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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his remarks. That is indeed the case. However, I should point out to him that that will discriminate against those teachers who find it very difficult to get away at weekends. Some teachers simply cannot, over a period of one, two or three years--which is what we are talking about--undertake such training on a regular basis; therefore, those teachers who are free and who do not have family responsibilities because their children have grown up, will have an advantage over others who may be just as ambitious. It is just another of those issues about which I know the National Association of Head Teachers is concerned. Indeed, it is just another issue which needs to be resolved before this becomes a requirement, making it compulsory for all head teachers to have such a qualification before they can be made heads of schools.

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As I have said, there is a world of difference between the scheme which is voluntary, which encourages participation and, indeed, which encourages people to give up their weekends and holidays in order to gain such a qualification and a scheme which is compulsory and has no flexibility. I believe that to be most unfortunate. When replying to the amendment, it would be helpful if the Minister were to hint that some flexibility in terms of the requirement could be considered on Third Reading, albeit the last stage in this House.

For all of those reasons, I believe that my amendment ought to be on the face of the Bill, if only because I believe it is what the Government will argue is the case; namely, that they are unlikely and it is not their intention--indeed, I would be most surprised if they said that it was--to bring this in as a requirement until they have an adequate pool of teachers to provide healthy choice for schools from which to choose their heads. If my amendment were on the face of the Bill, it would take up very little space. It would hold the Government to no more than I believe is their general intention. However, it would be a huge reassurance to potential candidates for headships for our schools. I beg to move.

Baroness Young: My Lords, I support the amendment. I entirely support the general principle of a professional qualification for head teachers. Indeed, when I was a Minister in the then DES I discussed this matter on several occasions. The points raised by my noble friend are most serious. I was interested in the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dormand, regarding his discussions with the TTA.

One has to be realistic about the life of a teacher. Let us take, for example, a teacher in a primary school. Of course, such teachers have their hours of teaching and they have their lessons to prepare. However, these days, teachers have endless parent meetings and, possibly, governors' meetings. There are also meetings regarding their professional qualifications and discussions as regards training days. My impression of teachers is that not only do they work all day but also that most of them work five evenings a week. Now we are asking them to work at the weekend.

Again, one has to be realistic. I do not quite know what age we are thinking about as regards those who will apply to take this course, but it is really quite difficult for women with families to give up weekends. Indeed, it would be impossible for them to do so. The matter needs to be thought through most carefully to ensure that we have a scheme that will work.

My argument is entirely based on my knowledge of the lives that young teachers lead today. We are probably talking about men and women in their late thirties who are thinking about promotion, with all the attendant pressures of family, and so on, that arise. The whole scheme needs to be thought through most carefully. I believe that the rather slower pace suggested by my noble friend as regards the introduction of the scheme to enable us to see how it will work out and

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whether there are suitable teachers available would be helpful and sensible. I very much hope that the Minister will consider that suggestion.

Lord Tope: My Lords, I believe that I made clear in Committee that we are perhaps a little more enthusiastic than the other Opposition party about the head teacher qualification and, indeed, compulsion in that respect. Indeed, I believe that it is long overdue and most necessary. Therefore, as I said, we support its compulsory nature. I give way.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am deeply grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to intervene. I should like to remind him that it was my party which introduced the professional qualification requirement for head teachers. Indeed, the pilot schemes that are running at present were implemented by my party when it was in office.

Lord Tope: My Lords, I recognise that fact. I was about to say that we certainly support this amendment and believe that it is necessary to introduce the compulsory nature of the scheme in order to make it work. Your Lordships may recall my suggesting in Committee that, over a proper period of time, it should also apply to people who currently hold headships. However, I have not returned to that issue today.

Nevertheless, I have much sympathy for the amendment. As I have said many times in this House, I happen to be married to a primary school teacher and can certainly endorse all that noble Baroness, Lady Young, said. I can assure her with, perhaps, greater personal knowledge that what she said applies not only to the evenings of the week but also to the weekends. Indeed, when I am working so is my wife. Therefore, I believe that those concerns are right and proper.

The amendment before us raises proper concerns and I say that from the point of view of an enthusiastic supporter of the scheme; indeed, it is one which I wish to see implemented as quickly as possible. As I said, this amendment raises proper concerns. However, I do not know whether it needs to be included on the face of the Bill. I accept the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that it will not take up much space, although I am not sure that that is the strongest argument I have ever heard for an amendment. This is an important issue. I shall listen with care to the Minister's reply. I hope that she will be able to give us the reassurances that we all seek.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, reiterated his support both for the professional qualification--I think all noble Lords support that--and the need to make it mandatory at some point. That is certainly the strategy of the Government. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that her comments did not quite reflect the substance of the amendment. Surely we should be talking about a sufficient number of potential applicants, not a sufficient number of head teachers. We wish to improve the supply of potential applicants who will in due course acquire this qualification.

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My noble friend Lady Blackstone has already said on the record--this is contained in the note we have placed in the Library--that our intention is that, subject to further development, the NPQH will be the mandatory qualification. However, we still need some positive feedback from piloting. We shall give sufficient notice of our intention to designate NPQH in this way, and of the intended date for implementation of the qualification requirement. At this stage it is not sensible for us to give a precise date. However, we have indicated that we hope that this will become mandatory for applicants, as distinct from serving head teachers, during the course of this Parliament. But obviously we have to consider the effectiveness of the qualification and the supply in different types of school and different parts of the country.

We have no intention of introducing the requirement until we can be confident that we have a sufficient pool of qualified candidates from which employers can choose. We have taken practical steps to encourage potential aspiring heads to apply for the qualification. As there is a problem in relation to primary and special school heads, LEAs will be able to fund, in appropriate cases, supply cover to release those potential NPQH participants who wish to apply for headships. They will also have greater flexibility to fund supply cover in the case of secondary head candidates. I believe that that goes some way to meet the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, in relation to the impracticality of achieving this qualification through weekend study.

We have made clear our intention in the debate and in the documentation. We do not believe it is necessary to write on to the face of the Bill our intention that we shall ensure that there is a sufficient supply of applicants. I offer every assurance to the House and to the noble Baroness that we have no intention of introducing the requirement until we have a clear picture of the timetable, the effectiveness of the qualification and the feed-through of qualified candidates. It would be extremely shortsighted and foolish for us to impose a requirement which might risk limiting the supply of candidates. I can assure the noble Baroness that that is not our intention and it will not happen. I hope therefore that with those assurances she will not press her amendment.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, does he recall that on the previous occasion when teachers had to enhance their status through additional training--the Open University offered courses to teachers to acquire graduate status--they responded magnificently to that requirement and made enormous sacrifices and gave up their time to acquire graduate status? When teachers can see that the route to promotion and success in their profession lies in achieving this qualification, they are bound to respond with the greatest enthusiasm, and the timescale

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we are discussing will be much shorter than may have been suggested by some of the more pessimistic voices this afternoon.

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