. If teachers cannot teach core subjects in a useful, good and stimulating way, we have really failed the children in our schools.
What do I suggest? I suggest a fairly minimal prescription both in terms of core and time. There is no need to spend 100 per cent of the time on what some have said to be core subjects. This allows room for the professionalism of teachers and all that that implies, which we have re-emphasised time and again this afternoon. Time and again we have said that we respect teachers, so they must be given room to develop the teaching of their subject. If it were my national curriculum, I would have the writings of David Hume and Fyodor Dostoevsky required for everyone over the age of 16, but I think some noble Lords would want to draw the line. If you taught those well, you could do most of this.
I suggest that we go for a balanced education with a minimum core. The worry is that they do not produce a balanced education. Judgment is increasingly a matter for the department and for Ofsted. They should make assessments on the quality of the education in terms of balance, expertise and how stimulating it is. I fear that I cannot support this amendment.
My Lords, having sat through the previous three sessions of this Committee waiting for this amendment to be called, I will try to be as swift as I can and address my comments to the aspect of it that relates to sport.
A leader in the Times a few months ago stated that it was time to make the case that sport is a vital part of education. Only 7 per cent of the population are privately educated but the highly successful British team which the British Olympic Association, which I chair, took to Beijing comprised more privately educated sports men and women than state educated ones. The question is unavoidable and distressing as to why there are fewer state educated sports men and women playing for Team GB. The Times further questioned how social mobility could decline in a sphere that naturally lent itself to meritocratic achievement. It is an indictment of the state of sport in the curriculum. While the level of investment for the Treasury and the Lottery has been targeted at school sport, the result has been one which, by any international standard of evaluation, would be deemed a failure.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Knight, who is passionate about sport, that what focuses the interest of the Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians in the meetings that I have with them when they come over here is the funding of high-performance sport. As I will argue, participation, fun and recreation, which are all embedded in the current curriculum, have their role to contribute to it but overall, and without leading to the inclusion of competitive school sport, fail to meet the aspirations of children and parents alike.
It is unsurprising that the response from the private sector has been to fill this market, with independent schools massively improving their sports facilities and providing competitive school sport as a key part in their offer to prospective parents. Sport and recreation, and above all competitive school sport, bring educational values far beyond the reach recognised by many people. If we do not grab the opportunity provided by the inspiration generated through hosting the Games—both Olympic and Paralympic—we will have missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this country to address a woeful inadequacy in the maintained sector. Sport and recreation should not only be embedded into the curriculum; it should be well funded and overhauled to meet the aspirations of pupils and parents alike.
I would suggest that at the initial primary school level participation, as I mentioned earlier, should be available to all children. We have rightly moved on from the traditional public school sports to engage and embrace physical activity from dance to skateboarding. For very young children, their enthusiasm can be embraced through inclusive school clubs and activities to complement physical education. Older children who dislike competition would thrive in the sheltered provision for individual and co-operative activity, which is possible in schools with well qualified coaches and teachers working together. That will be in line with the urgent research and evidence on town development. It is important to keep as many children in the system for as long as possible, rather than hothouse them into competition at too early a stage.
While I support the comments of the Secretary of State this time last year about setting up a nationwide Olympic-style competition that would revive the culture of competitive sport in schools, and using the excitement of the Games to draw a generation of young people into sport, I believe that we must build from a strong base of participation, fun and engagement within the schools. All the specialist schools were set up using funds from successive government departments responsible for education. The £2.4 billion over eight years has become one of the most significant inputs to sports development ever, but it was always intended to be time-limited and a bridge to future provision. In every school I visit, the sport curriculum and agenda is best served where the head and the staff work closely with the local community, local clubs, governing bodies of sport, parents and volunteers to ensure that there is a development pathway both within and outside the school to identify talented youngsters in sport and recreation, providing the ladder for them to climb, to capture their enthusiasm and take forward their skill sets—ultimately, we hope, to the Olympic podium for the most talented.
