Education Bill

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Mr. Turner: I should like to add to my hon. Friend's comments, because the absence of amendment No. 544 would represent a failure of nerve on the Government's part over the institutions and processes that they have set in place, such as the Learning and Skills Council and the inspections of further education colleges. We now have particularly well-qualified people serving on the corporations of further education institutions, and I wonder why the Government so lacks confidence in them.

The problems facing an institution may not require a person with the range of qualifications that the Secretary of State has specified: it is more likely that a limited number of such qualifications will be sufficient. It seems sensible to allow the corporation of the institution to take a decision in a special case.

Mr. Lewis: In a sense, we are recycling our earlier debate. It is a legitimate debate. We encourage and support the concept of leaders of FE colleges, which are massively important and historically undervalued institutions, and qualifications are an important part of developing the qualities and standards that we seek to achieve.

On amendment No. 544, I find it a curious concept that one could employ a principal who did not have the relevant professional qualifications because someone else on the staff did. That would put the principal in an invidious position, because it would become public knowledge that the only reason he or she had been able to take up the post as leader of the institution was because someone more junior in the organisation had the relevant qualifications. That would present serious complications to do with authority and credibility, and with the management of the institution. It would be a most curious arrangement. It would be known that the person has been appointed as leader only because the assistant manager had the qualifications.

The amendment could seriously undermine sensible management arrangements and the capacity to deliver leadership at an institution. It might also lead the staff to question who exactly was in charge. On that basis, I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Brady: The Minister has misunderstood the thrust of the amendment. Certainly it is important to take account of the fact that different aspects of the various roles undertaken by the principal of a further education institution may be prized differently. Some may relate to leadership while others may relate to educational qualifications or some other management experience. It has been a useful exchange. I would not want the Minister to think that in all circumstances the

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lack of a particular qualification may undermine the leadership position or the management role of a person in that position. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: No. 368, in page 81, line 2, leave out

    'The Secretary of State may by regulations'

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

Clause 133, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 134

Training in provision of further education

Amendments made: No. 369 page 81, line 22, after 'institution', insert 'in England'.

No. 370, in page 81, line 27, after 'institution', insert 'in England'.

No. 371, in page 81, line 30, after 'institution', insert 'in England'.

No. 372, in page 81, line 30, at end insert—

    '( ) The National Assembly for Wales may by regulations—

    (a) prohibit the provision by a further or higher education institution in Wales of a course to which this section applies without the approval of the National Assembly;

    (b) enable the National Assembly to determine the number of persons who may undertake a specified course to which this section applies at a further or higher education institution in Wales;

    (c) enable the National Assembly to determine the number of persons in different categories who may undertake a specified course to which this section applies at a further or higher education institution in Wales.'.—[Mr. Touhig].

Clause 134, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 135

Wales: provision in higher education

Amendment made: No. 373, in page 81, line 42, after 'institution', insert 'in Wales'.—[Mr. Touhig.]

Mr. Touhig: I beg to move amendment No. 374, in page 81, leave out line 44.

As no institutions maintained by local authorities in Wales offer higher education courses, the amendment removes an unnecessary provision and I commend it to the Committee.

Mr. Willis: What will happen if local authorities want to offer such course in the future?

Mr. Touhig: I suggest that we cross that bridge when we come to it.

Mr. Willis: With respect, that will not be possible, as the bridge will have been burnt.

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Mr. Touhig: I can only say that there are no institutions that offer these courses at the present time. The clause includes powers on these matters that were given to the Assembly. This is an unnecessary provision at present.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 135, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 136 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 137

Health and fitness

4.45 pm

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest): I beg to move amendment No. 530, in page 82, line 22, leave out

    'The Secretary of State may by regulations provide that'.

The Chairman: With this we may take the following amendments: No. 531, in page 82, line 23, leave out 'specified conditions' and insert

    'the responsible body of an educational institution.'.

