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Baroness Maddock moved Amendment No. 13:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--

Code of practice for the Council

(" .--(1) The Council shall prepare and from time to time publish a code of practice ("the code")--
(a) laying down standards of conduct expected of registered teachers; and
(b) giving advice in relation to the practice of teaching.
(2) It shall be the duty of the Council to keep the code under review and to vary its provisions whenever the Council consider it appropriate to do so.
(3) Before issuing the code or varying it, the Council shall consult its registered members and such representatives of practising teachers as they consider appropriate.
(4) Where any person is alleged to have failed to comply with any provision of the code, that failure--
(a) shall not be taken, of itself, to constitute unacceptable conduct on his part; but
(b) shall be taken into account in any proceedings against him under this Act.
(5) Any person who asks the Council for a copy of the code shall be entitled to have one on payment of such reasonable fee as the Council may determine.

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(6) Subsection (5) is not to be taken as preventing the Council from providing copies of the code free of charge whenever they consider it appropriate to do so.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the previous debates are a very useful lead-in to this clause which we wish to add to the Bill. Other professional bodies have codes of practice. I do not believe that it is particularly easy to achieve that for the teaching profession. The purpose of our amendment is to pursue how to get some measure of codification for the professional ethics of teaching.

The wording of our new clause is based on the Osteopaths Act 1993. We believe that it introduces for the first time the idea of a code of practice for the teaching profession. It would give the council a great deal of additional standing and influence. It suggests that teachers themselves, constituted into a legal body, will define how teachers behave and will advise on best practice.

One of the problems that there has been with the teaching profession in recent years is that everyone who is not a teacher professes to know how to teach and everything else about the profession. As regards doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and other professions, people do not pretend to know better all the time in quite the same way. That is why it is particularly important that we look to this matter in relation to the teaching profession.

Our aim must be to produce a code which will help teachers to promote a shared understanding of their professional ethics. It also needs to inform them of what conduct their profession expects of them in particular situations. That can be of particular benefit to teachers if they are being encouraged, maybe by their clients or their employers, to indulge in unprofessional behaviour. Having a code of practice is an important part of encouraging public support and trust in the teaching profession.

That is not without danger because it could become a very rigid set of rules and a straitjacket, which would not be helpful to teachers, their employers, students and families. By its very nature, teaching is a highly responsible, socially important and very demanding profession personally. That must be the starting point for any debate on its ethical nature and on consequent demands that that might place on teachers.

There are also moral imperatives surrounding these matters. They are not the only factors that must be taken into account when judging teachers. They can find their ability to accept their professional responsibilities heavily circumscribed by the conditions which surround teaching. I am thinking particularly of financial matters: many people, and not only teachers, believe that there has been considerable under-funding of education in this country. We have already had discussions during the passage of this Bill about the problems of inadequate leadership or management in schools. That also affects the ability of teachers to carry out their job. It is clear that the altruistic ideals of professionalism are therefore related in a very complex way to political, economic and structural issues.

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I have briefly demonstrated how difficult this issue is, but I hope that the discussions that we have had today have shown its importance. It is a very cautious amendment. It is girded round with advice on legal safeguards. I am not a lawyer and never have been. I have always taken advice on these matters. The amendment is intended to probe the Government about reaching some kind of recognised code of practice for teachers. I look forward to the Minister's response, which I hope will be positive towards the intentions of the amendment. I hope too that other noble Lords will contribute their views on what I believe is a very important matter. I beg to move.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Butterfield: My Lords, I support this amendment. It has very much the right feeling about the aims of the teaching profession. I am a little anxious about the complexities that might arise under subsection (4)(k) as regards which an enormous amount of work is taking place concerning syllabuses, the curriculum, examinations and testing. The amendment is very nicely covered by those moving the amendment that,

    "The Council may from time to time designate, on matters falling within [that] subsection as they [see] fit".

If things are going well, then presumably it will not be necessary to delve too deeply into that. Examination and testing problems arise each year as each cohort of young people go through their various exams. That might be a burden if it got out of hand. Overall, I say to those proposing this amendment that I am personally strongly in favour of it.

Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, I support the principle underlying this amendment. Having said that, I have some slight anxiety about the wording of the amendment as phrased. In response to a point made a little while ago by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, about the last series of amendments, he spoke about the medical profession having been regulated for 150 years. He said that most of the other professional regulatory organisations related to a much smaller profession. I remind him that the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visitors and the teaching profession have almost identical numbers of members. However, to be as specific as the provisions contained in this proposed clause is perhaps potentially dangerous because it could be regarded ultimately as imposing on the profession advice in a sense laid out in tablets of stone. If I may say so, it would be much simpler to advise that, "The council should prepare and from time to time publish advice upon professional standards and the practice of teaching", and to leave the other paragraphs rather less specific.

It would not be the usual policy of any other regulatory authority before issuing advice upon professional standards and standards of practice to consult its registered members because that is a massive task that would involve an enormous amount of correspondence and expense. It is important to make it clear that in issuing such advice the council should be advised to consult widely and appropriately in order to have the opinions of those upon whose advice it would depend.

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My concern is not so much that it would not be useful to have such a provision in the Bill, but that specifying this degree of detail might be counterproductive in the long term. With an amendment simply advising the council, "to prepare and from time to time publish advice on the standards of conduct expected of registered teachers and advice in relation to the practice of teaching", the remaining provisions of the new clause might be inappropriate.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I apologise for not having been in my place earlier, but I had intended to speak on this amendment. I wholly support what the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, has just said. There are some technical problems in having a code of practice. We have to ask: what is the status of the code? If failure to comply does not constitute unacceptable conduct, but is,

    "taken into account in any proceedings ... under this Act",

what are those "proceedings ... under this Act"? There is no way of discerning that from the Bill as it stands.

There are to be regulations under the Act: under Clause 9, on registration; under Clause 10, on the deduction of fees from salaries; and under Clause 13, on induction periods. However, those provisions import no civil or criminal liability. There are also regulations under Clauses 16 and 17 with regard to financial support.

We are in a sort of miasma, a fog. We do not know what the regulations will say. Let the regulations be clearly drawn; let the sanction for breach be clearly defined and stated; and then let us consider, as a House, whether we approve or whether we do not. A code of practice such as this has no legal efficacy and is most unusual. I suggest, with respect to the House--

Lord Mishcon: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for giving way--I always call him "the noble and learned Lord", quite properly, but not in accordance with the custom of the House--but is he speaking to this amendment or to the next amendment? I understand that we are now dealing with Amendment No. 12.

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