After eight years of funding, it is regrettable that there has been no exit strategy to the centralised micromanagement support system from outside schools to ensure that school links with clubs and volunteers are embedded into a system within schools which allows the heads to drive those policies. Apart from the independent sector, some commendable progress has been made in this direction by local strategic managers, notably in Devon and Kent, where they have captured other funding sources and built strong relationships with the clubs’ independent and voluntary sector. But these examples are too few if we look at a nationwide map.
In responding, I ask my noble friend the Minister to confirm that in line with this proposed new clause, physical education will remain a statutory subject in the national curriculum and physical education teachers will be required to deliver the subject; the Secretary of State through his rejection of the Rose review, which has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Knight, will ensure that physical education will not merely become part of a diffused learning arc; and that the Government will renew their focus on improving the delivery of physical education through competition between and within schools, and not teams and competitions built on a collective of geographically close schools.
The pride that sporting success brings to an individual school is hugely important and I hope that the school games will embrace this central objective. To meet the objective set out in the proposed new clause, there must be a comprehensive review of teacher training for sport and recreation. The afPE emphasises that at least 40 per cent of all newly qualified primary teachers received six hours or less preparation to teach physical education. Unless that is addressed, it is not surprising that many of them are concerned about their ability to teach the subject or end up teaching it in a vacuum of expertise.
What is required is a new, focused and clearly defined sports curriculum, built on an emerging delivery of participation between clubs, public sector, voluntary, charitable and commercial sector providers of physical activity and sport for schools and within schools. That is the way to extend curriculum delivery and to work alongside enthusiastic teachers. Within sport, clubs and schools—independent and maintained—must work far more together. Working together must be at the centre of the provision, not least because the future members of clubs are the children in today’s classrooms. Their expertise provides the ladder on which the enthusiastic and talented youngster will climb to become the Olympic champion of tomorrow. Only by pursuing this route will we move away from the current status quo; namely, the sad and unacceptable disconnect between the success delivered by 7 per cent of our independent children at the Olympic Games who win more than 50 per cent of the medals. As chairman of the British Olympic Association, that is the most saddening statistic I have in my mind. We must move forward from a position where, as I have said, just 7 per cent deliver more than 50 per cent of the medals to where 93 per cent of the children of this country deliver 93 per cent of the medals. That is the challenge, which is huge.
The noble Lord obviously speaks with great passion and expertise on these matters. However, to some extent, is it not the case that things have been skewed in terms of medals being won by the product of independent schools by the fact that we are really good, as the noble Lord, Lord Coe, has described it, at sitting-down sports? We are good at rowing, sailing and horse riding, which are expensive sports and out of the reach of many of our state schools.
The noble Lord is absolutely right. If you assess the success of Beijing, regrettably, we were heavily dependent on three sports, which were all sitting-down sports. One of my passionate objectives in terms of success in London 2012 is to make sure that we see more medals come from a much wider base of the 26 summer Olympics sports. That same principle should apply to the Paralympics’ sports as well. I believe that that can be delivered.
It is interesting that when it comes to football in this country, there is a perfect symmetry between the number of professional footballers playing in this country who come from the independent sector, which is 7 per cent, and the 93 per cent who come from the state sector. There is a huge lesson to be learnt about the relationship between schools and local clubs, and parents and volunteers to achieve that. My call is that that should be the basis for all sports in this country and my wish is that we move through the curriculum inclusion of sport to achieve that objective.
My Lords, I find myself in the position of agreeing with a little of what everyone so far has said, even when they have been speaking in opposition to each other. I join the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, in paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Baker, who set up the national curriculum all those years ago. In the 1980s, I was a teacher in an inner-city secondary school when the national curriculum was first set up. I know how it transformed how we dealt with not just children throughout the school but particularly those on whom we had given up to some extent. We were made to address the issue of teaching difficult, underperforming children what seemed to them to be tough subjects.
When the national curriculum came in and teachers, not just in the school where I taught, but throughout the country, took on that task, they were incredibly successful. A generation of children have had a better standard of education since then. That is my starting point. Having taught before the national curriculum and having seen what happened when a national curriculum secured, by legal means, an entitlement for children from all backgrounds to have access to certain subjects, I am instinctively very apprehensive about taking that structure away. It was one of the most successful ways I have ever seen of putting high expectations into a framework. It is how the teacher relates to the student that really embeds high expectations, but the framework of the national curriculum instigated it and gave it a push. As I have on previous occasions, I will always pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Baker, for introducing it. I think it is probably the best thing that happened. That is my first concern.
Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, must see history repeating itself with everybody now trying to get their subject into the English baccalaureate. I was in a meeting this afternoon where somebody said with confidence that their subject will be the sixth pillar of the English baccalaureate. I will not say where I was this afternoon or what that subject was, but that person is not the only one who thinks that they have secured the sixth pillar of the English baccalaureate. We have a genuine problem. On the one hand, we want to make sure that all our children have access to a wide range of subjects, but on the other hand, we know the consequences of an overcrowded curriculum. Ever since the noble Lord, Lord Baker, introduced the national curriculum, we have been playing a game of wanting both things. What happens? We allow other good things to be put into the national curriculum, it gets overcrowded, then another Government come in and want to slim it down. We cannot keep going on like this. We have to look at what is happening and what messages we are giving to schools.
I agree with my noble friend Lady Massey about the need for a broad and balanced curriculum. Nobody can deny it. I agree that children and young people should be entitled to all the subjects she listed, and I could not agree more with my noble friend Lord Knight about the importance of creativity. I have always said that I wish I had done my ministerial jobs the other way round. When I was Secretary of State and Minister for Education, I thought that I understood the place of creativity in the curriculum. It was not until I went to DCMS that I really understood that I did not understand. In the Government, with the greatest of respect, the present Ministers may understand this, because I think I understood it better than some of my colleagues. In a department such as the Department for Education it is very difficult to understand what creativity is unless you have spent a fair amount of time with people who are creative by nature. Successive Governments have failed to embed that creativity at the core of the curriculum. It is not about finding an hour a week for art; it is about understanding in your soul that there is something in people that is creative that can lead learning right across the whole of the curriculum.
The problem the Minister has is how to bring all those things together. I suspect that so far he does not disagree with a great deal of what I have said. The problem the Government have is that we want to guarantee entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum for all our children, to protect all children against schools that do not deliver that and to have a message that raises expectations in the average school, because a lot of legislation is putting into the average school what naturally occurs in the best school, and at the same time we have the problem mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, of the overcrowded core curriculum. We have to get out of that difficulty. One of the problems that the Government have made, about which I have been most critical, is to some extent about message giving. If they were intent on trying to get a broad and balanced curriculum without overcrowding it, the English baccalaureate was the worst way that that could have been done.
What we have also learnt from 20 or 25 years of educational reform is that schools follow the assessment measures. They have always done it and always will. Somehow, what we needed from the Government was a message through the assessment framework saying, “All right; we trust you. We want a small core—that is what the Government think—but we value that broad and balanced education”. My problem now, with the Government moving away from a broad and balanced curriculum, is with what that is doing not so much in the curriculum but in the assessment framework.
On the English baccalaureate, I would add that, predictably, you can see schools doing it—getting rid of music and creative arts from the curriculum to employ more modern foreign language teachers. They will chase the measurements because that is the school system in which we live. It is compounded by the Government's failure to give a message about what they value in any way, other than on the English baccalaureate. I am still looking for the pronouncement that values information technology; I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Willis, will have something to say about that later on. There is not that voice coming from Government about the importance of creativity and when they tried to give a voice about the importance of sport, they got it wrong. I listened to what the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said. Again, I do not differ from anything that was said but, of all things, I think it is the sports curriculum which we have made the most progress on—I know it is core—in terms of the non-academic curriculum over the past 10 to 15 years.
What we have now with the youth sports partnership and its links into sport outside school is an excellent thing. I know that we are not there yet but it is the best basis for sports education that we have had for a very long time. That happened because it had some central direction and resource. More than that, it had a clear message from Government that sport mattered. I remember the former Prime Ministers, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, making a lot of speeches about sport. It needs that leadership to give school leaders and teachers confidence that that area of learning matters. That is my worry on this: for a broad and balanced curriculum, we cannot rely just on what is written in the curriculum. It needs to be about messages given and the assessment adopted. On the latter two, I agree with my noble friend Lord Knight and those who moved the amendment. It is leaving us wanting and I am really fearful not just of a narrow curriculum next year but, unless something is done, of even worse in subsequent years.
