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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the Minister referred to the council's planned composition, but there are anomalies. It would be helpful if the noble Baroness could help. I find it extraordinary that consultation was on the basis of the chairman being appointed by the council; that there has been a change of heart; and that the chairman shall be appointed only from among those members appointed by the Secretary of State. Why should not the whole membership be eligible for the chairmanship? If the appointment is to be only short term, is it to be for a matter of weeks or months? Will it be only until the whole body is appointed--in which case, all members will not only have the opportunity to influence the choice of chairman but be eligible for the chairmanship.
I understand that the appointments will be for four years. I am sorry that the Government have not seen fit to stagger the appointments because it will be a case of all in, all out on the same day. I am not sure that will be good for continuity. I am sorry that aspect was not given some consideration.
"may be amended or revoked by a subsequent scheme of the Secretary of State and an electoral scheme under paragraph (2) may be amended or revoked by a subsequent scheme...with the approval of the Secretary of State".
Secondly, how will one know the balance? Are there any bodies on the list that are absolutely key and will receive any kind of priority? One concern is that no mention is made in the Welsh regulations about parents, those with special needs or even the general public interest. That is an interesting point in the context of the English body.
When these bodies go through the appointment procedures the Secretary of State decides. The Secretary of State for Wales ultimately decides on membership of half the council. That makes a real distinction between Wales and England. On the day when people are registering as Members of the Welsh Assembly it is extraordinary that we should be considering secondary legislation that cuts out the Welsh Assembly and gives the Secretary of State for Wales, a Westminster appointment for the UK, a key role in all of these appointments. There is nothing in the regulations to the effect that for "Secretary of State" one should read subsequently "First Minister in Wales". It would be very helpful to know what is to happen.
These appointments are for four years. During that period the General Teaching Council will not be influential. This takes place on a day when Members are taking their place in Wales and are cut out of the process. Is it really true that the Secretary of State for Wales will approve these appointments when the First Minister is in place in the Assembly in Wales? It would be interesting to hear the response of the Minister.
Does the additional Disability Rights Commission appointee--I have no quarrel with that at all--mean that the body will be 64 strong or that that appointee will take the place of one of the other appointees on the council? The noble Baroness appears to be telling the House today that some secondary thinking is still taking place. I deem that pretty unfortunate on a day when Parliament is being asked to approve these two orders. With those questions, I await the Minister's response with interest.
Baroness Maddock: My Lords, it is extraordinary that we began to debate this matter late at night a long time ago and it seems that we are destined always to discuss this particular piece of legislation at the same time.
I welcome the move by the Government to strengthen the role of the council. With others I spoke quite forcefully at all stages of the Teaching and Higher Education Bill. We should like to see the Government place even more trust in teachers to regulate their own profession. The General Teaching Council should be a body of and for the teaching profession and, like other professional bodies, the guardian and upholder of professional standards.
These regulations recognise the Government's acceptance of the views on these Benches that professional teachers need to be in the majority on the General Teaching Council. We welcome Regulation 6(2) which also gives that majority power to devise its own electoral system for the election of the 25 serving teachers. We on these Benches welcome the inclusion
Referring to the 25 elected members and nine appointed by various bodies, I should like to put two questions to the Minister. One is to do with the definition of junior pupils. There will be 11 teachers of junior pupils. Can the Minister clarify where pre-school children come into it? There is a definition of "junior pupil" in Regulation 2(1) which appears to include three and four year-olds, but the Minister will be aware that we on these Benches are particularly concerned about pre-school education. I seek clarification as to that.
I am aware from debates in another place that there is one area about which concern remains: representation of the interests of Jewish, and now Moslem, voluntary-aided schools on the General Teaching Council. Can the Minister explain further how she sees that happening?
I turn to the appointments by the Secretary of State. All of my comments refer to the English regulations. My noble friend Lord Thomas will deal with Wales. The Secretary of State is to appoint 13 directly appointed members. Two or more must represent the interests of the parents of pupils. Can the Minister indicate where the Minister will be looking? I am aware from debates here and in another place that the Government are a little wary as to how to achieve parent representation and whether that person should come from a parent-teacher association. There are other parent bodies; for example, the Campaign for the Advancement of State Education. Quite a number of the people on that body are parents. Perhaps the Minister can clarify that further.
We welcome the fact that following debates on the Bill the Government consulted fairly widely on the make-up of the General Teaching Council and have made changes as a result. But the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in particular wonders why, when the number of people appointed to represent major bodies was increased from 13 to 17, thereby being a bit more specific, the Government did not believe that there was a possibility of reducing the number to be directly appointed by the Minister, given that they had changed the other numbers. Did the Government consider reducing the number from 13 and, if not, why not?
I am particularly pleased about two other areas. First, people who have experience in relation to teaching those with special needs will be involved. Has the Minister also looked at the position of gifted and highly able pupils? Will that feature in the Minister's nominees? I listened with interest to the noble Baroness's comments on whether the chairman would be elected from within the body or he or she would be appointed by the Minister at the beginning. The position is not clear.
Baroness David: My Lords, I associate myself with most of the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. It is particularly important that this should be a professional council of teachers. That is what we have wanted for a very long time. I hope that the council will be given a few more powers than it was given under the Bill. It must be an important body if it is to be successful.
I am somewhat alarmed by the size of the council; 63 seems an enormously unwieldy body. I approve that chief education officers, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission should have representation. But it will be an enormous body. I should not like to chair it; I cannot imagine many people who would be adept at that. I look forward to hearing more about the chairman and the change of view that has occurred.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, like my noble friend Lady Maddock I welcome the principle of the General Teaching Council for Wales. It would be churlish of me not to welcome also the provision of separate regulations for Wales since this afternoon I complained that the Local Government Bill mixes up Wales and England in a way that confuses and will confuse the new Members of the Welsh Assembly.
However, these regulations appear to be somewhat premature. The point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy--I am delighted to see him back in his place--about the role of the Secretary of State and the National Assembly was not answered by the Minister in her reply. Does the National Assembly for Wales take over from the Secretary of State the appointment of the people to this council when it comes into existence on 1st July? If not, why not? Why should this remain a Westminster matter by a Westminster appointed Secretary of State when the whole of the education provision for Wales has been devolved to the Welsh Assembly?
Furthermore, if it is to remain with the Secretary of State for Wales, a Westminster appointed Minister with only a month or two to go, why do we have a council which consists of 12 elected members but a majority, 13, nominated members? It is true that of those who are to be nominated some are to come from the
One notes in particular the lack of any consideration for the position of Welsh schools. Someone who represents the interests of pupils who attend Welsh schools may be nominated by one or other of the teaching organisations. But it does not follow that that person will be appointed to the council. I also note the absence of a specific person to deal with special educational needs, although that is fully dealt with in the English regulations.
Finally, there is a complete absence of any representation of parents. Parents exist in Wales. I should have thought that traditionally parents in Wales take a greater interest in the education of their children than parents elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
These regulations lack sensitivity at this time. The regulations should be withdrawn at this stage. It should be left as one of the first tasks of the Assembly to set the body up in the way that accords with the special needs of Welsh education.
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