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Lord Whitty: My Lords, first I shall discuss the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. The head teachers' organisation may feel that it was not consulted between the time when the Commons amendment was tabled and returned to your Lordships' House. However, during a previous consultation period it was quite clear that the vast majority of people did not think that the induction period--or the probation period, as it used to be called--should be undertaken in failing schools. We have a duty to ensure that we do not place potentially vulnerable teachers in a school which is already failing. I take the noble Baroness's point that "under special measures" can include schools where measures have been taken to ensure that the leadership and the whole ethos of the school are changing. I understand her argument that in those circumstances perhaps we should take on new teachers.
These provisions are not intended entirely to exclude that possibility. They would certainly exclude induction in schools that are determined to be failing. As to schools under special measures, the regulations may well prescribe certain exceptions. In general, schools under special measures have yet to prove themselves able to take on new teachers and provide sufficient support for them in addition to the other problems that they face in terms of turning the school round in total, however good the new school leadership may be and however effective are the other measures being introduced. In general, we wish to protect the position of new teachers and not place them in schools that are under special measures or in failing schools.
The noble Lord, Lord Tope, raised questions in relation to prescribed circumstances. Regarding a second induction term, I indicated that there would be circumstances where either the local education authority,
I confess that the noble Lord has something of a point in relation to four school terms. Nevertheless, a school year is defined in any case as 12 months. Therefore, were a particular school to adopt a new pattern, appropriate changes would be acceptable under this legislation. In general, as the noble Lord recognises, three school terms is the definition of what is effectively accepted as an academic year in every school as at present. The change has not been made to allow for four or more terms to be a normal undertaking in our schools. Three school terms is the easiest way of describing more exactly what we mean by an academic year since it is capable of several different interpretations. The education year is a 12-month period and would relate to a three-term academic year. That seemed to us the best definition of the period of induction.
Earl Russell: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I am grateful to him for his concession to my noble friend Lord Tope. However, is he aware that in trying to define an academic year both by calendar month and length of term he risks running into the same difficulty as occurs at the beginning of St. Luke's Gospel? It dates a matter by four different events, which are now widely believed to have all happened in different years?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I bow to the noble Earl's non-religious scriptural knowledge. I greatly admire it. However, in this case matters are consistent. The three terms have to take place within a 12-month period, which would normally be taken to describe an academic year. I am not sure that I actually went as far as making a concession to the noble Lord, Lord Tope. I accepted that he had a good point. The aim is quite clear. We all agreed during earlier stages of the Bill that the academic year is what we meant and that in general circumstances three terms describe that period. That is the sensible period for an induction.
Lord Tope: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, from my experience in this House being told that I have a good point constitutes a major victory. I do not want to make a big issue out of this. I merely continue to be confused. Perhaps the Minister can confirm that I am right. I believe it will be possible, for instance, under the education action zones that are to be set up for the governing bodies of schools, if they so choose, to move to, say, a five-term academic year. As I understand it, they would be free to do so. That may well become the norm. I do not wish to discuss today whether that is desirable. But if and when it happens, shall we not have to amend this Bill? I simply do not understand why we are passing
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the amendment will alter the terms of the Bill from, "not less than one year", to, "not less than three terms". Although that may not be entirely clear from the amendment, that is its effect. Were there to be a change in particular schools to four or five terms, no doubt they could adapt and remain within this legislation. We are talking about a normal academic year, presently defined in normal practice as three terms. I think that "not less than three terms" would meet the noble Lord's concerns.
Perhaps I may return to the noble Lord's response to the concerns of the National Association of Head Teachers. The noble Lord's defence was that the majority of people who took part in the previous consultation, which did not include this particular point, had said that they would not wish young teachers to have a probationary year in such a school.
The National Association of Head Teachers represents a very large proportion of head teachers in this country. They are the people who will be in the front line managing induction programmes for new young teachers. They are in the best position to make that judgment. It seems unfortunate that the noble Lord is not prepared to take into account in drawing up the regulations the powerful points that they have made.
When a school is failing, it is not necessarily failing in every department. If there is a shortage of teachers in a subject such as maths, science, technology or languages, and a very bright, talented person with good credentials comes along who could enhance the school and help it to reform, should not an opportunity be given? That should happen so long as, first, the head teacher has control as to whether it is appropriate that the school should offer an induction period. Secondly, as there is a right of appeal for the person undertaking the induction programme to appeal against its quality, it seems to me that all the safeguards are already built in.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I accept that the National Association of Head Teachers has a broad-based membership and we are right to take account of its concerns. However, the Government's concern must be that we would not wish to place any newly qualified teacher, however bright or dedicated, and however rare his or her speciality, in a situation where in a different context a school had been designated as failing. That would mean a managerial failure in the school. To place the mentoring and induction of a new teacher, or a series of new teachers, into that context would add to the problems of turning that school round.
We note the concern. However, we feel that the interests of new teachers, and therefore the long-term interests of the teaching profession and the quality of education, require us to try to find places for newly qualified teachers in schools that are not in that category.
("(a) a relevant school, or
(b) in such circumstances as may be prescribed, an independent school.").
("(aa) as to periods of employment which are to count towards the induction period;
(ab) precluding a person from serving more than one induction period except in any prescribed circumstances;
(ac) precluding a relevant school, in such circumstances as may be prescribed, from being one at which an induction period may be served;").