My Lords, I apologise for intervening. We are hearing some tremendous speeches, but they are more Second Reading speeches than for the Committee stage of the Bill. Could I invite Members of the Committee to focus their remarks solely on the amendments that we are considering?
My Lords, could I thank the noble Baroness for the kind words that she said about me and fashioning the national curriculum? I am usually criticised more than praised for it these days, but it fell to me and to many hundreds of others to fashion that curriculum 25 years ago. For the first time, we were putting on to the statute book a national curriculum. It was very broad and very balanced; that is what I was criticised for. It could not have been more broad or balanced. It had many things in it which have now been dropped: languages up to 16; art and music up to 16; history and geography up to 16. All of those have disappeared and gone, but it was certainly broad and balanced.
I have now come to the conclusion that if I was given the task of fashioning it today, a much more fundamental change really would be needed. I would actually stop it at 14. I am now quite convinced that the right age of transfer in our English education system is 14, not 11. I draw some strength from that because the Board of Education, meeting in 1941 to plan the pattern of education after the war, in the event of victory—it actually met before El Alamein—said to have selective grammar schools, selective technical colleges and secondary moderns and that the transfer age should be 13 and 14. The decision to change that never went to Ministers, as far as I can see from the records. It was decided by the Permanent Secretary of the day, who simply said, “You can’t have selection at 13 or 14 because grammar schools start at 11”.
It was a great opportunity missed. Why do I say that? First, I have great sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, was saying. During the fashioning of the national curriculum everybody wanted everything in it. Not only that, but he will remember the battles on the content of the national curriculum. I set up independent committees to advise me on maths as on maths there can be no controversy. Surely you can define a maths curriculum. Feudal armies marched across this battlefield. Some said, “You must teach children tables by heart”. Others argued, “No, that is appalling”. Some said, “You mustn’t let them use calculating machines”. Others asked, “Should you teach calculus before 16 or not?”. Blood was spilled on these battlefields. When I came to English, I thought I would outwit all these people by appointing the most reactionary and right-wing educationalists I could find, who wrote the black papers, who would deliver the sort of English curriculum I wanted. I was bitterly disappointed. They produced a curriculum, which said, “Don’t worry about spelling and don’t correct the grammar of little boys and girls who get it wrong at the primary level. Let them enjoy it”. I had to turn to an engineer in Bristol University to right the sense of that. When it came to the history curriculum, I knew perfectly well it was going to be a battlefield, so I appointed someone who owned a castle to write it. He was also a highly intelligent scholar who became the chairman of the British Library and produced a very good curriculum. Having done all of that, why do I now say it should really be at 14?
I agree with the noble Lord about 14, but I am interested to hear that he would keep a national curriculum for key stage 3 when most secondary schools—if the Government’s ambitions are realised—would become academies and free of the national curriculum. Why would he keep the national curriculum at key stage 3 and does he think academies should stick to it?
I do not support everything that the present Government do. I think a lot of what they are doing is brilliant and wonderful and I speak in favour of that, but up to 14, I would make it a very prescriptive curriculum. Rab Butler said in one of his minutes that all children should go through the common mill of education. I think there is a connective knowledge required in our country that all children should have, whatever part of the country they come from and of whatever race or creed. At 14, there is a natural division of the ways. It is rather like the pattern in Europe. Europe generally distinguishes between upper secondary and lower secondary at the age of 14. What I would like to see slowly develop is four different pathways open for youngsters at 14: an academic pathway, perhaps a bit similar to the grammar school, but wider than that; the technical pathway; the voluntary pathway; and a creative arts pathway. I am coming round to this, it is very true. Do wait; there is better to come.
