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Baroness Maddock: My Lords, when I wound up for my party at Second Reading--at nearly midnight--I forecast that the Bill would have a rough ride. I did not expect, however, that it would be quite as bad as it has been, as today has shown.
I begin by being positive. I welcome the government amendments. The Government have listened to what we said in Committee and we thank the Minister for that. It would be most ungracious not to do that because I notice that the phrases, "principal aims", "standards of teaching", and "quality of learning" have been incorporated in the government amendments.
I realise that it may sound a little pedantic but I do not apologise for what I am about to say because other noble Lords agree with our concern. Indeed, the way in which the teaching profession has been treated in past years means that we have to be careful now. That is why I am disappointed that the Minister has not adopted our phrase, "to maintain and enhance", but has used instead the term, "to maintain and improve". We believe that the word "improve" has a slightly negative implication which is not helpful.
I turn now to our amendments, Amendments Nos. 12 and 14, which we hope will become Clauses 2 and 4. In doing so, I stress once again the importance of having as a general teaching council an independent professional body which can give the teaching profession status and authority. Many of us fear that, if we are not careful, such a body may become merely an arm of government. In passing, I must add that we warmly welcome Amendment No. 3 which ensures that the specific requirements of persons who are disabled are included on the face of the Bill.
Amendments Nos. 12 and 14 set out fully what we see as the functions of the council and the activities we believe it is right for the council to carry out. We feel that the present proposals give the GTC far too limited a role. Indeed, it is mainly an advisory role. Perhaps I
I believe that everyone, including the Government, is agreed that the setting up of the GTC is intended to have the effect of raising the status and esteem of the teaching profession. I believe that our two proposed new clauses leave teachers in no doubt that that is what we on these Benches want to see happen. Whether the Government have the same vision is open to question. The Minister has spelt out the differences between her vision and ours. I am not particularly optimistic that all that we would like will be taken on board so that we can have a truly effective general teaching council. This is particularly disappointing, because what we propose is precisely in line with the words of the Minister for School Standards when launching the consultation document on the Government's proposals for the general teaching council. He said that the aim was,
As the Minister pointed out, subsection (2) of the proposed new Clause 2 seeks to do very similar things to those proposed in the Government's clause. We make no apologies for that, because we have removed the Government's clause and included it in our new clause. Subsection (3) of our new clause makes clear that it is for the council to decide which other bodies it advises, not the Secretary of State. That point was discussed in Committee. Our proposed subsection (4) reintroduces some material. In part this was supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, when discussing amendments in Committee. Originally they were tabled to amend Clause 1. It emphasises standards and commits the profession to putting pupils first. We have grouped the functions in order. Paragraphs (d), (e) and (f) deal with developing the profession, which we feel is very important, while (g) (h) and (i) deal with the disciplinary code and the striking off of teachers.
Having listened to the Minister, I believe that there is some confusion. We do not envisage that the general teaching council should become involved in the individual appointment of teachers but rather that it should be fully involved in the way that this takes place. Paragraphs (j) and (k) deal with the wider aspects of the profession's work in the education service. We believe it is vital that it has a public say. That point is also picked up in our new Clause 4 which may well not be discussed today.
I turn to Amendment No. 14 which proposes our new Clause 4. Most of this is borrowed from Clause 7 of the Bill. It gives powers to the Welsh general teaching council which are not given to the English council, as the Minister said. Subsection (1) enables the GTC to take independent action on its own behalf to promote recruitment. Perhaps it can improve on some of the efforts that have been made so far. We think that this is an opportunity to deal with the real crisis that we face in teacher supply, retention and recruitment. Subsection (2) is particularly vital because it gives the general
If the Minister is still not minded to accept what we propose, we remind her of some of the issues raised last week in another place when a debate took place on the first report of the Education and Employment Select Committee for the 1997-98 Session. That report was entitled Teacher Recruitment: What can be done? The chairman of that committee, the honourable Margaret Hodge, when speaking in the debate in the other place last Wednesday, made two or three telling points. I repeat them for the benefit of the Minister and hope that they have some effect when she responds to the points that we make about the general teaching council. First, it was said that the teaching profession lacked self-esteem and struggled to meet the needs of children and the demands of policy-makers. Another point, which is very relevant, is that the Government must respond more enthusiastically than they have done so far to the report of the committee about standards and the need for teachers.
The chairman said that the committee had advanced radical and practical ideas to head off the growing crisis in teacher supply and was very disappointed by the Government's lukewarm response to the report. I suggest that when the Minister responds she takes that on board. I believe that many of the proposals that we have made to enhance the role of the general teaching council will go a long way towards convincing teachers that this is a profession to which they want to belong because the council will regulate that profession, work in its interests and lead to better working between government and teachers in the ensuing years.
Baroness Young: My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, for Amendment No. 2 which is clearly designed to meet the first amendment that I tabled at Committee stage. She gave an undertaking that she would look at it. I should like to be the first to express gratitude that she has tabled this amendment, which puts into rather better language the point that I sought to make at Committee stage. I believe that it is valuable to set out in these terms the aim of the general teaching council. Although my noble friend Lord Jenkin is not in his place this afternoon, I am quite sure that he would want me to thank the noble Baroness on his behalf for tabling Amendment No. 3. I believe that we all acknowledge it to be a very great improvement on the Government's proposals.
I turn to the other two amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, but spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. I recognise that Amendment No. 12 is in many ways designed to be similar to my Amendment No. 8, which I shall move later in the proceedings. I share some of the concerns about this amendment that have been expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone. Although I accept entirely the principles that lie behind it, on which I shall
However, I share some of the concerns in relation to Amendment No. 14, which applies to the teaching council in Wales. One quite worrying area is the recruitment of teachers. We are very short of men to teach in primary schools, for example. We all know how extremely difficult it is to get people to agree to be head teachers. That is something which emerges from talking to almost any teacher now in the profession. I believe that we must look at imaginative ways to improve the position. I quote just those examples but there are others that should be looked at.
I said in Committee--I apologise for repeating myself--that I thought very highly of the Teacher Training Agency. I know Professor Clive Booth personally, for whom I have a very high regard. I am quite certain that he is doing a very good job. This is not intended in any way as a criticism of him, but I should have thought that there was a role for the teaching council in recruitment, if only on the general principles set out here of helping, explaining and encouraging young people to consider taking up teaching at all.
We have to face the fact that although all of us here this afternoon are interested in education, and believe being a teacher to be one of the most important things one could ever do, the picture painted to young people in the outside world is not one of a life of interest and ease. I am reminded of a novel which I read many years ago which told of the young girl who wished to teach in a poor school in New York. I think that the title of the novel was Up the Down Staircase. In a way it summed up the position well. When she reached the class and was longing to explain to it the joys of literature, replies she got were not what she expected. The reality of teaching is different from the ideals.
The serious point about all that is the problem of recruitment, and the need to get across to young people that this is something of importance; that when one does it well it is very enjoyable, but extremely hard work for very little pay. There is definitely a down side to it. Any further ways of increasing recruitment will be an advantage. I am not here to pick holes in all this. I thank the Minister for accepting my original amendment. I shall return to the whole question of the principles of the GTC later in the debate.
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