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Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I cannot comment on plans from Birmingham because I do not believe that any particular plans have yet been published. The department is not aware of details. I know that

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discussions are going on in Birmingham about the position of selective schools there. However, under the new arrangements there are seven selective schools in Birmingham; six would be foundation schools or voluntary-aided schools and the local authority would have no role in relation to triggering ballots or initiating ballots. In general, ballots will be triggered by parents or groups of parents and by governing bodies.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that people in Birmingham would welcome the opportunity of expressing their views on the selective education that exists there at the moment? However, should we not turn our attention to the comprehensive schools in the city, which do such a good job in difficult circumstances?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, yes. The comprehensive schools in the city of Birmingham are working hard to meet the needs of their pupils. Indeed, the chief education officer in Birmingham has been attempting to improve achievement and there has been a great deal of success in recent years. It is also the case that, since comprehensive schools were introduced 20 to 25 years ago, the proportion of pupils gaining five or more grades A to C in GCSE examinations has almost doubled.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, perhaps I may come back to my supplementary question, which the noble Baroness did not answer, as to whether a council or individual councillor can initiate a petition?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I do not know whether an individual councillor can initiate a petition. We are still consulting on the arrangements for both petitions and ballots and the answer to that is not yet clear. When the information is available, I will write to the noble Baroness.

Lord Tope: My Lords, I am sure the Minister will agree that a parent will not be precluded from taking such action simply because that parent also happens to be a councillor. However, does the Minister agree that schools, including grammar schools, are an important part of the local community? If so, can she say why the Government feel that the elected and accountable representatives of the local community--namely, the local education authority--should not be taking those decisions subject to wide and relevant consultation?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the Government believe that it is right for the governing bodies of schools and for parents to take those decisions. Of course, local education authorities may have a view and will be able to object to decisions taken by another admissions authority, such as a foundation school or a voluntary-aided school, just as any other school is able to object to a specific proposal for changing the admissions arrangements in either a grammar or comprehensive school.

Baroness Young: My Lords, can the noble Baroness clarify an important point that she made in relation to

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parents triggering a vote? Are those parents from a specific grammar school or can it be any parent in the local education authority?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, as I said earlier, the Government are still consulting on the specific arrangements for ballots. However, the intention is that the parents of children in primary schools that are feeder schools for the specific school where there may be a change in the admission arrangements will be the ones who will be able to take part in the ballots, rather than those who are already part of a selective school.


3.3. p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m. today my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement which has been made in another place on Kosovo. I take this opportunity to remind the House that the Companion indicates that discussion on the Statement should be confined to,

    "brief comments and questions for clarification".

National Minimum Wage Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and to be printed.

Teaching and Higher Education Bill [H.L.]

3.4 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 1 [The General Teaching Council]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 10, leave out from ("corporate") to ("(in") in line 11 and insert ("which, subject to subsection (8), shall be known as the General Teaching Council for England").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I believe it is right that the title of the GTC should reflect its territorial responsibilities, so as to avoid any confusion between councils covering different parts of the United Kingdom.

During the debate at Report stage, I accepted in principle the amendment brought forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, which sought to set this out. I indicated, however, that the wording of her amendment did not make provision for the council to be known as the "GTC for England" once a separate "GTC for Wales" has been established under Clause 6, and undertook to bring forward government amendments to make the position clear. The raft of amendments in this group means that this body will be called the "GTC for England", but under the new subsection (8) it shall be known as the "GTC for England and Wales" until such a time as a separate GTC for Wales is established. We

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have tidied up and clarified those references which would ultimately apply to both the English and Welsh councils by referring simply to the "council".

I hope that the amendments will be welcomed by Members of your Lordships' House as making the territorial scope of each council clear from the outset. I beg to move.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for tabling these amendments. The House will understand now why, when I tabled one simple amendment, I recognised that it was not enough. It has taken 16 amendments to meet the case and I am grateful to the Minister for that.

The General Teaching Council for Scotland was relieved to see the amendment because, once the new general teaching council for England and Wales is set up, there will not be any confusion between the two. They will have different powers and it is important that the powers of the two councils are not muddled up.

Perhaps I can make one suggestion to the noble Baroness. From now on, with the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly coming over the horizon, the noble Baroness and her officials should take care, when speaking about policy or new bodies, to make it plain whether that policy or new body relates to the United Kingdom, England, Wales or Scotland. The Minister may even be able to persuade other Ministers in the Government to do the same. The House will find it much easier to understand. Having said that, I thank the noble Baroness for her assistance.