I am directing my remarks precisely to the curriculum and to this amendment because I am going to say why some of these things should or should not be in and that will take a very long time. Do not tempt me to get into that area. In the requirements mentioned in the amendment—there you are, I am on course again now—there is a spread of different activities. I am engaged in establishing technical schools at 14, which have some of these things in them—in fact, they have all of these things and go rather wider. One might think that by having technical schools, I am narrowing the curriculum. Not at all. In the technical schools, they will have technical subjects to study but they will also study three GCSEs: English, maths and science. We do not think that an IT GCSE is necessary because IT is so infusive today a particular GCSE is not needed for it. They would also have a foreign language: German for engineering, not Goethe; French for business, not Molière. They will also have humanities subjects: history of engineering and great scientists.
When we come to the curriculum, it goes much wider than the amendment. The amendment fights the battles in the way of yesteryear because much of what is said in the amendment is covered in school today. Sport, for example, is legally required up to 16 in schools, and that will be in our academies as well. This is the first occasion we have been able to actually speak in the Committee on the curriculum. It is probably the most important, radical change still waiting to be made in the education system.
My Lords, I support the amendment. I do this because most people have concentrated on the curriculum but I would like to speak a little about the children who will receive the curriculum. My understanding is that teachers act in loco parentis. One of the most important tasks of parents is to love and nurture their children in all the many guises of that task. As educators, one would expect teachers to assume the role designated to them as they often spend more time with children than parents can afford to do in today’s world. One way of doing that is to ensure that all children are offered the choice of an enriching curriculum, as outlined in the noble Baroness’s amendment. The amendment outlines many areas in which teachers have an opportunity to see the child in his or her entirety.
The children in our schools have issues when they come to school. Some are angry through having knowledge of terrible deeds, some are fearful, some are traumatised by the loss of loved ones, some are insecure and some are reluctant to engage. Surely, not being able to find a safe, reliable place in which to express their feelings will not enhance their talents. Many of the areas listed in the amendment would, if adopted, make a school a beneficial place for children in today’s world. We may need a charter for learners when looking at the sort of curriculum we should be providing.
Teachers should be able to fulfil a parental role. That is something that we need to look at very carefully when we are talking about a curriculum for schools in today’s world. When children are at play or are performing tasks they enjoy, you get more from them, learn more about what they are doing and are really in a position to guide them. Looking at a child playing a game, playing music or talking about it shows us the way to build the curriculum.
My Lords, I shall speak briefly as I am well aware of the frustration of the government whip, who may feel that there is a filibuster going on. God forbid that that should be the case. I have no experience of the English education system as I was born, went to school and have spent all my life in Scotland. However, I appreciate the principles behind the amendment and this section of the Bill. Everybody wants a broad balance in the curriculum; that is motherhood and apple pie. I was struck by the account of the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, of a meeting on the national curriculum, where all the different lobbies tried to get their own obsession or point of view across.
I certainly favour having a core curriculum, but the details of the amendment are such that it may impose restrictions on the ability of faith schools to have the flexibility to take account of the core curriculum but at the same time pursue the ethos of their faith in their schools. It seems to me that this amendment—
I hear what my noble friend said. She is a very formidable person and I have some trepidation in having a difference of opinion with her. Nevertheless, I remind her in all benevolence and kindness that she used the expression “indoctrination” in the same context as faith schools. A lot of people would take exception to that. I certainly take exception to that because I do not believe that faith schools indoctrinate. I doubt that a faith school, irrespective of whether it is Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Buddhist, would accept that it should have a curriculum and teach no faith. I can give an example of that because faith schools were mentioned by the mover of the amendment. In Scotland, in one of the biggest Roman Catholic schools I am told that between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of the school population are Muslim children because it is a part of Glasgow where there is a high Muslim population. It seems to me that there is no indoctrination going on there. In my opinion, and I am entitled to put my point of view, this amendment would impose restrictions on faith schools and limit their ability to tailor their curriculum, not to tamper with the core curriculum or to ignore it, but to build their curriculum around their faith and ethos. I oppose the amendment.
