Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Glenamara: My Lords, I should like to support this amendment. With this amendment, or something like it, this body will become a true general teaching

10 Mar 1998 : Column 120

council. Without the amendment it is not a general teaching council but simply an advisory body. The country is coming apart with advisory bodies and we do not need any more. The situation is particularly acute when a question is raised as to an individual's fitness to continue to teach. The Government refuse to give the council power to make such a decision. The Secretary of State will retain that power.

The Secretary of State is a splendid gentleman, and he is also a friend of mine. Nine months ago he was a layman who knew nothing at all about education, but he is to be given the power to decide whether or not an individual is to be allowed to teach. A general teaching council drawn from the whole of the teaching profession and lots of other people will not be allowed to make this decision. It is crazy. What are the Government thinking of? It is not a general teaching council unless it is given this power. I have already said that without power over the ingress to the profession and egress from it this body will not be a general teaching council. I hope that noble Lords from all parties will support this amendment.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Walton and Lord Glenamara, for spelling out the issues with such great clarity. I said at an earlier stage of the Bill that governments must allow their legislative offspring to grow up. The amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, does not merely pass that test, it allows the legislative offspring to come of age. I congratulate her on it.

Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I wish to return briefly to a point that I made at an earlier stage: throughout the discussions on the Bill we have referred continually to the profession of teaching as though teaching were a profession. Part of the definition of a profession is that it should be self-regulating. The amendment moves in that direction. Without self-regulation, and this amendment, teaching is not a profession. To call it a profession is merely a sop, and a sop is not adequate.

If we wish teaching to be a profession, we must give it the powers of self-regulation which are part of the definition of a profession. I sincerely hope that my noble friends on the Front Bench will accept the amendment or, at any rate, that they accept the intention and will return to something similar at a later stage.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, I must confess that I am perplexed by the Government's position on this issue. As the Minister knows, I supported her at the beginning on an evolutionary approach. Since the Government have taken large delegated powers in the Bill, they could easily have introduced a ratchet effect with, during the process of the Bill, the Secretary of State handing over powers to the GTC.

However, the Government chose to go for primary legislation which, as has been admitted on all sides of the House--the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, was right--it is highly unlikely would come before the next Parliament. The Minister said that herself. Even then, it would be problematical. Therefore, as the noble

10 Mar 1998 : Column 121

Lord, Lord Howie, said, the GTC cannot be described as a professional body. It is therefore flawed from the beginning. In other words, it has within it the makings of a large mess.

This is a Bill that has been rushed into. Consultation could have taken place before the Bill came before the House. The consultation would have said what has been said from all sides of the House. The noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, is right: teachers will feel that their professional competence has been denied since the GTC remains an advisory council until the end of this Parliament. It will only be granted powers at the will of whoever the next government are. It is deplorable that the Government cannot give ground on this matter. It would be easy to do so. They should at least give the GTC control of the register. That is a small matter, but it would meet the wishes of us all. I have enormous sympathy with my noble friend's amendment.

Lord Tope: My Lords, I add the warm support of the Liberal Democrat Benches for the amendment. At an earlier stage, my noble friends and I moved an amendment which went into greater detail about the powers and functions of the GTC. If I remember rightly, the amendment began with the same words as the amendment moved by the noble Baroness. We debated the amendment on that occasion and I was content to withdraw it. Today, I am pleased to be able to support this amendment.

The points have been made well and clearly today. I am sure that the Government have noted that the strong and articulate support for the amendment has come from all Benches, including their own. I hope that the Minister is about to say that the Government have recognised that and will accept the amendment. We on these Benches will be supporting it.

Lord Annan: My Lords, on the theory of this amendment, there is no question about it, the speeches in favour of it have carried the day. What makes me hesitate is that ever since the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, opened the debate on education as a whole some years ago, we have known that there has been a division of opinion within the profession about how teachers should be trained and how they should teach.

It is a deep division which Mr. Woodward has been doing his best to resolve, but against a good deal of opposition. I wonder whether it is wise, just at this moment, to hand the training of teachers, and all that that implies--the theory of how one teaches someone to teach--entirely to another body, which would leave the Secretary of State with no way in which he or she could intervene.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, before I comment upon the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, I should like to speak to the amendments which stand in the name of my noble friend the Minister, which are grouped with these amendments. I do not believe that they will be too contentious.

10 Mar 1998 : Column 122

Amendment No. 10 fulfils a commitment that I made at Report stage in responding to an amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. We undertook to consider whether Clause 2 gives the GTC sufficient latitude in how it fulfils its advisory role.