No. 532, in page 82, line 25, leave out subsections (2), (3) and (4) and insert—

    '(2) In this section—

    (a) ''an activity'' means an activity which requires physical skills or attributes not generally possessed by teachers;

    (b) ''the responsible body of an educational institution'' means the governing body of a school, the corporation of a further education institution, or the principal of a nursery school, pupil referral unit, or other education provides.'.

No. 518, in page 82, line 32, leave out paragraph (b).

No. 519, in page 82, line 37, at end insert

    'for a local education authority or a governing body of a school or a further education institution.'

No. 520, in page 82, line 39, leave out paragraph (b).

Mrs. Laing: These are tidying up amendments. The clause goes on at length about regulations concerning health and fitness. Amendment No. 530 would make subsection (1) read simply:

    ''An activity to which this section applies . . .'',

It would delete the preamble that the

    ''Secretary of State may by regulations provide''

The Secretary of State is being given more and more powers to vary matters after the Bill has become an Act. Surely it is better for the Bill to be definite and substantial now, without the need to make regulations in future. Similarly, amendment No. 531 tidies up the relevant part of the clause.

Amendment No. 532 would make it clear that the activity referred to is

    ''an activity which requires physical skills or attributes not generally possessed by teachers''.

That is what the Bill means, but it is difficult to work that out from the current drafting of clause 137. The amendment would make the Bill say what it means.

It would be interesting to find out why Government amendments Nos. 375 and 376 were debated under clause 127. There must be some good reason why you decided, Mr. Griffiths, that amendment No. 375 should be debated in conjunction with other

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amendments to clause 127. The Minister's proposed amendment, which deletes the same words and inserts ''regulations may'', was basically the same. I do not oppose amendment No. 375 because it is similar to our amendment No. 530. If there is a good reason why the Minister is not speaking to it now as opposed to 10 clauses ago, I would like to hear it.

Mr. Willis: I rise to speak to amendments Nos. 518 to 520, which relate to the same issue. Subsection (2) allows fitness requirements to be imposed on anyone providing education in a school regardless of whether they are employed and, if so, by whom. The coverage of education providers other than at schools or of those who do not provide education but have contact with children is, however, limited to those employed by LEAs in governing bodies. A business person coming into the school will not be covered. Frankly, I do not understand the distinction. Can the Minister bring some consistency to this aspect of the Bill?

Mr. Timms: I was asked why we discussed the Government amendment when we did. We did so because that is where the amendment appeared on the amendment paper. Why it appeared on the amendment paper where it did is for someone else to answer.

I shall respond to the hon. Lady's points on amendments Nos. 530 and 531. In practice, the employer takes the decision on whether employees are sufficiently healthy to carry out their duties in accordance with the regulations. Under the clause, the Secretary of State can maintain or reproduce existing regulations that establish a framework and specify certain conditions. We will continue to apply the current regulations under the new legislation. They prevent employers from appointing anyone who is in receipt of a teachers' ill health retirement pension, which may demonstrate that the prospective employee has been declared permanently incapacitated for such employment. I hope that the continuity will reassure the hon. Lady.

On amendment No. 532, it would not be appropriate to restrict the definition of activities to those requiring special physical skills. We are considering ordinary health and fitness. Teaching, and other jobs that involve responsibility for school children, require the health and well-being necessary for the specific duties that the job entails. For example, ill health might impair a person's judgment or reduce alertness in the supervision of pupils.

On the amendments moved by the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough, the clause is wide-ranging. It covers people providing education in schools, further education, or outside schools. They may be employed on a contract of employment or for services with LEAs, school governing bodies or FE institutions. The clause takes account of the potential for greater flexibility and it will apply the provisions to those providing education whatever their employment circumstances. The hon. Gentleman's amendments would impose requirements that would apply beyond

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the Secretary of State's ability to control, monitor and enforce them. They would extend the requirements to privately employed tutors, over whom the Secretary of State would not have the ability to enforce the provisions. That is the reason for the constraints that he has highlighted. The Secretary of State can impose the current requirements, and expect LEAs and institutions to play a part in ensuring compliance with them. On the basis of those clarifications, I hope that the hon. Lady will withdraw the amendment.

 
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