My Lords, I will be brief in my response as I am very conscious that there are a number of noble Lords waiting to move amendments. The issue at heart in this typically wide-ranging and thought-provoking debate is quite simple and is one that we have debated many times before; namely, what is the proper amount of prescription that there should be? It does not follow that the only way to demonstrate the value of a subject is that it should be in the national curriculum. Not everything needs to be in it to show its worth. I agree very much with the points that the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, made at the beginning about the importance of art, music and sport. I agree with her wholeheartedly on that. It is obviously the case that maintained schools, CTCs and academies are required by law or through their funding agreements to provide a broad and balanced curriculum. I would not want schools to provide a narrow education.
I do not agree with the criticisms of the EBacc as a narrowing measure. As noble Lords know, what is driving us on the EBacc is the simple fact that at the moment 4 per cent of children on free school meals have those EBacc subject qualifications, which are the qualifications most likely to get them to a top university. It is about trying to redress the balance and give some of those children more of a chance. It is not about wanting to narrow the range of subjects that people have. As the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, pointed out most forcefully, and my noble friend Lord Baker also made the point, over the years, the national curriculum has come to cover more and more subjects, to prescribe more and more outcomes and to take up more and more school time. We want to move away from that approach to give teachers greater freedom to design a curriculum that meets the needs of their pupils, which is why we are reviewing the national curriculum to ensure that in future it does not absorb the overwhelming majority of teaching time in schools and provides more space. Then the important subjects that the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, talked about will have more time and space to be delivered in the appropriate way by the staff who know their pupils in their schools. There is an important distinction to be made between the national curriculum and the wider school curriculum. We want to get away from the approach that just because a topic or subject is important, it has to be specified in the national curriculum, or that because it is not in the national curriculum, that means that it is not important or should not be taught. Neither of those positions is true.
The noble Baroness, Lady Massey, asked specifically about the national curriculum. It might be helpful if I reply briefly. However, if I can let her have a fuller reply on where we have got to with the national curriculum review and on some of her questions about the terms of reference—where we have got to and how we are going forward—which we can circulate more widely, I shall do so. In essence, it is being conducted in two phases. The first phase is drafting new programmes of study for English, maths, science and PE, which we have confirmed will remain statutory in maintained schools at all four key stages. I think that that was the assurance that my noble friend Lord Moynihan was seeking. This first phase is also considering which other subjects, if any, should be part of the national curriculum in future and at which key stages. We expect to announce our proposals from this phase early next year. Then they will follow a full public consultation on those proposals.
In the second phase, we will consider the content and design of the programmes of study for any other subjects that are to remain within the national curriculum and whether non-statutory guidance should be produced to support the continued teaching of any other subjects or topics. We are being advised by an expert panel as well as by an advisory committee consisting mainly of successful head teachers and including representation from higher education and employers. The terms of reference which the noble Baroness asked for are on our website, but I will send them to her. I hope that soon—she will know this because we have discussed it over many months—I will be able to let her have the remit of the PSHE review, which she also asked me about.
We have spoken briefly about sport. She asked me specifically about the Chance to Shine initiative. Over the period 2009-13, the ECB is receiving £38 million from Sport England to support its whole sport plan, of which £7.2 million is being invested directly into Chance to Shine, which I think is a small increase.
We had a brief conversation about Singapore and what it can teach us. As my noble friend Lady Walmsley pointed out, it is the case that life skills are taught. As it happens, it also does the equivalent of the EBacc, which suggests that these things are not incompatible and which is where we want to be. That is all I want to say in response. We will come back to some of these other issues in further groups, which will raise important issues. But, at heart, it is our view that boiling down what is in the national curriculum—providing more space, being less prescriptive and looking to professionals who know more about what they are doing in the classroom than do Ministers—is the right way forward. With that, I would ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
I thank the Minister for that sympathetic reply and for his assurance that he will send me the terms of reference on the progress of the curriculum and PSHE. I also thank all noble Lords for taking part in that very impassioned—I am glad that it was impassioned—debate because it is important. I am really glad that the noble Lord, Lord Baker, said that it was about time that we talked about the curriculum and I agree with everything he says about school and the age of 14. I have no problem with that. The noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, mentioned the sort of potpourri curriculum. That is not what I intend. Many of the things mentioned will be included in PSHE, about which the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and I have talked many times.