The clause as drafted already allows for the council to initiate advice as it sees fit--there is no question of the council having to wait for a request from the Secretary of State or anyone else. However, on further reflection, we acknowledge that Clause 2 might have been seen as too restrictive in terms of to whom the council may offer advice. It is entirely right for the GTC to decide which persons or bodies it wishes to offer its advice to. The council may, for example, wish to offer advice to local education authorities, the Teacher Training Agency, and other national bodies. But that will be for the council to decide. The amendment reflects that.

Amendment No. 11 makes a consequential technical amendment to extend the council's power to publish its advice.

Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 then serve to clarify and tidy up Clause 2. Amendment No. 9 makes it clear that the GTC's advice on the topics listed in subsection (2) should be of a general nature applying to the profession as a whole or elements within it, but not to individual teachers. Amendment No. 10 makes clearer the distinction between general advice under subsection (2) and advice on cases concerning individual teachers under subsection (4).

I turn now to Amendments Nos. 12, 24, 35 and 36 which are all technical amendments. Amendment No. 24 removes the definition of "employed" from Clause 10 because the word does not appear in that clause. Amendments Nos. 12, 35 and 36 are all necessary to reflect the wider definition of employment which now appears in Section 218 of the Education Reform Act. The 1997 Education Act amended Section 218 so that the Secretary of State's powers governing the requirement to be a qualified teacher and governing the barring regime could apply to agency and supply teachers or in the legal wording:

    "persons engaged to provide their services".

Amendment No. 12 ensures that the reference to barring in Clause 3 reflects those powers. I hope that there will be no dispute about those relatively technical amendments.

I turn therefore to the substance of the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. As noble Lords have said, these amendments are virtually identical to those which were pursued in Committee. The Government will oppose those amendments. It may be some slight consolation to noble Lords that we will have something more positive to say to an amendment that arises later in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley.

I shall have to repeat some of what I said at an earlier stage. The essential points are that we believe that the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness have serious drawbacks. There is no difference between us in principle. Our difficulties, as noble Lords have hinted, relate to timing. We believe that the amendments would

10 Mar 1998 : Column 123

undermine our new qualified teacher standards. They would undermine the valuable work of the Teacher Training Agency, to which the noble Lord, Lord Annan, referred, but which has not been mentioned in the debate. As I made clear in Committee, they would fragment what is currently a coherent child protection system.

We agree with noble Lords that the intention behind the amendments is admirable. However, at this stage, we do not believe that we should move in that direction. As regards entry to the profession, we agree that the GTC must and will have a major role. We have already debated government amendments which give the council a statutory right to be consulted on standards for qualified teacher training and teacher status. We shall also deal with the new induction year. We believe that to go further would undermine the new standards that we have set for qualified teacher status. They come into full effect for the first time on 1st May this year.

To go further would also undermine the Teacher Training Agency. The noble Baroness paid tribute to its work. We believe that the balance of responsibilities between the general teaching council, the Teacher Training Agency and the Secretary of State are broadly right for the time being.

I must repeat the position which we took on exclusion because of its cross-relationship with child protection. The teaching profession differs from other professions in being almost wholly composed of people whose jobs involve them in regular contact with children. In the past few years, the scope of barring has gone beyond teachers to include other people who have contact with children. It also extends to independent schools, FE colleges and maintained schools. In that context, the Government firmly believe that it would be wrong and possibly dangerous to fragment the child protection system in the way envisaged in the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. Under her proposals, the GTC would be responsible for barring teachers at schools. The council would not, and indeed could not, have the scope to bar people from being classroom assistants, volunteers in schools or taxi drivers. We believe that there would have to be two separate processes; one before the GTC and one before the Secretary of State. There would otherwise be room for inconsistency of judgment and for claims of double jeopardy by the people accused.

We consider that the present system, by and large, works well and that in issues of child protection it is right for the Secretary of State to continue to make the final decision. We have always envisaged that once the council has established a track record in the field by advising the Secretary of State on individual cases we should consider further primary legislation in order to extend the powers of the GTC in this direction.

People accept, on the one hand, that we are taking an evolutionary approach, but, on the other hand, they expect us to legislate now, although the GTC will not come into full operation before the year 2000. It will

10 Mar 1998 : Column 124

be into the next Parliament before we can reasonably make a judgment on whether the GTC is able to take on such additional responsibilities--

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page