Education Bill

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Dr. Ashok Kumar (Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East): I shall try to be brief. We have had a long debate but I should like to tease out a couple of points on appraisal. The Minister mentioned professional and personal development. The Royal Society of Chemistry has told me that it is concerned about the time that will be allocated for teachers to

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prepare for their professional and personal development. We need some assurances that support will be available, especially in science. Science is a rapidly changing subject. Science teachers need a lot of support and help and they need assurances from the Minister that that will not be overlooked and that there will be sufficient Government investment.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig): I am content to give my hon. Friend the assurances that he seeks. The Government firmly believe that continuing professional development is key to achieving higher levels of performance for teachers. CPD is crucial to developing the calibre of our teaching force as well as being a driving force for improving the whole school. I can give the Committee a number of examples where the Government have been proactive. The best practice research scholarships provide teachers with an opportunity to use grants of up to £2,500 to do sharply focused research into key areas of teaching and learning in the classroom; more than 1,000 teachers benefited from them last year. Our pilot scheme for professional bursaries offers teachers financial support for professional development of £500 in nine LEAs and £700 for the associated excellence in cities initiative. During the next two years, £30 million will be spent on extending the scheme.

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My hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East (Dr. Kumar) raised concerns about science teachers. I agree that the professional development and training of science teachers is important. They benefit from all the initiatives to which I just referred, and there are sabbaticals, bursaries and scholarships aimed at improving continuing professional development of teachers generally. We shall pay particular attention to science teachers as part of the key stage 3 strategy, which is designed to raise standards at secondary school level. We are confident that our strategies will address my hon. Friend's points, and we wish to underpin and underline our commitment to the importance of science education.

Mr. Willis: I am grateful to the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East for raising an important point about professional development. As part of its settlement, the Scottish Parliament gave every teacher in Scotland a statutory right to professional development. In this country, we have a series of pilots. I accept and support them; they are advantageous. However, until we have a system in which we put professional development for every member of staff at the heart of the improvement process, we will not make progress.

The Chairman: Order. I recall that this was supposed to be an intervention.

Mr. Touhig: I take note of the hon. Gentleman's comments. We introduced sabbatical schemes in September 2001 to provide opportunities to enhance teacher development and to deliver significant benefits

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to schoolteachers. We are conscious that professional development must be tailored effectively and have introduced strategies to achieve that.

Clause 127 deals with appraisals. We are proud of our record on teacher professional development. The Government have put a lot into it by way of resources and commitment, but we wish to raise the expectations of heads and teachers for training and professional development even higher than we have. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Mr. Lewis: I do not want the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough to get too excited at this point but, in the light of some of the implications in his contribution, it is important to put on the record that the Government are not changing any arrangements in relation to the main pay scale.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 127, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 128

Qualified teacher status

Amendments made: No. 354, in page 79, line 18, leave out—

    ''made by the Secretary of State''.

No. 355, in page 79, line 23, after ''State'', insert—

    '', the National Assembly for Wales''.

No. 356, in page 79, line 24, at end insert—

    ( ) )The Secretary of State shall consult the General Teaching Council for England before making regulations under this section which make provision by reference to—

    (a) the content of a course, or

    (b) the standard of education provided through a course.

    ( ) The National Assembly for Wales shall consult the General Teaching Council for Wales before making regulations under this section which make provision by reference to—

    (a) the content of a course, or

    (b) the standard of education provided through a course.''.—[Mr. Touhig.]

Clause 128, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 129

Requirement to be qualified

Amendment made: No. 357, in page 79, line 26, leave out ''The Secretary of State may by regulations'' and insert ''Regulations may''.—[Mr. Timms.]

Mr. Willis: I beg to move amendment No. 502, in page 79, leave out lines 28 to 38.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 535, in page 79, line 28, at beginning insert—

    ''After consultation with the General Teaching Council.''.

No. 498, in page 79, line 38, at end add—

    ''(b)In this section ''specified work'' means such work as may be specified in regulations made under this section being work of such nature that it cannot reasonably be performed otherwise than by a person who has satisfied the requirements specified in regulations made under section 128.''.

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Mr. Willis: This is a probing amendment in which we are trying to ascertain the Government's thinking about staff who are not qualified teachers. The Secretary of State and various Governments have confined their control of the teaching profession to that profession and its members. With this clause, the Secretary of State is seeking to extend her powers to support staff in schools. On several occasions, most recently in her north of England speech in Huddersfield on 4 January, she said that a range of adults, rather than just professional teachers, would perform in the classroom of the future with different degrees of professional competence. The Liberal Democrats support the idea of extra staff, who are not professional teachers and are not registered with the GTC, working in classrooms, laboratories and other parts of the school. Those colleagues provide schools with an enormously valuable resource and we place on record that we support the Government's plans to increase their numbers. The Liberal Democrats also made a pledge in the 2001 election that every primary school would have an additional support member of staff in each classroom as a minimum requirement. It is nice to see that, as ever, the Government are picking up Liberal Democrat policy and putting it into practice, as they find it difficult to think of practical solutions to many of the difficulties.

In lines 28 to 38 of the clause, the Secretary of State is saying, in effect, that the Government want all these new people but want to ensure that they do what the Government tell them. The clause gives the Secretary of State additional powers to set out in regulations what work can be carried out by support staff. I may have misunderstood—I sometimes do—and The Minister will tell me if that is the case.

Most head teachers, especially of small primary schools, negotiate with their support staff, as support staff often perform several functions. We are not just talking about the special educational needs support teacher or the classroom assistant. Support staff often perform a host of boxed and coxed roles to support the work of the school. I would hate to see a situation in which the Secretary of State prescribes the job description of everyone who works in a school. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure the Committee that that is not the intention and that we will not go down that road.

Mr. Brady: Amendment No. 535 suggests that the General Teaching Council may be an appropriate body to consult when the regulations are drafted under this section. I do not intend to speak at length, but I invite the Minister's comments on where he sees the GTC's role in that regard.

Amendment No. 498 is more substantive, and also deals with some of the points that were raised by the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough. The amendment suggests that the term ''specified work'' should be defined as

    ''such work as may be specified in regulations made under this section being work of such nature that it cannot reasonably be performed otherwise than by a person who has satisfied the requirements specified in regulations made under section 128.''

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The purpose again is to seek clarification from the Minister of how it is intended that those powers should be used. What work will be specified as being appropriate only to qualified teachers? Where will the line be drawn between qualified teachers and others who may perform an extremely valuable role in the classroom? The Liberal Democrat spokesman made that point.

    In response to my invitation, the Minister undertook to make more detail available to us at this point, and we look forward to that. I hope that, in doing so, he will further clarify the provisional registration of teachers and particularly its application for these purposes to overseas-trained teachers. Many such teachers do excellent work in our classrooms, but it is important to know the Government's intention. Do they intend to register all overseas-trained teachers or only those who seek qualified teacher status? We have in mind the fact that last year the Department for Education and Skills removed the four-month maximum time that overseas-trained teachers could spend in one post and increased to four years the maximum time that they could spend as temporary teachers.

Existing teacher regulations specify arrangements for employment of qualified and unqualified teachers. These provisions give the Secretary of State additional powers to make regulations to set out work that should be carried out by support staff. I understand that those powers are in areas that are a matter for local determination under the National Joint Council for Local Government Services. Again, we need to know what the Secretary of State intends to do with the new powers and how that would differ from the existing situation. I do not intend to dwell on these points, but the Minister undertook to give us more detail and we look forward to it with interest.

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