I really fear that schools might end up teaching to achieve good test results, as some do now, and will exclude some subjects because they want to give more time to getting good results, a good place in the league tables and so on. My fear is that if we disengage pupils and disengage them from the curriculum, that can result in exclusion from school and from life chances. I of course agree that the core subjects are essential and that if they are well taught that is absolutely wonderful. A close relative of mine used to truant for all lessons except English because there was a wonderful teacher who taught literature supremely well, including Shakespeare. For the rest of the time, my close relative went fishing, which I think is a sitting-down sport. Is it a sport at all? I do not know.
It certainly is.
I should not have mentioned that. I agree about teacher professionalism. I am glad that expert groups are being formed and I look forward to further discussions on all this with the Minister, and with anyone else who wants to talk about it, and to the rest of the debates on the Bill.
Amendment 83 withdrawn.
83ZA: Before Clause 20, insert the following new Clause—
“Technology in schools
(1) The Secretary of State shall publish a plan detailing the delivery of the use of technology to aid teaching across all subjects in the curriculum, for pupils of all ages, in all maintained schools and Academies.
(2) The plan must be published and laid before Parliament by July 2012.”
My Lords, I am conscious of the time and of a message from the Front Bench that I should be as brief as possible, which is always the wrong thing to say to me on these occasions, but I will try. I certainly do not want to be controversial. I hope that the Minister will be able to give me some comfort on both amendments and that on Report he may be able to agree to them.
If I were to ask your Lordships whether it is necessary in terms of delivering every subject on the curriculum to have electricity, most would say that on balance it probably is, whether it is sport, music, the arts or the core curriculum—whatever that is now—or faith, though I gather that the Bishop has left.
I meant the other bishop—the secular bishop.
Electricity is considered a very important part of delivering the curriculum. I have tried to get your Lordships’ support for both amendments. The idea is that to deliver a 21st century curriculum we have to have 21st century methodology and 21st century equipment. To deliver the curriculums to all children, they have to have access to the technologies and be able to take advantage of them. There was a time when technology, particularly information and communications technology, was regarded as an additional extra. If you had the resources you put it into schools. It was certainly a resource that the wealthiest families in this country provided early on, and which most families now provide. In reality, it has now become not simply an additional extra but the lifeblood of schools.
I was in a primary school on Friday last week watching a young teacher teaching the solar system to a group of primary children. She had blacked out the whole room and had her white board and overhead projector and was using the BBC programme on the solar system by Brian Cox. It was very dark and by the time one of the episodes of that wonderful programme had come on, the children’s faces looking at the solar system as they had never seen it before, were remarkable. That is the use of technology today. In every area of the curriculum we can bring countries from the other side of the world into the classroom. Skype can be used to communicate directly with children in other parts of the world. I remember when I began teaching geography back in 1963 that it took three months to get a letter from a school in Sierra Leone. Now children can talk daily. Technology is no longer simply an added extra; it is very important indeed.
It has worried me, and I have said to the Minister that we seem to have messages from the Government, particularly from the Schools Minister, that if you have technologies you are putting books out of reach of children and that somehow it is either/or. You either have books or technology. It is not like that at all. You have to have both. The reality is that most children today, often from the age of three, use Google as a normal part of their activities. As they get older they cannot use internet search engines unless they have a good command of English. They have to be able to read effectively, disseminate and arrange information. This is not an added extra. It is fundamental. It is not an either/or; it is part and parcel of the same activity.
I have another worry. I say to the Minister that this is an impression rather than a reality. We now have a Division, which is a reality.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
My Lords, I have made the case that technology is crucial in supporting the curriculum today and not simply an added extra. I hope that the Minister can give the Committee a clear undertaking that his Government are not luddites, that they are looking at the use of technology, that they are prepared to support its use across the curriculum and that schools will be required to say how and where they are using that technology. This is not a matter of spending a fortune on ICT within our schools. Like many noble Lords, I get quite irritated going into schools to be taken into a room with 20 or 30 wonderful new computers and have people tell me that that is what they are doing for ICT. It is not the computers; it is what you do with them. There are very simple devices, certainly costing less than £200, that can give all the capacity needed to deliver so much of the curriculum as it exists.
