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The noble Lord asked about early years education. It is vital that young children should have a balanced curriculum and a curriculum that is broad enough to engage their interest in many things besides literacy and numeracy, whether it be discovering nature or learning how to be good on the trampoline. We have to give young children the opportunity to enjoy themselves--not that that means that teaching about literacy and numeracy need not be enjoyable. We are seeking to redress the balance a little where we feel that insufficient attention has been given to those subjects. But it does not mean that we want our teachers to become Gradgrinds and our children to be falling asleep as they sit in rows reciting, as perhaps happened at the turn of the century.
The noble Lord asked about teachers. Teachers are at the centre of this programme. Without good teachers, without teachers who are enthusiastic and committed to their jobs, we will never raise standards in our schools. It is our intention to try to support those teachers who are in difficulty. We shall do so by a variety of different methods. At the same time we are clear that, if we are to have more rigorous and higher standards for the teaching profession and to build on a clear framework for the professional development of teachers throughout their careers, we need better initial teacher training arrangements, better systems of induction--that is very important as well--and in-service training, which in the first instance will be specially focused on literacy and numeracy. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, also asked about in-service training. It is certainly our intention to continue, and indeed to develop, in-service training as the stock of teachers is as important as the flow of new teachers.
Lord Morris of Castle Morris: My Lords, may I press my noble friend on the question of those teachers who, for one reason or another, good or bad, do not come up to the standard which she and we and all parents would expect from those teachers? Is she aware that at the present moment it takes almost two years to remove an incompetent teacher from post? What plans do the Government have to introduce a fair but quick way of dealing with those who are clearly identified as unsatisfactory or under-performing teachers? Will there be what I have heard referred to by the vulgar as a "fast sack" procedure?
Baroness Blackstone: No, my Lords, nothing so vulgar as a fast sack procedure but, I hope, a much better system of appraising teachers so that it is possible to identify as early as possible difficulties that some teachers may be getting into. Better systems of induction, which I mentioned earlier, are also very important. In other words, before we worry about incompetent teachers, we should try to prevent incompetent teachers ever happening. We can do that with better in-service training, better induction and then better appraisal. When all those things fail, and when support offered by headteachers does not lead to an improvement, we will then, after consultation, try to introduce much faster procedures for getting rid of incompetent teachers. It is only fair to them as well as to their pupils.
Earl Russell: My Lords, I ask the noble Baroness to consider whether she was perhaps a little cavalier with what my noble friend Lord Tope had to say about funding. The point is that the Chancellor has revised his inflation forecasts upwards, has corrected his revenue plan projections accordingly, but not his spending projections. According to Mr. Andrew Dilnot of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, this means that the amount of extra money going into education is not, as the noble Baroness suggested, £2.5 billion but £410 million, so she is asking us to be thankful for a rather small mercy.
I also want to take up what she had to say about the best teaching methods. Can she tell us what gives Governments the competence to decide what those are? I was a little alarmed to hear her quoting the phrase "secret garden". That is a phrase I remember very well for it originates from a speech by Mr. Robert Jackson in 1988 which began the Conservative assault on academic freedom which was the subject of my maiden speech. I am a little uncomfortable to see it in this context.
I listened with interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington of Oxenford, had to say about a very heavy bureaucracy. I wonder whether he is beginning to realise that this policy is perhaps a little too conservative for the Conservatives.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, as regards the last question from the noble Earl, the answer is yes, that is the standard by which we wish to be judged. Perhaps I may pick up first his point about finance. I believe that the noble Earl has got it wrong. The figure that I quoted earlier, which is a real-terms increase of 2.9 per cent., takes account of higher GDP deflators.
I now turn to the noble Earl's question about the "secret garden". I was rather surprised by what he said on that, particularly since he is an eminent historian. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, will agree with me when I say that the term the "secret garden" goes back many years before Mr. Robert Jackson introduced it in a debate on higher education. It was a term that was used in the 1950s and 1960s to describe the way in which the curriculum was then treated by the teaching profession. I am sorry to be a little didactic on this matter, but the noble Earl's history is wrong.
As regards the teaching profession, there will be many difficulties in defining what constitutes good standards. I am not pretending that it is an easy task, but it is fairly easy for us to recognise when serious failure is taking place and teaching is not being practised properly in the classroom.
Lord Parry: My Lords, I welcome the general thrust of the White Paper and the attempt to reunify the education services of Britain after a long period of division and sub-division and at a time when teachers feel that most of the attacks have been mounted at them rather than the system. I am particularly glad that the special education system will be reviewed in a separate White Paper. I look forward to that as I do debating again the issues raised in this White Paper.
I believe that there has been a very heavy consensus of agreement on some of its main thrusts. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, and I have debated education many times over the years. I follow him in everything that he said, particularly about in-service education and the requalification of headteachers for their specific role. We introduced managerial change on a great scale without contemplating requalifying headmasters for the managerial role that they had to take on.
In my own service as a warden at an in-service education centre, I was conscious that many of our attempts to re-educate teachers were perhaps lightweight and not what teachers themselves wanted. It is absolutely essential that in introducing new impetus into the in-service teaching section, the Government are careful to see that they produce a national scale of in-service education with qualification at the end of it that will give the teachers a new confidence in their role which they gladly take up in this revitalisation of our education system.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I was able to get a copy of the White Paper just before the Statement. I have had a quick look through it. Can the noble Baroness confirm that it does not apply to Scotland and contains nothing about Scottish education? If that is so, is there to be a White Paper on education in Scotland and, if so, when? As the noble Baroness will know, the system of education in Scotland is separate and different. For example, a general teaching council was set up in Scotland some years ago. A Scottish curriculum was being put in place when what is called the national curriculum was first being thought out for England and Wales. Those are examples of the considerable differences in the subjects mentioned in the White Paper. Can the noble Baroness answer those questions?
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