Education Bill

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Mr. Willis: Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the people whom 3Es, for example, bring in to run the mathematics department of a school in the Isle of Wight, because teachers have been put off, having met the MP—

Chris Grayling: That was before the election.

Mr. Willis: That was after the election. Does the amendment mean that the terms and conditions of those employed by 3Es who are sent to a particular department would be disapplied? Would they not have to conform to professional qualifications and be registered members of the GTC?

Mr. Turner: I had not envisaged that when I considered the amendment; I shall have to think about that proposition.

Mr. Willis: I apologise for my flippant comment; I am sure everyone loves the hon. Gentleman. If teachers are registered members of the GTC, the teacher being brought in would be no different from a

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teacher employed through a supply agency who was sent to a school for a particular purpose.

Mr. Turner: I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is wrong. It could indeed be a supply agency that provides the teachers, and there is nothing wrong in such an agency maintaining teams of teachers—a group of physicists, mathematicians or media-studies enthusiasts who operate well together, for example. That would provide flexibility in any attempt to improve failing schools. For that reason alone this is a worthwhile proposition, and I should be interested in the views of the Minister and his hon. Friends.

Mr. Timms: Nothing in the Bill prevents employment on a contract for services, so the amendment would not add anything to the measure. Orders made under clause 118 will form part of the contract of employment for teachers, and will override any locally agreed terms, as such orders do now, except in a limited number of cases in which pay and conditions have been or could be disapplied. It might be worth spelling those out. We are talking about ex-GM schools that opted out—a very small number chose to do so—education action zone schools that opt out, schools with earned autonomy under this Bill, and any school that uses the Bill's innovation clauses to disapply aspects of national pay and conditions.

11.15 am

On amendment No. 529, where this part of the Bill applies to a teacher, it will not be possible for a local agreement to override a pay and conditions order, as that would undermine the national system.

Mr. Turner: I will try to paraphrase, and the Minister will tell me if I am wrong. There is nothing wrong with employing a teacher on a services contract. That is permissible, but subsection (3)(b) provides that such a person is a schoolteacher and therefore subject to the maximum pay scales—I had thought that they did not exist, but the Minister assured us that they do—and all other terms and conditions as prescribed by the clause. It would not be possible, for example, to recruit a team of super mathematicians from 3Es and pay them a bit more to do two jobs at once. That is not exactly what such teachers do, but they would be maintaining the mathematics provision in the home school as well as undertaking such teaching for the school in need. They would not do that without receiving reasonable recognition, and schools with such a weakness would not be able to benefit, certainly not quickly, from the earned autonomy or other opt-outs that the Minister described.

Mr. Timms: The hon. Gentleman lost me slightly in that intervention. I do not think that there is an obstacle to the arrangement such as he envisaged, and it is possible for such a contract to be entered into. The orders that are envisaged in the Bill apply to contracts with LEAs and governing bodies of schools, but not elsewhere. The freedom to which he alluded is available.

Amendments Nos. 526 and 527 are highly prescriptive. Amendment No. 526 would mean that a qualified teacher could carry out only the specified

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work if they were to be paid as a qualified teacher. Amendment No. 527 would mean that a teacher would be paid as a qualified teacher only for the proportion of his or her time that was spent carrying out specified work that only a qualified teacher can do. That may not have been the intention, but it would be the effect. The difficulty is not only with the choice of words in the amendments, but with the intent behind them. They would create an unhelpful incentive for teachers to avoid taking on other tasks even when, from everyone's point of view, it would make sense to do so.

Mr. Brady: I accept the Minister's difficulty with the drafting of the amendments, but I repeat my invitation to explore the definitions of work that should be limited to teachers and work that could be carried out by others.

Mr. Timms: That is a fair point, and we will do that when we come to clause 129. We provided more information to the Committee with the policy statement on teacher qualifications that was distributed on Tuesday, and we may want to debate some of the issues in it.

Mr. Willis: Does the Minister accept the need for greater clarification on what I call sub-contracting? Under the 1993 arrangements, further education colleges were incorporated, which allowed institutions to set different pay and conditions. A difficult situation arose in many colleges, and the supply of contract teachers through agencies escalated. When the Minister offers guidance, would he reflect on the fact that teachers do not simply come into a maths department to teach maths? They are part of a broader spectrum of activities offered by the school, and I hope that that was what the Minister implied. A teacher cannot divorce a maths lesson from personal and social education or the exercise of duties throughout the school. I trust the Minister will not be sucked into that awful practice of considering teachers as just contracted employees.

Mr. Timms: The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point about the characteristics of schools and working in them. Any such arrangement would be made only if the head teacher decided that it would help to improve standards. The head would want to take into account all the issues that the hon. Gentleman raised. Currently, agency staff are not eligible for national pay and conditions. Someone employed in the normal way is eligible for national pay and conditions, which is what the orders relate to.

Mr. Willis: That is an important issue. The comments of the hon. Member for Isle of Wight about the article in The Sun raise serious concern. During the last three years, the number of teaching staff working through agencies has increased, because they can get plenty of work and do not have to undertake the host of other responsibilities that accompany the teaching role. All the political parties, and particularly the Government, must think before encouraging contract work in schools, because it would undermine the fabric of state sector education.

Mr. Timms: We do not want to encourage contract work, but we do not want to put up unnecessary barriers to it.

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Mr. Willis: We need a balance.

Mr. Timms: The hon. Gentleman is right. I would like as many vacancies as possible to be filled by regular teachers. However, in recent months we have not seen the disruption in schools that was a feature of recruitment and retention problems under Conservative Governments, when children were sent home and schools were seriously disrupted. That has not happened partly because the supply arrangements in many schools have worked quite well. That is the balance that I hope we will strike successfully.

Mr. Turner: None of us wants teaching services to be provided in the way described by the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough. However, there are only two ways of reducing a shortage: the first is to make terms and conditions less onerous, and the second is to make those terms better. The Minister told

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us that even under contract, the terms cannot be made better than the national arrangements, except in certain—[Interruption.]—He said that a teacher under contract is subject to the national pay and conditions arrangements except in the opt outs that the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough described.

Mr. Timms: I am conscious that we have only a few seconds remaining. If the teacher is on contract and employed by someone else, the provisions do not have to apply. If the teacher is employed by the school in the ordinary way, they do.

It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman, adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Griffiths, Mr. Win (Chairman)
Bailey, Mr.
Brady, Mr.
Coaker, Mr.
Flint, Caroline
Francis, Dr.
Grayling, Chris
Heppell, Mr.
Kumar, Dr.
Laing, Mrs.
Laws, Mr.
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Miliband, Mr.
Purnell, James
Timms, Mr.
Touhig, Mr.
Turner, Mr. Andrew.
Willis, Mr.

 
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