If having ICT in school and using technology in school effectively are important in delivering a 21st century curriculum, it is also crucial for children to be able to access the curriculum from home and for them and their parents to be able to communicate with school from home. Amendment 107C states that it is vital that children have 24/7 access in order to be able to complete their national curriculum work, complete their homework and be able to access a broader general education. The Minister’s response to a Question in Hansard about the number of children unable to access the internet at home is therefore quite disappointing. The Minister’s answer is:
“The Department for Education estimates that around 15 per cent of households with children currently lack access to the internet … Take up of internet access remains strongly correlated with household income with only 68 per cent of households with children eligible for free school meals having access to the internet at home”.—[Official Report, 07/07/11; col. WA 110.]
That means that 32 per cent of children eligible for free school meals do not have the internet at home. Can you imagine the difference in opportunity that that denies them compared with those children who have good access, live in homes with a computer in the bedroom and are in schools that can set them homework and projects where they can access all the sorts of learning materials that are essential to 21st century education?
If you look at the IFS study 18 months ago, right across Britain the poorest areas have the least access to the internet. The 32 per cent figure is not across the board. If you go to the north-east, you find that 41 per cent of homes do not have access to the internet. The figure is 36 per cent in Scotland and 31 per cent in Yorkshire and Humber. Some 27 per cent of our poorest households do not have access to the internet at all. According to the IFS study, the correlation between qualifications and use of the internet is equally stark. Some 55 per cent of individuals with no qualifications at all have never used the internet and do not have access to it. That is a shocking statistic if we are talking about a level playing field for learning.
Amendment 107C simply asks the Government to ensure that,
“all secondary age pupils in maintained schools or Academies who are eligible for free school meals, in receipt of the ‘pupil premium’, ‘looked after’ by a local authority”,
and who are the poorest and most disadvantaged on current measures, should have access to the internet at home and at school. I hope that the Minister will accept that amendment. It is something which his Government—I am sorry, I should have said our Government; you get so used to being in opposition in the other place—should feel proud to deliver. At the end of this historic period of coalition government, any Government would be proud to say, “No child living in poverty in this country is denied access to the curriculum because they do not have broadband and do not have a computer at home”. In saying that, I declare an interest as chairman of the e-Learning Foundation.
My Lords, I have my name to one of these amendments and should have it to the other one as well. I absolutely support what my noble friend has said. In relation to the first amendment in the group, if such a report were made by government, could the Minister look into the technology centres that are closing in a number of local authorities? They are centres of excellence and expertise and are of enormous value to schools that are trying to make the best use of technology not just for children who need assistive technology—that is a very important group—but for every child. Unfortunately, a lot of them are closing. That means that not only is the expertise going but the actual knowledge that helps schools to buy cost-effective equipment and have the technical support they need to ensure that the equipment works properly all the time. I would like to see that issue included in the report.
Amendment 107C concerns a subject which I am pleased to say my party will be discussing at our party conference in September. If the Government are set on reducing inequality and the achievement gap, making sure that every child from a deprived family has access to a computer and broadband is something that we should be prioritising. It is not a luxury. It is a tool for education and in this modern world it is an absolutely essential tool. It is very important for every child, not just, as my noble friend has said in his amendment, those from secondary age upwards, but going downwards as well. Knowing the sorts of deals that government can do with equipment suppliers and with the telecoms companies, I do not think that that would be anywhere near as expensive as it might at first seem given that you would be buying things in bulk. Not so long ago, there was talk of providing children with little laptops for £50. I reckon that you could probably get very basic ones for less than that now. Broadband should be able to be provided very cost effectively given the quantity that government would be interested in. This is an important measure. It is achievable and is absolutely in line with the coalition agreement and this Government’s stated aims in regard to education.
My Lords, perhaps I may make an observation, and a plea. We have heard some fascinating speeches today but some of them are really outwith the bounds of what a Committee is for. We are here to advise the Minister on what is possible within the boundaries of the Bill. The great flights of empire building and hope that we were led into, and greatly enjoyed, begin to threaten, I fear, another day or two off our recess. So I do hope that your Lordships will exercise some restraint.
Committee adjourned at 7.50 pm.