Lord Tope: My Lords, perhaps briefly I can welcome the amendments. We are about to make the speediest progress we have made thus far on the Bill, if we can clear these amendments in one go with just a few remarks. I welcome the amendment and congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, on her success in achieving those points. Will the Minister be able to say how long it will be before the GTC for Wales is brought into being?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, for the welcome that she has given to the amendment and for raising the issue in the first place. I am also fully aware of her concerns and those of other Members of your Lordships' House about the importance of making clear, in the context of devolution, to which parts of the United Kingdom any new legislation applies. I shall certainly take this suggestion back to my department. I cannot guarantee that other departments will be responsive in that respect, but I shall do my best to ensure that happens.

On the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, the consultation paper issued by the Welsh Office expressed a preference for a separate GTC for Wales. That was borne out by the responses to the consultation exercise. However, Wales is currently embarking on a major constitutional change with the creation of the national assembly which, subject to the appropriate legislation receiving parliamentary assent, will come into being in May 1999. At that time we envisage that

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all powers conferred on the Secretary of State in relation to the GTC for Wales will be transferred to the national assembly.

In deciding whether and when to establish a separate GTC for Wales, the Secretary of State or the national assembly will want to take account of current institutional arrangements and the need to ensure that there are no artificial impediments to cross-border flows of teachers developing and any current or emerging differences in Welsh educational and child protection issues. So I cannot give a precise date when this will be. In many ways it will be very much up to the national assembly at the time.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 11, leave out ("Chapter") and insert ("Act").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 2, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 26, 32 and 34. I said at Report stage that we saw a major role for the GTC, working with the Government and the Teacher Training Agency, in ensuring high standards of entry to the teaching profession, and I undertook to consider whether we could make our intentions clearer on this front. Amendments Nos. 26 and 34 both seek to make explicit the key role for the GTC in advising on standards of entry to the profession--both the standards required to be met at the end of initial training and the new standards to be met at the end of the statutory induction period. Amendment No. 26 requires the Secretary of State to consult the council before making any changes to the regulations and standards which govern qualified teacher status--the QTS standards.

The Teacher Training Agency played a central role in developing our new more demanding QTS standards which will bite for the first time on trainees completing courses from this May. We believe these represent a new quality bench-mark for entry to the teaching profession. But we believe it is right for the GTC, when established, to have a key role alongside the Teacher Training Agency in advising on any revision of these standards. That is the effect of Amendment No. 26.

Amendment No. 34 requires the Secretary of State to consult the GTC and/or the GTC for Wales, once established, before determining the standards against which teachers will be assessed at the end of the induction period. Your Lordships will be aware that the induction year standards will need to be determined before the GTC has been established since we intend that the new induction arrangements will come into force from September 1999--while the GTC will not be established until 2000. So this requirement will necessarily only take effect after the GTC has been established, and will relate only to changes to the standards. We intend to consult shortly on the detail of the new induction arrangements and our consultation document will include draft professional standards for the induction year, drawn up by the Teacher Training Agency, on which we shall be inviting comments. But

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we believe it is right for the GTC, when established, to be a key player in any further consideration of these standards.

I should emphasise that these amendments are not intended in any sense to take away from the present role of the Teacher Training Agency in advising the Secretary of State on standards for the profession. Looking ahead to Amendment No. 5, tabled in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, I should say that I am concerned to see again the suggestion that this role--which I believe the agency under its new chairman, Professor Clive Booth, has fulfilled so well--should be transferred immediately to the GTC. We believe it is right that the TTA should continue to advise on professional standards. We will continue to look to it to take on this role, and to forge and work in strong partnership with the GTC, when established.

Amendment No. 2 is a technical amendment which extends the definition of the GTC as "the Council" to all of the teaching clauses in the Bill. I hope that noble Lords will welcome this further clarification.

When we debated Amendment No. 32 at Report stage my noble friend Lord Whitty made it clear that we intended the GTC to have a major role in the new induction arrangements. The amendments to which I have just spoken confirm that this is the case and make clear our intention that the GTC should have a key role in the arrangements governing entry to the teaching profession. However, Members of this House will recognise that there must be a limit to what we can or indeed should properly put into primary legislation. We have considered this amendment again very carefully and I have to tell the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that we do not see the case to incorporate in statute an advisory role for the GTC in respect of quality assurance. There is already provision in the Bill to allow the GTC to advise on the quality assurance arrangements for the new induction programme. Clause 2(2) of the Bill, in providing for the council to advise on standards of teaching and the training, career development and performance management of teachers, includes an advisory role for the GTC in relation to induction. We would of course be delighted if the GTC were to offer advice on quality assurance, and I can assure the House that we would take such advice very seriously indeed. However, I am not persuaded of the case to write this point into primary legislation.

