Education Bill

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Mr. Timms: The clause ensures that work in schools to deliver education is carried out by a range of staff with appropriate skills and qualifications. I particularly welcomed the support expressed by the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough for recent announcements in that respect by my right hon. Friend. We want to introduce greater flexibility for schools, but it is also important that basic requirements on teacher professionalism and supervision be maintained in the work carried out in schools. Providing for those requirements in regulations will be an important safeguard for schools, teachers and parents, and will ensure that appropriate standards are upheld.

The note that we circulated to all Committee members gives more information about how that will work. It says:

    ''Clause 129(1) enables the Secretary of State to provide by regulations that specified work may be carried out in a school only by a qualified teacher. The Secretary of State intends, subject to consultation, that the specified work should entail: Overall responsibility for monitoring and assessing the progress of a pupil or group of pupils in a curriculum subject''

    ''Carrying out any of the statutory professional duties of a teacher, as required.''

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The Bill provides for qualified teachers to have the right qualification and to be paid as qualified teachers, and for schools to employ teachers and non-teaching staff. We shall consult widely representatives of all interested parties on the content of regulations. We will be careful to avoid placing difficult burdens on schools and their managers in meeting staffing needs.

Amendment No. 502 would remove a major purpose of the clause, which is to provide the scope to set the circumstances in which non-teaching staff may support teachers in their work. The whole Committee would recognise the need for greater clarity in that regard. A transformation has taken place in classrooms over the past 10 years in that there are many more support staff. I think that there are almost 100,000 teaching assistants—many more than when the arrangements were put in place—so clarity is needed, and the clause provides that.

Removing the provision would remove our opportunity to provide clarification. If it were removed, no doubt some braver schools would press forward with arrangements for the organisation of work that best suited their needs. They would have some doubts about the legality of what they were doing and perhaps some anxiety that they would be challenged, but while some would carry on, others certainly would not. They would simply build a hard demarcation between teachers' work and the work done by others. That neither makes sense nor is the best way forward for any school, and that is why it is important that we leave in subsection (2), which enables the Secretary of State to make regulations that make clear what is the specified work that may be carried out in a school by someone who is not a qualified teacher.

Mr. Willis: The Minister is being helpful, so would he also add more clarity to the issue of paying these people? Do the Government envisage national pay scales that would reflect those responsibilities?

Mr. Timms: No, we do not. The arrangements, as the hon. Member knows, are locally negotiated and I would envisage those arrangements continuing. There will be, under what we are envisaging and under the announcements made by my right hon. Friend, an evolution of the work of classroom assistants and that will certainly be a factor in future negotiations, but we do not envisage a national arrangement such as that.

As hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West said, amendment No. 498 is along similar lines. It would limit the scope of non-teaching staff to support teachers. It would turn the purpose of the clause on its head if regulations simply identified the work that only a qualified teacher could do without exception or satisfying any particular conditions. We would then be drawn into a strict demarcation of functions that would be frustrating for the innovation that we want and would restrict the best deployment of skills and experience in schools. By contrast, what we want to do in clause 129 (1) and (2) is to create flexibility for schools, protection for parents and children as to the qualifications of their teachers and protection for teachers in defining their key professional role.

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Amendment No. 535 singles out the GTC as a body that needs to be consulted before regulations are made under clause 129 (2). I put it to the hon. Member that the Secretary of State would be open to challenge if she did not consult fully and appropriately on the draft secondary legislation. I can give the Committee the assurance that the GTC will be included. There would, of course, be a wide range of bodies that we would also consider appropriate consultees, and it would be not be appropriate either to specify one of them or to attempt to specify all of them on the face of the Bill. By contrast it does make sense that the decision is for the Secretary of State, given the clear obligations on her in making that decision about who is consulted.

The hon. Gentleman asked me about the arrangements for registration. This clause does not have any impact on that. There are some amendments when we come to schedule 13—I seem to keep referring him to future parts of our debate—but there is some detail in that schedule and the clause dealing specifically with the General Teaching Council is clause 144. To answer specifically, however, this clause does not change any of those arrangements.


Mr. Willis: We have had an interesting response. I am happy with the Minister's comments, but I think we will end up with some of problems that have existed over trying to amalgamate different blue-collar pay and conditions arrangements into the single status agreements. Appallingly, under the North Yorkshire Conservative council, many people working in schools have had to work extra hours to receive the same amount of pay. We should return on another occasion to consider the pay of those people.

In 2000, at the Bridlington north of England conference, I made a point about growing professionals in our communities. The policy is in line with that idea. I applaud the Government on that, but the policy must be flexible so that it does not become a straitjacket for schools or individuals. Often, many of our school assistants have few qualifications and little experience, but they become incredibly valuable assets. We must encourage those people with open arms. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: No. 358, in page 79, line 28, leave out

    ''The Secretary of State may by regulations''

and insert ''Regulations may''.—[Mr. Timms.]

Mr. Timms: I beg to move amendment No. 359, in page 79, line 38, leave out

    ''does not include an independent school''

and insert


    (a) a school maintained by a local education authority, or

    (b) a special school not so maintained.''

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 363, 366 and 376.

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Mr. Timms: Amendment No. 359 ensures that only LEA-maintained and non-maintained special schools are covered by the regulations that may be made under clause 129. That is a technical change. The other amendments are more technical still. I commend them to the Committee.

Mr. Brady: The Minister said that amendment No. 359 is technical. It deletes from the original text the phrase

    ''does not include an independent school''

and defines ''a school'' as meaning a school maintained by an LEA or a special school. May I push the Minister a little further on the difference between the two wordings?

Mr. Timms: I am happy to provide that clarification. Perhaps I should have explained it a little more fully. It was always our intention that only LEA-maintained and non-maintained special schools should be covered by the regulations. The definition of ''independent school'' given in section 463 of the Education Act 1996, which will be amended slightly by clause 168, does not include, for example, private nursery schools with pupils below compulsory school age. Independent schools will also not be covered by the regulations made under the clause. Excluding independent schools from the clause would not be sufficient.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 129, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 130

Requirement to be registered

Amendments made: No. 360, in page 80, line 2, leave out

    'The Secretary of State may by regulations'

and insert 'Regulations may'.

No. 361, in page 80, line 6, leave out

    'The Secretary of State may by regulations'

and insert 'Regulations may'.

No. 362, in page 80, line 9, leave out

    'The Secretary of State may by regulations'

and insert 'Regulations may'.

No. 363, in page 80, line 16, leave out

    'does not include an independent school'

and insert


    (a) a school maintained by a local education authority, or

    (b) a special school not so maintained.'.—[Mr. Timms.]

    Clause 130, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 131

    Head teachers

Mr. Brady: I beg to move amendment No. 540, in page 80, line 18, leave out subsection (1).

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The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to consider amendment No. 541, in page 80, line 20, leave out subsection (2).

Mr. Brady: The amendments deal with the situation of head teachers and the Secretary of State's powers to make provision by regulation that a person may serve as a head teacher only if he is a qualified teacher or has a specified qualification. The amendments are probing. The purpose of amendment No. 540 is to establish whether the Government intend to apply the requirement in all circumstances, and amendment No. 541 is designed to probe the Minister for further information about what specified qualifications are anticipated.

It would be wrong of me to suggest that, had there been a requirement for all head teachers to be qualified teachers, the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough may not have had to make his earlier shamefaced confession that he was not quite as good as he should have been. I am sure that that was not true and that he did an excellent job.

We want to draw out the Minister's thinking on the application of regulations and what they may contain.

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