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Standing Committee Debates
Education Bill

Education Bill

Column Number: 471

Standing Committee G

Thursday 17 January 2002

[Mr. Win Griffiths in the Chair]

Education Bill

9.30 am

The Chairman: I understand that there will be a Programming Sub-Committee, so I shall suspend the sitting for a couple of minutes.

Sitting suspended.

9.35 am

On resumingó

Mr. John Heppell (Nottingham, East): I beg to move,

    (1) That the Order of the Committee [11 December 2001] relating to programming, as amended [13 and 18 December 2001 and 10 January 2002] be amended as followsó

    in paragraph (1), at the end there is inserted 'and on Monday 21st January at half past Four o'clock';

    in paragraph (2), '18' is omitted and '19' inserted;

    the entries for the 13th to 18th sittings are omitted and the following is inserted:

    13th Clauses 115 to 126, Schedule 12, Clauses 127 to 144, Schedule 13

    14th Clauses 115 to 126, Schedule 12, Clauses 127 to 144, Schedule 13 (so far as not previously concluded)

    15th Clauses 115 to 126, Schedule 12, Clauses 127 to 144, Schedule 13 (so far as not previously concluded)7 pm

    16th Clauses 145 to 148, Schedule 14, Clauses 149 to 151, Schedule 15, Clauses 152 to 170

    17th Clauses 145 to 148, Schedule 14, Clauses 149 to 151, Schedule 15, Clauses 152 to 170 (so far as not previously concluded)10 pm

    18th Clauses 171 to 181, Schedule 16, Clause 182, Schedule 17, Clause 183, Schedule 18, Clauses 184 to 189, Schedule 11, Clauses 190 to 193, Schedule 19, Clauses 194 to 200, Schedule 20, Clauses 201 to 211, Schedule 21, Schedule 22, new Clauses, new Schedules

    19th Clauses 171 to 181, Schedule 16, Clause 182, Schedule 17, Clause 183, Schedule 18, Clauses 184 to 189, Schedule 11, Clauses 190 to 193, Schedule 19, Clauses 194 to 200, Schedule 20, Clauses 201 to 211, Schedule 21, Schedule 22, new Clauses, new Schedules (so far as not previously concluded)5 pm

    (2) The Standing Committee recommends that two days be allotted for consideration and Third Reading of the Education Bill.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): I should like to make a brief comment and, in passing, apologise on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien) for his absence. He is serving with the armed forces parliamentary scheme and will not be here until later today.

The Opposition are grateful that the Government have listened to our concerns. The removal of knives

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during the course of our proceedings will allow more responsible progress through the Bill, and we will not be artificially constrained from focusing on aspects that require greater scrutiny.

I also welcome the Government's agreement to allow two days on Report, in recognition of the fact that large parts of the Bill have not been dealt with adequately in Committee. For the record, I had asked for two and a half days. However, I accept that the Government have made some movement, and that is welcome. We can proceed on that basis.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West): On a point of order, Mr. Griffiths. I want to put on the record a declaration of interest before we debate the next clause and amendments. My wife is a schoolteacher.

Clause 115

Teachers' pay and conditions

Mr. Brady: I beg to move amendment No. 484, in page 72, line 10, leave out 'School Teachers' and insert 'Teaching Professions'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the following: Amendment No. 485, in page 72, line 14, leave out 'School Teachers' and insert 'Teaching Professions'.

Amendment No. 488, in page 72, line 19, leave out 'School Teachers' and insert 'Teaching Professions'.

Amendment No. 489, in page 72, line 37, leave out 'School Teachers' and insert 'Teaching Professions'.

Amendment No. 490, in page 75, line 34, leave out 'School Teachers' and insert 'Teaching Professions'.

Mr. Brady: I am pleased to speak to the amendments, which are the kind that we all like, in that they are identical in their effect.

Vernon Coaker (Gedling): On a point of order, Mr. Griffiths. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey) made a declaration about his wife being a schoolteacher, may I make a declaration of interest? My wife is also a schoolteacher.

Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough): Further to that point of order, Mr. Griffiths. My wife is also a schoolteacher. At least, she was this morning when she set off for work.

The Chairman: I am not taking part in the debate, but my wife is also a schoolteacher, and so is her brother.

Mr. Brady: Not to be left out, I should declare that my wife is spending so much time assisting our children with their education that she thinks she has become a teacher.