We intend that Ofsted will exercise the lead quality assurance role in respect of the new induction arrangements as part of its regular inspection programme. I do not therefore see a case for providing for the quality assurance arrangements for induction to be determined after consultation with the GTC. I am clear that the chief inspector will want to take proper account of any views the council may have on the operation of the quality assurance arrangements in respect of induction. But I do not see a need to provide for that on the face of the Bill. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, will be persuaded not to press the amendment. But if he does, I would urge the House to resist it. I beg to move.

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3.15 p.m.

Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her comments with regard to Amendment No. 32 and I am grateful for the assurances we have had this afternoon. However, we believe that this should be on the face of the Bill and I shall spend a moment or two explaining why.

The purpose of Amendment No. 32 is to ensure that quality assurance arrangements for assessment of a newly-qualified teacher are included in the regulations under Clause 13(2). This is, as the Minister said, a reintroduction of an amendment that we put forward from these Benches at the Report stage. It seeks to ensure that the general teaching council will have a significant role in advising how quality assurance arrangements for the induction period are to be established. I emphasise that this is a separate point from the one covered by the very welcome amendment, Amendment No. 34, which the Government are also introducing today.

We believe that quality assurance regulations are needed to ensure that any established standards for teachers completing their induction period are delivered in the same way across the whole country. At Report stage the Minister indicated that normally head teachers will make a report on the teacher's induction period and that will be ratified by the appropriate body, probably the LEA. We are concerned that, while the general teaching council, the Teacher Training Agency and the Minister will have established standards, the arrangements for the assessments to be moderated need to be put in place now. Our amendment seeks to ensure that once such a system is set up the general teaching council shall be consulted over what these moderation arrangements should be.

At Report stage the Minister mentioned the difficulties surrounding this matter; namely, that there will be a gap between the making of the regulations and the establishment of a general teaching council. The Minister has today explained some of the Government's thinking on this matter, but we have something of a problem here. It is important that all those involved should understand exactly what might be forthcoming from the Government in this area.

In the interests of fairness to and equitable treatment of newly-qualified teachers, because they are particularly at risk of losing their right to practise by virtue of these arrangements, I hope that the Minister will reassure the House--to some extent she already has--and perhaps give us a clearer picture of how the quality assurance arrangements will be organised.

In the past many people felt that under the old arrangements for the probationary year head teachers did not always assess the suitability of new teachers rigorously enough. Some noble Lords will remember that I raised concerns about the assessment of my own probationary period some 30 years ago. I was never quite sure exactly how much the head mistress looked at what I had been doing over that year.

Concerns have been expressed not only by the Association of Teachers & Lecturers but also by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon that some newly qualified teachers have been treated unreasonably in their schools. Sometimes they are given unreasonably

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large classes; sometimes they have classes which have a disproportionate number of children with behavioural difficulties. Sometimes that leads to an unsatisfactory situation. There is a double assessment. It can result in the teacher losing the licence to practise.

We need to be very clear about this because we are concerned with the recruitment of teachers. If it is not clear to them that the procedure is satisfactory, it may be a disincentive to people coming forward into the profession. That is backed up by a briefing I received this week--I am sure other noble Lords have also received it--from the Association of Teachers & Lecturers. It outlines quite clearly the vulnerability of some of the newly qualified teachers.

The association had a meeting in London at the end of last month with about 20 newly qualified teachers. Although it said that they were very enthusiastic and committed, many of the newly qualified teachers were working part-time or on short-term contracts. That is not an easy situation in the probationary year. There was one particular young teacher who had followed a teaching scheme devised by the department. He questioned its adequacy. He was told that any problem was due to his inexperience and misunderstanding. The teacher then discovered during an Ofsted inspection that he had failed due to the very same inadequacies that he had queried.

In my days in teaching I can remember being in a very similar situation, but fortunately it was not during my probationary year. I did not stay in the school very long after that situation arose. I believe that I have highlighted why we on these Benches are so concerned about the situation surrounding new teachers entering the profession and how we deal with the induction year, in particular.

Amendment No. 32 and the government Amendment No. 34 are an important means of ensuring that the induction period is rigorous and fair from the very beginning. However, we welcome the amendment that the Government have put forward today, particularly as regards consultation with the GTC about professional qualifications before teachers reach the induction period. In view of the many reassurances given by the Minister this afternoon we do not intend to press the amendment today. I hope that there will be a little more clarity when the Bill moves to another place and that other questions will be raised in this area.

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