I hope that Ministers will accept that my simple point has real value and purpose. Members on both sides of the Committee believe that it is increasingly important that action is taken to restore the standing of the teaching profession. In recent decades, the profession has fallen from the high public esteem in which it was traditionally regarded and in which it

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should be held. The amendment would substitute the term ''school teachers'' with the term ''teaching professions''. That is a small but important step that would ensure that teachers are properly recognised as a profession, and that their status is reflected in the titles of the public bodies that deal with them. I hope that Ministers will accept that the amendment would have no substantive effect on the Bill's aims, but might in a small way help us to achieve our common aim of raising and emphasising the professional standing of teachers. Teachers up and down the country would greatly appreciate the move.

Mr. Willis: The Liberal Democrats have much sympathy with the arguments made by the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady). He makes a sensible point. Early in February, the Government will introduce a Green Paper on the curriculum for 14 to 19-year-olds, and we all envisage closer ties between different organisations in the 14-19 sector. Divisions exist between different parts of the teaching profession, for example in schools and further education colleges where there will increasingly be an interchange of staff. It is therefore important that we refer to the teaching profession in its broader sense. The amendment would enable us to bridge that gap, and would allow those who work in the 16-plus sector to work in the 14-19 sector and to be covered by the necessary regulations.

This is a sensible move forward, and I hope that the Government will take it seriously, even if they do not agree to the amendment. We are moving into new times, and we are all trying to re-establish teaching as the profession which I always believed it to be. I am sure that the hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) believed that he was in a teaching profession. It was not a job to us, but a profession. That professional status has declined dramatically, largely because Conservative Governments undermined the teaching profession year after year.

In the spirit of harmony that has broken out in the Committee, which was engineered by the Government Whip who has metamorphosed in that regard, I hope that the Minister will agree to this sensible amendment.

The Minister for School Standards (Mr. Stephen Timms): I welcome you back to the Chair of the Committee, Mr. Griffiths.

I agree with the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West about the importance of the standing of the teaching profession. The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) is right about the approach that teachers take to their work. I am sure that he accurately expressed the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling. The School Teachers Review Body was originally set up with that in mind. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave an important speech to the Social Market Foundation in November entitled ''Professionalism and Trust'', thereby articulating our approach to the teaching profession.

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There is a serious difficulty with this proposal, as the teaching profession goes a good deal wider than schoolteachers as defined in clause 118. The Secretary of State determines the pay and conditions of schoolteachers who are employed by LEAs and governing bodies. The review body reports on that, but not on the pay and conditions of other members of the teaching profession. The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough rightly makes the point that a growing number of people regard themselves as members of the teaching profession. I do not think that the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West wishes to widen the review body's terms of reference to include that larger group. Indeed, he has tabled some amendments that would weaken the role of the School Teachers Pay Body.

Mr. Willis: Does the Minister accept that many professionals working in further education or in sixth-form colleges, who deliver the same package of four AS-levels and three A-levels as a school sixth-form, are on significantly lower pay and have different conditions? The Government should address that issue. I hope that through such amendments as these we can start to address some of the inequities in the system that are indefensible in modern education.

Mr. Timms: The hon. Gentleman, I think, will shortly argue for a more limited and restricted role for the review body, rather than for the wider role that he now supports. There certainly are differences. It is important to give the review body a clear remit. The legislation makes it clear, and the body works well. It is important that the name relates to that remit. I hope on that basis the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West will not press the amendment. I agree with much of what he said about the importance of the teaching profession having a high standing. The Government are keen to make progress in that respect.

Mr. Brady: I am grateful to the Minister for his helpful remarks. I certainly welcome his support for the principle behind the amendments. The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough raised an important point about teachers in further education, but that was not the focus of the amendments. The Minister raised another interesting aspect when he said that there are many others who regard themselves as part of the teaching profession. I fully accept that some people do so legitimately, but the Minister should consider the implication of professional status.

Inclusive as the Government may wish to be on all matters, professional status necessarily implies exclusivity. One is either a member of a profession or one is not. The Minister needs to reflect on where that line should properly be drawn, because if people were allowed to define whether they were members of a teaching profession, that professional status would be diluted. If the Minister really wants to enhance the professional status of teachers, which is an aim that we share, he will have to tackle that problem. Much of what the Government are doing, such as compulsory registration with the General Teaching Council, implies that they recognise that, although the Minister's remarks suggested that the point is not yet entirely taken. I hope that it will be in due course.

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We have had a useful, brief exchange on the amendment, which I shall not press to a Division. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

 
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